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The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) successfully beat a patent troll threatening real estate offices. Data Distribution Technologies (DDT) sued and threatened several real estate businesses over the use of a technology related patent.

DDT claimed their patent, titled “Web-Updated Database With Record Distribution by Email,” covered systems that provide agents and consumers with online searchable real estate databases that can update users via email about new information that comes available on those databases. NAR challenged the patent’s validity before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and filed a declaratory judgment lawsuit on behalf of its members.

Under a settlement agreement, DDT must refrain from enforcing its patent in the real estate industry. The settlement also specifically protects NAR members, associations, MLSes, affiliates, and other related entities from potentially costly litigation.

Patent trolls are companies that own a large quantity of patents. Often, they do not produce any goods. The business model is to just own patents and sue or threaten to sue anyone for patent infringement. As small business owners, REALTORS® are exposed to these threats of litigation, often for using basic business technology like drop-down website menus, mapping features and online checkout carts or scan-to-email technologies.

NAR supports significant patent law reform in order to prevent overbroad patents and unfair litigation.

 

No matter where you are or who you are with, always trust your senses because your subconscious is almost always right. This was the first important safety tip that Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff Chad Garton shared with SILVAR members at Wednesday’s Los Gatos/Saratoga District tour meeting.

Garton, who is a U.S. veteran who served in Iraq, said trusting your instinct is also what soldiers do in combat. If you feel uneasy about a person you are with or a situation you are in, trust your gut feeling and leave that person or remove yourself from the situation.

“Your subconscious is constantly taking in information; do not ignore that,” said Garton.

Garton said REALTORS® are especially at risk because they meet strangers all the time. He shared what he termed a 5-point Contingency Plan, which those in the military also use: Let people know:
1. WHERE you are going.

2. WHO you will be meeting.

3. WHEN you will be back.

4. What to do if you don’t return.

5. The ACTION to take if they cannot contact you.

Here are other safety tips Garton shared with members:

• It may be part of your job to show your professionalism and success in the way you   dress, but be aware that people are watching you and looking for ways to steal valuables.

  • Don’t leave valuables in plain sight in your car. It only takes 17 seconds for someone to break into a car.
  • Always meet a new person in a public place and get their ID.
  • Show strength in whatever you do. When you’re walking, look around; don’t look down. Always make eye contact. Speak in a loud voice because this gives the appearance of strength.
  • Do not carry a firearm. If you have to carry a weapon, make sure you are fully trained to use it. Pepper spray and Mace are good, but you still need to train yourself to use these self-defense devices.
  • An alarm system can act as a deterrent and video cameras inside and outside the home are even better deterrents because they can identify the robbers.
  • Lock all doors and windows even if you are home. If the weather is warm, spend the extra money and turn on the air conditioner, instead of leaving windows open.
  • Refrain from announcing open houses and where you will be on social media.
  • Do not to hesitate to call 9-1-1 if they see something suspicious, or feel you are in danger.

 

 

 

 

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Recent news reports about burglaries of vacant homes for sale in the Bay Area are troubling and a good reminder for REALTORS® and their clients to take precautions to prevent this crime from happening to them. Majority of recent burglaries have occurred in homes with “For Sale” signs in the front yard, or homes that are easily identifiable as being vacant. These burglars are taking large appliances, like refrigerators and stoves.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® shares the following safety tips with homeowners who plan to sell their home or leave their home vacant for an extended time:

  • Make your home look occupied. Use automatic timers on lights, a TV and/or radio, and set them to go on and off at different times to make your house appear occupied.
  • Install motion detectors on the exterior of your home and garage or shed.
  • Keep curtains/blinds closed and lock all doors and windows. Use wooden stakes inside patio door/window frames to prevent them from being opened from the outside.
  • Keep your property maintained, grass mowed, and leaves raked. Trim trees and bushes so they can’t conceal burglars.
  • Inform the police and trusted neighbors that your house will be vacant for an extended time. Police may be able to patrol your neighborhood periodically and keep an eye on your property. Ask neighbors to keep an eye on the property and call 9-1-1 immediately if they see or hear any suspicious activity.
  • Ask a trusted neighbor to pick up flyers or newspapers that may be left on the front porch or driveway. Consider having a neighbor park their vehicle in your driveway while you are gone.
  • Install an alarm system and/or security cameras.
  • Consider renting your home or hiring a house sitter so the house won’t be vacant.
  • Know the risks of putting “For Rent” or “For Sale” signs in front of your property.
  • Never leave a spare house key under doormats, flowerpots, or other hiding places.
  • Don’t place posts on social media informing others that your house is for sale or that you will be away on vacation.

