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Real Estate Associations

NAR and MBA urge Congress to help troubled homeowners hit by COVID

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) NAR and MBA wrote a letter to Congress seeking more emergency mortgage and rental assistance for homeowners because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Emergency mortgage

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) sent a letter to Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and California Representative Maxine Waters on May 7. The letter supports legislation that funds emergency mortgage and rental assistance to Americans facing financial hardships due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Waters is the Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking, public and assisted housing, and insurance. Reed is a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and a minority member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee.

Mortgage lenders and REALTORS® are working through unusual and adverse circumstances to provide vital housing security,” the letter states. “Across every state and local community, we have seen the need for Congress to help homeowners and renters faced with the sudden loss of income…A comprehensive response by Congress to these needs would include direct emergency mortgage and rental assistance to advance housing stability.”

According to the letter, 3.8 million homeowners have requested mortgage forbearance since the beginning of the pandemic. Payment forbearance and lowered interest rates are crucial to the housing sector’s ability to survive the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. As of April 29, 2020, the Federal Reserve has announced it would maintain a mortgage rate of 0 to 0.25% until the economy returns to a trajectory towards maximum employment.

The letter lauds the Housing Assistance Fund created to support homeowners ability to make mortgage payments and lenders ability to create flexibility for payments.

The NAR has been engaged in a series of legislative activism to protect Americans’ homes and keep people housed in a time when income has been significantly impacted. In just the last two weeks, NAR wrote two letters to Congress including this one and also supported two coalition letters. The coalition letters also supported emergency rental assistance for Americans with lost or reduced income. They also advocate for creating a comprehensive portal for consumers to access that emergency mortgage and rental relief. The fourth letter was to the Federal Housing Administration about increased premiums.

Though it is unclear the extent to which lawmakers have been economically impacted by the pandemic, they like everyone else have been impacted by the coronavirus. Waters’ sister died of COVID-19 in Saint Louis, Missouri last week.

It is never quite certain what it will take for Washington to stay connected to the needs of the average American and respond accordingly. Sweeping legislation has been passed in record time in response to the economic shutdown, but the government has a long way to go to prove to the American people that it is trustworthy enough to protect both lives and livelihood all together.

Heather Buffo is a Cleveland native, a recovering Bostonian, and an Austin newbie. Heather is the Venture Growth & Partnerships Lead at Republic where she works with partners in private investing to democratize access to capital for entrepreneurs. Heather studied neurobiology at Harvard University, and is a City Year Boston AmeriCorps alum. She likes to write for AG, drink Austin beer, and ride around town on her road bicycle. His name is Pippin. Say hello if you see them.

Real Estate Associations

Combatting key claims in class-action accusations toward NAR [EDITORIAL]

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) With the latest accusations in class-action suit against the NAR, one real estate agent has done some digging to see how viable these claims really are.

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Woman looking at laptop open to shopping website.

I am a member of NAR, and for full disclosure, I am not an attorney. I reviewed the various complaints and performed research, discovering information that could aid in the defense. In my view, Plaintiff (Conti-CA) makes misleading claims and adds assertions to muddy the waters in this class-action suit.

For example:

“Requiring every seller‐broker, when listing a property on an MLS, to make a “blanket unilateral offer […] of compensation” to any buyer agent who may find a buyer for the home;”

This is misleading; compensation is not paid to agents who “find a buyer for the home.” Commissions are earned upon an Agent procuring a client who successfully closes on a transaction that includes mutually agreed terms and conditions. This is not an adversarial transaction, despite how Attorneys try to frame it. Sellers want to sell; Buyers want to acquire, and Agents facilitate.

Moreover: “Requiring that the offer of compensation to the buyer agent be a blanket offer — i.e., the exact same compensation terms must be simultaneously offered to every buyer agent without regard to their experience, the services they are providing to the buyer, or the financial arrangement they have made with the buyer;”

If a Buyer’s Agent procures a Buyer who successfully acquires a residence at a price and terms agreeable to the Seller, then “compensation terms must be simultaneously offered to every buyer agent without regard to their experience” is irrelevant.

Furthermore, I challenge these “high power” law firms to name a profession where compensation is not established upfront.

Additionally, they claim “NAR’s requirement that offers of compensation be expressed in specific dollar or percentage terms enable buyer agents to easily compare the financial compensation offered to them by home sellers and steer their clients to higher commission homes.”

