Category

Regulations

Ross Valley Sewer Lateral Update, Upcoming MAR Installation Luncheon and San Rafael Coffee and Codes Meeting

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

Good day MAR Members!

One of my goals for this week’s memo was to not talk about the weather or what I did this weekend. Well, my bad:

What a great weekend! I can’t believe that after nearly 21 years in Marin I just discovered the Big Rock Ridge trail above Lucas Valley. It’s newer-ish, having opened in 2003 after a donation by George Lucas, and as such it was not in several trail guidebooks that I use. Reached by parking at Big Rock, it’s a gentle yet constant climb on the south-facing slope of Big Rock Ridge, and it’s open for both hikers and bikers. Unlike our bustling trails in Ross Valley and Southern Marin, this trail was nearly deserted despite a nearly 70-degree Saturday mid-day. Views to forever, and a very cool glimpse right down over Mr. Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch. Gracie and I had a great walk, before we had to leave her behind to head down to Palo Alto for the big game between Stanford and Utah. OK, it wasn’t THE Big Game, but big nonetheless for me and some friends from school. I won’t gloat, as it was a pretty snoozy game right up until the thrilling double-overtime finish…another win for UTAH.

Thank you, again, for indulging me. Now, a few housekeeping items before the latest Ross Valley Sewer Lateral update.

MAR INSTALLATION LUNCHEON

Another reminder before we enter the busy Holiday Season about MAR’s annual Installation Luncheon on Tuesday, December 9th. We will be installing Matt Hughes as our 2015 MAR President, along with the rest of his leadership team. CAR rising star Imran Polodi will be officiating the installation, and he is always a super interesting speaker as the Chairman of CAR’s Young Professionals Network forum. Plus we will have MAR Member Kevin Patsel as the Master of Ceremonies. Marin’s Women’s Council of Realtors will also be joining with us and installing MAR Member John Zeiter as its 2015 Marin WCR President. Click HERE to register, and please help us spread the word about this terrific event.

WCR ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR CELEBRATION

Speaking of Women’s Council, please join me in congratulating MAR member Katie Beacock for winning this year’s award for WCR Entrepreneur of the Year. An Evening Soiree in her honor will be held this Wednesday evening at McInnis Park from 5:30-7:30 PM. Katie is Past President of MAR, and she is 2014’s Region 4 Chairwoman for the California Association of REALTORS®. A true Marinite, she has served our community tirelessly for many years, and this award is richly deserved! Katie is also one of my go-to spiritual advisors on all things MAR and CAR-related. Her advice is always spot-on, and I encourage all of you to take advantage of her experience and leadership when trying to solve a challenge or seize an opportunity. There is still time to secure your spot by clickingHERE, and I believe walk-ups will be welcomed as well. It should be a great night!

BAREIS CLASS A DIRECTOR NOMINATIONS DUE TODAY!

One final reminder to BAREIS Class A Members that nominations for 2015 Class A Directors are due TODAY by 5:00 PM. If you’re a BAREIS Class A Member, a letter was mailed to you on October 10 outlining the nominating process. Again, neither I nor MAR have any authority at BAREIS, but the Class A Members do have the ability to participate in the nominating process for Marin’s two Class A Directors. MAR encourages you to take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the leadership nominating process at BAREIS.

ROSS VALLEY SEWER LATERAL POINT OF SALE UPDATE

Thank you again to the quarter of our membership who participated in the Call to Action to inform the Board of Directors of Ross Valley Sanitary District earlier this month. The agency has heard MAR’s message, and on Friday RVSD General Manager Greg Norby alerted MAR CEO Andy Fegley that the infamous, mandatory, expensive and frivolous pressure test requirement has been modified substantially. All of us couldn’t understand why this test…which RVSD openly expects 85-90% of the houses to fail…was being mandated by the agency before any other inspection or test was to occur.

In a modest victory for MAR, the pressure test has been moved to the end of the process instead. As I understand it, now RVSD will require a video inspection consistent with other agencies. If that inspection concludes that the lateral needs replacement, a process will be in place to oversee the replacement of that line. A pressure test will now be the LAST step. If the video inspection determines that the line looks good, a pressure test WILL be required to confirm that the line is in good shape. In addition, a pressure test will be required to confirm that work to replace any sewer lateral was correctly performed.

This all needs to be voted into policy by the RVSD board, by the way, at its December meeting.

So there still will be a pressure test requirement at the end. But for the estimated 85-90% of the lines that will fail such a test, we’ve eliminated the frivolous pressure test at the beginning of the process. Thus, we will save the homeowners of Ross Valley $500k per year in frivolous tests.

