Sewer Lateral Update, Drone Photography and Novato Tour Meeting Feedback, MAR Monday Memo 07/14/14

Good morning MAR members!

It “needed killing.”

That phrase was ringing in my head for much of this week, and I tried to remember where I’d first heard it.  I wasn’t sure if it was in a movie, or some comedian, or what.

Upon a Google search, the second entry was the trusty Urban Dictionary, and I figured I’d leave it right there:

“Needed killing.  A regional term in the South and Southwest.  A person can become such a trial and burden on those around him that when someone finally shoots him, everyone who knew him says, ‘Well…He needed killing.’  It was often used in reference to outlaws when word arrived of their deaths.”

More on that in a moment.

A very busy week for everyone.  My office sure was humming with activity this week.  There were a lot more new listings than I’d expect in the second week of July, coming out of the holiday weekend.  It seemed more like a week in the fall with all the new places to go see.

Congratulations to our friends in Germany!!  Big win for them yesterday.  What fun the World Cup has been this past month.

SEWER POINT-OF-SALE UPDATE

MAR President-Elect Matt Hughes, Secretary Yoko Kasai, CEO Andy Fegley and I had a very productive meeting with Ross Valley Sanitary last Tuesday.  We are trying to get our arms around the ordinance they passed last month, with almost no public input, three business days after they announced the vote on their website.

Frankly, RVSD itself is trying to get its arms around what it passed.  We kept bringing up questions, many of which they had no answers for.

The cold, hard facts are these:  it’s going to get ugly.   And when it does get better, it’s still going to be tough.  We close around 500-600 properties in the Ross Valley Sanitary District every year.  When the new ordinance goes into effect on September 1 as it’s currently written, every single family home in the RVSD will need to (1) get a “pressure test” with an RVSD official present; (2) RVSD’s estimate is that 85% of the laterals will fail the “pressure test”, and will then need a camera inspection, also with an RVSD official present; (3) the findings of those inspections will need to be reviewed by the chief engineer of the district, who will determine if and when a replacement needs to occur; and (4) it’s unclear if the repair will need to be completed before COE.

The staff at the district doesn’t seem too keen on mandating a completed fix before COE, but the banks may well require that fix.  The ordinance is vague on this subject.  500-600 pressure tests, 500-600 camera inspections, and 500-600 determinations of whether it needs to be fixed or not, and (given their 85% failure rate) 425-510 sewer laterals replaced per year.

All starting on September 1 of this year.  About 45 days from now,

Aside from the RVSD bottleneck, who in the world is going to do all of these inspections, reports, reviews, and repairs?  RVSD currently has one person for on-site inspections.  They will be hiring one more.

The upshot is that they are finally seeking our input…after they passed the legislation with no input.  We will have several more meetings of the working group, and hopefully they will come up with policy and FAQ’s on the subject.  They have also agreed to a meeting with the entire membership for a big Q&A session.

It’s going to be tough.  I’ll keep you updated.

DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY UNDER ATTACK

Yes, folks, that’s right.  The Wild West of drone photography is getting regulated.  Last summer, my wife received a call from a friend, who just had a drone crash into her roof, damaging the roof.  Earlier this year, a woman in San Quentin Village contacted me, angry about a drone being used to photograph a nearby house, and flying right over the large clear skylight above her bathtub.  She was angry about this invasion of privacy.

More and more of us are using drone photography as a service to our clients.  It’s been a rather revolutionary new offering.  Last week, two articles on this subject came to my attention:

The first CLICK HERE announces that the FAA is going to regulate “amateur/hobbyist” drone pilots who use them to take pictures of properties for sale.  They are contending that taking property pictures represents commercial activity, and thus will require a license and assorted regulation.  This means you, if you’re flying your own drone.

The second CLICK HERE has my broker Coldwell Banker’s parent company, NRT, not only agreeing with the FAA, but according to Forbes also now completely recommending against using drone photography at all…even that which is professionally done.

This is a new chapter in broker risk management, and MAR has no position on the matter…but we wanted to make you aware of some of the rumblings around the industry.

NOVATO TOUR MEETING FEEDBACK RESULTS

“Your voicemail is almost full…”  Don’t you love it when the nice woman’s voice from AT&T or Verizon tells you that?   She and I were in touch this week.  You folks chimed in on last week’s question…in detail.

Which brings me back to “He needed killing.”  Referring back to the Urban Dictionary definition, it seems that the Novato Tour meeting has “become such a trial and burden on those around” it.

For those of you who missed my memo from last week, I was recently approached by a number of Novato agents wondering if the Novato tour had run its course.  Not being a regular attendee, I put it out to the membership:  Is the Novato Tour meeting still useful?

A full 45 of you felt compelled to contact me directly, in addition to the approximately 10 folks I’d spoken with about it prior to last week.  You emailed, you called, you texted.  One of you told me that it was a topic of discussion at your weekly office meeting, with an overwhelming consensus.

Two of you supported the meeting going on as it does now.

Everyone else pretty much dislikes the meeting, 50+ of you.  Many of you absolutely, positively despise the meeting.  I heard from brokers.  I heard from managers.  I heard from agents. I heard from assistants.  I didn’t hear from many affiliates.

The responses were about 65% from Novato agents, plus a few agents who live in Novato and work somewhere else in the county but still do a large chunk of their business in Novato.  The balance were Central and Southern Marin agents.

Here are the gripes, in descending order of frequency:

-It’s not useful.  I specifically asked if it was, and nearly everyone used these or some form of those words.

-It’s not a good use of my time/it makes it hard for me to get to my broker’s open on time.

-They email the tour out to everyone, so no one goes to the meeting anymore.

-It’s only attended by people with open houses that day and affiliates.  Very few agents who don’t have a property to be held open come to the meeting…often none.  And the agents who do come to the meeting have a house to hold open, so they don’t come to my open house.

-It used to be more useful with relevant guest speakers from the city, etc, but not much anymore.

-Very regularly, properties are listed on the Novato tour and are not on the MLS tour.  That was one of the most passionate gripes, both from those who are sore that they miss out on listings if they don’t go to the meeting, and those who feel that it’s a disservice to sellers to not have the broker tour on the MLS and thus exposing it to the largest agent pool.

-Some of the Novato agents and managers said that it might not be as welcoming to non-Novato agents as it should be.  A little clubby.   Some of the Central and Southern Marin agents expressed this in a few different ways.

-Who is in charge of the money that gets collected, and where does it go?  For some of you, this was a big question.

-We have wonderful technology, so the meeting might not be as relevant as it use to be.

-And the brokers and managers talked about the effort and workload needed to keep it going.

Almost without exception, nearly everyone asked for the meeting to end.  Or begged for the meeting to end.

