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Left to right: SILVAR Past President Gene Lentz, Board Director Bill Rehbock, Affiliate Chair Richard Miller, Board Director David Tonna, President-elect Carolyn Miller, C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold, President Suzanne Yost, Los Gatos/Saratoga Chair Cassie Maas, and C.A.R. Past President Jim Hamilton

SILVAR members from the Menlo Park/Atherton and Los Gatos/Saratoga districts had the opportunity to meet and listen to California Association of REALTORS® President LeFrancis Arnold at their meetings this week. Meeting California REALTORS® across the country is part of his duty as president of the state REALTOR® association, said Arnold.

Arnold said SILVAR REALTORS® are very fortunate to be working and living in Silicon Valley because compared to other parts of the state, the region was not hit as hard by the housing downturn. He has observed the growing interest in residential real estate here and in the state from foreign buyers.

“The housing industry is one of the most important assets in California,” said Arnold. Proof of this is in the billions of dollars of residential real estate purchased by international investors. Arnold noted the top foreign buyers come from Canada, China, Mexico and Great Britain, and they are looking at properties in California.

“No immigrant comes to America with a desire to be a tenant. They dream of homeownership,” said Arnold.

Global real estate is growing in importance, said Arnold. Foreign investors and immigrants create opportunities and bring diversity not only in housing, but also in the election process. It is important that everyone, regardless of race, is given the opportunity for homeownership. Arnold said another part of his duty as C.A.R. president is to meet with legislators and deliver this message. It is what C.A.R., SILVAR and the National Association of REALTORS® do at the state, local and national levels.

Arnold underlined the importance of political advocacy. REALTORS® at the local, state and federal level fight legislation that will negatively affect homeownership and allow REALTORS® to be political activists. He stressed advocacy for homeownership needs to continue because the threats are very real, particularly proposals to impose transfer taxes and continuing discussions on eliminating or reducing the mortgage interest deduction (MID).

Left to right: SILVAR President Suzanne Yost, Menlo Park/Atherton Chair Chris Isaacson, C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold and SILVAR Past President Gene Lentz

Arnold said REALTORS® at the local, state and national level will continue to work as a team and fight legislation that hurts the American Dream of homeownership.

“Each of us has a role to play,” said Arnold. “We have to continue to fight for homeownership rights.”

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MLSListings Inc. reports market activity “slowed to a crawl for nearly all indicators” in the month of June for Santa Clara County and four other neighboring counties. The severe shortage of homes is impacting home sales, sparking multiple offers and slightly higher home prices in a number of communities.

The Silicon Valley Association of Realtors’ multiple listing service provider reports Santa Clara County had 1,093 closed sales of single-family homes, virtually unchanged from 1,097 in June 2011. Santa Clara County’s June’s inventory took a dive of 38 percent from last year. The county’s inventory of 2,589 homes was down 42.2 percent from inventory in June 2003 and down 57.4 percent from 6,071 homes on inventory in June 2008.

According to the MLSListings report, Santa Clara County saw its June 2012 median price of $695,000 jump 9.4 percent over the previous year. The June median for a single-family home in Santa Clara County is 26.2 percent higher than the median of $550,500 in June 2009, when home prices resumed their upward trend.

Unless inventory opens up, home buyers will continue to be squeezed in this tight market, says Suzanne Yost, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “Many families are already having a difficult time finding a place to live. We will continue to see first-time home buyers facing strong competition from investors with cash. For motivated sellers, pricing is a key factor,” said Yost.

 

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Homeowner Bill of Rights into law this week to help struggling Californians keep their homes. This law aims to avoid foreclosure where possible to help stabilize California’s housing market and prevent the other negative effects of foreclosures on families, communities, and the economy.

The new law will generally prohibit lenders from engaging in dual tracking; require a single point of contact for borrowers seeking foreclosure prevention alternatives; provide borrowers with certain safeguards during the foreclosure process; and allow borrowers the right to sue lenders for material violations of this law. The full text of this law, also known as Assembly Bill 278 and Senate Bill 900, is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.

Last week, the California State Legislature passed a Conference Report that was a key element of the California Attorney General’s package of bills making up a “Homeowners Bill of Rights.”

 The legislation is intended to codify the national negotiated settlement between the state’s Attorney General and major banks. The California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) had opposed the legislation because it felt, while well-meaning, the legislation would encourage the filing of frivolous lawsuits that would delay the foreclosure process and further discourage lending. 

While C.A.R. is disappointed in the final outcome, the bill passed by lawmakers is a much improved version of the package of bills initially sponsored by the Attorney General. The original bill would have halted all foreclosures, drying up both REO inventory and even short sales.
 
“The good news is what has passed is an improved version of the package of bills initially sponsored by the Attorney General. During Legislative Day in May, REALTORS® from across the state traveled to Sacramento and spoke with their legislators against these complicated and harmful provisions. The Conference Committee ultimately did not include them in the final report,” said Suzanne Yost, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) praises Congress for finally passing one of the real estate industry’s key legislative priorities, a 5-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), also known as the “Biggers-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2012.” President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the 5-year reauthorization will bring certainty to real estate transactions in more than 21,000 communities nationwide where flood insurance is required for a mortgage. The bill ensures the program will continue long-term for more than 5.6 million business- and home owners who rely on it.

The passage of the flood insurance bill is the culmination of a successful multi-year REALTOR® campaign and a final push at the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in May 2012. During their meetings SILVAR members joined thousands of REALTORS® nationwide and met with their members of Congress in Washington, D.C. and urged action on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and several other priority issues. 

Since 2008, Congress had been extending the NFIP a few months at a time. Twice this led to shutdowns, including one that stalled more than 40,000 home sales in June 2010 alone. The NFIP will be in effect until Sept. 30, 2017.

The NFIP has averted $16 billion in losses by strengthening millions of properties against floods. Without NFIP, there would be more uninsured and unmitigated properties, taxpayers would still be “on the hook” for disaster assistance to these properties, and there would be no premiums to pay down any remaining loan balance or collect interest.

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