Archive for February, 2011

VAR’s Noon is off to Oklahoma

<span><span>VAR VP of Outreach Lisa Noon has been named CEO of the 9,000-member Oklahoma Association of REALTORS®. She leaves VAR next week, and later this month will be relocating with her family to “where the wind comes sweeping down t

he plain.” Congrats and best wishes, Lisa!</span></span>Rich Text Area

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VAR VP of Outreach Lisa Noon has been named CEO of the 9,000-member Oklahoma Association of REALTORS®. She leaves VAR next week, and later this month will be relocating with her family to “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.” Congrats and best wishes, Lisa!


Breaking: Significant re-fi tax change in Fairfax

Background (in rough, laymen’s terms): Virginia law says that, if you refinance your mortgage with a different company than your original mortgage, you must pay (the full) recordation tax. But if you refinance with your existing lender, the transaction is exempt from paying the recordation tax again. (VAR fought to change this law this year.)

However, because of so many bank closings and mergers — not to mention the secondary lending market and the entire mortgage securitization issue — it can be difficult to determine whether the re-fi lender is the same as the original lender. (Chances are it’s not, because most loans are sold quickly even if the original lender still services them.) In general, though, Virginia Circuit Court Clerks have taken homeowners at their word when they refinance and claim the exemption.

But Fairfax County has just imposed a requirement for an additional level of proof. Quoth a letter from John Frey, the Clerk of the Court for Fairfax County:

Beginning March 1, 2011, in order to be eligible for the refinance with the same lender exemption in Fairfax, a statement from MERS showing the owner of the note OR a statement from Freddie Mac AND a statement from Fannie Mae showing that they do not own the loan, must accompany the payoff statement. In addition, we will require a copy of the first page of the prior Deed of Trust. […] The only exception is for Federal Credit Unions. It appears that most, if not all, do not sell their loans.

Frey made it clear that he supports eliminating the refi tax entirely — as the bill VAR introduced this year would have done had it passed. He went so far as to call the current law "intellectually dishonest" because some taxpayers are being taxed twice on the same debt; "This double taxation is wrong.," he wrote. Nevertheless, Frey is required to obey and uphold the law. That means a homeowner is not entitled to an exemption just because the servicer of the old loan is the same as the lender of their new loan. And that, Frey points out, means the vast majority of homeowners are not eligible:

Most loans are sold to Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae or institutional investors with the servicing rights retained by the loan originator. If the loan has been sold to Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae or an institutional investor, the refinance transaction is not entitled to the exemption.

Frey’s experience is that many homeowners’ advisors (formal or informal) are telling them — incorrectly — that they qualify for the refi tax exemption. That leads to some unhappy homeowners when they’re presented with the bill. If you’re giving advice to your clients, be aware of the letter of the law, and — if you’re in Fairfax — of how strictly it’s being enforced.

Breaking: New NAR guidelines for short sales

If you work with clients who are doing short sales, thinking about short sales, or who you believe should be thinking about short sales, the Federal Trade Commission might be interested in you. You might not realize you’re engaging in what’s considered mortgage-relief counseling — when you cross the line from helping someone do a short sale to giving them advice about it.

If you cross that line, you enter the world of FTC’s regulations.

Watch this four-minute video for an explanation of the rule, and the guidelines NAR has released.

Honor Society Application Deadline

April 1, 2011 – 11:59pm

Attention AE’s and Leadership: VAR Honor Society Applications are due April 1st

Click the link below for the online application.

Please submit applications to or fax to 804-262-0497

Once we receive your Honor Society applications, you will receive a e-mail confirmation from VAR.

Attachment Size
2010 Honor Society Application 113.04 KB

Virginia housing sales overview for January

In Virginia — based on data from the state’s various MLSs — sales were down about 6.75% in January (compared to 2010), with the number of new listings dropping 15.7% year to year. Pending sales dropped sharply over 2010 — down 43.7% January to January.

The average closed price was down slightly (-1.4% over 2010).

