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December 1, 2010

REALTORS® Help Preserve Chapter 40B, Shape Outcome of Congressional Elections

At the polls last month REALTORS® helped influence the outcome of a number of important voter referendums affecting the housing industry and homeownership, as well as the profile of the next United States Congress.   In Massachusetts, a ballot question to repeal the state’s comprehensive permit law, Chapter 40 B, was defeated, with 58 percent of voters rejecting the initiative and only 42 percent supporting the measure.  The Greater Boston Real Estate Board and Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® each contributed funds and joined forces with other like-minded groups to form a coalition – the Campaign to Protect the Affordable Housing Law. The coalition lead efforts to educate voters on the success that Chapter 40B has had in creating nearly 60,000 units of new residential housing in Massachusetts.

Elsewhere, in both Missouri and Montana, REALTORS® were actively involved in issues campaigns which led to the passage of new laws permanently prohibiting the imposition of real estate transfer taxes in those states.

Additionally, in the mid-term Congressional elections, 66 candidates for office who share the REALTOR® position on key public policy issues affecting the real estate industry were successful in winning a seat in Washington, due in large part to the efforts of local REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS®.   These individuals, including Bay State Congressmen Barney Frank (D-Newton) and Richard Neal (D-Springfield) not only received financial support through the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC), but also were aided by NAR’s Opportunity Race programs. The Opportunity Race programs are electoral advocacy initiatives, such as direct mailings, meet-and-greet events with candidates, and get-out-the-vote campaigns, that are intended to contribute to the election of REALTOR®-friendly candidates for public office.

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Deficit Reduction Proposal May Target Mortgage Interest Deduction

A story that appeared in the New York Times on November 10 included a leaked draft of an initial proposal from the Obama Administration’s Deficit Reduction Commission that includes modifications to the mortgage interest deduction (MID) as one suggestion for lowering the federal deficit.  However, the draft proposal is thin on details and is likely to change many times before any formal plan is issued by the Commission, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.  Additionally, the White House itself issued a statement on November 11 which said the draft “is only a step in the process toward coming up with a set of recommendations” {for reducing the federal deficit}.  The Deficit Reduction Commission, which is charged with outlining a plan on how the federal government can balance the budget by 2015, is expected to submit its report to President Obama on December 1. 

Notably, a minimum of 14 of the 18 members on the Commission must agree to the recommendations for reducing the deficit before the report can be released.  From there, any proposals would then have to work their way through congressional hearings before Congress would take any action.

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REALTOR® Code of Ethics Amended to Prohibit Discrimination
Based on Sexual Orientation

At the NAR Convention held last month in New Orleans, changes to Article 10 of the REALTORŪ Code of Ethics were approved making it unethical for REALTORS® to deny professional services or otherwise discriminate against any person or persons based on sexual orientation.  The vote by the Delegate Body follows earlier action taken by the Professional Standards Committee and NAR Board of Directors in May recommending revisions to the Code to include prohibitions against sexual orientation discrimination. 

Additionally, Standard of Practice 10-3 was amended to state that “REALTORS® shall not print, display or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to selling or renting of a property that indicates a preference, limitations or discrimination based on … sexual orientation.” 

Sexual orientation has been a protected class under Massachusetts law for several years, so the newly-approved amendments merely bring the provisions of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics into line with existing state law. 

To view the revisions to Article 10 and learn more about the NAR Delegate Body vote, read REALTOR® Magazine’s Daily Real Estate News from November 9.

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Housing Demand Eases, as Home Prices Strengthen
Across Greater Boston

Sales of detached single-family homes and condominiums in metropolitan Boston declined for a fourth consecutive month in October compared to the same month one year ago, as weak job growth, tight credit and a slowdown in household formation have dampened buyer demand over the past 12 months.  Single-family home sales fell 23 percent to their lowest October level in 15 years, and condominium sales decreased 32 percent from the preceding October to their lowest October level since 2001.  Pending sales were also down sharply last month, declining 19 percent in the detached single-family home market and 30 percent in the condo market, an indication that sales activity could remain slow until the start of the spring selling season. 

Despite the softening in buyer demand, median selling prices rose over the past 12 months by 10.7 percent in the single-family home market and by 5.4 percent in the condo market.  It’s the eighth consecutive month the monthly median price for single-family homes has risen on an annual basis and fifth straight month the monthly median price for condominiums has improved from the comparable period one year earlier.  This strengthening in home prices offers evidence that home values have finally stabilized after a five year market correction.  In addition, today’s low-market rates are enabling home buyers to purchase more home for their money, and trade-up buyers make up a larger share of the market today than one year ago and they have greater purchasing power than entry-level buyers. 

