The Most Shared Kitchen Photo of 2018

Dec 24, 2018 by

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

Of the 17 million professional photos of home interiors and exteriors on Houzz, it was this photo of a gray and walnut kitchen that captured the most attention over the year:

The kitchen was designed by Justin and Tyler Sachs of Stonington Cabinetry & Designs. The kitchen features a combination of gray and white accents and warm wood, like the walnut on the island, vent hood, and open shelving.

“Though white cabinets are still a favorite, gray is now the top wall color choice,” says Houzz editor and writer Gwendolyn Purdom. “Renovating homeowners are also opting for features such as Shaker-style cabinets, L-shaped layouts and engineered quartz counters more than in years past—and this kitchen highlights all three.”

Styled, Staged & Sold

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Capitol Hill Update: NAR’s 2018 Political Advocacy Efforts

Dec 22, 2018 by

Over the past year, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has engaged with federal lawmakers on a wide range of legislative and regulatory issues to promote and protect a sound and robust real estate market. These efforts protect and strengthen the interests of both consumers and NAR members. Following are highlights on six key topics.

Section 199A Qualified Business Income Deduction
REALTORS® will be able to deduct 20 percent of their qualified business income from their income tax as a result of NAR’s advocacy. This provision is a major victory included in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act.

Association Health Plans (AHP)
With significant input from NAR, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new rule opening the door for small employers and self-employed individuals, including real estate professionals, to participate in Association Health Plans. NAR is in the process of determining whether and how AHPs can offer health insurance solutions to members and their families. These efforts will continue; however, the insurance companies have yet to show an appetite for offering a national AHP to NAR or any other trade association. While there has been significant progress, NAR must still take a number of concrete steps to find workable solutions.

Flood Insurance
With strong member support, NAR successfully advocated to avoid lapses in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NAR successfully lobbied for an amendment to the 21st Century Flood Reform Act (HR 2874), which would reauthorize and reform the NFIP for five years. The House of Representatives passed the bill, and it is now awaiting action in the Senate.

Real Estate Competition
Following a public workshop conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), NAR reiterated its confidence that the real estate industry is highly competitive. Additionally, NAR filed a comment letter to the FTC and DOJ highlighting the multiple real estate brokerage and business models offering consumers the services and prices that best fit their needs; that real estate has never been more competitive; and there is no need for antitrust regulators to continue their decade-old consent decree.

Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Reform
NAR released a report summarizing insights gleaned from NAR’s roundtable on reform of the secondary mortgage market. Reform of the secondary market and the two dominant players in it, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is the last major reform from the crisis that remains unfinished. Insights from NAR’s roundtable will help to inform the general discussion in regard to what reforms remain, whether the discussion is on track, and where there is a consensus. The roundtable event is part of ongoing efforts by NAR to address housing finance reform and to protect the critical source of financing that REALTORS® and their clients rely upon. NAR has been working with industry stakeholders to develop a comprehensive reform package that preserves the availability of secondary market mortgage financing under all economic and market conditions.

Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act
NAR supported provisions that reduced regulatory burdens on smaller community banks and credit unions to increase access to affordable mortgage credit. NAR also advocated for alternative credit scoring innovations by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase homeownership for consumers with limited credit profiles and access to traditional forms of credit. The new law provides regulatory oversight of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP) to ensure that borrowers have a better understanding of these contracts and the potential detrimental impact on resale of property. Additionally, the new law provides important clarity for lenders regarding certain commercial loans to resolve ongoing industry confusion. NAR further supported the provision addressing the exclusion of manufactured housing retailers and sellers from the definition of a loan originator, so long as certain requirements are met related to acceptance of the residential mortgage loan application.

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2018 REBAC Hall of Fame Inductees: How Education Can Enhance the Buyer Experience

Nov 24, 2018 by

Nearly 30,000 members make up the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC)—25,000 of which hold the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation. On an annual basis, REBAC recognizes a select group of individuals who have displayed exemplary acts of buyer representation and who have played a significant role as experts and leaders in the industry. These ABR® designees are chosen for the REBAC Hall of Fame by an independent panel.

This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include John Ralph of Team North Star of the Wells Group in Durango, Colo; Lyla Stark of RE/MAX Jefferson City in Missouri; and Michael Straley of the Go Straley Group at eXp Realty. The inductees were showcased during the ABR®, SRES® & GREEN Networking and Awards Reception at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston, Mass., on Nov. 3, 2018.

But what does it mean to be a Hall of Famer?

According to Straley, who is the supervising broker of Stafford Market Center at eXp Realty, the recognition comes with a sense of responsibility for elevating the real estate industry and the value of homeownership.

Michael Strale

“I hope to raise awareness for what I believe is foundational for our country: the ownership of real property and the laws surrounding it,” says Straley. “When you own something, as opposed to renting it, you treat it differently and you feel like the rule of law protects you. It’s a lifelong dream, and when people achieve it, they go through a transformation that’s exciting to watch. I hope my Hall of Fame achievement helps to promote that.”

Stark, associate at RE/MAX Jefferson City who never dreamed she’d be so successful in real estate and has found her calling, has always followed the philosophy of working toward truly helping people instead of being a salesperson, which aligns with the REBAC mission of buyer representation—to bring that goal of homeownership to clients with a service-oriented attitude.

