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Cupertino, CA – The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) announced today that it has been re-certified as a Bay Area Green Business by the California Bay Area Green Business Program, after meeting new and stricter standards for conserving resources, preventing pollution and minimizing waste. SILVAR promotes the highest ethical standards of real estate practice, serves as an advocate for homeownership and homeowners, and represents the interests of property owners in Silicon Valley.

The professional trade organization representing over 4,500 REALTORS® and affiliate members engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay, was the first REALTOR® association in the state to obtain the green certification in 2007. With stricter guidelines in place, SILVAR this month completed the re-certification process administered by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and Santa Clara County.

Certification as a Green Business is in line with the REALTOR® association’s goal of community involvement by being proactive in conservation and concern for the environment. SILVAR educates its members and collaborates on projects that create a more sustainable environment. Many real estate offices in the communities SILVAR serves have followed suit and achieved green certification.

“We are very pleased that we have been recognized as a Green Business. Undergoing re-certification under more stringent requirements was a task worth achieving. We want to continue to be an example for our region and members,” said SILVAR Executive Officer Paul Cardus.

The Green Business Certification Program is a successful partnership of environmental agencies and utilities that assists, recognizes and promotes businesses and government agencies that operate voluntarily in a more environmentally responsible way. To be certified “green,” participants must comply with all regulations and meet program standards for conserving resources, preventing pollution and minimizing waste. This certification focuses on helping businesses improve and implement green best practices for office operation.

Since 2007, SILVAR has been following most of the best practices required by the county as part of its policy to recycle and conserve energy, resources and money. Some of these practices included recycling, double-sided printing, use of email to communicate with members and providing member and customer services via the phone and Internet, including tour sheets and PRDS forms, to decrease the need for member travel and use of paper.

To be re-certified under the new guidelines, SILVAR expanded its conservation practices by using recycled paper and envelopes, recycling printer ink and batteries, transitioning all cleaning supplies, including paper towels, to items that are environmentally-friendly, and installing low-flow faucets in its restrooms and breakroom. SILVAR has joined the Spare the Air Day Program and encourages members and staff to participate in efforts to cut down on pollution by combining or eliminating trips and carpooling to meetings and association functions.

 

 

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Dave Walsh, vice chair of MLSListings Inc. and vice president and managing broker of Alain Pinel Realtors’ Almaden office in San Jose, gave a group of 25 Canadian home builders an overview of the Santa Clara County  housing market during their visit to the San Jose area this month.

Dave Walsh, vice chair of MLSListings Inc. and vice president and managing broker of Alain Pinel Realtors’ Almaden office in San Jose, gave a group of 25 Canadian home builders an overview of the Santa Clara County housing market during their visit to the San Jose area this month.

Twenty-five members of the Canadian Homebuilders Association – Alberta were on a two-day housing tour of homes in Santa Clara County March 12 and 13, and learned about the Silicon Valley housing market and challenges to urban development from local speakers.

At a breakfast presentation arranged by the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, Dave Walsh, vice chair of MLSListings Inc., shared local housing data with the builders. Walsh described Santa Clara County, which is at the heart of Silicon Valley, as “the single, most crazy market.”

Walsh said the region once filled with orchards, has become the leading hub of high-tech innovation and development in country. Recent growth has led to record-setting home prices. Home prices today have now exceeded the 2007 high, but there are far fewer homes on the market. Santa Clara County’s February median home price of $950,000 is “the best February ever,” said Walsh. The median is 20 percent above the median peak of $790,000 in February 2007. The problem is the county just had 1.4 months of inventory, with only 1,761 single-family homes for sale in February.

Walsh showed how home prices increase the closer one gets to Palo Alto, the central economic focal point of Silicon Valley, home to Stanford University and other prominent tech firms, and close to Facebook in neighboring Menlo Park and Google in Mountain View. Homes in Palo Alto are selling 110 percent of asking price, at an average of $1,491 per square foot. In Gilroy, which is about 50 miles from Palo Alto, homes are selling 99 percent of asking price at an average price of $284 per square feet. In Saratoga, which is about 18 miles from Palo Alto and has an excellent school district, homes are selling 102 percent of list price at an average of $812 per square foot.

Read more here.

Former Santa Clara County principal planner Don Weden told members of SILVAR’s Cupertino/Sunnyvale District this week that California is experiencing a number of structural changes and will be facing bigger challenges than in the past due to population growth, household changes, and an aging population.