I still believe that there might be some of you who really love the tour meeting.  If you’re out there, it’s really is time to speak up.  Otherwise, you risk the rest of your colleagues shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Well, it needed killing.”

So I don’t know will happen next, but the preferred outcome seems to be shared by nearly everyone.  MAR does not sponsor nor control this meeting.  Maybe a monthly buy/sell meeting? But whoever is in charge of the meeting now knows what the membership thinks.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

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Housing Density Update, Fairfax Rent Control Proposal and Novato Tour

Good morning MAR members!

I’m hopeful that all of you had a nice long holiday weekend! For those of you who left town, I hope your travels were safe. For those of you who stayed closer to home, I hope that the little secret of how nice Marin is when everyone leaves played itself out for you.

As for me, I stayed very close to the home base in Cascade Canyon. Lots of quiet time in the shade, and making the circuit between the pool, the refrigerator, and the grill. Ah, summer!

Speaking of summer, I continue to be involved in at least one death match multiple offer scenario every week. All the same buyers, week after week, competing over the same limited inventory. This is usually the quiet season, and it definitely feels that way with few new listings. But my goodness, when a nice one comes on, all the buyers are there waiting!

HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

It is the quiet season at MAR, lots of people going on vacation, and the politics have gotten quiet as well. Last year at this time it was all-out war over Plan Bay Area, but blessedly this year there is no comparable, all encompassing issue. The density conversation goes on, however. Fairfax is having a town hall meeting next Saturday, July 12 at 1:00 to discuss its General Plan and with it the Housing Element…there is even a banner announcing it across Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

In Corte Madera, rather than face off with a jittery public closely monitoring density, the developer for the 1441 Casa Buena project scaled back his project from 138 unit to 48 townhomes. You can read about itHERE. Everyone in the neighborhood seems much happier with that number.

FAIRFAX RENT CONTROL PROPOSAL

Thanks to MAR member Diane Hoffman for bringing to my attention and to MAR’s attention the new development in Fairfax where Vice Mayor Larry Bragman is advocating for a rent control discussion in Fairfax. Marin County is currently without any local rent control ordinances, but right across both bridges rent control is alive and well in San Francisco and Berkeley. MAR is looking to learn more about Vice Mayor Bragman’s proposal, and we have alerted the California Apartment Association about this development (which they were not aware of). The matter was discussed at last week’s Town Council meeting, and will be discussed at the next meeting. Stay tuned.

SEWER LATERAL AND INCREASED ROSS VALLEY GRANT AMOUNT

The first “working group” meeting with Ross Valley Sanitary for their new point-of-sale later inspection program will be held this week, so I will report back next week on that matter.

Ross Valley Sanitary did contact me this week to try to get the word out about the increased funding and contribution limits for their lateral grant program. For many years, RVSD had a grant program that would pay 50% of the cost of a lateral replacement, up to $4,000, for a qualifying lateral. That grant was scaled back to $2,000 over the past couple of years. Good news, the program has been re-funded and the grant program is back to the old 50%/$4k level. For more info you can read about it HERE.

THE NOVATO TOUR

Finally, I want to talk about a subject for which I admit I could be better-educated: the Wednesday morning Novato buy/sell and tour. I have from time to time through the years come to the Novato Tour meeting, most often when I have a new listing to present. It’s always been a nice meeting, and it’s seemed to me that the meeting was useful. I’ve also been impressed with the cooperative team spirit among the Novato Tour attendees, and the community announcements and opportunities to give back to the community always seemed to be a step in the right direction.

Several times, I’ve wondered if we shouldn’t have a similar gathering in Central and Southern Marin.

Several weeks ago, without warning, I received three phone calls within a couple of days from members with feedback on the Novato Tour. The overwhelming message I received was that these members found it to not be useful, and poorly attended by Realtor members. Again, this was all news to me.

These members wondered if the useful life of the meeting had been exceeded. So I’m putting it out there to the membership, at least so I can discuss the matter with a level of knowledge:

Is the Novato Tour meeting useful, and a good use of everyone’s time?

While I have no real opinion on the subject, one pet peeve that I do have are the occasional new listings in Novato not being listed on the MLS broker tour, but being listed on the Novato Tour. I guess the simple answer to me is “go to the Novato Tour meeting” if I don’t want to miss some of those listings. But it’s not always convenient to get to the meeting.

My sense is that for many of you, the Novato tour is useful. For others, not as much.

MAR does not sponsor the Novato Tour meeting, so it will go on regardless of what MAR thinks. I’d just like to get a sense from membership about whether you like the tour as it is, or if you’d like to see it changed…or if you’d like to see it done away with.

I will report the findings of this admittedly unscientific poll back to the membership in the coming weeks.

That’s it for now. Stay cool, safe travels, and enjoy the summer season!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Posted in Fairfax Community News, Fairfax Real Estate News, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News | Leave a comment

City of San Rafael Resale Inspection Reform – MAR Monday Memo 06/30/14

Good morning MAR members!

“It was twenty years ago today…”  That’s how one of my favorite Beatles albums, Sgt. Pepper, starts out.  Well, it was twenty years ago today that my then-girlfriend-and-now-wife Heather and I moved to Marin…and Fairfax.  I’d moved around a lot throughout my life, and the duplex unit at 42 Manor Road in Fairfax was the 29th address I’d lived at…and I was only 28 at the time.  Little did I know that Heather and I would plant roots in Marin.  We bought our house less than two years later, my 30th and final address to date at age 30.  Eighteen+ years later, we’re still there.

Marin is a terrific place to put down roots, as we all know.  We are so happy here in our adopted county!

1994 was quite a memorable year for a lot of reasons.  It seemed to be the beginning of our new reality-based media system, with both  the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding fiasco at the Olympics kind of kicking it off, and then the even-more-memorable OJ Simpson low-speed chase.  OJ was amazing really.  As part of our move to Marin, Heather and I drove to her native Colorado to get some of her belongings from her mom’s house.  While we were driving across Highway 50…the “Loneliest Road in America”…we were scrambling for radio contact with the outside world to keep tabs on OJ.  Really, we missed the whole thing other than “live” reports on the radio.

Also upon arriving in Marin in the summer of 1994, we were greeted by the excitement of the World Cup being played right here in the Bay Area with Stanford Stadium being one of the host venues.  It was at Stanford on July 4th 1994 that the US was knocked out by eventual champion Brazil in the Round of 16.  It’s so exciting to see the success of the US team in this year’s Cup!  Round of 16 again tomorrow vs. Belgium!

This summer we will be again driving across the “Loneliest Road in America” to a family reunion next month.   This time, rather than chasing radio stations down, I’m more wondering what it will be like to be off the grid with my phone for an extended period.  It will probably be a blessing, really…  Phone silence in the middle of the desert!

