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During the National Association of REALTORS® 2012 Midyear Meetings on May 14-19, REALTORS® met with Members of Congress and urged action on NAR’s priority issues, including the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). SILVAR is happy to learn that the U.S. Senate today passed a 60-day extension of the NFIP, avoiding a lapse in the program which was set to expire on May 31. (The U.S. House of Representatives voted on a separate measure, H.R. 5740, to extend the NFIP for 30-days last week.) A lapse would have affected thousands of real estate closings across the nation.

While this extension is a positive development and will ensure program continuity, it is not the long-term solution that NAR has been advocating. NAR is firmly committed to working with our congressional allies on passing a five-year National Flood Insurance Program reauthorization and reform bill. The bill, H.R.1309 – the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011, passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate.  

The current program will be extended for 60 days to allow additional time for the Senate to take up and pass the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011. While NAR expects the bill to be passed, it remained an unfinished item at press time.

NAR thanks members who pushed their Senators to take up H.R.1309. Their efforts helped move NAR very close to its goal. SILVAR members were among the 13,000 REALTORS® at the State Capitol who urged legislators to pass the extension.

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SILVAR’s delegation of REALTORS® joined an estimated 15,000 REALTORS® who converged on the grounds of the Washington Monument yesterday to make their voices heard on behalf of homeowners, real estate investors, and those who aspire to homeownership.

At the “Rally to Protect the American Dream,” REALTORS® from every state in the country joined invited members of Congress to demonstrate their commitment to preserving access to homeownership and robust real estate investment.

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This week SILVAR members joined their fellow REALTORS® from across the nation and convened in our nation’s capital for the National Association of REALTORS® Midyear Business Meetings and visits with members of Congress, including U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo and Mike Honda during the meetings.

The SILVAR delegation included SILVAR President Suzanne Yost, President-Elect Carolyn Miller, NAR Directors Jeff Barnett, Jim Hamilton, John Tripp, C.A.R. Directors Leannah Hunt, Susan Tilling, Federal Political Coordinator and SILVAR PAC Trustee Carole Feldstein and Joanne Fraser.

Below are the issues that were brought to the attention of our legislators.

REO Bulk Sale Initiative
FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency) has announced a pilot program to bulk sale 484 properties in Riverside/San Bernardino/Los Angeles counties, though no date has been set for these sales. Nineteen members of California’s Congressional Delegation have signed on to a letter to Acting Director Edward DeMarco stating their opposition to a proposed bulk sale pilot program for Fannie Mae REOs. Many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have been frustrated with how Edward DeMarco has utilized the GSEs in addressing their distressed properties and as a tool to address the housing market.

REALTORS® informed members of Congress that bulk sales of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac properties will cost the tax payers money because they will be sold for less than what they could receive if these properties were sold individually.

Preserve the Mission and Purpose of the FHA Program
The House Financial Services Committee has passed H.R. 4264, the “FHA Emergency Fiscal Solvency Act of 2012,” that will provide FHA (Federal Housing Administration) with additional tools to mitigate risk without overburdening consumers. Several members of Congress have written to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to express concern over FHA’s condominium policies that make it very difficult to purchase a condo with FHA financing.

REALTORS® asked members of Congress to Support H.R. 4264, the “FHA Emergency Fiscal Solvency Act of 2012,” as it was passed out of committee. The bill seeks to balance the need to improve the fiscal solvency of the FHA fund with costs and availability to consumers. Members of Congress were also asked to submit comments to HUD opposing the condominium regulations, and expressed concern that qualified homebuyers are being shut out of often the most affordable homeownership option available.

Protect Homeownership Tax Benefits
H.R. 4202, which has been introduced in the House of Representatives, would extend the mortgage cancellation relief for two more years, through December 31, 2014. H.R. 4336, a similar bill, which would extend it for one year. The Senate as introduced S. 2250, which also extends the mortgage cancellation relief for two years. REALTORS® urged that more time is needed to restore equilibrium in the market. More than 20 percent of all homeowners currently owe more on their mortgages than the current fair market value of their homes. Members of Congress were asked to co-sponsor H.R. 4336 or H.R. 4202.

Reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
In July 2011, the House of Representatives voted 406-22 to approve a five-year reauthorization of NFIP, H.R. 1309. The Senate Banking Committee has since unanimously reported a similar bill, S. 1940, which continues to await full Senate consideration. Forty-one senators recently wrote their leadership urging them to bring up such a measure for debate. REALTORS® thanked members of Congress for voting for H.R. 1309, and urged the Senate to pass a five-year flood insurance reauthorization bill before the current temporary extension of the flood bill expires on May 31.

Secure the Future of Homeownership
During the first session of the 112th Congress, the House Financial Services and Senate Banking Committees held numerous hearings on the housing market, primarily focusing on foreclosure/loss mitigation and the state of the nation’s housing. Year-to-date, the House Financial Services Committee has not held any hearings on GSE reform, appraisals, short sales or QRM/QM. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee held only one two- part hearing on the state of the nation’s housing market. NAR expects that with a renewed focus by the Administration and Congress on housing concerns, additional hearings on all three issues will be initiated and that NAR will be a primary participant.

REALTORS® asked that reforms of the secondary mortgage market be comprehensive, and the federal government must have a continued key role in the secondary mortgage market in order to ensure that there is capital for mortgage lending in all mortgage markets under all market conditions. REALTORS® asked for a hearing on H.R. 1498 or S. 2120. This legislation requires services to decide whether to approve a short sale within a specified time frame of completion of the short sale request. REALTORS® also seek increased educational standards for appraisers, and support state regulation of all appraisers, regardless of their source.

Bolster Commercial Real Estate Lending
Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced H.R. 1418, the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2011, to increase the member business lending cap from 12.25 percent to 27.5 percent of total assets for well-capitalized credit unions. The Senate has introduced S. 2231 as a companion bill. In June 2011, the House Financial Services Committee voted to pass H.R. 940, the United States Covered Bond Act of 2011. This legislation facilitates the creation of a U.S. covered bond market, which would provide an additional source of commercial real estate lending. The Senate has introduced S. 1835 as a companion bill.

REALTORS® asked that Congress pass H.R. 1418 and S. 2231. Credit unions can fill in the commercial real estate lending gap and help get capital to the struggling small businesses that occupy commercial space. They also seek passage of H.R. 940 and S. 1835 to create a U.S. covered bond market, which would complement the fragile commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market by providing an additional new source of capital for the commercial real estate industry.

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How many men does it take to put a lace curtain? “Never enough!” according to (left to right) Bob Conway, Dave Barca, Doss Welsh and Peter Kitch. In the end, the men just couldn’t figure it out without the help of the homeowner and the women RSVP volunteers!

For more than a decade REALTORS® and affiliates from SILVAR have assisted seniors and the homebound with household tasks, through SILVAR’s REALTOR® Service Volunteer Program (RSVP). Washing windows, installing smoke detector batteries, flipping mattresses, light vacuuming, dusting, replacing light bulbs, changing furnace filters and trimming bushes can mean a lot of work, especially when agents have to take time from their busy schedules. Yet each year, the RSVP volunteers all say they take away more than what they give from this experience.

“I’ve been pretty lucky so far, so I felt I needed to do something to give back to the community,” Jeffrey Dean explained why he decided to volunteer for RSVP for the first time this year.

Longtime RSVP volunteer and Cupertino/Sunnyvale District’s RSVP chair Sue Bose said, “I believe when people grow old, many are afraid or shy to ask for help, even from their children, who live close by. The small tasks we do for them helps keep them safe and comfortable, and enables them to live a better and longer life.”

The seniors are always grateful for the help they receive from the volunteers.”It’s so very kind of you to help us,” said an 82-year-old Los Altos man and his 83-year-old wife to the team of Beth Tompkins, Joe Velasco, Michael Bleier and Christine Moore. They washed the couple’s outside screens and windows.

“We hate to admit that we’re getting old and can no longer do all this work,” said the husband.

