On Tuesday, December 02, 2009, Inman News carried a new piece by Matt Carter, entitled “NAR Backing Realcomp Appeal.” REALonomics believes the article is another demonstration of NAR’s attempt as the tail of the industry, to wag us, the dog. Here is our response to NAR’s reported actions.
NAR should be seen here in its true light, a purveyor of control, monopolization and the promotion of the punishment of creative models that do not meet the local real estate dominance model put in force and sustained by its vast network of local Associations.
Although we are not supporters of discount brokerage as a viable business model, we feel the need to speak out on this issue and the freedom of Broker-Owners to create business models without the fear of retaliation and punishment by NAR and local Associations.
We are forced to ask the question, “Is anyone paying attention to how our dues, financial assets and human capital are being used by NAR?” Furthermore, are we paying attention to how NAR and local Associations are dealing with Broker-Owners who are not lining up in lock-step with centralized policy?
This Post Syndicated from e-Partner
Ours is an industry with legacy. The brokerage business has seen many booms and endured many busts.
Many have come and most have gone.
Road kill has always been a part of the mix; the strong eat the weak and the weak find refuge in other endeavors.
The real estate industry has always been a town occupied by heralded gun slingers whose reputations have become the stuff of legends. Sometimes these are brands, other times they are movements, fads or personalities that come and go with the wind.
We have always been a tad reckless; that’s why we are a business model willing to predicate its economic viability on the unpredictable and unenforceable productivity of independent contractors. Let’s admit it, the business cultures we have created have typically been less than IBMish.
Nonetheless, we have moved from era-to-era, cycle-to-cycle and shifted from mode-to-mode, surviving the financial droughts of summer and living through the long, frigid economic nights of our many winters. We are an industry that could legitimately lay claim to squeezing blood from turnips.
We have historically endured and outlasted our most caustic critics who have mocked us at every turn and likened us to dishonest snake-oil salesmen.
Yes, we’ve been brought back from the dead a number of times. We are a cat with nine lives and most of them have been used up.
Are we now reaching the termination point? Are we, Tenus Terminatio Cuspis?
The following memo was sent by Charles McMillan, NAR President to the NAR membership to communicate the specific details of NAR’s lobbying efforts related to the stimulus package. We share this with our readers without edit or comment as a part of our ongoing reporting of NAR’s actions and positions with respect to economy and the Obama administrations actions.
Dear Fellow REALTOR®,
Here’s our take on the Stimulus Bill and Treasury announcements made this week. We look at the Stimulus package AND the Treasury’s package holistically, in compliment with each other – mostly because that’s how the Obama team is looking at it. Your representatives, the NAR Board of Directors, asked us in November to do 4 things (with an unspoken but clearly understood mandate to PRESERVE what we already have). Here they are: 1) get loan limits raised for high cost areas, 2) make the $7,500 tax credit NOT a loan, 3) try to find ways to push interest rates down (which are higher than they should be due to systemic risk right now) by 200 basis points, and 4) help provide solutions to the foreclosure/short sale problem.
So here’s what we have achieved: (1) the loan limits will be raised to $727,000 in high cost areas, (2) the tax credit will be raised to $8,000 with NO payback [a true credit], (3) interest rates have come down 125-150 basis points, and (4) the bill has over $50 billion in it for foreclosure mitigation, with Geitners Treasury plan signaling that the second half of TARP and TALF will be used to mitigate foreclosures through a government guarantee, drive down interest rates by buying another $200-300 billion of mortgage paper from the GSES’s thereby freeing them up to do the same with new mortgages, and Fannie has just agreed to lift the cap of 4 investment properties eligible for loans and raise it to 10.
In addition, we preserved what we have – which some tend to forget is always on the table when these negotiations start up again – mortgage interest deductibility, real estate tax deductibility, and the $250,000/$500,000 cap gains exclusion (an overall package worth more than $100 billion and for some a very attractive funding source for their pet projects).
