House Passes VA Loan Bill | The Wednesday Word

MAR is happy to report that last week, the Unites States House of Representatives passed legislation that included a provision to eliminate the cap on VA loan limits. This is especially important in Massachusetts, where the cost of housing is high.

As reported by NAR, the bill, H.R. 3016, “Veterans Employment, Education, and Healthcare Improvement Act”, sponsored by Rep. Wenstrup (R-OH), included an amendment added by Rep. Zeldin (R-NY) in Committee that would allow veterans to purchase a home in high cost areas, by eliminating the maximum loan amount on VA loans.

As stated in the accompanying report, “The Committee is confident VA’s current strict underwriting standards and low foreclosure rates will ensure that veterans still have the required good credit and income to qualify for the loan, and that this change will not result in a significant increased amount of foreclosures.”  NAR has long supported the VA home loan guaranty program, and believes that as an entitlement program, our nation’s veterans should have the freedom to purchase a home wherever they choose to live.

Click here to read the NAR Testimony on VA.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

Don’t Delay, Register to Vote Today! | The Wednesday Word

pollbooth_FBThe deadline to register to vote in the March 1st Presidential Primary is today at 5:00 PM. Massachusetts residents can  visit the Secretary of State’s website to register to vote or to update existing voter registrations.  It is also a good idea to check your party affiliation as thousands of voters may have inadvertently registered for the United Independent Party instead of registering as unenrolled. Below is a table explaining who can vote in the different primaries.

parties
Commonly referred to as Super Tuesday, March 1st is the date of presidential primaries in 14 states across the nation. For the first time in two election cycles Mitt Romney will not be a factor on the Republican ticket, leaving Massachusetts up for grabs. On the Democratic side, voters will decide between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This Boston Magazine article explains why the Massachusetts primary matters this year.

It is an exciting year for elections both at the state and national level, so be sure to register today.

Click here to register today!

As always, check the MAR Report and Government Affairs site for updates on all issues relative to real estate and private property rights.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

MAR Leadership and Government Affairs Staff Busy on Beacon Hill | Wednesday Word

[From left to right] MAR Govt Affairs VP Sarah Gustafson, President-Elect Paul Yorkis, Attorney General Maura Healey, MAR President Annie Blatz, CEO Rob Authier, Govt Affairs Director Mike McDonagh
The MAR Government Affairs Team and MAR Leadership has had a busy week on Beacon Hill, attending meetings and testifying at hearings.

The Legislative Session is fully underway now in 2016 with activity on bills and the release of the Governor’s budget. We highlight some of the activity below, but be sure to check the MAR Facebook, the Government Affairs page, and the Wednesday Word blogs to stay up to date on all of the activity.

The week began with a meeting between MAR leadership and Attorney General, Maura Healey. The group discussed a number of legislative and legal issues related to housing. The leadership team had a great opportunity to discuss issues that our members are facing as well as to offer support for some of the AG’s initiatives:

1. The Attorney General expressed support for MAR’s sponsored legislation that would bring mortgage cancellation debt relief to Massachusetts residents under their state income tax filings.

2. The discussion also included ways in which MAR can collaborate with the AG to help prevent real estate scams that have been occurring with more frequency. The AG encourages any Realtor®, buyer, or seller who has been targeted by such scams to file a complaint with the AG’s office.

On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Housing held a hearing focusing on legislation relative to Chapter 40B, the Affordable Housing Law. The legislature originally enacted the Affordable Housing Law to address the restrictions that make it impossible or economically infeasible to build affordable housing in Massachusetts.

Despite the law, local barriers to affordable housing still exist in many communities. MAR testified in support of maintaining the existing law and opposed any changes that would weaken Chapter 40B. MAR General Counsel, Mike McDonagh also had the opportunity to address concerns and answer several questions from members of the committee.

Also on Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Ways & Means held its first hearing on Governor Charlie Baker’s fiscal year 2017 budget. The Governor’s budget totals $39.5 billion in spending and marks the beginning of the state budget process. The House and Senate will release their budgets later in the spring before reconciling them for the start of the fiscal year on July 1, 2016.

The second half of the 2015-2016 Legislative cycle has started off strong and MAR Government Affairs Staff and Leadership will continue to attend hearings, testify on bills, and pursue issues over the next several months. Stay tuned for more updates on our issues advocacy.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Hearing | Wednesday Word

On Tuesday January 26th, MAR Testified at the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure hearing that included legislation relative to real estate and brokerage.

The bill, H150, seeks to require real estate agents to disclose the presence of any wetland on a property that is for sale. MAR testified that such a requirement would be far outside brokers’ training, expertise, and traditional understanding of real estate.

The proposed law would require a real estate agent to investigate and report to buyers on various wetland restrictions, overlay maps, and provisions in each community. Additionally, the broker would need to research each property at the registry of deeds to see if they are subject to orders of conditions issued by the local conservation commission or Department of Environmental Protection.

Most importantly, this bill would prove an unnecessary burden on real estate agents, as a remedy to the disclosure of wetlands already exists: Buyers can ask this question of the seller, create a contingency in a purchase and sale agreement, and do their own research through public records.

The committee also heard H233, An Act to improve fairness and uniformity in real estate transactions, which seeks to create a standard for determining the square footage of commercial and residential buildings. The bill, however, would result in confusion and bring little clarity to a real estate transaction because it leaves many questions unanswered. MAR testified that the legislation fails to address interior stairways, finished attic spaces, and porches, even if they lack heat. It also does not address how attics with sloped ceilings or finished rooms substantially below grade that are subject to chronic dampness or lack windows would be counted.

 

Speaker DeLeo Pledges No New Taxes to Kick Off 2016 on Beacon Hill | The Wednesday Word

Robert DeLeo speaking at the 2014 REALTOR Day on Beacon Hill.
Robert DeLeo speaking at the 2014 REALTOR Day on Beacon Hill.

Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), announced Sunday that the House will propose no new taxes or fees for the upcoming fiscal year (FY2017).

Speaker DeLeo stated in the Boston Globe, that despite the recent upturn in the economy, “the middle class is still getting squeezed” and he does not want to continue to tap into residents for funding.

This statement is good news for REALTORS® as it means the House will not resort to funding mechanisms that MAR opposes such as transfer taxes or the more recent proposals for short term rental taxes. The Speaker’s statement supports Governor Baker’s promise of no new taxes as well.

Click here to read more about Speaker DeLeo’s statement.

As the second half of the 2015-2016 legislative cycle kicks off, this will be the busiest time of the year for the legislature until about July. In 2016 MAR expects that the legislature will address opioid abuse, public records, and the budget among other issues of concern to real estate and private property rights such as energy efficiency and zoning/land use. The MAR Government Affairs Committee and Staff will be monitoring any movement on bills MAR both supports and opposes.

Be sure to check more from The MAR Report’s Wednesday Word for weekly updates on issues at the national, state and local level.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

Federal Reserve to Raise Rates | The Wednesday Word

Calculator With The Word Interest Rate

The Federal Reserve announced today that it would be raising its key interest rate a quarter percent.

This was an expected move that reflects the improvement in the U.S. economy and is the first rate hike since 2006. Interest rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans, and on savings accounts and other kinds of investments, are likely to remain low by historical standards for years to come.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, sees the mortgage rate rising to around 4.5 percent by the end of next year, which would still undercut the 10-year average of 4.87 percent.

Read more about the Fed rate hike in the New York Times.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)