CITY OF SAN RAFAEL RESALE INSPECTION REFORM

Earlier this year, it became clear to me that the City of San Rafael’s residential resale inspection process was broken.  Many, many of you shared your frustrated stories, and a number of you came before MAR’s Board of Directors and Governmental Affairs committee to share your experiences.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I began a months-long process to bring this issue to the attention of leadership at the City of San Rafael.

Many meetings later, I’m happy to report that the City of San Rafael has released to us their new policy for the Residential Building Report (RBR).  You can check out the document by clicking HERE.  It’s revolutionary.  It’s the product of a lot of months of hard work, led by Paul Jensen, San Rafael’s Director of Community Development.  Nancy Mackle, City Manager, and Thomas Ahrens, Building Inspector also played key roles.

Net-net, it’s a new day in the relationship between MAR and the City of San Rafael.  Many thanks to the key stakeholders at San Rafael.  This was a fantastic example of city government working to be responsive to the needs and desires of both its residents in the community and business in the community.

As a part of the process for rolling out these new policies and procedures, MAR has committed to educate our members of the changes.  Also, San Rafael will be conducting interactive educational sessions with all interested parties as a part of their, “Coffee and Codes” program.  Stay tuned for more details.

SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

You’ll be relieved to know that I don’t have much of a sewer update this week. We’re on it, and Ross Valley Sanitary District voted 5-0 last Wednesday night to postpone the implementation of their sewer lateral point-of-sale requirement for 60 days.  In addition, they have reached out to MAR to form a working group to massage their ordinance to make its implementation feasible.

HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

Speaking of votes, MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I drove to Sacramento last Tuesday to testify before the California Senate Housing and Transportation Committee in favor of Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill AB1537, which reduces the default housing density in Marin from 30 to 20 units per acre.

Heading into that hearing, the outcome was anything but assured.  The committee chairman, Mark DeSaulnier of Contra Costa County was openly against the bill.  His senior staffer on the committee was most definitely against the bill.  We were worried that it was going to die in the Senate committee.

Ultimately, the team from Marin, including Board of Supervisors President Kate Sears, plus one of the senior members of ABAG and several affordable housing advocates from Marin, along with MAR, was able to convince and prevail with most of the committee.  We were overjoyed that the vote was 8-1 in favor of the bill, with Chairman DeSaulnier being the lone dissenting vote.

The Senate will now be on recess through the end of July.  The matter will come up again before the Senate Appropriations Committee sometime in August, which is the last month of the 2-year legislative agenda.  MAR will continue to work with other stakeholders to make sure this important bill makes it to a full note on the Senate before adjournment.  MAR congratulates Assemblyman Levine for his progress so far, and we’ve been delighted to be part of the process.

Today is also the official “halfway” point of my presidency at MAR.  It’s been an honor to serve the MAR membership community.  I’m hopeful for the second half of 2014, and I expect that we will keep the momentum going forward!

I’ll leave it at that for now, as the quiet season is upon us here in Marin.  Hoping to see many of you at the Marin County Fair this weekend.  Still trying to convince Heather that Night Ranger on Saturday is the right call.

Safe travels to all for this upcoming holiday weekend!  Happy Birthday USA!  And GO TEAM USA in tomorrow’s World Cup match with Belgium!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

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Sewer Wars of 2014 – The Day the Music Died – MAR Monday Memo 06/23/14

Good morning MAR members! Blaine Morris

What a week…what a week… Near perfect weather here in Marin obscured the storm clouds that are developing around those of us that practice real estate here in Marin…

Long memo this week, my apologies in advance.

In the summer of 1972 as a six-year-old, I remember driving up to Red Rock swimming hole above Santa Barbara with my mom and one of her friends and a bunch of kids in a station wagon. A new song by Don McLean, “American Pie” was playing on the radio and all of us in the car were singing along with the chorus…a summertime memory for the rest of my life! It starts out with ” A long long time ago…” and later leads into the chorus with “The Day the Music Died…”

I heard that song on the radio a few weeks back. I had not heard it in a long time, and the long ago summer memories came flooding back. As it can be with songs like this, I just couldn’t shake it, and it was clanging around in my head for weeks…to the point where you want it to go away.

It all came together this week with a pair of developments in what we may look back upon as the “2014 Summer of Sewer Wars” here in the Marin real estate community. We just might look back fondly on the recent past as “a long long time ago” and realize that “The Day the Music Died” was on or about June 14, 2014, at least as it relates to what we may remember as “easy” Real Estate transactions in the Ross Valley. I’ll get to that in a minute.

LARKSPUR SCRAPS STATION AREA PLAN

First up, how about some good news? Last Wednesday night, the Larkspur City Council voted unanimously to scrap the controversial Station Area Plan, with its 900+ units of high-density housing at Larkspur Landing. While MAR never took an official position on this plan, we have been watching it very closely because so many members of the community were dead-set against it. Well beyond Larkspur itself, the Station Area Plan was being debated in Kentfield, San Anselmo and Fairfax. When the candidates for Marin County Supervisor came before MAR to seek our endorsement in the June election, MAR implored all of them to show leadership on the issue, as it was going to affect all of us, not just Larkspur residents.

In a big surprise, the elected leaders of Larkspur heard the collective voice of the community. Well done! Score another win for MAR’s stated policy of favoring local control over planning decisions vs. top-down dictating of local planning from agencies like ABAG. From Marinwood to Fairfax to Larkspur, Marin is rightfully taking back control of local planning decisions.

SEWER WARS OF 2014

Now, on to the 2014 Summer of Sewer Wars. I’m sorry I have to keep talking about this decidedly unsexy subject, and the metaphors flow like spring water. In a nutshell, something really hit the fan this past week.

MAR has been closely watching the activities of both the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) and the Ross Valley Sanitary District (RVSD). Both are in a heap of trouble over sewage spills over the past number of years. SASM has been soliciting MAR’s input on a draft ordinance mandating point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections. At the same time, we’ve been aware that Ross Valley has been working to uphold the requirements of a cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued against them by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board). We knew something was coming from them as well, but RVSD’s lack of contact with MAR made us believe that it was still crafting its plans.

On May 13th, RVSD’s General Manager Greg Norby responded to MAR’s CEO Andy Fegley’s letter voicing our concerns with the staff report issued in early April. Norby suggested that they get together to discuss RVSD’s plans for sewer lateral inspections. Andy immediately replied that was a great idea, and then set about to reach Mr. Norby to schedule the meeting. Andy emailed. And called. And emailed again. And called again. He was never able to reach Mr. Norby.

