Greater Piedmont REALTORS® shed light on broadband expansion

Broadband expansion was the prime topic at a community forum hosted on Wednesday, July 8th, by the Greater Piedmont Area Association of REALTORS®. Increasingly a factor in home sales and community development, access to broadband impacts more than just individual residents. Education, healthcare, and commerce are becoming more dependent on high-speed connectivity to the internet, and the areas that lack access risk falling behind in schools, job growth, and even safety. Attended by over 100 residents from across the region, the forum took place in the county’s high school – a fitting backdrop for a discussion that included implications for online learning and keeping pace with 21st century job skills. Citing a personal anecdote in his keynote remarks, USDA Rural Director Dr. Basil Gooden recounted that when his father had delivered him to college from his rural homeplace in Buckingham County, he was emphatically discouraged from returning to country life because there would be no opportunity to prosper. Gooden’s leadership at USDA and support of broadband expansion aim to reverse that perspective and to ensure that, regardless of geography, Virginians are afforded the chance to live, learn, and work.

Joining Gooden and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, a panel of experts shared wide perspective on applications of broadband and the increasing integration in nearly every discipline of daily life. Civic engagement and disseminating information to citizens quickly and impartially relies on internet access, especially for young generations whose primary source for news is digital. Improved coverage is necessary to preserve the lifestyle valued by many in Rappahannock and the region and to keep pace with an education system that is rapidly evolving and more reliant on web-based learning than ever. For rural students to be academically competitive, they must have access to the online textbooks and research tools that their peers across Virginia, and across the globe, do. Developments in healthcare and emergency medicine have come to rely on high-speed internet, as well. Broadband is critical in serving areas that may not have significant medical facilities like hospitals, or that lack specialists. Engaging in healthcare through electronic communications isn’t new – it’s a delivery model gaining in popularity and sophistication because of its success in reducing costs, expediting information, and improving patient outcomes.

It’s no secret that small business and large enterprises alike depend on affordable, reliable internet connectivity for sales, service, and operations. Rural business must keep pace with technological innovation to remain viable in the global marketplace. Virginia growers find themselves at a competitive disadvantage without the ability to plug into digital applications and programs that increase efficiency and decrease waste in farm operations. In rural localities like Rappahannock County, access to broadband is particularly significant to main economic drivers in agribusiness and agritourism, including the wine industry. These industries market directly to consumers, and as they grow, the demand for broadband grows too in order for producers to stay visible and current with potential visitors. It’s those visitors whose dollars boost the county revenues that support all municipal services.

On why Greater Piedmont REALTORS® took the lead on this issue, GPAAR President Chip Miller stated, “It’s not about encouraging or suppressing growth in our counties. It’s about preserving the way of life that we enjoy and the opportunity for our next generation to enjoy it, too.”

Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, addresses the Rappahannock County crowd on broadband expansion.

Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, addresses the Rappahannock County crowd on broadband expansion.

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NAR Call For Action

In the next couple of weeks, the United States House of Representatives will hold a critical vote on the H.R. 9 – The Innovation Act of 2015. This legislation will take vital steps to protect REALTORS® from frivolous lawsuits brought by patent trolls, and it is critical that you urge your member of Congress to support it.

Click here to take action today and protect your industry!

REALTORS® are targeted by patent trolls at alarming rates. Patent trolls do not manufacturer or make anything. They exist solely to purchase old patents and to use the threat of expensive lawsuits to extort money from legitimate businesses.

The Innovation Act will help close the loopholes in our legal system that allows trolls to thrive.

Patent Trolls Harm REALTORS®

Patent trolls target REALTORS® in their role as end-users of common business technologies:

  • Dropdown menus on websites
  • Website mapping technologies
  • On line search alert functions
  • Scan-to-email technologies

NAR Supports H.R. 9, “The Innovation Act of 2015”

Congress must pass common-sense comprehensive patent litigation reform to protect Main Street businesses from patent troll abuse. We wish to see a final bill that will:

  • Require patent demand letters to include basic information about the alleged infringement and the method by which a royalty demand is calculated;
  • Require patent owners to reveal their ownership when demanding licenses and royalties;
  • Protect customers and end users from lawsuits based on infringements by manufacturers and service providers
  • Require the party bringing the lawsuit to disclose the bases and scope of the suit in the initial pleading;
  • Create greater clarity in the discovery process, including when and what information is discoverable throughout the litigation process; and
  • Require more patent owners to pay for defendants’ legal fees and costs when a lawsuit alleging infringement is objectively baseless and frivolous.


