The Mortgage Interest Deduction: Why it matters more than you think (pAGE 6) November/December 2010
A journal for real estate professionals published by the Virginia Association of REALTORS® • www.VARealtor.com
Power Why Virginia Realtors® risk losing their clout.
firstword ANDREW KANTOR
Published by The Virginia Association of Realtors® The Business Advocate for Virginia Real Estate Professionals John Dickinson, CCIM, GRI President Trish Szego, CRB, CRS President-Elect Mary Victoria Dykstra, ABR, CRS Vice President John Daly, SFR Treasurer Cindy Stackhouse, GRI Immediate Past President R. Scott Brunner, CAE Chief Executive Officer firstname.lastname@example.org Amanda Rainsford Director of Sales & Marketing email@example.com Andrew Kantor Editor & Information Manager firstname.lastname@example.org For advertising information, Brittany Sullivan at (410) 584-1968 or e-mail email@example.com The mission of The Virginia Association of Realtors® is to enhance its membership’s ability to achieve business success. Commonwealth magazine (ISSN#10888721) is published bi-monthly by the Virginia Association of REALTORS®, 10231 Telegraph Road, Glen Allen, VA 23059-4578; (804) 264-5033. Virginia Association of REALTORS® members pay annual dues with a one-year subscription included within their dues. Periodicals postage paid at the Glen Allen, VA post office and additional mailing offices. USPS Per. # 9604. Postmaster: Send address changes to: Commonwealth magazine, 10231 Telegraph Rd., Glen Allen, VA 23059-4578. Custom Publishing Services provided by Network Media Partners, Inc. Executive Plaza 1, Suite 900, 11350 McCormick Road Hunt Valley, MD 21031
VARbuzz.com. Your virtual café for real estate news, views, and issues. Read the perspectives of your fellow Virginia REALTORS®. Join the conversation at VARbuzz.com today.
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In addition to the print version of Commonwealth, VAR publishes electronic newsletters at regular intervals, including...
...the online version of our print magazine, published twice each month. If you’re not receiving newsletters via e-mail from time to time, it may be that we don’t have your correct email address. Contact your local association of REALTORS® to enter your address in the database. Also, check the spam filter on your computer and ● Issue 6 Volume authorize any17 email from varealtor.com.
Picking political bones I hate politics. When election season began in earnest I tuned out — I got my news from Fark (if you don’t know it, check it out at fark.com) and avoided local TV. I threw out the flyers I got before I even made it into the house. As far as I’m concerned, it just a bunch of bad-mouthing hypocrites pointing out how the other guys are a bunch of bad-mouthing hypocrites. Ignoring the news seems the best way to keep my blood pressure in check. Of course there’s no avoiding everything, so I keep my cool by focusing on something I honestly believe to be true: Almost all these people shouting at one another, slinging mud, and waxing hyperbolic really do want what’s best for the nation. Even the ones I can’t stand. (Well, mostly.) Just because you disagree with someone’s ideas doesn’t mean they have different goals. As certain as you are that going over the mountain is best, someone else may be just as certain that going around is better. But you both want to get to the other side. Try not to forget that. A lot of this issue is about VAR’s political efforts. It’s what we get the most feedback on (see Scott Brunner’s “Last Word”), and what stirs the most passion. But keep my advice in mind. Maybe you disagree with a bill we’re working on or a candidate we endorse, but I can say with
absolute certainty that everyone involved in our political efforts is completely committed to doing what’s best for Realtors®. (With the exception of staff, they’re all Realtors®, just like you.) And don’t forget that our legislative and political efforts are not the product of a single person. They’re developed by a fairly large and definitely diverse group of Realtors®, each of whom brings a different perspective to the table. They’re from around the state and across the political spectrum. They take their responsibility seriously. And what they want is what’s best for Virginia’s Realtors®. So when we announce a position or an endorsement, remember that our focus is you and on the big picture. If you disagree with us, avoid jumping on the melodrama bandwagon. (Yes, it’s easy to get aboard and the seats are comfortable. But it doesn’t go anywhere useful.) We all want the same thing, even if we sometimes have different ideas about how to get there. (By the way, if it isn’t obvious — if you really want your voice to be heard, it’s easy enough to get involved. Just go to VARealtor. com/volunteer.) l Andrew Kantor, Editor andrew @VARealtor.com
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 Volume 17 ● Issue 6
departments 4 quickhits The latest news and announcements for Virginia’s Realtors®
14 legallines Questions and answers about Virginia real estate law
17 lifelessons When real estate pros break the rules ... and get caught
20 formfactor Can the Grinch really sign a listing agreement?
30 accessibletech The strange little pictures that might change
the way you market
Power Drain From city halls to Capitol Square, the influence Realtors® have enjoyed could be on the wane — and the fault lies only in ourselves.
in every issue plus 1 firstword
32 rpacreport 37 varbuzzcontest 39 contactvar 40 lastword APEX Award of Excellence winner 2
10 Home Sales Report: Q3 2010 A quick look at how the Virginia real estate market fared. 12 Renaissance President VAR’s new leader is a man of many talents — and not a lot of free time. 26 Battle Lines We’ve got a list of issues to take up with the General Assembly — here’s what we’ll be fighting for in 2011.
You may have noticed that this issue of Commonwealth has more than one cover. If you invested in RPAC in 2010, yours offers “Thanks for everything.” (If you invested $99 or more it has a gold border to boot.) And if you didn’t invest? Let’s just say the cover image isn’t quite a friendly. www.VARealtor.com
FOR FRANCHISE INFO Contact Nancy & Tom Shaver
EXIT Realty Virginia Office: 800-906-3948 firstname.lastname@example.org Brokerage, Independently Owned and Operated. Not intended to solicit individuals or property already under contract.
Sourcebook offers look at Virginia housing affordability How affordable is housing in Virginia? How many middle-class families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads? Can a firefighter really afford to live in Fairfax? A new tool from Housing Virginia answers those questions — and a lot more. It’s the first comprehensive, statewide database that looks at housing affordability. Working with VAR, the Virginia Housing Development Authority, and Virginia Tech’s Center for Housing Research, Housing Virginia developed the Affordability Sourcebook, which takes data about incomes, housing prices, mortgage payments, and rental rates to give the first clear picture of the real cost of housing from Arlington to Abingdon. First, some figures. 1. The national standard for whether a home is “affordable” is 30% — that is, if a home costs more than 30% of a household’s income, the family is considered “cost-burdened.” 2. If you take an area’s median income, a family that brings in 100% of that is solidly middle class, while a family that brings in 60% or less than the median is considered lower income. (Many state and federal departments use that 60% figure to decide eligibility for various social programs.) Using data from the state’s MLSs, the Census Bureau, HUD, and Virginia Tech, the Sourcebook 4
There are more people burdened by the cost of housing these days than before. Home prices may be declining, but so have incomes. lets anyone (yes, anyone) look at state, regional, and local numbers to see how affordable an area is. For example, almost a million households in the state are cost-burdened. And among lower-income families, just paying the rent or mortgage typically takes more than 42% of their income. But the power of the Sourcebook is being able to look at that information on a local level: Incomes in Dulles may be higher than those in Martinsville, but so is the cost of housing (not to mention the commute). So the Sourcebook lets users pick a region, city, or county and see not only how affordable it is now, but how it has been trending (the data go back about five years).
Why is having this sort of information a big deal? Because it gives everyone — policy makers, media, urban planners, home builders, and of course Realtors® — the same information. “For the first time ever in Virginia, we have a common set of data,” said Laura Lafayette, CEO of the Richmond Association of Realtors® and vice chair of Housing Virginia. “We’ll have the same database, so we’re all on the same page. We don’t have to spend time asking ‘where did your data come from?’” Because Housing Virginia is a partnership of a wide variety of organizations — from Realtors® and home builders to not-forprofit groups, government, and www.VARealtor.com
academia — the information in the Sourcebook is a common ground everyone can agree on. One of the first things it showed was that, contrary to some opinions, there are more people burdened by the cost of housing these days than before. Home prices may be declining, but so have incomes. Housing Virginia hopes the Sourcebook will be used by a long list of groups — advocates for affordable housing will have hard numbers to show legislators. Corporations can use it to plan a move or new facility. Policy makers can use it to plan smarter growth. And Realtors® can use it to help clients make decisions about pricing and affordability. Of course, as with any collection
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of data there are bound to be more uses and surprises than anyone expects. One of the first to emerge: Over the past few years, owning a home has become more affordable, while renting has become less affordable (probably because so many people were forced out of the homes they owned). If nothing else, being able to quickly pull up accurate information about any part of the state will make it possible to see what the data really say about the economic situation. As Lafayette put it, “It allows people to unpack the headlines.” Visit the Affordability Sourcebook at VARealtor.com/ sourcebook.
Election results On behalf of NAR and your local association of Realtors®, VAR thanks all of you who made your voice heard by voting November 2. There will be some new faces representing Virginia when the 112th Congress convenes in early January, as well as incumbents with whom we’ve worked before. As always, the RPAC and Realtor® lobbying partnership will continue to fight for your business interests when laws are being made. Check out a complete list of Virginia election results at
Virginia gets $45 million for high-speed rail
State targets mortgage-modification scammers
There are always people willing to run a scam, especially when folks are in dire straights. The housing and financial crisis is no exception: Mixed in with the real organizations helping people deal with creditors are the other kind. Virginia found some of that other kind, and is taking them to court. The state is claiming that the American Neighborhood Housing Foundation (which has offices in Chesapeake and Richmond) collected between $950 and $1050 from individual homeowners looking for “mortgage modification” to stop foreclosures. Unfortunately, taking the money seems to be all it did, according to the attorney general’s office – besides, that is, making “false promises... when it represented or guaranteed it would stop a customer’s scheduled foreclosure.” (Virginia is already in the process of suing two other companies for running a similar scam: Nationwide Loan Modification Bureau and Real Estate Resolutions, both of Virginia Beach.)
The Commonwealth is one step closer to getting high speed rail service after being awarded $45.4 million in federal transportation grants. The funds will be used to cover the cost of preliminary engineering and an environmental impact assessment of the rail service between Petersburg, Richmond and Washington. High speed rail along the I-95 corridor could greatly reduce highway congestion, conserve energy, shorten travel time and create economic development opportunities.
Mortgage interest deduction: Why it matters The moment the bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka the Deficit Reduction Commission) recommended scaling back some provisions of the mortgage interest deducation, NAR made its opposition clear. It will fight “any tax reform plan that does not retain the deductibility of mortgage interest.” The reasons are simple: Without the MID, home values across the board would drop by an average of 15 percent, according to NAR economists.
Worse, it would impact firsttime homebuyers most of all — exactly the people we need to enter the market and help boost the economy. Imagine this: A $250,000 home, a buyer in the 25% tax bracket, an interest rate of 5%. In the first year alone, the MID would save that buyer more than $3,100 — money that would go back into Virginia’s economy. The MID makes home ownership more affordable. And home ownership builds stronger communities, creates social stability,
builds wealth over the long term, and contributes significantly to the U.S. economy. On December 1 NAR issued a Call for Action asking members to contact their representatives about the MID; on December 9 it followed up with a CFA to contact senators. “The tax deductibility of interest paid on mortgages is both a powerful incentive for home ownership and one of the simplest provisions in the tax code.” Read the full NAR story at VARbuzz.com/go/nar-mid. www.VARealtor.com
Scan Me! Commercial market
Is uncertainty about taxes fueling a surge in commercial listings? Could the end of the Bush-era capital gains tax cut mean a jump in commercial sales? Could be, at least according to an article in Bloomberg. Part of Congress’s arguing over extending the tax cuts was about the capital gains tax — whether it should go back to 20% from its current 15%. That potential jump, Bloomberg contends, is convincing some commercial-property owners to try to sell now, rather than pay higher taxes later. Longtime U.S. property owners ... are testing the sales market amid uncertainty over the status of the tax cuts, setting the stage for a surge in transactions followed by a decline, said Robert Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services, a brokerage in New York. There may be precedent as well. Commercial-property sales soared before the implementation of a 1986 change in the federal tax code that increased the capital-gains rate to 28 percent and ended the practice of allowing real estate losses to generate large tax write-offs, said Hessam Nadji, managing director of research and advisory services at brokerage Marcus & Millichap in San Francisco. “The second half of 1986 was off the charts,” Nadji said in a telephone interview. “We did Volume 17 ● Issue 6
about a year’s worth of business in about four months.” But economics is rarely simple, and others point out that you can’t be sure that it’s the impending end of the tax break behind the sales bump. Robert Bach, chief economist at commercial-property broker Grubb & Ellis Co., said: “The tax issues are sort of overwhelmed by the broader issues of supply and demand,” Bach said in an interview. “There’s a limited number of properties, and maybe the increase is from the fact that buyers and sellers are coming to common ground as contrasted with a year ago, when there was little clarity on pricing and nobody was doing anything.” And, of course, there’s the simple fact that prices are still dropping -down 3.3% from July to August to the lowest level they’ve been since 2002. Property owners may figure the recovery is further off than they want to wait. Read the full Bloomberg article at VARbuzz.com/ Bloomberg-commercial.
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*All VAR Members will receive a FREE, 2 Month Subscription to Clikbrix.com by simply e-mailing email@example.com and entering ‘VAR1’ in the subject line; please include your full name, agency/broker name and e-mail address to use for your Clikbrix account. 2010 Winner! Mobile Marketing Award © www.clikbrix.com
quickhits Property values
Protect the value of your home by reporting vacant property We all know that foreclosures are hard on homeowners, and that they can hurt a neighborhood’s property values. But you might not realize the effects they have on localities. At the Governor’s Housing Conference in Richmond this week, Jennifer Leonard of the Center for Community Progress and Jeff Blackford from the Fairfax County Department of Code Compliance explained that yes, foreclosures put a lot of pressure on local governments too. Here come the bullet points: • Between falling property assessments and vacant homes with no apparent owners to send tax bills to, localities are seeing steep drops in property-tax revenues. • At the same time, cities and counties are seeing their codeenforcement costs go up — there are more vacant homes to board up, and more overgrown grass in front of more vacant homes that needs to be cut, for example. (For example, according to Blackford, Fairfax County spends $250-400 to mow a quarter-acre lot.) • The lower tax income and rising costs are forcing some cities and counties to make cuts to code enforcement personnel, making neighborhoods less safe. Speaking of less safe, Leonard and Blackford pointed out that vacant homes bring with them a long list of other problems: • Illegal activity, from vandalism to meth labs • Squatters may enter the home and 8
Empty homes are risky for neighborhoods and values — now that winter is here — light fires to stay warm, substantially increasing the fire danger • Unguarded swimming pools that pose a drowning risk • Electric companies cut off power to vacant homes when bills aren’t paid. No electricity for sump pumps can mean standing water in basements — think mold and other nasty things • Dilapidated roofs can lead to collapse To make it all worse, code enforcement, policing, demolition, planning, and other concerns are often spread around and uncoordinated, making them inefficient and costly. Some areas have tried to mitigate the problem, although sometimes with unintended consequences. In Danville, for example, the city has taken possession of homes, demolished them, and put liens on the property for expenses. But that
makes the properties too expensive in the eyes of prospective buyers, who must pay off the lien before closing on the sale. End result: The land continues to sit there, unused, and the locality receives no tax revenue for the property. Despite all this, Blackford urges homeowners and property owners associations to report vacant homes to their local code enforcement offices. If nothing else, local officials can do small things like board up doors and secure pools — it can make a big difference in safety, reduce the cost to the locality in the long term, and increase the likelihood that the homes will be occupied again soon. After all, isn’t that the point? A lived-in home poses far less risk to the citizens around it and produces property tax revenues that allow localities to provide services. l
home sales report The home sales numbers are in for the third quarter of 2010 (July 1 through October 30). As expected with the end of the homebuyer tax credit, there’s been a sharp drop in sales across the Commonwealth. Looking at the statewide figures,
sales for the third quarter of 2010 were more than 26% below the second quarter, and — more importantly — were 23% lower than the third quarter of 2009. (“More importantly” because year-to-year numbers tend to be a better indicator of
long-term trends.) Every region of the state was affected. Hardest hit was the Roanoke/Lynchburg/Blacksburg area, where sales were down by almost a third over 2009. Even Northern Virginia, which has
Virginia Total Sales 2009 vs. 2010 TOTAL SALES
$6,000 $5,000 $4,000
$6,132 $5,419 $4,784 $4,571
Median Sales Price 2009 vs. 2010 MEDIAN SALES PRICE
$270,000 $260,000 $255,000
$240,000 $230,000 $220,000 $210,000
$224,000 $220,000 $215,000
$234,000 $229,869 $222,000
10 NOVEMBER/December 2010
typically posted some of the strongest numbers throughout the Great Recession, was down almost 20%. At the same time, median sales price was up for most of the state both quarter to quarter and year to year. Only Southside saw a decline
— prices were down almost 8% over the second quarter there, and down 12.8% from the third quarter of 2009. Meanwhile, foreclosures continued their decline — they were down 10.5% compared to the previous
quarter and 5.5% over last year — and mortgage rates remain around 4.2% (for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan). You can download the complete and detailed Home Sales Report, including regional data, at www.VARealtor.com/homesales.
Foreclosures by Region
Hampton Roads/Chesapeake Bay
Days on Market, 2007 to 2010 DAYS ON MARKET
100.4 100.6 97.6 90.2 85.0
85.9 83.9 80.6
81.8 77.1 76.8
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Jan 08 Feb 08 Mar 08 April 08 May 08 June 08 July 08 Aug 08 Sept 08 Oct 08 Nov 08 Dec 08 Jan 09 Feb 09 Mar 09 April 09 May 09 June 09 July 09 Aug 09 Sept 09 Oct 09 Nov 09 Dec 09 Jan 10 Feb 10 Mar 10 April 10 May 10 June 10 July 10 Aug 10 Sept 10
Jan 07 Feb 07 Mar 07 April 07 May 07 June 07 July 07 Aug 07 Sept 07 Oct 07 Nov 07 Dec 07
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Renaissance president A commercial broker, real estate educator, author, and entrepreneur — VAR’s 2011 President is one of the busiest men in the real estate business. For John Dickinson of Union Hall, leading VAR as its 2011 president is the culmination of decades of service to the Realtor® family with the Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors®, VAR, and NAR. John made his way up through the ranks of the VAR Board of Directors, serving on VAR committees, four years as treasurer, and the last year as president-elect. But he’s spent a lot more time doing his day job. Or, rather, jobs. He began his real estate career in 1988; he’s now an associate broker with western Virginia’s largest commercial real estate firm — Hall Associates of Roanoke — and president and owner of the MoseleyDickinson Academy of Real Estate, one of the state’s largest real estate education companies. He’s the author of textbooks on real estate investing, brokerage management, and real estate finance; as an instructor, he has personally shaped the minds of more than 10,000 real estate students in seminars not only about real estate, but on tax strategies and contract law topics. In short, he not only knows his stuff, he knows it well enough to make a career out of teaching it. For a look at John’s vision for VAR for the next year, just look to your right at page 13, “The Bigger Picture.” 12 NOVEMBER/December 2010
VAR’s 2011 first family: VAR President John Dickinson with his wife Sonya (center left) and daughters Katie (left) and Anne (right).
Notable accomplishments John Dickinson… • was the 1998 president of the Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors®, and served as a director as well; • is past chairman of the Virginia state RPAC trustees; • served the National Association of Realtors® as a regional RPAC trustee; • c urrently serves on NAR’s board of directors, and its Legal Action Committee; • is chairman of Franklin County’s board of equalization. l
Fun facts Math geek? John graduated from UVa with distinction and with a degree in mathematics and economics. He prefers Wonder Woman to Superman. John walks the walk. He’s been a real estate investor since 1991, and he owns apartment, industrial, and office properties in the Roanoke area. In whatever time he has left, he enjoys skiing, tennis, and raising his children, Katie, 24; Anne, 21; and Tyler, 19. He lives in Union Hall with his wife Sonya — herself a Realtor® with Re/Max Lakefront Realty in Moneta — and their little dog Max. www.VARealtor.com
The Bigger Picture You probably don’t think about VAR very much. We’re just here if you need us. The idea is to be even more “here.” On October 3, John Dickinson was sworn in as VAR’s 2011 president. In a passionate inaugural speech, he outlined his ideas for the next year and called on the people leading your association to focus on the important stuff. If you’re a member of the American Automobile Association, chances are you don’t care (or even know) who the president or the treasurer is. You just want it to be there if your car breaks down, or when you need a new map. You couldn’t care less about AAA’s internal affairs. You pay your dues and you expect the people there to do their jobs. When you work or volunteer with an association, though, it’s easy to start focusing on the association itself — how can we increase revenue? Should we add a committee? Tweak the bylaws? It’s an easy trap to fall into — to start to think about what’s good for the association rather than what’s good for the members. It’s time we started avoiding that trap. There are about 31,000 Realtors® in Virginia, but only a few hundred are actively involved with the state association. There’s no contest: Everything we the association do should be about those 31,000. As I take the association’s helm, I want to be sure that we don’t lose track of that. The mantra I’m putting Volume 17 ● Issue 6
on the table is “Outward and Upward.” “Outward” because I believe VAR the association needs to become even more focused on VAR the members. Whatever we consider or plan or implement should start from one question: “How will this benefit our members?” Period. Our discussions should be more about making their lives easier and their businesses more profitable, and less about the minutiae of running the organization. Bylaws? Committee assignments? Governance structure? Enough! Yes, that stuff is necessary, but it can’t be allowed to overwhelm our core mission. It’s time to look above and beyond that — it’s time to spend more of our energy taking care of our members. That’s why I say “Upward.” It’s time to raise our vision. It’s time to enhance and refocus how we — VAR leadership, volunteers, staff, and perhaps most importantly, members — work together. We cannot miss the forest for the trees. We need to be sure to look up and focus on the bigger picture and the important issues: what VAR does best. We know what that is. We are the single strongest voice for Virginia Realtors® on Capital Square. Our public policy team is second to none and some of the most knowledgeable and hardest working people you’ll ever meet. And when it comes
We need to be sure to look up and focus on the bigger picture and the important issues: what VAR does best. —2011 VAR President John Dickinson of Union Hall to the legal issues our members face, no one knows Virginia real estate law as well as our legal affairs staff. Let’s make sure that how VAR works doesn’t take our focus away from what VAR does. We need to encourage many voices and many ideas, because we can never lose sight of the goal: To do what’s best for our members, every day. If you’re one of those voices, I want to hear you. Suggestions, criticisms, compliments — tell me what’s important to you. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave me a message at (540) 982-0011. l NOVEMBER/December 2010 13
legallines BLAKE HEGEMAN
What do you know? To disclose, or not to disclose, that is the question! Residential property disclosure issues often create major headaches for all parties to the transaction. The presence or absence of a disclosure can land parties in court or a Realtor® in front of the Real Estate Board or an ethics panel. Below are the most common questions we receive on this challenging topic.
“When do you actually know something?”
What are material adverse facts pertaining to the physical condition of the property? Also, when does an agent actually “know” something for disclosure purposes? A. The Code of Virginia obligates listing agents to disclose to prospec-
tive purchasers all “material adverse facts pertaining to the physical condition of the property which are actually known” by the listing agent. Material. Something is material if it could affect the decision of a reasonable person about whether to buy.
First, remember that only material issues are subject to the obligation to disclose.”
Adverse fact. Contrast this with “defect.” Consider the example of a residence having polybutylene pipes and fittings that haven’t leaked yet. Their existence is probably an adverse fact (buyers will want to check it carefully, especially the fittings) but not a defect if everything is properly functioning now. In short, at least consider that “adverse fact” may be more broadly construed than “defect.” Pertaining to the physical condition of the property. The statute provides that “the term ‘physical condition of the property’ shall refer to the physical condition of the land and any improvements thereon, and shall not refer to: (i) matters outside the boundaries of the land or relating to adjacent or other properties in proximity thereto, (ii) matters relating to governmental land use regulations, and (iii) matters relating to highways or public streets” (section 54.1-2131B). Actually known by the licensee. When do you actually know something? First, remember that only material issues are subject to the obligation to disclose. Remember that receipt of the entire inspection report probably imposes a duty to read it and determine what is and is not material. The report you receive may conflict with a prior report, and may be prepared by a “super-picky” inspector. With dueling inspectors, try to put the two together, which resolves a large majority of all conflicts. If the two still don’t agree, a third opinion may be necessary. 14 NOVEMBER/December 2010
“A bigger problem exists”
There was a mold problem that the seller fixed; do we have to disclose that? A. The listing agent must
disclose problems that exist, and not repair or remediation history, unless that history itself suggests an ongoing problem. (For example, 10 roof patches in the past year would likely suggest that a bigger problem still exists.) It is not always easy to know whether a problem has been fixed; but if it has been, you need not disclose that fact. The key with mold is to understand that the underlying moisture problem must be addressed successfully. If it has not, no amount of remediation of the mold itself will matter. If it has, and the mold has been removed, there is nothing to disclose. www.VARealtor.com
“Neighbors will talk”
As a listing agent do I have to disclose that someone has been murdered in the house?
A. Section 55-524 of the Code of Virginia makes
clear that licensees are not obligated to disclose whether a property was the site of a homicide, suicide, felony, or other act having no effect on the improvements. However, because neighbors will talk, the listing agent and seller should consider getting this information to the buyer in their own way. The agent may not disclose whether the previous occupant had HIV or AIDS.
“We are not inspectors”
What are the buyer agent’s duties to the buyer regarding material facts?
A. Virginia Code §54.1-2132 states that a licensee engaged by a buyer must “[d]isclose to the buyer material facts related to the property or concerning the transaction of which the licensee has actual knowledge.” That is a broad obligation to the buyer, but note that it is conditioned on having actual knowledge of material facts. We are not inspectors and have no duty to discover material adverse facts such as asbestos. Furthermore, the Code of Ethics makes clear that Realtors® are only obligated to discover and disclose adverse factors reasonably apparent to someone with expertise required by their licensing authority.
Volume 17 ● Issue 6
Clarification The sidebar on page 21 of the September/October Commonwealth titled “What the lawyers advise,” has created confusion in the course of attempting to explain the history of the Residential Property Disclosure Statement. Specifically, it creates confusion as to the obligation to disclose latent defects.
Let’s clarify disclosure obligations: 1. A listing agent must disclose to prospective buyers material adverse facts pertaining to the physical condition of the property of which he has actual knowledge. Please note that an important component of the previous statement is that he has knowledge of a material adverse fact. Example: If a seller has actual knowledge of a basement leak and does not tell the listing agent, the listing agent has no disclosure obligation because he has no “actual knowledge” of a basement leak. Keep in mind that actual knowledge can be gained in several ways, such as the listing agent seeing the leak in the basement herself. Article 2 of the Realtor Code of Ethics also tells us that we have no duty to discover latent defects in the property. 2. Sellers have no duty to disclose material adverse facts pertaining to the physical condition of the property other than the limited disclosures in the Residential Property Disclosure Statement. However, they may not willfully conceal defects or induce a buyer to forgo an inspection through false means. We apologize for any confusion caused.
We are not inspectors, and we have no duty to discover material adverse facts such as asbestos. NOVEMBER/December 2010 15
VAR Legal Hotline (804) 622-7955 Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. The VAR Legal Hotline is a free, members-only benefit for brokers. You can receive answers to questions about Virginia real estate law, and timely information on legal and regulatory issues concerning the real estate industry. The Legal Hotline provides legal information, not legal services. You should consult your attorney if you need representation or advice.
“He’ll never believe you didn’t know”
My seller knows about some problems with his house that could hurt his efforts to sell. Should I tell him not to tell me so I don’t have to disclose them? A. This is an age-old problem, but it is what it is. Yes, the listing
agent has greater disclosure obligations than does the seller, and it could potentially be an advantage for the seller to use a listing agent who is “deaf, dumb and blind.” However, listing agents should never counsel sellers to keep property condition issues to themselves lest they be passed on to the buyer. When the buyer ultimately discovers the problem, he’ll never believe you didn’t know. Imagine yourself on the witness stand trying to convince the judge you were ignorant after you confess to urging the seller not to tell you anything so you could keep the buyer in the dark. Not going to be a pretty picture. The course that makes the most sense for both seller and listing firm is either to (i) address the problem up front – fix it; or (ii) disclose it and adjust the buyer’s expectations accordingly. Anything else invites complaints, suits and very unhappy consumers. By the way, because your obligation is independent of seller’s, you don’t take your instructions from the seller. If he insists you not do what the law requires, I’m afraid you must say goodbye to him. l
Legal Lines is written by VAR Associate Counsel Blake Hegeman. Please note that answers to Legal Lines questions are informational only. Consult your own legal counsel for legal advice. You can find more Q&A from the archives of our Legal Hotline in our Legal Resources Center at VARealtor.com/legalresources.
16 NOVEMBER/December 2010
You must register for the Hotline before you can call. Registration is free and quick. Go to www.VARealtor.com/legalhotline; you will need your NRDS ID number.
Who can use the Hotline? • You must be a principal or supervising broker.* • You must be a VAR member. • You must have registered for the Hotline (see above). • You must have your NRDS ID number available when you call. (* Each office can have one other person designated by the principal broker for Hotline access.)
E-mailing the Hotline You can e-mail your questions to hotline@ VARealtor.com. • Responses will be by phone; we no longer provide written answers to Hotline questions. • You must include your full name, phone number, and NRDS ID. We cannot respond to messages that do not include all three. • We will try to respond within 24 hours, but response time depends on Hotline activity.
Not a broker or member? If you aren’t eligible to use the Hotline, you can browse and search our Hotline archives at www.VARealtor.com/hotlinearchive and find more legal and risk management information in VAR’s Legal Resources Center at www. VARealtor.com/legalresources. You will need your NRDS ID number to log into the site.
Questions? If you have questions about the Hotline, contact VAR at (800) 755-8271 or (804) 264-5033, or by e-mail at info@VARealtor.com The VAR Legal Hotline should not replace your own legal counsel. We will not answer questions on matters unrelated to real estate or real estate brokerage, nor can we help with pending arbitrations.
lifelessons Andrew Kantor
The little things Realtors who neglect Virginia law can find themselves in the crosshairs of the Virginia Real Estate Board, facing punishment ranging from a small fine to loss of their license. They can be cited for small things or large, including the all-too-common finding of “Unworthiness & Incompetence.” Here are a few real-world examples taken from the recent actions of VREB. These narratives are based on the Board’s official findings and do not necessarily reflect reality; participants may disagree with VREB’s findings and version of events as well. They are provided solely as examples of Board actions. All of the names have been changed.
Don’t wait! Act now! Marlene worked on a fairly straightforward sale of a home, which included a $500 earnest money deposit. She receive this from the buyer. However, Marlene didn’t deposit the money in an escrow account within five days, as required. In fact, she waited almost three months to turn the check over to her broker (whom she had neglected to inform about the sale). Her broker complained to the Board. For failing to turn the EMD over to her broker within five business days of the contract’s being ratified, Marlene was fined $500 and had her license revoked.
Who moved my agent? Antoine worked as a real estate agent. At one point, a complaint about him was filed with the Real Estate Board, which began to investigate. When agents arrived at Antoine’s apartment, they were greeted by a new tenant who informed them that Antoine had moved out about three months earlier. For failing to report his change of address to the Board within 30 days, and thus hindering an investigation, Antoine was fined $1,000 and had his license revoked.
I wish you hadn’t heard that Susan, a real estate agent, attempted to catch her boyfriend cheating on her by placing a baby monitor in his apartment. She was convicted of a felony in November 2007. (Virginia law requires that, absent a court order, at least one party in a conversation must be aware that it is being monitored or recorded.) Susan was sentenced to two years’ probation; she did not inform the Real Estate Board. When the Board learned of her conviction and investigated, Susan said she had been convicted in March, 2009. In fact, that was when she was found guilty of violating her probation. For failing to inform the Board of her conviction and for misrepresenting the events, Susan was fined $2,250. She is currently an active real estate salesperson.
18 NOVEMBER/December 2010
Earning your GRI designation satisfies the 30-hour post license requirement for new licensees
formfactor Blake Hegeman
This issue: VAR Form 975: Listing Agreement The signature block for VAR’s listing agreement has “Broker” over it. Does that mean only brokers are authorized to sign listings?
Forms — they’re the bread and butter of a deal. They’re full of fine print and legalese, and not everyone “gets” the
details. And that often Your company may authorize The Grinch to sign its listings if it wishes. This is ends up as a call to our a corporate matter, not a real estate or regulatory one. Any company authorized Legal Hotline. (Shameless to do business in Virginia may authorize whomever they wish to execute agreements on behalf of the company. That person need not be a member or manager plug: (804) 622-7955.) (of an LLC), a shareholder, officer or director (of a corporation), or a partner (of So we asked our intrepid a partnership). 18. Owner agrees to pay Broker a fee of ____________________________________, in cash, if, during (read: the term of this associate counsel Just be sure it’s done according to due authorization. Also, agents shoulda tenant ready, willing and able to lease the Property, Agreement, the Property is leased to anyone or if anyone produces lawyer), Blake Hegeman, review their office – many brokers signatory authority. l Agreement, a lease is made to anyone to whom the or ifpolicies within ___________ days retain after thesole expiration of the term of this one ifofthe the formsis Property was shown during the term of this Agreement. This last clause shall notto betake effective Property subsequently listed with another real estate Broker. the Hotline gets the most questions about and illu- tenants Owner agrees toand pay Broker a fee of ____________________________________, during as the term of this for presenting 19. 18.The terms conditions of this mayin cash, be if,used a basis the Property to prospective ® Sproduces Agreement, the Property is leased to anyone A or L if T anyone a tenant ready, willing and able to lease the Property, ORAgreement E S E A R E Fwriting, or if unless within ___________ expiration ofT the of thisthe Agreement, to anyone to whom the O OL Tterm minate for us.The parties shall not and amended inthe contain finala lease andis made entire Agreement between the partiesithereto. IONafter Tdays RIGH This last clause shall not be effective if the Property is Property A was shown during the term OCIA E Agreement. IVthis Sof LU IA SSlisted C g.) IN X in subsequently with another real estate Broker. G E be bound by any terms, conditions, oral statement, warranties or representations not contained herein. gn – si IR e V MENT ce befor advi REE mpetent G19.AG between The terms and conditions of this Agreement ______,the Property to prospective tenants d, seek comay be used as a basis for presenting
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u __ ne parties hereto. and unless amended contain the final and entire Agreement between The parties shall not t; if notin writing, the “Ow the) pr ________ __or ides: acany __ 20. binThis may not be____modified by written instrument executed by the parties, and it shall be ovexcept ___(changed ntrby coAgreement __ terms, conditions, oral statement, warranties or representations ingbound dbe ____ “Broker”not contained herein. ________ gally ________ ____________ _________(the le __ a __ is __ is free for download, at upon and __ __ construed, laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It shall be binding __ and applied ____ according toenthe __interpreted, ( Th __ __ __ __ ts __ __ __ __ __ 20. This may not be modified__ or__ changed except by written instrument by the parties, and it shall be em __ __ ____ ovexecuted ____Agreement period It shall be binding upon and ________ and d all impr ng e as of construed, ______ e __ an ad __ th m __ ty __ interpreted, applied according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. T er __ __ ri N shall personal representatives, successors, and assigns of the parties. prop ) du ____ inure 20 ____the benefits of ththe EEME __to __,the e realheirs, roperty” and assigns nt representatives, ________ shall inure “P ____ IS AGR ______of to__ the benefits of the heirs, personal successors, parties.
__ __ tena __ the TH ________ rent to a ll herein called ________ ________ lease or (a ________ ____________ night on __ E right to reafter described expiring at mid USIV_____________________________________________________________________________________ 21. Other terms: L d C . ________ he X in an E is re _, e he y ker th_______________________________________________________________________________________________ d which , 20____ set forth e and an ts to Bro d by Owner an ____________ nditions od of tim ner gran __ s and co itial peri _______________________________________________________________________________________________ 1. Ow n which is owne __ ________ bject to the term ng the in ri __ du __ ty thereo er __ _______________________________________________________________________________________________ time”) su cing on r the Prop commen “initial period of tenant fo a, and is obtain a , Virgini ____ ____, (the efforts to ________ le ____ ab on reas ________ ____________ _____ e __ ak __ m __ to __ WITNESS the following duly authorized signatures and seals:________ es ________ ________ __ d more ker agre ________ ____________ ____________ __________ an . 2. Bro ion thereof. __ County of ess) ____ ____ extens City and ____________ ____________ ______________ ___(street addr e th in __ cated is loOwner(s): ________ ________ ________ Broker:______ Property s, nor ________ ______________ ______________ ______________ _ month 3. The bed as follows: ________ ____________ ______________ ________ ___, or (ii) __ __ descri __ __ __ __ __ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ __ __ __ __ an __ __ __ __ th __ ot __ __ __ ss fo __ __ __ _____________________________________(SEAL) $ ______ _ per square of not le ____________________________________________(SEAL) ______ ________ __ and less than r a term ________ known as ____ tenant fo ly rental of not ______________ ch other terms n of d ie ly if on al su m th com ecutio to a qu a mon ______ and on _____________________________________(SEAL) Property ths (i) at ____________ thly____________________________________________(SEAL) yments, ner prior to the ex e on pa th m e as __ $ __ to le Ow l mon than ________ not less ner offers e in equa proved by 4. Ow than __________ annual rental of footage, payabl e agreement ap race, more e square e form of a leas le, at an le bl ab ADDRESS: _________________________________ Its __________________________________________(Title) ea ic regard to d state pl as without or in th where ap gross or □ net l persons icable federal an □ rth herein al fo on t to d e se se be ba appl ailabl s as may nt to all made av condition ment. ap pursua own and ____________________________________ er all be sh ee or handic ADDRESS: _______________________________________ this Agr operty sh familial status ker, neith Pr e th ies of Bro rliness, ree that and facilit herein as Broker, re es Broker ag l origin, sex, elde ic d rv an se tu r ne na rred to of the any na wner __________________________________________________ 5. Ow religTELEPHONE: ion, natio (O) ___________________________ ively refe t or damage of claims use by O roke r collect ns. color, n of the m, thef rights, B regulatio nsideratio r any agents of for any vandalis ves any and all co ising form laws and in ar at ai injury or agrees th d employees, no s, shall be liable ment. Owner w personal damage or nds and (H) an ty nt ee e ta s er na gr rs ag or te A op m ct de ___________________________ TELEPHONE: _____________________________________ e ing pr of this ner un erty da rs, dire pectiv 6. Ow r, and its office tenants or pros during the term ss for any prop ment, but exclud le gree Broke harm erty to ntents of this A or its co the Prop s Broker operty showing r to the Property Broker and hold on during the term to the Pr t rs ve ve access whatsoe of action agains operty by an pe ce. s may ha e Property to on en Pr es rs e ig us th gl pe ca r th ne to d ss an ow r’s othe , or acce r may sh of Broke ectors or the use of jury arising out sers, insp e and that Broke in d apprai as lity, personal ersons an consummate a le sp and liabi le sa security al estate ate and , physical es that re hours to facilit urs. ce re an ag en r ne aint ness le ho 7. Ow ilities, m rmal busi reasonab ing all ut rtaining during no e tenants during ty, includ e facts pe iv e Proper th ial advers r prospect fo y lit all materThis form may be used only by members COPYRIGHT©2003spby the ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. All op rights reserved. sibiVIRGINIA ty er on re the Pr s fullywith the in rgood standing VIRGINIA part,neorr the use of ment. ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. nants of The reproduction of this form, in whole or in, O retain ne w is Agree tentiainl te REALTORS®", connection prohibited without 8. Ow the name rm of th ASSOCIATION OFsc h hereinprior written consent e te"VIRGINIA lose to po n by Broker. with any other form, ison ng ththe l diREALTORS®. s set fort alOF durifrom sh ow iti r VIRGINIA ASSOCIATION kn nd ke ly co d tual an at Bro ac s th ty rm es er te dg the Prop owle operty on on of the ner ackn ner. ase the Pr proved by Ow 9. Ow physical conditi ap able to le to the ing and form previously ill w nt na 07/03 t in the es a te VAR FORM 975 REV. PAGE 3 OF 3 uc emen roker prod ase agre 10. If B to execute a le agrees OF 3 PAGE 1 /03 REV. 07 5 97 RM VAR FO
21. Other terms: _____________________________________________________________________________________ standardforms. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________
WITNESS the following duly authorized signatures and seals:
TELEPHONE: (O) ___________________________
20 NOVEMBER/December 2010
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s episode on new to p w u o h h c Cat lake s B & s m e al issue of the L out leg b a ll a t find ou siness. your bu g in t c e f af m/
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Visit the Legal Resources Center today for more information on: agency, earnest money, fraud, disclosure, tax regulations, and RespA
By Andrew Kantor
From Capitol Square to local city halls, Realtors’® clout may be at risk.
22 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010
That headline isn’t a joke. In fact, it’s been tried — multiple times. It doesn’t happen because your association fights every day to prevent it. Thanks to diligence and cash we have the clout to do that, and we have the clout to win. For the first time in years that clout is at risk. As VAR’s membership has declined since 2006, fewer members are contributing to our political efforts. (And no, it doesn’t come out of your dues. By law contributions have to be voluntary.) That’s not entirely surprising, what with the economy the way it is. But the effect is dangerous. The Realtors® Political Action Committee of Virginia — RPAC — doesn’t have enough funding for upcoming elections. Not enough Realtors® are investing their fair share. So while VAR fights for every Realtor® in the state, this year only about 9,000 have bothered to contribute to RPAC. As a result, if member investments in RPAC continue at current levels, we won’t have enough funds to maintain our influence in next year’s General Assembly elections. And that could have profound implications for your Volume 17 ● Issue 6
real estate practice. Call it what you want —reputation, influence, street cred, clout — but a well-funded RPAC gives Realtors® credibility on Capitol Square, with local governments, and in Washington. Like it or not, it’s the key to being taken seriously by elected officials. And an RPAC without sufficient funding sends a clear message: Realtors® aren’t serious. Realtors® don’t care. We know you do care. We need our legislators to understand that. Our funding information is public, and candidates will sort through it, slicing and dicing to see what groups have engaged members. They’ll see that only the dentists have more cash on hand than we do, but they’ll also see that the mineworkers, bankers, and doctors all raised more in 2010 than we did. (See the charts on pages 24 and 25 to see what we mean, and why it’s important.) In other words, it will look as if Realtors® care less and less, and with budgets getting tighter, higher real estate taxes and fees will look like the low-hanging fruit. That’s why we can never, ever let our guard down. That’s why we’re constantly asking you to get involved. And that’s why you need to take RPAC’s funding shortfall seriously.
Perspective: The (low) cost of doing business We’re asking every Virginia Realtor® to invest $20 per year in RPAC. That works out to about a $1.65 a month. How to make it up: • Skip a single cup of coffee — once a month. (Starbucks large: about $2.40) • Once a year, rent a movie instead of going out. (Movie, popcorn, drink: About $20 per person.) • If you put premium gas in your car, every other month — for a single fill up — use regular. (Assuming a 20 cents price difference and 15-gallon tank — yours is probably even larger. ) • If you grocery shop once a week, use two or three coupons. • Every day, find a nickel in your sofa cushions, the floor of your car, or in the back of a desk drawer.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 23
Here’s how it works: VAR’s job is to represent your interests at the General
Legislators don’t have a lot of time on their hands. So if two organizations on different sides of an issue approach one, he’s much more likely to spend his time with the one with more influence. In 2006 RPAC was the number 2 statewide PAC in terms of money raised. By 2010 we slipped to number 5. Meanwhile the Virginia Bankers Association moved from number 3 to number 2.
RPAC of Virginia Contributions
Virginia Banking Association PAC Contributions
The implicit message to legislators: Realtors® care less and less, while bankers care more and more. So even if our total dollars are still more, it appears to elected officials that Realtors®‘ level of engagement is slipping. In 2007, Realtors® (as an occupation) were number 11 on the list of political donors; by 2010 we slipped to number 17. 24 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010
Assembly (read: we lobby on your behalf). RPAC’s job is to help elect candidates who will support your business. VAR’s job is a lot easier when the people in office share our philosophy, and when we’ve built a relationship with them. So RPAC Trustees research and interview candidates, then endorse and contribute to those who will fit that bill: candidates who understand what’s important not only to real estate professionals, but to Virginia property owners: rights, costs, issues, and exactly what government should do (and not do). Still, we get an earful from some members every time RPAC announces those endorsements. Comments mostly come in one of two varieties: 1. VAR shouldn’t be involved in politics. 2. I don’t like the candidate RPAC endorsed. Number 1 is akin to an ostrich with his head in the sand. Of course we have to be involved in politics. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s politicians who make the real estate laws, pass the taxes (or “fees”), and change the regulations — or appoint the people who do. One good example: The governor chooses who sits on the Real Estate Board. You can bet those folks affect your life and business. Yes, politics can be a nasty business. But it’s also a fact of life, so to avoid it altogether would be to paint a big ol’ target on the door of your real estate business – and on the doors of property owners all over the Commonwealth. You’re protected because VAR and RPAC are involved in politics. www.VARealtor.com
Volume 17 ● Issue 6
Choose your future
Get it yet? Our wins aren’t always flashy. You may not see it when we stop a bad bill (and we’ve helped stop literally hundreds). But believe me, we do. We fight and fight and fight to protect your business. That’s our job. We are by far your biggest advocate and strongest supporter on Capitol Square, bar none. But the folks who aren’t supporting RPAC either don’t realize that it’s critical, or they choose to ignore the big picture (keeping RPAC strong so we can fight for you) to focus on the small (an endorsement they don’t agree with for reasons unrelated to real estate). We’re not even asking for much — twenty bucks a year. If we fail in even one fight it will cost you much more than that. (See “A little perspective.”) If RPAC fails, your business will suffer. We’ll see legislators who don’t care about property rights or housing affordability. The demands of betterfunded interest groups will take priority over Realtors®’. You could see new taxes, fees, and regulations — the very things we’ve fought against for years. This isn’t hyperbole. This isn’t melodrama. There is a real danger to your business as RPAC’s influence wanes. Every year we publish a list of our legislative victories, and we usually bat close to 1.000. But that won’t always be the case if RPAC is weakened. So the question is: How important is your business? Because whether you contribute to RPAC or not, your legislators will know the answer. l
RPAC OF Virginia FUNDING RPAC of virginia SPENDING
So yes, we need to be involved. Excuse number 2 is more complicated. Of course there will be times when RPAC’s candidate may not be your choice. But you can bet that the RPAC-endorsed candidate is the best choice for real estate — no matter where she stands on the other issues you think about when you vote. Even if our candidates don’t win — and this is critical to understand — RPAC’s very existence ensures we have clout on Capitol Square. Our endorsements are a constant reminder that Realtors® are a force to be reckoned with, that we’re watching and campaigning and voting for candidates who think like we do on real estate issues. Supporting individual candidates is not RPAC’s end goal. It’s the foundation for the rest of our legislative work — work that’s a lot easier with legislators or county supervisors or city council members who share the business philosophy of small entrepreneurs like you. When there’s a vote — increasing the grantor tax, for example, or regulating where you can place real estate signs — it really doesn’t matter what a legislator thinks about oil drilling or charter schools or even economic stimulus plans. All that matters is this: Do we have any clout with him? Does he care what Realtors® think? Whether or not we supported him, he still knows that Realtors® are powerful, and that we’re watching. That’s clout, and we’ve got it — as long as RPAC is strong.
The cost of campaigns Political contributions are more important than ever, and our funding means more to candidates. Here’s why: In 1997, candidates for the House of Delegates spent a total of $10.3 million on their campaigns; gubernatorial candidates spent $27.3 million. In 2009, House candidates spent $40.6 million; the governor’s race cost candidates $119.5 million. RPAC is taking in less and less money while it needs to spend more on your behalf..
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 25
Battle lines VAR’s 2011 Legislative Agenda takes shape
The 2011 General Assembly session will move quickly, and contents of legislation will surely change in the process. Visit
www.VARealtor.com/ LegislativeAgenda to see the latest news and the status of the bills we’re working on. 26 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010
As the General Assembly prepares for its 2011 session, the VAR Law & Policy Team reached out to members and local associations. The goal was to learn what issues across Virginia were of most concern to Realtors® and property owners — and what needs fixing. The result is our 2011 legislative agenda. Because of the nature of the law-making process, the issues and specifics you’re about to read may change. Updates will be available on www.VARealtor. com and through VAR’s Capitol Connection e-newsletter, sent weekly during the General Assembly session.
Don’t re-tax homeowners Today, if property owners refinance (a common occurrence thanks to low mortgage rates), they are exempt from the recordation tax if they refinance with the “same lender.” But with financial institutions closing and merging — not to mention the issue of mortgage transfers and securitization — it can be difficult determine to determine who the “same lender” actually is. VAR is working to pass legislation to eliminate the “same lender” requirement so a property owner facing foreclosure or a difficult financial circumstance can refinance without paying recordation taxes — something that would be fair and reasonable, as well as helpful to the housing and commercial real estate industry.
Change some agency rules VAR is working on legislation to enhance disclosure requirements in agency relationships and to centralize property condition disclosures on a DPOR-administered website. For
example, along with some technical and housekeeping amendments this “Agency bill” will • require that all brokerage agreements be written; • permit dual agency to occur only after both clients are provided with an enhanced set of disclosures describing the restrictions and limitations on the dual agent; • require a mandatory three-hour CE class on the changes made by the Agency bill; and • move the content of the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act form to a website maintained by the Real Estate Board, and require sellers to provide a form directing purchasers to that website. This would eliminate the danger of using a form outdated by annual changes to the law.
Protect licensees from incorrect public information Many local associations integrate public tax data from government records into MLS listings. In some cases the www.VARealtor.com
data provided by the local governments are outdated — for example, when listing a home’s square footage. Because of these errors, Realtors® using the government-supplied figures have faced lawsuits for providing inaccurate or inconsistent data. VAR will be working to pass legislation that protects licensees from lawsuits when they rely on publicly available information from localities if that information is inaccurate.
Shift the burden of proof on assessments When faced with what they believe to be an incorrect assessment, property owners have to meet a significant burden of proof to have that assessment changed. VAR is supporting new legislation that will change the burden of proof for real estate assessment appeals (but only when a case gets to circuit court) to make it more equitable, and to extend those decisions to two years instead of one. It will be modeled after similar burden-of-proof rules that apply to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Disclose Chinese drywall VAR is working with Delegate Glenn Oder and the Virginia Housing Commission to craft legislation addressing a myriad of issues relating to defective drywall. For example, it will require that advance notification of the presence of defective drywall be given in every variation of real estate representation in sales, and by agents or owners to tenants. It will also require any properties discovered to contain defective drywall to be reassessed at a lower value. Volume 17 ● Issue 6
Limit private transfer fees A growing trend among developers has included implementing private transfer fees that go back to the development company to be invested in the open market, and are applied when a property transfers in perpetuity. In other words, an instant (and relatively hidden) ongoing revenue stream for the developer. VAR will introduce a bill to prohibit “pure” private transfer fees. Those fees collected within the context of property owners associations and homeowners associations will still be permitted.
Do clustering right How do you balance smart growth with maintaining green space? One way is clustering — setting aside certain areas for denser development and other areas (typically surrounding that dense development) for larger parcels to create more open space. In 2007, the General Assembly passed mandatory cluster legislation, which required all localities that had a population growth of 10% or more from the last census to enact a cluster ordinance. Properly done, clusters are environmentally friendly, support plenty of growth, and ensure higher property values by maintaining convenience and beauty. But some localities are using the clustering legislation not to promote smart growth, but to stifle growth altogether, resulting in sparse and sporadic development and increased housing costs — and ignoring the intentions of the General Assembly. VAR is supporting a bill to short circuit this use of a clustering ordinance. l
In addition, VAR is working on other bills • to clarify the rules for keeping electronic records (as opposed to paper ones); • to exempt real estate licensees from being required to carry a license from the Common Interest Communities Board; • to allow VAR-sponsored educational courses to be used to qualify as a CIC manager; and • to amend the Condominium Owners Association Act to exempt properties sold at auction from the Act (mirroring changes already made to the Property Owners Association Act)
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 27
f pson o Thom OR® ie n la T e AL ear: M 010 RE f the Y eives the 2 o R O REALT ksburg rec ric Frede ear award. Y e h t of
rket, ayma ent, H f o resid ego ish Sz as vice p r T , e d ok urate Roan ra of ere inaug t s k y D w Mar y ia Beach ectively. ION: in sp T g e A r ir R r, V f re GU INAU hn Daly o nd treasu Jo t, a and t-elec n e id pres
n and Expo
The 2010 debut of the REal Show — our renamed rebuilt Conventio and n & Expo — set re cords and blew aw expectations. ay In our first year at the big, beautiful Virginia Beach Convention Cent er, we had the sin gl e bi ggest turnout fo a convention ever r , plus more sessio ns , more CE, and m specialty classes. ore The Expo featured vendors from all across the state, dressing and deco most of whom go rating by decade t into the spirit by — ’5 0s, ’60s, ’70s, an tured mini educat d ’80s. And for th ional sessions in e first time we fe the Expo hall itsel giveaways. (It to af, plus all sorts of ok more than 20 co ntests, incentives minutes just to ca , an d There was plenty ll out the winners’ more, from the in names!) augural beach pa note. The bigges rty to Joe Theism t complaint? “The ann’s rousing keyre’s too much to do.” 28 NOVEMBER/December 2010
JOE THEISMANN: What can a pro quarterback teach a few hundred Realtors? Plenty, it turned out.
of Pangle the Gwen f : o R E e N s som CROO provide rg u b s Lee inment. enterta
EXP O by t : Vend o he d eca rs were de. Rem invited to emb er th dress e ’8 0s? Rich ard Bitn S e add r of Ho PEAKER usin S: ress g ed t he c Wire row d.
FUN: Thre e learn days of in havin g mea ns g so fun, too. me
set records e 2010 REal Show EDUCATION: Th urs. ho E C urses, and for attendees, co WELCOME: We knew we had arrived when the local businesses welcomed us.
Volume 17 ● Issue 6
NOVEMBER/December 2010 29
accessibletech ANDREW KANTOR
These codes are good business Seen these? It’s called a QR code, and it’s quickly becoming a useful tool for people who A) have smartphones, and B) need to get a lot of information into a small space. Know anyone like that? QR codes and their kin are the next generation of bar codes – you know, the UPC (Universal Product Code) that’s on just about everything you can buy. In fact, QR codes are a major upgrade because, unlike UPCs, they can easily be used by anyone and because they can hold a lot of information. A UPC holds a handful of numbers — usually about a dozen. If you want to know what those numbers mean, you consult a list of codes. For example, when you scan an item in a supermarket, the computer reads the item number from the UPC and finds the price in the store’s database. Thus it knows that “783230” means “12-oz. can of Diet Dr Pepper, 79 cents.” That’s a clunky way of doing things, especially when you see the alternative. QR codes don’t just store a number. They can store a lot of information — up to 4,296 letters and numbers — think product names, descriptions, manufacture dates… or, more to the point, Web addresses, contact information, listing data, MLS number, and so on. (For comparison, to this point this column contains about 1,200 characters.) The big deal: Your BlackBerry, Droid, iPhone, or Windows Phone can read and process all that information with free software. In other words, if you take a picture of a QR code with your phone (and have the proper app installed) it will tell you what the code it says — a Web address, a phone number, a block of text, a vCard, and so on. Even better, the apps know what to do with it. If it’s a URL, for example, it will display the Web page. If it’s a vCard, it can add it to your contacts. So with a single, small black-and-white image on a 30 NOVEMBER/December 2010
sign, business card, magaDepth zine page, or whatnot, perception you can turn a few square inches of space into a QR codes and their kin whole lot of usable data. are what known as “2D Not surprisingly, QR bar codes,” because the codes are catching on data go both across and big-time with smartphone up and down. A typical users and marketing UPC on the other hand, types. For the cost of a is a “1D code” because small piece of real estate it’s only read sideways. (no pun intended), they can supply a wealth of information. Here’s a scenario: A QR codes from cool new store opens. your desktop Next to its name on the Even if you don’t have awning, the owner puts a smartphone, you can a big ol’ QR code. You still read QR codes if drive by, intrigued, and your PC has a webcam. snap a photo with your Just install the free phone. Your QR reader QuickMark for PC reader pulls up the info: from www.quickmark. com.tw (don’t leave off Bob’s Widgets is the best place to find the the “.tw”!). Then start widgets and doohickeys the software and point you need! We’ve got a full your cam at the QR line of widgets, tchotchkes, code you want to read. thingamajigs, and whathaveyous. Click here for our store hours, current sales, or just to drop us a note! Now replace “cool new store” with “hot new listing” and you can see the potential for real estate. QR codes are a bridge between the physical and the digital.
Where to? One of the most common ways to use a QR code is to simply have it point to a Web site, which can contain all sorts of information. A Realtor®, for example, might put a QR code on a flyer or in a print ad — or, better, on a lawn sign www.VARealtor.com
— and have it point to a property’s MLS listing. That allows visitors to get all the details about the property instantly, or at least bookmark it for checking out later. Another perfect place: your business card. Instead of a cute slogan on the back, why not put a QR code that contains your contact information? Worst comes to worst, someone won’t know what it is and will ignore it. (Maybe you should explain: This is a QR code with my contact info. Use your smartphone to read it.)
Yeah, yeah, but how? Creating a QR code is incredibly simple. Just visit one of the many sites offering a “QR code generator” — the one at qrcode.kaywa.com is especially nice — enter your text, Web address, phone number, or whatever, and you’ll get an image that you can copy and paste wherever you need it, or give it to whomever makes your signs, ads, or cards. So, for example, whenever you added a property listing on your company website, on Realtor.com, or wherever, you sould paste the listing’s address into a QR code maker, and save the image it generated. One important note: Make sure the website you point to is mobile-friendly. Most people will be using their smartphone to read the code, so you want to be sure it will look good on a small screen. Sounding like a bit too much? Fear not. There are companies out there that specialize in working with Realtors® and QR codes. Vyoo.it, for example (at www.vyoo.it) is a free service that “will quickly and easily optimize your property listing for mobile access.” You tell Vyoo.it the URL of your listing, give it some basic information (address, price, etc.) and it generates a page (and
You’re free to go The format of a QR code is an international standard free of any license. So anyone can make software to make or read them.
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Apps There are a bunch of apps for reading and processing QR codes for all the major smartphones — too many to actually list. Most Android-based phones include a QR code reader, as do many Nokia phones. If yours doesn’t, just go to your brand’s app store and search on “QR,” then — if you can — find the most popular free reader available. Several companies make QR-reading software for a variety of models, including 3GVision (i-nigma.com), NeoReader (neoreader.com), and UpCode (upcode.com). You can also visit mobile-barcodes.com to find a list of QR code readers for your model phone.
new URL) with a version that looks good on a mobile phone. And, of course, it gives you the QR code for that optimized page. Vyoo.it works with Zazzle so you can buy stickers and listing cards with the QR code, and they’re planning to offer sign riders soon. Clikbrix (clikbrix.com) goes a few steps further. Pricing starts at $25 per month, and that gets you unlimited mobile-ready listings (with QR code, natch). The listings are more detailed than those of Vyoo.it, plus they’re made search-engine friendly, and Clikbrix automatically creates a Google Map and Streetview of the property. There are other features, too — you get a page about you with a separate QR code, and they’ll help you find ways to market it on everything from keychains to billboards. Qonnect (qonnect.mobi/real-estate) is another service with a real estate focus. Like Clikbrix, it creates an entire mobile-friendly property listing (it can even be set to import your data directly), and offers a list of other features — images, floor plans, video, agent contact info, tracking, and more. QR codes are popular and getting more so, but they haven’t quite hit the tipping point where everyone recognizes them instantly. But they’re easy enough to create, use, and read — especially for people who need to give out a lot of information in a short amount of time. l NOVEMBER/December 2010 31
rpacreport GOLDEN R INVESTORS ($5,000)
As of the end of the 2010 RPAC campaign year, the following REALTORS® and local associations have joined RPAC of Virginia as Major Investors. For more information on the value of RPAC and how your investment works to protect your business, contact Meredith Cox at mcox@VARealtor.com or (804) 264-5033. Or, if you want to get invested today, please visit rpacofva.com.
John McEnearney McEnearney Associates, Inc. Alexandria
John Powell Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. Colonial Heights
GOLDEN R ASSOCIATION ($5,000) Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors®, Charlottesville Dulles Area Association of Realtors®, Leesburg Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors®, Fredericksburg Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®, Fairfax Richmond Association of Realtors®, Richmond Roanoke Valley Area Association of REALTORS®, Roanoke Williamsburg Area Association of REALTORS®, Williamsburg
Charles Burnette Burnette Real Estate Sales Blacksburg
Billy Chorey Sr.* Chorey & Associates Realty Suffolk
Dennis Cronk* Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group Roanoke
John Dickinson Hall Associates, Inc. Union Hall
Joe Funkhouser Coldwell Banker Funkhouser Harrisonburg
Dorcas Helfant-Browning Coldwell Banker Professional Virginia Beach
Steve Hoover MKB, REALTORS® Roanoke
Thomas Jefferson, III* Joyner Fine Properties Richmond
Re/Max Allegiance Alexandria
Tom Stevens* Coldwell Banker Residential Vienna
Melanie Thompson* Century 21 AdVenture Realty Fredericksburg
Jack Torza* Long & Foster Realtors® Mechanicsville
CRYSTAL R ($2,500–$4,999)
Mike Minnery Re/Max Allegiance Woodbridge
Jane Quill Re/Max Presidential Fairfax
STERLING R INVESTORS ($1,000–$2,499)
Bob Adamson McEnearney Associates, Inc. McLean
Guy Allen One Stop Realty Woodbridge
*Hall of Famers have contributed a cumulative amount of at least $25,000 to RPAC.
32 NOVEMBER/December 2010
STERLING R INVESTORS ($1,000–$2,499)
Julia Avent Re/Max Allegiance Arlington
Deborah Baisden Prudential Towne Realty Virginia Beach
C.C. Bartholomew Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. Manassas
Bob Barton Barton Real Estate Services Richmond
Mary Bayat Bayat Realty Inc Alexandria
Lee Beaver Keller Williams Realty Manassas
Gail Belt Keller Williams Realty McLean
Mary Ann Bendinelli Weichert Realtors® Manassas
Laura Benjamin Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors® Roanoke
Karen Bohlke-Enriquez Re/Max Select Hampton
Brad Boland Jobin Realty Reston
Candice Bower McEnearney Associates, Inc. McLean
Kevin Breen Coldwell Banker Elite Fredericksburg
R. Scott Brunner Virginia Association of Realtors® Glen Allen
Curtis Burchett MKB, Realtors® Roanoke
Robyn Burdett Re/Max Allegiance Reston
Chris Call AREAS Appraisers, Inc. Springfield
Dale Chandler Greg Garrett Realty Newport News
David Charron MRIS Rockville, MD
Pat Clark Long & Foster Roanoke South Roanoke
Vic Coffey Re/Max All Stars Realty Daleville
Billy Coons Realty Executives Virginia Beach
Patrick Cowne Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. Manassas
Jessica Decker TowneBank Mortgage Virginia Beach
Volume 17 ● Issue 6
NOVEMBER/December 2010 33
rpacreport STERLING R INVESTORS ($1,000–$2,499)
Benton Downer Downer & Associates Charlottesville
Mary Dykstra RE/MAX Valley Realtors® Roanoke
Sandee Ferebee* Prudential Towne Realty Virginia Beach
Claire Forcier-Rowe Coldwell Banker Elite Fredericksburg
Virgil Frizzell Long & Foster Real Estate Herndon
Pam Frohman Keller Williams Realty Chesapeake
Karen Gaskins Rose & Womble Realty Chesapeake
Libby Gatewood Napier REALTORS® ERA Colonial Heights
Bill Gearhart Coldwell Banker Townside Roanoke
Charlee Gowin Prudential Towne Realty Virginia Beach
Arthur Grace Hunzeker & Lyon, PC Manassas
Lynn Grimsley Re/Max Peninsula Newport News
Kit Hale MKB, REALTORS® Roanoke
Margaret Handley M.C. Handley, Ltd. McLean
Lizzie Hernandez Re/Max Regency Manassas
David Hess Avery Hess Realtors® Dunn Loring
Tom Innes RE/MAX Commonwealth Richmond
Donn Irby Rose & Womble Realty Chesapeake
Margaret Ireland Weichert REALTORS® Gainsville
Betty Jasmund Coldwell Banker Elite Stafford
Jo Anne Johnson Westgate Realty Group, Inc. Falls Church
Sita Kapur Arlington Premier Realty LLC Arlington
Kathleen Kennedy Re/Max Regency Manassas
Patricia Kline Avery Hess Realtors® Springfield
Barbara Jean LeFon Rivah Realty LLC Montross
Richard Limroth RE/MAX Valley REALTORS® Roanoke
George Lyons Long & Foster Real Estate Woodbridge
Scott MacDonald Re/Max Gateway Chantilly
Andy Mason Weichert Realtors® Mason-Davis Onancock
Shane McCullar Keller Williams Realty Alexandria
34 NOVEMBER/December 2010
STERLING R INVESTORS ($1,000–$2,499)
Glenda McDaniel Long & Foster Hales Ford Moneta
Susan Mekenney Re/Max Allegiance Fairfax
Dee Meredith Coldwell Banker Forehand & Company Lynchburg
John Meyer Re/Max Allegiance Alexandria
Tom Meyer Condo 1, Inc. Arlington
David Michalski Fairfax Realty, Inc. Annandale
Jay Mitchell Prudential Towne Realty Virginia Beach
Percy Montague Montague, Miller & Co. Charlottesville
Vicki Nellis Re/Max Allegiance Burke
Vinh Nguyen Westgate Realty Group, Inc. Falls Church
Boofie O’Gorman Long & Foster Real Estate Reston
Lee Odems Buyer’s Advantage Real Estate Woodbridge
Forrest Odend’hal Long & Foster Real Estate Manassas
Susan Oh New Star Realty & Investment McLean
Gwen Pangle 1757 Real Estate Company LLC Leesburg
Gail Penman William E. Wood & Associates Virginia Beach
Lonnie Plaster Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. Manassas
Tracy Pless Long & Foster Real Estate Reston
Anne Rector Long & Foster Real Estate Alexandria
Peter Rickert Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Alexandria
Thomas Rickert Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Alexandria
Zinta Rodgers-Rickert Re/Max Allegiance Fairfax
STERLING R ASSOCIATION ($1,000–$2,499) Greater Augusta Association of Realtors®, Staunton Harrisonburg-Rockingham Association of Realtors®, Harrisonburg Lynchburg Association of Realtors®, Lynchburg New River Valley Association of Realtors®, Christiansburg
Suzanne Rose Rose & Womble Realty Chesapeake
Volume 17 ● Issue 6
Southside Virginia Association of Realtors®, Colonial Heights Henry Scholz Hall Associates Inc. Roanoke
Trudy Severa Long & Foster Real Estate Reston
Jean Siebert Siebert Realty Virginia Beach
Virginia Peninsula Association of Realtors®, Hampton
NOVEMBER/December 2010 35
rpacreport STERLING R INVESTORS ($1,000–$2,499)
Kimber Smith Prudential Towne Realty Toano
Cindy Stackhouse Century 21 Stackhouse & Associates Dumfries
Wes Stearns MO Wilson Properties Inc. Woodbridge
Suzy Stone Century 21 AdVenture Realty Fredericksburg
Thomas “Mack” Strickland, Jr. Strickland Realty Chester
Crystal Sullivan Re/Max Peninsula Newport News
Joe Sutliff Re/Max All Stars Realty Daleville
Trish Szego ERA - Elite Group Realtors® Fairfax
Richard “Dick” Thurmond William E. Wood & Associates Virginia Beach
Christine Todd Northern Virginia Association of Realtors® Fairfax
Karen Trainor Weichert REALTORS® Fairfax
Kevin Turner Century 21 All Service Bedford
Sandra Wagner William E. Wood & Associates Poquoson
Todd Wampler Wampler Realty, Inc. Daleville
Mary Ann White Hometown Realty Prince George
William A. White Joyner Fine Properties Richmond
Barbara Wolcott Prudential Towne Realty Virginia Beach
Jon Wolford Long & Foster Real Estate Springfield
Sheraton Yee Peoples Home Equity, Inc. Norfolk
Tony Yeh United Realty, Inc. Vienna
Contributions are not deductible for income tax purposes. Contributions to RPAC are voluntary and are used for political purposes. The amount suggested is merely a guideline and you may contribute more or less than the suggested amount. You may refuse to contribute without reprisal and the National Association of Realtors® or any of its state associations or local boards will not favor or disfavor any member because of the amount contributed. 70% of each contribution is used by your state PAC to support state and local political candidates. Until your state PAC reaches its RPAC goal 30% is sent to National RPAC to support federal candidates and is charged against your limits.
36 NOVEMBER/December 2010
varbuzzcontest Here’s your chance to win a cool ViewSonic 9-inch Digital Photo Frame just for reading this magazine and VARbuzz, our official blog and ‘water cooler.’ It works like this: Solve the puzzle on the right. On February 2, go to www.VARbuzz.com. There you’ll see simple instructions telling you what to do next. Follow them to the final answer and instructions for sending it in. We’ll take all the correct entries we receive by the deadline we set and draw one randomly. That winner gets the photo frame. Simple, huh? Notes: This contest is only open to current members of the Virginia Association of Realtors®. Contest winners must skip two issues before they’re eligible to win again. All decisions about correct answers rest with VAR staff, and are final. Bribes are accepted but not acted upon.
This issue’s puzzle:
Confused? Maybe you should read “Accessible Tech.”
This edition of the VARbuzz Contest is brought to you by Qonnect
Volume 17 ● Issue 6
NOVEMBER/December 2010 37
Know some great real estate pros? Nominate them for VAR Awards! (Itâ€™ll look great on their business cards.)
BROKERS EDUCATORS PROPERTY MANAGERS MORE
Visit VARealtor.com/Awards Deadline for most nominations is Jan. 10, 2011
2010 VAR Affiliate Members 24 Karat Gold Affiliates Metamerica Mortgage Bankers Heather Johnson Phone: (757) 498-4488 E-mail: Heather@Metamerica.com www.Metamerica.com
18 Karat Gold Affiliates
VHDA Janice Burgess Phone: (800) 227-8432 Fax: (804) 783-6707 www.VHDA.com
Cox Communications Bobby Hutchison Phone: (703) 480-7702 E-mail: Bobby.Hutchison@Cox.com www.Cox.com
38 NOVEMBER/December 2010
Real Estate Information Network Phone: (757) 531-7900 www.ReinMLS.com
DaVinci Home Inspection Services Ken Crews Phone: (434) 534-1086 Info@DaVinciHomeInspections.com www.DaVinciHomeInspections.com
10 Karat Gold Affiliates 14 Karat Gold Affiliates 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty of VA Ruth Benjaminson Phone: (757) 472-3461 Fax: (800) 730-3434 E-mail: RBenjaminson@2-10.com www.2-10.com AppFolio, Inc. Will Reynolds Phone: (805) 617-2161 Fax: (805) 968-0684 E-mail: Will.Reynolds@AppFolio.com www.Appfolio.com
Dabney Properties Corporate Housing Slayton Dabney Phone: (804) 716-9627 E-mail: Leasing@DabneyProperties.com First American Home Buyers Protection Katy Allenbaugh-Richards Phone: (800) 444-9030 Fax: (800) 772-4451 E-mail: KatyRichards@FirstAm.com www.HomeWarranty.FirstAm.com
Northern Virginia Real Estate Times Stephen Leiby Phone: (703) 269-0599 E-mail: Stephen@NVREtimes.com www.NorthernVirginia RealEstateTimes.com Old Republic Home Protection Co. Inc. Business Type: Home Warranty Carmelita Dance Phone: (800) 282-7131 x. 1296 E-mail: CarmelitaD@ORHP.com www.ORHP.com
Support the companies who support your business... contact a VAR affiliate member first for your business needs! www.VARealtor.com
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(804) 264 -5033 For membership and dues questions Ask for Amy Hafer Membership Records Manager email@example.com
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Volume 17 ● Issue 6
Ask for Meredith Cox, Director of Political Communications email@example.com VAR 2010 Leadership Team
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DNCSolution, Do-not-call solutions Security code SC1795VR
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UPS, Shipping and more VAR Wireless Center Wireless plans and hardware Zipform, Electronic Forms Solutions
Trish Szego, CRB, CRS President-Elect ERA-Elite Group, Haymarket (703) 359-7800; email@example.com Mary Victoria Dykstra, ABR, CRS Vice President RE/MAX Valley REALTORS®, Roanoke (540) 989-3000 firstname.lastname@example.org John Daly, SFR Treasurer Rose & Womble, Virginia Beach (757) 486-8800 email@example.com Cindy Stackhouse, GRI Immediate Past President Century 21 Stackhouse and Associates Prince William (703) 580-0880; firstname.lastname@example.org R. Scott Brunner, CAE Chief Executive Officer (804) 264-5033; email@example.com
NOVEMBER/December 2010 39
lastword SCOTT BRUNNER
It’s your party
As political parties go, ours is red, blue — and all about you As hate mail goes, we don’t get much here at VAR, though occasionally one of you may fire off an impassioned e-mail screed — almost always related to politics. It’s not hateful, but it’s certainly pointed. On the rarest of occasions, we may even receive in the mail an article ripped from our magazine and annotated (!) by hand with a Sharpie. I’ve learned that happy customers seldom write to you with a Sharpie. For instance, a recent story in Commonwealth on the implications of the new federal health care law for real estate licensees drew the ire of a few members, who insinuated that we were shilling for the Obama Administration. We weren’t, of course. We were merely pointing out that, like it or not, it’s the law of the land, and it could potentially benefit Realtors®. Though occasionally it feels like no good deed goes unpunished, we do take member input to heart and constantly examine our approach to assure that we communicate so even when some of our members can’t agree, they can understand what we’re
40 NOVEMBER/December 2010
saying — as well as what we’re not. Still, it’s inescapable that people will inevitably see what they look for. So if, say, some partisan members detect a right- (or left-) wing conspiracy in our RPAC endorsements, it’s unlikely that a lucid explanation will dissuade them. And that makes for quite a challenge. Because in state that is both red and blue, as an organization with members on both ends (and points in-between) of the political spectrum, we seldom hew to a political party line. Instead, we support candidates who understand and support real estate — the affordability of it, the rights attached to it, the business issues associated with buying and selling it, and the proper role of government in regulating it. Some of those candidates are Republicans, some are Democrats. But in supporting them, we add them to your party — the Realtor® Party. Which brings me to some recent member criticism of RPAC Congressional endorsements; to wit: “How could you endorse him?” or “He’s a left- (or right-) winger!” or “You don’t do anything but support incumbents!” Well, we supported him (whichever him you mean) because he did everything we asked him to do. He voted for the bills we asked him to vote for — bills that impacted your livelihood — and against those we asked him to vote against. How can we now turn our backs on him?
(And furthermore, what message does it send to an elected official whose support you’re courting if he knows you may abandon him at election time for the next pretty face — even an equally supportive pretty face?) Reminds me of a VAR member who gave me an earful a few years ago about those disloyal buyer clients for whom she busted her fanny to make a smooth, successful transaction, only to find a couple of years later that they’d then chosen a different Realtor® when it was time to sell their home. “Politics is so unsavory,” others have written to us. “Realtors® ought to just stay out of it altogether.” Well, yes. And what might that world look like? Higher recordation and grantors taxes. Required energy ratings on homes. A requirement that licensee must actually discover property defects. No real estate signs anywhere near public rights-of-way. Taxes on real estate commissions. And that’s just for starters. Then you might grab a red Sharpie and scrawl a note to VAR demanding, “How did this happen? Where was my association?” And the silence will echo: “Where were you?” l Write to VAR Chief Executive Officer Scott Brunner, CAE, at scott@vaRealtor.com. No Sharpies, please.
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