Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 2, 2015

Best practices: A year in review


Vicki Trapp

I can’t believe how quickly 2014 has gone by, and that I’m writing to you for the last time as the 2014 President of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors. What an honor it has been to serve my fellow Realtors and the community in this capacity.

In addition to the monthly residential market statistics, I’ve used this weekly space to share guidance on topics ranging from staging your home for the market to ensuring your Realtor is licensed in the state in which the property is located. I advised of the possible risks of selling or buying off-market “listings.” During the busy spring season, I addressed real estate scams and suggested ways to prevent being a victim. In September, through the murder of Arkansas Realtor Beverly Carter, the country was reminded of the personal risks Realtors take on, and I reiterated why Realtors take certain precautions and avoid meeting unknown persons alone. With each of these messages, the goal has been to educate consumers and remind our members about best practices regarding real estate transactions.

In addition to these topics, I’ve shared more than once this year about the Realtor Party, which is bi-partisan and supports initiatives and persons whose philosophies are supportive of the concepts of private property rights and the free enterprise system. Prior to recessing for the holidays, Congress passed legislation to extend key real estate tax provisions. National Association of Realtors President Chris Polychron recapped the passing of these provisions, saying the package of tax extensions will help distressed homeowners and commercial property investors with transactions made during 2014. Realtors strongly supported the bipartisan Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which was included in the package to prevent underwater borrowers from paying taxes on any mortgage debt forgiven or cancelled by a lender in a workout or after their home was sold for less money than was owed. In addition, Polychron said the legislation also includes one-year extensions of the 15-year depreciation schedule for leasehold improvements and the deduction for improvements to energy efficient commercial buildings.

Yet there is work still to be done. The Senate has not yet renewed the federal terrorism risk insurance program, which previously passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. Our fear is this failure to renew the program will stall commercial real estate development around the country. According to Polychron, the program provides a crucial framework for economic recovery in the wake of a catastrophic terrorist attack and allows the U.S. to maintain a stable terrorism insurance market so employers can invest in properties and create jobs without assuming the risk and liabilities of a terrorist attack.

Terrorism risk insurance is also a requirement of many existing commercial mortgage balances, so those whose coverage will lapse at the expiration of the program will be in technical default of their mortgage terms. Without action, terrorism insurance will become scarce and expensive, causing construction projects to stall, commercial property values to drop, and the ongoing economic recovery to slow. Realtors will work closely with Congress in the new year to swiftly reenact the program and provide much needed certainty to the market.

The Association at all levels constantly is working for the greater good of all property owners – current and future, residential and commercial. I’m grateful to the Hamilton County Herald for this weekly space in which to share with our community issues affecting private property rights. My hope is that you have and will continue to find the Association’s messages beneficial in understanding the local real estate market, as well as the importance of consulting a Realtor with your real estate questions and needs.

The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors is “The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga.” The Association is a regional organization with more than 1,400 members, and is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors serves Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. For more information, visit www.gcar.net.