Speaking of Real Estate
While a few U.S. Olympians in Sochi, Russia, are celebrating bringing home the gold, their real estate families back at home are making room on the mantle for their prestigious awards.
That seems to be a familiar storyline in Park City, Utah, where a number of members of the Park City Board of REALTORS® are watching as their sons, daughters, and brothers compete in the Winter Olympics. They’ve got a lot to be proud of: Two Olympians with real estate families in Park City have taken the top honor for their events, while a third isn’t coming home with a medal — but she landed in the history books.
Barry Van, GRI, AFR, BPOR
Keller Williams Park City Real Estate
Daughter: Lindsey Van
Lindsey’s Olympic results: Ranked 15th, Ski Jumping Women’s Normal Hill
Lindsey Van might not have had the greatest showing at her event on Feb. 11, but she can still claim victory. This was the first year ever that ski jumping — traditionally a male sport — was open to female competitors at the Olympics. And Lindsey was one of the trailblazers who helped to break the barrier.
A few years ago, she was one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought against the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. At the time, only men were allowed to compete in ski jumping events at the Olympics, and the plaintiffs argued that the policy was a violation of their rights. The lawsuit wasn’t successful, but the Olympics Committee announced in 2011 that a female ski jumping event on the normal hill would be hosted at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“I’m glad that it’s an event, but they still need to add the large hill and team event,” Lindsey’s father, Barry Van, says of the International Olympic Committee’s role in opening up ski jumping events to women at the Games. “Work’s not over.”
Still, he’s celebrating the accomplishment Lindsey made this year. He says he’s even used her status as an Olympian in some of his real estate marketing materials. Heck, maybe she could even use it to her own advantage in real estate. After all, she might have some skin in that game.
Lindsey is a licensed referral agent, having gotten her license in 2004, Barry says. “I sent my brother and daughter to real estate school so they could get their license, because this is important stuff you need to know,” he adds.
But does that mean she’s eyeing a future in real estate?
“Probably not, but who knows?” Barry says. “She keeps her license current.”
Steve and Blaze Kotsenburg
Summit Sotheby’s International Realty
Son, brother: Sage Kotsenburg
Sage’s Olympic results: Gold medalist, Men’s Snowboarding Slope-Style
Sage Kotsenburg took home the first gold medal of this year’s Winter Olympics, and his family couldn’t be more proud. His father, Steve, and brother, Blaze, both agents with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty in Park City, have been celebrating Sage’s win with their REALTOR® friends and family.
“It’s still crazy with all that has been going on since Sage won the gold medal — but a good crazy,” Steve says. “I think we’re still speechless and taking it all in.
“The REALTOR® community has been very supportive from here in Park City and all over the country,” he continues. “We have gotten emails from other REALTORS® from around the U.S. and celebrating with us. It’s amazing and means so much to us to hear from them, and also that they share this with us as a fellow REALTOR®.”
Sage’s brother, Blaze, says he was just excited to see Sage go to Sochi and represent the talents of his snowboarding community back home. “Park City is built around the skiing and snowboarding lifestyle, so it means a lot to the whole town that Sage brought the gold home for snowboarding,” he says.
Though both Steve and Blaze say they don’t know Sage to have any aspirations to enter the real estate world, they’re grateful for the positive impact his celebrity is having on their businesses.
“I think we have seen a little more action in leads after Sage won, and that probably has to do with the name recognition,” Blaze says. Steve agrees that Sage’s name has given his and Blaze’s real estate businesses some attention, but added that they had no plans to include Sage in their marketing plans.
“Sage is all about having fun and enjoying what he does,” Steve says. “Blaze and I are the same with our business: We enjoy and have fun with the many people we have met, and we focus on being honest and trustworthy and doing a good job for all our clients.”
Bill Ligety, GRI, CRS
Summit Sotheby’s International Realty
Son: Ted Ligety
Ted’s Olympics results: Gold medalist, Alpine Skiing Men’s Giant Slalom
Bill Ligety, an agent with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, was a little nervous for his son, Ted, as he set off for Sochi. Ted was a surprise winner of the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super Combined competition during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
“This year, there was a huge expectation that Ted would win at least one medal — and maybe three,” Bill says. “Ski racing is very unforgiving, and favorites often do not win.”
