Webinar: REALTOR® safety from a law enforcement perspective

Mark your calendars – April 21, 2:00 EDT

In this free safety webinar from NAR, Adrian Manzanares will show you safety from the perspective of a law enforcement professional. He has more than 20 years of experience as an officer and criminal investigator. Now, he’s  a real estate broker and will share his years of knowledge with you so you can apply simple safety strategies into your business that will help you stay alert and safe while on the job.

You’ll learn:

  • To identify possible dangers you may face during client meetings and on property showings
  • How a lack of situational awareness can compromise your personal safety
  • To understand the mind set and mental preparation necessary to ensure personal safety during day-to-day operations
  • What a position of advantage is, how to use command presence and how to enact common safety practices in an effort to reduce the risk of compromising your personal safety

Register now



REALTORS® support safe, responsible access to mortgage credit availability for borrowers

A diverse group of housing industry stakeholders participated in a credit access symposium on April 1 to discuss how alternative credit scoring models could expand access to mortgage credit for responsible borrowers who may have thin credit histories or extenuating circumstances like medical debts.

The event, co-hosted by the National Association of REALTORS®, the Asian Real Estate Association of America and the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, included two roundtable discussions and a keynote address from Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.

  “REALTORS® support safe, responsible access to mortgage credit for borrowers who can show they are ready and able to own a home and keep up with monthly payments. Unfortunately, overly restrictive lending, except to buyers with near-pristine credit scores, prevents many otherwise qualified buyers from entering the housing market,” said NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark.

NAR first called on federal regulators and the credit and lending communities in 2011 to reassess the entire credit structure and look for ways to increase the availability of credit to qualified borrowers who are good credit risks. Read more


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Learn more about proposed new metrics to help at-risk borrowers

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that millions of Americans unable to obtain credit cards, mortgages and auto loans from banks will receive a boost with the launch of a new credit score aimed at consumers regarded as too risky by lenders.

The new metric, set to be announced as soon as this week, is being developed by Fair Isaac Corp., creator of the most widely used consumer-credit scores, and is being tested in a pilot phase with credit-card issuers. Fair Isaac said it hopes to make as many as 53 million people who don’t have credit scores more acceptable to lenders.

People without scores in most cases don’t use debt either by choice or because a negative credit event, such as a bankruptcy, foreclosure or a collection account, has shut them out of mainstream borrowing.

The new score is largely a response to banks’ desire to boost lending volumes by increasing loan originations to borrowers who otherwise wouldn’t qualify, many of whom tend to be charged more for loans. But the new yardstick will also throw a spotlight on consumers who often are deemed riskier than the rest of the population and could saddle banks with losses if they fail to make good on their loans. To learn more, visit WSJ credit score.


VAR’s Deborah Baisden quoted in Washington Post article on flood insurance rates

Virginia Association of REALTORS® President Deborah was quoted in yesterday’s Washington Post’s article, “Rise in government insurance rates to mirror rising waters, flood debt,”  in conjunction with a congressional act that revised federal insurance premiums. The rate changes went into effect today today, April 1.

Baisden and others discuss the impact of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. To learn more about this issue, read Full story-Washington Post.

Interestingly, the story is being picked up by other national papers, including the Tampa Bay Times.


Broker Day is May 6th – Register now!

This year we are pleased to have Rich Casto, a REALTOR®—and former broker, as our featured speaker. Rich is nationally recognized for helping REALTORS® accomplish their business goals. Rich will lead a morning session and present his Seven Steps of Accountability system. In the afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to hone your coaching skills. Learn how you can motivate your agents and increase productivity!

 Managing Broker Jo Cross from Chesapeake raves, “I’ve been attending the VAR Broker Day for many years and always come away with information that helps me become a better managing broker. The speakers are always top notch & I love meeting with other managers who offer some amazing tips”

Additionally, The Virginia Department of Professional & Occupational Regulation (DPOR) will share how the DPOR investigation process works. We also have VAR counsel, Blake Hegeman present to discuss our Legal Hotline and answer any questions you may have.

 Join us onWednesday, May 6th at the Boar’s Head Inn. Come early! You may wish to book a round of golf or enjoy the spa in your free time. Rooms for the night of May 5th are available at a special VAR rate through April 15. Please register now. On Tuesday evening, we will host an informal cocktail hour.




Governor Signs VAR Supported Property Rights Legislation

Last week, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed VAR supported HB 1849 into law. The legislation reforms the process to make it easier for a property owner to obtain a variance from a Board of Zoning Appeals, commonly known as BZAs.

Asking for and receiving a variance from a BZA is an extremely difficult and complex effort.  This comprehensive measure includes a provision that gives a property owner equal time at BZA hearings to present their case, eliminates vague and uncertain criteria, and establishes a statewide standard for hearing of a variance request from a private property owner. The new law also changes the burden of proof to give the landowner a fair shake at the BZA.