We did make a run at the $15,000 credit — and we would have loved to have gotten that or the Homebuilders $22,000 credit idea as well as their 5 year loss carry back deal, but they were considered too rich for this program. What it did do though is totally take the debate off of whether a tax credit should be reinstated at all (it expired last year) and whether it was a true credit or a repayable loan, and kept the conversation on how much it should be. It also kept the debate off of ‘what we are willing to give up to get a $15,000 tax credit’ and kept the debate again, on how much it should be. It’s pretty hard to complain when they give you what you ask for and you lose something you never had.
While we study the Treasury specifics on their major role in providing the rest of the housing solution — there is much more to come and we are working diligently with the Administration to help ‘unclog the pipeline’ and get capital flowing into housing again.
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is getting it right, this time. REALonomics did not agree with NAR’s previous rubber stamping of the Bush-Paulson-Bernanke $700 billion bail out. Nor did we agree with NAR’s attempt to get the industry to back the bail-out, prima facia.
This time around, however, NAR is getting it right and deserves the support of the industry…yes, I have already sent my letter to my elected officials supporting “The Four Point Plan” put forth by by NAR. REALonomics is endorsing this plan with comments inserted into NAR’s message that was emailed to members.
RESPONSE TO THE FOUR POINT PLAN
NAR has urged Congress to include the following provisions in any future legislation:
NAR POINT ONE: Make the $7500 tax credit available to all purchasers and eliminate the repayment requirement. The credit’s limited availability and required repayment terms have severely limited the credit’s appeal to potential homebuyers. As a result, the credit has not been widely used or proven effective at stimulating sales.
REALonomics: We concur. The tax credit should be a true credit against taxes, however, and at the descretioin of the buyer, be taken in one year or extended to up to three years of equal credit deduction. This would allow each consumer some flexibility in the application of the credit based upon income and other factors. In addition, we would like to see the deduction made available to investors who purchase in calendar year 2009.
NAR POINT TWO: Make the 2008 FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan limits permanent. New rules for 2009 would significantly reduce the FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan limit from their 2008 levels. Now is not the time to limit the availability of affordable mortgages.
REALonomics: This part of NAR’s plan needs further clarification for members. In general, we concur, but the devil could be lingering in the details on this one.
NAR POINT THREE: Get the Emergency Treasury bank relief program back on track by targeting more funds to mortgage relief efforts and increasing efforts to mitigate foreclosures. Don’t just give the banks unrestricted cash. Make the program work to improve mortgage and housing markets as it was originally intended.
REALonomics: Yes, NAR, this position is the correct one! We were all burned by the ambiguity of the emergency relief program and we, in fact, got hood-winked into believing that toxic mortgages were going to be purchased and sold to investors at discounts. In fact, the banks just banked (pun obvious) the bucks or, in some cases used the funds to purchase other banks. But the problem is also an empowered Treasury Secretary who could simply redirect the funds in just about any way he so desired. To date not a single mortgage has been purchased and resold. The mitigation of foreclosure loses is a tricky one and REALonomics takes a very conservative approach to how this should work. Consumers who are in default should not be rewarded without some additional tax incentives to those who are not in default. We cannot reward bad behavior. Leveling the playing field is going to require caution and discipline.
NAR POINT FOUR: Permanently bar banks and banking conglomerates from engaging in real estate brokerage and management. The banks have proven they have enough to do to simply properly manage their current lines of business. Do we really want them to manage the home buying process? Imagine what could have been the situation now if they already had the added ability to engage in real estate sales.
REALonomics: On this point REALonomics disagrees with NAR. Point four should not be on the table at this time. Although we are not yet convinced that we should advocate bank brokerage models, there remains a lot of room for discussion on how banks can collaborate in economic partnerships with real estate brokerage firms in order to shore-up the profitability of each to the benefit of the consumer. It’s understandable why NAR, as a preservation move, would call for this issue to be addressed and finalized. REALonomics still advocates streamlined and consumer-centric home buying/home financing models. Such models might be created out of financial partnerships that are carefully blueprinted so that banks and brokerage can maintain levels of expertise.
CLICK HERE to take action on the NAR Four Point Plan (NAR members only).
