Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) Legislative Committee members, including President-elect Mary Kay Groth, met with U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo on Wednesday at her Palo Alto office and discussed federal priorities for REALTORS® during the summer recess. These included the cap on state and local tax (SALT), mortgage interest deduction, and flood insurance, several other topics related to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and how support homeowners.

Eshoo said the good news is flood insurance under House Resolution 3167, the National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2019, would be extended for five years and include funding to update flood maps and modernize the program. H.R. 3167 has cleared House committees and is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

Eshoo also expressed an interest on how mortgage financing could be eased and homeownership made more affordable to first-time homebuyers. H.R. 3141, the FHA Loan Affordability Act of 2019, would require FHA borrowers to pay mortgage insurance premiums only when their remaining principal balance exceeds 78 percent or more of the home value or sales price. Los Altos-Mountain View District Chair Greg Boudreau shared how a client of his refinanced and now had over 30 percent equity in their home, but would be required to pay mortgage insurance over the next 11 years, increasing their financing costs significantly.

Eshoo shared further information on the SALT Fairness Act, a bill she co-sponsored, which aims to reinstate the deductions that were lost during tax reform. This bill was introduced on a bipartisan basis and is awaiting committee action.

“Seldom does a bill impact so many of my constituents, and on average it costs homeowners in my district over $50,000 on an annual basis,” said Eshoo.

Eshoo represents U.S. Congressional District 18, which is located between the cities of San Francisco, Santa Cruz and San Jose, and includes portions of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

Meeting with Congresswoman Eshoo were President-elect SALT Fairness Act , Region 9 Chair Denise Welsh, NAR Director Leannah Hunt, Federal Political Coordinator for Congresswoman Eshoo Carole Feldstein, Los Altos-Mountain View District Chair Greg Boudreau, Palo Alto District Chair Lynn Wilson Roberts, Los Altos-Mountain View District LC Chair Barbara Williams and Menlo Park-Atherton District LC Chair Chris Isaacson.

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It has come to the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®’ (SILVAR) attention that some SILVAR members are receiving spam emails that claim to have received the member’s email address from SILVAR. SILVAR does not share, sell, or trade email addresses. Member emails and mobile phone numbers are not listed in SILVAR’s membership directory on http://www.silvar.org. 

The California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) suspects these could be phishing emails. We suggest you delete without opening or clicking any links.

Be cautious of any spam email claiming to have gotten your email address from SILVAR, C.A.R. or the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) attempting to sell you any goods or services. If the email is suspicious, the best option is to delete such unwanted SPAM.

SILVAR may only use your email address to directly send you REALTOR® Association-related information or important messages related to your real estate business that have been approved by SILVAR together with other communications to which you are subscribed.



Be cautious of any spam email claiming to have gotten your email address from SILVAR, C.A.R. or NAR attempting to sell you any goods or services. If the email is suspicious, the best option is to delete such unwanted SPAM.

Statewide housing affordability dipped in the second quarter of this year, according to the California Association of REALTORS®, though some San Francisco Bay Area counties showed some improvement.

According to the California Association of REALTORS® Traditional Housing Affordability Index, the percentage of homebuyers who could afford to purchase a median priced, single-family home statewide in second-quarter 2019 dipped to 30 percent from 32 percent in the first quarter of 2019 but was up from 26 percent in the second quarter a year ago.

A minimum annual income of $122,960 was needed to qualify for the purchase of a $608,660 statewide median priced, single-family home in the second quarter of 2019. The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $3,070, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an interest rate of 4.17 percent. The interest rate was 4.62 percent in first-quarter 2019 and 4.70 percent in second-quarter 2018. 

San Francisco County was the least affordable county in the state, with just 17 percent of households able to purchase the $1,700,000 median-priced home. Forty-six percent of Solano County households could afford the $445,000 median-priced home, making it the most affordable Bay Area county.

In Silicon Valley, when compared with the first quarter of 2019, housing affordability stayed at the same level in the second quarter in the high-priced Silicon Valley counties of San Mateo (18 percent) and Santa Clara (20 percent) and San Francisco (17 percent).

“Home prices are starting to fall in line. Sellers are realizing they need to be realistic about pricing their home in this market. There is just so much buyers, especially first-time buyers, can afford, even with their high incomes and the low interest rates,” said Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.

Not surprisingly, San Francisco (17 percent) and San Mateo (18 percent) counties were the least affordable places in the Bay Area, and requiring the highest minimum qualifying incomes in the state. An annual income of $343,420 was needed to purchase a home in San Francisco County, and an annual income of $338,870 was required in San Mateo County.