The California Department of Finance projects Santa Clara County’s current population of 1.8 million will grow by 140,000 people in 15 years. As population grows, so will households, but their makeup will change.

“The future looks gray,” said Weden.

Currently in Santa Clara County, one in 10 persons is age 65 and older. By 2030, one in five persons or one-fourth of the adult population will be over 65.

Weden said development plans anchored on the drivable suburban model are no longer suitable. One in five Americans over 65 do not drive – because of rising gas prices, because they can’t, and some prefer not to.

“Neighborhoods we thought were fun to grow up in may be problematic to grow old in,” said Weden.

Weden indicated the rate of home ownership among the 25-34 year old group has dropped from 40 percent in 2007 to 31 percent in 2010. Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000, now number 80 million, more than the baby boomers, and projected to soon comprise majority of the U.S. workforce. This generation has never known the world without the Internet. Weden said Millennials are the most educated generation in history, but also saddled with much student debt. They are mostly renters not only due to economic necessity, but because they want to be mobile, free to move from job to job without having to worry about selling their home every time they move.

“They are also less confident in the economics of the American dream,” said Weden.

Also important is this generation does not like driving. Eighty-eight percent want to live in an urban setting that is walkable. This is why it is critical for cities to focus on planning walkable urban neighborhoods instead of drivable suburban communities, said Weden. Baby boomers would also prefer it, especially once they can no longer drive.

Weden said the evolution from the predominantly drivable suburban neighborhoods to walkable urban neighborhoods is gradually taking place in Bay Area cities. He said REALTORS® need to get involved in planning these neighborhoods. The neighborhoods need not be exotic, but should be complete, offering residents of all ages an active lifestyle, with services and shops, including grocery stores and other amenities.

Congress passed and President Obama signed into law on November 18 a bill to reinstate the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan limit in high-cost areas through 2013. In Santa Clara County, this would mean the maximum size of mortgages FHA can insure will be raised back up to $729,750.

The higher Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA conforming loan limits of $729,750 expired September 30 and were subsequently reduced to $625,500. Loan limits for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not increased and remain at the reduced level.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® and its state and national partner associations have long advocated for Congress to reinstate all the loan limits permanently. “We are pleased that Congress agreed to reinstate the FHA loan limits, though we are disappointed that our lawmakers did not reinstate the higher loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac backed loans, as well,” said Gene Lentz, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “The reinstated FHA loan limits will allow qualified, creditworthy borrowers access to affordable mortgage financing.”

FHA provides mortgage insurance to borrowers without enough of a down payment to qualify for prime loans. With an FHA loan, home buyers can put down as little as 3.5 percent on a mortgage loan.

The REALTORS® believe continued a government role in housing financing will ensure stability in mortgage markets and enable home buyers in high-cost areas to refinance and obtain financing for new home purchases more easily. The conforming loan limit determines the maximum size of a mortgage that government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy or guarantee. Non-conforming or jumbo loans typically carry higher mortgage interest rates than conforming loans, increasing monthly payments and hampering the ability of families in California to purchase homes by making them less affordable.

The GSEs and FHA currently back 90 percent of new home loans. The Obama administration and some lawmakers want to reduce government’s role in the mortgage business and have said the lowering of loan limits is a first step to prompting private capital to return to the market.

In addition to extending the FHA-insured mortgages, the new law provides for a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through Dec. 16, 2011.  REALTORS® want to ensure that millions of home and business owners across the country have access to affordable flood insurance and had strongly urged Congress to work on a five-year NFIP reauthorization bill to provide certainty and avoid further disruption to real estate markets.

Pictured left to right are past C.A.R. President Jim Hamilton, SILVAR President-elect Suzanne Yost, Los Gatos/Saratoga District Chair Doug Evans, C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young, SILVAR President Gene Lentz, and Los Gatos/Saratoga District Co-chair Chris Rasmussen.

California Association of REALTORS® Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young told SILVAR members at last Wednesday’s Los Gatos/Saratoga District tour meeting that while the worst is over, the market continues to struggle with not much relief in sight.

“The tide has turned for housing, but now it’s stuck,” said Appleton-Young.

C.A.R.’s chief economist explained that the economy started to gain a bit of traction and seemed to be moving forward at the beginning of this year, but things happened one after another – Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, oil price spikes, uprisings in the Middle East, stock market volatility, the U.S. debt and the debt crisis in the euro zone. As a result, the housing market that appeared to be recovering is now stalled.

