Photo courtesy of Will Pate
We can Teach You…
Every day in my inbox, there is someone offering to certify me to make short sales or handle REO properties for lenders nationwide who need my services, if only I get certified by the sender. Now I have been selling REO properties for the past 20 years, and I have never heard of the people offering most of these courses and certifications, but their emails assure me that there are thousands of properties just waiting for me to list as soon as I sign up for their service or complete their course.
And if REO properties are not my forte, then they offer to teach me how to identify potential short sale opportunities, and obtain a certification from them that will enable me to cut through the Gordian knot of the short sale process
Is Truth Important?
I have a Google Alert on the term ‘short sales”. One of the links that appeared was a “press release” entitled :Real Estate Agents Must Understand the Short Sales Process”. The lead paragraph of the release quotes Thomas Mitchell, Senior Vice President of RealtyU (which just happens to offer a “Short Sale Certification”) who states. “Residential real estate has so many areas of specialization that unless real estate agents take specific courses to improve their skill set it is impossible for agents to know how to best serve their clients” – Now I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but it seems to me that this individual just said that the real estate business is so complex that without taking his course, agents won;t know what their clients need. To me this statement is a lot broader then the headline of the article would indicate.
In the next 2 paragraphs Mr. Mitchell then says, “With the latest flurry of Short Sales taking place throughout the country agents need to understand new terms; for example Notice of Default (NOD). This refers to a recorded document which officially starts the foreclosure process. In most cases the lender can file an NOD on the 16th day that a borrower is late making the mortgage payment. However, in my experience, 99.9% of the time it is filed after the borrower is 90 days late.
Not the kind of information you just casually know, says Mitchell.”
It Just Ain’t So
Now I really have a problem. The Notice of Default is something that starts the process in states that use Non-Judicial Foreclosure (unlike my the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, my home state). And in our state, the difference between Judicial and Nonjudicial foreclosures is taught in the Real Estate Fundamentals course that all licensees in our state must take prior to taking the licensing exam and becoming a real estate agent.
I’m not sure what constitutes, “casually” knowing something – perhaps that means you weren’t formally introduced to the fact, but you can at least say “hi” to it if you pass it in the hall on your way to the library. Whatever – The point here is that while consumers might not be familiar with the foreclosure process, it is something that everyone in my state is expected to know prior to getting their real estate license. Now I think Pennsylvania is a great place to live but I do believe that many other states have similar standards for new licensees. Therefore it would seem to me that understanding the basics of real estate finance, pledging property for the repayment of a debt, and what happens when you don’t pay that debt are pretty basic information for agents to have.
Then I have a second problem with this ad. Mr. Mitchell talks about the timing of this specific occurrence and shares with us his experience with it – except he doesn’t share with us what his experience is. Who is this guy who wants to certify us as specialists in a specific area of our business, and makes inaccurate statements to show real estate professionals why they need to pay him for a certification? Why should we listen to him? What weight is the designation he offers us? What reliance should a consumer put on a real estate agent with that “certification”.
I don’t want to keep pointing out inconsistencies in the article, or pick on RealtyU in particular (since there are a number of other “unwarranted”designators out there) , but I do have an issue with this obvious exploitation of the confluence of several bad situations. The challenging real estate market where some agents are looking for quick fixes combined with the number of people across the country in financial trouble who are faced with a variety of situations where they might be losing their homes.
So What’s the Problem?
I know that I really concentrated on short sales here, but I don’t want to forget the REO certifications. There aren’t any that Lenders (the sellers you want to impress) recognize or care about. They want people that have actually done the job, and know the risks and issues that are part and parcel of this specialty.
I know that schools need to make money. I know that schools like RealtyU are just looking to expand their offerings to compete with other schools for the dollars of real estate agents. And I know that if a designation grows to a point where a large number of agents want the designation, and there is a perception that it is an important designation, there can be BIG MONEY in selling the program to large national organizations, and an immediate pay day. But shouldn’t there be a requirement that such a designation have a thoroughly vetted curriculum and substantial course content?
I don’t think there are any short cuts to short sales, but I do think that a struggling agent might think this is a great way to increase their income. And I think that a scared and stressed consumer, who is told that an agent is “Certified” to solve their problem might place unwarranted confidence in such an agent and that unwarranted confidence might lead the consumers into a stressful and disappointing situation without the expertise they though was guiding them. Just reading a recent post by Matthew Rathburn entitled Loss Mitigation Officers, Gone Wild tells the honest issues raised by the Short Sale process, and points out issues that I’m afraid this type of course will not help an agent or more importantly, the consumer avoid.
For me, I think I’ll continue to sell REO properties and negotiate short sales without getting one of these certifications. What about you?
Is the real estate industry endorsing Carson’s nomination to HUD?
(BUSINESS NEWS) Ben Carson’s initial appointment to HUD was controversial given his lack of experience in housing, but what is the pulse now?
NAR strongly backs Dr. Carson’s nomination
When President-Elect Donald Trump put forth Dr. Ben Carson’s name as the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, NAR President William E. Brown said, “While we’ve made great strides in recent years, far more can be done to put the dream of homeownership in reach for more Americans.”
