5 to Watch: June 2011

News and trends that we're keeping an eye on this month.

June 1, 2011

1. REALTORS® Political Survival

NAR’s Board of Directors at the Midyear Legislative Meetings in mid-May voted on the association’s REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative, which is intended to preserve REALTORS®’ voice on local, state, and national policy issues in today’s post–Citizens United environment. Citizens United was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case giving corporations the same political speech rights as individual citizens, effectively opening the door to unlimited corporate spending in political campaigns. RPPSI is projected to generate $195 million in funds and resources for 100 percent use in local, state, and national political campaigns to help REALTORS® compete with corporate dollars already flooding into campaigns at all levels. 

2. Reporting Eased for Mom-and-Pop Landlords

Households that find renters for a second property but aren’t in the business of real estate don’t have to send an IRS Form 1099 to vendors if the vendors do more than $600 worth of work in a year. Landlords have faced the 1099 reporting requirement for a while, and that requirement continues to apply to them, but last year the requirement was extended to households and entities that rent out property as a sideline but aren’t in the rental housing trade. NAR and others strongly opposed that expansion and succeeded in persuading lawmakers to repeal it, which Congress did. President Obama signed the repeal into law in late April. So, now the requirement applies as it always has: just to those in the business of real estate.

3. Computing on the Fly

The rich interface and fun apps of tablet computers like the iPad are popular with consumers today for playing games and updating their Facebook pages. But in a few years, tablets might very well be the primary tech tool for those in real estate, says Matt Dollinger, vice president of strategic initiatives at Chicago real estate brokerage ­@­Properties. Dollinger, who highlighted ­dozens of promising apps in an April 28 REALTOR® Magazine webinar, says these programs are becoming so robust that it won’t be long before practitioners will be able to scrap their PCs and laptops for a tablet. Download or watch: Find "Tablets: The Future of Computing in Real Estate? " at our webinar page.

4. Misconduct by Mortgage Servicers

Banking regulators are taking action against 14 federally regulated mortgage servicers, which together account for two-thirds of the servicing market. The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said their on-site reviews of the companies revealed patterns of misconduct and negligence. Access the report: Search for "Interagency Review of Foreclosure Policies and Practices" on www.federalreserve.gov.

5. ‘20% Down’ Rule Stirs Debate

A proposed rule by banking regulators that would require a minimum 20 per­-cent down payment for buyers would lop off almost 30 percent of the home sale market, according to an analysis by the Community Mortgage Banking Project, a coalition of independent mortgage brokers. What’s more, the requirement would only improve loan performance by a scant 1.6 percent. NAR ­opposes the rule and has been meeting with lawmakers and regulators with the message that this isn’t what Congress intended when it passed legislation last year creating what’s known as the qualified residential mortgage, or QRM. The legislation requires lenders to retain 5 percent of the value of the loans they make and package into securities, with the exception of QRM loans. Since there’s no 5 per­-cent risk retention for the QRMs, these mortgages are expected to have far more affordable interest rates. It was Congress’ intent to define QRM loans as those that are soundly under­written for responsible borrowers, but banking regulators defined it to mean loans with a minimum down payment. NAR made the issue one of its priorities while REALTORs® were in Washington, D.C., May 9-14 for the Midyear Legislative Meetings.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.