Lenders aren’t lending and consumer and entrepreneurial confidence continue to be low. As long as the jobs problem continues, she doesn’t expect consumer spending to improve by much. Mortgage rates have experienced a historical drop, “but you can’t push on a string. You can’t make people borrow; you can’t make lenders lend,” she said.

The good news is Santa Clara County is doing better than most parts of the state with just a 9.6 unemployment rate. In Santa Clara County, 35 percent of homes that closed escrow in September were distressed, but this is a far cry from places like Solano County, where in September 73 percent of homes that closed escrow in September were distressed sales.

The Bay Area has the best economy in California, in terms of income and job growth. “Companies in this valley are in the cutting edge, leading growth in the economy,” said Appleton-Young.

September single-family home sales were at 487,940 units. Absent more wild cards that could upset the economy, C.A.R. expects 491,000 unit sales by year-end and 496,000 unit sales in 2012, just a 1 percent increase from this year. California’s median price was $287,440 in September, down 8.3 percent from September 2010, but way above from when it bottomed in February 2009 at $245,230. C.A.R. expects the median price to hit $291,000 by the end of 2011 and to increase 1.7 percent to $296,000 in 2012.

Troubles are ahead because all levels of government will have to wrestle with issues of pensions and cost of health and other benefits for public employees. Appleton-Young said ultimately, everyone will have to answer for the deficit.

“It’s hard to do when in some places, the coffers are empty. You can’t spend more than you take in, even if you are the U.S. government. Everyone is going to have to give up something in the end,” she said.

Appleton-Young said in 2012, REALTORS® will need to watch the following federal issues closely – the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, changes in the tax treatment of real estate, including the definition of the QRM (Qualified Residential Mortgage), which could mean purchasing a home will be even more difficult and costly for consumers.

The restoration of the FHA loan limits is vital to both home ownership and our economy. On October 1 the mortgage loan limits declined in 669 counties in 42 states. This immediately reduced mortgage liquidity and home buyers’ ability to obtain a mortgage. The House and Senate are now deciding whether or not to restore the loan limits. The restoration of the loan limits to their prior levels has been included in an Appropriations bill being deliberated by Congress this week.

Your Senator is a member of the group of Congressional leaders who will decide whether Congress will restore the loan limits. This is why they need to hear from you today.

Why is this so important? Without the restoration of the loan limits the availability of safe, affordable, reliable mortgage financing will continue to diminish. If this happens, many potential home buyers run the risk of being priced out of the American Dream of home ownership. Even worse, this could hold back the housing recovery.

In the Silicon Valley region, the conforming loan limits of $729,750 were reduced by $104,250. This means buyers who need mortgages for more than $625,500 are now forced into the jumbo market, which means they would be paying higher interest rates, or unable to buy a home.

The California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) estimates more than 30,000 California families now face higher down payments, higher mortgage rates, and stricter loan qualification requirements with conforming loan limits on mortgages backed by FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac now reduced. In Santa Clara County, C.A.R. estimates nearly 8 percent of potential home sales would be rendered ineligible under the lower GSE loan limit, and 12.2 percent would be deemed ineligible under the lower FHA limit. 

“The loan limits provision is fully paid for, and won’t cost taxpayers a dime. If families cannot obtain financing to buy, home prices will continue to fall. This will further erode the wealth of families in our community and across the country, and will prolong the nation’s economic recovery,” said Lentz. “As individuals and families everywhere are trying to gain a foothold in these trying times, we need to give them the resources to do so.”

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to continue to opt-in to Proposition 90. Thank you to all SILVAR members who answered SILVAR’s Call to Action and to the many SILVAR members who attended the lengthy board meeting on Tuesday afternoon and voiced their concerns directly to our supervisors.

Under Proposition 60 and 110, if a seller or spouse is over age 55 or if a seller of any age is disabled when their original residence is sold, the seller may transfer the base year value of their home to a replacement primary residence of equal or lesser value within the same county, provided certain conditions are fulfilled. Proposition 90 extended this benefit to seniors and the disabled who move to counties that adopted Proposition 90 rules.

County Assessor Larry Stone wanted the supervisors to eliminate Proposition 90 as a way to increase revenue, but SILVAR REALTORS® and members of the Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS® persuaded the county supervisors to oppose this proposal. On Tuesday, SILVAR members reminded the supervisors of the benefits of Proposition 90; many recounted personal experiences with seniors and disabled clients who benefited from the measure, and who otherwise would not have been able to move to the county had the proposition not been in place. Our members told the supervisors their clients were able to move closer to family, medical services and jobs. Otherwise, they would have been locked-in to their previous residences due to the significant property tax increase incurred in moving.

