Wednesday May 27th 2015

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The Wednesday Word: Support Land Use and Zoning Reforms- The H.O.M.E. Bill

This week, we review another REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill issue: Land Use and Zoning Reform. Be sure to read up on all of the Wednesday Word blog posts so you are prepared to meet with your legislator on Wednesday, June 10th.

Support Land Use and Zoning Reforms: The H.O.M.E. Bill

ISSUE: Due to the short supply of housing in Massachusetts, potential homeowners continue to face increasing housing costs. One of the many issues driving the reduced housing stock is the presence of barriers to production, many of which are found in current zoning laws.

The Legislation: S.119 An Act improving housing opportunities and the Massachusetts economy

Sponsor: Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport)

Legislative Actions to Date: Referred to Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses

What the Bill Does:

Filed in conjunction with the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, S.119 seeks to make numerous changes to Massachusetts zoning laws. Below are some of the proposed changes to the law.

  • The H.O.M.E. Bill promotes smart growth by requiring that cluster development be allowed by right in residential zoning districts, at the density permitted in the underlying zoning district.  Additionally, these sections prohibit cities and towns from requiring a “proof permit” plan in connection with a cluster development application.
  • The bill also promotes multifamily housing construction by requiring that cities and towns permit multifamily development by right on at least 1.5% of the community’s developable land area that is suitable for multifamily residential.  This section would also establish a minimum density of 20 units per acre for by right multifamily development.
  • Promotes affordable in-fill housing by requiring that accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”), sometimes referred to as in-law apartments, be permitted by right in all single-family residential zoning districts.  These sections also prohibit zoning ordinances and by-laws from unreasonably regulating the location, dimensions, or design of an accessory dwelling unit on a lot.
  • The bill seeks to ease the burden on property owners to obtain dimensional relief for minor improvements by creating a two-tiered variance Under this structure, the existing substantial hardship standard would apply only to use variances and a less burdensome practical difficulty standard would apply to all other variances.
  • The bill replaces the supermajority vote requirements for variances and special permits with a simple majority They also establish that the granting of a variance or the reversal of any order or decision of any administrative official would require a majority vote of the members of the board then in office.
  • Creates consistent wetlands requirements by restoring uniformity across Massachusetts by prohibiting local wetlands requirements unless: (a) the local regulations are more restrictive than those established by state law; and (b) DEP approves the local regulations upon a finding that they are scientifically-based restrictions, are necessary to protect unusual local resources, and do not conflict with the State Wetlands Protection Act and DEP regulations.
  • Creates consistent sewage disposal requirements by establishing a DEP review and approval process of local sewage disposal systems regulations to ensure they are scientifically-based restrictions, necessary to protect unusual local resources and do not conflict with Title V.

Action Needed: Ask your legislator the support S. 119 and urge the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business to report the legislation out of committee favorably.

Remember to check out the Day on the Hill Facebook event page and visit the Government Affairs page for all your DOH updates. Finally, don’t forget to check out MAR President Corinne Fitzgerald’s Day on the Hill video so you can get the inside scoop on the 30th Annual REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill!

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The Wednesday Word: Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill is only 3 weeks away so be sure to catch up on all the “Wednesday Word” Day on the Hill Briefings. Remember to check out the Day on the Hill Facebook event page and visit the Government Affairs page for all your DOH updates. Finally, don’t forget to check out MAR President Corinne Fitzgerald’s Day on the Hill video so you can get the inside scoop on the 30th Annual REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill!

This week we review Mandatory Energy Scoring and why REALTORS® oppose this bill.

Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring

ISSUE: Mandatory energy audits at or prior to the transfer of property can disrupt sales and therefore have a negative impact on the Massachusetts housing economy. Additionally, requiring energy efficiency scoring on homes in Massachusetts will stigmatize older homes causing a substantial decline in value.

The Legislation: S.1761 An Act relative to home energy efficiency
Sponsor: Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield)
Legislative Action to Date: Referred to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy

What the Bill Does:
This bill seeks to require sellers or their agents to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing a home for sale and disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit at the time of the listing. Additionally, the bill commissions the design and implementation of an energy scoring and labeling system.

Action Needed: Ask your legislator to oppose this legislation.

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For more information on Day on the Hill:

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Social Media Monday: Why businesses should take advantage of Facebook video

 

KIEV, UKRAINE - May 20, 2013: A social media logotype collection of well-known social network brand's printed on stickers and placed on modern computer keyboard.

KIEV, UKRAINE – May 20, 2013: A social media logotype collection of well-known social network brand’s printed on stickers and placed on modern computer keyboard.

There’s a shift underway on social media, and everything’s going visual. According to a report put out by Facebook earlier this year, video in particular has been the most successful content on its site.

