The past, current and incoming Presidents, along with the CEO, spent 4 days in Chicago at the annual REALTOR Conference and Expo. This included Church Davis, Maureen McFarland and Cortney Dupont for the Board, and Mark Harris, Steve Ray and Mary Jane White for the MLS. We attended many meetings, including Board and MLS round-tables with our counterparts throughout the US, forums covering the latest initiatives and private meetings with vendors and service providers. The trade show floor felt like it went for miles, and meetings ran from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
We were also able to meet with other Berkshire members present, there to attend committee and governance meetings, Anne Meczywor, Debbie Dwyer and Barbara Osborne. We celebrated with MA REALTOR of the Year, Barb Hassan, who was honored at the general session for her tireless work on the Commercial Board in Massachusetts and at the state level. Debbie Dwyer was also formally voted in at the NAR Board Meeting on Saturday morning as a REALTOR Emeritus. Such great representation! Here is the report on the emerging issues:
Goldberg Vow Tax Reform Fight
NAR CEO Bob Goldberg, who assumed leadership of our National Association in August, called the tax reform plan under consideration by federal lawmakers a “clear and present danger” to the real estate industry. Provisions of the bill / affect to homeowners:
- The bill attacks homeownership and sticks future generations with a $1.5 trillion price tag.
- Homeowners in all 50 states would be double-taxed on the money they pay for state/local taxes.
- If you buy a home and then have to move within 5 years, you could be hit with a large tax bill.
- Mortgage interest deduction will be capped at $500,000
- Capital gains exemption on the sale of a primary home begins to phase out for a family income over $250,000.
- Mortgage interest deduction for second homes will be eliminated.
- There will be no deductions for moving expenses.
- And no deductions for interest on student loans. We already know that student loan debt hinders first-time home buyers.
The Federal Taxation Committee commissioned an analysis of a tax reform plan like the one being debated in Congress. Millions of middle-class homeowners will see a tax hike under this plan. Yet ironically, this plan is being called a WIN for Middle Class families. They are calling all REALTORS to get involved and try to understand this issue, to help folks understand the math.
- The analysis shows that home-owning families with incomes from $50,000 to $200,000
would face an average tax hike of $815.
- Renters / non-homeowners in the same income range would enjoy average annual tax cuts of $516.
- Corporations expect to greatly benefit from a 43% plunge in their tax rate.
Homeowners already pay 83 percent of all federal income taxes and this share could go even higher under the current reform proposal. Provisions that limit tax incentives for homeownership would cause home values everywhere to fall, in the short run, by more than 10 percent. If your home is worth $250,000, we’re talking a $25,000 dollar difference. The new restrictions on the exclusion of Capital Gains when selling a home devastate the equity of long-term homeowners planning to convert their equity into a more secure retirement.
In seven years, household wealth has GROWN more than $38,000! We’re talking about a year’s salary for many Americans!
Call for Action: If you haven’t responded to the NAR call to action on the taxation proposal, please DO IT NOW! Take out your phone and text ACTION to 30644 or go to: http://www.realtoractioncenter.com/taxreform
NAR Policy to Allow “Flexibility” in MLS Membership:
A contentious debate in our MLS meetings was over a new Mandatory Waiver Policy, nicknamed “MLS of Choice.” As of January 2018, MLS governing docs will have to be updated to require that we offer waivers to agents who want to opt out of our MLS services, in favor of anther MLS. In the past, if a firm wanted to join the Berkshire MLS, especially from neighboring states, all members of that firm (or Branch office) whether licensed in MA or not, had to join the MLS and pay monthly fees. This new policy means that now the MLSs will be required to provide a non-use waiver option to all licensees who pledge to not use the Berkshire MLS’s services and can prove they are already affiliated with and working with another MLS elsewhere.
If someone signs a waiver and is caught using our services in any way, they are subject to back payment of all fees since the date the waiver was signed, and a significant fine. The rule will go into effect on July 1, 2018. The rule also stipulates the use of the term “service area” in place of “jurisdiction” or “territory” to distinguish MLSs areas from association ones.
We are unclear on how to handle the participation requirement that a broker’s listings be entered into the MLS within 2 business days in the instance when an agent servicing the listing is prohibited, by waiver, from using the MLS services. Staff is investigating.