REALTORS® noted Proposition 90 is a “two-way street” because it creates opportunities for the original properties to be reassessed at a higher rate, while providing a significant benefit in improving the quality of life for homeowners. They also said seniors and the disabled from other counties “have diversified our county and enriched our quality of life.”

Stone questioned the supervisors’ hesitance in what he saw as “an obvious source of revenue” for the county, but our REALTORS® indicated the increase his office projects would be an estimated $150,000 at best, which would not be realized until 2013. They said the slight increase could not justify the intangible benefits the proposition gives seniors and persons with disabilities who wish to move to the county.

Supervisor Liz Kniss said the county made the decision to opt in Proposition 90 20 years ago and it should stay as an opted-in county.

Supervisor Ken Yeager said after listening to the real life examples presented by the REALTORS®, he felt “there is value to it (Proposition 90) at the personal level. We supported it then, we should support it now.”

While noting the assessor made a credible argument that increasing revenue was important for the county, upon hearing the many stories of people who have benefited from the proposition, Supervisor Mike Wasserman said, “It doesn’t feel right to take this away from the people who could use it. In the big picture, it just doesn’t feel right.”

Supervisor Dave Cortese indicated Proposition 90 creates a flexibility for seniors and persons with disabilities. “We should leave the flexibility for folks for now,” said Cortese.

The supervisors voted 5-0 to keep Proposition 90 in Santa Clara County.

The Call to Action was a team effort by SILVAR members and a victory for seniors and persons with disabilities who have moved to or plan to move to Santa Clara County. SILVAR thanks everyone who took part in this effort and the board of supervisors, who took into consideration the impact rescinding Proposition 90 would have on a group of people who have very little clout in the political arena.

REALTORS® in Santa Clara County oppose a move to rescind a benefit which for more than two decades has allowed seniors and the disabled from other counties to take advantage of a tax incentive to relocate to the county. Rescinding this benefit provided by Proposition 90 could hurt seniors wishing to move and buy a home in the county.

Under Proposition 60 and 110, if a seller or spouse is over age 55 or if a seller of any age is disabled when their original residence is sold, the seller may transfer the base year value of their home to a replacement primary residence of equal or lesser value within the same county, provided certain conditions are fulfilled. Prop 90 extended this benefit to seniors and the disabled who move to counties that adopted Prop 90 rules.

The Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office wants the board of supervisors to eliminate this important senior tax benefit and rescind Prop 90 transfers as a way to increase revenue. Proponents admit any revenue increase would be “slight” at best. REALTORS® say a minimal increase in revenue does not outweigh the economic benefits these transactions bring to the county.

“Given the limited number of affected parcels, it is not a business or financial decision that motivates REALTORS® to speak out on this issue. We support preserving Prop 90 for the benefits it brings to the county and for qualified seniors and the disabled,” says Gene Lentz, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “The law provides an incentive for seniors to move into smaller, less expensive homes without being penalized.”

Prop 90 eases the property tax burden that otherwise could prevent seniors from moving into smaller residences, so they can be closer to children and grandchildren who reside in Santa Clara County, says Lynn Grandi-Hill, whose parents moved from San Rafael to Willow Glen in 1989.

“It was wonderful having them close by. … My children got see them more often than they would have had they stayed in San Rafael,” says Grandi-Hill.  “As much as families can stay connected and together, Prop 90 is a positive thing for society in general”

Prop 90 counteracts the “lock-in effect” created by Prop 13, which slowed the housing turnover and supply across the state. “Prop 90 helps seniors wanting to live in the county. By living here they, in turn, help the county’s economy since they will buy their groceries here, shop here, buy their gas here. They are a positive economic influence,” says Mike Sibilia, president of the Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS®.

A Southern California senior who moved to Santa Clara County to be close to his children after his wife died, says Prop 90 was a major factor in his decision to buy a house here. “I considered a number of options and I can tell you Prop 90 was big factor in my decision,” he says. “People considering rescinding it are short-sighted. It was a big savings for me, but people like me who move here also spend money here, so the county benefits too. “

Rescinding Prop 90 would reduce the number of qualified buyers considering a home in the county. Seniors are more likely to move and buy a new home once they qualify for Prop 60 and 90 benefits. A California Association of REALTORS® survey indicates 52 percent of Prop 90 transactions would not have taken place if the measure was not in effect.

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