Ralph, licensed associate real estate broker of Team North Star at the Wells Group, believes Hall of Famers have an obligation to show dedication to their career and clients.

John Ralph

“This includes continued education that helps enhance service to those buyers you can help throughout the years. It also means participation in your real estate boards and community activities, whether it’s on a local, state or even national level,” says Ralph. “Helping promote the REALTOR® brand and image so that those you work with understand the benefits—and realize they can trust you to do the best job on their behalf—is a major contributing factor.”

Community involvement is another common thread that binds Hall of Famer recipients together.

Playing a significant role in local groups and real estate associations can help REALTORS® establish themselves as experts, which goes a long way toward helping to advance REBAC’s mission—commitment to buyer representation and its practice.

For Ralph, a recurring involvement in local and state boards is very rewarding and one of the resources he uses to stay well-informed of changing technological and industry trends, as well as local and national real estate market shifts.

Lyla Stark

“While participating on various committees over a 15-year period, I served as president of my board twice and as one of the six district vice presidents on our state board,” says Ralph. “Knowing that I can make a difference helping to shape the future of our profession as we deal with so much new technology and how it affects our role in real estate is exceptionally gratifying.”

Additionally, volunteering his time and resources to charity has made Ralph realize that he gets back so much more than what he gives—a sense of accomplishment and being able to help others. Ralph’s brokerage sets aside a percentage of each closing commission to put toward community causes, such as for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Project Merry Christmas for disadvantaged families.

Straley agrees on the benefits of community involvement, having been involved with multiple organizations over the years, both with industry groups and also with non-real estate-related associations.

“I volunteered at the Thurman Brisben Center, a homeless shelter, for about five years and helped run a job-assistance program there twice a month. In addition, I was also the Women’s Council of REALTORS® president in 2016 for the Fredericksburg Network and received the Virginia Women’s Council of REALTORS® Member of the Year award in 2015.”

In addition, Straley has been involved with local church groups, as has Stark.

“I’m a very strong member of my church and make donations,” says Stark, who has also worked with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to raise donations for cancer research, in addition to working with Habitat for Humanity alongside her son to help build residential homes for families in need.

Most important, however, is a shared goal toward self-improvement, specifically regarding client care.

What does education do for real estate professionals?

“One of the most important things it does is give you new insight into how buyers should be treated and how they should be given special guidance. Counsel them and you open up a whole new world,” says Stark.

According to Straley, continuing education and designations take agents and brokers to another level.

“Being a real estate professional and running your company means that your education, in so many aspects, needs to continually incline. When you see people in the industry educate themselves, they go through these transformations of understanding, and watching them elevate their company…it’s like these light switches go off.”

“One of the most important highs for a REALTOR® is to take the time to learn about buyer representation and get the ABR® designation,” says Stark, who shares that the confidence learned from these courses shows buyers that you’re looking out for their best interest, especially in today’s buyer-beware environment.

Ralph, who has benefited highly from his ABR® designation, doesn’t understand why there aren’t more industry professionals in his area who take advantage of continuing education.

“I can proudly advertise being an expert at helping buyers,” says Ralph. “When I put this together with CRS, RSPS, e-PRO® and CIPS, it gives me a point of differentiation so that I can explain to people that only a small percentage of REALTORS® around the country are committed enough to this profession to do what it takes to earn these designations.”

In the end? These Hall of Famers understand that ABR® and other designations show clients how passionate an agent or broker is about their career and helping clients reach their homeownership dreams.

“The ABR® designation is very recognizable. Most people wouldn’t climb a mountain without being outfitted properly, and I believe this designation is the proper ‘equipment’ for industry professionals,” says Straley. “The ABR® designation lets you learn from the success of others, instead of by making mistakes, and is the highest level of professional acumen out there. Leverage all of the designations—there’s so much to learn.” 

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Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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NAR to Participate in 2018 International Real Estate Conference

Aug 7, 2018 by

Members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) will be participating in the 2018 International Real Estate Conference (IREC) in Hanoi, Vietnam, September 6-7, with an expo extending September 8-10. The Vietnam National Real Estate Association is hosting the event, with NAR serving as a strategic partner. Over 1,000 attendees are expected, and 60,000 are expected at the expo.

The conference kicks off with the NAR Global Leadership Summit, an invitation-only meeting where the association’s bilateral partners will discuss hot topics and trends. The conference covers artificial intelligence; big data and data analytics; blockchain; building construction and design trends; smart cities; global real estate market trends from each region; and more. The U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, as well as a representative from the Vietnamese Prime Minister’s office, will also speak.

“Nearly a quarter of REALTORS® reported that they worked with an international client in the last year, even as low inventory and higher home prices continue to affect the U.S. market,” says NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “Demand from overseas remains strong; foreign buyers purchased a total of $ 121.0 billion of residential property last year and at a more expensive price than domestic buyers did, a comparison of $ 292,200 for a foreign median home price and $ 249,300 for domestic.

“REALTORS® understand better than anyone that the U.S. real estate market continues to be seen as a safe, secure and profitable place to invest in property,” Mendenhall says. “IREC brings together NAR partner associations from all over the world to discuss cross-border opportunities and the many benefits of investing in the U.S. real estate market.”

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