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 March 11, 2010

New Smoke Detector Rules Take Effect in Early April

REALTORS®, be sure to make note of the Commonwealth’s new smoke detector regulations which take effect on April 5, 2010.  The regulations govern the installation of smoke detectors in single family homes and multi-family residential buildings under 70 ft. tall and containing five or fewer units which have not been constructed, altered or modified since January 1, 1975.

Essentially, the soon to be implemented regulations change the types of technologies that must be employed by detectors in affected properties.  Specifically, owners must now install smoke detectors utilizing both ionization and photoelectric technologies in all places that they were previously required, EXCEPT within 20 feet of a kitchen or a bathroom containing a bathtub or shower.  Within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower, ONLY a photoelectric smoke detector is allowed. 

For more information of the smoke detector regulations, we have posted a set of Frequently Asked Questions on gbreb.com and a webinar on the new rules also is available for viewing on marealtor.com.  GBREB also will be presenting a seminar on the smoke detector rules in conjunction with the State Fire Marshall’s Office which is scheduled for March 25, from 10 – 11 a.m., in Waltham.  To register, call GBREB at 617-423-8700 or download the registration form.  Finally, for the benefit of homeowners you may be working with, you may wish to download a brochure on the new smoke detector rules recently produced by the State Fire Marshall’s Office.

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Limits on Mortgage Interest Deduction Proposed

The proposed federal budget submitted by the Obama Administration for fiscal year 2011 would impose new limits on mortgage interest deduction (MID) and a number of other federal tax deductions.  If approved, the administration’s proposal would cap the value of itemized deductions at 28 percent for those in higher tax brackets.

Efforts to limit the MID and other itemized deductions were also introduced last year by the White House as part of its proposed FY 2010 budget, but were rejected by the Congress.  The REALTOR® organization strongly opposes any proposal that would limit the deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes.  In a letter sent to Max Baucus, chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) President Vicki Cox-Golder said “Today’s housing market, while improving, cannot absorb any negative signals, no matter what the income level of the taxpayer and no matter what market segment of housing might be affected.  To read more on this issue and NAR’s efforts to preserve the MID visit REALTOR.org.

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Lead Paint Rules to Get More Strict as of April 1

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enacted tough new rules regulating building renovations or rehabilitation work that could potentially disturb lead paint.  Under the new more stringent guidelines due to take effect on April 1, 2010, property management companies will be required to hire businesses that have a “certified renovator” supervising the work, or if the work is being performed by the management company’s own staff then the staff members will need to become certified renovators to oversee the work.  The new law does allow for some exceptions, including emergency renovations and work performed in “lead free” areas.  You can learn more about the new federal lead paint regulations in the article “Time to Get the Lead Out,” authored by Jeffrey Turk, Esq., of Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C.

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Home, condo sales rise for fifth consecutive month in Greater Boston

Sales of detached single-family homes and condominiums in greater Boston both rose for a fifth consecutive month in January over the same month one year earlier, according to data taken from MLS-PIN.  Sales of detached homes rose 15.7 percent, while condo sales improved by nearly 40 percent over January 2009. 

The healthy sales gains along with declining inventory levels is putting upward pressure on home prices.  The median selling price for detached single-family homes rose for a third consecutive month in January, climbing 6.3 percent to $425,000, while the median selling price for condos increased 27.2 percent over the past 12 months to $343,500.  For a complete market overview for January, including annual and monthly data comparisons for the GBAR jurisdiction, as well as a narrative summary of market trends, visit the new Monthly Housing Reports section of gbar.org.

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GBAR ads promote home buyer credit, value of working with a REALTOR®

For a third consecutive year, the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® (GBAR) is partnering with the National and Massachusetts Associations of REALTORS® in efforts to promote favorable home buying conditions in the local market, as well as the value of working with a REALTOR® during the property transaction process.  The 2010 public awareness ad campaign will appear during the spring market and feature advertising on the MBTA.

This year’s campaign debuted on March 1 and will remain up until Memorial Day. Ads will appear on the backs of 150 buses with routes that traverse downtown Boston and many of the city’s neighborhoods.  In addition, poster ads will be positioned on the platforms at 55 commuter rail and subway stations, including several of the highest traffic locations on the MBTA system – namely North Station, South Station, and Back Bay Station in Boston, and the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn.

Messaging for GBAR’s spring ad campaign will feature custom ads designed to supplement the NAR Public Awareness Campaign currently appearing on television and radio nationwide. Specifically, ads will publicize the extended and expanded home buyer tax credit, the knowledge and data REALTORS® possess of local market conditions, and the importance of using a REALTOR® during the home buying and selling processes. To view, a sample of the ad messages and poster locations on the subway and commuter rail lines, visit the campaign page on gbar.org.

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New HAFA Program to Aid Homeowners With a Short Sale

A new federal program designed to help homeowners undertake a short sale rather than lose their home to foreclosure is set to debut on or before April 5th.  The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program includes uniform procedures, standard forms and deadlines for lenders – all aimed at facilitating a smoother, more timely sale of property.  The HAFA program provides an option to the loan modification program introduced last year under the Making Home Affordable Program, an Obama Administration initiative created to provide incentives and uniform procedures for short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure.  For more details and to better understand how the HAFA program can benefit those you may be counseling, read or download NAR’s new informational brochure on HAFA.

For those REALTORS® interested in learning more about the short sale process, including specifics on negotiations, managing buyers’ expectations, guidelines for discussing loss mitigation issues with homeowners, and how to protect your commission in a short sale proceeding, GBAR will be presenting a second offering of the class “Understanding & Handling Short Sales,” on May 12, from 3-5 p.m. at the association’s offices in Boston.  This course is offered with two CE credits.  For more information or to register, call GBAR at 617-423-8700.

Additionally, GBAR, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR), is co-sponsoring the more extensive one-day Loss Mitigation Certification (LMC) Course on June 16, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at The Boston Globe offices in Dorchester.  The LMC course offers instruction on how to work effectively with transactions involving a short sale, foreclosure, auction, or bank-owned property.  For more information or to register, call, MAR at 800-725-6272.

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Still Haven’t Paid Your Membership Dues?  Act Now to Avoid Termination

If you have yet to renew your membership for 2010, please consider doing so now to avoid termination.  Members who do not pay their annual REALTOR® dues by March 26 will be subject to termination as well as a reinstatement fee.

As of this week, you may choose to renew in full ($483 for REALTORS® and $655 for Designated REALTORS®) or pay in two installments by enrolling in the Extended Dues Payment Plan just approved by the GBAR Board of Directors.  Participation in this special payment plan allows you to pay the state and national portion of dues on March 26, with the local portion of dues and fees applied on May 26.

Remember, payment of your dues ensures uninterrupted service of all association benefits, including use of the REALTOR® trademarks and any professional designations you may earned, your free subscription to E-Forms by TrueForms™, and access to all member publications, special product discounts, the MAR Tech Helpline, and GBAR Brokerage Counseling and MAR Legal Hotlines (for DRs only).

To pay your dues or for questions about the Extended Dues Payment Plan, call the Membership Department at 617-423-8700.  For those who opt to pay in full, you may also renew online.

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