So when Ted pulled off winning the gold medal for the giant slalom competition in Sochi, Bill and his real estate family erupted in celebration.
“I am lucky to have many friends and supporters who have known Ted since he was born. My real estate associates got together the night Ted won for a party to watch the event on TV. The son of another associate in my office, Sage Kotsenburg, also won a gold medal in Sochi, so the town has plenty to celebrate.
I write this post on what is a “holiday” for many people: President’s Day. A three-day weekend, the most joyous of “holidays.” Meanwhile, my wife – who is now a REALTOR® in Chicago – is running around prepping for another day because three day holiday weekends only means an extra day to be with clients looking for homes in a market starving for inventory. She has realized what many a real estate pro already has known: There are no such things as holidays for REALTORS®.
This, after a marathon Saturday of showings where half the houses she saw sold by the end of the day, turned into a night of presenting four offers to her seller only for the elation to quickly wear off when said sellers realized they have no home to move into once their condo closes in two months. Let’s face it, the market realities today mean that the hours real estate professionals work may not be the hours they’d LIKE to work.
There’s lots of “work-life-balance” talk on the interwebs, but unplugging may be hard to do when you’re in a multiple-offer situation, or if you NEED to show that listing that just came up on your MLS radar. However, the time you DO have with your clients will prove to be the most valuable, and squeezing every bit out of time with them might mean a make-or-break deal. Some tips…
Audit Your Productivity Processes Now:
No other technology can position the client/agent team better in today’s hot market than mobile technology. How mobile are you? How mobile is your broker-tech, MLS, and forms technology? These entities are not created equally, and if you realize you’re working in the tech dark-ages, literally make it better, or carry contracts with you. Recognize that “being mobile,” actually means “being productive.” Know how to use DocuSign, Dotloop, zipForm or whatever your broker or MLS’s technology is that allows you to write offers on the fly. Dropbox and Evernote collaborations with clients may save your listing sanity. Sometimes having a MiFi hotspot and a laptop is all you need to be productive, whether your next office might be a Starbucks or the passenger seat of your car. The words, “I need to go back to my office to…” should never be enter into your lexicon.
Bonus: Brokers, make your next sales meeting a workshop, one in which your agents practice writing mobile contracts. For example, practice writing and sending forms to each other. Broadcast it live with about.me. Record it and throw it on your Youtube page. Your time is valuable too!
Make Your Orientation Customer-Specific, Rather Than You-Specific:
Ask your clients at the orientation about their real estate experiences so far, and find out what “a day in the life of their real estate search” looks like. Ask the same of attendees at your open house – you might not pick them up as buyers, but what you can glean from them could be eye-opening. Ask your prospects how “savvy” they are at the orientation. Re-education is inevitable, so do it here. Educate them on the market, not you.
Train them: Once prospects become clients, train them. Get them familiar with YOUR processes and techniques; especially those that put them in a favorable position come offer-time. Train them on all of your processes; this is when their savvy meets yours. Train them on how to use Docusign/Dotloop/zipForms/etc. at the orientation. Set expectations. What’s cool is that many real estate consumers have spent a TON of time searching and gathering information – you know, doing real estate stuff. They know how hot the market is by now and they want to keep busy being pro-active, so give them something to learn.
Google the listing: This seems to go without saying but I’m constantly amazed at how many of my clients used to focus on only what they chose to focus on when it came to listings, until it hit me: The agent perspective is always MLS-centric, while our clients tend to be Google-centric. Google together. Anticipate pain points by Google’ing the homes in your next home tour, or with a seller’s home. Do it live at the orientation, with your prospect’s favorite house. Launch your MLS and perform a live comp with your prospective seller to demystify the MLS and answer, once and for all, why the “five bedroom, three bath McMansion four miles away that sold three years ago, doesn’t make a difference in the market value of your two bedroom bungalow, Mr. Seller.” Your goal is to get your clients to be decisive, to anticipate the market with you and to get them to realize that what they’re seeing online is mix of advertising and yesterday’s new listings.