REALTORS® stay upbeat in market outlook

REALTORS®’ outlook is increasingly optimistic about the housing market in the months ahead. Confidence is staying high, buoyed by a strengthening economy and the opening of the credit box.

Behind that growing confidence, job creation has reached a pace of about 220,000 jobs per month this year, lower FHA monthly mortgage insurance premium rates have unlocked borrower savings, and doors have been opened for home buyers with the availability of 3 percent down payment loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to the latest REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey. The survey is based on more than 3,800 responses from REALTORS® about market conditions in their area.

For the fifth consecutive month, indices rose above 50 for all property types, reflecting strong confidence in the next six months. The single-family market had the highest confidence at 74 on the index, while townhomes registered at 55, and condos at 50. An index of 50 or more indicates more respondents view conditions as “strong” than “weak.”

Still, survey respondents say challenges persist. REALTORS® identified the following challenges that still threaten market conditions:

  • Limited inventories of homes for-sale;
  • Financing issues, like difficulty in qualifying for a mortgage due to higher FICO credit scores and down payment standards;
  • Appraisal issues with conservative estimates, use of “out-of-town appraisers,” or slow turnarounds;
  • New mortgage disclosure rules — known as TRID regulations — that could potentially delay closing/settlement of transactions;
  • Dampening effect of higher interest rates in the future (although anticipation of higher rates can spur demand in the short-term);
  • Declining demand from international buyers due to a strong U.S. dollar; and
  • Lack of FHA-approved condos.

Source: “May 2015 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey,” National Association of REALTORS®



NAR host upcoming closing process webcast

Have questions on the upcoming changes to the closing process? Learn about the new rules and forms that are slated to take effect October 3 in a live webcast on Thursday, July 16, at 2 p.m., Eastern Time.

Nationally recognized closing process expert Phil Schulman of K&L Gates and NAR Senior Counsel Finley Maxson will walk you through the new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms and the new time frames that you must meet to comply with the requirements set by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The speakers will discuss and answer questions on the 1) the new Loan Estimate, 2) fees, 3) referrals, 4) the new Closing Disclosure, and 5) timing issues.

The one-hour presentation will be hosted by Stephen Gasque, NAR’s director of broadcasting and host of NAR’s twice-monthly video news program, The Voice for Real Estate.

Date: Thursday, July 16, 2015

Time: 2 p.m., Eastern Time

Duration: 1 hour

Presenters: Phil Schulman, K&L Gates, Washington, and Finley Maxson, NAR senior counsel, Chicago

Host: Stephen Gasque, NAR Director of Broadcasting

Link to event on July 16 at 2 p.m., ET:



Potential Buy-to-rent returns down from a year ago

RealtyTrac® (, the nation’s leading source for comprehensive housing data, today released a Buy-to-Rent analysis and a Buy-or-Rent analysis on 3-bedroom residential properties in 285 counties nationwide.

Dashboard 1 Realty Trac

Across all 285 counties analyzed, the average potential annual gross rental yield was 8.94 percent for 3-bedroom residential properties purchased in the first five months of 2015, down from a 9.07 percent potential average potential rental return for 3-bedroom residential properties purchased in the same time period a year ago in those same counties.


Counties with increasing buy-to-rent returns

Potential buy-to-rent returns still increased in 116 of the 285 counties analyzed (41 percent) thanks to rental rate growth outpacing home price growth in those counties. Major counties where potential buy-to-rent returns increased from a year ago included Orange County, California in the Los Angeles metro area, King County, Washington in the Seattle metro area, Santa Clara County, California in the San Jose metro area, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and Suffolk County, New York on Long Island.

Other major markets with year-over-year increases in potential buy-to-rent returns included counties in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina, Milwaukee, Jacksonville, Florida, Seattle and Denver.

Click here to read the complete story.


Out and About: Choosing REALTOR Champions at SWVAR

On Tuesday, VAR’s Director of Grassroots Anthony Reedy traveled to Abingdon to conduct the Choosing REALTOR® Champion training with a members from the Southwest Virginia Association of REALTORS®.  Attendees included representatives from SWVAR staff, government affairs committee, and other interested members. Attendees participated in the interactive workshop to further develop skills and processes for identifying, interviewing, endorsing and supporting REALTOR® Champion candidates for elected office at the state and local level.

