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June 24, 2010

Effort Underway to Extend Closing Date for Home Buyer Tax Credit

Federal lawmakers are currently working on a measure to extend the current home buyer tax credit closing deadline by 90 days.  The amendment does not create any new eligibility for the tax credit, and would apply only to home purchasers who have satisfied the April 30 binding contract provision to qualify for the tax credit of $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for existing homeowners.

It is estimated that up to 180,000 U.S. home buyers who have qualified for the tax credit may not be able to close by the present closing deadline of June 30 due to the large volume of mortgage applications currently in process following a very strong spring housing market that was fueled by the tax credit.

Last week, the U.S. Senate adopted an amendment to a pending jobs and tax extension bill (H.R. 4213) that, if passed, would extend the closing date for the home buyer tax credit from June 30 to September 30, 2010.  This legislation is subject to a procedure that will require 60 votes to pass the Senate, and two such efforts to do so have already failed.  At present, the bill has been withdrawn, but could come to the Senate floor again in the next several days.  Passage in the U.S. House of Representatives and approval by the White House also is needed for the measure to take effect.  Be sure to watch your email for updates.

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Home, condo sales remain strong in May, but signs of softening demand appear

The housing market in Greater Boston continued to rebound last month as sales of detached single-family homes and condominiums increased for a ninth consecutive month on an annual basis in May across the GBAR jurisdictional area.  However, pending sales of homes and condos both declined in May for the first time in 11 months on a year-to-year basis, and also slid from the previous month, an indication that buyer demand may be softening following the expiration of the home buyer tax credit on April 30.

Sales of detached homes rose 48 percent in May over the same month last year to 930 homes sold, their highest level for the month of May in three years, and the 11th best May sales volume on record in Greater Boston.  In response to the demand, the monthly median selling price of detached single-family homes rose for the seventh time in the past nine months on an annual basis, climbing 7.4 percent in May to $435,000.  Meanwhile, in the condo market sales rose 26 ˝ percent last month over May 2009 to the sixth highest in history for the month of May in metro Boston.  However, the median selling price for condos declined 4.3 percent in May from the comparable month last year following five consecutive months of price gains.  Instead of declining values, a closer look at the data suggests the price decrease in May is due to the fact that there were far fewer high-end condo units that sold last month compared to May 2009.

For more data and analysis on the housing market in greater Boston, visit the Monthly Housing Reports page on gbar.org.

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Clarification on how to handle inquires from census workers

In numerous instances around the country, REALTORS® have been approached by census workers seeking information about the occupants of homes among listings they hold.  Some even insist that the law requires brokers and sales agents to respond to such inquiries, but that’s not true.  Sales associates with a typical residential listing agreement are not required to respond to census enumerators’ questions about a property’s occupants, reports the National Association of REALTORS®.  To learn more, a full explanation of the rules and advice for handling census inquiries is included in a recent NAR Legal Advisory.

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FHA Reform Bill Proposes Lowering of Upfront Premium

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 5072, the FHA Reform Act of 2010, which aims to strengthen the Federal Housing Administration’s mortgage insurance program while keeping the program available and affordable to responsible homeowners. Among the provisions of the bill is a proposal to decrease the upfront premium to 1.0 percent from the current 2.25 percent, a level the FHA just approved in February.  The legislation also seeks to give FHA authorization to raise the annual premium from .55 percent to .85 percent.  These changes would be helpful to home buyers since the revisions would reduce the upfront costs on borrowers and decrease the overall financial burden on homeowners since, unlike the upfront premium, the annual premium can be factored into the monthly payments.  The legislation, which also includes a provision to increase the FHA loan limits on multifamily buildings, now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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Nominations Sought for GBAR Member Recognition Awards

Do you know a deserving colleague or affiliate member whose professionalism and volunteer service to the REALTOR® association and the local community or charitable causes sets them apart from others?  If so, why not nominate him or her for one of this year’s GBAR member recognition awards?  This year, the association is seeking nominations for five different awards, including the inaugural REALTOR® Spirit Award and GBAR Affiliate Member of the Year.  The annual member recognition awards also include the Greater Boston REALTOR® of the Year, GBAR Good Neighbor, and Andrew F. Hickey Distinguished Service awards. 

Members may be nominated for one or more of the above awards.  The entry deadline for nominations is June 30, 2010.  For more information, including the purpose and criteria for each award, as well as nomination forms, go online to gbar.org for the GBAR Awards Nomination packet

We hope to see you on July 27 at the GBAR Awards Dinner aboard the Sprit of Boston Yacht as we pay tribute to this year’s award winners.

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Are You Ready to Assume a Position in REALTOR® Leadership?

Applications are now being accepted from those interested in serving in elected leadership positions with GBAR in 2011.  If you or a colleague you know would like to take a more active role in setting the programming, policies, and strategic direction for the association, you are invited to submit a candidate application nominating yourself or a qualified fellow REALTOR®.  The deadline to apply for elected office (president-elect, vice president, treasurer), or open seat as a local, state or national director is August 1st. For position descriptions, including information on the qualifications and responsibilities of each open position, as well as the candidate application form the Officer & Director Nomination Packet is available for download from gbar.org.

Notably, members interested in becoming association leaders and more effective decision-makers and managers in business, also are encouraged to consider enrolling in the MAR Leadership Academy.  The Leadership Academy is a training program that allows participants to develop strong leadership and life skills, including goal-setting, networking and communication skills, through individual study, group sessions, and team-building exercises.  The program includes four sessions over a six-month period, and also requires participation on a MAR committee in 2011 and attendance at three MAR Board of Directors meetings from September 2010 – May 2011.  Tuition is $750.  The deadline to apply is June 30, 2010.  To learn more and obtain an application, Academy materials are available for download from the Association Leadership page at marealtor.com.

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REALTOR® Input Sought for Survey on Home Renovation Projects

Each year, REALTOR® Magazine in conjunction with Remodeling Magazine conducts a survey to determine the average cost and estimated value of various home improvement projects completed by homeowners.  This year, the Cost vs. Value Survey covers 35 commonly performed home renovations and/or improvements and will look at variations in 80 metropolitan areas across the U.S., including Greater Boston.  Participation from real estate brokers, salespersons, and appraisers is being sought to help complete this year’s survey.  Responses to the survey are desired by July 18 but all participants who complete the survey by August 30 are eligible to win a $500 American Express gift card.  For more info, send an email to cost-value@hanley-wood.com or simply log-in here to enter the survey.

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