Bonus: Make all of this content for your website. Checklists, how-to videos, a glossary of real estate terms, market updates, your value proposition, all should be there. There is – literally – a website called “Let me Google This For You,” which you could use to record how to properly Google something. Make your website first contact, pre-meeting homework. That prospect who emails you to cancel their appointment because they “didn’t realize what they were getting into,” just saved you a couple hours of wasted time. “No problem! Stay tuned to my website for more updates and I’ll check in with you in a couple weeks!” Education and awareness content is your new lead-generation. Speaking of which…
Marketing and Lead-Generation:
Start talking to sellers. “How’s the market?” The one question every real estate professional gets but none seem to answer. The one reason why the Zestimate is the most compelling and polarizing number in real estate. One could (and should) be addressing this with their marketing to address widespread lack of inventory issues, but the crazier the market gets, the farther on the back-burner marketing seems to get pushed, and that needs to stop. Get in the habit of taking 15 minutes each week to answer the “How’s the market?” question. Use your MLS and association’s monthly market updates on your website. Knock it off with the “I’m at my association, learning about the 2014 economy, yay!” Facebook selfies and instead distill what you learn for your Facebook friends. Prove, day in and day out, that you are a market expert. Your clients and Google, for that matter, will love you for it, and your funnel will be filled for your next business cycle.
Bonus: When I was an agent, Thursday was my “MLS and association day.” I dug into my MLS data and pulled the top 10 hottest markets, neighborhoods, zip codes – even home-types sold – and with it I honed my market expertise and got into the habit of downloading association videos and market reports to find marketable data. Integrate the same mindset into your business! Throw the data up against history and spot trends, then write about it on your site or share what surprised you on social media. Focus your marketing on these and their outlying carry-over markets. Hosting an open house Saturday or Sunday? Pull up that same report but make it more centric to that home’s neighborhood or market. Save reports to your Dropbox to email to prospects at the open. As a friend of mine once put it: “Earn trust, get traffic.” Gain mind-share now for market-share later.
Whatever you do with these and other tips, get into a rhythm of business. Get your clients and prospects into the act to set expectations and get them into the rhythm as well – whether they’re tapping into your savvy, your processes, your marketing, or your expertise. Make every bit of that time with them worthwhile. Your sanity just might thank you for it.
NAR President Steve Brown in a meeting yesterday with new Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt shared REALTORS®’ concern over the continued availability of safe and affordable mortgage financing and thanked the director for postponing a decrease in the size of loans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can back. Watt also postponed an increase in the guarantee fees the companies charge lenders, a position NAR shares.
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“Director Watt listened carefully to our concerns and took the prudent step of delaying any changes to loan limits and the guarantee fees,” Brown said after the meeting.
NAR supported the nomination of Watt, a former U.S. representative from North Carolina who was a senior member of the House Committee on Financial Services. It was Watt’s first meeting with a professional trade group since his confirmation.
“Based on our very productive meeting, it’s clear Director Watt understands the crucial role of residential real estate to the economy,” Brown said. “We are eager to work with him and promised to keep him apprised of what our members are seeing in markets across the country.”
Brown talks about his meeting in the video above.
The IRS has made it easier for you to claim your home office deduction and it has increased the amount of deduction you can take for driving people to and from listings in your car. These are two of the changes that can help you save money as you prepare to file your 2013 taxes.
If you’re in a higher-income bracket, there are some additional changes you need to be aware of. Here’s a look at six changes that can affect how you prepare your taxes this year.
Simplified home office deduction
The IRS is giving you a choice in how you determine the deduction for your home office. You can calculate your deduction the way you always have, by determining the square footage of your office space, then apportioning other costs, like electricity, heating, and depreciation, based on your square footage amount. Or you can use the IRS’s new simplified method, under which you take a straight $5 per square foot deduction, up to 300 square feet, for a potential maximum deduction of $1,500.
Which method should you use? Peter Baker, a CPA based in Washington, D.C., whose client base includes many real estate brokers and sales associates, says you should run your numbers both ways and apply the calculation that’s most advantageous to you. “This method is electable on a year-by-year basis,” says Baker.
Increased mileage deduction
The IRS changes how much you can deduct for business mileage each year, based in part on whether gas prices are heading up or down. For your 2013 filing, the per-mileage rate has been increased a penny to 56.5 cents, from 55.5 cents, per mile. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but Baker points out that for every 10,000 miles you drive, that’s an additional $100 in deductions. As a real esate practitioner, you no doubt spend a lot of time in your car and those miles can add up quickly.