Thank you to SWVAR CEO Lisia Amburn for organizing the event and members Ray Amburn, Vickie England, Marcus Gilbert, Joh Johnson, Barbara Parker, Dianna Roberts, Jim Rowlette, and Charlie Wilson for participating.

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Virginia housing market improving, Fed survey shows

The housing market in Virginia was noticeably better in the first part of the year than the same period a year ago, according to results of an annual survey released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

First-time homebuyers boosted the Virginia housing market, representing 45 percent of clients for the 354 members of the Virginia Association of Realtors who responded to an online survey between May 4 and May 15.

Nationally, first-time homebuyers represented 30 percent of all buyers of existing homes in March, 29 percent in February and 28 percent in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. It rose to 32 percent in May, the latest national figure available, which matched the highest share since September 2012.

Survey highlights:

  • 51 percent of those surveyed reported that median sales prices were slightly or significantly higher, up from 41 percent in 2014.
  • 59 percent of those surveyed indicated appraisals were “about right”; 37 percent suggested they were too low, down from 40 percent in 2014, 53 percent in 2013, and 58 percent in 2012.
  • 70 percent of those surveyed expected home sales to increase, while just 9 percent expected home prices to decrease.

Fed Survey 1
Click here to read the complete survey summary.





Sharon Johnson Accepts Gubernatorial Appointment to Virginia Real Estate Board

Sharon JohnsonGovernor Terry McAuliffe has appointed Sharon P. Johnson, Associate Broker with Century 21 Clary & Associates, Inc., in South Hill, Va., to the Real Estate Board of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Real Estate Board licenses salespersons, brokers and firms representing others in property transactions. The Board also enforces the Fair Housing Law in cases involving real estate licensees and their employees. Sharon previously served on the Board from 2002-2006 and from 2008-2012.

A native of Mecklenburg County, Va., Johnson currently resides in Boydton, Va. She has been involved in the real estate business since 1980 and is licensed in both Virginia and North Carolina. Her expertise includes residential sales as well as farmland, recreational properties, investment properties and commercial development.

“I am very humbled and honored by this appointment, and I look forward to collaborating with other members of the Real Estate Board to strengthen the role that real estate plays in making Virginia the best state in which to live, work and play,” said Sharon, who is an active member of the National Association of REALTORS®, the Virginia Association of REALTORS® and the Southside Virginia Association of REALTORS®.

Over the past few years, Sharon has worked closely with congressional leadership and has served on several House/Senate committees and fundraisers. A member of the Virginia Real Estate Board, she also enjoys volunteering locally to assist the Chamber of Commerce and various civic organizations with their fundraisers.

The Virginia Association of REALTORS® congratulates Sharon on this well-deserved gubernatorial appointment. She will be an outstanding champion for the real estate profession at the highest levels of state government.


Department of Labor proposes new overtime rules

The Department of Labor is proposing to change rules governing required overtime payment for salaried employees. The proposal, not yet printed in the Federal Register, would raise the income threshold for required overtime payments from the current $23,660 to $50,440 by 2016. The last adjustment in the threshold came in 2004. If adopted in its proposed form, salaried workers making less than the threshold level would be required to be paid time and a half for hours beyond 40 in a week.

Press reports indicate some five million American workers could see an increase in income due to the changes. Opponents of the change are arguing that jobs will be lost due to the added expense to employers. Proponents cite the fact that, adjusted for inflation, the proposed $50,440 threshold equals the threshold amount in 1975.

NAR is examining the new proposed overtime rules and evaluating the impact on state and local associations as well as real estate firms and brokerages. The Department of Labor has a 60-day public comment period on the new proposal, which also poses a series of questions on whether the definitions of managerial positions should be modified as it pertains to overtime requirements.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®, William Gilmartin


NAR to Partner with Hogan Lovells on UAV Webinar

The Hogan Lovells Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Group has partnered with the National Association of REALTORS® to host a webinar on the regulatory and business hurdles to operating unmanned aircraft systems (drones). Learn how to integrate UAV technology into your business and how to obtain a Section 333 waiver from the FAA.

Please join us on Thursday, July 9, 2015 at 2:00 P.M. EDT to learn more about how to get approved to fly drones.