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COVID-19: NAR offers 2 months of free telemedicine to its 1.4M members

(REAL ESTATE) The National Association of Realtors (NAR) continues to be the benchmark for how associations should be advocating for members during this pandemic.

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telemedicine NAR

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced today that they’re offering 2 free months of their Members TeleHealth services for members who sign up by April 15th. That’s all 1.4 million members across the nation.

NAR Chief Executive Officer, Bob Golberg tells us, “We know that remote care is essential to protecting our members, their families and their communities. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that leveraging telemedicine whenever possible is the best way to protect the public from COVID-19.”

This initiative is part of the organization’s “Right Tools, Right Now” toolbox of reduced or no cost tools, relaunched to serve the real estate community in this time of global pandemic.

For those unfamiliar, TeleHealth offers 24/7 access to over 2,300 board-certified physicians across America and has already been used by members to address common issues such as allergies, asthma, rashes, joint aches, flu and nausea, among others.

“As we continue to solicit input from our members regarding COVID-19’s impact on their lives and businesses, NAR is grateful to be able to offer expanded access to potentially lifesaving telemedicine services,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, CA. “Medical professionals are urging Americans who are sick to stay home, and telemedicine is playing a critical role protecting our communities and our health care workers. We continue to encourage members to limit their exposure and decrease the chance of spreading illnesses to others.”

What happens to members not currently enrolled that want to continue on with TeleHealth care? NAR has negotiated a discounted rate for members to continue using the benefit.

So not only are they footing your bill for two months, they’ve gone a step further and made sure it’s affordable after that. This is the benchmark for how associations should be reacting during this crisis.

Goldberg has told us that they’re all hands on deck, and their growing resource toolbox as well as thoughtful steps like today’s announcement is proof.

Real Estate Associations

NAR and other industry groups call for caution before ending conservatorship

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) The National Association of Realtors joins industry groups to urge the Treasury to avoid a rushed end to conservatorship.

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A metal globe in New York City representing government conservatorship

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) joined the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the American Bankers Association (ABA), and the National Association of Home Builders (AHB) in voicing their concerns about a rushed effort to end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In response to the financial and housing crisis of 2006 through 2008, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs) into conservatorship in September 2008. To stabilize the firms, the Treasury gave the companies a $190 billion lending package. In return, the Treasury would receive senior preferred shares, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be required to make quarterly dividend payments to the Treasury, among other things.

It’s 12 years later now, and FHFA’s Director Mark Calabria’s top priority is to remove the company from government control and place it back in private hands before President Trump leaves office. And, the housing industry associations argue abruptly ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could destabilize the housing market.

In a letter to the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the housing industry associations said, “We are concerned that other potential actions to release the GSEs from conservatorship without the necessary safeguards would undermine investor confidence, create volatility in the single-family, and multifamily mortgage markets and impede access to credit for consumers.”

“During conservatorship, investors have relied on the Treasury backstop of the GSEs, which totals over $250 billion, as well as the effective control of the GSEs by the federal government.” By ending the conservatorship with the GSEs without anything in place, the groups say it “could cause investors to reassess the nature of any backstop and result in severe market disruptions.”

The letter points out “examples of potential harm” such as: “a sharp pullback in investor demand for GSE mortgage-backed securities (MBS) by investors concerned about a diminution of government support and an associated increase in credit risk exposure”; And, “an increase in mortgage credit costs during economic crises, negatively impacting the GSEs’ ability to support the market in the next crisis.”

The housing industry groups strongly oppose the swift ending of the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but they don’t say they expect this will go on forever. They want to flesh out a plan that works for everyone.

“Our associations and the members we serve have worked over the past twelve years to develop reform plans and advance efforts – both legislative and administrative – that would correct structural flaws in the GSEs’ pre-conservatorship business models and allow them to transition safely out of conservatorship.”

“We have not supported, nor do we currently support, an “endless” conservatorship. Our position is quite the opposite – we wish to see the GSEs reformed and operating outside of government control. We therefore favor actions that move the GSEs closer to the preferred end state in a timely manner that does not disrupt the housing finance market and inflict broader economic harm.”

And, the NAR, along with the MBA, ABA, and NAHB now have a response to their letter.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested, “he is unlikely to support a legal move—called a consent order—to end the government conservatorships of the mortgage-finance companies before President Trump leaves office.”

“We’re going to not do anything that jeopardizes taxpayers and puts them at additional risk. We also want to be careful that we don’t do anything that overnight would limit access to mortgage finance.”

For now, it looks like Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac will remain as government-sponsored enterprises.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR teams up with AARP to improve options for senior real estate

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) Senior real estate has unique challenges for those who need it, but NAR is teaming up with AARP to provide Realtors the resources they need.