I still don’t like it, and I still expect this process to be cumbersome, expensive and time consuming. In the absence of hard data, however, MAR is going to work with RVSD to streamline the process and educate our membership on this ordinance’s implementation…however flawed it still may be.

I know many of you are seeking specifics on the choreography of this process. Specifics are still lacking, but my expectation is that in the coming weeks the specific implementation policy will be defined by RVSD. Thank you for your patience.

MAR and RVSD will be hosting a session in December to educate the membership and community on RVSD’s plan for implementation. Details and registration info will be forthcoming. Sorry in advance for the meeting over the Holidays.

CITY OF SAN RAFAEL COFFEE AND CODES MEETING IN JANUARY

Earlier this year, MAR was successful in working with the City of San Rafael on a new policy regarding its resale inspection guidelines. While this reform has been mostly successful, I’ve spoken at length with many of you who still are experiencing substantial challenges working with the City, mostly securing compliance on past unpermitted work.

To San Rafael’s credit, Paul Jensen, the Director of Community Development, has reached out to both myself and MAR CEO Fegley to see how things are going. We are planning for a follow up meeting before the Holidays, with an Association-wide meeting to be scheduled in January to put the City together with MAR’s membership to hear feedback and clarify its policy.

For those of you who have not reviewed the San Rafael Resale Inspection reform policy, you can review the document HERE.

MAR has just embarked on a similar effort with the City of Novato, and we are working to schedule our first meeting.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris

2014 President

Upcoming Flood Summit, Junior Second Units, Economic Forecast and a Tribute to Jon Cutler

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

Good day MAR members!

Happy Indian Summer to you! As I was walking my dog through the neighborhood yesterday, I couldn’t help but be taken by the glorious day…perfect weather, perfect temperature, and beautiful golden light filtering through the sycamores and big leaf maple trees which are starting to turn color early. Football weather. Whatever you want to call it, breathe it in as fall is right around to corner. Both my wife and a neighbor were saying yesterday that they were ready for some rain to come. Me too, but as I always say, if it’s going to be a drought you might as well enjoy the weather! I’ll take the weather of this sweet season any day, as the rain will be here soon enough.

It was nearly two weeks ago that I was wrapping up a super vacation to Oregon. As we made our way down the Oregon coast, I first heard the tragic news of my friend Jon Cutler’s passing. I’ve had the solemn responsibility to notify MAR’s membership of this type of sad news all year long, but never has it been someone who I knew as well and considered a real friend. News was slow to trickle in.

From the first day that I arrived at the Frank Howard Allen office in Greenbrae eleven years ago, Jon was a larger than life personality. A very loud man. A man who for a large part wore aloha shirts, shorts and low cut Converse All Stars to his daily real estate practice. A man with a very warm heart, who was born in Beverly Hills but staked his own creative path in life. A man who served his country in Vietnam. How many kids from Beverly Hills, who went to Northwestern University, also went to Vietnam? Well, probably a lot, but Jon was the only one I knew. In addition to being a REALTOR®, Jon also was a very talented writer and made a nice living doing that on the side. It was almost like real estate was his “day job”.

Jon was a man who loved his life. He took walks in the afternoon down by the water in Greenbrae. And he always had time to help me when I was getting started in the business. Ultimately, his office was right across the hall from mine until he moved his practice to Sonoma a few years ago. We shared quite a few laughs through the years. A kind hearted and gentle man. He loved cats. I shed a few tears that day on the Oregon Coast, and I’ve shed a few since. Terry Bremer, his manager in Sonoma and I joked via email about her moment of silence in the office last week. A moment of silence for the “loud one”!

A great guy. RIP Jon Cutler.

FLOOD SUMMIT

Book your seat now for the MAR Flood Summit which is at the Marin Country Club in Novato two weeks from tomorrow on September 30th. Response has been terrific, and half the seats sold out in the first couple of days last week. This will be a great event to educate us on the rapidly changing world of Marin flood zones and the complexities in securing flood insurance. I’ve had several “flood insurance deals” this year, and a couple of times the process has been horrendous.

With the base flood level elevation rising around the bay next year, more and more of our sales will be subject to flood insurance requirements. We will have a panel discussion with members of FEMA presenting the latest and greatest info, along with other industry experts. The cost is $15, and will include a continental breakfast. You can register by clicking here. You will need your NRDS ID# and the password is 1234, unless you changed it. After login, scroll down to “Other Services” and select “Register for Events” then select Flood Summit. Scroll down to “Proceed to Registration” then follow the instructions for paying with your credit card information. MAR staff can help you locate your National REALTOR® Data Service ID number.