 

 

 

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is asking all REALTORS® across the country to TAKE ACTION NOW and urge your Senators to pass H.R. 3700, the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016.” This bill makes needed reforms to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) condominium loan program, federal-assisted housing programs and Rural Housing Service loan programs. The reforms would make buying a condominium easier by expanding opportunities for first-time homebuyers and streamlining rural housing programs for low-income rental residents.

Early in February the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to advance legislation that will expand opportunities for homeownership, especially for first-time home buyers. H.R.3700 takes aim at the difficulties in getting mortgages for condominiums. NAR has supported the inclusion of reforms to current FHA restrictions on condominium financing.

Condominiums are among the most affordable homeownership options for first-time home buyers, as well as lower income borrowers, but barriers to safe, affordable mortgage credit for condos still exist. H.R. 3700 takes a number of steps to address those concerns. These include efforts to make FHA’s recertification process “substantially less burdensome,” improving a process that is often costly and which condo developments must repeat every 24 months.

H.R. 3700 also lowers FHA’s current owner-occupancy requirement (the number of units in the development owned by the people living in them) from 50 percent to 35 percent and requires FHA to replace existing policy on transfer fees with the less restrictive model already in place at the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Additionally, the bill streamlines the process for exemptions to FHA’s rule requiring that condominium projects have no more than 25 percent of the space dedicated to commercial use. This effort is in line with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s initiative to promote neighborhoods with a mix of residential housing, businesses and access to public transportation, which has become a trend in housing development today.

Finally, H.R. 3700 includes further support for rural housing loans and multifamily housing initiatives.

H.R. 3700 removes a burdensome and expensive FHA condo approval process, reduces the FHA restrictions on the number of condos available to homebuyers, and permanently streamlines the Rural Housing Service loan program.

NAR is encouraging all members to take action even if they do not do business with condominiums or in rural areas. SILVAR members can take action by going to https://realtorparty.realtoractioncenter.com/site/Advocacy

 

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Last chance to register or audit a class!

SILVAR’s 5th Certified International Property Specialist Institute (CIPS) is on June 20-24. If you would like to learn how to expand your global real estate business and earn the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) CIPS designation, enroll in the CIPS Institute. Classes start next week, so you need to register right away. Cost for the entire CIPS Institute, which includes five courses, is $450 for the paperless option $500 for the paper version, which includes a manual for each of the five courses for both members and nonmembers. Regular price is $600.

Members may enroll online at ims.silvar.org. Non-members and those who want the paperless option may register by calling SILVAR at (408) 200-0100. Breakfast and lunch are provided and included in the cost, thanks to our generous sponsors Darrell Monda of TourFactory; Larry Tringali of Property Inspection Service; Anita Rodal, international liaison with AFEX (Associated Foreign Exchange) and president of SBPI Services, Inc.; Janet Case, CEO of Proxio; and Suzette Reboton of HSBC.

If you are a CIPS designee, you can audit a course for $20 for paperless and $30 for the paper option. Cost also includes breakfast and lunch. There are always new developments taking place in real estate markets around the world. Every two to three years CIPS courses are revised with updated statistics and relevant information. The most recent courses updated are Global Real Estate: Local Markets (May 2016) and Global Real Estate: Transactions Tools (May 2016). Instructor David Wyant, who will be teaching the courses again this year, also regularly furnishes students with information on the latest developments in international real estate.

If you would like to audit a CIPS course, please contact SILVAR Public Affairs and Communications Director Rose Meily at (408) 200-0109 or email rmeily@silvar.org.

The CIPS Institute provides 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. Members using Proxio, which is a SILVAR benefit, may find the CIPS courses very useful in advancing their global real estate business. See registration form and class schedule below.

CIPS SCHEDULE AND REGISTRATION FORM

 

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$500 for paper option, $450 for paperless option through June!

If you haven’t had the opportunity to take the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) Institute at the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, now is a good time to do so. SILVAR is offering its 5th CIPS Institute on June 20-24 for all members and non-members at a discount price through June. The five-day CIPS Institute costs $500 for the paper version, which includes a manual for each of the five courses offered, and $450 for the paperless option. Regular price for the CIPS Institute is $600.

