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Here are some of the REALTORS® who attended the Military Residential Specialist Designation course at SILVAR.

The Military Residential Specialist Designation course offered at SILVAR this month was well-received. SILVAR REALTORS® who attended the all-day course, taught by instructor Buddy West, learned about the unique real estate needs and challenges facing military families, how to help military personnel and their families achieve their housing goals, and how to make military families aware of their options.

SILVAR 2011 Education Committee Chair Carolyn Miller said the Military Residential Specialist Designation course is especially valuable for REALTORS® because as more members of the military return home, they will be taking advantage of Veterans Administration loans. She noted many veterans have been out of the military for a long time and have never used their entitlements. 

“We need to be prepared to help them, and this class prepares us to help military personnel and their families achieve their dream of home ownership,” said Miller.

Miller said she is very happy with the high attendance in different courses SILVAR offered this year. “I am really pleased that REALTORS® are taking advantage of these classes,” said Miller. “By investing in these classes, REALTORS® are investing in themselves.”

SILVAR offers a host of educational programs for members, such as new member orientation classes, license renewal courses, PRDS Forms online, PRDS contract classes, continuing education, and special designation classes. The Association will continue to expand its course selection for its members in 2012.

The holiday season is a great time to spend with family and friends, but it is also a very busy time. As people rush to get their shopping done, they can get distracted and safety takes a back seat. In fact, the month of December has the highest rate of home crime and holiday scams.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® shares the following holiday safety tips from a recent National Association of REALTORS® webinar, featuring advice from safety practitioner Andrew Wooten of Safety Awareness Firearms Education (S.A.F.E.).

Practice Holiday Home Safety Tips:

  • Follow the 3 ft. – 10 ft. rule. Keep your shrubs trimmed to about three feet and tree heights to no more than 10 feet, to prevent burglars from lurking around your home.
  • Make sure you always close and lock the front door.
  • Don’t place gifts under the Christmas tree where burglars can see them. Place a blanket over the presents, so they aren’t in full view of a window.
  • Keep the outside of your home well-lit. When you leave your home, place your inside lights on timers to make it appear occupied.
  • After the holidays, don’t advertise your gifts by leaving the boxes at the curb for garbage collection. It’s best to take the big boxes to the recycling center.
  • Don’t overload wall outlets and extension cords.
  • Never use indoor extension cords outside. Place electric converters above ground and away from puddles of water or snow. Always unplug the string of lights before you touch a bulb.
  • If you have a live Christmas tree, cut two inches off the trunk and mount the tree on a sturdy stand. Keep the tree well-supplied with water and away from candles or a fireplace. Last year, there were 13 deaths and 27 injuries from trees catching fire.

Be Aware of Holiday Scams:

  • Be aware that skimmers thieves place on ATM machines are looking more authentic and harder to detect. It is also best to use an ATM that is inside a secure building, or in a well-lit area free from shrubbery and partitions.
  • Always check your receipt after your leave a store, especially when you have used your debit card. Make sure it doesn’t say that you received cash back when you didn’t.
  • Only give to charities that are well-established. Don’t get fooled just because the charity has children. Never give out your credit card information to a charity over the phone.
  • Check the shipping company and phone number on the note on parcels left outside your door. The note may ask you to call a phone number that is overseas and you will be charged high rates. Never give your personal information, or the times when you will be away from home.
  • Only buy gift cards at stores you know. Always check the receipt and make sure the code isn’t scratched.
  • Avoid the outside lane in gas stations. Since they are out of view, thieves can easily attach skimmers. When you are done with your gas purchase, make sure the machine clears out. Use a credit card to limit your liability.
  • When returning to your car after shopping, if you notice your car has a flat tire, even if a uniformed officer approaches you and offers to help out, it is best to walk back to the mall and contact mall security to help you. If you need to unload packages in your car and return to your shopping, be aware that thieves could be watching you. You may want to drive your car around and park it on the other side of the mall before you continue shopping.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) extension Congress enacted last month will expire today. NAR is urging Congress to create a 5-year NFIP re-authorization bill. Contact Congress to show support if you haven’t already.

TAKE ACTION

Both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are temporarily suspending all scheduled evictions involving foreclosed occupied single-family 1- to 4- unit residences with owned mortgages beginning December 19, 2011 through January 2, 2012.

The suspension will apply only to eviction lockouts related to Freddie Ma and Fannie Mae owned REO properties and will not affect other pre- or post-foreclosure processes. During this period, legal and administrative proceedings for evictions may continue, but families living in foreclosed properties will be permitted to remain in the home.

A recent survey by Houselogic.com, the consumer website from the National Association of REALTORS®, finds that jobs and the housing market will be two of the most important issues for voters in the 2012 election. Nearly one-third of respondents said housing will be the top issue on their mind when they head to the polls next November.