New bracket for higher-income households
If you’ve had a successful 2013—so successful, in fact, that you find yourself in the highest tax bracket—be prepared to pay more than you did last year. That’s because in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2011, Congress created a 39.5 percent bracket for taxpayers whose adjusted income is $400,000 for a single filer or $450,000 for joint filers. Last year, the highest tax bracket was 35 percent, so the increase is significant. “The good news is that, for 98 percent of taxpayers, the Bush-era tax cuts were made permanent,” says Baker. Under the Bush-era tax structure, there are six brackets, of 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent. The law adds the 39.5 percent as a seventh bracket to that.
3.8 percent net investment tax kicks in
In a new tax that you might already be familar with, in part because it’s received so much attention in the media, is the new 3.8 percent tax on net investment income, which takes effect for your 2013 filing. The tax was enacted as part of the big health insurance reform law passed in 2010 and rumors have swirled around on the Internet and elsewhere since then that the tax amounts to a transfer tax on real estate, but although a small percentage of some home sales can trigger the need to see if you meet the tax threshold, it is not a real estate transfer tax.
Under the tax, households with adjusted gross income of $200,000 for a single filer or $250,000 for joint filers are potentially subject to the tax if they have a certain level of investment income. Calculating the tax can be complicated and is best done with the assistance of a professional tax advisor, but, in short, if your income meets the threshold level and, on top of that, you have non-earned, or investment, income, including net rents and capital gains (including from the sale of a principal residence), you need to do a series of calculations to see if you owe anything under this new tax.
On a positive note, with the sale of a principal residence, you have the added factor of the $250,000 to $500,000 capital gains exclusion, which is key in determining whether the tax would apply to you. Briefly, if you sold your house for a gain of more than $500,000 (that’s gain, not sales amount), then you automatically deduct the $500,000 capital gains exclusion from your gain ($250,000 for a single filer). That means if your gain was, say, $530,000, only $30,000 is considered investment income under the tax.
There are other factors to be considered, but when all is said and done, how much tax you owe, if any, is based on how much net investment income you have compared to your adjusted gross income threshold. You apply the tax to whichever is less, your investment income or your income threshold. So, if your adjusted income threshold is $250,000 and your net investment income is, say, $30,000, you apply the 3.8 percent tax to the $30,000, whch would one out to around $950 in tax.
0.9 percent Medicare tax
The health reform law also created a 0.9 percent Medicare tax, also known as the “additional Medicare tax,” because it sits on top of the existing 2.9 percent Medicare tax, which applies to your wages, compensation, or self-employment income. The additional tax is based on a threshold amount for your filing status, generally $200,000 for a single filer and $250,000 for joint filers. Thus, if your income is at that threshold, your Medicare tax is raised to 3.8 percent, not to be confused with the 3.8 percent net investment income tax.
Individual mandate penalty
Another important change concerns the year 2014 but not your 2013 tax filing, and that’s the fee the federal government will impose on you if you don’t have health insurance by March 31 of this year, which is the end of what’s known as the open enrollment period. The penalty is $95 per uninsured person in your household (half that amount for each uninsured dependent, up to three dependents), capped at 1 percent of your household income.
Not any insurance will do. It has to be insurance that meets the law’s requirements, generally what’s known as a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum plan. These plans differ in their cost and the deductible amounts and other matters but they’re all considered major medical plans that meet the law’s requirements.
The IRS is the federal agency charged with enforcing the health insurance requirement, so although the insurance requirement doesn’t pertain to your 2013 tax filing per se, you want to be aware of the March 31 deadline.
You can learn more about all of these tax issues in the pair of REALTOR® Magazine videos above with Peter Baker, CPA, a Washington, D.C.-based accountant, and Evan Liddiard, NAR’s senior policy representative for tax policy.
More on the 3.8 percent net investment tax is discussed in other REALTOR® magazine videos:
We thought we’d seen it all when we caught wind of a peculiar marketing tactic to let potential home buyers spend the night in a house before making an offer. But, of course, things can always go a step further.
At luxury communities in Park City, Utah, a sleepover isn’t going to cut it. Instead, house hunters can vacation there before deciding whether to buy a property.
Resorts West, a company that manages high-end, ski-in/ski-out winter vacation-home enclaves, has a program that allows potential buyers to shack up for a minimum of three to seven nights in one of its exclusive properties before agreeing to purchase. Resorts West has a range of homes for sale, starting with a $1,089,000 two-bedroom condo and sliding up the slope to a $16 million eight-bedroom juggernaut with a stadium-seat theater and slope-side hot tub.
