REALTORS(R) Pumped Up for Historic Rally

May 16, 2012

REALTORS® got a taste of the upcoming Rally to Protect the American Dream when NAR President Moe Veissi kicked off the 2012 NAR Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo yesterday in Washington, D.C. "This is your moment," Veissi said during the Member-Director Forum. "We"ll gather like no one has gathered before."

Veissi said at least 10,000 REALTORS® are expected to come together Thursday at the Washington Monument. The Rally is being held to remind members of Congress about the central place of home ownership in the event lawmakers consider making changes to federal programs and incentives for home ownership.

"We'll be telling members of Congress that home ownership remains central to the American Dream," Veissi said.

NAR Vice President and Liaison to Government Affairs Scott Louser gave an overview at the session of REALTORS®’ legislative priorities that members will be talking about on their visits to Capitol Hill this week:

  • Long-term reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program, which expires at the end of the month.
  • Extending mortgage cancellation relief before it expires at the end of the year so home owners who modify their loan or sell their home in a short sale don’t get taxed on any debt that’s forgiven by the lender.
  • Ensuring that the FHA remains healthy over the long-term.
  • Bolstering commercial market liquidity.
  • Ensuring regulatory actions like underwriting standards under the qualified mortgage and qualified residential mortgage rules don’t hurt borrowers’ ability to get affordable financing.

At the session, Louser hosted executives from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase to learn what the banks are doing to help address continuing problems borrowers face in getting financing. Matt Vernon, home loan sales executive at Bank of America, used the session to announce the bank is taking a small, Florida-based pilot program national in the next few weeks. Through the program, the bank makes between $2,500 and $30,000 available to home owners for whom modification no longer works to consider a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure. The program only applies to mortgages in the bank's own book of business (not Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or FHA loans) and must be initiated by the end of this year and close by September of 2013.

Pat Sheehy, executive vice president of Industry Relations for JP Morgan Chase, said the tenor of the bank's monthly risk meetings have changed in the last 12 months, from executives talking about continuing to toughen credit standards to now talking about loosening them. That could mean easing of restrictive credit overlays that hold loan applicants to standards higher than what Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA require. The bank is also working with appraisal management companies to ensure appraisers are from the market area, use the right comparables, and are taking other steps to ensure valuations are accurate.

Joe Rogers, executive vice president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said the bank is in regular talks through a "hot line" with other banks to speed decisions on short sales that involve more than one bank with loans outstanding on a property.

Additionally, NAR Strategic Planning Committee Chair Elizabeth Mendenhall and Vice Chair Shannon Williams-King introduced at the Forum a radically new method the association will use this year and next to develop its next strategic plan. The goal is to bring more members into the association's strategic-planning process.

The new process, called Rethink Experience, will some 20 planning workshops hosted by NAR for members around the country at different times throughout the year. The workshops are intended to bring members together in a brainstorming session so a wider pool of viewpoints can be incorporated into the association’s plans. Participants will receive studies, videos, data sets, scenarios, and other materials as background for their input. Members who can't participate in the workshops can do so online. Workshop locations will be selected based on a lottery drawing. The first workshop will be held in Chicago at the 2012 Leadership Summit in August.

Brokerages, state and local associations, and MLSs are among the organizations that can be included in the lottery. NAR leaders say they hope up to 20,000 members participate, either at one of the workshops or online, before the drafting of the final report, which will be submitted to the Strategic Planning Committee before the 2013 NAR Annual Conference in San Francisco.

"We understand that 20,000 sounds lofty, but we truly believe that we can accomplish it," said Williams-King. "We know that some of the ideas presented in the Rethink Experience may be new, uncomfortable, or even challenging to some, but in order to create the best strategic plan we can, we need challenging conversations and new ideas."

You can find out more at www.RethinkFuture.com or from Strategic Planning Committee members, who are wearing "Ask Me" buttons.

Also at the session, NAR First Vice President Steve Brown drew attention to the complete revamping of REALTOR.org to the new My.Realtor.org, which is intended to make the site more customizable for each member based on criteria they select, and the launch of Member Value Plus, a program for rewarding members for taking action on NAR priorities.

Highlighting some of NAR’s most politically active members, two of NAR's federal political coordinators were recognized with the FPC Meritorious Service Award. The recipients were Greg Herb, ABR, CRB, of Herb Real Estate Inc., in Gilbertsville, Pa.; Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.); and Richard Rosenthal, DSA, CRE, of Rosenthal & Associates in Marina Del Ray, Calif.; and retired Rep. Jane Harmon (D-Calif.).

— Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine

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