In Santa Clara County, homebuyers needed an annual income of $268,680 to qualify for the purchase of a $1,330,000 countywide median-priced single-family home in the second quarter of 2019. The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year fixed-rate loan, would be $6,720, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an interest rate of 4.17 percent.

“I know everyone is tired of hearing about wire fraud, but it is more relevant today than ever. Criminals are getting more creative and we need to work together and continue to inform our clients of things to look out for,” said Kathy Gamch at a Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) Cupertino-Sunnyvale District tour meeting.

Gamch, who is title and escrow AVP sales at the Chicago Title Cupertino and Saratoga branches, and escrow branch managers/senior escrow officers Mary Dickerson and Hapi Yamato reminded SILVAR members that consumers continue to be duped by wire fraud. Last year, the Internet Crime Complaint Center received over 20,000 business email compromise complaints with adjusted losses over $1.2 billion.

According to the FBI, consumers average $8 million in losses reported each month due to wire fraud. REALTORS®, real estate brokers, closing attorneys, buyers and sellers are targets for wire fraud. Many have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because they simply relied on wire instructions they received via email.

How it works is a fraudster will hack into a participant’s email account to obtain information about upcoming real estate transactions. After monitoring the account to determine the likely timing of a closing, the fraudster will send an email to the buyer purporting to be the escrow agent or another party to the transaction. The fraudulent email will contain new wiring instructions or routing information, and will request that the buyer send funds to a fraudulent account. 

Hackers are creative and tend to add a sense of urgency to their emails, like the need for immediate action, said Dickerson. “It’s important for buyers in a transaction to pay extra close attention. If you notice inconsistencies in email addresses and domain names, or if there’s a sudden, unexpected change in the email address that you’re working with, call a trusted phone number and talk to someone who is working on your transaction – your REALTORS®, escrow officer, loan agent. Do not call phone numbers mentioned in the potentially fraudulent email.”

The escrow officials said buyers should first obtain the phone number of their REALTOR® and escrow officer as soon as an escrow is opened. Then prior to wiring, call the phone number they received and speak directly with their escrow officer to confirm wire instructions. If they receive a change in wiring instructions supposedly from their escrow officer, they should be suspicious as wiring instructions are rarely changed.

“It is all of our responsibilities to protect our clients from being victims of wire fraud,” stressed Yamato. “Over communicate to your clients about verifying in person or over the phone before wiring. One simple phone call can prevent a devastating loss!”

Here are more tips they shared for REALTORS® and their clients:

  • Educate your clients about wire fraud occurring in real estate transactions.
  • Understand the protocols of transmitting wire instructions for the title companies you work with and communicate those protocols to your clients.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication on all email accounts.
  • Use a complex password and change passwords on a regular basis. They recommend using passphrases.
  • Regularly check your email rules for any that you did not send yourself.
  • Read emails carefully and if something seems off, call the sender using a known, trusted number.

At “What REALTORS® Should Know About Vastu,” members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® learned about vastu shastra from Gautam Rana, a longtime practitioner and vastu consultant with Yogic Dwelling in San Ramon. Vastu is the counterpart of the Chinese art and science of feng shui.

Like feng shui, the science says if you are not connected with nature, you will not achieve balance in your life. Vastu also seeks harmony with the five elements of nature – water, air, fire, earth and space, but vastu is a more complex science than feng shui.

Rana studied the science in India and adheres to the guidelines of vishwakarma prakash, an ancient scripture of vastu, which pays attention to the entrance, the shape of the structure, and the elements placed inside the property. Rana said vastu places importance on 16 zones, 32 entrances and the placements of elements in a property.

“The facing of the property has no relevance in vastu,” stressed Rana. “The only way a house can be accurately analyzed is by finding its center.”

Rana sketched a house on white board and illustrated to members how the science is applied. By dividing 360 degrees around the center of a house, building or any other type of structure you get 32 possible locations or entrances.

Once you have calculated the entrance locations. The directions (north, south, east, west) are further divided into 16 zones, which determine the adverse or beneficial effects to those living there (ex. wealth, career, success, illness, accidents, etc.) The use of different techniques in accordance with the five elements in the form of colors and/or metals can mitigate the negative effects.