Rates to stay in these homes start at $677 a night for the condo and go up to $12,000 a night for its priciest property, known as Red Cloud Estate. Oh, and that includes the full suite of Resorts West services: daily housekeeping, complimentary shuttle service, and a private concierge. Tracie Heffernan, Resorts West’s communications director, says buyers can negotiate longer stays — a month or more — at higher rates.
“These properties are ski vacation homes that owners use a few times a year and otherwise rent to other vacationers,” Heffernan says. “Sellers do not have to commit to a certain time away [to allow buyers an opportunity to stay], but these properties are not full-time residences.”
Resorts West is also a rental company, and some of their clients are high-net-worth home owners who choose to keep their homes in the company’s rental database when they are away during the off season.
“We manage a small, hand-selected inventory of individually owned luxury properties, and renting these homes to skiers is our primary business,” Heffernan says. “Because we offer higher levels of service and set higher rates than other property managers in town, we do not have the high-occupancy mindset of some property managers. And since we target guests who are also often interested in real estate, owners see the value in keeping their homes in our rental inventory. We particularly find value in attracting a potential buyer who also sees the advantages of keeping a home in the rental inventory. We work with many homeowners whose properties are not on the market.”
In a statement, Resorts West points to recent data from the Park City Board of REALTORS®, which shows strong growth in housing demand in the area, as a sign that “vacation-to-rent” marketing can be successful. According to PCBR, total home sales in Park City in 2013 were up 22 percent from the previous year, and sales were up year-over-year for every month.
Resorts West Broker Jeff Spencer, a past president of PCBR, says that letting potential buyers experience a vacation at a home they’re interested in gives them a unique perspective on how they would use the home if it were their own — and it helps both buyers and sellers with a transaction.
“It’s really a rare opportunity for buyers to get a feel for the home they want, and sellers have a chance to show off the nuances of a property in a way that you just can’t in a walk-through,” Spencer says. “How do you show off the view at sunset from the front deck? Oftentimes, a photo doesn’t do the experience justice.”
Philadelphia has the ninth largest municipal economy in the world, by some measures, but despite its size, it’s struggling with budget matters like many major cities. Among other things, it has some 40,000 buildings and 10,000 lots that are vacant and off the taxpayer rolls.
In the past year or so, the Greater Philadelphia Association of REALTORS® (GPAR) has tried to step up with concrete proposals to help the city improve its financial picture, and by extension the quality of life in the city, exemplifying what NAR’s “Power of R” campaign is all about.
If you’re not familiar with “The Power of R” (or #PowerofR for tweeting purposes), it’s a campaign that NAR launched a few months ago to show how REALTORS® use their expertise in real estate and knowledge of their community to help bring about positive change that benefits everyone.
In Philadelphia, the association worked with other organizations on a proposal for a land bank, which brings in a single entity to handle the sale of the city’s 50,000 vacant properties. The idea is to let this entity evaluate at each property and get it back onto the market in the best way possible, maximizing the return to the city but also improving the value of the property and the surrounding area.
The association has a number of other ideas it’s discussing with city officials, including one to help the city sell some two dozen schools that were closed last year. Depending on factors that real estate professionals are well-suited to determine, the city would sell each school based on its highest and best use. That might be as a new hall for one of the city’s many world-class universities or as a condo development or as something else. The point is that determining what that best use is is something REALTORS® know a lot about, and so by leveraging their expertise, the city can benefit itself and the market.
Taken together, the association’s many proposals are exactly what the “Power of R” campaign is all about: it’s REALTORS® using their expertise to improve their community for everyone’s benefit. In the 5-minute video above, GPAR President Allan Domb talks about his association’s ideas for helping Philadelphia leverage its assets. There might be ideas there to take back to your association.
With the 56th Annual Grammy Awards coming up on Sunday, we’re all reminiscing about some of the classic hits over the decades. Coldwell Banker Real Estate has one in mind: Mötley Crüe’s anthem “Home Sweet Home.” It’s the perfect blend of everything that makes music great along with a message of the importance of home. And that makes it the perfect soundtrack to Coldwell Banker’s latest advertising campaign.