That’s statewide. Locally, things are different. Sales in both the Richmond and Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News regions were up close to 17% January to January; Charlottesville saw an 11.4% increase and the Lynchburg area was up about 2.3%.

But these numbers were offset by declines in the Washington region, as well as the Roanoke, Winchester, Blacksburg, and Danville areas.

January U.S. housing sales — ups and downs

Forget the fancy prose. Here’s the gist of housing in January, nationwide.

Sales of existing homes were down almost 30% from December (from 404,000 to 284,000 units), but up slightly from January 2010 (from 275,000 to 284,000 units, or about 3.3%). Click here for the NAR spreadsheet (Excel format).

The driving forces were cash sales (read: investors; 23% of buyers) and distressed/foreclosure sales (just under 50%).

Meanwhile, sales of new homes were down sharply — off 12.6% over December.

And, of course, there’s the whole issue of the last 10 years’ worth of home-sales data — things might have been worse all along.

Virginia numbers coming soon..

…but you knew that already

The folks at HomeGain (they provide marketing tools to real estate pros) did a survey — FSBO vs. Realtor. They asked more than 1,000 homeowners about their experiences selling a home.

You can read the details here, but here are the basics:

Used a Realtor and were successful selling: 59%
Went FSBO and were successful selling: 39% (but of those, only 71% would go FSBO again)

Used a Realtor, were able to sell their home, and would use a Realtor again: 88%.
Used a Realtor, were unable to sell their home, but would use a Realtor again: 81%.

Went FSBO, couldn’t sell, turned to a Realtor: 24%.

The survey didn’t go into things like ask vs. sale price, which is probably good — the FSBO numbers are skewed because so many are done between people who know each other beforehand.

Once again, here’s a link to the HomeGain post.

Inman echos Commonwealth: Get your own domain name

Back in the Long Long Ago (July 2009), "Buy a domain name" was one of the must-do tips I covered in Commonwealth.

Yesterday Inman "Read it now before it goes behind the paywall" News echoed that advice and expanded on it.

If you want to be taken seriously by clients and agents who are technologically sophisticated, it’s time to set up your business e-mail address on a website domain that you own.

The reason is simple. People who have AOL, Gmail, and Hotmail addresses generally do not have their own website or blog. Furthermore, if you rely on your company’s domain for your e-mail and you leave the company, your past clients will no longer have a way to contact you.

I don’t agree with all the advice (for example, the suggestion to get a long domain name):

As search has changed, the real opportunity is in what is known as the "long tail." This refers to using a longer domain name that incorporates the various pieces outlined above. For example, "" or "" Each of these domain names matches how people normally search for property — by property type, location and ZIP code.

("The long tail," by the way, doesn’t refer to long domain names. It’s the idea that there’s a lot of money to be made in smaller, niche markets.) Otherwise, the general advice is sound — as it was a year and a half ago. If you haven’t gotten your own domain name, consider this your second warning.

Protecting Realtors when government errs

Inman News published a column over the weekend, "How public record errors hurt real estate sellers." What the column doesn’t say, though, is what kinds of trouble a Realtor can get into by relying on those (inaccurate) public records.

Enter Virginia’s HB 1907 — otherwise known as "the agency bill." VAR introduced it, and one key provision is that "Real estate licensees will be provided immunity from lawsuits when relaying publicly available information from localities that turns out to be inaccurate."

It’s passed the House and Senate (unanimously) and the governor is expected to sign it. So, while errors in government documents will always be a problem, at least Realtors won’t have to take quite as much heat.

2011 Realtor® Day on the Hill pictures are up

Thanks to all who participated in the 2011 Realtor® Day on the Hill. The entire Get Active conference was a great success, and our Law & Policy team thanks you for making your voices heard and supporting this year’s legislative agenda. Pictures from Day on the Hill, the legislative reception at the Jefferson, the RPAC lunch, and the Virginia Real Estate Awards reception are all online for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

CLICK HERE to begin browsing photos.