Market News

NAR Leads the Dialogue on Sustainability, Develops Resource Guide

As the real estate sustainability movement continues to grow, the National Association of Realtors® is proud to introduce the Sustainability Resource Guide, a resource especially created for associations and members to positively impact business practices.  NAR research shows real estate consumers are requesting more information about the sustainability aspects of their real estate investment, and 40 percent of Realtors® reported that their MLS now includes green data fields. NAR created this resource to help guide growing consumer interest in sustainability by providing an evaluation of sustainability topics in any market, the parties involved and how sustainability is integrated into the build environment.

“The Sustainability Resource Guide tells NAR’s sustainability story and guides real estate associations and members through common topics, case studies, industry partnerships, policy overviews, and internal programs and research. Evolving industry standards are changing the conversation about sustainable home features, and NAR is taking the lead on real estate sustainability among real estate agents, brokers, trade associations and consumers. We envision this guide as a one-stop resource that curates significant principles, initiatives, organizations, policies, programs, research, and contacts at the intersection of sustainability and real estate,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty.

The guide is primarily focused on local associations to help field member questions about sustainability to provide an understanding of the broader conversation and the resources available in the sustainability area.  For more information, visit: https://www.nar.realtor/sustainability-resource-guide

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Story Idea: Tips for Deep Cleaning a Home

Keeping a home spic and span can be a time and energy consuming process. However, there are many ways to get and keep a home immaculately clean without breaking a sweat. Cleaning soap scum out a tub can be a backbreaking task, but homeowners can cut the effort in half by attaching a scrubber to a power drill and using it to do the scrubbing for them. Cleaning mineral build-up on a showerhead doesn’t have to involve tedious scouring, just attach a bag of vinegar to the showerhead using a rubber band and soak it overnight – presto, good as new!

Story Springboard:

Check out HouseLogic’s spotlight “The Most Annoying Household Problems Solved!” for more tips and tricks on keeping a home clean during the summer. Speak with homeowners about the most significant cleanliness issues they face during the summer. Talk to a REALTOR® about advice he or she gives new homeowners about cleaning concerns they may not have considered as renters.

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Watch for Asbestos When Renovating Older Homes: You May Be at Risk

Photo credit: BanksPhotos -iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Rosie Rosati, guest contributor

As a homebuyer, it’s easy to understand the appeal of investing in an older home. After all, it’s the perfect opportunity to tackle a few DIY projects and renovations to give the place the custom touch you’ve always imagined. Although this can seem like an exciting endeavor, new owners may get ahead themselves without realizing their house may be harboring toxins from decades ago.

It’s important to understand the dangers of asbestos during home improvement projects and how to reduce exposure risks.

Measuring Your Risk

Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that was revolutionary for the building trade until its carcinogenic nature was discovered. This toxin was once widely-used by the construction industry due to its resilience and ability to withstand chemicals and high temperatures. Although its health risks were discovered as early as the 1920s, the United States continued producing, importing and manufacturing asbestos-containing consumer products for decades.

Researchers concluded in 1960 that asbestos exposure could cause a wide range of long-term diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and the often fatal form of cancer known as mesothelioma. As more tradesmen came forward with asbestos-related illnesses, this mineral became known as a primary source of occupational cancer.

The mineral is heavily regulated today, but millions of people are still vulnerable to exposure due to its expansive use in residential homes and buildings.

Asbestos is only considered dangerous when contaminated materials have been worn down or damaged which unfortunately, is a standard part of most renovation or remodeling work.

Any sanding, grinding, sawing, drilling, buffing, or physical impact may cause these fibers to become airborne and easily ingested or inhaled by anyone in the general proximity.

What Homeowners Need to Know

Asbestos is nearly impossible to identify on your own because it’s often mixed within building products, but it is possible to identify a hazardous situation and take appropriate preventative action.

Before getting involved with any sort of home improvement project, you should always double-check that your property has been recently inspected by a trained professional. This simple step is especially important if you reside in a home built more than 40 years ago and has visible signs of aging. This bit of precaution could save you from developing an asbestos-related illness years later.

You should be aware of common products that have a history of containing the toxin and monitor their condition for any sort of wear and tear. Keep an eye on old insulation, ceiling tiles, vinyl flooring, joint compounds, door gaskets, furnaces, roof shingles, electrical wiring, fireproof products, and more.

Asbestos is known to be a significant threat when it is “friable,”  meaning it can be easily crumbled or crushed by hand. Spray-on insulation and spray-on ceiling textures are prime examples of products that once contained friable asbestos and have been found within residential homes today.