The real estate giant will air its “Home Sweet Home” commercial during Sunday’s Grammys telecast, the second year in a row Coldwell Banker has chosen the coveted nationally televised awards ceremony as the launching pad for its campaigns. The commercial features vignettes of all those little moments of joy after arriving home from a long day — kicking off your shoes, falling into the couch, sinking into the tub — as Mötley Crüe’s hit wails in the background.
“Music and home certainly go together, no matter where you are in the world, and we believe we have found the appropriate major events to showcase the emotional value we place in our homes,” says Sean Blankenship, Coldwell Banker’s senior vice president of marketing. “We felt the words and energy of ‘Home Sweet Home’ matched the emotional attachment people have with their homes.”
The commercial will coincide with Coldwell Banker’s social media hashtag campaign, appropriately called #HomeRocks. Coldwell Banker is planning to launch a second ad campaign called “Your Home,” which will mark the third campaign in which the company has used the voice of actor Tom Selleck, during the telecast of the Academy Awards on March 2.
“The Grammys and Academy Awards give us a unique opportunity to speak to millions of Americans with a brand message that lays the groundwork for continued dialogue with Coldwell Banker sales professionals,” Blankenship says. “Those local, one-on-one conversations are critical because that’s where consumers can learn about the positive changes that have occurred in their housing markets.”
The excitement around drones is increasing and for good reason: the technology is steadily getting to the point where commercial applications are increasingly possible, including for use in marketing real estate. Being able to hoist a camera on a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, has the potential to be a cost-effective way to get dramatic shots of property you have listed for sale, particularly for large, high-end homes or big expanses of land.
But while the technology is falling into place, a lot still needs to be done on the regulatory side, because drones present very real and very difficult issues, including safety and privacy issues. The safety issues are clear: people operating drones have to be trained and systems have to be built to help protect people nearby should something go wrong. On privacy, a regulatory system has to be in place to help reduce the chance of drones being used to take unauthorized photos and video.
Along with these two concerns is the bigger national security concern, since a weaponized drone is a danger of national importance.
The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of developing rules that would address these three concerns. It’s working against a timeline by Congress to have something ready by next year, although with a matter like drones, it’s important for the FAA to get it right and not just get it in a hurry.
As it is, drone use by hobbyists is already allowed, although there are strict limits to what constitutes hobbyist use. How high a drone goes up is one of the criteria for determining whether a use is hobbyist or not. For non-hobbyist use, the FAA authorizes drones for research, public safety, and, to a more limited extent, commercial use, but all of these uses are approved on a case-by-case basis. The rules that FAA is developing are intended to give commercial and other drone uses more clear-cut guidelines for what’s okay, a different approach than today’s restricted case-by-case approval system.
To fill you in a bit more on what’s happening with drones and where they might fit in with real estate once the FAA comes out with its rules, REALTOR® Magazine sat down for a video interview with NAR Government Affairs to learn about the rules and the timeline. The video is four minutes long.
The bottom line is, the regulatory environment hasn’t yet caught up with advances in drone technology, so as of right now, drone use outside of hobbyist use is limited. But it makes sense to start familiarizing yourself with the potential for drones in your business so when wider commercial use gets the green light, you’ll know whether drones has a place in your business model.
By Melanie Wyne, NAR Government Affairs
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia yesterday ruled that key elements of the Federal Communications Commissions’ 2010 Open Internet Order are invalid. The order, which sets forth what are known as network neutrality rules, prohibited Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T from discriminating in the network services they deliver to content providers.
By tossing out the rules, ISPs are free to charge content companies higher fees to deliver Internet traffic faster or in an otherwise more efficient way. This has potential implications for the real estate industry, since real estate companies and other industry providers act as content providers through the websites.
It remains to be seen what the response to this decision will be. The FCC may appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. If it does, this additional litigation could delay the effects of the ruling. It is also possible that the FCC could reclassify broadband service as a common carrier, thereby bringing ISPs deeper within their regulatory authority.
The business of real estate is increasingly conducted online. Streaming video, virtual tours, and voice-over-internet-protocols are just some of the technologies that are commonly used by REALTORS®. What’s more, new technologies will be adopted which are likely to require unencumbered network access. For this reason, NAR supports network neutrality and thus is looking carefully into the decision to toss out the rules. We will work with the FCC and Congress to ensure the Internet remains free and open.