Respondents were asked “What issue area will have the greatest impact on your vote in 2012?” National security, health care, and energy/environment trailed housing and unemployment by wide margins. Here are the results:

Jobs/Unemployment – 54 percent
Housing – 27 percent
National Security – 8 percent
Health Care – 4 percent
Energy/Environment – 2 percent
Other – 4 percent

With unemployment still high, it is easy to see why so many Americans are concerned about the job market. However, employment and the housing market are inextricably linked because economic growth and job creation cannot occur without a housing recovery.

Housing accounts for more than 15 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, a key driver of the national economy. Home sales generate jobs. NAR estimates that for every two homes sold, one job is created. New spending on homebuilding products, furniture, and other residential investments also have a significant economic impact.

Some recent indicators show that the economy might be starting to rebound, with pending home sales rising strongly in October, according to NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index. However, any changes to current programs or incentives must not jeopardize a housing and economic recovery. Unemployment, consumer confidence and consumer spending will not rebound until a number of issues are addressed.

This HouseLogic survey shows Americans understand that a housing recovery is essential to the nation’s economic recovery, and many of those housing-related issues will be on the minds of voters in 2012.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports more Americans chose to buy a home during the third quarter of 2011. Home ownership jumped to 66.3 percent during that period, up from the 13-year low of 65.9 percent from the previous quarter, according to the bureau’s report.

“Housing affordability has been at a record high this year,” says Gene Lentz, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “This is a golden opportunity for people with secure jobs and good credit who want to achieve the American dream of homeownership.”

“Whether somebody is buying or selling a home, finding a good REALTOR® and understanding his or her role should be the first step in what could be the most important transaction in a lifetime,” adds Lentz.

Lentz notes that not all real estate agents or brokers are REALTORS®. A REALTOR® is a licensed real estate agent or broker who is a member of National Association of REALTORS®, the world’s largest professional trade association. The “REALTOR®” designation is used by real estate agents and brokers who must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and actively pursue continuing education to increase their professionalism and skill. The Code of Ethics sets REALTORS® apart from other real estate licensees and protects all parties to the real estate transaction, not just a REALTOR®’s client. If a local Association of REALTORS® finds a REALTOR® in violation of the Code of Ethics, disciplinary action can be imposed.

REALTORS® must complete ethics training by taking at least 2.5 hours of instruction at least once every four years to keep membership in NAR. For a REALTOR®, 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.

When evaluating a potential real estate agent, there are certain questions you should ask. First, ask whether the agent is a REALTOR®. Then ask the following questions:

  • Does the agent have an active real estate license in good standing? To find this information, you can check with your state’s governing agency.
  • Does the agent belong to the Multiple Listing Service? Multiple Listing Services are cooperative information networks of REALTORS® that provide descriptions of most of the houses for sale in a particular region.
  • Is real estate their full-time career?
  • What real estate designations does the agent hold?
  • Which party is he or she representing–you or the seller? This discussion is supposed to occur early on, at “first serious contact” with you. The agent should discuss your state’s particular definitions of agency, so you’ll know where you stand.
  • In exchange for your commitment, how will the agent help you accomplish your goals? How will the agent show you homes that meet your requirements and provide you with a list of the properties he or she is showing you?

Visit the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® website at www.silvar.org for a list of REALTORS® by location.

 

 

Congress passed and President Obama signed into law on November 18 a bill to reinstate the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan limit in high-cost areas through 2013. In Santa Clara County, this would mean the maximum size of mortgages FHA can insure will be raised back up to $729,750.

The higher Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA conforming loan limits of $729,750 expired September 30 and were subsequently reduced to $625,500. Loan limits for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not increased and remain at the reduced level.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® and its state and national partner associations have long advocated for Congress to reinstate all the loan limits permanently. “We are pleased that Congress agreed to reinstate the FHA loan limits, though we are disappointed that our lawmakers did not reinstate the higher loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac backed loans, as well,” said Gene Lentz, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “The reinstated FHA loan limits will allow qualified, creditworthy borrowers access to affordable mortgage financing.”

FHA provides mortgage insurance to borrowers without enough of a down payment to qualify for prime loans. With an FHA loan, home buyers can put down as little as 3.5 percent on a mortgage loan.

The REALTORS® believe continued a government role in housing financing will ensure stability in mortgage markets and enable home buyers in high-cost areas to refinance and obtain financing for new home purchases more easily. The conforming loan limit determines the maximum size of a mortgage that government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy or guarantee. Non-conforming or jumbo loans typically carry higher mortgage interest rates than conforming loans, increasing monthly payments and hampering the ability of families in California to purchase homes by making them less affordable.

The GSEs and FHA currently back 90 percent of new home loans. The Obama administration and some lawmakers want to reduce government’s role in the mortgage business and have said the lowering of loan limits is a first step to prompting private capital to return to the market.

In addition to extending the FHA-insured mortgages, the new law provides for a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through Dec. 16, 2011.  REALTORS® want to ensure that millions of home and business owners across the country have access to affordable flood insurance and had strongly urged Congress to work on a five-year NFIP reauthorization bill to provide certainty and avoid further disruption to real estate markets.

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