NAR Policy on Giving Broker IDX Access to Sold Data:
Instead of three years sold data on your IDX website searches, we will now provide 5 years (so that sold data that was share initially is not recalled) Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, Brokers must have access to MLS sold data from Jan. 1, 2012. The previous policy required MLSs to make sold data from the past three years available to brokers.
MLS IDX Policy to Allow More data Per Page:
Brokers will be authorized to provide, in IDX feeds and VOWs, results to online consumer searches of no less than 500 listings or 50 percent of the listings in the MLS database, whichever is less.
MLS Orientation to Offer Remote Training:
MLSs must offer remote options for training and orientation programs as a way of lowering administrative costs for brokers and agents.
MLS Vendor Rankings and Review
While we love our FlexMLS system, the MLS leadership was committed to meeting with and obtaining demos from all of the leading MLS vendors. While some has some very cool features, we are studying the options very carefully, knowing that the members like the system we are using. Upon returning home, the MLS Board of Director had a webinar with FBS / FlexMLS to learn about their new features and initiative. Onstie, we were able to meet iwht a represnteative from AMP / RPR who are just launching a new venture in the beginning of 2018 and later this month and into December, the Board offered to participate in full demos of the following:
- Black Knight (Paragon 5 and Paragon XL)
- CoreLogic (Matrix)
- FBS Flexmls
- Rapattoni Corporation
All of the above MLS systems received “good” or “excellent” ratings on the Clareity Consulting Annual MLS Survey. Paragon scored highest in end-user satisfaction among systems used by more than 10 MLSs, followed closely by FBS’s Flexmls, which 154 MLSs representing 202,000 subscribers use. Paragon and FBS also tied for first place in both end-user satisfaction and staff satisfaction among systems with more than 10 MLS clients.
MLS Home Energy Labeling Information eXchange (HELIX)
Did you know that the The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) maintains a database of efficiency products as a tracking mechanism for MA tax credits? We met with Craig Foley, and have agreed to work with RPR and FlexMLS to see about the integration of this data, which is transitioning to a HELIX database soon. The HELIX database is an exciting new tool for home buyers and the real estate community. HELIX will make navigating the green real estate space easier as it will be capable of automatically populating real estate listings with home energy information from Home Energy Score, green home certifications, and solar PV information. We will be among the first to preview a demo of the tool and learn about the market and policy drivers for beta testing HELIX.
MLS Copyright at Risk
We are serious about protecting your data – and ours. NAR issued some concerns about the MLS maintaining it’s copywrite. The U.S. Copyright Office is questioning the automated database copyright registrations it has granted to MLSs for decades. These copyright registrations protect the arrangement, selection and coordination of MLS compilations; and if an MLS owns the underlying copyrightable components of its database, such as photographs, listing descriptions and agent remarks, then that copyright extends to those components.
Hundreds of MLSs had copyright applications pending before the Copyright Office when all of a sudden there was a delay, and in August, the MLSs started receiving requests for clarification. The requests alleged the copyright applications showed no creative authorship and asked the MLSs to identify that creativity within 20 days.
Facts cannot be copyrighted, but works with a minimum degree of creativity can and in the past we alleged that the arrangement of facts was creative so the MLS could protect it’s assets. It’s not a phonebook!
In the past, the court found that a phone book could not “claim originality in its coordination and arrangement of facts” because it had only listed its subscribers in alphabetical order, which lacked any “spark” of creativity. Therefore, white pages were not protected by copyright. NAR is fighting to prove the Multiple Listing Service, Inc. are significantly different. It the meantime, this doesn’t impact the personal copywrites held by the owner or license holder of each individual set of listing data.
MLS Merger Toolkit
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS) announced a new toolkit at NAR’s annual conference for MLSs considering consolidating, whether through mergers, data and technology sharing cooperatives, group buying or administrative support agreements. The toolkit lives on NAR’s website and is called “MLS Consolidation Resources.” There are STONG efforts on a national elvel for mergers of MLSs… significant reductions in the number of MLS services nationwide had already happened
NAR’s Chief Economist provided insights into recent trends in housing and the economy, as well as his expectations for 2018. He was joined by Ken Rosen, who discussed the findings of three, recently released papers on the cause for the decline in the U.S. homeownership rate in recent years as well as potential ways to reverse the trend. Below were some interesting slides from Laurence Yun, but you can also access the entire forecast update at no cost from the NAR Playback site.
