Tuesday October 13th 2015

Stalk Us!

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month | The Wednesday Word

Recognizing the importance of cybersecurity to our nation, President Obama designated October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Governor Charlie Baker made a similar proclamation. Cyber Security Awareness Month is designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising awareness about cybersecurity and increasing the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident.  More information on cyber safety can be found here: http://www.mass.gov/anf/research-and-tech/cyber-security/cyber-security-awareness-month/

 The MAR legal department has learned of several scams that have had a negative impact on REALTORS. For the rest of October, we will highlight some of these scams so you can better protect yourself. This is the first of those posts:

The scam: A buyer in a transaction will receive an email from a real estate agent, title company, or attorney with wiring instructions to transfer money for the upcoming transaction. The email appears genuine and contains the company’s email information and logo, and sometimes will include manipulative language to encourage you to act quickly. The email, however, is actually not from the so-called sender; rather, it is from a hacker who had monitored the email account of one of the parties, then altered information in the email to have the funds sent to the hacker’s own account.  Once the buyer transfers the funds pursuant to the wiring instructions included in the email, the funds are placed into the hacker’s account, most likely never to be recovered. While the reported instance targeted the buyer, altered emails could conceivably be sent to any party in the transaction to cause misdirection of funds.

 What you can do to protect yourself:

  • Secure your computer systems and email accounts and encourage your clients to do the same
  • Prior to making any transfers, parties should confirm all emailing wiring instructions directly with the escrow officer via telephone
  • If any party in the transaction has received suspicious or questionable wiring instructions, all parties should be notified immediately
  • Carefully review your E&O Policy to see if your policy covers cybercrime

 (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)

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These 10 MA towns experienced the highest increases in sales and price in August

top ten towns-augWorcester County experienced significant market activity this August, as five of the towns on our list that experienced the highest year-over-year closed sales increases are in that region. Did your town make it?

Closed Sales Percent Increase
Median Sales Price Growth Median Price Percent Increase
1. Stow +350.0% 1. Uxbridge $373,250 + 46.4%
2. Williamstown +300.0% 2. Plainville $342,500 + 42.7%
3. Leicester +200.0% 3. Medfield $754,000 + 42.3%
4. Northbridge +175.0% 4. Foxborough $527,500 + 41.8%
5. Topsfield +166.7% 5. Newbury $505,000 + 41.1%
6. Newbury +160.0% 6. Hull $400,000 + 40.4%
7. Sutton +128.6% 7. Harvard $617,500 + 39.1%
8. Templeton +116.7% 8. Kingston $489,000 + 38.7%
9. Carver +109.1% 9. Rohoboth $374,650 + 37.5%
10. Paxton, Rehoboth +100.0% 10. Swansea $300,000 + 35.7%

*A minimum of ten homes must have been sold in each town during August 2015 to make this list.

All data used in the rankings is compiled from the Berkshire County Multiple Listing Service, Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS®, Inc. and MLS Property Information Network, Inc.

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We want your feedback on the 2015 MAR Conference & Tradeshow

Connect_facebook-headerThank you for attending the 2015 MAR Conference & Tradeshow.

We have started planing for 2016 already, and your feedback is greatly appreciated so we can continue improving the convention.

Take the survey here.

For participating in the survey, you will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 gift card. We appreciate your time in advance and again thank you for being a part of the 2015 show and look forward to having you back in 2016.

Make sure you visit the MAR Conference & Tradeshow website to download handouts from some speakers and sessions so you can review all the information you learned throughout the year.


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The Wednesday Word: MAR Government Affairs Team Testifies on Beacon Hill


On Tuesday, September 29th, David Wluka of Wluka Real Estate joined Justin Davidson, MAR Legislative & Regulatory Counsel, and Patricia Baumer, GBREB Director of Government Affairs, to testify in support of H1107: An Act to expedite multifamily construction. The panel testified before the Joint Committee on Housing and stressed the importance of the legislation. If passed, H1107 would help increase the supply of housing in Massachusetts by making it easier to build multifamily housing, cluster developments, and Accessory Dwelling Units (also referred to as in-law apartments).

H1107 would promote multifamily construction by requiring municipalities to permit multifamily development in zoning districts suitable for such development, and by establishing a minimum density for those developments. Multifamily construction is important as a means to provide affordable housing in the Commonwealth.  Current state law allows municipalities to adopt a zoning law permitting multifamily housing construction in nonresidential zoning districts with a special permit but does not require municipalities to permit multifamily development by right.