On Friday, November 7, 2008, flanked by some of the most prominent names in the economic and business world, President elect Barack Obama held his first press conference. The central topics, the nation’s economy and of course, the “first mutt.” We will blog about the mutt later…for now, more serious stuff looms.
The Obama news conference was followed this morning, Saturday, November 8, 2008 by a radio address with similar content. These two initial events give us hints about the Obama economic model that will shape America and of course, the real estate industry for perhaps decades.
Attacking the Economy Means Controlling the Outcome
The Obama team is going to attack the economy in laser-like fashion. New rules are going to be written that will impact the private sector and retool the way in which those transactions dependent upon credit and lending work.
REALonomics has believed for some time (years, actually) that the real estate industry needed to redefine itself through sweeping consumer-centric changes driven mostly by standards based brokerage and maximum transparency.
What we never knew and could never predict are the bleak economic factors that now give rise to the transformation of our business models and have fueled a meltdown of home values in such universal proportions. Principle: Economic problems left unsolved by the private sector typically invite government mandated intrusions in order to harness the favor of the electorate.
Can the RE Industry Still Write its Own Rules
It is beginning to look a lot like the real estate industry will be shaped not by factors we control but by the policies and rules created by others. We, under the mantle of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), have, for the most part, missed most of our opportunity to define and shape the debate and participate in the rules that will create a “New Real Estate Industry.” NAR’s mistaken endorsement of the $700 billion bailout program has hurt us and created a dependency relationship with the federal government. In essence, we have been placed in the unenviable position of a reactive industry rather than a proactive force.
Do we still have the clout and the courage to write our own rules? Do we have the will power, discipline, leadership and the creative inspiration to recognize that we are on the cusp of a “New Real Estate Economy” wherein we can control the rules that dictate how the industry operates within a consumer-centric era? Have we become an industry, like so many before us, that will eventually become reliant upon the solutions created by a bloated federal bureaucracy that is more interested in centralizing power than in actually empowering people?
The Key Principle behind Rule-Writing
It’s not so much the rules per se, that govern business matter as it is the economic and social viewpoints of those who pen the rules. It’s always belief that precedes policy. What we believe about our industry is different that what Washington believes. There are principles behind rule-writing, always!
The key principle behind rule-writing is simply “BE THE RULE WRITER.”
Here are but some of what REALonomics believes will be the “new rules” evolving from the financial policies that will be put in place during what will be increasingly defined by the new Administration as a “crisis.” A history lesson…bureaucracies flourish best when set in motion during “crisis.”
NEW RULE 1: There will be a heavy emphasis on creating a bevy of legislation designed to control each aspect of the mortgage lending process. This sounds good until we understand the difference between our and Washington’s definition of transparency and disclosure. The new set of rules will further slow the markets while everyone waits to see and then create a whole new layer of regulations and regulators operating in the basement of every mortgage lender.
NEW RULE 2: Crack down will be the new operative language for not only Wall Street and so-called “overpaid CEO’s” but also those within the real estate industry who are not fully compliant with Rule #1. REALonomics thinks that real estate brokers will become targets for industry crack down and the eventual police force for compliance with new lending and transaction rules. In his website Barack Obama has already pledge to crack down on brokers and lenders.
NEW RULE 3: NAR will become more and more dependent upon government approval for the implementation of our industry policies and procedures that have sustained us for decades. NAR, already reeling from the DOJ debacle, will have a mandated hotline to Washington and will need to use it to check-in, seek approval and help implement the new rules that will be written. In essence, NAR could become an extension and purveyor of brokerage and home ownership policies written by the Obama administration, Pelosi’s House and Reid’s Senate.
Although the housing industry is suffering and the real estate industry is under siege, REALonomics would like to encourage the industry to step up to the plate and position itself under a new set of operating principles that can be sent to Washington as a demonstration of our commitment to operating and policing our own industry. We are still strong enough to influence the outcomes if we are proactive rather than reactive.
Let’s continue to remind ourselves that the key principle behind rule-writing is simply “BE THE RULE WRITER.”
Get the full transcript of the Barack Obama news conference and read between the lines.