JUNIOR SECOND UNITS

We had a great presentation last Friday at the MAR Government Affairs Committee by Bob Brown, the Director of Community Development in Novato, who shared the emerging concept of “Junior Second Units” in Marin. A junior second unit is basically a unit in a single family home which is carved out of the existing structure. Obviously, there are lots of these already in Marin…it’s commonly called “renting out a room.” Renting out a room is already legal, of course, but Novato and other communities want to streamline the permitting process to make these “junior” units fully legal and documented. If we can do that, the plan is to use these units to contribute to the required number of new living units required by Sacramento and ABAG for each town’s Housing Element.

Parking is usually the sticking point when an owner wants to add a unit to a single family home in Marin. Bob claimed that in Novato they abate three illegal units for every legal unit that gets created. That sounds like a dwindling housing supply. The hope with this concept is that by legally adding a wet-bar-type sink, we can expedite the process and the permit fees will be negligible…like a few hundred dollars rather than the tens of thousands of dollars currently required for utility hookups. Parking is a non-issue, since the size of the house and number of bedrooms will remain the same…and parking will be assumed to be sufficient as it’s part of the existing house.

Quite a number of other towns in Marin are exploring this issue with the hope of a coordinated effort to address Sacramento and ABAG-mandated housing numbers in Marin. I think it’s a great idea. MAR does not as of yet have an official position, but the Board of Directors will be reviewing the report from the Government Affairs Committee at our next meeting.

ROBERT EYLER ECONOMIC PRESENTATION REVIEW

We had a sold-out meeting last week for the MAR General Membership Meeting. The membership voted in favor of next year’s MAR Leadership Team, headed up by President-Elect Matt Hughes. The keynote presentation was by Dr. Robert Eyler, head of the Marin Economic Forum and Professor of Economics at Sonoma State University.   Dr. Eyler’s report was quite upbeat in relation to the coming years in Marin, with steady forecasted growth and continued economic strength in the Bay Area. He does believe that interest rates will start to slowly rise…but people have been saying that for a couple of years now. He didn’t share anything on the 2-3 year horizon…at least economically…that will cause rates to spike up, or any other news that will cause Bay Area housing demand to weaken. If you missed the meeting, or would like to review the report, you can check out Dr. Eyler’s presentation by clickinghere.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

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 

 

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

NAR Meeting Update and Pre-Opened Escrows – MAR Monday Memo – 05/19/14

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

Good morning MAR members!

Greetings from the nation’s capitol in Washington DC, where Kay Moore, Andy Fegley and I spent most of this week at the NAR mid-year meetings, which were recently renamed the REALTOR Party Convention.  Hot and muggy conditions greeted us to start the trip, followed up by torrential rains on Thursday night…complete with flash flood warnings.  It’s Friday afternoon and I’m starting this draft at the airport, waiting on the tarmac to take off, sitting in the airplane in runway jail and delayed for another 90 minutes…connecting thru Philadelphia, where last night’s weather has travelled…hopefully I’ve made it home by the time you read this.  And hoping that I don’t get to spend the night on the cold hard floor of the Philly airport.

Last week, we had a great MAR General Membership meeting, with featured speakers Sara Sutachan of CAR and MAR member Steve Dickason giving us timely market updates on Marin, California and the nation at large.  It seems that low inventory continues to be the state of affairs…everywhere.  Steve showed that there is still a less-than-two-months supply of homes in Marin, so it’s still tight.  2014 appears to be trending more in line with 2012 than with 2013.

What I’m seeing inventory-wise is the mad rush to get into homes has given our buyers much less time to make an informed decisions on the homes on which they are writing offers.  As a result, there seem to be a few more properties falling out of escrow than feels normal.  The oft-used “back on market, no fault of property, buyers didn’t do inspections” which translates to “cold feet”.  It’s tough to make people wait, as agents are beating the doors down trying to get their clients into the property.

I stumbled onto an issue last week that many were quietly grumbling about:  the pre-opened escrow phenomenon.  Quite unexpectedly, this was the most-commented-on issue I’ve written about all year.  It totally caught me off guard…I was just venting, and many of you chimed in.  I got about 30 feedback comments from members, with 29 completely appalled by the process and one outlier defending the practice.  I even had a few of our title company biz dev reps thank me for bringing it up.

It’s become something of a fevered pitch, an “arms race” of sorts, with many agents commenting that whenever they now put a property on the MLS they are getting several calls from title reps wanting to pre-open an escrow.  People, this is not productive.  The comments came from across the agent spectrum market-wise, but most came from seasoned, veteran agents, all of whom are listing agents themselves.