The CIPS Institute provides 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, taught by National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2012 and 2009 International Instructor David Wyant includes two required core courses and three elective courses. Students must pass a multiple-choice exam at the end of each course. Upon completing the CIPS Institute, REALTORS® will fulfill the classroom requirements needed to earn the NAR CIPS Designation.

Members may enroll online at ims.silvar.org. Non-members may register by calling SILVAR at (408) 200-0100. The discount price includes a continental breakfast and lunch provided by our sponsors Darrell Monda – TourFactory, Larry Tringali – Property Inspection Service and Anita Rodal – AFEX (Associated Foreign Exchange) and SBPI Services, Inc.

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

CIPS REGISTRATION FORM AND SCHEDULE

CIPS SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY

At yesterday’s Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting, Carol Burnett, vice president and managing broker of Alain Pinel Realtors Saratoga, warned members about hackers who have been breaking into email accounts of buyers and real estate agents in order to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. She said the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has urged all REALTORS®, their clients and other real estate professionals to be on high alert for these email and money wiring scams, also known as mortgage phishing scams.

Scammers are hacking into email accounts and using information about a real estate transaction to trick people, often home buyers, into a fraudulent wire transfer. The hacker sends a bogus email, which appears to be legitimate, informing the buyer that there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions. The email instructs the buyer to wire closing costs to a different account, which is actually the scammer’s account. If the buyer takes the bait, they could lose all that money in a matter of minutes.

Burnett said a similar scam happened to an agent in their office and their client, a first-time home buyer. The buyer received a phone call from someone claiming to be a representative of the title company who told the buyer to wire the closings costs of $500,000 to a different account. When the scam was discovered, all parties were immediately contacted, including the FBI. The buyer was able to recover most of the money, but not all. Not all buyers are as lucky, said Burnett.

Online scams targeting REALTORS® and their clients are on the rise. Burnett has learned other agents and clients in the Bay Area have been victims of these mortgage phishing scams. One victim lost close to a million dollars.

“This is really an important, serious matter. You have got to be careful,” Burnett told members.

Burnett shared the following tips to avoid being a victim of these mortgage phishing scams for REALTORS® and their clients.
• Never send any wiring information in an email.
• Always introduce the title company representative to your client.
• Put the phone number and other contact information of another party directly into your phone. Do not take it off an email that has been sent to you.
• Do not wire money until you get the okay from the title company.
• If you are instructed to wire money to a bank outside California, don’t. All banks have offices in the state.

See more Prevention and Damage Control Tips from NAR.

 

 

REALTORS® need to be watchful and always take safety precautions when they host an open house. Recently, it was reported that a visitor at an open house in Willow Glen was caught on a Nest security camera going through all the drawers and closets of the homeowner. The female visitor had told the REALTOR® she had a child sleeping in the car and asked if the REALTOR® could watch the car out the front door while she looked at the home. The individual then proceeded to enter the master bedroom, bathroom and bedroom and was caught on camera going through the nightstand drawers, dresser drawers and closets looking for valuables. Fortunately, the owners had locked away their valuables prior to the open house, so nothing was stolen.

These days with the short supply of homes for sale and rising rents, many buyers are scrambling to buy homes and this has caused more traffic at open houses. REALTORS® hosting an open house need to be on the alert. Open houses can be a great sales tool, but hosting one exposes you to unfamiliar people, and while more traffic increases the potential for crime.

Below is a list of safety tips for both REALTORS® and their clients from the National Association of REALTORS® Safety Resources Kit:

  1. Remind your clients that strangers will be walking through their home during showings or open houses. Tell them to hide any valuables in a safe place. For security’s sake, remove keys, credit cards, jewelry, crystal, furs and other valuables, including expensive electronics like computers and laptops, from the home or lock them away during showings. Also remove prescription drugs and don’t leave personal information like mail or bills.
  2. If possible, always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.
  3. Check your cell phone’s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial.
  4. Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
  5. Have all open house visitors sign in. Ask for full name, address, phone number and email.
  6. When showing the house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don’t lead them. Say, for example, “The kitchen is on your left,” and gesture for them to go ahead of you.
  7. Avoid attics, basements, and getting trapped in small rooms.
  8. Notify someone in your office, your answering service, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to call you.
  9. Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.
  10. Be alert to the pattern of visitors’ arrivals, especially near the end of showing hours. In some areas, a group of thieves will show up together near the end of the open house and, while a string of “potential buyers” distracts the agent, the rest of the group walks through the house, stealing any valuables they come across.

Visit NAR’s REALTOR® Safety website for more safety tips at www.REALTOR.org/Safety.

