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REALTORS® who are interested in taking their real estate business to the global level are invited to enroll in the Certified International Property Specialist Institute (CIPS) at the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) on November 17-21. The early bird special price for the full-week of courses is $550 and ends on August 1. This special price is open to all members of SILVAR and REALTOR® members of other associations.

The CIPS Institute provides the classroom requirements needed to earn the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) CIPS Designation. Members using Proxio, the newest SILVAR member benefit, may find the CIPS courses very useful in advancing their global real estate business. The CIPS Institute in November will provide training in international business issues, including currency conversion, cultural awareness, legal and tax requirements, ownership and transaction principles of international real estate, and specifics about the real estate markets in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

The week-long CIPS Institute includes the two required core courses and three elective courses. Students must pass a multiple choice exam at the end of each course. David Wyant, CIPS, ABR, AHWD, ePRO, GRI, TRC, SFR, will be returning to SILVAR to teach the November CIPS Institute. Wyant was named 2012 and 2009 NAR International Instructor of the Year.

Regular cost for the entire CIPS Institute (five courses) is $600. Cost for an individual course is $150. For this limited time through August 1, SILVAR is offering an early bird special of $550 for the entire institute for any AOR member. SILVAR members may enroll online at ims.silvar.org. Non-members may register by calling SILVAR at (408) 200-0100.

Limited sponsorships for the CIPS Institute are available. Each sponsor is given the opportunity to speak about their product or service on an assigned day. For more information about enrolling in the CIPS Institute, or becoming a CIPS Sponsor of the Day, contact SILVAR Public Affairs & Communications Director Rose Meily at rmeily@silvar.org, or call (408) 200-0109.

Environmental sustainability is a hot topic today and REALTOR® studies show more buyers are looking for environmental upgrades when searching for a home.

A National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey found 68 percent of buyers thought energy efficient appliances were somewhat or very important and 67 percent of homebuyers thought energy efficient lighting was somewhat or very important. According to the California Association of REALTOR®S (C.A.R.), 94 percent of buyers were looking for Energy Star rated appliances; 91 percent wanted an Energy Star rating for the whole home; and 89 percent responded they wanted to see Energy Star rated windows. Energy Star is a standard for energy efficient consumer products created by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

Green homes sell for more and save the owner money. A study conducted by economists at the University of California Berkeley and UCLA found certified green homes sold for 9 percent more than comparable, non-labeled homes.

According to the California Homebuilding Foundation, landscaping accounts for 57 percent of the water usage for an average home. If a home has a low water yard, the dramatic difference in water usage between that yard and a traditional lawn.

Energy upgrades help the resale value of a home. Homeowners will see the financial savings from the beginning. Well-designed, energy efficient landscaping can pay for itself in eight years. An energy efficient washing machine uses 35 percent less water and energy than a regular one. Replacing five light fixtures with high efficiency models can save up to $75 per year on lighting. An Energy Star heat pump water heater can save a family up to $670 annually. A homeowner who goes through the process of sealing the gaps at vents, ducts, and electrical wires can save on average $200 per year. A home with significant environmental upgrades can see utility bill savings of 20 percent or more. On larger homes, this can add up to hundreds of dollars per year.

There are also a variety of government programs to help pay for the upgrades. Below is a list of government programs available in this area to help homeowners green their homes:
FHA – FHA’s Energy Efficient Mortgage program helps homebuyers or homeowners save money on utility bills by enabling them to finance the cost of adding energy efficient features to new or existing houses as part of their FHA insured home purchase or refinancing mortgage.

Energy Upgrade California – Provides up to $4,500 in rebates for energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning, energy efficient windows, sealing and insulation, and solar or tank-less water heaters.

PG&E – Offers rebates for energy efficiency and free energy efficient upgrades to income-qualified homeowners and renters.

Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency – BAWSCA offers rebates to individuals who replace their lawns with water-efficient landscaping, as well as rebates for replacing toilets and washing machines with water efficient models.

Menlo Park – A $300 rebate for energy assessments is available, and if the homeowner completes the improvements, the City will rebate the full cost of the assessment.

Palo Alto – Palo Alto has a variety of programs. Residents can participate in PaloAltoGreen, where all of their energy will come from sustainable sources. Residents can receive $4 per square foot of removed lawn. The City also provides rebates for purchasing energy efficient appliances.

Los Altos Hills – The Town promotes a High Energy Homes program, where residents can get an online assessment of their home energy use through High Energy Analytics, Inc., a Los Altos Hills based company.

Mountain View – Mountain View offers residents no-cost home energy assessments and monthly energy usage alerts. Available for check out at the city library are devices that measure energy usage of small appliances.

Cupertino – The City provides grants for making energy upgrades as well as a free tree to any interested resident.

Sunnyvale – In Sunnyvale, matching funds are available to qualified low-income residents to do energy efficient upgrades.

Santa Clara County – Acterra Green@Home provides additional energy saving programs to residents of Santa Clara County.

Santa Clara Valley Water District – Has a variety of rebate programs including financial incentives to replace lawns, replace energy inefficient clothes washers, and more.

Cybercrime is an unfortunate reality these days and has become a potential threat in real estate transactions. The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® is alerting members and other real estate agents to a recent scheme involving the wiring of funds directly to escrow.

