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Buying a home is an exciting experience, but it can also be stressful, especially for first-time homebuyers. Not only do homebuyers need to find out whether they can afford the home of their dreams and qualify for a mortgage, but they also have to make sure the home they purchase is safe for their family.

“As REALTORS® observe REALTOR® Safety Month in September, we want to make sure our clients are safe, too. While REALTORS® take steps to ensure our client’s safety in their home search, it is ultimately up to the buyer to make sure the home they buy is safe and secure for their family,” says Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR).

Below are homebuyer safety tips shared by Barbic and SILVAR:

Find a REALTOR® you can trust
Since you will be working closely with a real estate agent, it’s essential to find someone you can trust, who understands your needs, who is knowledgeable about the transaction process and the area. Remember not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. The term “REALTOR®” is a trademark used by agents who are members of the National Association of REALTORS® and state and local associations like SILVAR. REALTORS® are held to a higher standard of conduct than other real estate licensees. REALTORS® must abide by a Code of Ethics and are committed to treat all parties to a transaction honestly.

Research the neighborhood
A home may look right, but the neighborhood could be wrong. Research neighborhoods in the area where you want to live. This is why it is important to find a REALTOR® familiar with the different neighborhoods in the area. Prioritize your preferences. Even if you don’t have school-age children, nearby schools could affect the value of the home. Check the home’s proximity to amenities like the grocery store, pharmacy, hospital, park, entertainment, police and fire departments. Drive around the neighborhood on different days and times to check street lighting, traffic and activity. Check local crime statistics. Talk to the neighbors and get a feel for the friendliness and safety of the neighborhood.

Attend open houses
At open houses pay close attention to the home’s overall condition, including smells, stains or areas that need repair. If other people are touring the home, schedule a separate visit with your REALTOR® so you can take a closer look at the home and ask questions about the home privately.

Be present at the home inspection
Be present at the home inspection. Make sure the inspector has access to all parts of the home, including the attic and crawl spaces. Ask questions. Review the report with your REALTOR® and list what you would like the seller fix. Be aware if a homebuyer has a question about an issue, it is the responsibility of the homebuyer to investigate further and seek a licensed professional to investigate the particular issue.

Get familiar with the home’s electrical and other systems
Get familiar with the home’s electrical and other systems, including where the meter and electrical circuit box are located. Learn how to shut off the water or gas in case of emergency.

Buy adequate homeowners insurance
Lenders require the homeowner to have homeowners insurance. Shop around and compare rates and coverage. If your new home is in a flood-prone area, you may need to buy separate flood insurance.

Change the Locks
Upon taking possession of your new home consider changing all the door locks and installing deadbolts. You don’t know if other people had been given spare keys to your new home.

Knowledge. Awareness. Empowerment. These are the core components of REALTOR® Safety. To help remind REALTORS® to know the dangers they face every day, to be aware of our surroundings, to empower themselves with precautions and preparations so that they can avoid risky situations, the National Association of  REALTORS® dedicates September as REALTOR® Safety Month.

REALTORS® are at risk when they show homes to strangers or meet them at open houses, and even when they put themselves out on the internet and on social media. Through the REALTOR® Safety Program, launched more than a decade ago, NAR makes a variety of resources available to members, including videos, webinars, and marketing materials and presentations for Associations, adding new resources every year.

This year, NAR launched the REALTOR® Safety Network to deploy safety alerts via social media when a physical or cyber threat to REALTORS® warrants national attention. Visit NAR.realtor/safety to learn more and access all of NAR’s REALTOR® Safety resources.

Also new is the just released 2019 Member Safety Report. This report details how REALTORS® feel about their safety and what steps they are already taking to protect themselves. 

Some highlights of NAR’s Safety Report are:                                  

  • 33 percent of REALTORS® experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information.
  • The typical REALTOR® reported feeling unsafe less than once a year (54%) in terms of personal safety, but unsafe in terms of personal information every few months or more often (61%).
  • 5 percent of REALTORS® said they had been a victim of a crime while working as a real estate professional.
  • 44 percent of members choose to carry self-defense weapons.
  • 35 percent of men and 49% of women carry a self-defense weapon or tool.
  • 53 percent of members use a smartphone safety app to track whereabouts and alert colleagues in case of an emergency.

Download NAR’s 2019 Member Safety Report HERE.

It has come to the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®’ (SILVAR) attention that some SILVAR members are receiving spam emails that claim to have received the member’s email address from SILVAR. SILVAR does not share, sell, or trade email addresses. Member emails and mobile phone numbers are not listed in SILVAR’s membership directory on http://www.silvar.org. 