As a real estate practitioner, does it matter whether you put your money into a bank or a credit union or whether you take out a loan with one but not the other? In the third of our monthly video series called Your Money Matters, Victoria Gillespie of REALTORS® Federal Credit Union, a division of Northwest Federal Credit Union, says it does matter, because credit unions are cooperatives owned by their account-holders, so profits get channeled back to account holders in the form of better terms, higher yields, and lower fees. Gillespie is REALTORS® FCU’s director of Business Development.
To be sure, the only way to know what’s best for you is to shop around. You want to see what’s available in terms of yield on your savings or other accounts, the attractiveness of the loan terms, and so forth. Gillespie thinks credit unions in general and REALTORS® FCU in particular will compare favorably in any shopping test. She points to a savings account yield at her credit union that was five times higher than at national banks when she shopped rates and terms at the end of last year.
But REALTORS® FCU has a few other advantages, she thinks, and that includes easy accessibility of your funds. Through partnerships with other financial institutions, the company offers 33,000 fee-free ATMs and a shared-branch network with more than 5,000 offices. It also tries to be user-friendly by maintaining a 24-7 customer support line, something it makes a point to do because of the unpredictable hours real estate agents work.
Again, you can only know what’s best for you by shopping around. As a start, spend a few minutes with the third in our Your Money Matters financial planning series and hear what Gillespie has to say about REALTORS® FCU. Next month we’ll be looking ideas for approaching your 2014 financial planning.
LAS VEGAS — It was all about the “Internet of Things” at the 2014 International Consumer Electronic Show, which wrapped up last week in Las Vegas. More than 3,000 exhibitors showed off the latest gadgets and offered a peek into technology’s future – everything from curved-screen technology to driverless cars, smarter light bulbs, and wearable tech.
One theme that quickly emerged from this year: Your smartphone is going to increasingly become your remote-control to managing your life and your home.
Smartphones are getting smarter, allowing you to take control over everything from your home’s lighting, cars, and even allowing you to send text messages to your refrigerator to see what groceries you need.
This year’s show offered plenty of applications for your real estate business. Here’s a rundown from CES, and some of our picks for emerging technology trends.
Favorite technology debut: Curved-screens
Curved-screens got a lot of people talking at CES this year, and the technology earned several industry awards for innovation. These sleek, curved screens were not only sharpening the picture of once flat-screen televisions, but smartphones were also getting curvier. The LG G Flex Smartphone has a curved 6-inch, high-definition screen that curves inward. You can even bend the phone slightly without cracking the screen. The curved screen offers ergonomic comfort that follows the contours of your face, as well as better voice and sound because of the curved design. Apple is reportedly exploring curved screens as well.
Best prototype: Driverless cars
A car that drives itself? It may sound science fiction, but the technology is real and already being tested worldwide. BMW showed off a 2-series Coupe and 6-series Gran Coupe that can drive itself. The cars can make lane changes, maneuver corners, and brake when needed – without a driver having to do anything. Several other automobile manufacturers touted self-driving prototypes that they are testing too.
At CES, Valeo showed off a demonstration of its Park4U valet feature. With a swipe of a smartphone, the car can park itself – and you don’t even have to be inside. It also can come get you when you’re ready to leave.
The implications for real estate could be huge: You could free up your time while in your car, allowing you more time to interact with your clients while you travel to showings. You’ll be able to take your eyes off the road and keep your eyes on the client. Completely driverless cars may only be 7 to 10 years away from being available to the public, according to Bosch, a global automaker supplier. (Read more: Future Paved for Driverless Cars?)
Biggest buzzword: Wearables
Wearable tech was everywhere at CES 2014. Most of the attention on wearables centered around monitoring fitness and health habits. But there were also plenty of debuts of smartwatches aimed at keeping you more connected from your wrist. Most of these devices will notify you about e-mails, text messages, calls, and calendar events.
And the look of wearable tech has gotten more sophisticated and less bulky too. For example, Pebble launched Pebble Steel, a polished steel smartwatch that can have a leather or metal strap. You can connect the apps from your iOS and Android device so that you can access everything from weather and news updates to your social media accounts, calendar, e-mails, maps, and even operate your car locks from your watch.
Intel debuted another form of wearable – a prototype named Jarvis. It’s a Bluetooth headset that wraps around the back of your ear that can be paired with a smartphone app to remotely interact with your phone. The voice-controlled personal assistant operates similar to Apple’s Siri but it’s all done from a headset. You can ask for directions or nearby restaurants, for example, and it’ll talk back to you.
Best problem-solving tech: Discreet Chargers
Keeping your devices fully charged is critical for a real estate professional. Smartphone and tablet cases are being amped up with extra battery life to help you avoid power drains, and there were several products featured at CES for helping you stay charged. The options are a lot more convenient and less bulky, too.
For example, Mota featured an extended battery case that fits your smartphone and can double its battery life without adding any extra bulk. The cases are available for several devices.
Some tech companies are looking for ways to keep your gear charged that don’t require any plugs or extra cases. For example, Intel’s gadget charging bowl generated some buzz at CES. The idea is that you’d be able to drop your phone, tablet, headsets, ultrabooks into a big bowl that will then automatically charge your devices. Intel debuted a 10-inch in diameter charging bowl for just smart headsets, but the company says it plans to create a charging bowl for more devices in the future that allows you to charge multiple devices simultaneously by just tossing them in a bowl, like a pair of keys you’d throw in a basket.
Another product in the works for staying charged: A transparent solar panel screen that attaches over the screen of your smartphone. Alcatel’s Solar Panel Display allows you to charge your device by just placing it in the sun. The device was only on demo at CES, so you’ll likely have to wait until 2015 for solar-charging smartphone screens.
Looking toward harnessing the sun to power up devices seemed to be a trend among some companies at CES. Ford Motor Co.’s showed off its C-MAX Solar Energi Concept vehicle that contained a solar power sunroof for charging the car’s battery.
Read More From CES 2014:
NAR has been working with federal regulators since Congress in 2010 passed massive banking reform legislation, part of which created the qualified mortgage and qualified residential mortgage rules. Today is an important day in the timeline of those rules, because today is the day the qualified mortgage (QM) rule takes effect, and NAR has told regulators it will be watching to see what impact the rules have on mortgage availability.
“I promise you that REALTORS® will be your boots on the ground,” NAR President-elect Chris Polychron told the federal government’s main QM rule-writer, Richard Cordray, earlier this week. Cordray is the director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPB), which was created as part of the same law that created QM and the qualified residential mortgage (QRM) rules.
Under QM, lenders are required to make sure borrowers have a reasonable ability to repay before they can make what’s known as a qualified mortgage. A qualified mortgage represents what CFPB views as a safe mortgage, and thus a mortgage that is expected to cost borrowers less, because the risk is less to lenders. How CFPB defines the “ability to repay” includes a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 43 percent. Also, while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in conservatorship, their conforming loans are considered qualified. Also, loans by small community banks that meet certain criteria are considered qualified, as are FHA, VA and Rural Housing Service (RHS) loans.
In short, the universe of qualified mortgages isn’t particularly large right now, because Fannie, Freddie, FHA, and other federally backed loans make up the vast majority of loans originated today. But the qualified standard is nevertheless important because it defines what a safe mortgage is and what it will be in the future.
As of today, the QM rule is in effect. Will we see much change in mortgage underwriting practices as a result? It’s too soon to say, but lenders have been aware of the rules’ standard for some time now and have been operating with them in mind since CFPB proposed them a year ago. For that reason, lenders to an extent have already built the standards into their operations, so how much practices will change starting today is hard to know.
For the most part, NAR is okay with the QM rule. It fought hard to keep a minimum down payment requirement out of the rule, and on that score, the association won, as did the dozens of other consumer and industry groups that fought alongside it in a coalition. But NAR still has concerns over a part of the rule that limits points and fees to 3 percent for loans provided by lenders with affiliated businesses, such as title businesses. NAR continues to talk with CFPB on whether such a limit makes sense from both a fairness and a business standpoint. For its part, CFPB has said it will be monitoring the impact of that limitation along with others parts of the rule.
So, QM is now in effect. It’s time to see what the impact will be. In the 3-minute video above, CFPB Director Cordray asks NAR to help it monitor the impact of the rule and NAR President-elect Chris Polychron assured Cordray the association will. Also in the video, Cordray outlines the criteria for a qualified mortgage as set forth in the rule.