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October 27, 2010

NAR Calls on Large Banks to Address Tight Credit, Short Sales Issues

Leadership from the National Association of REALTORS® has scheduled meetings with top officials of the nation’s four largest banks to discuss industry concerns over tight credit, last-minute commission cuts in short sales, and continued slow processing of foreclosures and short sales transactions.  Along with calling attention to current problems being experienced by consumers and REALTORS® during the transaction process, the larger purpose of the meetings has been to identify areas in which lenders and real estate professionals can work together to improve both the loan origination and short sale process. 

Among the issues that NAR has focused on during the bank meetings have been the need for a single point of contact to improve service to the borrower, homeowners and real estate agent; greater accuracy in appraisals and the opportunity to address potentially skewed appraisals; and greater transparency in lenders’ policies for underwriting loans, valuing property, selecting brokers for REO listings, and approving short sales.  To date, NAR leaders have met with Bank of America, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Chase Home Mortgage, and a meeting with CitiMortgage is planned for the near future.

Locally, Boston area REALTORS® have brought similar concerns directly to members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation who sit on the influential U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, which oversees all components of the nation’s housing and financial services sectors.  Bay State Congressmen Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) and Barney Frank (D-Newton) have heard directly from GBAR members about the challenges they are experiencing in the marketplace during the recent Capitol Hill Speaker Series.  Both legislators expressed an interest in working with REALTORS® on issues impacting home buyers and sellers in their districts and offered an opportunity to have an on-going dialogue on the issues.

To that end, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board is looking into the possibility of scheduling a similar meeting with representatives from the largest lenders to discuss problems with appraisals and processing of short sales and foreclosures.  If you have specific details of issues you are encountering in facilitating a short sale or foreclosure transaction that would be worth calling attention to at such as meeting, send them to the attention of GBAR at info@gbreb.com.  To learn more, see NAR’s Summary Report on its recent meetings with banking officials.

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On Election Day, GBREB Urges No Vote on Ballot Question # 2

On November 2, voters in Massachusetts will be asked to repeal the state’s comprehensive permit law, also known as Chapter 40B, when they go to the polls.  Doing so would pose a serious risk to the health of our state economy and the future of the Commonwealth.  That’s why the Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB) supports the preservation of Chapter 40B and urges REALTORS® and others to cast a “No” vote when completing Question 2 on the statewide ballot.

Since its enactment in 1969, Chapter 40B has proven to be our state’s most effective public policy instrument for the creation of new housing for working families, seniors and those with disabilities.  In fact, the law has directly led to the production of nearly 56,000 homes, with construction of another 10,900 homes approved at the local level but not yet built.  In addition, over the past eight years, Chapter 40B has prompted over 89 communities to develop affordable housing plans under the “planned production” regulation of 2003, and from 2002-2006 40B is responsible for the creation of nearly 80 percent of all new affordable rental units in Greater Boston (outside of the City of Boston).

Alternatively, proponents of Question 2 want to restrict residential development in an effort to control population growth.  Importantly, however, a 2006 Harvard University/Rappaport Institute study found that restricting housing supply not only slows population growth, but also leads to greater volatility in housing prices, and declines in employment and household income.  Not surprisingly, the four candidates for Governor of Massachusetts have indicated their intent to vote No on Question 2.  For more information on this issue and why GBREB and the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® are part of a grass-roots coalition that opposes repeal of Chapter 40B, visit the website for the Campaign to Protect the Affordable Housing Law, or read the editorials that appeared in The Boston Globe and Metrowest Daily News urging a No vote on Question 2.

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Home, condo sales fall for third consecutive month in September

Housing demand continued to weaken last month across eastern Massachusetts with sales of detached single-family homes and condominiums falling for a third consecutive month in September compared to same month one year ago.  Single-family home sales slid 17 percent and condo sales declined nearly 25 percent on an annual basis.  Pending sales also fell over 20 percent in both the single-family home and condo markets from last September as weak job growth, more restrictive financing guidelines, expiration of the home buyer tax credit, and a drop in household formation have dampened buyer demand over the past 12 months. 

For the entire third quarter, sales are down nearly 20 percent from a year ago in the detached single-family home market, and roughly 27 percent in the condominium market. 

