9/11 Never Forget

September 11, 2001 – A day when normalcy ceased to exist. A day that we were forever changed.

Shortly after arriving at the office the word spread that one of the World Trade Center towers had been hit by a plane. My assumption, along with many others, was that a small single engine plane had collided with the building. It was unimaginable to think of anything terrorist related. Those events happened in other countries, not ours.

Several of us gathered in our office meeting room and stared in disbelief as the events of the morning unfolded. The collapse of the buildings was replayed over and over and over again, almost as if the outcome might be changed with the next viewing. Tears flowed steadily and prayers came soon after. Tears for the innocent loss of life and those left behind, for our country and loss of security and tears for our own families.

I wanted to rush to my girls, who were 11 and 14 at the time, and hold them close. I nervously wondered what other attacks might be planned. And, like the rest of the country, I became angry that someone dares to perform such a senseless act. I also decided soon after that I would refuse to let the fear of a possible reoccurrence dictate the events of my life.

Our country quickly became united, defiant, patriotic, religious and family focused. It is unfortunate that a tragedy has to be the catapult for a positive change. This 10th anniversary will bring nervousness and a renewed patriotic focus.

This past January I had the privilege of representing the Illinois Association of REALTORS® at the Inman conference in New York City, a place I had wanted to visit since 9/11. I walked around the hallowed ground where the World Trade Center towers once stood and witnessed the progress of the rebuilding and the memorial being constructed. I walked to view the Statue of Liberty and pondered our “melting pot” attitude. The visit was a very moving experience for me.

This 10th anniversary I will spend my morning at church where I am sure the service will be devoted to honor the memory of those directly affected by 9/11. I will also be wearing a commemorative 9/11 Never Forget pin. This moment in time we as a country will pause, remember and pay tribute to the lives lost. We must though, Never Forget, not just this event, but the sacrifices our armed men and women and their families make to protect our freedom.

If you haven’t seen this already, here is the link to the National September 11 Memorial which will be dedicated this Sunday on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks: www.911memorial.org.

Sheryl Grider Whitehurst, ABR, CRB, GRI, e-Pro is the 2011 President of the Illinois Association of REALTORS®.

A little reminder re: phone etiquette

Telephone imageRecently I made some phone calls to various real estate companies throughout the state attempting to contact an agent in the office. The majority of the calls were handled very professionally, however I was surprised at some of the responses on the other end of the line. Without knowing who I was or the purpose of my call I heard things like…  “They haven’t come in the office YET.  I think they are at a doctor’s appointment. You probably can catch them at home as she had to take care of her grandchildren this morning.”

Whomever is answering calls at your office whether by employees or other agents, they should all be trained to simply state “I am sorry but they are out on appointments, may I give you their cell phone number OR can I connect you with their voice mail.” We need to portray the fact that our agents are busy, successful professionals. The consumer or other agents do not need details of their personal life, nor do many of them care that we have one.  That same thought process should be applied to our own responses when we have personal appointments or vacations scheduled.  A simple response such as “I am sorry but I have another appointment at that time, would Monday at 3 p.m. or Tuesday at 9 a.m. work for you?” may provide you the opportunity to have a personal and professional life!

20 percent down requirement will stall an already too-slow housing recovery

Did you respond to the National Association of REALTORS® Call for Action that started May 18? It urges REALTORS® to write their representatives in Congress to make sure the Dodd-Frank legislation signed last July doesn’t result in too-stringent requirements for the Qualified Residential Mortgage (QRM) that will keep credit-worthy buyers out of the housing market, unable to get a loan.

Could your clients afford a 20 percent down payment? Could you?

Agents in our office work with a lot of first-time buyers in the Peoria area where prices are modest but still that’s $20,000 saved up for a $100,000 home. That’s tough to do in a down economy when jobs have been lost and day-to-day costs such as gas are rising.

This would be very detrimental to the ongoing housing and lending crisis in America. Please answer the call today!

Here’s some background from NAR. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act) became law on July 21, 2010. According to NAR analysis: “Section 941 of the Dodd-Frank Act requires financial institutions that securitize mortgages loans to retain at least 5 percent of the credit risk.” And it exempts from this requirement securities backed solely by QRMs. Thus, there will be an incentive for lenders to only offer these QRMs.

We understand risk management but in the wake of the easy money days when exotic and no-money down loans were doled out readily, there has to be middle ground so the average person with average savings and credit scores can own a home. Getting a home loan has already become a very time-consuming and sometimes impossible process for qualified borrowers.

Here are NAR highlights of the Proposed QRM Standards:

  • 80% LTV, which requires a 20% down payment**
  • Limit the mortgage payment to 28% of gross income and limit all debt to 36%
  • No credit score requirement is included, but a mortgage loan would qualify as a QRM only if the borrower is not currently 30 or more days past due on any debt obligation.
  • Borrowers could not have been 60 or more days past due on any debt obligation within the preceding 24 months.
  • Borrowers could not have, within the preceding 36 months, been through bankruptcy, been foreclosed on, engaged in a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, or been subject to a federal or state judgment for collection of any unpaid debt.

** Getting the down payment requirement out of this proposed rule is a top priority for the REALTOR® organization. The comment period ends June 10.

Illinois REALTORS® working hard in the Big Easy today

Many in New Orleans still need help rebuilding their homes five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in August 2005, and today a team of 31 volunteers from Illinois—REALTORS®, Illinois Association of REALTORS® leadership and staff—have hammer in hand adding siding and a roof to one such home.

The work is part of the REALTORS® Volunteer Build, a partnership between the National Association of REALTORS®, New Orleans Habitat for Humanity® and Rebuilding Together® New Orleans—to rebuild and restore homes for families in the Crescent City. We hear our Illinois REALTOR® team is one of the largest volunteer groups for this NAR build, and many IAR members have been working on Habitat and other rebuilding projects in the Gulf Coast region since 2006.

Take full advantage of your member benefits

IAR President Sheryl Grider Whitehurst

If you haven’t fully explored what’s available to you as a member of the Illinois Association of REALTORS®, now’s a good time. We have a few new ways for you to learn how you can save money, get educated, access free consumer handouts, take action on important REALTOR®/homeowner legislation, and start taking full advantage of all your member benefits.

View the online IAR Member Benefits Guide in a digital “flip” format or downloadable PDF.

Or watch this series of YouTube videos that break down your key benefits in short segments, including:

If you want to view them all at once, here’s a link to the full IAR Member Benefits video (9:13).