GRAND JURY REPORT ON MARIN SEWERS

On Tuesday, I received a call from the Marin IJ wanting to know what MAR thought about the recent Marin Grand Jury report that was released last Monday, chronicling “The Scoop on Marin County Sewer Systems”…the state of the sewer systems in Marin. The Grand Jury strongly advocated for point-of-sale sewer line inspections. The reporter knew that SASM was considering point-of-sale, and wanted to know what MAR thought. I agreed that Marin has a huge problem, but told him that MAR is strongly opposed to point-of-sale ordinances because it will take 40+ years to solve an immediate problem via point of sale.

I told the reporter that MAR leadership was planning to attend last Thursday’s SASM board meeting to voice our concerns to the entire board. The board was planning to vote on the model ordinance that night.

RVSD QUIETLY SCHEDULES VOTE

What I did not know was at that exact time, the RVSD board was quietly planning to vote on its own point of sale ordinance last Wednesday night. Again, MAR had diligently been trying to get up to speed with RVSD’s plans for over a month, but no calls or emails were returned. Also note that there was an election in the middle of all of this, with existing board member Pam Meigs up for re-election. Ms. Meigs put off voting on the recently-passed massive rate increase until the week before the election…where she finally voted yes.

The net of all of this is that late on Friday, June 13, RVSD posted its agenda for last week’s meeting, which included the CDO-mandated point-of-sale ordinance (NOTE: this was the first time the public was given a glimpse at the ordinance). And with virtually no public input, and less than 72 hours of business time, they voted to adopt this very ordinance the following Wednesday. The Marin IJ didn’t know about it. Heck, the IJ still hasn’t mentioned it. And RVSD really doesn’t even know what they voted for.

We immediately contacted RSVD and successfully made the case for postponing the implementation of the point-of-sale requirement. A 60-day postponement will be voted on Wednesday night. We have assurances from staff and RVSD President Mary Sylla that it will pass.

As we learn more, we will get more info to you.

SASM BOARD VOTES TO ADOPT POINT-OF-SALE

Which brings me to the culmination of all of our efforts to dissuade the SASM board to not vote to pass a
Model Ordinance mandating point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections in and around Mill Valley. At the SASM board meeting last Thursday night, MAR CEO Andy Fegley, MAR Board member Gene Laico, MAR past president (and current CAR Region 4 Chair) Katie Beacock and I all attended and testified against the proposed point-of-sale plan.

In a nutshell, the board heard us, and then went ahead and voted unanimously to pass their draft legislation. Now this plan needs to be voted on by the individual member sewer boards before it becomes law…so nothing changes for now. There will be more votes.

We all told them they needed a real plan to fix the problem now, not fix it over the next 40 years. One board member agreed with me that it’s just not politically viable to come up with a real plan. They also told us how much better their plan was going to be than the “terrible” plan that RVSD passed the night before. On that subject I can agree with them.

To SASM’s credit, they have taken MAR’s concerns into account: (1) upon receipt of the inspection, SASM will commit to a 3-day turnaround to determine whether a lateral repair or replacement is required; and (2) the sale of the house can continue, but if a repair is mandated it must be completed within 180 days of COE.

The RVSD plan is murky on that aspect, with extremely vague language about when a repair needs to be completed…it’s a subjective decision about whether it needs to be done by COE.

WHAT THIS ALL MEANS

I would much rather have something better to tell you. The lack of transparency with the RVSD plan is amazing. They literally have no idea how they will implement it, but apparently they had to get a law on the books by June 30th to avoid sanctions and further legal action as a condition of the CDO. The language in the new ordinance is virtually a copy-and-paste of the language contained in the CDO with no thought of the practicality of the requirements. MAR will work with RVSD to mitigate the affects on homeowners and the real estate community.

If this ordinance were to go into effect next week as originally written, the most immediate outcome will be that the real estate business in the Ross Valley would slam to a halt until answers come from RVSD. And when I say Ross Valley, that’s Greenbrae, Kentfield, Ross, Larkspur, San Anselmo and Fairfax. That’s a pretty darn big chunk of the market in Marin.

So, as I said, we will all look back fondly on “A long, long time ago” when it was a far simpler time to close real estate transactions in Ross Valley. June 18th, 2014 may well be remembered as “The Day the Music Died”.

I really hate to be so corny…

That’s all for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

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SASM Vote Thursday Night, Sunny Hills Services Community Support and Gumballs, MAR Monday Memo 06/16/14

Good morning MAR members!

Happy Summer (yes, I know it’s not until Saturday, but I try to extend summer however I can!).  I love planning summer;  the most pressing decision for me is:  Which day will I be attending the Marin County Fair?  Huey Lewis on Wednesday 7/2?  The Wailers on Thursday 7/3?  Night Ranger on Saturday 7/5?  Or Joan Jett on Sunday 7/6?  It’s a spirited discussion in our household, with Heather voting for Joan Jett, and I’m pulling for Night Ranger.  I pointed out that we saw Joan Jett at the Marin fair only a couple of years ago…to which Heather says, “So?”  Maybe we’ll just go every day, but I have a feeling I know who will win this little argument…

New this week:  Gumballs.  Personal property gumballs.  More on that later…

Also:  Sewer lateral point of sale SASM board meeting this Thursday, to vote on draft legislation.  More on that later too.

At the MAR Installation last December, I devoted much of my speech to the subject of service.  Service to each other, to ourselves and to our community.  Both the Marin community at large and to the real estate community as well.  I encouraged each of us to give of ourselves in service.

To that end, this year we created the MAR Community Service Committee, one that I hope will continue long after my term as MAR President is finished.  Judy LeMarr and Jennifer Boesel graciously offered to be the co-chairs and launch this committee, and the group has been meeting for much of the year working to get this off the ground.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Image for Success last month.  MAR supported the Women’s Council of Realtors and a number of brokerages, and the response was terrific.  By collecting clothes and accessories, our real estate community supported Image for Success, a non-profit organization, who provides wardrobes for disenfranchised men, women, and children transitioning towards self-reliance and/ or success in their careers.

Our next venture is Sunny Hills Services and their Guardian Scholars program for former foster children.  It’s a travesty with the county foster children program, which pretty much dries up support for these kids when they turn 18.  Really, how many 18-year-olds are prepared to support themselves while they work on their education and position themselves for a successful future?  A travesty.

Sunny Hills Services provides support to these kids.   Here is a link to their website:  http://www.sunnyhillsservices.org/   Sunny Hills and College of Marin have created a program to help emancipated foster kids, 18-21, make an easier transition into adulthood by providing housing and education.  The young adults will live at the San Anselmo site and go to school at COM.