Would the Plaintiff’s Counsel share an alternative method for conveying compensation? Maybe the Peso so Agents would take extra steps using currency converters?

In the same complaint, Plaintiffs assert, “According to data from the NAR, many homebuyers no longer locate prospective homes with the assistance of a broker, but rather independently through online services. Buyer agents increasingly have been retained after their client has already found the home the client wishes to buy.”

These assertions obliterate the Plaintiffs’ allegations of massive steering. If a Consumer finds a home, and a Realtor refuses to show the house, the Consumer will find another Agent. Zillow had 9.8 billion page views in 2020.

Conspiracy

The most significant allegation is that a conspiracy exists between NAR members to use the MLS to create a supra-competitive pricing scheme, and decoupling agent commissions (each Consumer pays their agent) would result in a significant decline in commission structures.

This claim fails.

1st Plaintiffs attempt to frame the argument based on the percentage of the sale price when the fees to transact are a superior factor. Consumers bank dollars, not percentages. Moreover, they cherry-pick a few markets with an emphasis on Singapore as examples of lower commission percentages.

In a three-minute discovery session, I researched the US v Singapore markets, and these are my findings.

  • The average price of a US residence totaled $389,400 (based on 2019 data.)
  • The commission paid, based on the US average of 4.94%, totaled $19,236
  • The average price of a Singapore residence totaled $874,372 USD.
  • The commission paid, based on the Singapore average of 3%, totaled $26,231 USD.

Moreover, some publications suggest there is commission sharing between Buyer/Seller Agents in Singapore. Again, Consumer’s bank dollars, not percentages, it appears that the Plaintiff’s counsel is oblivious to this variable.

It is MORE expensive to transact in Singapore.

Decoupling Commissions

I have found no evidence that decoupling reduces commissions. As shown in the following images, I discovered the opposite based on a 2015 study by the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ articles display in the first position when performing a simple Google search; however, I have yet to see WSJ commission studies cited in any complaints. Alternatively, they cite studies from 2002. Furthermore, the US average rate is only slightly higher than the 10-Country average.

Data | WSJ

 

Counterclaims Against Plaintiffs

In my view, a reasonable person would conclude Plaintiffs used irrelevant data and omitted material information. Most purchase agreements include language similar to “ATTORNEY FEES: In any action, proceeding, or arbitration between Buyer and Seller arising out of this Agreement, the prevailing Buyer or Seller shall be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs from the non-prevailing Buyer or Seller.”

Considering Plaintiffs are suing NAR, the four largest Brokerages, the MLS system, and smaller Brokers as co-conspirators, these misleading claims impact 1000’s firms, so I suggest counterclaiming Plaintiffs for $5,000,000 and publicize it.

This may deter Consumers from engaging with ambulance-chasing law firms.

The issue of who pays commissions is irrelevant and undeterminable because Sellers will claim they are deducted from net proceeds while Buyers will claim it is baked into the purchase price, thus commissions are paid by Buyers. Even the various class-action claims conflict related to the party paying commissions.

In reality, the commission percentage assertions are a feeble attempt by parties to create an apples-to-apples comparison to other markets, however the information included in this opinion makes these claims defective.

It is time to inflict an overwhelming response.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR Report: Realtor trends across demographics reveal interesting consistencies

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) The latest report from the National Association of Realtors digs into all kinds of demographics to reveal what brought folks into the field.

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Realtors across demographics looking at data on laptop with papers scattered across desk.

Data makes the world go round. Money does as well, but that isn’t the main point today. Data also comes in many different forms. Points of connection between two seemingly different things can pull together planets (seriously, that’s how gravity functions). Understanding how those things come together is how you can access the world around you in new and interesting ways. From that train of thought, then, knowing your demographics in business can give you insight into a vast realm of possibilities.

Starting in 2017 the National Association of Realtors, America’s largest trade association with 1.4 million members, did a deep dive into their members. They took a look at not only their financial accomplishments but their genders, orientations, races, and even personality traits. Some of their other questionnaires seem to even delve into personal life decisions. The resulting inferences create an intriguing picture across demographics.

