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July 27, 2011

FTC Will Not Enforce Provisions of MARS Rule Against Most Real Estate Agents 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that real estate agents and brokers will not be subject to most provisions of the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) rule.  The MARS rule was first established in 2009 and applies to companies and individuals who assist consumers in obtaining approval of a short sale from their lender or loan servicer.  It requires those who offer mortgage assistance relief services to disclose certain information to consumers about the services they provide, and prohibits the collection of advance fees as well as false or misleading claims.

As a result of the FTC’s decision, real estate professionals will not have to make the numerous disclosures required by the MARS rule, and are also exempt from the ban on the collection of advance fees.  However, agents and brokers are still subject to the Rules’ ban on misrepresentation.  Notably, the stay on enforcement applies only to real estate professionals who: 1) are licensed and in good standing under state licensing requirements; 2) comply with state laws governing the practices of real estate professionals; and 3) assist or attempt to assist consumers in obtaining short sales in the course of securing the sale of their homes.  The FTC says the stay does not apply to real estate professionals who provide other types of mortgage assistance relief, such as loan modifications. 

The ruling follows months of dialogue between the National Association of REALTORS® Legal Department and Federal Trade Commission, and more recently a meeting between NAR President Ron Phipps and FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz to discuss REALTORS’® concerns about the Rule’s required disclosures and the ambiguity and confusion they could create for consumers working with a real estate professional to assist in the sale of a distressed property.

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Over Five Million Property Owners at Risk of Losing Flood Insurance Protection

On October 1, 5.6 million home and business owners in the U.S. could lose their only source of insurance protection to recover from the damaging effects of a flood if federal lawmakers don’t act soon to re-authorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  Since the third quarter of 2008, there have been five shutdowns of the NFIP and nine temporary extensions of the program by Congress.  With the number of large-scale floods on the rise in recent years, this is not the time for uncertainty, assert officials with the National Association of REALTORS® which has issued a Call-for-Action urging passage of legislation to reauthorize the NFIP for five years and implement reforms that would bring fiscal stability to the program.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives responded by voting 406-22 to pass HR 1309, a measure that would fund the NFIP for another five years and bring meaningful reform to the program.  However, the U.S. Senate has not yet acted on the bill.  As recently as June 2010, a short-term lapse in the NFIP caused 47,000 home sales to be delayed or cancelled as thousands of consumers were unable to access affordable property insurance.  If you have not yet participated in the legislative Call-for-Action on the NFIP, please visit the REALTOR® Action Center to send a pre-drafted letter stating the REALTOR® position on this issue to U.S. Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown.

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Rise in Pending Sales Offers Hint of Better Days Ahead for Housing Market

Although sales of detached single-family homes and condominiums declined for a sixth consecutive month on an annual basis in June, pending sales of detached homes and condos rose for a second consecutive month over year-ago levels, an indication that the slowly improving job market in Gr. Boston, combined with stronger home price affordability and steady financial gains on Wall Street have provided an increasing number of home buyers with the confidence to move forward with a home purchase.  In the detached single-family home market, pending sales jumped 19 percent over last June, making it the largest annual increase in monthly pending home sales since April 2010, when pending sales rose 29 percent.  Additionally, pending sales of condos rose 9 percent over the comparable month last year.

Meanwhile, sales of detached homes declined in June by nearly 14 percent from the same month last year and condo sales fell 15 percent compared to June 2010 – a month when single-family home and condo sales hit a five-year high as consumers rushed to beat the expiration of the federal home buyer tax credit.

Despite the drop in sales volume, the median selling price for detached single-family homes remained stable last month, unchanged over the past 12 months at $510,000.  Furthermore, last month’s median price is just 5.4 percent below the all-time high monthly median price of $539,000 set in August 2005 – an indication that trade-up bt its highest price point in eight months, and just 0.5 percent below the record high median selling price of $378,200 recorded in November 2010.

To view all of last month’s data and to get a more detailed analysis on the housing market in Greater Boston, visit the Monthly Housing Reports page on gbar.org. 