This is a 3 year program with the initial launch of 8 newly renovated units this summer- July/August-working up to 24 units in the 3 years.  Each young adult will have their own bedroom and will share a communal kitchen area and living room.  These young adults have never had anything of their own and it will be very special to have this fresh start.  The items should be new or furniture gently worn.  Bedding, mattresses- twin long, kitchen items for starting a new household.

You can review the “wish list” here.   If you’d like to participate, please call Anastasia at Sunny Hills Services at 415-457-3200 or contactus@sunnyhillsservices.org.  You can drop off, or they can arrange for pickup.  And they’re hoping to have this in place by July 1, so time is of the essence.

Thank you, MAR members, for supporting your community!

Now, on to the weekly sewer lateral update!  Super exciting stuff, I know!  Thanks to all of you who participated in MAR’s Red Alert to the leadership of the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) last week.  Over 150 of you participated, which resulted in over 800 letters going out to the SASM Board and leadership.

SASM will be meeting on Thursday night to vote on adopting draft legislation mandating point of sale sewer lateral inspections for Mill Valley and the surrounding area.  MAR had invited SASM to meet with our Government Affairs committee prior to the vote.  They had not responded to that invitation until the Red Alert went out this week.  Late on Wednesday night, SASM contacted MAR CEO Andy Fegley and asked if they could come to last Friday’s committee meeting.  Of course, we cleared the agenda and had them in.

Attending the meeting were SASM President Lew Kious and Mill Valley City Manager Jim McCann.  As you might imagine, it was a super spirited meeting…  Mr. Kious and Mr. McCann were gracious enough to give MAR 90 minutes of their time, and they certainly got an earful.

They sure do sound intent on pushing this through.  MAR’s position is that if this is such an emergency and a public health matter, then the agency should come up with a 20-year plan that addresses the problem throughout the community, and not relying on the real estate community to do their implementation.  Frankly, by singling out property owners who are selling, they are discriminating against these very citizens.  If it’s a problem, it’s everyone’s problem, not just those who are selling their house.

We agree, it’s a big problem.  A public health crisis.  So why is it only getting addressed by those who are selling their house?  SASM needs a real plan, a holistic plan for the entire community.  I asked if the reason that there wasn’t a more comprehensive plan was because raising the rates to deal with it was not politically viable?  They didn’t really answer the question, but I got the strong impression that was the exact problem.

Doing point of sale inspections will take 47 years in Mill Valley for all the housing to turn over and to solve the problem.  I also pointed out that as a best practice most of the real estate community is already doing sewer lateral inspections.  Mandating it via point of sale is going to insert a bureaucracy into a process that’s already happening.

SASM claims it’s not a big deal, because the real estate transaction will be able to close, and the repair just needs to occur within 6 months.  We asked how long it would take for SASM to review the reports and lateral video to determine whether it’s a mandatory fix or not, and they did not know.  This means that there will be (1) a mandatory inspection and report; (2) a possible mandatory fix; and (3) a currently undefined turnaround on when SASM decides whether the repair needs to take place or not.

We explained to them that this loose end about SASM deciding whether the repair needs to take place will grind escrows to a halt while we all wait for the results of the bureaucratic review.  It’s a $5k, $10k, even $20k swing in the transaction that needs to be accounted for, and they were not sure how long it would take to get back to everyone on whether a fix is needed.

This is unacceptable.  SASM needs a real plan to fix this problem across the community.  MAR is strongly against point-of -sale as the solution.  I intend to attend the SASM board meeting this Thursday, and I encourage MAR members to do the same.

Enough on that.

Now, about those gumballs…  I was fortunate to put a lovely piece of property into escrow for a San Francisco family this past week.  They were overjoyed, it’s the perfect place for the couple and their 5-year-old son Oscar.  Oscar’s mom told him on Tuesday night that they had finally won out, and that they were going to be moving soon.  Oscar asked which house it was, and his mom told him.  “Is that the house with the gumball machine?” Oscar asked???  Yes, it’s the house with the gumball machine.  This house had an antique gumball machine in the garage with the much of the owner’s personal property.

Upon hearing of Oscar’s affection for the gumballs, the owner graciously offered to leave the gumball machine for Oscar.  As you might imagine, Oscar and his parents are thrilled, each for their own reasons.

Once again, that’s what it’s all about.

And that’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

Posted in Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

RED ALERT – SASM, SPAWN/Turtle Island – Developers? MAR Monday Memo 06/09/14

Good morning MAR members!

It was feeling very much like summer last Blaine Morris week, inventory-wise. After seeing a bit of an uptick in new listings as the spring wore on, the last couple of weeks have seemed much quieter for new properties on the market. While holding open a new listing of my own this past week, agents were coming in and bemoaning what they perceived as a bit of a slowdown in the market. I think it’s just the normal Marin summer breather. The good news is that buyers will face a little less competition if they do find a house they like.

Elections
I hope most of you got out and voted in last week’s exciting election. There were few surprises on the statewide level, but lots of intrigue locally. REALTOR®-supported candidates Marc Levine (Assembly), Mike McGuire (State Senate) and Damon Connelly (Supervisor in Marin District 1) all staged decisive wins last week. In Supervisor District 5, MAR member Toni Shroyer staged an impressive challenge to incumbent Judy Arnold. Shroyer conceded the race late Friday afternoon after updated results were released showing Arnold with the lead.

MAR CEO Andy Fegley, MAR Treasurer Arun Burrell and I made the rounds on election night, visiting the victory parties of both Marc Levine and Damon Connelly. I’d never done that before, and it was great to congratulate REALTOR® endorsed candidates. Connelly won outright, he’s the new Supervisor replacing Susan Adams in January, 2015. Assemblyman Levine now faces what looks to be an interesting race in the “Top 2″ format. He will be facing Diane Conte, another Democratic candidate who narrowly beat out Republican Gregory Allen. Though Levine had a decisive first place showing, the November election will provide intrigue given the fact that Ms. Conte will be running to the left of Levine in progressive Marin and part of Sonoma County. Assemblyman Levine still has work to do.

Housing Density Bill AB1537 (Levine)
Speaking of Assemblyman Levine, his housing density bill AB1537 now moves to the Senate, where it will be heard in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. CAR has long been a supporter of the Chairman of that committee, Senator Mark DeSaulnier. Assemblyman Levine’s staff knows this, and MAR will continue to do what we can to advance this important bill. We will keep you updated on our progress.

Watch for MAR RED ALERT Later Today
On to the next matter, point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections. Surprisingly, MAR’s membership has been rather quiet on this subject, at least as it relates to feedback to me. Is this an important subject for you? The Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) has its next board meeting a week from Thursday. It is our understanding that they will be taking up the issue of mandatory sewer lateral inspections at this meeting. That is why MAR is issuing a RED ALERT later today.

We are asking every member to answer this call for action to let SASM leadership know that a real plan is needed to address the needs of the community.