The California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) suspects these could be phishing emails. We suggest you delete without opening or clicking any links.

Be cautious of any spam email claiming to have gotten your email address from SILVAR, C.A.R. or the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) attempting to sell you any goods or services. If the email is suspicious, the best option is to delete such unwanted SPAM.

SILVAR may only use your email address to directly send you REALTOR® Association-related information or important messages related to your real estate business that have been approved by SILVAR together with other communications to which you are subscribed.



Be cautious of any spam email claiming to have gotten your email address from SILVAR, C.A.R. or NAR attempting to sell you any goods or services. If the email is suspicious, the best option is to delete such unwanted SPAM.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® 8th Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) Institute was held June 10-14. The CIPS Institute provides training in international business issues, including currency conversion, cultural awareness, legal and tax requirements, transaction principles of international real estate, and specifics about the real estate markets in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

After completing five courses and other requirements, REALTORS® earn the prestigious National Association of Realtors CIPS designation. There are about 3,250 CIPS designees in the U.S.

SILVAR has offered the CIPS Institute every year since 2012. Teaching this year’s classes was REALTOR® and broker associate Bobbi Decker, a NAR REBAC instructor.

“We had a very vital and enthusiastic group for this CIPS class at SILVAR this week. NAR is very eager to have its members up their professionalism, particularly in this global economy and changing market dynamics of the real estate industry,” said Decker.

The CIPS designation gives REALTORS® an edge over other agents when dealing with foreign clients. Decker noted that Silicon Valley is an epicenter for innovation. “Certified International Property Specialist is an essential designation for REALTORS® working in this melting pot that draws people from all over the world.”

According to NAR’s “2018 Profile of International Activity in U.S.Residential Real Estate,” foreign buyers purchased $121 billion of residential property from April 201 to March 2018. Five states accounted for 53 percent of total residential property purchases: Florida (19 percent), California (14 percent), Texas (9 percent), New York (five percent), and Arizona (five percent). The major foreign buyers were China ($30.4B), Canada ($10.5B), the United Kingdom ($7.3B), India ($7.2B), and Mexico ($4.2B).

The CIPS Institute had five sponsors this year. Anita Rodal, international liaison with AFEX (Associated Foreign Exchange) and president of SBPI Services, Inc., informed Realtors the exchange rate can fluctuate on a second by second basis, so the exchange rate on the internet is not be the actual exchange rate. She also explained how market volatility affects inter-bank currency exchange rates and how AFEX helps foreign buyers convert their money to dollars quickly and at a competitive rate.

Avery Bibbs, business development manager with First American Exchange Company, delivered a presentation on the 1031 exchange and tax updates for 2019. A 1031 exchange allows an investor to sell a property, reinvest the proceeds from the sale in a “like kind” property that is of equal or greater value and defer all capital gain taxes. Examples of “like-kind” property exchanges are a single-family rental house for a duplex, an apartment building for a retail center, land for an income producing vineyard, etc.

Michael Cobb, CEO of ECI Development, spoke on how local REALTORS® can help clients interested in purchasing property abroad. Cobb said in addition to investors buying property overseas, Americans are looking at retiring abroad. Their move overseas is driven by cost, having a higher quality of life for less money.

Lisa Wendl, a loan officer with General Mortgage Capital Corp., provided information on loan requirements for foreign buyers. Wendl said because it is getting harder for Chinese living abroad to get money out of China, she has clients who have bought high-end properties in the Bay Area who are seeking to do cash-out refinancing in order to remain liquid. If the China government does not ease up on its restrictions on the outflow of money, Wendl anticipates some Chinese will be forced to sell their homes.

Amy Ku, Sandy Lee and Dean Chang represented the team of Winnie Ho, premier mortgage consultant with HSBC. Ku said a portfolio lending bank, HSBC is a one-stop shop designed to accommodate global clients. HSBC a number of programs that offer flexible terms to foreign buyers, like interest-only loans and family assisted programs for buyers who need help in qualifying for loans.

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The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®’ (SILVAR) fifth Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) Institute took place this week with 17 students registered. The students, many of whom are SILVAR members, hail from the San Francisco Bay Area. One traveled all the way from Canada. Many are well-traveled and come from different cultural backgrounds. All were eager to learn more about the international real estate market and how to grow their global business.

The courses were once again taught by 2012 and 2009 National Association of REALTORS® International Instructor of the Year David Wyant, assisted by his wife, Patsy. The Wyants travel around the country and the world teaching the CIPS courses. This is their fifth trip to Cupertino. Each time they come, they remark about Silicon Valley’s growth.