 

2016 BOD

The 2016 Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR)  leadership team was installed Thursday night at La Rinconada Country Club in Los Gatos. California Association of REALTORS® 2013 President Don Faught administered the oath of office to SILVAR’s new president, officers and board of directors. C.A.R. 2005 President Jim Hamilton served as master of ceremonies and welcomed about 180 members and guests to the special event. Alain Pinel REALTORS® Vice President/Regional Manager Jeff Barnett led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance and delivered the inspiration message.

Karen Trolan, a REALTOR®, broker and assistant manager of the Alain Pinel REALTORS® Los Gatos office, was installed as 2016 President; Denise Welsh, a REALTOR® with Alain Pinel REALTORS®, Los Altos, President-elect; and Phyllis Carmichael, a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Los Altos, Treasurer.

Joining SILVAR’s lead officers as this year’s board directors are Chris Isaacson (Coldwell Banker), past president; David Tonna (Alain Pinel REALTORS®), Region 9 Chair; Brett Caviness (Coldwell Banker), Menlo Park/Atherton District Chair; Amy Sung (Pacific Union International Real Estate), Palo Alto District Chair; Katherine Frey (Alain Pinel REALTORS®), Los Altos/Mountain View District Chair; David Hunt (W.A. Krauss & Co. Property Management), Cupertino/Sunnyvale District Chair; Suzanne Yost (Alain Pinel REALTORS®), Los Gatos/Saratoga District Chair; and Directors At-large Jeff Bell (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage), Davena Gentry (Sereno Group), Eileen Giorgi (Sereno Group), Gene Lentz (Keller Williams Realty), Cassie Maas (Alain Pinel REALTORS®), Ryan Nunnally (Alain Pinel REALTORS®); and Affiliate Chair, Eric Temple (Willow Glen Organics).

Trolan is a Los Gatos resident and has been a REALTOR® and broker for 30 years. She began her real estate career with Van Vleck REALTORS® and continued on with Cornish & Carey and later Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. From top agent, Trolan moved up the ranks quickly to vice president and manager of the Cornish & Carey’s Palo Alto Midtown office, vice president/managing broker for the Los Altos office, and finally, when Coldwell Banker bought Cornish and Carey, Trolan was named senior vice president and regional manager of Silicon Valley Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

Despite suffering severe injuries from a tragic airplane accident in 2009 that left her paralyzed from waist down, Trolan through sheer perseverance and hard work went back to doing most of the activities she did before the accident. In April 2011, Trolan joined the Alain Pinel REALTORS® Los Gatos office, where she is currently assistant manager, responsible for agent improvement, community involvement and other special projects.

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“Doing Business in the Philippines,” hosted by the global business council of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® in November, attracted more than 40 association members and guests. The Philippines is Asia’s second fastest growing economy today and the business of real estate there is booming, according to Philippine-based real estate agents.

The program, moderated by National Association of REALTORS® President’s Liaison to the Philippines Jennifer Tasto, had as panelists International REALTOR® Members from the Philippines from the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations Inc. (CREBA). CREBA is the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®’ cooperating real estate association. It is the largest real estate umbrella organization in that country. The delegation included Bernard Umali, Evangeline Yia, Arlene Posadas and Connie Castellano. Their presentations focused on buying and selling property, estate settlement, project selling, ownership of land and registering property in the Philippines.

The Filipino REALTORS® said Philippine real estate is one of the best businesses today. They said the country has an estimated population of 101 million people. Top buyers of Philippine property are early nesters due to the country’s young population, business process outsourcing workers, overseas Filipino workers and investors.

Why buy real estate in the Philippines? They said the Philippine economy rebounded with a growth of 5.6 percent in the second quarter of 2015, defying a regional slowdown which has affected countries like China and Japan.

“Filipinos are among the most globally connected in the world,” said Tasto.

Tasto said over 10 percent of Filipinos (an estimated 10 million people) live outside the Philippines and work in over 150 countries. Overseas Filipino worker remittances are at a record high, posting $26.93 billion in 2014. Of this money, 60 percent is devoted to real estate investment.

The cost of real estate in the Philippines is much more affordable than in other Asian countries, along with the rate of return on investments, added Tasto. The panelists also indicated growth in business process outsourcing and tourism has spurred real estate sales.

The Filipino REALTORS® noted bank real estate loans hit $24.47 billion in 2014, fueled by sustained demand for new homes and office space. The migration rate in Manila also has made the country’s capital a favored location for residential condominiums.

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