So, are you a Gemini, who can split their personality in two? Maybe you’re a Taurus whose stubborn streak makes a glacier seem fast when it comes to changing your mind. An essential piece of someone, their personality. Knowing the personality attributes that can help someone be successful in a job is exceedingly beneficial. You can plan out a path ahead of time before jumping into something without knowing if it’ll work out. Through their surveys, NAR discovered that 62% of residential realtors chose their own career path. The vast majority of them proclaim that being self-motivated is a must to be successful. Other skills such as people skills, communication, and problem-solving actually rank lower while still being needed. Think about that for a moment. You need to be self-motivated to go out and do this job, but all of these successful people basically confirm that “It is mandatory to self-motivate”. Without this skill, you will not thrive.

NAR also did an analysis on how people got interested in real-estate in the first place. These numbers definitely reflect a corresponding link with the personality analysis. Less than 25% of people who answered the survey were brought into real-estate by someone else. This reveals yet again that self-motivated people are the ones who succeed across demographics.

But what they found is that the main draws of the job were also common. Being your own boss helps a majority in the commercial groups. Controlling your own workday with flexible hours was what pulled people into the more residential real estate. Both of these factors again lend towards a driven individual with a strong work ethic.

Interestingly, a lot of variation was found between demographics when it came to income comparisons between races. According to the NAR vice president Jessica Lautz “income may be lower as the typical home price in a neighborhood is lower, for other they may work only part-time and others may be new to the profession and have no ownership in the firm.” The associated numbers involved reveal that White/Caucasian members have the highest median gross personal income and then subsequently we have Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and Black/African-American.

There was also a correlation between the White/Caucasian group and the Black/African-Americans that showed that the former also used real-estate sales as their main or only source of income. Whereas the latter had the highest percentage of people who only used it as a part-time occupation. Having a second job to bring up their overall income. Racial lines also seem to be divided by different types of real-estate. Hispanic/Latino and White/Caucasian were much more likely to be in the suburbs. Asian/Pacific Islander seem to focus in small towns or rural areas. Black/African-American members showed their greatest areas as urban or city sites.

An interesting mound of data was the statistics around LGBTQ+ people that came of this. The information showed that these members were focused in the urban or city areas at almost 50% more than their heterosexual counterparts. These members also spoke highly of some extra skills needed to succeed in this career. Sales and marketing acumen were something that was rated very high on their lists, surpassed only by superior communication and problem-solving skills. This group also surpassed their counterparts in both median number of residential transactions (4-5) and sales volume ($1.6 million – $1.3 million).

A lot of the different aspects of these surveys creates a picture of the type of person who would do well as a realtor. If someone is a self-starting, determined, and an excellent communicator then they’d have a spectacular start. They would have to put in effort for marketing and build a network but it’s a start.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR introduces meaningful tools and training to stop implicit bias

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) The NAR has been taking steps forward to erase implicit bias, and recent events have made this that much more important. You should also take steps.

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implicit bias not found

The National Association of Realtors® is demonstrating its commitment to addressing housing discrimination and racial injustice through an Implicit Bias Training video that is being distributed to members. The online video proposes to “give (real estate agents) the tools to help override the effects of implicit bias. This means that the next time (they) work with clients from other cultures and backgrounds, (they) will be in a position to provide equal professional service, because (they) have embraced the work we all need to do to treat everyone fairly.” This 50-minute video is just one part of NAR’s work to reduce discrimination in housing.

The NAR is committed to fair housing

This video isn’t just a kneejerk reaction to the recent protests. In January, the NAR leadership announced a plan that emphasized Accountability, Culture Change, and Training (ACT) to protect housing rights, and uphold fair housing standards in the NAR’s code of ethics and in United States law.

Housing discrimination and implicit bias

In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, or national origin pertaining to housing. The Act has been strengthened over the past 52 years, but enforcement is still inconsistent. The problem isn’t that people are explicitly biased, but that there are many barriers and practices that are leading to continued housing segregation.

One practice that the NAR is responding to is implicit bias, which is an unconscious bias that affects how you interact with others. Consciously, you might never discriminate against another race, but you may unintentionally react differently with another race than you would with someone of the same race. This might manifest itself in many ways as a real estate agent. The Kirwan Institute or the Study of Race and Ethnicity research suggests that implicit bias can be showing black buyers fewer homes than a white homebuyer, even if they are pre-qualified.

Check your biases

The NAR is doing more than simply changing its social media status in light of #BlackLivesMatter. The NAR is working for real change for fair housing. I’d encourage you to watch the entire video to really understand implicit bias in real estate, and how it affects everyone. You can examine your own implicit biases through Project Implicit, a research collaboration project. We aren’t going to end housing discrimination through legislation without real reform by the people who act as guides into the real estate industry.

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