Unlike floor tiles and cement that must endure long-term deterioration before asbestos fibers are loosened, the slightest amount of pressure can instantly release these fibers, allowing them to be carried throughout the air and dust indoors.

Do not panic and try to remove any materials you think are toxic, as this will only do more harm than good.

Instead, block off the area and avoid any activity, including sweeping or vacuuming, which can exacerbate the situation and cause toxic dust and debris to travel even further throughout the house.

Restrict anyone from going near the area until a professional can take samples to confirm it contains asbestos. If the toxin is present and appears to be hazardous, the licensed professional can safely remove the toxin from your home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Rosati is with the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center. She is  a health advocate for anyone impacted by the aggressive form of cancer known as mesothelioma. She dedicates her time to educating the public on where asbestos is found today and how to prevent exposure. Her ultimate goal is to connect anyone affected by this rare diseases with the resources and support they deserve.

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Big Win for Realtors in IRS Guidance on 20% Income Deduction

On Wednesday, August 8, the IRS released its proposed guidance on the new 20 percent business income deduction.

The deduction, included as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in Congress last year, was a huge win for Realtors.

With Wednesday’s announcement, that victory becomes even more significant for real estate professionals and small businesses across the country.

Under this deduction, a wide range of real estate professionals, including those who are self-employed and those operating through partnerships, LLCs and S corporations, can take 20 percent off the top of any income received through pass-through businesses, provided annual income doesn’t exceed $157,000 for those filing individually, or $315,000 for married couples.

The calculation will depend on how your business is structured. Other limits could also come into play, but the basic structure is very favorable to you as a small business or independent contractor.

The key development from Wednesday’s announcement is the IRS’ new recognition of eligibility for a wide range of real estate professionals, including, as previously stated, those who are self-employed and who are operating through partnerships, LLCs or S corporations.

Realtors were integral to the favorable interpretation in the proposed guidance. Your association made a forceful case—both in a detailed letter sent to the agency on June 19 and in a face-to-face meeting with IRS officials in early August—that certain limitations on the deduction, based on income, were not intended by Congress to apply to real estate professionals. And that’s the interpretation the IRS has taken in its proposed guidance.

As Bloomberg News reported on August 7, “the National Association of Realtors … met with OMB (Office of Management and Budget) and Treasury Department officials to discuss proposed rules outlining computation of the new write-off for pass-throughs.”

NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall had this to say about Wednesday’s annoucement:

Over the past several months, the National Association of Realtors® has worked with the IRS and Treasury Department to ensure real estate professionals can benefit from the Section 199A 20% deduction for pass-through businesses.

We were pleased with yesterday’s announcement, and believe this new 20% deduction will have a significant, beneficial impact on real estate professionals and America’s small businesses. Specifically, we anticipate the deduction to become available to a wide range of real estate professionals, including those who are self-employed as well as those operating through partnerships, LLCs, and S corporations.

This ruling is a victory for many of our 1.3 million members, those who represent all aspects of residential and commercial real estate. NAR continues to review all relevant information in the recently released proposed regulations on Section 199A, and will communicate with our members as new details emerge.

The new deduction is available for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. That means you’ll be able to claim it for the first time on your 2018 federal income tax return, beginning next year.

Look for detailed NAR guidance by mid September. It’s a complicated provision, and how it works for you is going to depend on many factors unique to your business structure and your income. As always, consult with your accountant or tax attorney on how this deduction should be applied in your situation.

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NAR Supports U.S. Treasury Efforts to Improve Financial Regulation, Foster Tech Innovation

Last week, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued the latest in a series of reports aimed at improving regulation of the U.S. financial system. The report focuses on recommendations for nonbank financials, fintech, and innovation. NAR provided feedback on this initiative to Treasury earlier this year, highlighting a number of topics of importance to REALTORS®.

In the end, NAR applauds the Department of Treasury’s report, which we believe was aimed at facilitating a regulatory environment that fosters innovation, improves technological growth, and encourages competition in the industry.

Additionally, strengthening the oversight of the credit bureaus to protect consumer data and allowing for increased flexibility for adoption of new credit models is key to encouraging and increasing homeownership opportunities.

Treasury’s recommendation to adopt electronic closing processes, such as electronic and remote online notarization, will be useful in promoting more efficient real estate transactions.