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It’s never too early to prepare your home and family for an earthquake The earthquakes that hit Southern California last week left residents unnerved. The 6.4 magnitude quake hit near Ridgecrest last Thursday, was followed the next day by a 7.1 magnitude quake, the largest in Southern California in 20 years. The quake was also felt in Las Vegas and Mexico, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It is never too early to prepare your home and family for an earthquake, says Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “We need to review and practice earthquake safety measures, so if an earthquake or any kind of disaster strikes, we will be ready.”

This is why SILVAR periodically reminds consumers of the following important earthquake safety measures for homeowners from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), California’s Department of Conservation and the USGS:

Identify Potential Hazards in Your Home and Fix Them

• Move furniture away from where people sit, sleep, or spend a lot of time. Move heavy objects to lower shelves and secure hanging objects, cabinet doors and appliances with safety straps, fasteners and adhesives. Move flammable or hazardous materials stored in garages and utility rooms to low, more secure areas.

• Replace rigid gas connections to water heaters and other gas appliances with flexible (corrugated) stainless steel gas connectors. Excess-flow gas-shutoff valves for individual appliances will stop gas flow in case of a catastrophic leak.

Create a Disaster Supply Kit and Keep it in an Accessible Location

• First aid supplies, with medications not requiring refrigeration, including spare eyeglasses and essential hygiene items

• Drinking water (minimum one gallon per person per day)

• Whistle (to alert rescuers to your location)

• Emergency cash in small bills (ATMs may not work)

• Snack foods high in calories, canned and packaged foods and cooking utensils, including a manual can opener and food and a leash or carrier for your pet

• A working flashlight with extra batteries and/or light sticks

• Baby formula or powdered milk for infants, disposable diapers, baby wipes, bottles, pacifiers and comfort items for your children, like stuffed animals and other toys

• A battery-operated radio (and spare batteries)

• Warm clothing, gloves, sturdy shoes, extra socks, blankets/sleeping bags, dust masks

• Heavy-duty plastic bags for waste and other uses

• A-B-C type fire extinguisher

• Copies of vital documents, such as insurance policies, personal identification, medical consent forms for dependents

Replace perishable items like water, food, medication and batteries on a yearly basis.

Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan

Decide how and where your family will reunite if separated during a quake. Select an out-of-state friend or relative to call and alert other relatives and friends that you are all right.

During an Earthquake, Drop! Cover! and Hold On!

If you are indoors, drop to the ground, take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table, or stand against an interior wall. Stay away from exterior walls and windows. If you are outdoors, stay clear of buildings and power lines. If there is no shelter nearby, cover your head and neck with one arm and hand. Hold on until the shaking stops.

The Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation, the charitable arm of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR), has awarded $18,000 in the form of $1,000 scholarships to each of 18 graduating seniors from public high schools in Silicon Valley. The scholarships are made possible by donations from members of the local trade association who are engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay.

The REALTOR® scholars program recognizes students for their outstanding achievements in academics, extracurricular activities and community involvement. The selection committee includes representatives from the local business community, area high schools, area colleges and SILVAR. Now on its 20th year, the program has awarded a total of $360,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors in communities served by SILVAR members.

Students who received scholarships, the schools from which they graduated, and the colleges and universities they plan to attend in the fall of 2019 are Divya Rao, Cupertino High School (Carnegie Mellon University); Bryan Carrillo Martinez, Fremont High School (Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo); Arianna Morales, Gunn High School (Saint Mary’s College of California); Ritu Channagiri, Homestead High School (Baylor University); Rachel Huynh, Leigh High School (Brown University); Aashna Desai, Los Altos High School (UC Berkeley); Laura Herron, Los Gatos High School (UC Berkeley); Emily Zhang, Lynbrook High School (Pomona College); Chris Ikonomou, Menlo-Atherton High School (UCLA); Clara Shen, Monta Vista High School (University of Michigan); Valeria Gonzalez, Mountain View High School (Stanford University); Lucia Amieva-Wang, Palo Alto High School (Macalester College); Edmund Zhi, Prospect High School (UCLA); Riana Kaur Grewal, Santa Clara High School (UC Santa Cruz); Miya Uenaka, Saratoga High School (University of the Pacific); Alexis Weisend, Westmont High School (University of Oregon); Kuauhtemoc Gonzalez, Wilcox High School (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

“We are pleased that for 20 years our members have been able to assist our youth in beginning their college careers. The seniors selected each year are very deserving of recognition not only because of their academic accomplishments, but also for their contributions to their communities,” said Nina Yamaguchi, scholars program chair.