Despite the softening in buyer demand, median selling prices rose modestly over the past 12 months by 2.5 percent in the single-family home market and nearly 5 percent in the condo market.  It’s the seventh consecutive month the monthly median price for single-family homes has risen on an annual basis and ninth time in the past 10 months the monthly median price for condominiums has improved from the comparable period one year earlier.  This data reflects the fact that there were more trade-up buyers in the market last month compared to September 2009, but when viewed in combination with the recent gains in inventory levels of homes and condos for sale offers evidence that home values have at last stabilized across most communities in eastern Massachusetts following a five year market correction.

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

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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 REALTOR® Pride Campaign page on gbar.org.

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Volunteers Sought to Serve on GBAR Committees in 2011

Are you interested in becoming more actively involved with the REALTOR® organization?  Then we invite you to apply for an appointment to one of nearly one dozen association committees that have openings for GBAR members in 2011.  Participation as a committee member affords you the chance to become part of the association’s decision-making process, and also provides the opportunity to network regularly with REALTORS® and affiliate members from communities all across eastern Massachusetts.  To be considered for a 2011 committee appointment, simply complete our online Committee Volunteer Request Form by November 1, 2010.  You’ll find a description of each committee’s purpose and anticipated frequency of meetings in a document linked within the Committee Volunteer Request Form.  For questions, call GBAR at 617-423-8700.

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GBAR Fall Furniture Drive will Benefit Homeless

This fall, the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® will conduct its Third Annual Furniture Drive to benefit the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless (MCH), the association’s designated charity.  Organized and coordinated by the GBAR Community Service Committee, the furniture drive has generated over 25 truckloads of household goods for needy families in its first two years. Donations made to the furniture drive are tax deductible.

GBAR members, their clients and customers, and family members of REALTORS® can arrange for a pick up of furniture and other household items that are in good condition during the week of November 8-12 by sending an e-mail to mahomeless@olympiamoving.com.   For those unable to donate items during the week-long furniture drive, a pick-up of items can be scheduled for delivery later this year to the Coalition’s warehouse as part of GBAR’s Furnish the Future campaign, a year-long partnership with Olympia Moving & Storage and the MCH that is aimed at helping individuals and families transition from homelessness to permanent housing. 

Established in 1981, the MCH is the nation’s oldest statewide homeless advocacy organization and annually assists over 2,000 households transition from shelters, motels and other temporary housing to a home of their own.  For questions, contact GBAR Communications & Marketing Assistant Kate Reynolds at keynolds@gbreb.com or 617-399-7840, or watch for an informational e-mail from GBAR in the week ahead.

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GBAR Helps Secure $2,000 Grant for Cambridge Housing Group

The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) Charitable Foundation recently awarded a $2,000 grant to the Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund (CHAF), a public/private partnership which helps aid the homeless and others in transitional housing acquire or get placed in safe secure housing.  In addition, the group aids tenants at risk of losing housing by raising funds to cover rent payments and supplement rental start-up costs such as a security deposit and last month’s rent.  CHAF was nominated for the grant by the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS®, and was one of six groups to receive a Housing & Homeless Assistance Grant from the MAR Charitable Foundation during ceremonies held at the 2010 MAR Conference & Trade Show held earlier this month in Worcester.

Established in 1999 by the Cambridge Community of Real Estate Professionals, CHAF now operates under its fiscal agent, HomeStart, Inc., and is part of a larger coalition involving the Cambridge Multi-Service Center for the Homeless.  The partnership currently includes local REALTORS®, bankers, attorneys, civic leaders and business owners and also enjoys support from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  CHAF has raised nearly $1.4 million since its inception to aid more than 1,400 households escape homelessness and shelters or avoid losing permanent housing.

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Put Your Knowledge to the Test and Help the REALTOR® Cause at GBAR Trivia Night

Do you possess a wealth of knowledge about history, academia and pop culture?  If so, we challenge you to put your wisdom and recall to the test at next month’s GBAR Trivia Night where you will have the opportunity to compete against fellow REALTORS® for prizes and be crowned winner of the first-ever REALTOR® Team Trivia Award.  This unique member networking event will take place on Tuesday, November 9, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Olde Irish Ale House on Rt. 109 in Dedham, and will feature free food, music, raffle prizes and more.  You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the REALTOR® organization’s public policy agenda.  Proceeds from the evening will benefit the National Association of REALTORS® Political Advocacy Fund.

Only a limited number of teams can be accommodated at this event, so recruit your office colleagues and enter soon.  The special early-bird entry rate of $75 for five-member teams ends on October 29, after that teams of five may register for $100.  Individuals also can participate for $20.  For questions, or to register visit the GBAR Trivia Night event page on gbar.org or contact Kate Reynolds at 617-399-7840 or kreynolds@gbreb.com.

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