“There’s no way I can do all this work by myself,” exclaimed an 83-year-old Los Gatos resident, as the team of C.T. Harris, Ryan Iwanaga and Wendy Lannon Potts flipped her mattress, placed bricks under her bed in order to elevate it, repaired a set of window blinds, replaced her smoke detector batteries and furnace filter, which was loacted in a dark cellar.

Longtime RSVP volunteers Rick White, Sherry Hagen and Scott Holt helped a 76-year-old woman and her 80-year-old husband by washing screens and windows and trimming bushes. The wife, who was in a wheelchair, recently had a stroke and then fell and broke her hip. They have no children.

“It’s frustrating not being able to do things and we guessed it was time to break down and ask for help,” she said. “My husband tries to do everything and he’s running himself down.”

An elderly Menlo Park homeowner, who is single and lives alone with no family nearby, called the volunteers “my angels.” “You are an answer to my prayers, a gift from heaven. I am so overwhelmed,” she told the team of David Barca, Mandy Safka, Kathy Hearn Bosse and Jim Taggart. They washed her curtains, screens and windows, fixed her front porch and installed new smoke detector batteries in her home. They were later joined by Bob Conway, Doss Welsh and Peter Kitch.

“I wish we could do more for them. I wish we could help even more seniors,” said Barca. “You learn so much through conversations with them, and, you end up getting attached to them, as well.

Barca initiated RSVP with other REALTORS® in 2001. The program was launched by SILVAR as an official community outreach project in 2002, and has expanded to include volunteers from the San Mateo County Association of REALTORS®, the Fresno Association of REALTORS®, Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS® and Santa Cruz County Association of REALTORS®. Barca hopes to expand RSVP to all AORs in the state.

SILVAR RSVP Chair Eileen Giorgi thanked this year’s volunteers and chairs for their fine work this year. SILVAR’s 2012 RSVP district chairs include Sue Bose (Cupertino/Sunnyvale), Mary Kay Groth (Los Gatos/Saratoga District), David Kim and Suzanne O’Brien (Los Altos/Mountain View), Jeff Beltramo (Palo Alto District), and Barca (Menlo Park/Atherton).

“We really receive more than we give,” said Giorgi. “Thank you to all our volunteers and chairs who gave up their time this week to give back to the community. We all realize how important this program is to our seniors.”

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SILVAR President Suzanne Yost (far right) and SCCAOR President Barbara Lymberis (second from left) are pictured with NHORA Directors Hilda Ramirez and Richard Gonzales.

SILVAR President Suzanne Yost and Barbara Lymberis, president of the Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS® (SCCAOR), spoke at the National Hispanic Organization of Real Estate Associates (NHORA) Santa Clara County luncheon meeting on Wednesday. The theme of the meeting was “Viva Las Mujeres! A Celebration of Women in Leadership.”

NHORA is a national organization that promotes Hispanic leadership within the context of community building, commerce, and transparency in the advancement of sustainable home ownership. The organization also serves as a resource of tools and cultural awareness for anyone seeking to serve the Latino market.

Moderator Hilda Ramirez asked both Association of REALTORS® presidents to discuss what leadership means to them personally and professionally. Yost and Lymberis both emphasized the importance of members getting involved in their respective associations. There are many ways to get involved in an association, not just as an officer, they said.

Yost said every man or woman owes it to give a part of themselves to the association or organization they belong. She recommended participating in the association’s various committees, joining BARLA (Bay Area REALTOR® Leadership Academy), RSVP (REALTOR® Service Volunteer Program, contributing to the REALTOR® Action Fund, as just some of many ways to get involved in the association.

“You get back so much more than you give. Find something that interests you and get involved in it,” she suggested.

Lymberis said she values the opportunity of sharing her professionalism with others, and she encouraged everyone to do the same. “It’s been a tremendous growth experience for me. You become a better agent, a better broker to the benefit of your clients,” said Lymberis.

Yost, who has been in real estate and involved with different AORs for 32 years, noted being involved has given her the opportunity to make tremendous friends and she considers friends in real estate as family.

“If all of us could step up in various ways, if we each can find something to do in our association, it would be amazing how much more we would be able to accomplish,” said Yost.

Yost and Lymberis are among 12 women AOR presidents out of 17 AORs in the Bay Area.

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