Members of SILVAR presenting the scholarship awards to the recipients at their school’s senior awards night are Chris Alston (Keller Williams Realty), Alan Barbic (Sereno Group), Mark Burns (Referral Realty), Joanne Fraser (Compass), Jasmine Lee (Coldwell Banker), Theresa Loya (Coldwell Banker), Wendy Marioni (Compass), Russell Morris (Coldwell Banker), Nathan Nahouraii (Referral Realty), Robert Reid (Keller Williams Realty), Mary Tan (Coldwell Banker), David Tonna (Compass), Lynn Wilson Roberts (Pacific Union International Real Estate) and Suzanne Yost (Compass).

“REALTORS® are happy to give back to our communities through our scholars program. The scholars program is a longtime partnership effort between the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation and the dedicated educators in our service area,” said Charitable Foundation president Eileen Giorgi.

The latest consumer findings from a National Association of REALTORS® survey reveal many more Americans believe now is a good time to sell a home. An increasing number of Americans also believe now is a good time to buy a home. The positive feeling many Americans have about the housing market is largely due to their attitude towards the economy, according to NAR’s second quarter Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey.

The quarterly survey, which tracks real estate trends, renters and homeowner views and aspirations regarding homeownership, and expectations in the mortgage market, found 46 percent of those surveyed strongly believe now is a good time to sell a home, up from 37 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Seventy-three percent of people believe now is a good time to sell, while 27 percent say now is not a good time to sell. Those who are in the West (70 percent) are most likely to think now is a good time to sell a home.

NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun noted home prices have increased only moderately and that is a contributing factor as to why an overwhelming majority of Americans feel now is a good time to sell. “With home price appreciation slowing, home sellers understand that the days of large price gains from holding an extra year are over,” said Yun.

The number of Americans who think now is a good time to buy a home also has increased. Of those respondents, 38 percent answered they strongly believe that notion, and 27 percent said they moderately believe the present is a good time to buy. Meanwhile, 35 percent disagreed, stating now is not a good time to make a home purchase, which is unchanged from the first quarter.

The optimistic feelings about buying and selling are attributed to positive outlooks on the economy. Fifty-five percent of those polled feel the economy is improving, up from 53 percent in the previous quarter. Optimism was greatest among those who earn $100,000 or more and those who reside in rural areas.

Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, believes it is definitely a good time to sell a home and a good time to buy, as well. “Homes may not sell for as much as they would have a year ago, but they have appreciated enough that many sellers feel it is still a good time to sell,” said Barbic. “On the other hand, the strong demand for homes has never diminished and now that mortgage interest rate hikes don’t appear to be coming in the near future, buyers are encouraged to continue with their home search.”

Yun said that mortgage affordability was promising over the second quarter, and he expects this trend will continue. “Lower mortgage rates, along with job and wage growth, will lead to an increase in sales and thereby contribute positively to economic growth in the upcoming quarters,” Yun predicted.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® 8th Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) Institute was held June 10-14. The CIPS Institute provides training in international business issues, including currency conversion, cultural awareness, legal and tax requirements, transaction principles of international real estate, and specifics about the real estate markets in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

After completing five courses and other requirements, REALTORS® earn the prestigious National Association of Realtors CIPS designation. There are about 3,250 CIPS designees in the U.S.

SILVAR has offered the CIPS Institute every year since 2012. Teaching this year’s classes was REALTOR® and broker associate Bobbi Decker, a NAR REBAC instructor.

“We had a very vital and enthusiastic group for this CIPS class at SILVAR this week. NAR is very eager to have its members up their professionalism, particularly in this global economy and changing market dynamics of the real estate industry,” said Decker.

The CIPS designation gives REALTORS® an edge over other agents when dealing with foreign clients. Decker noted that Silicon Valley is an epicenter for innovation. “Certified International Property Specialist is an essential designation for REALTORS® working in this melting pot that draws people from all over the world.”

According to NAR’s “2018 Profile of International Activity in U.S.Residential Real Estate,” foreign buyers purchased $121 billion of residential property from April 201 to March 2018. Five states accounted for 53 percent of total residential property purchases: Florida (19 percent), California (14 percent), Texas (9 percent), New York (five percent), and Arizona (five percent). The major foreign buyers were China ($30.4B), Canada ($10.5B), the United Kingdom ($7.3B), India ($7.2B), and Mexico ($4.2B).