Technological innovation in real estate valuation remains beneficial for consumers, leading to a more functional real estate market. However, NAR believes that added transparency and stability in transactions utilizing an automated valuation or hybrid appraisal should occur prior to decisions to enact drastic changes in current law, which would allow government and other loan programs to use these methods.

NAR appreciates the ability to provide feedback to Treasury on these critical recommendations to streamline and safeguard the U.S. financial system in an effort to empower consumers in the real estate market.

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Hot Home Trend: Furnishings With Curves

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Furniture is getting curvier this year. Softer lines, curves, and rushing are trending in design. Rounded options are pushing out the sharp-edge designs. It can be a nod to the 1960’s and ’70’s, but contemporary fabrics and details keep it from looking outdated.

Check out some examples.

Rounded chairs

 

Circular tables

 

Curved sofas

 

Rounded backs

 

Curvy ottomans

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Instant Reaction: July Jobs Report

The following is NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun’s reaction to this morning’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on the employment situation in July:

The economy is rolling along and jobs are being created. Though the latest monthly net new job gains of 157,000 is a bit light compared to recent past months, the one-year total is still very solid at 2.4 million. Wages are picking up at 2.7% and housing demand will therefore continue to accumulate. What has been missing in many markets has been housing supply, partly due to acute shortage of construction workers. It is welcoming to see the construction industry boosting wages at swifter rate of 3.5%. This financial incentive is no doubt helping to draw more workers into construction as evidenced by 4.4% job growth rate in construction compared to 1.6% growth rate in all jobs. With housing supply to steadily rise, the broad housing market will be in a healthier balanced state in the future.

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NAR Applauds Senate Passage of Flood Insurance Extension

NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall released the following statement after today’s U.S. Senate vote on legislation extending flood insurance funding. The bill, which cleared the House last week, is expected to be signed into law by the President before tonight’s midnight deadline.

“We applaud lawmakers for taking this needed action to prevent disruptions to closings in thousands of communities across the country. Although the National Flood Insurance Program will be extended through November 30 when signed into law, the NFIP is in desperate need of reforms that will make it solvent and sustainable in the long term. The National Association of Realtors will continue fighting for these reforms as the next NFIP reauthorization discussions loom later this year.”

REALTORS® have been urging extension of the program for months. Almost 125,000 REALTORS®, or roughly 15 percent of the membership of NAR, sent letters to their senators/members of Congress in support of the extension.

For further information on NAR’s efforts to extend and reform the National Flood Insurance Program, please visit this link, or contact Wes Shaw at 202-383-1193 or wshaw@realtors.org

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Don’t Leave Fire Safety to Chance: Steps to Protect Your Property

By Brentnie Daggett Earlier this month, several Fourth of July celebrations were marred by accidental fires. In a town near my home, 10 acres within a densely populated area were set ablaze by illegal fireworks, forcing the evacuation of several apartment buildings. While fireworks may not be an issue year-round, it’s important for property owners to […]

The post Don’t Leave Fire Safety to Chance: Steps to Protect Your Property appeared first on RISMedia’s Housecall.

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Realtors Support Flood-Insurance Reform (Letter to the Editor Published in the WSJ)

The National Association of Realtors has been a vocal supporter of comprehensive reforms to the National Flood-Insurance Program.

Regarding your editorial “Hurricane Scalise” (July 21): The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has been renewed 41 times since 1998, with six short-term extensions coming in the past year. You overlook that the National Association of Realtors has been a vocal supporter of comprehensive reforms to the NFIP, both during this and previous extension bills.

Realtors publicly spoke out last fall in support of the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, specifically advocating for reforms to gradually phase out NFIP subsidies; better align rates to risk, particularly for inland and lower-value properties and address repeatedly flooding properties, which account for 2% of NFIP policies but 25% of claim payments.

Current law calls for subsidies for high-risk properties to be phased out entirely, a policy which has been publicly supported by the NAR and would be accelerated under the 21st Century Flood Reform Act. The bill passed the House but is stalled in the Senate.

We have never used the words “inalienable human right” to characterize flood-insurance subsidies. On the contrary, one of our reform principles states, “Premiums should be more accurately priced to the property specific risk, but any rate increases should be gradual and phased in over many years.” We have and will continue to stand firm in our support of the NFIP’s ability to protect current and future generations of U.S. property owners.

We recognize those protections will vanish if the program remains on its current path. That’s why we will continue fighting for sustainable reforms as the next NFIP reauthorization discussions loom later this year.

Elizabeth Mendenhall

President

National Association of Realtors

Washington

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