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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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