An additional provision of the bill that helps increase the supply of housing is that it would allow for cluster developments by right in residential zoning districts. In comparison to a conventional subdivision, cluster developments benefit communities by preserving land for open space and recreation, reducing infrastructure costs, and protecting environmentally sensitive land.

Finally, the bill would promote affordable in-fill housing by requiring that Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) be permitted by right in all single-family residential zoning districts. ADUs provide units that can be integrated into existing single family neighborhoods to provide low-priced housing alternatives that have little to no negative impact on the character of the neighborhood.  Current state law does not require that zoning ordinances and bylaws permit accessory dwelling units in residential zoning districts, whether by right or with a special permit.

Passage of H1107 would allow for these three provisions-multifamily housing by right, cluster developments by right, and Accessory Dwelling Units by right- all of which would help increase the supply of housing in the Commonwealth. For more updates on the status of this bill as well as the other legislation MAR is working on, be sure to check the MAR Government Affairs website and other editions of The Wednesday Word.

(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)

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Sandra Berkenbush Wins the 2015 Good Neighbor Award


The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) announced today that Sandra Berkenbush of Stone Ridge Properties in Newburyport was named MAR’s 2015 Good Neighbor Award winner for her work on behalf of Cruise for a Cure, an annual dinner cruise on the Merrimack River that raises money for cancer research. The Good Neighbor Award recognizes REALTORS® for their community activism. The award was presented at MAR’s Professional Awards Reception, which was held in conjunction with the Association’s 2015 Conference and Tradeshow at the Hilton DoubleTree in Danvers.

In 1991, Berkenbush’s 11-year-old daughter was being treated for osteosarcoma at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) at Children’s Hospital. She was so thankful for her daughter’s recovery that in 1994 she launched Cruise for a Cure to raise money for the Claudia Adams Barr program, supporting scientists at the DFCI who are conducting basic cancer research. This past spring, DCFI awarded Berkenbush with a Lifetime Achievement award for donating $250,000 through her work with Cruise for a Cure.

Cruise for a Cure has grown since its inception, from raising $4,000 annually to an average of $15,000 today. In addition to creating the event, Berkenbush is responsible for coordinating donors and sponsorships, organizing lead-up events and completing all the paperwork and banking. Each year, Berkenbush makes sure to handwrite thank-you notes to everyone who participated in the Cruise.

In addition to Berkenbush, Susan Callahan of Century 21 Commonwealth, Billerica, Mark Harris of Signature Associates Inc. Real Estate, Pittsfield and Leonette Strout of Keller Williams Realty, Beverly were awarded 2015 Good Neighbor Award Honorable Mentions.

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Kevin Sears Receives Massachusetts REALTOR® Distinguished Service Award

Kevin Sears_MAR-Sec-Tres_200dpiThe Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) announced today that Kevin Sears, a a Broker and Partner of Sears Real Estate in Springfield, has been named recipient of the MAR Milton H. Shaw Distinguished Service Award for 2015.  The award was presented at MAR’s Professional Awards Reception, which was held in conjunction with the Association’s 2015 Conference and Tradeshow at the DoubleTree Hilton in Danvers.

First awarded in 1984, the Milton H. Shaw Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to one REALTOR® member or staff executive who has demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities and volunteered countless hours of personal time to serve on state association committees and participate in MAR activities.

On the national level, Sears has served the REALTOR® organization as a Federal Political Coordinator to Bay State Congressman Richard Neal (D-Springfield). He served as a Trustee of the REALTOR® Political Action Committee of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) from 2007 to ??? and served as a member of NAR’s Board of Directors in 2008 and 2009, and participated in NAR’s home build to support Habitat for Humanity’s Operation Home Delivery, an initiative to construct new homes for hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast. He also served on NAR’s REALTOR® Political Involvement Committee from 2003-2008. Sears graduated as a member of NAR’s 2007/2008 inaugural Leadership Academy class.

On the local level, Kevin was a director and chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for the Realtor® Association of the Pioneer Valley (RAPV) in 2006 and has been a member of the committee since 1994. A past president of his local association, he also is a former treasurer and secretary of the RAPV, and a past chairman of its Finance and Strategic Planning Committees. Additionally, he was a member and former chairman of the RAPV’s Communications Technology Task Force, and has served on the association’s RPAC Sub-committee since 1994.

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