Now, on to NAR and the REALTOR Party Convention. What a week in Washington DC!  It’s amazing to see 4,000 REALTORS come together and advocate for the industry and private property rights.  On Thursday, our team from California District 2 visited the office of Congressman Jared Huffman to brief his staff on our industry’s position on many important national real estate policy issues.

I had the opportunity to speak on the importance of preserving the current real estate tax code.  On the table in congress right now is the “Tax Reform Discussion Draft” where many of the fundamental  tax statutes seem to be on the table, including the mortgage interest deduction, the ability to deduct state and local property taxes on your federal tax return, and also like-kind (1031) tax-deferred exchanges for investment property.  The mortgage interest and property tax deductions have been part of the tax code for over 100 years.  They are the foundation of public policy that encourages home ownership, and allow families of modest income to afford homes of their own.

NAR strongly supports retaining the current tax code as it relates to the mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction.  Were the congress to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, it’s estimated that property values would drop 15%.  If the property tax deduction were eliminated, double-taxation would be the result and you would be paying your property taxes with already-taxed money.  Finally, the like-kind 1031 tax-deferred exchange policy creates liquidity in an inherently illiquid investment property market.  Were 1031 exchanges to go away, the flow of capital in this segment of the market would slow considerably.  People would sit on their properties, redevelopment would slow, and the jobs that result from redevelopment would be lost.

Kathy Hayes of the North Bay Association of Realtors (NorBAR) spoke on the ongoing need to not tax the phantom “gain” for people who have lost their homes to a short sale or foreclosure.  The government’s waiver of that taxable “gain” expired at the beginning of this year, and this ongoing issue is still being debated.

Sally Crain of NorBAR  spoke about the importance of preserving the current loan limits of the FHA program…which look like they will be preserved at this point.  NorBAR’s Terri Ann McGowan spoke about the importance of retaining the role of the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s…Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).  Both of these agencies have paid all of the money back to the federal government that was needed during the financial crises…and even though the federal government is actually MAKING money off that investment, there is a strong possibility in Washington that these agencies will be unwound.  We need these agencies.  NAR strongly supports retaining the GSE’s to ensure the affordable availability of capital for people of modest means to finance a home purchase.

In addition to the legislative advocacy on Capitol Hill, there were lots of great meetings and roundtables.  I had the opportunity to participate in the Association Presidents’ Roundtable on Friday morning.  What a terrific experience, meeting with hundreds of Association presidents from around the country, and comparing notes on a variety of topics.  MAR shares many of the same challenges with associations across the country.  We were split up so large, medium and small associations sat with one another.  We’re classified as “medium”.  We rotated tables every 25 minutes and sat with moderators on a variety of subjects, with different mixes of presidents each time.  Among others, I chose to sit in on Syndication and IDX feeds (to Zillow/Trulia and the like), and also the “What do you do for your members other than provide access to the MLS?”

The IDX/syndication session was sort of refreshing because of the democracy of the subject; meaning, presidents from all over the country were grumbling about inaccuracy of data, other agents’ pictures next to their listings, and the inevitable loss of control of what happens with our data.  That was contrasted with the obvious consumer desire for robust access to data and sellers’ desire to have their listings in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

Regarding providing member services other than the MLS…well, we don’t have our own MLS…  The discussion was a great roundtable of what associations similar in size to ours, all around the country, are doing to provide value and relevance to membership.  This sort of thing is always racing through my mind, and it’s been the subject of spirited discussions in our MAR board room since the day I got there.

Whew, I’m exhausted!  All in all, a super-productive week for MAR…a super-productive month so far that started at CAR in Sacramento on April 29th.

I’m finishing this at 30,000 feet somewhere over the middle of America, and my mind is still racing.  The good kind of racing.  I made my connection in Philly, running from one concourse to another, getting to my gate 5 minutes before they closed the door.

Really looking forward to getting back to our lovely Marin.

I wish you safe and prosperous week!

Blaine

 

 

Housing Density – Larkspur SMART Station Area Plan, Updates on San Rafael City Resale Inspections and Sewer Laterals. MAR Monday Memo 04/28/14

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

Good morning MAR members!

Lots of new listings last week.  It seems that sellers are finally getting the message that people are looking to move!

One final reminder that the memorial service for MAR member and Novato icon Mike Di Giorgio is one week from today, Monday May 5th, from 11AM-1PM at Novato City Hall.  As I mentioned previously, Mike’s family has asked MAR member and Novato Councilwoman Denise Athas to share stories of Mike’s business life, and has asked for anecdotes and personal stories about Mike from our members.  For those of you who might have a good story to share, Denise has asked that you contact her via email at DAthas@aol.com.

This  week, the rest of MAR’s California Association of Realtors Board of Directors members and I will be in Sacramento for the CAR’s Legislative Day (Wednesday) and the Spring business meetings through Saturday.  If there is any pressing matter that you’d like CAR’s leadership to be aware of, please let me know and we will take it to Sacramento.  If you’d like to join us for Leg Day, Governor Jerry Brown will be addressing us on Wednesday morning.

San Rafael City Resale Inspections

I must say, it’s been very quiet this past week+.  Prior to our meetings with San Rafael’s City Manager and building department a couple of weeks ago, I was receiving daily calls…often multiple calls.  Now it’s like someone turned off the faucet…no calls.  In fact, one of our colleagues made it a point to tell me what a delightful inspection he had with San Rafael, when he was expecting the worst.  If you’re still having issues, I do want to know.

MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I will be meeting with San Rafael again next week…a meeting they asked for.  They have asked us to bring any suggestions for improving their process.  My message is going to be consistent with our last meeting:  please don’t penalize homeowners for things that San Rafael missed in the past.  It is San Rafael’s choice to require a resale inspection.  Since they do require it, we as the real estate community take the inspection very seriously.  As such, if the city misses something and people make the biggest financial decision of their life based upon that inspection, buyers and sellers have a reasonable expectation that the mandatory report is accurate.  If the report is inaccurate, San Rafael needs to offer a path to compliance if they missed something.

It’s as simple as that.  With all of that said, perhaps they’ve made some changes based upon our last meeting.  From where I’m sitting, the membership has been much quieter on this subject.

Housing Density– Larkspur SMART Station Area Plan

As I mentioned about a month ago, MAR has drafted and passed a housing density policy statement, which you can read right here <link>.  A few weeks ago, MAR’s Local Candidate Recommendation Committee met with both Supervisor Susan Adams and San Rafael Councilman Damon Connelly, who are running for Supervisor in District 1 (most of San Rafael from Central San Rafael north).  We also met with Supervisor Judy Arnold who is running for re-election in District 5 (Novato).  Supervisor Arnold’s opponent, MAR member Toni Shroyer, elected to not visit with MAR.

As you might imagine, much of the discussion focused on housing, housing density, and the vision for Marin going forward.  We asked all the candidates about their thoughts on the big density issue on the table right now, the development plan for the Larkspur Landing, ferry terminal and SMART train station.  Up to 900+ units.  The “Larkspur SMART Station Area Plan.”  The Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for this project is open for public comment until early June.  The decision on what to do rests on the shoulders of the Larkspur Town Council.  Here is the link to the plan, as well as instructions for offering your comments:  http://www.larkspurcityhall.org/index.aspx?nid=157

MAR took a position last summer in opposition to Plan Bay Area, because of the top-down planning approach it favored, rather than local control.   MAR is in favor of local control.

So here we are…local control time.  There was a spirited, standing room only community meeting this past Saturday at Bacich School in Kentfield, with supervisor Katie Rice in attendance.  The challenge that Supervisor Rice is facing…a challenge that every resident of Ross Valley is facing…is the same challenge that every resident of Marin who drives on 101 is facing:  namely, this proposed development is going to affect every one of us.  It’s going to be decided by the Honorable Larkspur Town Council, the elected leaders of Larkspur’s 12,000+ residents.  But it’s going to affect all of us, from a traffic, parking, water and sewage standpoint.

With that as the premise, we asked the Supervisor candidates their opinions about this plan.  All were quite wary based upon the past year’s public dialogue.  The only countywide agency with a stake in the decision is the Transportation Authority of Marin.  But ultimately it will be up to Larkspur.

The Environmental Impact Report public comment period goes until June 2nd.  MAR will be encouraging the Larkspur Town Council to consider the impact of this project on the county at large.  MAR encouraged the Supervisor candidates to take into consideration the county-wide impacts, and to offer input when appropriate.

And MAR encourages you, our members, to make your voices heard on the subject.  The public comment period is open.  Please comment on it.  This proposed project is going to affect all of us, so please weigh in with your thoughts.

More on Sewer Laterals

Briefly, in addition to the Mill Valley Area covered by the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM), now it seems that Ross Valley Sanitary District (RVSD) is also now considering point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections.  At their meeting last week, it was brought up as an advisory matter.  MAR has shared the rationale of its opposition to point-of-sale inspections with both agencies.  After receiving MAR’s input, SASM postponed an advisory vote on the subject.  We shared the same feedback with RVSD last week.

This subject could quickly morph into something very, very large as it relates to the Marin real estate community’s ability to conduct business in arguably the county’s largest economic driver.

Stay tuned.  As I like to say, we are on it.

That’s all for now, next week I’ll have a report from CAR for you.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine

San Rafael Resale Inspections, Point of Sale Sewer Lateral Inspections and SASM, Upcoming CAR Meetings. MAR Monday Memo 04/21/14

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

Good morning MAR members! Happy Easter, Happy Earth Day!

With tax day blessedly behind us…so many buyers, so few houses, where is the inventory? Likely many listings in the coming weeks, but way more buyers than houses right now! The practice of auction-like pricing seems reasonable for our sellers, but it’s making so much work for so many whose buyers don’t really have a shot. Ten offers means nine sets buyers, nine agents and probably 7-8 mortgage brokers who all come away empty-handed. At least we’re all staying busy…

Last week’s big news–that the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin is considering a model ordinance for the various agencies that fall under its advisory umbrella–generated a lot of discussion among our member community. MAR has been in touch with many relevant stakeholders, sharing our opinion that point-of-sale inspections are not the solution. Point of sale inspections will result in a 47-year resolution to an immediate problem, and the very real and substantial issue of shared laterals leaves many unanswered questions. SASM needs to come up with a real plan. The vote that was going to occur last Thursday did not occur, and SASM is seeking more of MAR’s input into the process. Stay tuned.

The other big continuing issue is the ongoing San Rafael resale inspection matter. Thank you to all of you who have contacted me with feedback. It’s edged every other matter aside as far as feedback is concerned. I literally get several calls a day. While every individual case is different, MAR is advocating on our collective behalf.

To that end, MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I met last Wednesday with San Rafael City Manager Linda Mackel, and two key members of her team: Paul Jensen, the Community Development Director, and Thomas Ahrens, head of the building department. I’ll describe it as a good meeting, but with a lot of loose ends that remain untied. But they did give us an hour, and listened intently to our feedback and they took a lot of notes and asked a lot of questions.

Again, thank you for all of your feedback as I had a ton of specific, timely, recent info to share. They were largely aware of every case we discussed. They also acknowledged that there has been a material uptick in the complaints with the enforcement process, though City Manager Nancy Mackel did not seem to be aware of the magnitude of homeowner and MAR member frustration.

My message remained simple: (1) It is because of San Rafael’s decision to have resale inspections that we find ourselves where we are; (2) there is no statewide regulation calling for resale inspections, and most municipalities don’t have the requirement; (3) because of San Rafael’s requirement for resale inspections, we all put a lot of weight in their content, and people inform what is often the largest financial decision they make based on the info in this report; (4) if San Rafael requires these inspections, and gets them wrong (in the past), and people make hundreds-of-thousands or million dollar decisions based on the contents, do not come back and penalize the new homeowner (and future seller) for mistakes or omissions that San Rafael made with its mandatory report in the past; (5) this new level of compliance enforcement for sometimes decades-old improvements are creating uncertainty, slowing escrows, and hindering commerce in the largest economic driver in the City of San Rafael.

The first Principle in MAR’s Fair Principles for Resale Inspections is “Consistency” and the second is “No Double Jeopardy”. We obviously have a current disconnect with these two principles right now. MAR is all for compliance, but if San Rafael is going to suddenly escalate the rigidness of its compliance requirement, it can’t suddenly change the way it does business and not expect substantial pushback.

San Rafael must create a smooth path to compliance, with allowances for situations, permit fees and penalties that exist today because of San Rafael’s mistakes and omissions in the past.

To his credit, Paul Jensen quickly followed up with us last Thursday to schedule a follow up meeting, and asked us for specific recommendations for improvements. I expect to be meeting with them again early next month.

Please keep sharing your stories. It’s hard to get resolution on every situation, or any one situation, but collectively they help me paint the clear picture of a broken process.

Finally, the California Association of REALTORS Spring Meetings and Legislative Day are next week. As I’ve said in the past, these are amazing meetings, particularly the Wednesday morning session when Governor Jerry Brown addresses the CAR Board of Directors, and later on Wednesday when the REALTOR Party makes its positions known and heard to our elected officials and their staffs. For more info on Leg Day, click here: http://www.car.org/governmentaffairs/getinvolved/legislativeday/. I hope to see many of you in Sacramento next week!

MAR’s members on the CAR Board of Directors include myself, President-Elect Matt Hughes, Katie Beacock (who is also Chair of CAR’s Region 4, of which MAR is part), Kay Moore and Mary Kay Yamamoto. If you have any concerns you’d like us to take to CAR on your behalf, please contact one of us. That’s it for now. I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine

San Rafael Resale Inspections, Point of Sale Sewer Lateral Inspections and SASM, Upcoming CAR Meetings. MAR Monday Memo 04/21/14

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

Good morning MAR members! Happy Easter, Happy Earth Day!

With tax day blessedly behind us…so many buyers, so few houses, where is the inventory? Likely many listings in the coming weeks, but way more buyers than houses right now! The practice of auction-like pricing seems reasonable for our sellers, but it’s making so much work for so many whose buyers don’t really have a shot. Ten offers means nine sets buyers, nine agents and probably 7-8 mortgage brokers who all come away empty-handed. At least we’re all staying busy…

Last week’s big news–that the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin is considering a model ordinance for the various agencies that fall under its advisory umbrella–generated a lot of discussion among our member community. MAR has been in touch with many relevant stakeholders, sharing our opinion that point-of-sale inspections are not the solution. Point of sale inspections will result in a 47-year resolution to an immediate problem, and the very real and substantial issue of shared laterals leaves many unanswered questions. SASM needs to come up with a real plan. The vote that was going to occur last Thursday did not occur, and SASM is seeking more of MAR’s input into the process. Stay tuned.

The other big continuing issue is the ongoing San Rafael resale inspection matter. Thank you to all of you who have contacted me with feedback. It’s edged every other matter aside as far as feedback is concerned. I literally get several calls a day. While every individual case is different, MAR is advocating on our collective behalf.

To that end, MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I met last Wednesday with San Rafael City Manager Linda Mackel, and two key members of her team: Paul Jensen, the Community Development Director, and Thomas Ahrens, head of the building department. I’ll describe it as a good meeting, but with a lot of loose ends that remain untied. But they did give us an hour, and listened intently to our feedback and they took a lot of notes and asked a lot of questions.

Again, thank you for all of your feedback as I had a ton of specific, timely, recent info to share. They were largely aware of every case we discussed. They also acknowledged that there has been a material uptick in the complaints with the enforcement process, though City Manager Nancy Mackel did not seem to be aware of the magnitude of homeowner and MAR member frustration.

My message remained simple: (1) It is because of San Rafael’s decision to have resale inspections that we find ourselves where we are; (2) there is no statewide regulation calling for resale inspections, and most municipalities don’t have the requirement; (3) because of San Rafael’s requirement for resale inspections, we all put a lot of weight in their content, and people inform what is often the largest financial decision they make based on the info in this report; (4) if San Rafael requires these inspections, and gets them wrong (in the past), and people make hundreds-of-thousands or million dollar decisions based on the contents, do not come back and penalize the new homeowner (and future seller) for mistakes or omissions that San Rafael made with its mandatory report in the past; (5) this new level of compliance enforcement for sometimes decades-old improvements are creating uncertainty, slowing escrows, and hindering commerce in the largest economic driver in the City of San Rafael.

The first Principle in MAR’s Fair Principles for Resale Inspections is “Consistency” and the second is “No Double Jeopardy”. We obviously have a current disconnect with these two principles right now. MAR is all for compliance, but if San Rafael is going to suddenly escalate the rigidness of its compliance requirement, it can’t suddenly change the way it does business and not expect substantial pushback.

San Rafael must create a smooth path to compliance, with allowances for situations, permit fees and penalties that exist today because of San Rafael’s mistakes and omissions in the past.

To his credit, Paul Jensen quickly followed up with us last Thursday to schedule a follow up meeting, and asked us for specific recommendations for improvements. I expect to be meeting with them again early next month.

Please keep sharing your stories. It’s hard to get resolution on every situation, or any one situation, but collectively they help me paint the clear picture of a broken process.

Finally, the California Association of REALTORS Spring Meetings and Legislative Day are next week. As I’ve said in the past, these are amazing meetings, particularly the Wednesday morning session when Governor Jerry Brown addresses the CAR Board of Directors, and later on Wednesday when the REALTOR Party makes its positions known and heard to our elected officials and their staffs. For more info on Leg Day, click here: http://www.car.org/governmentaffairs/getinvolved/legislativeday/. I hope to see many of you in Sacramento next week!

MAR’s members on the CAR Board of Directors include myself, President-Elect Matt Hughes, Katie Beacock (who is also Chair of CAR’s Region 4, of which MAR is part), Kay Moore and Mary Kay Yamamoto. If you have any concerns you’d like us to take to CAR on your behalf, please contact one of us. That’s it for now. I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine

HR-4208 FHA Loan Limits and Finding the Right Buyer – MAR Monday Memo 04/07/14

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

Good morning MAR members!

It sure is crazy out there, full-on springtime anxiety season for our buyers…a mad rush to get to every new listing and get those offers in.  The good news is lots of new listings!  I’m running from one end of the county to the other on a daily basis, like everyone…hurry hurry hurry…offer offer offer!  We’re all busy, which is great!

Early last month, I relayed to you that Kay Moore, Katie Beacock and I went to visit Congressman Jared Huffman in late February.  Among other things in that meeting, we shared with Representative Huffman the importance of passing flood insurance reform, and also the importance of retaining the higher loan limits on FHA loans.  He was aware of the flood bill, but he said he was not fully briefed on it yet.  He did agree that these loan limits are essential for buyers here in high-cost Marin.

It feels good to see results from these meetings.  After our meeting with Representative Huffman, on March 4th, the house passed the flood insurance relief bill, and on March 21st, President Obama signed that bill into law.

As for the loan limits, earlier this week Representative Huffman’s office alerted Kay Moore that the congressman was co-sponsoring HR-4208, the “Stabilizing FHA Loan Limit Calculations Act of 2014”.  This bill is still in its infancy, but it’s great that our leaders hear us and respond to the needs of our industry.

MAR’s new CEO Andy Fegley has been super busy during his first five weeks on the job.  He has been in morning-to-night meetings around the county, introducing himself to local elected and appointed leaders.  He has been in regular contact with Assemblyman Mark Levine’s office, reminding them of MAR’s strong support for Assemblyman Levine’s housing density bill, AB  1537, which reduces the state mandated housing density in Marin from 30 units per acre to 20 units per acre.  Last week, I signed a letter of support for the bill and Andy delivered it to Assemblyman Levine’s office in time for that letter to be included in the legislative package for upcoming committee hearings.

It’s another way that our voices are being heard by our leaders here in Marin and also in Sacramento.  Please let us know other things we should be taking to the CAR Sacramento Business Meetings later this month.

It’s gearing up for election season, and candidates for office will be visiting with MAR’s Local Candidate Recommendation Committee in the coming weeks.  The big races are for two county supervisor seats and also for seats on the Ross Valley Sanitary District.  Please let us know if you have specific concerns or questions that you would like us to be asking these candidates.

I just visited an old friend this past Friday, by beloved 1986 BMW 635csi.  It was always our 3rd car, used for fun and weekend driving.  I purchased it used in 1997 with low mileage and perfect condition, and kept it until it was time to move on in the fall of 2010.  It was a sad departure, but as the years wore on I wasn’t driving it much, sometimes for months at a time.  My wife convinced me that it needed to go to someone who would drive it and give it the love that it deserved.

I was very diligent about who I would sell it to.  Ultimately, a military security officer from Lawrence Livermore Labs contacted me and told me that he had been looking for this type of care his whole driving life…literally since he was 16.  Now that he had somewhere to put it, he’d been looking for one for 3 years.  It was love at first sight, he had brought cash, we did the deal and away they went.  I took pictures and with a heavy heart waved goodbye.

He has stayed in touch, and was going to be in Marin and wanted to bring the car by to show me what he’s done.  I told my wife that morning that I was going to see the 635.  Sherman had sent me pix over the years, he’s fixed some things and generally showered the car with love.  My wife told me on Friday morning, “you sold the car to the right guy.”  Needless to say, when Sherman brought the car by my office it was immaculate, we took it for a spin, I took a couple of pictures and that was that.  I really do feel like I sold it to the right guy.  He is still so happy to this day!

I tell you all of this because it’s often the same thing in our business.  It feels good to sell a house to the “right buyer”.  We often talk about having the “right buyer”, looking for the “right buyer”.  When that comes together, it brings us great satisfaction.

One of the best scenarios for me is when I find a house for a couple expecting their first child.  You find them a house, they settle in, the baby comes, and it’s everything they wanted.  I had the good fortune to have one of these buyer scenarios late last year:  pregnant couple, got them into a short sale, got the deal approved and closed about six weeks before the baby came.  I live in the neighborhood, but haven’t seen them since the baby.  I ran into the wife and baby finally about ten days ago, she was SO happy.  Loves the house, loves the neighborhood, loves the neighbors.  I came away thinking about what I’m writing now, so nice to see the young family in their happy house.

The next day, coincidentally, I ran into the husband while walking my dog.  He too was so happy.  Loves the outdoor life, loves the trails, loves the lifestyle.  He was beaming.  He thanked me for everything.  He earnestly told me that “my life is perfect right now.”  I had just had a difficult day…ok a bad day…and that little moment turned it all around.  He made my day.  And that’s what it’s all about.

We truly are blessed to be in this business in Marin.  Thank you for indulging my story.

That’s it for now.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!

Blaine