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Diversity doesn’t only encompass different cultures; the term also refers to different generations. People are living longer, so society is now composed of more generations. Each generation has different traits and communicates differently. A REALTOR® needs to have a keen understanding of each generation in order to relate to clients and other agents. The method of communicating or marketing to each generation can affect a transaction, according to Tracey McNeely, a REALTOR® with Keller Williams in Cupertino.

McNeely shared information about the different generations at last week’s Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting. She identified the following four generations in today’s society and shared their general characteristics:

1. Veterans, born 1922-45
Respect for authority, conformers, disciplined and never buck the system, traditional nuclear family, savers, put away cash, communicate one-to-one, work hard, duty before fun, prefer to communicate via formal memo or mailed letter

2. Boomers, born 1946-64
Optimistic, involved, casual (“Call me any time.”), many disintegrating nuclear families, workaholics, grew up with the rotary and touch phone, “buy now, pay later” mentality, crusade for causes, question authority, their lives are broadened beyond the scope of the family, prefer to communicate in person

3. Generation X, born 1965-1980
Skeptics, like a lot of fun and informality, many grew up as latchkey kids, touch tone phone – it’s perfectly fine with them to leave messages on their answering machine, screen calls (“Don’t call me after work.”), like to eliminate tasks, self-reliant, have no patience, like immediate action, like to communicate directly

4. Generation Y Millennials, born 1981-Present
Filled with realism, confident, love extreme sports for fun, product of merged families similar to the TV show “Modern Family,” very adept with cell phones, entrepreneurial, multi-taskers, tenacious, oriented, tolerant, communicate via voicemail, email, Facebook, Skype, text messaging, like to chat online.

“Remember, when you have another agent on the other end, try to look at their generation and adjust your way of communicating,” McNeely told members.

In recognition of Fair Housing Month in April, REALTORS® continue to reaffirm their commitment to equal access to housing and home ownership. Signed into law in 1968 and amended in 1988, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin.

“Fair housing is not an option; it’s the law,” said Gene Lentz, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® . “REALTORS®  are on the ‘front lines,’ working with buyers and sellers to see that they enjoy the benefits of a housing market free from discrimination.”

To mark Fair Housing Month, SILVAR on April 8 offered the National Association of REALTORS® ’ At Home with Diversity certification course for all REALTORS®  and affiliates. The course teaches real estate professionals how to increase their sensitivity and adaptability to future market trends and how to transact business across cultures, generations and other differences. More than 25,000 REALTORS®  have completed the program.

“People have a right to live wherever they can afford to live,” Lentz said. “Fair housing means opening those doors for everyone in this country whose goal it is to own a home.”

Lentz indicated Santa Clara County is among the most diverse counties in the U.S. The 2010 U.S. Census figures show the county grew by nearly 6 percent in the past decade. Much of the growth in population is attributed to a gain of about 140,000 Asians and 76,000 Latinos, yet minority home ownership comprises a very low percentage of the population.

“Diverse neighborhoods and schools strengthen communities, and minority population growth is vital to sustaining housing markets,” said Lentz.

Lentz said the home seller, the prospective home buyer and the real estate professional all have rights and responsibilities under the law.

A home seller or landlord is required under the law not to discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of property on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. They cannot instruct their agent to convey any limitations in the sale or rental because the real estate professional is also bound by law not to discriminate.

Buyers or renters have the right to expect that housing will be available without discrimination, including  the right to expect housing in their  price range made available without discrimination; equal professional service; the opportunity to consider a broad range of housing choices; no discriminatory limitations on communities or locations of housing; no discrimination in the financing, appraising, or insuring of housing; reasonable accommodations in rules, practices and procedures for persons with disabilities; non-discriminatory terms and conditions for the sale, rental, financing, or insuring of a dwelling; and freedom from harassment or intimidation for exercising their fair housing rights.

People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Complaints must be filed within one year of the alleged discrimination.

The current continuing resolution providing funding for government operations is set to expire today. If legislation to extend funding is not signed into law after today, the federal government could shut down. This means many, but not all government programs, including some that impact federal housing and mortgage programs, could grind to a halt as early as tomorrow, April 9. While the true impact of a shutdown is unclear until it actually begins, below is a synopsis of how federal housing programs will likely operate in the event of a shutdown.