Wyant also noted, “Silicon Valley REALTORS® are among the most intelligent in the nation.”

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 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 required five courses and fulfilling other necessary requirements, graduates of this year’s CIPS Institute can receive their CIPS designation and have the opportunity to be recognized at the 2016 NAR REALTORS® Conference and Expo, which will be held in Orlando, Fl. on November 4-7.

Thank you to this year’s CIPS Sponsors of the Day, who provided breakfast and lunch each day. They are Amy Ku, VP Mortgage Sales Manager for Northern California with HSBC Bank; Janet Case, CEO of Proxio; Anita Rodal, international liaison with AFEX (Associated Foreign Exchange) and president of SBPI Services, Inc.; Darrell Monda, owner of TourFactory Bay Area; and Larry Tringali, owner of Property Inspection Service.

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Congratulations SILVAR 2015 CIPS graduates!

Congratulations SILVAR 2015 CIPS graduates!

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) 4th CIPS (Certified International Property Specialist) Institute ended on Tuesday. This year’s Institute had a total enrollment of 31 students. SILVAR welcomed back instructor David Wyant and his wife and assistant Patsy Wyant.

This year’s students were a very diverse and well-traveled group from all over the Bay Area, Southern California and Arizona. Once the students complete and submit their CIPS applications to the National Association of REALTORS®, they can receive their CIPS designation and get pinned at the NAR Conference and EXPO, which will be held in San Diego November 13-16.

A highlight of the last day was a visit by Joe Schneider, NAR manager of Global Business Development and Outreach. Schneider spoke to the students about the value of the CIPS designation, especially in Silicon Valley, which continues to attract many international buyers.

At the end of the last course, SILVAR’s Global Business Council hosted a CIPS Reception, which was also attended by SILVAR CIPS designees, who shared their global real estate experiences with the students. Jennifer Tasto, NAR Liaison to the Philippines, also reported on the International REALTOR® Conference held in the Philippines and NAR’s project to build a REALTOR® village for Super Typhoon Hainan victims there.

The success of this year’s CIPS Institute would not be possible without our generous CIPS Sponsors of the Day. Each sponsor had very informative presentations.

Darrell Monda, owner of TourFactory Bay Area, took students on a virtual tour of homes, a platform that works as a very good marketing tool, especially for foreign buyers who cannot physically be at a property they are interested in purchasing. TourFactory has certified aerial photographers and is the only company in Northern California that has a waiver from the FAA to use drone photography in its business.

The students enjoyed Kyle Chuang’s presentation, which included tips on how to take a multiple choice exam, a requirement at the end of each class day. Chuang, who is with Farmers Insurance, also tested students on home insurance information helpful for their clients.

Janet Case, CEO of Proxio, introduced the REALTORS® to the international networking platform that links REALTORS® and their listings with other agents around the world, including real estate developments. Proxio translates listings in 19 languages, 55 currencies and metric measurements. Case said studies show 20 percent of U.S. families do not speak English at home. In California, the percentage is higher – 43 percent. Proxio is a free benefit for SILVAR REALTORS® who are members of MLSListings Inc.

Kenneth Chan, premier mortgage consultant with HSBC, focused on how foreign buyers who don’t fall under the 2-2-2 rule (provide a two-year U.S. residency, two-year work history and two-year credit history) can qualify for a mortgage loan, other obstacles foreign buyers face, and success stories.

Anita Rodal, international liaison with AFEX (Associated Foreign Exchange) and president of SBPI Services, Inc., educated the students on foreign currency exchange and SBPI Services’ captive insurance program, which enables Chinese investors to take millions of dollars out of China and invest the money from the policy in real estate.

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This is a rendering of the REALTOR® Village to be built in the Philippines. NAR provided seed money to help construct containerized housing in the town of Bogo, Cebu in the Philippines.

This is a rendering of the REALTOR® Village to be built in the Philippines. NAR provided seed money to help construct containerized housing in the town of Bogo, Cebu in the Philippines.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has partnered with the Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Association, Inc. (CREBA) to build a REALTOR® Village in the Philippines. CREBA is the exclusive partner of NAR in the Philippines, one among over 82 real estate organizations delegated with stewardship of the NAR name and programming. SILVAR is NAR’s Ambassador Association to the Philippines and maintains a cooperative relationship with CREBA.

The REALTOR® Village is a project of the Philippine American Society of Arts & Culture in cooperation with NAR and CREBA that will provide containerized housing, the first of its kind, to promote socialized housing in the town of Bogo, which is located in the island of Cebu, Philippines. NAR provided seed money for the project.