The bill, sponsored by REALTOR® Champion Delegate Danny Marshall of Danville, sailed through the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate without opposition. The Virginia Association of REALTORS® supported this measure as part of our continued advocacy efforts to protect the rights of property owners throughout the Commonwealth.

The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2015.  Check out more coverage of the BZA bill in the Martinsville Bulletin.


Community Matters: Chesapeake Bay and Rivers Association of REALTORS®

The Chesapeake Bay and Rivers Association of REALTORS® just completed a 60-day donation drive to collect smoke detectors for the benefit of area residents. Over 120 smoke detectors, along with monetary contributions, were donated by the CBRAR board and twelve broker members. Citizens of Middlesex, Mathews, Gloucester, and Lancaster Counties, as well as the town of West Point and part of King and Queen County will receive the detectors through CBRAR’s collaboration with local fire agencies and county emergency services. This effort reflects the REALTOR® commitment to the security and comfort of local residents.

As the seasons change, consider the needs of your neighbors. REALTORS® have the reach and reputation to create effective community change.  Tell us about your commitment to community impact by emailing Jenny Wortham, VAR Director of Community Outreach, at Jenny@VARealtor.com.


Mary Dykstra and Laura Lafayette appointed to Virginia Housing Policy Advisory Council

 Roanoke area REALTOR® Mary Dykstra and Richmond REALTORS® Association’s Laura Lafayette have been appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to serve on the new Virginia Housing Policy Advisory Council. The Council’s mission is to share their collective expertise and dedication to develop policies that are able to address Virginia’s critical housing needs.

Dykstra, the former president of the Virginia Association of REALTORS® is the director of business development for MKB REALTORS®. Lafayette serves as CEO for the Richmond Association of REALTORS®. Both are part of an18-member team of professionals from all over the Commonwealth who work in the public and private sectors of economic development and housing.

“We are very proud that Mary Dykstra and Laura Lafayette will be serving on the Virginia Housing Policy Advisory Council,” said Deborah Baisden, president of the Virginia Association of REALTORS®. “Their dedication and experience will be put to good use, as they and their fellow members begin to break down the barriers affordable and adequate housing in Virginia.”

The housing market is intertwined with the economic growth of a community. When the housing market tracks positive, economic development is spurred. This synergistic equation is essential to offer Virginians homes—and jobs, so they can continue to sustain home ownership and create thriving communities.

The council will explore urban and revitalization issues, the housing needs of seniors and people with disabilities, and homelessness—particularly veteran homelessness. Its first meeting was held last month. Future meetings are already scheduled for September and November.


4 Steps to clutter-free listings

Decluttered, depersonalized, and organized rooms demonstrate dimensions, architectural details, natural light, and views to buyers. Problem is, many sellers don’t see their homes through the same lens.

Many get used to living with organized chaos — a pile of mail or several years’ worth of magazines can easily become part of the décor, says Egypt Sherrod, CRS, saleswoman with Keller Williams Realty Cityside outside Atlanta, and host of HGTV’s “Property Virgins.” Others think that displaying possessions makes their home stand out and appear warmer and more inviting than the competition. Still others simply find parting with their stuff to be overwhelming.

Your job is to convince them otherwise. Many buyers equate clutter with messiness and disrepair, and they may quickly move on to the next listing. Here’s a four-step plan to get sellers to take action before their home is listed.

Share Selling Basics

Your first conversation should be a straightforward lesson in sales transactions. It’s not about their impressing others with design lessons culled from websites such as Houzz or Remodelista, or showing off their family heirlooms. Aside from location, price, and condition, buyers usually make their decisions based on the home’s structure and features.

“Buyers today are different than even a few years ago and first look online to educate themselves,” says Jessica Edwards, salesperson with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage in Wilmington, N.C. An elegant fireplace mantle can’t be appreciated when it’s crammed with candles and tchotchkes. The same goes for window treatments that block stunning views. In fact, Dakshi Anand, with John Greene, REALTOR®, in Naperville, Ill., tells those who resist such advice that they risk sellers who lose interest and suggests that they consider lowering their asking price.

You can also share an added bonus with sellers: Those who take the time to declutter before listing are usually far better prepared to move. The process also makes keeping the property clean for listing appointments and open houses much easier, particularly with those pesky last-minute viewing requests buyers often make.

Pro Shelf Tips

Why do some bookshelves look so professionally done? Because an owner—or stager—has taken time to arrange them neatly and decoratively. Here’s how to get the look. Choose books in good condition, and place hardbacks and paperbacks in separate groupings. Make sure the books stand upright with their spines aligned in a neat row and set the same distance from the front or back of the shelf. In another area, stack your largest books—art volumes work best for this—on their sides with titles visible and set the same distance from the front or back of the shelf. In between, place a few decorative accessories that provide a dash of color, shape, and variety; you might want to try out a vase, snow globe, or framed photo. Don’t forget to leave sufficient empty space so each grouping has room to “breathe.” Finally, take a step back to check your handiwork, tweak where necessary, and enjoy.