To view all October data and to get a more detailed analysis on the housing market in greater Boston, visit the Monthly Housing Reports page on gbar.org.  And, to view the latest market data by community within the GBAR jurisdiction, check out our 2010 Third Quarter Real Estate Rewind Report.

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MassHousing To Discontinue Affordable Advantage Loan Program

The Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MassHousing) has announced that it will stop accepting applications for products available through its Affordable Advantage Loan program as of December 1, 2010.  The discontinuation of this program is due to Fannie Mae’s failure to provide a firm commitment and details as to underwriting guidelines, fees, and maximum LTVs for the program after March 2011, when MassHousing’s current contract with Fannie Mae expires.  With its 60-day rate lock, and the time required to deliver loans, clear conditions, and pool loans in securities, MassHousing determined it would be imprudent to continue taking registrations for loans and locking in prices and rates to home buyers. 

Affordable Advantage Loan products are 30-year fixed-rate mortgages that feature 100 percent financing for single-family homes and condos (or 95% financing for 2-4 family homes), and require no mortgage insurance.  MassHousing officials believe there is a “reasonable chance” that Fannie Mae will offer an Affordable Advantage product to replace the existing one sometime before March 2011. 

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GBAR Members Named NAR Good Neighbor Award Recipients

GBAR members Wendy and John Rocca, agents at Century 21 Commonwealth in Watertown, have been chosen by the National Association of REALTORS® as one of five recipients of this year’s Good Neighbor Award.  Presented annually by REALTOR® Magazine, the Good Neighbor Award recognizes REALTORS® for their volunteer service to the local community and charitable causes. 

In 2003, the Roccas created Operation American Solider (OAS) to support military personnel serving overseas. To date, they have spent more than $15,000 of their own money and donated countless hours of volunteer time to send letters of support and “cheer” packages filled with snacks, beverages, toiletries, books, magazines and other items to soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to lift their spirits and let them know they are cared about.

As recipients of the Good Neighbor Award, the Roccas received a grant of $10,000 from NAR to support the work of Operation American Solider, as well as a $2,000 gift card from Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers.  In addition, the Roccas and OAS are profiled in the November-December 2010 issue of REALTORŪ Magazine, and were the subject of a video shown during the 2010 NAR Convention in New Orleans where they were honored and presented with their award.  If you would like to sponsor an OAS care package, you may make a donation online

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Show Your REALTOR® Pride and You Could Save $200 on Dues

Did you know that only 25 percent of all licensed real estate agents and brokers in Massachusetts are REALTORS®?  This distinction is one worth noting to consumers who are looking for a trusted advisor to guide them through the home buying and/or selling process.  It’s for this reason that GBAR has launched a new promotional campaign encouraging members to take pride in their profession and wear their REALTOR® pin.   

The campaign, which was developed by the GBAR Communications Committee chaired by Joe Stallone, includes consumer information materials educating consumers on the benefits of working with a REALTOR®; creative concepts for integrating the REALTOR® brand into your personal marketing and business advertising; and two interactive contests in which members could win $200 towards the 2011 REALTOR® membership dues.  Specifically, we’d like you to share a personal experience in which wearing the REALTOR® pin resulted in new business.  In addition, we’d like to receive the 50-75 word “elevator speech” you use to explain to others your profession and the factors that distinguish REALTORS from non-member licensees.   

To submit an entry for either contest or to download the Why Work With a REALTOR®? promotion pieces and Top 20 REALTOR® Branding Ideas, visit the REALTORŪ Pride Campaign page on gbar.org.

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Brokers from Concord, Waltham honored for RPAC Support

REALTORS® Laurie Cadigan, broker-owner of Barrett & Co. in Concord, and Gary Rogers, a broker with RE/MAX First Choice in Waltham, were recently presented with special recognition awards for their support of the REALTORSŪ Political Action Committee (RPAC).   The two were honored by the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) for becoming the latest GBAR members to become RPAC Major Donors.  Within the past year, both have become two-time “Sterling R” award recipients, a designation reserved for those who make annual contributions of $1,000 or more to RPAC. 

Cadigan is a former two-term president of GBAR and past clerk of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board who is poised to assume the presidency of the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® on January 1, 2011.  Rogers is the immediate past president of the MAR and currently represents GBAR on the NAR Board of Directors.

They received their Sterling R awards on November 9 at the GBAR Trivia Night fund-raiser for the National Association of REALTORS® Political Advocacy Fund (NARPAF), which raised $1,585 for NARPAF.  To make your contribution to support RPAC or the NARPAF, you can download a donation form or donate online. 

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