Super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that struck the country in November 2013 killed over 6,000 people and disrupted the lives of over a quarter of a million Filipinos, leaving them homeless. The proposed containerized housing can withstand wind of up to 100 miles an hour. The units are considered green buildings. The sustainability plan will consist of equipping recipients with aquaponics and dry hog farming. The recipients will also be planting fruit trees. The target is to build a village of 60 units, including a multipurpose center, health center and library.

A ribbon cutting ceremony attended by NAR Past President Steve Brown and NAR Treasurer Michael McGrew was held a day before the July 27-30 NAR International RELATORS® Conference hosted by CREBA in the Philippines. SILVAR member and past Global Business Council chair Jennifer Tasto, who currently serves as NAR’s President’s Liaison to the Philippines, represented NAR and SILVAR at both events.

SEE VIDEO OF REALTOR® VILLAGE RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY HERE

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) joins the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) in opposing a provision in the highway transportation bill that taxes homebuyers and those looking to refinance by increasing the fees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge on their loans. This bill is now being considered by the U.S. Senate.

Of particular concern to REALTORS® is this tax pays for government needs that are totally unrelated to housing. This extends a 2011 fee increase that NAR opposed. NAR, in coalition with many other groups, urged the Senate not to adopt these fees and treat homeownership as the nation’s piggybank. This tax also will have a disproportionally higher impact on those using FHA loans, first-time home buyers and low and moderate-income buyers.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has issued a nationwide Call for Action, urging members to contact their Members of Congress in both houses and bring the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370 and S. 1610) to the floor for immediate consideration and a vote in each chamber. This legislation aims to fix some of the unintended consequences from the implementation of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act.

REALTORS® and homeowners across the country are reporting significant increases in annual premium rates as a result of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) rate changes that took effect on October 1. This is raising concerns among consumers and REALTORS® about decreased property values and a stalled housing market recovery. This drastic increase in flood insurance premiums for coverage under the NFIP is negatively impacting transactions and the nation’s real estate recovery.

REALTORS® need to ensure that this is a priority for Congress and is brought up for vote immediately. Congress has very few working days left of this session, so it is imperative that members answer this Call for Action. Tell Congress we support the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.”

NAR is asking Congress for a four-year time-out to fully correct some of the implementation problems that will threaten real estate transactions where flood insurance is required to obtain a mortgage. Tell Congress to delay changes to the NFIP and that we support the “Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act”.

April 2013 marks the 45th anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act, which strives to to ensure equal housing opportunity for all. Each year REALTORS® join the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and rest of the nation in recognizing April as Fair Housing Month.

REALTORS® play a vital role in ensuring fair housing for all and strive to make homeownership accessible to everyone. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) works to help create an environment where everyone can choose where they want to live and not be discriminated against as they seek to achieve the American dream of homeownership.

Carolyn Miller, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, whose members are also members of NAR, says REALTORS® abide by a Code of Ethics that states REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services and shall not be a party to any plan or agreement to discriminate against any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation.

“REALTORS® want all buyers and sellers to enjoy the benefits of a housing market free from discrimination,” says Miller.

On April 26, SILVAR is promoting Fair Housing Month by offering At Home With Diversity®, a course that teaches REALTORS® and other business professionals how to work effectively within a multicultural market. The full-day course addresses topics like diversity, fair housing and business planning development. For more information about At Home With Diversity®, call SILVAR at (408) 200-0100.

“Knowing how to work effectively with diverse populations can help you build business success in today’s multicultural real estate market,” adds Miller.

Under the law, a home seller or landlord cannot discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of property on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. They cannot instruct their real estate agent to convey any limitations in a sale or rental.

Buyers or renters have the right to expect housing will be available to them without discrimination, including:
• housing in their price range made available without discrimination.
• equal professional service.
• the opportunity to consider a broad range of housing choices.
• no discriminatory limitations on communities or locations of housing.
• no discrimination in the financing, appraising, or insuring of housing.
• reasonable accommodations in rules, practices and procedures for persons with disabilities.
• non-discriminatory terms and conditions for the sale, rental, financing, or insuring of a dwelling.
• freedom from harassment or intimidation for exercising their fair housing rights.

Buyers or renters who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of the alleged discrimination.

HUD recently launched a new mobile application for iPhone and iPad that provides the public information about their housing rights and responsibilities. The app also provides information about the fair housing complaint process, and allows the public to access HUD’s toll-free discrimination hotline and link to HUD’s fair housing website: http://www.hud.gov/fairhousing

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