The CIPS Institute had five sponsors this year. Anita Rodal, international liaison with AFEX (Associated Foreign Exchange) and president of SBPI Services, Inc., informed Realtors the exchange rate can fluctuate on a second by second basis, so the exchange rate on the internet is not be the actual exchange rate. She also explained how market volatility affects inter-bank currency exchange rates and how AFEX helps foreign buyers convert their money to dollars quickly and at a competitive rate.

Avery Bibbs, business development manager with First American Exchange Company, delivered a presentation on the 1031 exchange and tax updates for 2019. A 1031 exchange allows an investor to sell a property, reinvest the proceeds from the sale in a “like kind” property that is of equal or greater value and defer all capital gain taxes. Examples of “like-kind” property exchanges are a single-family rental house for a duplex, an apartment building for a retail center, land for an income producing vineyard, etc.

Michael Cobb, CEO of ECI Development, spoke on how local REALTORS® can help clients interested in purchasing property abroad. Cobb said in addition to investors buying property overseas, Americans are looking at retiring abroad. Their move overseas is driven by cost, having a higher quality of life for less money.

Lisa Wendl, a loan officer with General Mortgage Capital Corp., provided information on loan requirements for foreign buyers. Wendl said because it is getting harder for Chinese living abroad to get money out of China, she has clients who have bought high-end properties in the Bay Area who are seeking to do cash-out refinancing in order to remain liquid. If the China government does not ease up on its restrictions on the outflow of money, Wendl anticipates some Chinese will be forced to sell their homes.

Amy Ku, Sandy Lee and Dean Chang represented the team of Winnie Ho, premier mortgage consultant with HSBC. Ku said a portfolio lending bank, HSBC is a one-stop shop designed to accommodate global clients. HSBC a number of programs that offer flexible terms to foreign buyers, like interest-only loans and family assisted programs for buyers who need help in qualifying for loans.

June is National Homeownership Month, and throughout the month the National Association of REALTORS®  and the nation’s state and local REALTOR® associations will be helping to raise awareness about the benefits of owning a home and help Americans achieve the American dream of homeownership.

“As leading advocates for homeownership, REALTORS® understand the value of owning a home,” said Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “Owning a home is not only the best investment an individual can make to build their personal wealth, it also provides social stability, builds communities, and is a driving force for the economy.”

Homeownership reaps benefits for the homeowner, as well as the community. Through the mortgage interest deduction, homeowners are allowed to reduce their taxable income by a sizeable amount. Buying a home is also an investment because of equity gains and overall appreciation. In addition, studies show high and stable homeownership rates contribute many important social benefits to a community, by boosting the quality of living through education and civic involvement, while lowering crime rate and welfare dependency.

Barbic said the biggest hurdle for homeownership today is not demand; it is affordability. The California Association of REALTORS® reports the percentage of homebuyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in first-quarter 2019 rose to 32 percent from 28 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, and from 31 percent in the first quarter a year ago.

In Santa Clara County, 20 percent of households could afford to purchase a $1,220,000 median-priced home in the first quarter of this year, up from 18 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 and up from 17 percent in first-quarter 2018. To qualify, homebuyers needed a minimum annual income of $256,720. Their monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $6,420.

“Housing affordability has always been a challenge in the region because Silicon Valley is one of the best places to live in California. The weather here is great, the economy is good, and there is job growth,” said Barbic. “The door is still open for many homebuyers. First-time homebuyer programs and other programs for qualified families and individuals sponsored by public and private entities throughout the valley are seeking to help bridge the gap in affordability.”

Barbic noted when purchasing a home, choosing an agent is one of the most critical decisions a homebuyer will have to make. “Select an agent who is experienced and knowledgeable about the marketplace, down payment assistance programs that are available, the loan process, and one who is a good negotiator. These days many new models in real estate are offering buyers and sellers alternatives to the real estate transaction process, but they are not the same as having a trusted REALTOR®.”

A REALTOR® is a licensed real estate agent or broker who is a member of NAR, the world’s largest professional trade association. REALTORS® adhere to a strict code of ethics, which sets them apart from other real estate licensees and protects all parties to the real estate transaction. REALTORS®in violation of the code of ethics face disciplinary action by their association. They must complete 2.5 hours of ethics training once every two years to keep their membership in NAR.

“Living with the Code of Ethics means being honest and dependable, never putting your interests ahead of your client’s, and speaking the truth to all parties,” said Barbic. “REALTORS® don’t just sell homes, they build communities, and are committed to making homeownership a reality for those who strive to achieve it.”

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