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Joni Baldwin

Joni Baldwin
Worldwide, REALTORS®
Keller, TX 76248

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Real Estate News

Latest Realty News from NAR

Stores Aren’t Going Away, and Yet . . .

The Internet won’t be the end of stores but it’s certainly having an impact on the retail segment of commercial real estate. How much business has online shopping sites taken away from brick-and-mortar stores? Would downtown areas look different if some $1 trillion in sales hadn’t transferred from stores to the Internet in just the last year? Since 2010, trillions of dollars in commerce have shifted away from stores you set foot in to stores you access through clicks on your computer or taps on your phone.

Of course, there’s a place for both types of commerce. A balance will be reached at some point. Stores aren’t going away. But it hasn’t helped them that they’ve always had to collect sales tax on behalf of states while Internet retailers haven’t had to. It’s not that the transactions sit outside the jurisdiction of states; it’s that tax collection online has fallen to customers, but people really don’t tally their tax obligation and remit it to the states. As a result, shoppers can essentially buy the same thing online without the added tax expense. That obviously has disadvantaged stores, although
big online retailers like Amazon have recently started collecting sales taxes.

Now, however, states can compel all online retailers to start collecting sales tax and that’s a big win for stores and, by extension, the commercial real estate professionals who care so much about the sector. The U.S. Supreme Court last week ruled in an Internet tax fairness case that states have the authority to require tax collection by online retailers. NAR supported brick-and-mortar stores by submitting an amicus brief detailing how tax-collection practices was creating an unfair playing field for traditional stores.

This big win for commercial real estate won’t reverse the flight to online shopping but it signals that the Internet no longer gets a free ride. As an NAR analyst puts in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video from NAR, the uneven playing field has pushed some stores out of business. It might be too late for those stores, but maybe we’ll see more new stores because they’re a little bit more competitive against online retailers now.

Watch the segment on the Internet tax win.

The news video also looks at another major win for real estate: the U.S. Department of Labor’s rule extending eligibility to join an association health plan to independent contractors. NAR has been pushing for this for years and in early May finally achieved it. The challenge now is to determine how to make an association health plan work for real estate professionals, and that’s something NAR is moving on, full stop.

The video also looks at something that’s absolutely critical for real estate but makes people’s eyes glaze over, and that’s secondary mortgage market reform. Just the words “secondary mortgage market reform” can make people lose interest, but it’s importance to the buying and selling of real estate can’t be overstated. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—our two secondary mortgage market companies—are responsible for the safe and affordable 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage that underwrites most home sales. The two companies have been under the control of the federal government since the economic crisis 10 years ago and they’re doing well now. In some ways, they’re doing better than well. They’ve repaid the assistance they received during the downturn and now they’re a net contributor to the federal government’s budget. And they’re out there for people to get the home loans they need. The question that looms over the industry, though, is what to do going forward. Do they get taken out of conservatorship? Do they get completely privatized? Do they become government agencies with no private component?

It’s too soon to say when Congress might turn to them as its next big legislative project. It’s possible 2019 will be the year. No matter the timing, the solution will be better if different interest areas are aligned, so NAR did something it’s particularly good at doing: bringing different viewpoints together to find common ground. It did that last week and the result was an exceptionally productive discussion of all the different sides and where common ground can be found. The former head of GNMA was there. (GNMA guarantees securities backed by FHA loans.) Former Treasury officials were there. Other former administration officials were there. Industry groups were there. Consumer groups were there. In a Washington where everyone seems to talk past one another, at NAR last week all different sides were having good-faith discussions of an issue that doesn’t lend itself to simple solutions. The two REALTORS® who ran the meeting, Larry Black of Century 21 Care in Diamond Bar, Calif., and Seth Task of Birkshire-Hathaway HomeServices Professional in Cleveland, did an outstanding job keeping everyone focused on the greater good. Black and Task are the chair and vice chair, respectively, of NAR’s Conventional Financing and Policy Committee.

Watch the video.

Ethics Violations of Others Will Soon Be Visible to You

If a real estate practitioner commits a seious violation of the NAR Code of Ethics, the person’s name will be released by the local association so that you and other professionals in that association can see who they are. A picture of the violator and a description of what they did wrong will also be released.

This change is based on a pilot program that the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® tried over a four-year period. During the trial, the association found a decrease in ethics violations, according to Deborah Dwyer, chair of NAR’s Professional Standards Committee and broker-owner of Dwyer Agency in Pittsfield, Mass. The NAR Board of Directors last month voted to end the California program and turn it into a national program that will start next year.

According to Dwyer, the change has been long-sought by brokers, sales associates, and associations. “This is what people have been wanting for so long,” says Dwyer. “Right now, we don’t know who the violators are, because it’s not published. We’re hoping that, once it starts happening, and REALTORS® out there realize what can happen, they’ll be more professional.”

Release of the person’s name, photo, and what the violations are will be kept within the local association, not released to consumers, she says.

Dwyer says she expects all local associations to opt in to the new rules, so the program will truly be national in scope. “I can’t imagine why any association wouldn’t opt in,” she says.

Dywer talks about the program in the latest Voice for Real Estate video.

Also covered in the video is an update on the competition workshop the federal government held in Washington in early June. The workshop was hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. About a dozen industry executives, academics, technologists, and legal specialists debated whether the residential brokerage industry is as competitive as it could be because of advances in technology. Views differed, as you would expect, but many of the participants agreed the industry has seen a lot of competition-driven change in the last decade, and by some estimates, more than half of all brokerages offer some kind of non-traditional service to consumers. That means most brokerages make available some kind of option that involves discounted fees or limited services or some combination of the two.

The video also looks at the banking legislation President Trump signed last month. It eases some reporting and other requirements on community banks, and there’s an expectation that mortgage financing could become a little less expensive for some borrowers as a result. The new law also puts in place a mechanism that could lead to use of alternative credit scoring criteria like rental payment history, and small homebuilders might have an easier time getting construction loans.

Access and share the video. 

NAR Policy is All About Appraiser Independence

The chair and co-chair of NAR’s Real Property Valuation Committee made a few remarks on video about NAR’s appraiser independence policy last week during the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington. What sparked the remarks was a recent working paper on appraisal quality by two researchers with the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

In the paper, the researchers say appraisals ordered by appraisal management companies are not overvalued at a higher rate than other types of appraisals. There were some differences, though. First, when AMC appraisals come in overvalued, they tend to come in overvalued by a higher amount that other appraisals. Second, AMC appraisals tend to use more comparables.

Rebecca Jones, chair of NAR’s Real Property Valuation Committee, says she’s not surprised by the findings. “A lot of us boots-on-the-ground appraisers have known this sort of thing for a long time,” she says.

The committee’s vice chair, David Griffith, said AMCs are just one way the industry can promote appraiser independence. “We support the use of AMCs as an option to help with appraiser independence,” he said. “We also support the alternatives to AMCs.”

Griffith said the paper also acknowledged that the turn time with AMC appraisals tends to be longer, and that’s something to be considered. “Instead of going directly through the lender, you’re having to go through a third party, and this can cause delays in your turn time from when that appraiser goes out ands does the appraisal to when the lender actually gets the appraisal,” he said.

Click the image above to watch the 5-minute video.

Previous remarks on AMC appraisals.


Joni Baldwin | 817-602-1194 | Contact Me
1727 Keller Parkway - Keller, TX 76248
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