Be Specific

Because sellers may feel unsure just how decluttered and depersonalized rooms should look, be sure to explain your expectations in detail. Different professionals offer slightly different takes, from almost bare through minimal trappings to fully staged. Sherrod wants absolutely nothing on a kitchen counter; Edwards thinks a few essentials for daily living, such as a coffee maker and toaster, are fine. Others use numbers or percentages to guide them. Anand likes to keep a closet or bookshelf one-third empty, for example.

One way to make your point of view clear is by walking sellers through each room, pointing out the trouble spots.

  • Front entry: Here’s where buyers get that important first impression, often within the first 60 seconds, says Sherrod. Have sellers leave out only the most practical furnishings, such as a bench and side table, says Anand. Wall art and photos should be scaled back to three or four, says Nanette Plescia, sales manager for national home builder Lennar.
  • Kitchen: This hub of the house typically gets extra scrutiny. Anand recommends removing refrigerator door magnets, throwing out expired food, placing loose contents in containers, and leaving enough empty space so shelves can be viewed front to back. She also suggests sellers take the same approach with pantries, cabinets, drawers, and shelves.
  • Living spaces: Living, dining, and great rooms should reveal similarly slimmed-down contents rather than wall-to-wall furnishings and accessories. Remind home owners they’re selling their house, not their personal style, says Kathy Nielsen, executive vice president of the Real Estate Staging Association in Valley Springs, Calif.
  • Master bedrooms. This room should convey a sense of serenity, with all clothing and shoes put away and night tables cleared, except for a lamp or book. Also, advise sellers not to make secondary bedrooms a catch-all for storing unused items. This can be a particular problem for households where children no longer live at home, Nielsen says.
  • Closets. These should be dramatically emptied, by half or one-third, and shelves should be organized with uniform baskets, bins, and hangers. “Be sure there’s at least one-half inch in between hangers to convey roominess,” says Plescia. When it comes to closet floors it’s best to get rid of everything—even hampers—for the least cluttered look, says Nielsen.
  • Bathrooms. Besides telling sellers to clear counters and fixture surfaces, be sure they remove prescriptions for safety reasons. Loose items such as toothbrushes and hairstyling tools should be stored neatly. Towels should be put away unless sellers have new ones that they can keep neatly folded for showings.
  • Attics, basements, garages. Much like spare bedrooms, these spaces often become a dumping ground for seasonal and rarely used items. Advise sellers only to store what they need in clear, labeled bins—best to do so by category such as holiday decorations to make retrieval easier. “Otherwise, buyers may conclude the house itself doesn’t have enough storage,” says Barry Izsak, a professional organizer in Austin, Texas.
  • Outdoors. Most sellers know the importance of front-yard curb appeal, but they shouldn’t neglect side and back yards. Outdoor living spaces should be minimally furnished to convey the function—a patio looks more inviting with a table, a few chairs, and barbecue. Scattered children’s toys make the scene look disorganized; suggest they be stored in a colorful bin.

Find a Permanent Solution

Discourage sellers from taking the easy route of temporary off-site storage, which can become permanent and expensive. Suggest they work room by room and organize piles based on how they’ll part with items before the showing. There are many options, including these four favorites:

  • Give to family, friends, neighbors, or sharing nonprofits like The Freecycle Network.
  • Donate to a charity. Many organizations offer to pick up donations, but sellers should inquire first what they accept; some don’t need more china or won’t take used bedding. For taxable deductions, sellers must secure a written receipt for contributions of $250 or more.
  • Have it hauled away for free by a group like College Hunks Hauling Junk or 1-800-Got-Junk. Such groups will pick up unwanted belongings, but you won’t get credit for a donation.
  • Sell or auction items online at sites such as Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon, or at yard sales and flea markets. Sellers can also consign their items to a local shop, though, if they aren’t sold right away, prices may be lowered or items may be returned to the seller.  

Welcome Buyers

After completing the decluttering process, take a moment to appreciate the work that went into your shared undertaking. Shortly before show time, walk through the house together again. Both you and sellers should try to imagine you’re seeing it for the first time through buyers’ eyes. Agree on final changes, then turn on the lights and greet house hunters with good cheer and confidence.

By following this plan, the listing will be easier to sell. But just as importantly, sellers will feel the joy that comes with living amid more simply furnished and orderly surroundings, spending less money and time to move what remains, and possibly leaving behind old habits once they’re settled in their new digs.

Barbara Ballinger, Realtor Magazine Online


Community Matters: REALTORS® stand for Fair Housing

Because community is so central to our work and lives, REALTORS® are key champions of inviting and sustaining diversity. We know first-hand that communities with broad opportunity and inclusion are the most vibrant. Please take time this April to join your industry and community peers in promoting neighborhood diversity and revitalization, and in encouraging diversity in the leadership of your communities and your associations. Here are a few things that you can do to share the commitment to Fair Housing:

Update VAR on your fair housing activities and ideas for inclusive communities by contacting Jenny Wortham, VAR Director of Community Outreach, at Jenny@VARealtor.com.