Insurance Study for Flood Risk
NAR’s Insurance Committee believes it would be less expensive to pool flood insurance risk across the country, charge a nominal fee on each homeowner’s insurance policy, and build up a national insurance reserve fund to pay for losses. In an effort to test that theory, the board approved $174,000 to fund an actuarial study on the impact of such a nationwide natural disaster insurance program.
NAR’s new lobbying proposal could raise Realtor dues
At a cost of $30M more annually in spending, NARs new lobbying proposal seeks to use $65 per member on this plan, which may raise fees by up to 21%. Realtors have six months to tell NAR what they think of the PAG’s recommendations. A 142-page report details the PAG’s recommendations, such as:
- A State Staff Key Coordinator Program to assist associations in navigating available Realtor Party programs
- A Rural Outreach Initiative to tailor community outreach for rural associations
- An Urban Outreach Initiative to tailor community outreach for associations in urban settings
- A Federal Political Coordinator Advocacy Academy to provide intense and interactive training for new FPCs
Some examples of enhancements to existing programs include:
- Realtors Addressing Homelessness to enhance the Housing Opportunity Program
- Guarding Against Natural Disasters to enhance the Smart Growth Program
- Federal Political Coordinator Recognition — an “honor roll” to recognize FPCs and their teams for exceptional work
- A Broker Involvement Program expansion to boost engagement in NAR advocacy efforts
- Here is a link to the entire proposal summary and a way to
Proposed Changes to Appraiser Qualifications
In hopes to make the appraisal process more efficient and accessible, and bring more needed professionals to the industry, the Appraisal Qualifications Board (AQB) released recommended changes to appraiser qualifications in three major areas related to education and experience. Specifically:
- No longer require a Bachelor’s degree for Licensed Residential Appraisers
- Create an alternative to Bachelor’s Degree such as 5 years’ experience, no disciplinary action within the past 5 years and specific additional education.
- Reduce Experience Hours to Licensed Residential: 1000 hours in 6 months, Certified Residential: 1500 hours in 12 months and Certified General: 3000 in 18 months
Have comments? They are due January 12, 2018. Full Draft Changes (link is external)
NAR is in the process of unveiling improved methods to increase member engagement, and are making an effort to come to us locally, rather than having you come to us. Their plans include:
- Expanding our very successful Members Edge and Brokers Edge programs, and creating a new member-focused Tech conference.
- Implementing A Day in the Life of a REALTOR® Program so our staff will gain a better understanding of what REALTORS® do to earn a living every day.
- And, leveraging and growing our social channels because we know that our members engage clients and consumers on a variety of social media platforms
The board voted to update the Standards of Practice to make clear that members are prohibited from using misleading imagery in real estate marketing materials. The change reflects the board’s position that as consumers increasingly rely on photos to assess properties, images that have been excessively altered or distorted can harm the credibility of the real estate industry and members. The directors also adopted changes to the Code of Ethics education objectives designed to help REALTORS® better understand the training they are required to take and make it easier for associations to enforce these requirements.
The board voted to limit state and local associations advocacy funds only for activities within their territories unless an association has a written agreement that allows it to engage in advocacy within another association’s jurisdiction. The new policy is intended make sure REALTORS® speak with one voice on advocacy issue, promote cooperation among all levels of the REALTOR® organization, and ensure that REALTOR® advocacy resources are used efficiently. This could impact the Berkshires on our cross boarder NYC Berkshire Flyer Rail service initiative. President Churchward Davis had, prior to this vote, already reached out to our counterparts in NYS, but now it is more important than ever. REALTOR and Board Member Billy Keane is representing our association on the DOT Committee studying the viability of this service.
Top-Level Domains: .realtor, .realestate
Ken Burlington, chief operating officer of the REALTORS® Information Network, said registration for the .realestate top-level domain, which NAR controls, would begin in 2018. Unlike NAR’s .realtor domain, which is available only to NAR members, there will be no restrictions on who may use .realestate domain names. Individuals or businesses that have signed up for a .realtor top-level domain will be able to begin applying for .realestate addresses 60 days before the general public. More than 100,000 members of NAR and the Canadian Real Estate Association have registered for .realtor addresses.