At the time of nomination, the National Association of Realtors (the largest trade organization in the nation) offered a positive tone regarding Dr. Carson and said the industry looks forward to working with him. But does that hold true today?
The confirmation hearings yesterday were far less controversial than one would expect, especially in light of how many initially reacted to his nomination. Given his lack of experience in housing, questions seemed to often center around protecting the LGBT community and veterans, both of which he pledged to support.
In fact, Dr. Carson said the Fair Housing Act is “one of the best pieces of legislation we’ve ever had in this country,” promising to issue a “world-class plan” for housing upon his confirmation…
Job openings hit 14-year high, signaling economic improvement
The volume of job openings is improving, but not across all industries. The overall economy is improving, but not evenly across all career paths.
Job openings hit a high point
To understand the overall business climate, the U.S. Labor Department studies employment, today releasing data specific to job vacancies. According to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLT) for April, job openings rose to 5.38 million, the highest seen since December 2000, and a significant jump from March’s 5.11 million vacancies. Although a lagging indicator, it shows strength in the labor market.
The Labor Department reports that the number of hires in April fell to 5 million, which indicates a weak point in the strong report, and although the volume remains near recent highs, this indicates a talent gap and highlights the number of people who have left the labor market and given up on looking for a job.
Good news, bad news, depending on your profession
That said, another recent Department report notes that employers added 221,000 jobs in April and 280,000 in May, but the additions are not evenly spread across industries. Construction jobs rose in April, but dipped in professional and business services, hospitality, trade, and transportation utilities. In other words, white collar jobs are down, blue collar jobs are up, which is good or bad news depending on your profession.
Additionally, the volume of people quitting their jobs was 2.7 million in April compared to the seven-year high of 2.8 million in March. Economists follow this number as a metric for gauging employee confidence in finding their next job.
If you’re in the market for a job, there are an increasing number of openings, so your chance of getting hired is improving, but there is a caveat – not all industries are enjoying improvement.
If you’re hiring talent, you’ll still get endless resumes, but there appears to be a growing talent gap for non-labor jobs, so you’re not alone in struggling to find the right candidate.
Economists suspect the jobs market will continue to improve as a whole, but this data does not pertain to every industry.
Gas prices are down, so are gas taxes about to go up?
Do low gas prices mean higher gas taxes are on the way? Budgeting for 2015 just got a bit more complicated, if some politicians have their way.
Gas taxes and your bottom line
Many industries rely heavily on time in their vehicle, not just truck drivers and delivery trucks. Sales professionals hop in their vehicles throughout the day, as do many other types of professionals (service providers like plumbers, and so forth). For that reason, gas prices and taxes are a relevant line item that must be budgeted for 2015, but with politicians making the rounds to push for higher gas taxes, budgeting becomes more complicated.
Gas prices are down roughly 50 cents per gallon compared to a year ago, which some analysts say have contributed to more money in consumers’ pockets. Some believe that this will improve holiday sales, but others believe the timing is just right to increase federal taxes on gas. The current tax on gas is 18.40 cents per gallon, and on diesel are 24.40 cents per gallon.
Supporters and opponents are polar opposites
Supporters argue as follows: gas prices are low, so it won’t hurt to increase federal gas taxes, in fact, those funds must go toward improving our infrastructure, which in the long run, saves Americans money because smoother roads mean better gas mileage and less congestion.
Gas taxes have long been a polarizing concept, and despite lowered gas prices, the controversial nature of the taxes have not diminished.
While some are pushing for complete abolition of federal gas taxes, others, like former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell (D) tell CNBC, “Say that cost the average driver $130 a year. They would get a return on that investment” in safer roads and increased quality of life, he added.
The Washington Post‘s Chris Mooney points out that federal gas taxes have been “stuck” at 18 cents for over 20 years, last raised when gas was barely a dollar a gallon and that the tax must increase not only to improve the infrastructure, but to “green” our behavior, and help our nation find tax reform compromise.
Is a gas tax politically plausible?
Mooney writes, “So, this is not an argument that a gas tax raise is politically plausible — any more than a economically efficient tax on carbon would be. It’s merely a suggestion that — ignoring politics — it might be a pretty good idea.”
Rendell noted, “The World Economic Forum, 10 years ago, rated us the best infrastructure in the world,” adding that we “need to do something for our infrastructure, not in a one or two year period, but over a decade.”
Others would note that this rating has not crumbled in just a few years, that despite many bridges and roads in need of repair, our infrastructure is still superior to even the most civilized nations.
Regardless of the reasons, most believe that Congress won’t touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, especially leading up to another Presidential campaign season starting next year.
“I think it’s too toxic and continues to be too toxic,” Steve LaTourette (the former Republican congressman best known for his close friendship with his fellow Ohioan, Speaker John Boehner) tells The Atlantic. “I see no political will to get this done.”
Whether the time is fortuitous or not, and regardless of the positive side effects, many point to a fear of voters’ retaliation against any politician siding with a gas hike, so this matter going any further than the proposal stage is unlikely.
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