Potential buyers have received emails allegedly from a title company or attorney providing wire information for use by the buyer to transmit earnest money for an upcoming transaction. The messages were actually emails that were intercepted by hackers who then altered the account information in the emails so the buyer’s funds were instead sent to the hacker’s own account. The emails appear genuine and contain the title company’s email information and/or logo, etc. When the buyer transferred their funds pursuant to the altered instructions, their money was stolen.

It is apparent in this type of scam that the hackers monitored the email traffic of either the title company or the customer and were aware of the timing of upcoming transactions. While in the reported instances a customer was induced to misdirect their own funds, an altered email could conceivably be used to cause misdirection of funds by any party in the transaction, including the title company themselves.

Although wiring funds directly to escrow is still viewed by the real estate industry as a better practice than having real estate agents physically transporting buyers’ deposit checks, the danger of hackers who are able to monitor Internet traffic and intercept emails from escrow officers to buyers and alter the wiring instructions to misdirect the buyer’s funds into the hacker’s own account is grave cause for concern. In such a wire fraud scam, if buyers transferred their funds pursuant to the altered wiring instructions, their money would be stolen with little or no chance that the money would ever be returned. Conversely, if sellers are to receive their sales proceeds by wire transfer from the escrow holder to their bank, this same type of fraudulent activity could occur.

To protect your funds and to avoid identity theft, members are encouraged to take immediate steps to secure their computer systems and email accounts to safeguard against this type of scam. Buyers and sellers should confirm all email wiring instructions directly with the escrow officer by calling the escrow officer on the telephone. In that conversation the correct account number information should be repeated verbally before taking any steps to have the funds transferred.

If there is any indication that buyers, sellers or anyone else has received questionable wiring instructions, your client should promptly notify their bank; you, as their real estate agent; and the escrow holder.

Here is a partial of online sources that can provide tips to protect your systems against cybercrime:
Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www.fbi.gov
Internet Crime Complaint Center: http://www.ic3.gov
National White Collar Crime Center: http://www.nw3c.org
On Guard Online: http://www.onguardonline.gov

The Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation, the charitable arm of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, presented scholarship awards to 18 graduating seniors from public high schools in Silicon Valley at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. Scholarship recipients each receive $1,000 and are selected from the high schools in communities served by SILVAR members.

Now on its 15th year, the REALTOR® scholarship program recognizes students who have exemplified outstanding achievements in academics, extracurricular/employment activities and community involvement. The selection committee includes representatives from the local business community, area high schools, area colleges and SILVAR.

Students receiving the Charitable Foundation scholarships, the schools from which they graduated, and the colleges and universities they will be attending this fall are: John Kevin Ong Dayao, Cupertino High School, (UC Davis); Mason Peter McCloskey, Fremont High School, (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo); Wonji Park, Gunn High School (Cal Poly-Pomona); Min Kyu Park, Homestead High School (UCLA); Claire Henderson, Leigh High School (UCLA); Elizabeth Ashley Bishop, Los Altos High School (Tufts University); Alexandra Wong, Los Gatos High School (Brown University); Barbara Julia Jackson, Lynbrook High School (University of Pittsburgh); Sarah Hagadone, Menlo-Atherton High School (UC Berkeley); Marisa Yang, Monta Vista High School (UC Berkeley); Kiley Anne Rucker, Mountain View High School (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo); Lena Cuevas, Palo Alto High School (Colorado State University); Nicholas Kikuchi, Prospect High School (Santa Clara University); Julie Chen, Santa Clara High School (UC Berkeley); Manini Desai, Saratoga High School (Barnard College); Hanna Zemene Abuhay, Westmont High School (UC Santa Cruz); Jesus Covarrubias Robles, Wilcox High School (Princeton University); Florence Ortiz, Woodside High School (UC Santa Cruz).

“We are happy we have been able to assist our youth for the past 15 years. The seniors selected this year are very deserving of recognition,” said Scholarship Program Chair Nina Yamaguchi.

SILVAR members who presented the scholarships to the recipients at their respective senior awards ceremonies included Chris Alston (Keller Williams), Carolyn Miller (Re/Max Real Estate Services), Michael Hall (Alain Pinel Realtors), Nina Daruwalla (Coldwell Banker), Mary Pope-Handy (Sereno Group), Susan Sweeley (Alain Pinel Realtors), Suzanne Yost (Alain Pinel Realtors), Mark Burns (Referral Realty), Mary Tan (Coldwell Banker), Jimmy Kang (Wells Fargo Home Mortgage), Robert Reid (Keller Williams Realty), Sue Bose (Referral Realty), David Tonna (Alain Pinel Realtors), Niki Maroko (Re/Max Real Estate Service) and Nancy Domich (Old Republic Title Company).

“Our scholarship program is one way REALTORS® are able to give back to our communities and to our youth, who are the future of our communities,” added John Tripp, 2014 president of the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation.

The scholarship awards presented by the Charitable Foundation are made possible by donations from SILVAR REALTOR® and affiliate members. Since its creation, the scholarship program has provided $270,000 in scholarships to high school seniors in Silicon Valley. The Charitable Foundation would like to thank SILVAR members for their generous support!

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