With point-of-sale, it will take 50 years to solve the problem. And the problem needs fixing today. All point-of-sale does is give the appearance of trying to do something, but it is not a real solution. All the sewer agencies, SASM, Ross Valley and all the rest need to come up with a real solution that will protect the communities before 2065, which is how long the point-of-sale solution will take. Point-of-sale simply will massively complicate the process of selling a home, initiating a public works project with every sale, tearing up the street on every sale. AND IT WON’T FIX THE PROBLEM FOR FIFTY YEARS.

MAR member and Corte Madera Councilman Bob Ravasio called me last week to make sure that MAR was on the right side of this issue. He spoke of the environmental consequences of the failed sewer system countywide. He said that something needs to be done. MAR couldn’t agree more. It’s just that point-of-sale lateral inspections is not the way to fix the problem. Bob conceded that Corte Madera has a 20-year plan in place to replace all the faulty sewer laterals throughout the town…and not a point-of- sale requirement. That’s EXACTLY the type of solution that MAR would like to see…a REAL plan.

SASM needs a real plan, and MAR and its members need to be vocal about this. Please make sure to answer the call for action in the RED ALERT coming to your inboxes later today.

MAR has invited SASM to meet with our Government Affairs Committee this Friday, but so far they’ve not responded.

SPAWN/Turtle Island-Developers?
One last thing: Did you know that SPAWN/Turtle Island, they of the San Geronimo Valley building moratorium, they of fierce opposition to the Marin
Countywide Streamside Conservation Ordinance, and they of protecting the San Geronimo Valley’s salmon population from “development” are now seeking to become the biggest developer in the San Geronimo Valley?

That’s right, you can read about it by clicking here.
I guess that’s what happens when you have millions of dollars in your bank account and can’t figure out what to do with it. According to Executive Director Todd Steiner they want to buy land and homes, restore the habitat, and return the homes to market with some sort of permanent environmental covenant. Funny, how the single biggest advocate for not being able to do anything with your property in the Valley now wants to buy and rehabilitate those very homes.

This is all very new, but certainly worth watching. Perhaps we will see a future where the only people who can buy and rehabilitate homes in the Valley are SPAWN themselves.

I couldn’t have made this up if I tried.

That’s it for now!

Blaine

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

Posted in Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Just Listed! 31 Porto Bello, San Rafael, $499,000

31_porto_bello_san_rafael

Convenient Location and Waterfront Neighborhood

Pride of ownership and a super convenient central location await at this spacious townhome in the Porto Bello waterfront community.  The 2BR/2.5BA property includes an updated kitchen with granite countertops and newer appliances. All three bathroom also have granite countertops, newer fixtures and tile work. The large living room has a cozy fireplace and opens to a nicely landscaped private patio, perfect for indoor/outdoor living. The community has a pool and also features a boat dock.  Great light throughout, with vaulted ceilings in the large bedrooms. The unit has an oversized 1-car garage plus one additional assigned space.  Close to 101, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes.  Turnkey and move in ready. Everything you need for your active Marin lifestyle!

Offered at $499,000

Posted in Marin Real Estate News, San Rafael Real Estate News | Leave a comment

“It’s On with SASM”, Housing Density Bill AB-1537 Faces Uncertain Outcome in the Senate – MAR Monday Memo 06/02/14

Good morning MAR members!

Back to the regular work week today, after last week’s nice 4-day version, which followed the ever-popular three-day-weekend.  There is certainly something in the air…it sure feels like summer!

A short memo this week to commemorate the start of my favorite time of year.

First of all, don’t forget to vote tomorrow.  The REALTOR Party needs you out there, doing your part to participate in the most important part our democracy.  It doesn’t matter what your opinion is, just get out there and make your voice heard.  Did you know that in California there are more than 36,000 REALTORS who are not registered to vote?  I find that really hard to believe, and I hope very much that we have a disproportionately small share here in Marin.  Hopefully, you’re registered to vote…now get out there and vote tomorrow!  And if you’re not registered to vote, here’s where you can change that right now:  <<http://www.car.org/governmentaffairs/getinvolved/rparty/registertovote/>>

The first thing to bring to your attention this week is that “it’s ON with SASM.”  That’s the text I received last week from MAR CEO Andy Fegley.  SASM is the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin.  SASM is working on draft policy to take to its individual sanitary districts in and around Mill Valley mandating point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections which will result in mandatory repairs.

SASM knows that MAR is 100% opposed to point of sale ordinances.  CEO Fegley has been meeting with the district’s leadership, advocating for an approach to fixing this problem that won’t take 50 years to solve.  50 years is how long it takes for all the homes to turn over in Mill Valley.  We’ve told them that “best practice” by REALTOR members generally includes a sewer lateral inspection during an escrow, and that inserting the government into this escrow process is horribly, horribly unproductive.

Just talk to our colleagues who sell properties in Sausalito and they will tell you all you need to know about sanitary district policy run amuck.

I’ll keep you in the loop on MAR’s efforts.  Frankly, this is going to be a hot topic throughout Marin, as the Ross Valley Sanitary District is looking to mandate the same point-of-sale ordinance…they’re just not as far along.  NAR and CAR will both support us in this effort to advocate for a more real and holistic solution other than making REALTORS responsible to solve their agencies’ infrastructure problems.

On to the ongoing housing density front.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley, Past President Kay Moore and I visited with Supervisor Kate Sears last Friday.  Supervisor Sears represents Kay Moore’s district and she is the 2014 President of the Marin Board of Supervisors.  We were brainstorming on how to help advance AB1537, which is Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill to reduce the default density of Marin from “Metropolitan” and 30-units-per-acre to “Suburban” and 20-units-per-acre.  This bill recently passed the Assembly on a strong bipartisan vote of 62-4.  Supervisor Sears testified in favor of the bill at Assembly committee hearings at the end of April, along with CEO Fegley and myself.

Now the bill faces an uncertain outcome in the Senate, where the senior staffer on the Senate Housing Committee seems particularly unfavorable to the bill.  Another issue is that right now, and for nearly the past two years, Marin has been without representation at the state Senate.  Did you know that?  Redistricting that occurred a couple of years ago resulted in Marin not having a state Senator for two years.  And we won’t have a Senator until we finally elect one in November.  More on that later.  In the meantime, MAR has maintained a positive relationship with Senator Noreen Evans from Sonoma County.  She has been acting in something of a caretaker role for our orphaned county.

Net-net, we have to push a bill through the Senate without our own Senator.  I knew we were in this orphaned state.  That fact came up last year when MAR was advocating for the passage of SB30, which was the state tax relief bill for sellers of distressed properties.  Senator Evans offered her support on that bill.  It never really hit home with me, however, until right now.  We are reaching out to Senator Evans again, and we’re working with Assemblyman Levine and the Board of Supervisors to work to shepherd this bill through the Senate.