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GBAR to Host Free RPR Demo & Training Session

If you’re not yet familiar with or become a registered user of the REALTORS® Property Resource (RPR), NAR’s new national database of property data and information for all homes, commercial property and land parcels in the U.S., we invite you to attend the free demonstration and training session to be presented at the GBAR/GBREB offices in Boston on Tuesday, August 16, from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.  RPR is a parcel centric-system accessible exclusively to REALTORS® which contains data on over 147 million properties, compiled from public records and assessment information.  In addition, you will find zoning and permitting data, mortgage and tax lien information, profile reports on local scuyers and high-end properties saw the bulk of activity in June.  In the condo market, the median selling price increased 5.2 percent over the past year to $376,250.  It’s the twelfth time in the past 14 months the monthly median price for condominiums has risen on an annual basis.  Notably, the median price for condominiums is now ahools, as well as the real estate industry’s largest database of foreclosure information.  The RPR database also has been integrated with localized active and off-market data from participating multiple listing services, like MLSPIN.  Seating is limited, so register early to attend the RPR Demo and Training Session via the GBAR Online Calendar.

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Nominations for 2012 GBAR Elected Leadership Due By August 1

Would you like to have an active voice in setting policy and being a decision-maker for the REALTOR® organization on the local, state or national level in the coming year?  Or, do you know a well-qualified colleague who should be considered for a leadership role in the association?  If so, we invite you to submit a nomination form for yourself or a fellow REALTOR® to serve in one or more of the following elected positions: officer or director of the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® (GBAR); director of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board; state director with the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR); or director of the National Association of REALTORS® in 2012.

Nominations are being accepted until August 1, 2011.  For detailed descriptions of the responsibilities of each elected office and qualification criteria, you may download the GBAR Nomination Packet from gbar.org. All candidates meeting the qualifications of the office or position they seek to hold in 2012 will be carefully considered by the GBAR Nominating Committee later this summer, with a formal slate to be noticed in September, and subsequently presented to the GBAR Board of Directors for vote in October.

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GBAR Honors Five MAR Leadership Academy Graduates

Congratulations to five GBAR members who recently graduated from the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® Leadership Academy! On May 18, 2011, Greg Kiely of Century 21 Commonwealth in Wellesley, Joanne Taranto of Gibson/Sotheby’s International Realty in Weston, Ana Portillo of Global Gateway Realty Group in Arlington, Andrew Sarno of ERA Andrew Realty in Medford, and Joe Schutt of Gibson/Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston successfully completed the 7-month long program.  To commemorate this accomplishment, the five GBAR graduates received an engraved portfolio from the current association leadership, which was presented by GBAR President Deborah Heffernan at the GBAR Board of Directors meeting in June.  The MAR 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. 

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GBAR Awards $25,000 in Grants to Local Housing & Homeless Assistance Groups

GBAR recently awarded grants of $2,500 to 10 local 501 (c)(3) organizations that provide housing and/or assistance to residents of their communities.  With more than 30 applications submitted from different organizations, GBAR’s Community Service Committee, led by Chairperson Anastasia Prapas and Vice Chair Mary Crane, determined those organizations that best fit the grant criteria. The organizations which were recommended by the committee and approved by the GBAR Board of Directors to receive grants through the Greater Boston Real Estate Board Foundation are:

   o        ABCD Parker Hill /Fenway Neighborhood Service Center of Roxbury;
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Horizons for Homeless Children (HHC) of Roxbury;
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The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless of Lynn;
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HAWC: Healing Abuse Working for Change of Salem;
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Andrew’s Helpful Hands of Hudson;
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Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston;
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Victory Programs, Inc. of Boston;
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Family Reach Foundation of Winchester;
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Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC); and
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“Our Place” Daycare Center for Homeless Children of Cambridge

We congratulate all of the grant recipients for their tireless efforts in providing programs and services that make a meaningful difference in the lives of local residents.  GBAR will begin accepting applications for the next round of Housing & Homeless Assistance Grants in January 2012.

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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.  The annual Cost vs. Value Survey examines nearly three dozen commonly performed home renovations and/or improvements and looks 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.  The deadline for completing the survey is September 30.  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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