The Office of Management and Budget requires each agency to have contingency plans in place and reportedly has instructed agencies to not provide specific information on impacted operations.

Federal Housing Administration
FHA cannot offer endorsements for any new loans in the Single Family Program and cannot make commitments in the Multi-Family Program in the event of a shutdown. FHA will maintain operational activities, including paying claims and collecting premiums. Management & Marketing Contractors managing the REO portfolio can continue to operate.

VA Loan Guaranty Program
Lenders may continue to process and guarantee mortgages through the Loan Guaranty program in the event of a government shutdown.

Internal Revenue Service
Should the federal government shut down, the IRS cannot process federal income tax returns or issue refunds (but it can deposit tax payments). Consumers who were expecting to use their tax returns as part of the down payment for a home purchase will temporarily not have access to these refunds.

Flood Insurance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed that the National Flood Insurance Program will not be impacted by a government shutdown.

Rural Housing Programs
For U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, essential personnel working during a shutdown do not include field office staff who typically issue conditional commitments, loan note guarantees and modification approvals. Thus, lenders will not receive approvals during the shutdown. If the lender has already received a conditional commitment from the Rural Development office, then the lender may proceed to close those loans during the shutdown. A conditional commitment, which is good for 90 days, is given to a lender once a USDA underwriter approves the loan. If a commitment was already issued, the funds were already set aside, the lender may close the loan at his leisure. If Rural Development has not issued a conditional commitment, the lender must wait until funding legislation is enacted before closing a loan.

Government Sponsored Enterprises
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue operating normally, as will their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Treasury
No official word as of yet, but the Making Home Affordable program, including HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) and HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives), may not be affected because the program is funded through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which is mandatory spending, not discretionary.

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

Carole Rodoni

Real estate consultant Carole Rodoni didn’t mince words when she talked to Silicon Valley REALTORS® at SILVAR’s Palo Alto District this morning. She is appalled at how lawmakers have handled the budget, the deficit, short sales and foreclosures, and even the war in Libya, but with regard to Silicon Valley real estate, Rodoni is upbeat.

The former president of Fox & Carskadon Realtors, former COO of Cornish and Carey Real Estate and Alain Pinel Realtors, and now president of Bamboo Consulting Inc. says the media can talk about a slump in the housing market, but the San Francisco Bay Area is an “oasis in the desert.” This region is the gateway to the Pacific Rim, with the best universities, diversity of culture and education.

“People aspire to live here and there is no more land here. Land is valuable and land here will keep its value,” says Rodoni. “At the end of the day, how can anyone say Silicon Valley isn’t alive and well?”

What should REALTORS® tell buyers? “Tell them they are getting a free gift right now,” Rodoni says.

Prices have come down a bit, interest rates have edged up from 3 percent to about 4 percent, but they are still low. She predicts rates will rise even more by the end of this year, possibly to 5 percent or more, and perhaps 6 and 7 percent in three years because of inflation. “The stars have aligned here,” according to Rodoni. “Where do you find this affordability?”

Rodoni says buyers should “buy it, hold it – don’t spin it, and keep it for at least five years.” Also, while buyers should pay attention to interest rates, she says they should also watch out for lending fees because she is sure they will increase.

“Loans will be 5 to 8 percent more expensive than last year,” Rodoni says. “At the end of the day interest counts, but understand that everything is going up because of loan fees. If you are a buyer, while it’s good to look at price, look also at loan fees. Match interest rate to the loan product.”

She says buyers should ask themselves these questions: Is it the right price? Is it the right place? Examine where you are looking. Will it appraise for that price? Is the lender going to like it? Then she cautions: Do not attempt to low ball when you’re facing a multiple offer situation. How high are you going to go? Especially in this region, you cannot sit with terms and conditions.

“It would be like playing football in a baseball diamond,” she says. “Investors know there is value here and they will continue to come in. Silicon Valley is the bread and butter market. They see the sweet spot and will fight to get it.”

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