I reminded Supervisor Sears about Governor Jerry Brown’s comments to the 3,000 REALTORS on hand at CAR Legislative Day in Sacramento on April 30th.  The Governor advocated for local control to the REALTORS:  “People in Modoc do things differently than people in Berkeley…let them make their own decisions.”  My sense is that Governor Brown is worried about other things than a bill on housing density here in Marin.  But since the Governor appointed Supervisor Sears to her seat when the late Supervisor Charles McGlashan passed away in 2011, I figured she must know someone on his staff, and who knows how that might help?

The two-year Legislative calendar concludes at the end of August.  If AB1537 doesn’t pass the Senate by then, it’s back to square one when the Legislature convenes for a new session next year.  And the Legislature is on recess the whole month of July.  So we’ve really just got June and the first couple of weeks in August to get this bill through the Senate.  MAR intends to testify once again at the not-yet-calendared committee hearings.  I’ll keep you informed of our progress.

Finally, I want to plant the seed that now is the time to think about getting involved at MAR next year.  More on this next week, as Nominating Committee Chairperson Judy LeMarr will be leading the process.  If you’ve wanted to serve on a committee, chair a committee, or be on the Board of Directors, the process for next year will unfold in the coming months.  It’s a richly rewarding opportunity to serve your colleagues and your community.  And it’s good for business!

That’s it for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine

 

 

Posted in Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News | Leave a comment

Should You Include a Picture of the Buyer in a Offer Packet? MAR Monday Memo 05/27/14

Good morning MAR members!

Safely back in Marin this week after spending two of the prior three weeks on the road…it’s good to be back home.  I was looking forward to a nice quiet three day weekend, but many of you responded with new listings this week!  Alas, our customers don’t care about three day weekends…other than the fact that they have an extra day to look at homes.  So back to showing and listing properties.

I’m going to find a quiet moment this weekend to honor those who have served our country…Happy Memorial Day everyone!  Coming from a certain generation, most everyone in my family from the generation before me served in the military.  My father Warren served in the Marine Corps in the Korean War, and both uncles on his side of the family served, Uncle Ray in Korea and Uncle Blaine in World War II.  My Grandfather Blaine served in Europe in World War I, nearly 100 years ago.  Plus my longtime stepfather Allen Coates was a full-bird Colonel in the Army, and he served in an artillery brigade in Korea.

I say all of this because it’s easy to forget the sacrifices made by those who came before us.  Take a little time this weekend to honor those who served our country.  And wish for a safe return home to those currently serving.  As President Lyndon Johnson said on this day in 1966 (my first Memorial Day as a 3 1/2-month-old!):  “On this Memorial Day, it is right for us to remember the living and the dead for whom the call of their country has meant much pain and sacrifice.”

Thank you to MAR member Chelsea Ialeggio for her feedback on pictures of buyers in offer packets.  One of her clients wanted to include a nine-page letter filled with pictures of the family with an offer.  These buyers shared that all their friends looking for homes were sharing similar letters and pictures.  Chelsea shared that she had been advised throughout her career to not include pictures, as it creates opportunities for possible discrimination concerns.

Letters are fine, but regarding pictures my response to Chelsea was that to my knowledge there was no part of the REALTOR Code of Ethics preventing this practice, and that it is more of a broker risk management issue.  I still feel that way.  Last Thursday, however, I asked MAR CEO Andy Fegley to find out CAR’s position on the matter.  Andy called June Barlow, CAR’s Chief Legal Counsel.  June just happened to have a conference call set up that afternoon with the entire CAR legal staff and agreed to pose the question.

After that call, here is what June came back with:  “I spoke with the hotline attorneys during their meeting and they confirmed that it is problematic from a fair housing perspective for real estate agents to participate in activities, such as including photos, that may put the seller in a position to discriminate or facilitate discrimination based on familial status or marital status or even race or other protected class.   Universally  we advise against it.  However, none of us knew of a specific bulletin or advisory that speaks to the issue about photos in particular, though that doesn’t mean one does not exist.  Regulation 2780 does list many variations of fair housing  violations that could cause one to lose a real estate license.   There are quite a few in there that may cover this activity.”

So, to repeat, as far as I know, it’s not against any specific REALTOR policy that we’ve been able to find, but my advice is to tread very carefully with this issue and speak to your broker about your company’s policy.  I know during my time in the business it has been against the policy of my brokers.

In the category of “odds and ends”,  I thought it would be useful to share some info from a presentation given a couple of weeks ago by CAR CEO Joel Singer in Sacramento during the mid-year meetings.

  • Joel compared the housing downturn we’re just emerging from as “just as bad as the Great Depression.”
  • The early years of the recovery were the strongest, and the current number of sales he is seeing is not performing as he would expect.
  • Appreciation is moderating.  There is a current “pause” in appreciation is due to the recent rise in interest rates, general economic components, and the fact that affordability has decreased statewide.
  • Inventory has improved but remains tight.  Inventory is essentially all existing homes; there are almost no new homes.
  • During the downturn, in California we lost a million households that “should exist”.  During the housing boom of the mid-2000s, “new household creation” peaked at 300,000 new households created annually.  During the downturn, “new household creation” bottomed out at 30,000 new households created annually.
  • California needs to “replace lost housing that should have been created over the past 5-6 years, but we are not doing so.”
  • The market is over-relying on investment sales.  Currently, statewide, 25% of sales are “investment sales”.  Normally, that figure is 6-10% of sales.  First-time buyers should be able to buy, but they can’t compete.  Demand is not a problem, but the share of first time buyers is alarming.  Pent-up demand is not resulting in sales.  There is nothing to sell them, and when there is, these first-time buyers are competing with investors with cash.
  • Along that line, the share of first-time-buyers should be higher than it is right now.  He would like to see it over 40%…even 50%.  At the current rate, which is around 38%, we are not seeing a healthy, “ladder-like” market
  • With all of that said, first-time-buyers remain our hope once again.  Millennials view homeownership as a positive thing at essentially the same rate as the Gen-X and Baby Boomer generations before them.  The level of student debt, however, is staggering, and is holding back Millennials from being able to buy.
  • The homeownership rate is dropping statewide.  In the US, the homeownership rate is 65.4%.  It’s in the mid-50%s right now in California.  He bemoaned the fact that in California we are nearly 50% renters.
  • There is political fallout as we become a renter society.  Low homeownership rates in San Francisco have a profound effect on public policy in SF, with homeowners being a small minority of the population.
  • And rents are continuing to go up because new homes are not being constructed…and the future demand for housing is not going to lessen.
  • The good news is that the attitudes of homeownership remain positive…but people continue to leave California over the cost of housing.  Young families, the Millennials, want to buy houses and participate in the California dream.  We need more supply.  In California, we need 165,000 new units of housing annually, which will create a balance of supply and demand.  We are currently only building 65,000 units, which is leaving us a staggering 100,000 units short.

