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The latest consumer findings from a National Association of REALTORS® survey reveal many more Americans believe now is a good time to sell a home. An increasing number of Americans also believe now is a good time to buy a home. The positive feeling many Americans have about the housing market is largely due to their attitude towards the economy, according to NAR’s second quarter Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey.

The quarterly survey, which tracks real estate trends, renters and homeowner views and aspirations regarding homeownership, and expectations in the mortgage market, found 46 percent of those surveyed strongly believe now is a good time to sell a home, up from 37 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Seventy-three percent of people believe now is a good time to sell, while 27 percent say now is not a good time to sell. Those who are in the West (70 percent) are most likely to think now is a good time to sell a home.

NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun noted home prices have increased only moderately and that is a contributing factor as to why an overwhelming majority of Americans feel now is a good time to sell. “With home price appreciation slowing, home sellers understand that the days of large price gains from holding an extra year are over,” said Yun.

The number of Americans who think now is a good time to buy a home also has increased. Of those respondents, 38 percent answered they strongly believe that notion, and 27 percent said they moderately believe the present is a good time to buy. Meanwhile, 35 percent disagreed, stating now is not a good time to make a home purchase, which is unchanged from the first quarter.

The optimistic feelings about buying and selling are attributed to positive outlooks on the economy. Fifty-five percent of those polled feel the economy is improving, up from 53 percent in the previous quarter. Optimism was greatest among those who earn $100,000 or more and those who reside in rural areas.

Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, believes it is definitely a good time to sell a home and a good time to buy, as well. “Homes may not sell for as much as they would have a year ago, but they have appreciated enough that many sellers feel it is still a good time to sell,” said Barbic. “On the other hand, the strong demand for homes has never diminished and now that mortgage interest rate hikes don’t appear to be coming in the near future, buyers are encouraged to continue with their home search.”

Yun said that mortgage affordability was promising over the second quarter, and he expects this trend will continue. “Lower mortgage rates, along with job and wage growth, will lead to an increase in sales and thereby contribute positively to economic growth in the upcoming quarters,” Yun predicted.

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June is National Homeownership Month, and throughout the month the National Association of REALTORS®  and the nation’s state and local REALTOR® associations will be helping to raise awareness about the benefits of owning a home and help Americans achieve the American dream of homeownership.

“As leading advocates for homeownership, REALTORS® understand the value of owning a home,” said Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “Owning a home is not only the best investment an individual can make to build their personal wealth, it also provides social stability, builds communities, and is a driving force for the economy.”

Homeownership reaps benefits for the homeowner, as well as the community. Through the mortgage interest deduction, homeowners are allowed to reduce their taxable income by a sizeable amount. Buying a home is also an investment because of equity gains and overall appreciation. In addition, studies show high and stable homeownership rates contribute many important social benefits to a community, by boosting the quality of living through education and civic involvement, while lowering crime rate and welfare dependency.

Barbic said the biggest hurdle for homeownership today is not demand; it is affordability. The California Association of REALTORS® reports the percentage of homebuyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in first-quarter 2019 rose to 32 percent from 28 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, and from 31 percent in the first quarter a year ago.

In Santa Clara County, 20 percent of households could afford to purchase a $1,220,000 median-priced home in the first quarter of this year, up from 18 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 and up from 17 percent in first-quarter 2018. To qualify, homebuyers needed a minimum annual income of $256,720. Their monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $6,420.

“Housing affordability has always been a challenge in the region because Silicon Valley is one of the best places to live in California. The weather here is great, the economy is good, and there is job growth,” said Barbic. “The door is still open for many homebuyers. First-time homebuyer programs and other programs for qualified families and individuals sponsored by public and private entities throughout the valley are seeking to help bridge the gap in affordability.”

Barbic noted when purchasing a home, choosing an agent is one of the most critical decisions a homebuyer will have to make. “Select an agent who is experienced and knowledgeable about the marketplace, down payment assistance programs that are available, the loan process, and one who is a good negotiator. These days many new models in real estate are offering buyers and sellers alternatives to the real estate transaction process, but they are not the same as having a trusted REALTOR®.”

A REALTOR® is a licensed real estate agent or broker who is a member of NAR, the world’s largest professional trade association. REALTORS® adhere to a strict code of ethics, which sets them apart from other real estate licensees and protects all parties to the real estate transaction. REALTORS®in violation of the code of ethics face disciplinary action by their association. They must complete 2.5 hours of ethics training once every two years to keep their membership in NAR.

“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,” said Barbic. “REALTORS® don’t just sell homes, they build communities, and are committed to making homeownership a reality for those who strive to achieve it.”

Members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® joined 2,500 California REALTORS® in Sacramento on May 1 for the California Association of REALTORS® annual Legislative Day. This year’s theme, “Homeownership Matters,” was evident in the speeches of REALTOR® officials and politicians, and in discussions the REALTORS® had with their respective legislators.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the special guest speaker at the morning briefing, said California is experiencing a “crisis moment, a crisis of confidence and a crisis of affordability.”

