The Weekly Membership Newsletter of the Tennessee Association of REALTORS
Editor: Pug Scoville

1. New Short Sale Rules on April 5
2. Please Answer the Call To Action!
3. HOT LINE ADVISORY: Follow-Up on Admin Fee Issue
4. April Is Fair Housing Month!
3. REALTOR License Plate Info
6. REMINDER: Nationwide Open House Weekend, April 10-11
7. Upcoming Courses & Events
8. Rates Rise, Now Over 5

To ask a TAR Legal and Ethics Hot Line question, CLICK HERE.

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1. New Short Sale Rules on April 5

The federal government’s standardized rules and forms for short sales take effect today (April 5).

As of April 5, the servicing arms of lenders who are participating in the government’s loan modification program, known as HAMP, have to participate in the standardized short sale procedures, because those procedures are considered a subset of the modification program. You can learn about the rules, including changes announced just two weeks ago, in a 14-minute video walk-through with NAR’s Jeff Lischer, Managing Director of Regulatory Policy, you can access by CLICKING HERE.

Lischer also discussed the rules in an hour-long webinar that was held March 19. You can view a recording of that webinar by CLICKING HERE.


2. Please Answer the Call To Action!

Congress left town for their spring recess without completing work on two critical programs essential to recovering real estate markets – the National Flood Insurance Program and the Section 502 Rural Housing Program.  Without a renewal of funding for these programs, the housing market will take yet another hit with loan approvals and closings grinding to a halt.

If you haven’t yet responded, please take a moment to do so right away, and then ask your REALTOR colleagues to take action too, by CLICKING HERE.

4. HOT LINE ADVISORY: Follow-Up on Admin Fee Issue

Last week, we published a brief article on a brokers’ charge of an “admin fee” at closing, as addressed by HUD General Counsel Helen Kanovsky. The issue at stake is whether or not such an admin fee may be considered a possible RESPA violation.

In a follow-up to Ms. Kanovsky’s letter, attorney Phil Schulman (a widely-acknowledged RESPA authority) provided further guidance on behalf of NAR. One excerpt follows:

Based on the Letter’s guidance, it is important to emphasize HUD’s acknowledgement that a real estate broker could agree with its customers as part of the listing agreement or the buyer’s agreement to charge a real estate commission represented by a certain percentage of the sales price plus a flat fee and disclose this amount as a single dollar amount in Line 700 of the HUD-1. Such a compensation structure should avoid the need to justify the flat fee portion of the commission under Section 8(b) of RESPA. However, if a broker continues to charge a separate flat fee in addition to its real estate commission, the Letter makes clear that the broker may be required to demonstrate that it performs separate and distinct services in exchange for the fee. If HUD or a court were to determine that the broker’s services are duplicative of the services it already performs to earn a commission, the broker could face penalties under RESPA. Brokers, therefore, should consider making their flat fees a part of their overall real estate commissions and disclose the commission amount as a single dollar amount on the HUD-1. Such a compensation structure is more likely to avoid unwanted scrutiny of the broker’s charges and services under RESPA.

If you have any questions about HUD’s Letter or the Busby decision, or whether your real estate fees comply with RESPA, we encourage you to seek additional resources and legal advice.
*** END QUOTE ***

Thanks to Crye-Leike’s Steve Brown for his research on this topic!

To access Phil Schulman’s complete 2-page analysis, CLICK HERE.

[SOURCE: TAR’s Legal & Ethics Hot Line Attorneys]

4. April Is Fair Housing Month!

As outspoken supporters for fair housing issues and homeownership, REALTORS will join the nation in recognizing “Fair Housing Month” this April.

Signed into law in 1968 and amended in 1988, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin. REALTORS work tirelessly to support this law, as well as ensure the benefits of homeownership are available to everyone.

“REALTORS are committed to bringing America home,” said National Association of REALTORS President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz. “NAR’s members work hard to build communities and an environment where everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, sex or disability can choose where they want to live.”

For more information and a WEALTH of Fair Housing resources, see NAR’s Field Guide HERE.

To test your own Fair Housing IQ, take the online self-scoring Quiz by CLICKING HERE.


5. REMINDER: Nationwide Open House Weekend, April 10-11

In a few more days, buyers across the country will have access to view more housing inventory than ever before. Make sure that your listings are included!

For more information, CLICK HERE.

6. REALTOR License Plate Info

Last week, we encouraged everyone who has purchased a specialty REALTOR License Plate to pick it up at their County Clerk’s office.  At the same time, we informed everyone that you will need proof of your REALTOR membership to pick up your license plate.

PLEASE NOTE: REALTOR membership is NOT the same thing as your real estate license. All real estate licensees are NOT REALTORS, and showing your real estate license does NOT prove that you are a REALTOR! You will need your REALTOR membership card (issued by the National Association of REALTORS) …OR print out a copy of your membership record from NAR’s online database of REALTOR members. To learn how to your own record in this database, Buzz Steele has created a short how-to tutorial that you can view by CLICKING HERE.

QUESTIONS? Please contact: Debbie Minton at the TN Dept. of Revenue, 615-532-1135 or

7. Upcoming Courses & Events

April 7-8: GRI 1, Professionalism in Real Estate (16 hrs. CE) – Cool Springs, Franklin.

April 8 – May 12: E-Class GRI 5, Systems for Success (16 hrs. CE).

April 10-11: REALTOR Nationwide Open House Weekend! The Tennessee Association of REALTORS joins with state and local associations around the country to promote the Nationwide Open House Weekend, April 10-11. Encourage your buyers to visit and your sellers to participate!

April 20: TransactionDesk Basic Course (3 hrs. CE) – TAR Office, Nashville.

April 20: Forms 101 Course (4 hrs. CE) – TAR Office, Nashville.

April 20: GRI 6, Sticky Situations (16 hrs. CE) – Northeast TN.

April 21: Workshop for Agency Instructors (4 hrs. CE) – TAR Office, Nashville.

April 21: 2009-2010 Core CE Course (4 hrs. CE) – Paris, TN. For more information, contact the Tennessee Valley Assn. of REALTORS at 731-336-7844.

April 22: GRI 4, From Offer to Contract to Closing (16 hrs. CE) – Murfreesboro.

April 29 – June 2: E-Class GRI 6, Sticky Situations (16 hrs. CE).

April – August: Leadership TAR 2010! Our first retreat is April 28-29!

The complete 2010 schedule of Classroom and E-Class GRI Courses is online!

Watch each week’s TAR DIGEST for schedule changes and additions!

8. Rates Rise, Now Over 5

Mortgage rates rose to 5.08 percent last week from 4.99 percent a week earlier, pushing the average interest rate offered on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to its highest level since the first week of 2010, according to Freddie Mac. The increase in mortgage rates occurred as long-term interest rates rose higher due to concerns about inflation as the economy improves, and as the Federal Reserve ended its program to buy $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed bonds issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other government-sponsored agencies. Also, the 15-year fixed mortgage rose to 4.39 percent from 4.34 percent, while 5-year hybrid mortgages fell to 4.10 percent from 4.14 percent.

[SOURCES: Information, Inc.; Freddie Mac]

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