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Senior real estate with two senior citizens walking around outsides holding flowers.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and AARP have teamed up to create a new relationship forged to better assist and engage older Americans in senior real estate. This collaboration is planned to inform NAR members about community factors that support people as they age. With the number of Americans 65 and older expected to more than double to 80 million in 2040, this is important for a growing national demographic.

For NAR members using the REALTORS Property Resource® website and mobile app, a practical implementation of this partnership will be the integration of the AARP Livability Index data through those platforms. The AARP Livability Index includes robust national data that is broken down by ZIP code. It can offer vital insights into factors that impact property owners of all ages, including healthcare and transportation. This information can be passed on to clients for more informed decision-making.

AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins stated, “One of our goals is to help people better understand their housing needs over a lifetime. Clearly, homebuyers and other movers can use more information to help them make choices that meet their needs.” Ms. Jenkins continued to say, We want to address the barriers that prevent people from living in their desired communities as they age and I know this relationship with NAR will help us better accomplish that goal.”

The announcement was made during the fully virtual 2020 Realtors® Conference & Expo. Bob Goldberg, CEO of the nation’s largest trade association, said, “Understanding and better assisting older Americans in their real estate transactions has been a priority of NAR for some time, and partnering with AARP is a continuation of that focus”.

Mr. Goldberg continued on to say, “Highlighting AARP’s Livability Index to Realtors® through the REALTORS Property Resource® will provide valuable insight to our members while positioning them to better safeguard and advise home and property buyers.”

Previous to the collaboration between the NAR and AARP was the NAR Seniors Real Estate Specialist® program. The Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) designation is for REALTORS® who want to be able to meet the special needs of maturing Americans when selling, buying, relocating, or refinancing residential or investment properties and complete in-depth training in a wide variety of topics specifically related to senior real estate, homebuyers and sellers over the age of 50.

“Realtors® are put through a rigorous course to earn their SRES® designation and upon completion they’re equipped with expertise on counseling senior clients through major financial and lifestyle transitions,” said Goldberg. “This collaboration with AARP will take Realtors’® efforts in serving older Americans to the next level.”

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Real Estate Associations

How do you react to housing discrimination? Learn from NAR’s new course

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) NAR’s new interactive training simulation confronts housing discrimination by putting agents in the shoes of homebuyers.

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Man sitting in a home with dog at his feet, subject to housing discrimination.

Would you know housing discrimination if you saw it?

Are you sure?

And what would you do about it?

If you’re a real estate agent, broker or Realtor, you’ve had a fair amount of training on fair housing laws. But discrimination can sometimes creep in in subtle ways – from which listings you offer a client to which clients you decide to work with to just an offhand remark about a neighborhood.

What if you’ve been part of the problem – and you didn’t even realize it?

Now you can test yourself while sharpening your understanding of housing discrimination to ensure you’re offering all clients a fair, equitable, and positive experience.

This week the National Association of Realtors (NAR) launched an online interactive training toolFairhaven.realtor – to let you do just that.

In the fictional town of Fairhaven, you work against the clock to close four different transactions that involve some kind of discrimination. You must choose how to respond, and those responses determine your journey through the simulations. Built-in feedback along the way illustrates how you could avoid the fair housing pitfalls in each situation.

To deepen the impact, the course puts you in the role of a client experiencing discrimination and pairs that with testimonials from real people whose lives have been impacted by it.

“Fairhaven uses the immersive power of storytelling to deliver powerful lessons that will help promote equity in our nation’s housing market,” said Charlie Oppler, CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, NAR’s incoming president for 2021. “NAR will continue our work to create innovative anti-discrimination training and to champion efforts that encourage diversity, fight racial bias and build more inclusive communities.”

The online platform is free to real estate professionals and doesn’t require NAR membership to use. NAR will also offer Fairhaven as a software package for brokerages and associations to incorporate into their learning management systems. It was developed in partnership with global professional services firm Ernst and Young.

Fairhaven.realtor is the latest resource offered to realtors as part of its Accountability, Culture Change and Training (ACT!) initiative designed to promote equal opportunity in real estate.

At the Nov. 19 Diversity and Inclusion virtual summit hosted by The Hill, Oppler offered a formal apology for the role realtors have played in the history of housing discrimination, including the practices of redlining and blockbusting.

“We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past, but we can look at this problem squarely in the eye,” Oppler said. “And, on behalf of our industry, we can say that what Realtors did was shameful, and we are sorry.”

Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of fair housing policy, discussed the effects of housing discrimination, including creating disparities in wealth. Discrimination denied Black families the same opportunities to build wealth through home ownership, Greene said, adding that white Americans own 10 times the wealth of African-Americans.

“Realtors have an admittedly tough history,” Greene said. “But we have turned the corner and now have emerged as leaders on these important issues.”

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