Newsom is deeply committed to address the housing issue and he wants to build 300,000 to 400,000 units on an annual basis. “Let us not forget that we are better off when we’re all better off,” said Newsom.

State Senator Scott Wiener, author of SB 50, the Housing Development Incentives bill, told REALTORS® at a luncheon that today’s zoning laws, crafted over 50 years ago, are outdated. Wiener said his legislation is about people and people’s lives.

In their meetings with state Senators Jim Beall and Jerry Hill, and Assemblymembers Marc Berman and Evan Low, Silicon Valley REALTORS® asked them to support the REALTOR® position on the following bills:

Vote YES on AB 1590 (Rubio) – First-Time Low- and Moderate-Income Homebuyer Tax Credit for Disadvantaged Communities. C.A.R. is sponsoring this bill which creates a first-time homebuyer tax credit for low- and moderate-income individuals and families purchasing a home in a disadvantaged community. AB 1590 allocates $50 million for first-time homebuyers who have never owned a principal residence; who earn 120 percent or less of the area median income; and who are purchasing a home in a disadvantaged community. The tax credit would be equal to 3 percent of the purchase price of the home or $5,000, whichever is less.

Vote YES on SB 50 (Wiener) – Housing Development Incentives. C.A.R. is co-sponsoring this bill which seeks to authorize the implementation of transit-rich housing project bonuses for new urban developments, so families can afford to live within the communities in which they work. SB 50 encourages the development of mid-rise, multi-family unit, housing construction with close, walkable access to bus and rail transit. Residential developments may only obtain a “height” bonus if they meet local planning, zoning and design requirements. Local governments may approve higher-density housing, with reduced or eliminated parking requirements, provided the site is adjacent to transit or near jobs.

Vote No on SB 329 (Mitchell) – Mandatory Section 8. C.A.R. is opposing this bill which forces all residential rental property owners to participate in all government assistance and housing subsidy programs, such as the Section 8 housing program, by entering into a legally binding contract with a government agency. This bill forces all landlords into contracts whose provisions they may not be able to fulfill. C.A.R. says the bill does not fix the underlying problems with Section 8. Since housing authorities are understaffed, it can take as long as 60 days before all applications are submitted, inspections made, and contracts signed. During that time, the unit sits vacant at a substantial loss to the landlord.

All staunch proponents of housing, the legislators thanked the REALTORS® for their support and advocacy. They called on REALTORS® and others to stand up and speak louder about the need for housing “because the other side is so loud.”

Low said he has received sharp, mean-spirited backlash from those who oppose his pro-housing stance, some even demanding his recall, but he is not wavering. “Oftentimes we need to speak truth to the powerful. I feel very strongly about this. It’s important to make courageous decisions,” said Low.

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.”

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.

VIEW PHOTOS

The National Association of REALTORS® is asking REALTORS® to contact their members of Congress to warn them about the dangers to the housing market and the economy of reducing or eliminating the mortgage interest deduction and making other tax changes that could hurt home owners. REALTORS® should have received the Call for Action on Wednesday night. Its launch came just hours after the co-chairs of President Obama’s bipartisan Federal Deficit Reduction Commission, charged with the task of finding ways to balance the budget by 2015 and to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion by 2020, released their recommendations in a draft report titled “The Moment of Truth.”

The plan called for significant reductions to the mortgage interest deduction and other major tax reforms. The panel recommended converting the deduction to a 12 percent non-refundable tax credit available to all taxpayers, capped at $500,000, and limited to principal residences only (no credit for interest from second residence and equity). The panel also recommended the elimination of itemized deductions and the taxation of capital gains as ordinary income.

The deficit commission voted on the plan today, and while it received a majority 11-7 vote, it fell short of the super-majority needed (a vote of at least 14 of its 18 members) to prompt immediate congressional action. Regardless of the outcome of today’s vote, it is imperative REALTORS® make their voices heard now because individual recommendations like cuts to the MID and other programs impacting home ownership could be included in federal budget legislation in early 2011.

The tax deductibility of interest paid on mortgages is a powerful incentive for home ownership and has been one of the simplest provisions in the federal tax code for more than 80 years. In a new survey commissioned by NAR and conducted online in October 2010 by Harris Interactive of nearly 3,000 homeowners and renters, nearly three-fourths of homeowners and two-thirds of renters said the mortgage interest deduction was extremely or very important to them.
 
Recent progress has been made in bringing stability to the housing market and any changes to the MID now or in the future could critically erode home prices and the value of homes by as much as 15 percent, according to NAR’s research. This would negatively impact home ownership for millions of Americans, including those who own their homes outright and have no mortgage.

Any further downward pressure on home prices will hamper economic recovery, raise foreclosures and hurt banks’ abilities to lend and likely tip the economy into another recession, resulting in further job losses for the country. It will effectively close the door on the American dream.

REALTORS® must remain vigilant in opposing any plan that modifies or repeals the mortgage interest deduction. Please answer NAR’s Call for Action now and let your representatives know that the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) is vital to both home ownership and our economy.

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