If you need some stats to back up this claim, consider these:

  • The number of video posts per person has increased 75% globally and 94% in the U.S.
  • Since June 2014, Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day
  • Globally, the amount of video from people and brands in News Feed has increased 3.6x year-over-year
  • More than 50% of people who come back to Facebook every day in the US watch at least one video daily and 76% of people in the US who use Facebook say they tend to discover the videos they watch on Facebook.

Perhaps more important to business owners, however, is the fact that a native Facebook upload post (meaning one uploaded directly to Facebook, not a link to a YouTube or other video host) will receive  an average boost in reach of 135%, according to a study done by Socialbakers. This is significant if you’ve been disheartened by reduced reach due to Facebook’s recent changes to the algorithm. Couple a native Facebook video upload with a small budget allotted for “boosted” posts, and you might see your engagement skyrocket.

REALTORS, let us know if you’ve experimented with Facebook video. In your experience, is a native upload more successful than a YouTube link? We want to hear in the comments below!

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The Wednesday Word – Support Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief And Debt Cancellation

This is the third installment of the Wednesday Word blog posts that will discuss the 2015-2016 Legislative Issues in preparation for REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill. This week, the Wednesday Word address the issue of Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief and Debt Cancellation and reasons why supporting this issue will benefit the real estate industry, homeownership, and private property rights.

Support Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief And Debt Cancellation

ISSUE: The general tax rule that applies to debt forgiven during a short sale is that the amount forgiven, sometimes referred to as phantom income, is treated as taxable income to the borrower. This results in homeowners who are unable to afford their mortgages having to pay taxes on income they never received.

The Legislation: S. 1521 An Act relative to discharge of indebtedness of principal residence from gross income

Sponsor: Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford)

Legislative Actions to Date: Referred to the Joint Committee on Revenue

What the Bill Does:

This bill would allow homeowners to complete loan modifications, short sales and foreclosures for which they have debt forgiven without making them liable to pay state taxes on the that debt. This bill would mirror the federal law, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, to allow taxpayers to apply for this exclusion on their state tax return as well.

Action Needed: Ask your legislator to support S. 1521 and urge the Joint Committee on Revue to report the legislation out of committee favorably.

As we approach Day on the Hill, be sure to get all the information about the event by reading The MAR Report, checking out the MAR facebook page, and visiting the MAR Government Affairs page . Also, stay tuned for a special Day on the Hill Preparation video starring MAR Staff.

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

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Buyers Traded Snow Shovels For Pens in April

House porch with flowers

REALTOR® confidence in the market is strong, but difficulty with appraisals starting to increase.

WALTHAM, Mass. – May 12, 2015 – The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) reported today that buyers are fully committed to the spring market as pending home sales went up 30 percent from the same time last year. The building market momentum has pushed the REALTOR® Market Confidence Index to its second highest point as the Price Index reached its fourth highest level. This month’s “Hot Topic” question finds that appraisers are having difficulty finding good comparable properties to use to determine value.

April Pending Sales:

Single-Family April 2015 April 2014 %Change
Sales 6,428 4,940 +30.1%
Median Price $327,000 $319,250 +2.4%
  • Pending sales have been up 25 of the last 26 months
Condominium April 2015 April 2014 %Change
Sales 2,761 2,218 24.5%
Median Price $304,700 $319,000 -4.5%
  • Pending sales have been up 25 of the last 26 months

 

“As far as buyers were concerned, the winter officially ended in April as the high number of accepted offers pushed the spring market up to full speed very quickly,” said 2015 MAR President Corinne Fitzgerald, broker/owner of FITZGERALD Real Estate in Greenfield. “Hopefully this buyer enthusiasm will encourage homeowners to sell and home builders to build to meet current and future demand.”

pending home sales

 REALTOR® Market and Price Confidence Indexes:

Confidence Index April 2015 April 2014 %Change
Market 82.28 66.89 23%
Price 80.66 77.81 4%
  • The RMCI was up for only the second time in 17 months
  • April is the first month the RPCI has gone up since March 2014
  • April is the fifth time the RPCI has been at 70 or above since August 2014
  • Measured on a 100-point scale, a score of 50 is the midpoint between a “strong” (100 points) and a “weak” (0 points) market condition.

Click link to read the full release: Buyers Were Thinking Spring as Pending Home Sales Went Up in March

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MAR President Corinne Fitzgerald on NECN’s CEO Corner

Corinne on necn

MAR President Corinne Fitzgerald joined Debbie Siegel of Westchester Mortgage on NECN’s CEO Corner yesterday to talk about the state of the real estate market in Massachusetts. Click here to watch the interview and to learn about the state of the market in Massachusetts.

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