So let’s all go find some more listings and do our part to improve these numbers!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

 

 

 

 

Posted in California Association of Realtors, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News | Leave a comment

NAR Meeting Update and Pre-Opened Escrows – MAR Monday Memo – 05/19/14

Good morning MAR members!

Greetings from the nation’s capitol in Washington DC, where Kay Moore, Andy Fegley and I spent most of this week at the NAR mid-year meetings, which were recently renamed the REALTOR Party Convention.  Hot and muggy conditions greeted us to start the trip, followed up by torrential rains on Thursday night…complete with flash flood warnings.  It’s Friday afternoon and I’m starting this draft at the airport, waiting on the tarmac to take off, sitting in the airplane in runway jail and delayed for another 90 minutes…connecting thru Philadelphia, where last night’s weather has travelled…hopefully I’ve made it home by the time you read this.  And hoping that I don’t get to spend the night on the cold hard floor of the Philly airport.

Last week, we had a great MAR General Membership meeting, with featured speakers Sara Sutachan of CAR and MAR member Steve Dickason giving us timely market updates on Marin, California and the nation at large.  It seems that low inventory continues to be the state of affairs…everywhere.  Steve showed that there is still a less-than-two-months supply of homes in Marin, so it’s still tight.  2014 appears to be trending more in line with 2012 than with 2013.

What I’m seeing inventory-wise is the mad rush to get into homes has given our buyers much less time to make an informed decisions on the homes on which they are writing offers.  As a result, there seem to be a few more properties falling out of escrow than feels normal.  The oft-used “back on market, no fault of property, buyers didn’t do inspections” which translates to “cold feet”.  It’s tough to make people wait, as agents are beating the doors down trying to get their clients into the property.

I stumbled onto an issue last week that many were quietly grumbling about:  the pre-opened escrow phenomenon.  Quite unexpectedly, this was the most-commented-on issue I’ve written about all year.  It totally caught me off guard…I was just venting, and many of you chimed in.  I got about 30 feedback comments from members, with 29 completely appalled by the process and one outlier defending the practice.  I even had a few of our title company biz dev reps thank me for bringing it up.

It’s become something of a fevered pitch, an “arms race” of sorts, with many agents commenting that whenever they now put a property on the MLS they are getting several calls from title reps wanting to pre-open an escrow.  People, this is not productive.  The comments came from across the agent spectrum market-wise, but most came from seasoned, veteran agents, all of whom are listing agents themselves.

Now, on to NAR and the REALTOR Party Convention. What a week in Washington DC!  It’s amazing to see 4,000 REALTORS come together and advocate for the industry and private property rights.  On Thursday, our team from California District 2 visited the office of Congressman Jared Huffman to brief his staff on our industry’s position on many important national real estate policy issues.

I had the opportunity to speak on the importance of preserving the current real estate tax code.  On the table in congress right now is the “Tax Reform Discussion Draft” where many of the fundamental  tax statutes seem to be on the table, including the mortgage interest deduction, the ability to deduct state and local property taxes on your federal tax return, and also like-kind (1031) tax-deferred exchanges for investment property.  The mortgage interest and property tax deductions have been part of the tax code for over 100 years.  They are the foundation of public policy that encourages home ownership, and allow families of modest income to afford homes of their own.

NAR strongly supports retaining the current tax code as it relates to the mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction.  Were the congress to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, it’s estimated that property values would drop 15%.  If the property tax deduction were eliminated, double-taxation would be the result and you would be paying your property taxes with already-taxed money.  Finally, the like-kind 1031 tax-deferred exchange policy creates liquidity in an inherently illiquid investment property market.  Were 1031 exchanges to go away, the flow of capital in this segment of the market would slow considerably.  People would sit on their properties, redevelopment would slow, and the jobs that result from redevelopment would be lost.

Kathy Hayes of the North Bay Association of Realtors (NorBAR) spoke on the ongoing need to not tax the phantom “gain” for people who have lost their homes to a short sale or foreclosure.  The government’s waiver of that taxable “gain” expired at the beginning of this year, and this ongoing issue is still being debated.

Sally Crain of NorBAR  spoke about the importance of preserving the current loan limits of the FHA program…which look like they will be preserved at this point.  NorBAR’s Terri Ann McGowan spoke about the importance of retaining the role of the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s…Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).  Both of these agencies have paid all of the money back to the federal government that was needed during the financial crises…and even though the federal government is actually MAKING money off that investment, there is a strong possibility in Washington that these agencies will be unwound.  We need these agencies.  NAR strongly supports retaining the GSE’s to ensure the affordable availability of capital for people of modest means to finance a home purchase.

In addition to the legislative advocacy on Capitol Hill, there were lots of great meetings and roundtables.  I had the opportunity to participate in the Association Presidents’ Roundtable on Friday morning.  What a terrific experience, meeting with hundreds of Association presidents from around the country, and comparing notes on a variety of topics.  MAR shares many of the same challenges with associations across the country.  We were split up so large, medium and small associations sat with one another.  We’re classified as “medium”.  We rotated tables every 25 minutes and sat with moderators on a variety of subjects, with different mixes of presidents each time.  Among others, I chose to sit in on Syndication and IDX feeds (to Zillow/Trulia and the like), and also the “What do you do for your members other than provide access to the MLS?”

The IDX/syndication session was sort of refreshing because of the democracy of the subject; meaning, presidents from all over the country were grumbling about inaccuracy of data, other agents’ pictures next to their listings, and the inevitable loss of control of what happens with our data.  That was contrasted with the obvious consumer desire for robust access to data and sellers’ desire to have their listings in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

Regarding providing member services other than the MLS…well, we don’t have our own MLS…  The discussion was a great roundtable of what associations similar in size to ours, all around the country, are doing to provide value and relevance to membership.  This sort of thing is always racing through my mind, and it’s been the subject of spirited discussions in our MAR board room since the day I got there.

Whew, I’m exhausted!  All in all, a super-productive week for MAR…a super-productive month so far that started at CAR in Sacramento on April 29th.

I’m finishing this at 30,000 feet somewhere over the middle of America, and my mind is still racing.  The good kind of racing.  I made my connection in Philly, running from one concourse to another, getting to my gate 5 minutes before they closed the door.

Really looking forward to getting back to our lovely Marin.

I wish you safe and prosperous week!

Blaine

 

 

Posted in Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment