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Legislation

October CAR Conference AND Expo Wrap-Up

By | California Association of Realtors, Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors

Good day MAR Members!

Let’s Go Giants! Let’s Go Giants!

It’s hard to believe that this will all be over soon…hopefully with a big parade on Market Street. The Giants’ amazing run continues, and as far as I can tell many of you MAR Members have been at the World Series games…at least that’s what Facebook is telling me. MAR Member Robert Bradley was even mis-identified as the “Marlin Guy” on TV…nice suit, Rob!

Also this weekend, I’ve got to give another shout out to the Utah Utes football team, with a rousing come-from-behind win over USC with 6 seconds remaining. My USC Trojan wife Heather was not as amused, but the four member MAR/Utah cheering section is very pleased this week. All four of us.

OCTOBER CAR CONFERENCE AND EXPO WRAP-UP

This week it’s a short recap on the last of the CAR stuff. First of all, after all of my reporting the past couple of weeks about the Millennials and their delayed home buying patterns, CAR issued a press release and published a Webinar about this generation and their attitudes about homeownership. The highlight seems to be that this generation still believes in homeownership, with 54% rating homeownership as an “8” or higher on a 1-10 scale about the importance of homeownership.

But enough with the Millennials, already!

As always, one of the highlights of the conference is CAR Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young’s forecast for the coming year. I shared a couple of the most important highlights a couple of weeks ago, which is that CAR expects total home sales to increase by 5.8% in 2015, and also that the median price is projected to increase by 5.2 % in 2015.

The whole presentation is finally available online here, and it’s worth a quick review…well, as quick as you can review a 128 slide PowerPoint presentation. All of your economic questions should be answered here!

Since we are at the end of a 2-year legislative cycle, the most recent round of advocacy for our members has concluded in Sacramento. Much of what we worked on were a list of priorities for 2015 and beyond. Here are some of the highlights:

-The CAR Board of Directors voted to adopt a “FOR” position on California Proposition 1 on the November ballot, which is the Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2014. All other state ballot initiatives were deemed “Not Real Estate Related”.

-The “Split Roll” Task force released its report and recommendations. “Split Roll” refers to Proposition 13, and the question of whether residential and commercial property tax rules be “split” and taxed with different policies. The Task Force recommended the following:

1. That CAR continue to oppose measures that would impose a split roll property tax system. To that end, a “tool box” should be established on CAR’s website with information with which to combat attempts at the local level to establish a statewide split roll.

2. That CAR support measures that provide that when there is a substantial change in ownership interests if (a) real property or (b) a company owning real property that the property be reassessed.

The CAR Board of Directors voted to adopt these two policies.

-The Taxation and Government Finance Committee had the following action item:

That CAR “SPONSOR” legislation requiring that all property owners be notified when a proposed parcel tax is going to be voted on.

The genesis of this position is based upon the fact that if you’re an out-of-town owner and thus don’t vote in a particular area, currently you often do not know if a parcel tax is on the ballot. You deserve to know. The CAR Board of Directors voted to adopt this position.

We voted on lots of other things like starting working groups about various issues, plus a number of broker compliance items, but I’ll categorize those as “inside baseball” with real action items to come in the future.

Other odds and ends from CAR:

-In an economic session I attended, Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics was asked if the current real estate “run” was over? His answer, notwithstanding that sales were down in 2014, was that he sees a “whole new wave” of buyers and sales. Mortgage financing is expected to be made more available and accessible to potential buyers in the coming years, and those people will buy homes. The iron fist of mortgage lending is expected to loosen up.

-In this same session, both Thornberg and Richard Green, Professor and Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, agreed that our much-loved Proposition 13 both keeps home prices higher and also makes it harder to move. People with a low property tax base are reluctant to move and give that up. I can relate to that, having bought my house in 1996…moving to a house that is the same price today would result in a 150% increase in my property taxes. I’m hardly alone, and people like me who don’t want to move constrain the supply of homes on the market. When you combine this with the fact that most everyone has refinanced into a super-low-rate 30-year mortgage, it’s understandable why we have constrained supply.

-Baby boomers are also delaying retirement, partially because their interest rates are so low why would they sell and downsize into something with a higher rate?

-Everyone throughout the week expected the current low interest rates to be around for a while to come. They may go up a bit, but no quantum leaps are expected.

-Thornberg also expects more and more banks to hold mortgages rather than sell to Fannie and Freddie: “Where there is a profit there is a way.”

-No one sees a return to sub-prime lending practices like we saw in the middle of the last decade. Green had previously been in favor of those policies to increase accessibility of loans, but everyone got bitten last time and thus there is no will for that type of financing…regardless of how much money there might be.

-Finally, in a breath of fresh air that hopefully our legislators in Sacramento will adopt (not likely): The CAR Affordable Housing Task Force determined that any policy on this subject is “not a project that can be implemented at a state level.” Affordable housing challenges and policies are different throughout the state, and need to be addressed at a local level. So chalk one up for CAR supporting local control. Hopefully we can get that message across in Sacramento that one-size-fits-all housing policy is simply not practical in California.

I think that’s enough for this week, and with that I’ll close the book on the 2014 Fall C.A.R. Business meetings. Next week, back to local stuff!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 President

Realtor Safety and Housing Density AB-1537 Signed Into Law

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

Now that’s more like it! I’ve got to say, I love the heat. But I don’t love the humidity. This has been a voodoo freaky summer here in Marin…sticky, sweaty, muggy. Finally, we’ve had some of that beautiful, humidity-free fall weather. In years past, I might be taking it for granted, but not this year. I’ve been enjoying every toasty moment. Keep it coming!

And let me get this out of the way right out front: LET’S GO GIANTS!! What a sports weekend, Giants, 49ers. Big win for Cal, sad loss for Stanford. Oh, and let’s not forget Utah’s stirring win over #8 UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. Sorry Kate Hamilton and all the rest of you Bruin fans (my sister included…).

REALTOR® SAFETY

With those light-hearted thoughts out of the way, time to get serious. We just finished up NAR’s REALTOR® Safety Month. So much has been said about the tragic death of REALTOR® colleague Beverly Carter. Horrible, horrible, horrible. This could have been any of us.

The news has hit all of us like a ton of bricks. Last week, it was the talk of our industry. Out on tour, in office meetings, in conversations with loved ones, friends and clients.

On Wednesday, I was previewing a listing of MAR member Beth Brody’s in Mill Valley. She was telling a story from years ago of an incident in Muir Beach where something just didn’t seem right with a supposed buyer. She reported the incident to the police, and a week later got a call from the FBI about REALTOR® murder in Sacramento with a description matching the guy she had reported. We think we’re all very safe here in beautiful Marin, but it happens here too.

As our sales meeting last week, the topic was REALTOR® safety. I reminded everyone that we have a local Marin emergency number that is quicker and better than 911…it’s 415-472-0911. You should definitely put that in your cell phone.

And as an industry, we need to SLOW THINGS DOWN sometimes. Showing homes to people we’ve not met, at empty houses, is simply a bad business practice. There is a tremendous amount of pressure being created by the so-called “on demand” society. At the Inman conference in SF earlier this summer, the founder of a large internet-based broker (one with a color in its name) was smugly boasting about how his business model is simply accommodating a need and expectation by the buyer community for “on demand” showing of real estate. Telling us that if we don’t do it, someone else will. There were a number of his agents at various breakout sessions throughout the day, each telling stories of “out-on-demanding” traditional REALTORS®.

I don’t see this changing anytime soon. There is tremendous competitive pressure to convert leads, often from buyers who want to look at a house right now/in an hour/sometime this morning. Particularly if you’re a new agent or an experienced agent trying to jumpstart your business…the expectation has been created, and if you don’t do it someone else will.

My advice: meet them at your office. These stories of incidents involving REALTORS® are not new, this one with Ms. Carter simply turned around so quickly and tragically it’s got all of our attention. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste…make a commitment to be careful! Here is the link to NAR’s REALTOR® Safety page HERE. Let’s take the attention of this tragedy with a new commitment to being safe.

REALTOR® SAFETY, PART II

Speaking of safety, MAR member Abby Tanem last week reported that she recognized a fake REALTOR® from several years ago who claims to be from Pacific Union’s Mill Valley office…but has no card. Abby remembered him, and called PU to confirm that no one by that name worked there. We all thought this guy was busted for theft a few years back, but he seems to have resurfaced. Please tell your clients to lock up valuables and medication…especially the kinds that lend themselves to abuse.

With that in mind, earlier this year I was approached by a local vendor who has a very affordable solution to medication theft…it’s something of a plastic “safe” with a combination lock. The safe isn’t really bullet-proof, but the form factor…about the size of a cookie jar…simply does not lend itself to popping into a pocket and walking out of the house like a small bottle of medication can. We’ve ordered a case of these for the MAR store, and should be in stock soon. They’re only $20, and will result in piece of mind for us and our clients.

HOUSING DENSITY, AB 1537

Yes! Last week, Governor Brown signed AB1537 into law, providing a huge victory for common sense and Marin’s Assemblyman Marc Levine. AB1537 lowers Marin’s default density for affordable housing projects from 30 to 20 units per acre, and correctly reclassifies Marin as Suburban rather than Metropolitan.

MAR worked quite a bit in advocacy of this bill. We were among the earliest groups to endorse the measure, and both MAR CEO Andy Fegley and myself testified before Assembly and Senate committees in Sacramento in favor of the bill.

It is the right bill, for the right time in Marin’s housing future. It is effective on January 1, 2015, and will run for eight years through a full housing planning cycle.

Congratulations to Assemblyman Levine and his team, along with Supervisor Kate Sears who also worked tirelessly on this bill’s passage.

Finally, thank you to over 100 REALTORS® who attended the Flood Summit at the Marin Country Club last Tuesday. It was a big hit, and lots of very detailed info was shared. The info didn’t really make me feel better, but it did make me feel much better informed. Thank you to sponsors Steve Strickland of JCP-LGS Disclosures, and Kristy Militello of First American Home Warranty, and also thank you to MAR Education Chair Mary Kay Yamamoto for their collective work on this useful event.

That’s it for now, I’m off to the fall CAR Business Meetings and EXPO in Orange County in the morning on a 6:30 AM flight. I and the MAR CAR Director team return on Saturday and we will likely have a couple of week’s worth of reports for you.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week. Be careful out there.

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

Flood Zone/Insurance Panel Discussion, Sewer Lateral and Housing Density Update

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Ross Valley Sanitary

Good day MAR members!

It’s great to be back home in Marin!  It’s always good to return after some time away, and just in time for our beautiful Indian Summer.

Speaking of Indian Summer, Labor Day typically means the start of our second busiest season for our real estate business here in Marin.  I’ve missed the last two weeks of broker tour, but I’m looking forward to having some new homes to show my buyers in the coming weeks.  I’ve been telling them that help is on the way.   Good selling, Marin Realtors!

FLOOD ZONE AND FLOOD INSURANCE PANEL DISCUSSION

The next big event we are planning at MAR is the September 30 “Everything you ever wanted to know about Marin flood zones and flood insurance” panel discussion.  Earlier this year, congress’ initial attempt at flood insurance “reform” was a disaster, with gigantic increases for many Marin properties, often without logical reason.  Congress rolled it back on their “fix-it” reform in early spring, but problems still abound.

I can attest to these difficulties.  One of my listings this summer was a San Rafael townhome where part of the complex is in the flood zone and about 60% isn’t.  I’ve sold in this complex before, and the convention was that units in the flood zone got their own flood insurance in the past.  Well, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac changed the lending rules, and now to get conventional Freddie and Fannie financing the entire complex must have a master flood policy.  Talk about “turning the battleship”!  The HOA simply has not wanted to deal with this reality, and as such the units in the complex that are in the flood zone cannot get regular financing…we needed to find a portfolio lender, and even that lender needed to make an exception.  We got it done, but with a lot of heartache.

During this process I learned that more change is coming next year, with FEMA re-writing the flood maps yet again, and the rumor I’ve been hearing is that they are going to raise the base flood elevation by one foot around the entire bay.  So the complex above with 60% of the units out of the flood zone will become entirely in the flood zone.  This will obviously affect many homes, condos and businesses throughout Marin.

During my townhome flood zone debacle, MAR member Steve Strickland of JCP Natural Hazard Disclosures was extremely helpful in educating me about the recent and upcoming changes.  I get calls and emails all the time about flood insurance difficulties by our members, and I figured it would be great to get everyone together to learn about what the heck is going on, and what’s coming.  I talked to Steve about the idea, and he has graciously led the planning process along with MAR Education Committee Chair Mary Kay Yamamoto.

The result is the September 30 meeting at the Marin Country Club.  We will have members of FEMA in to tell us what’s going on, and also to educate you on what’s coming.  Most of us don’t sell primarily in flood zones, so when we get a listing or get into escrow you try to become a quick expert.  But the triangulation between FEMA, your lender, and your insurance broker can be crazy and really can slow down a transaction.

The goal is to educate you so that you are armed with info you can reliably use in your next flood zone transaction.  Plus you’ll be able to educate your existing clients when they call to fret about flood insurance.

Check-in begins at 9:30am, with the program running from 10:00am-12:00pm.  The cost will be $15, which includes beverages and a light breakfast.  Watch your inbox for a link to sign-up.  Registration will open this Wednesday, September 10.  Spots are available for the first 100 members who sign-up.

SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

Another week, another update…

All is quiet at Ross Valley, as we got a 4-month delay on the implementation of their ordinance.

The action last week was in Mill Valley, where the City Council was scheduled to have its “first reading” of the draft ordinance from the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM).  SASM passed their draft ordinance over the summer, but each district under SASM needs to pass its own version of the ordinance.  SASM’s goal was to pass the same ordinance in each SASM district (Mill Valley, Richardson Bay, Homestead Valley, etc), so you don’t have different ordinances on different sides of the street in incorporated and unincorporated Mill Valley.

Well, the Mill Valley City Council heard an earful from many different constituents.  Members of the public who didn’t think it went far enough, along with members of our Real Estate community arguing many of the same issues we’ve been telling them all along.  Many thanks to MAR members like Stephanie Witt who attended and shared the real world perspective, and the reality that we’re already doing sewer lateral inspections.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley was also there, and he reiterated MAR’s opposition to sewer lateral point-of-sale inspections.

The end result was another delay at Mill Valley.  They didn’t have their “first reading” of the ordinance.  The council voted to table it for a month, so that the ordinance itself can get some modifications to suit some of the council’s concerns.

So much for having the same ordinance throughout the SASM area…looks like the issue of “different ordinances depending on which side of the street you live on” may well come true, depending on what changes Mill Valley decides to make to the ordinance.  Richardson Bay has already voted to adopt the SASM draft ordinance as written.

MAR will continue to strongly advocate on behalf of our members on these ordinances.

HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill, AB 1537, has passed the legislature, and continues to sit on Governor Brown’s desk for his signature or veto.  This is the bill that reduces the default density of housing developments in much of Marin from 30 units per acre to 20 units per acre, and correctly reclassifies Marin as “suburban” rather than “metropolitan” for planning purposes.   MAR has supported this bill since the beginning.   Assemblyman Levine’s office contacted MAR last week and asked us to reach out to the governor and re-affirm our support, and so last week MAR did just that and sent a letter to Governor Brown in support of the legislation.  MAR is hopeful that the governor will support the wishes of the people of Marin.  Stay tuned.

In other housing rumbles, the Marin County Board of Supervisors is once again working on its housing element for unincorporated Marin.  MAR is just getting up to speed on this years’ discussion, but it looks like the Board of Supervisors is advocating for many more units for the housing element than Sacramento is requiring.  This looks to be the next lively conversation in our community in the coming months, so keep your eye on this issue.  MAR will be doing the same.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

Sewer Laterals, AB-1537 Update and the MAR Flood Insurance Summit Meeting – MAR Monday Memo

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Ross Valley Sanitary

Good day MAR members!

Queue up KC and the Sunshine Band…”Shake shake shake…”

We were all reminded yesterday morning that we indeed do live in earthquake country.  “Honey…honey…honey…”  “Yes, I know, it’s an earthquake…!”  Having grown up in earthquake country, I instinctively leapt out of bed and stood in the doorway.  Heather stayed in bed.  The dog didn’t even lift her head off her bed…so I guess she grew up in earthquake country as well…”no biggie”.

In a strange way, these events make me feel alive…that the ground we walk on is alive right along with us.

I wasn’t around for the 5.0 Bolinas quake in 1999, I was working in the City in a high-rise and didn’t even feel it.  My neighbors in Cascade Canyon told me it shook quite a bit!  The last earthquake that rolled like this one, for me, was in June of 1992, with the 7.2 Landers earthquake, followed shortly after by the 6.5 Big Bear quake the same morning.  I slept through the Landers quake which was at 5AM, but clearly remember the 8AM Big Bear quake…which had me in the front doorway of my duplex unit in Hermosa Beach, watching street signs and telephone poles shake.  That one rolled for a long time, just like this one.

This is another good reminder to stock up on emergency supplies, and also to indulge our clients in their seismic retrofit discussions.  We dodged the “big one” again this time, but it’s always lurking in the shadows.  Be prepared!

Also this past week, it was with great sadness that on Friday I had to announce the passing of long-time MAR member and leader Karen Dahlin.  As the emails poured in, so many of you shared your memories of Karen, and how she had been so influential as a mentor and leader in our community.  Hers was a full life, giving back to her community and to her colleagues.  A lifetime of service.  A memorial service is planned for this Thursday, August 28th, at Keaton’s Redwood Chapel of Marin in Novato at 10:00am.  Again, MAR offers its sincere condolences to Karen’s family and loved ones.

THE NEW FALL SEASON

One last summer holiday this weekend for Labor Day!  I’m headed up to Portland for a “re-creation” of a party my fraternity used to throw annually…30 years ago.  The Gangster Party.  Did I go to school in Portland, you might ask?  Well, no, it’s just that one of our fraternity brothers offered to host the party at a brewery he owns in Vancouver WA, and no one could think of a reason to not take him up on it.  Still working on my costume; 30 years ago, “gangster” meant Al Capone/Untouchables prohibition-era gangster gear.  Now we’ve got Al Pachino “Scarface” gangsters, Tupak and Dr Dre LA “gangsta rap” gangsters, Robert Duvall/Sean Penn “Colors” East LA gangsters.  The list goes on and on.  Enjoy the last bit of summer, with MAR’s busy Indian Summer home selling season right around the corner.

SEPTEMBER 9TH MAR GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Once again, don’t forget that two weeks from tomorrow, on Tuesday September 9th, MAR will be hosting its next General Membership meeting at Embassy Suites.  Networking starts at 11:30, and the main program starts at noon.  Professor Robert Eyler will be our keynote speaker, giving an update on the North Bay and Marin economy and a forecast for the coming year.  It’s always a useful and informative presentation, with info that you can use in your business today.  We will also be having our annual election for the 2015 MAR leadership team and Board of Directors.  Click HERE to register. I hope to see you there, and remember that these meetings tend to sell out early so sign up today!

ROSS VALLEY SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

MAR’s leadership has been pressing the Ross Valley Sanitary District for clarity and process in the wake of RVSD’s planned rollout of its sewer lateral point-of-sale inspection requirement.  There are some very substantial grey areas, ambiguity and outright flaws in the ordinance.  Originally scheduled for rollout on July 1, MAR was successful at pushing it back to September 1.  Earlier this month, after we applied a lot of pressure for answers, RVSD General Manager Greg Norby assured us that he would recommend pushing the implementation back to the beginning…or even the end… of October.  We kept up the pressure for answers, and continued to point out flaws in the process that needed addressing.  Last week, Mr. Norby announced that he was going to recommend pushing back the implementation plan to January 1, 2015.  This date needs to be voted on by the board this week, but it appears we now have a few more months to get this straightened out, and to advocate for some fundamental changes to flaws in the ordinance.

Meanwhile, it was announced last week that at the behest of Assemblyman Marc Levine, the State of California will be conducting an audit of RVSD’s finances.  So I guess they have their hands full.  Stay tuned!

AB1537 HOUSING DENSITY UPDATE

Speaking of Assemblyman Marc Levine, last week his bill AB1537 was approved by the legislature and now sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for signature.  In a nutshell the bill reduces the default density for new building projects in Marin from 30 units per acre to 20 units per acre, and correctly defines Marin as “suburban” rather than “metropolitan”.  MAR has strongly supported this bill throughout the process.  We got behind it early, and the MAR Board of Directors voted our support before most other groups here in Marin.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I have both testified before committees in the state Assembly and Senate regarding MAR’s support.  Now it’s up to the governor, and let’s all hope he signs the bill this week.

THE MAR ‘FLOOD INSURACE SUMMIT’ MEETING

 As I mentioned last week, at the end of September, MAR along with JCP Natural Hazards Disclosures will be hosting a session on the ever-evolving subject of flood insurance and flood zones.  Did you know that FEMA is poised to raise the “base flood elevation” throughout the county by one foot next year?  A whole bunch of houses that are not currently in the flood zone will be in it after this change.  We will be having a panel discussion with FEMA reps and insurance folks ready to provide clarity and answers.  Many of you have shared your comments and frustrations about this crazy and dynamic part of our business, and I shared in some of that pain with one of my listings this summer.  So mark your calendars for 9/30, and we will have more details soon.  We’ve secured a big room at the Marin Country Club, so there should be room for everyone.

TWO MORE MEETINGS TO CONSIDER

I’d also like to lend MAR’s support to two of our fellow organizations and their meetings this month.

First of all, the Marin Womens Council of REALTORS® (WCR) will be hosting a lunch meeting next Tuesday, September 2nd, at the Club at McInnis.  Guv Hutchinson of CAR’s legal group will be there to discuss recent legal updates and the new purchase agreement.   Click HERE for more info.

Also, MAR member Jean Ludwick has asked me to share the info for the next meeting of the Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB) meeting.  It’s going to be on Tuesday September 16th at noon in Napa.  The keynote speaker will be Brad Anderson, National Outreach Manager and Director of Zillow Academy.  The topic will be “Getting the Biggest Bang for your Buck using Social Media”.  Best of all, it’s FREE for CRB members, and Jean has assured me that all are welcome.  Click HERE for more info.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President 

 

Sewer Lateral Update, Drone Photography and Novato Tour Meeting Feedback, MAR Monday Memo 07/14/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

It “needed killing.”

That phrase was ringing in my head for much of this week, and I tried to remember where I’d first heard it.  I wasn’t sure if it was in a movie, or some comedian, or what.

Upon a Google search, the second entry was the trusty Urban Dictionary, and I figured I’d leave it right there:

“Needed killing.  A regional term in the South and Southwest.  A person can become such a trial and burden on those around him that when someone finally shoots him, everyone who knew him says, ‘Well…He needed killing.’  It was often used in reference to outlaws when word arrived of their deaths.”

More on that in a moment.

A very busy week for everyone.  My office sure was humming with activity this week.  There were a lot more new listings than I’d expect in the second week of July, coming out of the holiday weekend.  It seemed more like a week in the fall with all the new places to go see.

Congratulations to our friends in Germany!!  Big win for them yesterday.  What fun the World Cup has been this past month.

SEWER POINT-OF-SALE UPDATE

MAR President-Elect Matt Hughes, Secretary Yoko Kasai, CEO Andy Fegley and I had a very productive meeting with Ross Valley Sanitary last Tuesday.  We are trying to get our arms around the ordinance they passed last month, with almost no public input, three business days after they announced the vote on their website.

Frankly, RVSD itself is trying to get its arms around what it passed.  We kept bringing up questions, many of which they had no answers for.

The cold, hard facts are these:  it’s going to get ugly.   And when it does get better, it’s still going to be tough.  We close around 500-600 properties in the Ross Valley Sanitary District every year.  When the new ordinance goes into effect on September 1 as it’s currently written, every single family home in the RVSD will need to (1) get a “pressure test” with an RVSD official present; (2) RVSD’s estimate is that 85% of the laterals will fail the “pressure test”, and will then need a camera inspection, also with an RVSD official present; (3) the findings of those inspections will need to be reviewed by the chief engineer of the district, who will determine if and when a replacement needs to occur; and (4) it’s unclear if the repair will need to be completed before COE.

The staff at the district doesn’t seem too keen on mandating a completed fix before COE, but the banks may well require that fix.  The ordinance is vague on this subject.  500-600 pressure tests, 500-600 camera inspections, and 500-600 determinations of whether it needs to be fixed or not, and (given their 85% failure rate) 425-510 sewer laterals replaced per year.

All starting on September 1 of this year.  About 45 days from now,

Aside from the RVSD bottleneck, who in the world is going to do all of these inspections, reports, reviews, and repairs?  RVSD currently has one person for on-site inspections.  They will be hiring one more.

The upshot is that they are finally seeking our input…after they passed the legislation with no input.  We will have several more meetings of the working group, and hopefully they will come up with policy and FAQ’s on the subject.  They have also agreed to a meeting with the entire membership for a big Q&A session.

It’s going to be tough.  I’ll keep you updated.

DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY UNDER ATTACK

Yes, folks, that’s right.  The Wild West of drone photography is getting regulated.  Last summer, my wife received a call from a friend, who just had a drone crash into her roof, damaging the roof.  Earlier this year, a woman in San Quentin Village contacted me, angry about a drone being used to photograph a nearby house, and flying right over the large clear skylight above her bathtub.  She was angry about this invasion of privacy.

More and more of us are using drone photography as a service to our clients.  It’s been a rather revolutionary new offering.  Last week, two articles on this subject came to my attention:

The first CLICK HERE announces that the FAA is going to regulate “amateur/hobbyist” drone pilots who use them to take pictures of properties for sale.  They are contending that taking property pictures represents commercial activity, and thus will require a license and assorted regulation.  This means you, if you’re flying your own drone.

The second CLICK HERE has my broker Coldwell Banker’s parent company, NRT, not only agreeing with the FAA, but according to Forbes also now completely recommending against using drone photography at all…even that which is professionally done.

This is a new chapter in broker risk management, and MAR has no position on the matter…but we wanted to make you aware of some of the rumblings around the industry.

NOVATO TOUR MEETING FEEDBACK RESULTS

“Your voicemail is almost full…”  Don’t you love it when the nice woman’s voice from AT&T or Verizon tells you that?   She and I were in touch this week.  You folks chimed in on last week’s question…in detail.

Which brings me back to “He needed killing.”  Referring back to the Urban Dictionary definition, it seems that the Novato Tour meeting has “become such a trial and burden on those around” it.

For those of you who missed my memo from last week, I was recently approached by a number of Novato agents wondering if the Novato tour had run its course.  Not being a regular attendee, I put it out to the membership:  Is the Novato Tour meeting still useful?

A full 45 of you felt compelled to contact me directly, in addition to the approximately 10 folks I’d spoken with about it prior to last week.  You emailed, you called, you texted.  One of you told me that it was a topic of discussion at your weekly office meeting, with an overwhelming consensus.

Two of you supported the meeting going on as it does now.

Everyone else pretty much dislikes the meeting, 50+ of you.  Many of you absolutely, positively despise the meeting.  I heard from brokers.  I heard from managers.  I heard from agents. I heard from assistants.  I didn’t hear from many affiliates.

The responses were about 65% from Novato agents, plus a few agents who live in Novato and work somewhere else in the county but still do a large chunk of their business in Novato.  The balance were Central and Southern Marin agents.

Here are the gripes, in descending order of frequency:

-It’s not useful.  I specifically asked if it was, and nearly everyone used these or some form of those words.

-It’s not a good use of my time/it makes it hard for me to get to my broker’s open on time.

-They email the tour out to everyone, so no one goes to the meeting anymore.

-It’s only attended by people with open houses that day and affiliates.  Very few agents who don’t have a property to be held open come to the meeting…often none.  And the agents who do come to the meeting have a house to hold open, so they don’t come to my open house.

-It used to be more useful with relevant guest speakers from the city, etc, but not much anymore.

-Very regularly, properties are listed on the Novato tour and are not on the MLS tour.  That was one of the most passionate gripes, both from those who are sore that they miss out on listings if they don’t go to the meeting, and those who feel that it’s a disservice to sellers to not have the broker tour on the MLS and thus exposing it to the largest agent pool.

-Some of the Novato agents and managers said that it might not be as welcoming to non-Novato agents as it should be.  A little clubby.   Some of the Central and Southern Marin agents expressed this in a few different ways.

-Who is in charge of the money that gets collected, and where does it go?  For some of you, this was a big question.

-We have wonderful technology, so the meeting might not be as relevant as it use to be.

-And the brokers and managers talked about the effort and workload needed to keep it going.

Almost without exception, nearly everyone asked for the meeting to end.  Or begged for the meeting to end.

I still believe that there might be some of you who really love the tour meeting.  If you’re out there, it’s really is time to speak up.  Otherwise, you risk the rest of your colleagues shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Well, it needed killing.”

So I don’t know will happen next, but the preferred outcome seems to be shared by nearly everyone.  MAR does not sponsor nor control this meeting.  Maybe a monthly buy/sell meeting? But whoever is in charge of the meeting now knows what the membership thinks.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 MAR President

SASM Vote Thursday Night, Sunny Hills Services Community Support and Gumballs, MAR Monday Memo 06/16/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News

Good morning MAR members!

Happy Summer (yes, I know it’s not until Saturday, but I try to extend summer however I can!).  I love planning summer;  the most pressing decision for me is:  Which day will I be attending the Marin County Fair?  Huey Lewis on Wednesday 7/2?  The Wailers on Thursday 7/3?  Night Ranger on Saturday 7/5?  Or Joan Jett on Sunday 7/6?  It’s a spirited discussion in our household, with Heather voting for Joan Jett, and I’m pulling for Night Ranger.  I pointed out that we saw Joan Jett at the Marin fair only a couple of years ago…to which Heather says, “So?”  Maybe we’ll just go every day, but I have a feeling I know who will win this little argument…

New this week:  Gumballs.  Personal property gumballs.  More on that later…

Also:  Sewer lateral point of sale SASM board meeting this Thursday, to vote on draft legislation.  More on that later too.

At the MAR Installation last December, I devoted much of my speech to the subject of service.  Service to each other, to ourselves and to our community.  Both the Marin community at large and to the real estate community as well.  I encouraged each of us to give of ourselves in service.

To that end, this year we created the MAR Community Service Committee, one that I hope will continue long after my term as MAR President is finished.  Judy LeMarr and Jennifer Boesel graciously offered to be the co-chairs and launch this committee, and the group has been meeting for much of the year working to get this off the ground.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Image for Success last month.  MAR supported the Women’s Council of Realtors and a number of brokerages, and the response was terrific.  By collecting clothes and accessories, our real estate community supported Image for Success, a non-profit organization, who provides wardrobes for disenfranchised men, women, and children transitioning towards self-reliance and/ or success in their careers.

Our next venture is Sunny Hills Services and their Guardian Scholars program for former foster children.  It’s a travesty with the county foster children program, which pretty much dries up support for these kids when they turn 18.  Really, how many 18-year-olds are prepared to support themselves while they work on their education and position themselves for a successful future?  A travesty.

Sunny Hills Services provides support to these kids.   Here is a link to their website:  http://www.sunnyhillsservices.org/   Sunny Hills and College of Marin have created a program to help emancipated foster kids, 18-21, make an easier transition into adulthood by providing housing and education.  The young adults will live at the San Anselmo site and go to school at COM.

This is a 3 year program with the initial launch of 8 newly renovated units this summer- July/August-working up to 24 units in the 3 years.  Each young adult will have their own bedroom and will share a communal kitchen area and living room.  These young adults have never had anything of their own and it will be very special to have this fresh start.  The items should be new or furniture gently worn.  Bedding, mattresses- twin long, kitchen items for starting a new household.

You can review the “wish list” here.   If you’d like to participate, please call Anastasia at Sunny Hills Services at 415-457-3200 or contactus@sunnyhillsservices.org.  You can drop off, or they can arrange for pickup.  And they’re hoping to have this in place by July 1, so time is of the essence.

Thank you, MAR members, for supporting your community!

Now, on to the weekly sewer lateral update!  Super exciting stuff, I know!  Thanks to all of you who participated in MAR’s Red Alert to the leadership of the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) last week.  Over 150 of you participated, which resulted in over 800 letters going out to the SASM Board and leadership.

SASM will be meeting on Thursday night to vote on adopting draft legislation mandating point of sale sewer lateral inspections for Mill Valley and the surrounding area.  MAR had invited SASM to meet with our Government Affairs committee prior to the vote.  They had not responded to that invitation until the Red Alert went out this week.  Late on Wednesday night, SASM contacted MAR CEO Andy Fegley and asked if they could come to last Friday’s committee meeting.  Of course, we cleared the agenda and had them in.

Attending the meeting were SASM President Lew Kious and Mill Valley City Manager Jim McCann.  As you might imagine, it was a super spirited meeting…  Mr. Kious and Mr. McCann were gracious enough to give MAR 90 minutes of their time, and they certainly got an earful.

They sure do sound intent on pushing this through.  MAR’s position is that if this is such an emergency and a public health matter, then the agency should come up with a 20-year plan that addresses the problem throughout the community, and not relying on the real estate community to do their implementation.  Frankly, by singling out property owners who are selling, they are discriminating against these very citizens.  If it’s a problem, it’s everyone’s problem, not just those who are selling their house.

We agree, it’s a big problem.  A public health crisis.  So why is it only getting addressed by those who are selling their house?  SASM needs a real plan, a holistic plan for the entire community.  I asked if the reason that there wasn’t a more comprehensive plan was because raising the rates to deal with it was not politically viable?  They didn’t really answer the question, but I got the strong impression that was the exact problem.

Doing point of sale inspections will take 47 years in Mill Valley for all the housing to turn over and to solve the problem.  I also pointed out that as a best practice most of the real estate community is already doing sewer lateral inspections.  Mandating it via point of sale is going to insert a bureaucracy into a process that’s already happening.

SASM claims it’s not a big deal, because the real estate transaction will be able to close, and the repair just needs to occur within 6 months.  We asked how long it would take for SASM to review the reports and lateral video to determine whether it’s a mandatory fix or not, and they did not know.  This means that there will be (1) a mandatory inspection and report; (2) a possible mandatory fix; and (3) a currently undefined turnaround on when SASM decides whether the repair needs to take place or not.

We explained to them that this loose end about SASM deciding whether the repair needs to take place will grind escrows to a halt while we all wait for the results of the bureaucratic review.  It’s a $5k, $10k, even $20k swing in the transaction that needs to be accounted for, and they were not sure how long it would take to get back to everyone on whether a fix is needed.

This is unacceptable.  SASM needs a real plan to fix this problem across the community.  MAR is strongly against point-of -sale as the solution.  I intend to attend the SASM board meeting this Thursday, and I encourage MAR members to do the same.

Enough on that.

Now, about those gumballs…  I was fortunate to put a lovely piece of property into escrow for a San Francisco family this past week.  They were overjoyed, it’s the perfect place for the couple and their 5-year-old son Oscar.  Oscar’s mom told him on Tuesday night that they had finally won out, and that they were going to be moving soon.  Oscar asked which house it was, and his mom told him.  “Is that the house with the gumball machine?” Oscar asked???  Yes, it’s the house with the gumball machine.  This house had an antique gumball machine in the garage with the much of the owner’s personal property.

Upon hearing of Oscar’s affection for the gumballs, the owner graciously offered to leave the gumball machine for Oscar.  As you might imagine, Oscar and his parents are thrilled, each for their own reasons.

Once again, that’s what it’s all about.

And that’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

RED ALERT – SASM, SPAWN/Turtle Island – Developers? MAR Monday Memo 06/09/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Regulations, Uncategorized

Good morning MAR members!

It was feeling very much like summer last Blaine Morris week, inventory-wise. After seeing a bit of an uptick in new listings as the spring wore on, the last couple of weeks have seemed much quieter for new properties on the market. While holding open a new listing of my own this past week, agents were coming in and bemoaning what they perceived as a bit of a slowdown in the market. I think it’s just the normal Marin summer breather. The good news is that buyers will face a little less competition if they do find a house they like.

Elections
I hope most of you got out and voted in last week’s exciting election. There were few surprises on the statewide level, but lots of intrigue locally. REALTOR®-supported candidates Marc Levine (Assembly), Mike McGuire (State Senate) and Damon Connelly (Supervisor in Marin District 1) all staged decisive wins last week. In Supervisor District 5, MAR member Toni Shroyer staged an impressive challenge to incumbent Judy Arnold. Shroyer conceded the race late Friday afternoon after updated results were released showing Arnold with the lead.

MAR CEO Andy Fegley, MAR Treasurer Arun Burrell and I made the rounds on election night, visiting the victory parties of both Marc Levine and Damon Connelly. I’d never done that before, and it was great to congratulate REALTOR® endorsed candidates. Connelly won outright, he’s the new Supervisor replacing Susan Adams in January, 2015. Assemblyman Levine now faces what looks to be an interesting race in the “Top 2” format. He will be facing Diane Conte, another Democratic candidate who narrowly beat out Republican Gregory Allen. Though Levine had a decisive first place showing, the November election will provide intrigue given the fact that Ms. Conte will be running to the left of Levine in progressive Marin and part of Sonoma County. Assemblyman Levine still has work to do.

Housing Density Bill AB1537 (Levine)
Speaking of Assemblyman Levine, his housing density bill AB1537 now moves to the Senate, where it will be heard in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. CAR has long been a supporter of the Chairman of that committee, Senator Mark DeSaulnier. Assemblyman Levine’s staff knows this, and MAR will continue to do what we can to advance this important bill. We will keep you updated on our progress.

Watch for MAR RED ALERT Later Today
On to the next matter, point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections. Surprisingly, MAR’s membership has been rather quiet on this subject, at least as it relates to feedback to me. Is this an important subject for you? The Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) has its next board meeting a week from Thursday. It is our understanding that they will be taking up the issue of mandatory sewer lateral inspections at this meeting. That is why MAR is issuing a RED ALERT later today.

We are asking every member to answer this call for action to let SASM leadership know that a real plan is needed to address the needs of the community.

With point-of-sale, it will take 50 years to solve the problem. And the problem needs fixing today. All point-of-sale does is give the appearance of trying to do something, but it is not a real solution. All the sewer agencies, SASM, Ross Valley and all the rest need to come up with a real solution that will protect the communities before 2065, which is how long the point-of-sale solution will take. Point-of-sale simply will massively complicate the process of selling a home, initiating a public works project with every sale, tearing up the street on every sale. AND IT WON’T FIX THE PROBLEM FOR FIFTY YEARS.

MAR member and Corte Madera Councilman Bob Ravasio called me last week to make sure that MAR was on the right side of this issue. He spoke of the environmental consequences of the failed sewer system countywide. He said that something needs to be done. MAR couldn’t agree more. It’s just that point-of-sale lateral inspections is not the way to fix the problem. Bob conceded that Corte Madera has a 20-year plan in place to replace all the faulty sewer laterals throughout the town…and not a point-of- sale requirement. That’s EXACTLY the type of solution that MAR would like to see…a REAL plan.

SASM needs a real plan, and MAR and its members need to be vocal about this. Please make sure to answer the call for action in the RED ALERT coming to your inboxes later today.

MAR has invited SASM to meet with our Government Affairs Committee this Friday, but so far they’ve not responded.

SPAWN/Turtle Island-Developers?
One last thing: Did you know that SPAWN/Turtle Island, they of the San Geronimo Valley building moratorium, they of fierce opposition to the Marin
Countywide Streamside Conservation Ordinance, and they of protecting the San Geronimo Valley’s salmon population from “development” are now seeking to become the biggest developer in the San Geronimo Valley?

That’s right, you can read about it by clicking here.
I guess that’s what happens when you have millions of dollars in your bank account and can’t figure out what to do with it. According to Executive Director Todd Steiner they want to buy land and homes, restore the habitat, and return the homes to market with some sort of permanent environmental covenant. Funny, how the single biggest advocate for not being able to do anything with your property in the Valley now wants to buy and rehabilitate those very homes.

This is all very new, but certainly worth watching. Perhaps we will see a future where the only people who can buy and rehabilitate homes in the Valley are SPAWN themselves.

I couldn’t have made this up if I tried.

That’s it for now!

Blaine

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President

“It’s On with SASM”, Housing Density Bill AB-1537 Faces Uncertain Outcome in the Senate – MAR Monday Memo 06/02/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News

Good morning MAR members!

Back to the regular work week today, after last week’s nice 4-day version, which followed the ever-popular three-day-weekend.  There is certainly something in the air…it sure feels like summer!

A short memo this week to commemorate the start of my favorite time of year.

First of all, don’t forget to vote tomorrow.  The REALTOR Party needs you out there, doing your part to participate in the most important part our democracy.  It doesn’t matter what your opinion is, just get out there and make your voice heard.  Did you know that in California there are more than 36,000 REALTORS who are not registered to vote?  I find that really hard to believe, and I hope very much that we have a disproportionately small share here in Marin.  Hopefully, you’re registered to vote…now get out there and vote tomorrow!  And if you’re not registered to vote, here’s where you can change that right now:  <<http://www.car.org/governmentaffairs/getinvolved/rparty/registertovote/>>

The first thing to bring to your attention this week is that “it’s ON with SASM.”  That’s the text I received last week from MAR CEO Andy Fegley.  SASM is the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin.  SASM is working on draft policy to take to its individual sanitary districts in and around Mill Valley mandating point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections which will result in mandatory repairs.

SASM knows that MAR is 100% opposed to point of sale ordinances.  CEO Fegley has been meeting with the district’s leadership, advocating for an approach to fixing this problem that won’t take 50 years to solve.  50 years is how long it takes for all the homes to turn over in Mill Valley.  We’ve told them that “best practice” by REALTOR members generally includes a sewer lateral inspection during an escrow, and that inserting the government into this escrow process is horribly, horribly unproductive.

Just talk to our colleagues who sell properties in Sausalito and they will tell you all you need to know about sanitary district policy run amuck.

I’ll keep you in the loop on MAR’s efforts.  Frankly, this is going to be a hot topic throughout Marin, as the Ross Valley Sanitary District is looking to mandate the same point-of-sale ordinance…they’re just not as far along.  NAR and CAR will both support us in this effort to advocate for a more real and holistic solution other than making REALTORS responsible to solve their agencies’ infrastructure problems.

On to the ongoing housing density front.  MAR CEO Andy Fegley, Past President Kay Moore and I visited with Supervisor Kate Sears last Friday.  Supervisor Sears represents Kay Moore’s district and she is the 2014 President of the Marin Board of Supervisors.  We were brainstorming on how to help advance AB1537, which is Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill to reduce the default density of Marin from “Metropolitan” and 30-units-per-acre to “Suburban” and 20-units-per-acre.  This bill recently passed the Assembly on a strong bipartisan vote of 62-4.  Supervisor Sears testified in favor of the bill at Assembly committee hearings at the end of April, along with CEO Fegley and myself.

Now the bill faces an uncertain outcome in the Senate, where the senior staffer on the Senate Housing Committee seems particularly unfavorable to the bill.  Another issue is that right now, and for nearly the past two years, Marin has been without representation at the state Senate.  Did you know that?  Redistricting that occurred a couple of years ago resulted in Marin not having a state Senator for two years.  And we won’t have a Senator until we finally elect one in November.  More on that later.  In the meantime, MAR has maintained a positive relationship with Senator Noreen Evans from Sonoma County.  She has been acting in something of a caretaker role for our orphaned county.

Net-net, we have to push a bill through the Senate without our own Senator.  I knew we were in this orphaned state.  That fact came up last year when MAR was advocating for the passage of SB30, which was the state tax relief bill for sellers of distressed properties.  Senator Evans offered her support on that bill.  It never really hit home with me, however, until right now.  We are reaching out to Senator Evans again, and we’re working with Assemblyman Levine and the Board of Supervisors to work to shepherd this bill through the Senate.

I reminded Supervisor Sears about Governor Jerry Brown’s comments to the 3,000 REALTORS on hand at CAR Legislative Day in Sacramento on April 30th.  The Governor advocated for local control to the REALTORS:  “People in Modoc do things differently than people in Berkeley…let them make their own decisions.”  My sense is that Governor Brown is worried about other things than a bill on housing density here in Marin.  But since the Governor appointed Supervisor Sears to her seat when the late Supervisor Charles McGlashan passed away in 2011, I figured she must know someone on his staff, and who knows how that might help?

The two-year Legislative calendar concludes at the end of August.  If AB1537 doesn’t pass the Senate by then, it’s back to square one when the Legislature convenes for a new session next year.  And the Legislature is on recess the whole month of July.  So we’ve really just got June and the first couple of weeks in August to get this bill through the Senate.  MAR intends to testify once again at the not-yet-calendared committee hearings.  I’ll keep you informed of our progress.

Finally, I want to plant the seed that now is the time to think about getting involved at MAR next year.  More on this next week, as Nominating Committee Chairperson Judy LeMarr will be leading the process.  If you’ve wanted to serve on a committee, chair a committee, or be on the Board of Directors, the process for next year will unfold in the coming months.  It’s a richly rewarding opportunity to serve your colleagues and your community.  And it’s good for business!

That’s it for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine

 

 

CAR Highlights, MAR General Membership Meeting Tuesday, May 13th – MAR Monday Memo 05/12/14

By | California Association of Realtors, Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors

Good morning MAR members!

So many buyers, so many listings, so many offers!  Everyone I know is running around at a frenzied pace, but it does seem that more properties are coming on the market.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you at the MAR General Membership meeting tomorrow, Tuesday May 13 at 9:30 AM, at Embassy Suites in San Rafael.  The featured speaker is Sarah Sutachan, who is the Manager of Broker and Real Estate Finance Outreach for CAR.   This is the “economic update” traditionally provided by Leslie Appleton-Young.  MAR member Steve Dickason will be giving his always-informative and valuable Marin Market Update.

This week, after Tuesday’s MAR General Membership meeting, MAR CEO Andy Fegley, Federal congressional key contact Kay Moore and I are off to Washington DC for the National Association of REALTORS mid-year meetings.  We will be meeting with Congressman Jared Huffman’s staff and briefing them on all of NAR’s matters before congress.  I will be reporting back on the results of those meetings next week.

Andy Fegley and I also visited with the City of San Rafael again last week in our ongoing effort to eliminate the increased “double jeopardy” we are seeing in their resale inspection practices.  I feel like we are making some real progress and we certainly have their attention at the highest level of city staff.  City staff had a department-wide meeting to work to improve the process, and they shared a list of their initial thoughts to improve.

MAR’s main concern is the specific instance where non-compliant items that were missed in prior resale inspections…years ago..are being forced into compliance today…years later…after being missed previously by San Rafael.  Buyers thus made purchase decisions based upon incorrect reports generated by San Rafael.  Buyers and sellers have a reasonable expectation that these mandatory inspections they are paying for are correct.  They finally seem to be listening to us, and I believe there will be some meaningful reforms in the near future.  Thomas Ehrens, chief building inspector, did ask me to relay two things to MAR membership:  (1) they don’t enjoy the process of forcing compliance…he said that there is no pleasure in the “gotcha” moment; and (2) they absolutely are not in the resale inspection business for the money generated by their compliance efforts.  In fact, they likely lose money in that part of their business.

First off, I need to get something off my chest.  What’s up with everyone “pre-opening” escrows?  It really does seem like everyone.  I get it if you’ve got a squirrely property that needs research, or a short sale, but why does every squeaky clean home with no mortgage and no easements have an opened escrow too?  I just don’t get it.  Yes, as a listing agent I like to control who is doing the escrow, and yes I like to send business to my friends.  But the buyer is paying for title insurance and the escrow fee in Marin.  Let the buyers use who they want.  Just my opinion, I felt like sharing.

Thank you for all your feedback on the auction report I shared last week.  Based upon the feedback, I gather we’re all learning and picking our way through the…dynamic…business practices of our friends in the auction business and the bankers that use them.  If anyone knows anything important that I didn’t share…please share!  Like all of us, I’m trying to understand this new emerging business model.

As promised, here are some of the highlights of the CAR meetings in Sacramento earlier this month:

Governor Jerry Brown kicked the whole thing off with an early appearance at about 9:15 on Wednesday’s legislative day.  Always entertaining, he seems to be picking up on a current issue here in Marin and likely elsewhere in the state:  local control.  The Governor advocated for more local control, “Let decisions get made locally.  People in Modoc do things differently that people in Berkeley.  Let them make their own decisions.”  I think we can all get behind that as far as housing density here in Marin.  Unfortunately, the Governor and the Legislature don’t always see things the same way…

On legislative day, the Marin contingent joined many of our colleagues from the North Bay Association of Realtors (NorBAR) to meet with Assemblyman Marc Levine’s staff to promote CAR’s position on a number of bills before the legislature:

  • AB 2416, which allows employees with a wage dispute to record a lien against an employer’s property, even though no connection with the property itself is required, no notice is required, and thus no due process.  It’s like a mechanic’s lien with abbreviated notice, and it allows this wage lien to be a “super lien” ahead of other liens.  This will cloud title, obviously.  Other legal remedies already exist, and CAR opposes AB 2416.
  • AB 2039 relates to last week’s discussion about indemnity clauses that lenders and auction companies are forcing on sellers and listing brokers.  Again, this is where an online auction is used to “validate” the sales price in a short sale.  In essence, the lender forces the seller and listing agent to turn over the listing for an online auction, and also forces those parties to indemnify the auction company against any wrongdoing during the rest of the transaction.  AB 2039 prohibits this indemnification language, and CAR strongly supports this bill.
  • SB 391 has been around for a while, the better part of two years, and CAR has been fighting against it much of the time.  This is the bill that adds a document recording fee to most real estate-related documents that do not relate to a sales transaction.  Think refinancing.  Or changing title status after the death of a family member.  These fees will go toward funding affordable housing.  In the “death of a spouse” example, these new fees could add up to an additional $440 bourdon on the surviving spouse.  CAR supports affordable housing, but feels that it’s a society-wide issue and the bourdon should be shared across all segments of society, not just property owners.  Further, they’re calling it a “fee” (to cover costs directly related to the transaction), but it’s really a “tax” (because they’re moving the money to pay for something else).  All part of a scheme to only need a simple majority to pass rather than a super majority for a tax.  CAR continues to strongly oppose SB 391.
  • Finally, AB 2169 seeks to validate existing legislation that REALTORS and licensees are “independent contractors” and not “employees”.  There are existing regulations that go back decades that state just that, but in a recent lawsuit a judge ignored those precedents and unilaterally decided that because brokers supervise their agents, then those agents must be employees.  AB 2169 seeks to clarify that supervision does not necessarily equal employment.  Most all of us are indeed independent contractors, and AB 2169 seeks to clarify existing law.  CAR strongly supports AB 2169.

CAR CEO Joel Singer had a great presentation on the current state of the Real Estate economy in California, and I’ll share some of the highlights of that presentation in the coming weeks.

That’s it for now, I’ll let you know how things go at NAR in Washington, DC.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAR Update: AB1537, Online Auctions, MAR Monday Memo 05/05/14

By | Legislation, Marin Association of Realtors, Marin Community News, Marin Real Estate News, Uncategorized

Good morning MAR members!

What a week!  September in April…whew.  I spent last week in Sacramento at the CAR Legislative Day and Spring Business Meetings, and it was hotter here in Marin than in Sacramento.  Frankly, it was downright perfect in the Central Valley, cooler than the last two years when I’ve been there.

Be sure to mark your calendars for next Tuesday, May 13 at 9:30, which is MAR’s general membership meeting at Embassy Suites in San Rafael.  Our guest speaker will be Sarah Sutachan, who is the Manager of Broker and Real Estate Finance Outreach for CAR.  Since I’ve been an MAR member, one of the biggest meetings of the year has always been when Leslie Appleton Young is the featured speaker.  Leslie is CAR’s Chief Economist, and always brought valuable perspective to the statewide and Marin markets.  Leslie, who lives in Los Angeles, is paring down her travel schedule and is somewhat passing the torch to Sarah, who is a valuable member of her staff.  Join me and the rest of MAR’s leadership team to welcome Sarah Sutachan and gain valuable market perspective that you can use in your business today and get the most recent market info for your clients.  MAR member Steve Dickason will also be delivering his valuable ­­Marin Market Update.  Registration is only $10, and it’s open online.  Click here to register online. 

I’d also like to take a moment to share my support for our dear colleague and longtime MAR member Marie Whitemore.  Her 7-year-old granddaughter Gabrielle unfortunately is suffering from a very serious and inoperable brain tumor.  This little girl just underwent chemotherapy and is now beginning a more aggressive treatment…an expensive treatment that is not covered by insurance.  The Talbert family from the peninsula had a similar situation with a family member battling a similar condition, and the Talbert family has generously offered to match every donation dollar-for-dollar.  I’d like to encourage all of us to support the family however we can.  For more info, please click here .  The entire MAR family’s thoughts and prayers are with Marie and Gabrielle.

And what a week in Sacramento.  Lots of CAR business before the legislature, I’ll get that legislation next week.

The big day for me was Wednesday, where MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I attended and testified at two different Assembly committee hearings in support of Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine’s bill AB1537, which relates to the minimum density for housing developments in much of Marin.  Levine’s bill lowers the minimum density from 30 units to 20 units/acre.

Currently, Marin is lumped in with San Francisco and Oakland as being “metropolitan” and is something of an anomaly in the Bay Area with minimum zoning at 30 units per acre.  I knew that Sonoma and Napa were designated as “suburban” at 20 units/acre.  What I didn’t know is that Santa Clara County…the Bay Area’s most populous county…is also designated “suburban” at 20 units/acre.

Levine’s bill corrects that anomaly and re-designates Marin as “suburban” at 20 units per acre.  Last Wednesday, Andy and I, along with Supervisor Kate Sears and members of Bridge Housing and other agencies that historically have been against this type of change joined forces to support Levine’s bill.  AB1537 passed unanimously through the Housing Committee and then passed through the Local Government Committee.  MAR testified in support at both meetings.

MAR strongly supports this bill, and we are doing everything we can to assist Assemblyman Levine’s efforts to win passage.  The bill has progressed further than similar bills have fared in the past, and we plan to continue our efforts to support its passage.

The most fascinating session of the week at CAR was the Public Policy Forum.  The topic was online auctions.  Rick Sharga, the Executive VP at Auction.com generously made himself available for this meeting, which was absolutely packed and standing-room-only.  And I learned SO MUCH!

(this is a long account, sorry, but so much valuable info was shared and all the MAR members are talking about auctions)

-Auction.com sold 35,000 properties online last year, with the vast majority going to investors.

-Auction.com is a licensed broker in 48 states.

-Google just invested $50M in Auction.com, and now owns a 4% stake.  That investment values Auction.com at $1.2B.  Google will be helping Auction.com improve its mobile platforms.

-Speaking of mobile, Mr. Sharga shared a story about an investor in India who learned that he won an auction.  He contacted Auction.com to verify that he could finalize his cash purchase on his phone.  From India.

-It’s written into their Auction.com’s contract that “shill” bidders are part of the process.  Mr. Sharga’s first response was that “shill is such a nasty term.”  They call it “seller bidding”.  It’s perfectly legal, but ethically dubious in my opinion.  Meaning, if the auction slows down, or doesn’t get to the reserve, Auction.com will place a shill bid, in an attempt to get you to bid higher. It’s not a real bid, and thus you are competing against yourself.  Can you imagine?  In my mind, that’s the same as a listing agent telling you there is “another offer” or “multiple offers” when there really isn’t one.  Gigantic breach of our REALTOR Code of Ethics.  But since Auction.com is not a REALTOR member, the Code of Ethics does not apply.  CAR currently has sponsored a bill before the legislature to outlaw shill bidding.

-That 75% of Auction.com’s business is generated by investors.

-That most of Auction.com’s clients are not interested in anything other than cash buyers.

-That Mr. Sharga himself declared that Auction.com was “not ready for the consumer market.”

-In regards to CAR-sponsored legislation AB2039, Mr. Sharga admitted that “our contracts need work” and “we were never set up to work with consumers.”  AB2039 seeks to prohibit the current practice of indemnification clauses in the cases of short sale lenders seeking to use Auction.com to “verify” the short sale price.  As many of you know, Nationstar has been incorporating this “verification” process as part of their standard short sale process.  As the listing agent, you are required to sign a contract that indemnifies Auction.com of any liability during this auction process.  Net-net, as the listing agent, you and your broker are carrying the entire liability for any wrongdoing by Auction.com, even though at that point in the process Auction.com basically controls the listing.  AB2039 prohibits this indemnification practice, and CAR is working very hard for its passage.

-Among other investors, Auction.com and Nationstar happen to share a single common investor.  Go figure.  Fortress Investment Group is the majority owner of Nationstar, and Fortress Investment Group is also a major investor in Auction.com.  Mr. Sharga called that a “coincidence”, and said that there is no financial relationship between Auction.com and Nationstar other than the “buyer’s premium” that Auction.com is awarded when a property sells through its platform.  So he says.

-Mr. Sharga didn’t want to comment on a similar arrangement that has resulted in a current investigation where Benjamin Lawsky, superintendant of the New York Department of Financial Services is seeking to clarify the relationship between another auction site, Hubzu, and mortgage servicing firm Ocwen Financial.  Seems that Hubzu was spun off from Ocwen in 2009.  Mr. Sharpa encouraged us to Google Mr. Lawsky’s investigation of Hubzu.  It’s quite an interesting search, you should Google it yourself.

-Mr. Sharga shared that the reason for this short sale price “verification” is because the “servicers feel that they’re getting ripped off.”

Which brings us to…

-In regards to the new practice of loan servicers in short sales requiring the property to go onto Auction.com to “verify” the price, in California 75% of the properties that go through this verification are sold to someone other than the original offeror, with a 15-20% “uplift” in the price.  He was pretty adamant about that “uplift”.  Mr. Sharga answered a question that I had:  if the original offeror on the property has to increase his/her price to get it via the auction, that person does NOT have to pay the 5% buyer’s premium.  That’s about the only good thing I heard at this session.

-For many auction properties, Mr. Sharpa acknowledged that there is a current disconnect between the initial bidding price and the actual reserve.  Meaning the property is actually not for sale at the price that is entered into MLS.

The meeting went on and on and on, to the point where they had to stop it with many people still in line to speak.

Next week, I’ll give you a rundown of the rest of the CAR meeting.

That’s it for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine