Government Affairs Week in Focus

Oh my, so many issues in the legislative arena!  MAR recently testified on issues related to your obligation to discover the presence of wetlands, and proposed square footage legislation. We have been working with and tracking broadband funding and implementation in the county, and just read the new On Common Ground Magazine about how the Berkshires can take advantage of our access to nature to be a strong, healthy community.  We are actively recruiting volunteers to serve and want to know about our your connection with town administrators, local, state or national legislators.  Please read this update on those issues, and get in touch with to find out how you can get involved in the new Government Affairs and Issues Mobilization group lead by Franz Forster.

Wetland Disclosure: Must You Become an Expert?

On Tuesday January 26th, MAR Testified at the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure hearing that included legislation relative to real estate and brokerage.  The first bill addressed, H150, seeks to require real estate agents to disclose the presence of any wetland on a property that is for sale. MAR testified that such a requirement would be far outside brokers’ training, expertise, and traditional understanding of real estate.  The proposed law would require a real estate agent to investigate and report to buyers on various wetland restrictions, overlay maps, and provisions in each community. Additionally, the broker would need to research each property at the registry of deeds to see if they are subject to orders of conditions issued by the local conservation commission or Department of Environmental Protection.

Most importantly, this bill would prove an unnecessary burden on real estate agents, as a remedy to the disclosure of wetlands already exists: Buyers can ask this question of the seller, create a contingency in a purchase and sale agreement, and do their own research through public records.  We will keep sharing our message with state legislators to make sure you’re represented.

Square footage: Legislators Play Appraisers

The committee also heard H233, An Act to improve fairness and uniformity in real estate transactions, which seeks to create a standard for determining the square footage of commercial and residential buildings. The bill, however, would result in confusion and bring little clarity to a real estate transaction because it leaves many questions unanswered. MAR testified that the legislation fails to address interior stairways, finished attic spaces, and porches, even if they lack heat. It also does not address how attics with sloped ceilings or finished rooms substantially below grade that are subject to chronic dampness or lack windows would be counted.  We’re going to keep this issue on our radar and participate whenever possible in discussions.

Broadband: Come on Already

Several towns are working with Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI: charged by the state to bring the last mile to fruition) trying to get the governor to release promised last mile funds to begin bringing high speed capabilities to to our rural towns.  Alford MA is actively working to get high speed broadband services moving.  For the towns that did not decide to “go-it-alone”, the Board of Directors of WiredWest, at its meeting on December 19th, voted unanimously to appoint a select group of representatives from its member towns to negotiate with the MBI to resolve differences between the organizations’ plans for last-mile broadband deployment in WiredWest towns.  We’re keeping tabs on that process in the hopes that some agreement can be met to move forward on starting the last mile high speed infrastructure for the 32 towns who want to be a FiberTown.

OnCommon Ground: Healthy Communities

NAR has released their winter edition of On Common Ground, a magazine devoted to smart growth and the creation of healthy communities. The focus in this edition is a perfect message for the Berkshire lifestyle – Research increasingly shows that contact with the natural world is essential for our well-being, providing better access to nature and parks is now seen as a health issue rather than just an aesthetic one.  They explore how we build and grow our communities can have a large impact on our health and quality of life.  The edition covers walk-able and bike friendly communities, healthier food movements with food hubs to connect farmers with residents, millennial transportation and housing choices, connecting kids with nation and bringing nature to urban areas.  View the Winter 2016 issue of On Common Ground, or ask the Board Office for a hard copy.

Mobile Alerts: Smart Phone, Smart Idea

A super easy way to keep up-to-date with pressing issues, is to sign up for Mobile Alerts.  You will only receive a text 3-5 times per year when we need you to take action on important real estate issues, with a simple way to respond via your phone.  You can signup for Mobile Alerts online or simply text the word REALTORS to 30644.

Legislators: Sphere of Influence

Seeking Berkshire REALTORS who know local, state or national legislators, city/town officials etc., to serve as liaisons with our association.  If you have such a relationship and want to learn more, please contact Sandy Carroll at the Board Office (413) 442-8049.

Planning of Events:  Mix and Mingle

REALTOR Rally on Capital Hill will be held the week of May 9-14, REALTOR Day on Beacon Hill has been scheduled for June (date pending) and the Berkshires hopes to host a Legislative Luncheon in the spring as the Massachusetts Legislative Session gets underway.  The Berkshire’s capital city of Pittsfield welcomes new mayor Linda Tyer to office.

Residential Sprinkler System Requirement:  You’re Welcome!

The Senate’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget included a provision that would have granted municipalities the authority to mandate the installation of automatic sprinklers in new or substantially rehabilitated one and two family homes. MAR successfully lobbied the Conference Committee to reject the Senate proposal and it was not included in the FY 2015 budget sent to, and  signed, by the governor.

Super Duper Good News:

In December, the Ibanez Bill, an ‘Act Clearing Title To Foreclosed Properties‘ needed to cure clouded titles on thousands of foreclosed residential properties has passed both legislative chambers and was signed into law by the Governor. In early 2011 the SJC decision in U.S. Bank National Association vs. Ibanez halted the resale of foreclosed residential real estate. Good faith purchasers of these homes could not refinance or sell. This legislation now protects bona fide purchasers with a three-year window within which a mortgagor may challenge a residential foreclosure. Nearly identical legislation passed the Legislature in its prior session only to be sent back with unacceptable amendments by Governor Patrick in the summer of 2015, just days before the end of the legislative session.  This is a victory for homeowners caught in a web of prior foreclosure problems.

In Federal news, in case you haven’t heard, HUD made improvements to FHA’s condo rules, arguing that existing policy is overly restrictive and keeps many consumers from buying and selling a home.  To address these concerns, FHA will make changes to its condo policies in line with those requested by NAR. Those include changes to the lengthy and complex re-certification process in place today, burdensome owner-occupancy requirements, and limits on the types of property insurance that are considered acceptable coverage under FHA’s rules.

Berkshire Members, through dues renewal, contributed towards these and future issues mobilization efforts in the amount of $4,655.  There were 187 CHAMPIONS of HOME OWNERSHIP in our association, and we THANK YOU!

Please get in touch with to find out how you can get involved in the new Government Affairs and Issues Mobilization group lead by Franz Forster.