Successful Broker Involvement Program Recruitment Phone Bank

Volunteers and staff met at the Tucson Association of REALTORS® offices and held a highly successful Broker Involvement Program recruitment phone bank this past Thursday.

Led by J.T. Tsighis, Arizona’s Broker Involvement Council Representative for the National Association of REALTORS®, 10 volunteers made 330 phone calls in 2 hours and recruited 115 brokers, who cover 674 Arizona REALTORS®.

The BIP is a unique tool that enables NAR to engage with REALTORS® on critical issues that face the real estate industry and property ownership, such as changes to the Mortgage Interest Deduction, 1031 Exchanges, issues with the National Flood Insurance Program, and more. Usually there are only one to three issues a year where NAR feels an issue needs the extra push by flexing the combined voice of the more than 1 million REALTORS® across the country.

The goal of the program is to encourage REALTORS® to engage with their Congressional representatives on timely and pressing issues by responding to Calls For Action, which usually involve taking two minutes to send a pre-drafted email to their representatives. The most recent CFA was to encourage Congress to extend the NFIP so that home sales in flood plains, an issue that has a huge impact in Arizona, could continue without home buyers having to spend thousands of dollars on costly flood insurance. Despite NAR setting a goal for at least 20 percent of REALTORS® to respond to CFA’s, only 9.51 percent of Arizona REALTORS® responded during the last call.

The BIP improves participation rates in CFAs by sending emails to agents from their brokers, which increases the open rate. Over 40 percent of CFA respondents do so through the BIP. While thousands of brokers around the country are enrolled, Arizona has 448 out of nearly 2,400 designated brokers in the state.

If you are a designated broker and would like to enroll at no cost on your part, please email Charles Siler, the Arizona REALTOR® Party Director, at charles@aaronline.com.

If you are a REALTOR® you can sign up to have all of NAR’s CFAs sent directly to your mobile device by simply texting “REALTORS” to 30644.

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2019 State Legislative Wrap Up

In the early hours of May 28, 2019, the 54th, 1st Regular Arizona State Legislative Session adjourned Sine Die after 135 days of session. This legislative session, a total of 1,318 bills were introduced and 331 were passed by the legislature. As of May 28, 2019, 256 of those bills were signed by the governor, seven were vetoed and 68 bills await action. The governor now has ten days to either sign into law, allow for the bills to become law without his signature or veto the remaining bills on his desk. All legislation unless otherwise specified will become effective on August 27, 2019.

One of the last items tackled by the legislature before adjourning was the passage of $11.8 billion-dollar Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget. As REALTORS® there are a few key areas of the budget that directly impact our industry. To be expected, the Arizona Department of Real Estate was appropriated 37 Full Time Employees and a lump sum appropriation of $2,911,700 from the state general fund.

Of other interest to our industry, the Arizona Department of Housing has been appropriated three Full Time Employees and an operating lump sum appropriation of $322,200. Of utmost significance to this area of the budget was the $15 million-dollar appropriation (up from the original proposal of $10 million) to the Housing Trust Fund. Of the $15 million, $3,500,000 million shall be spent on constructing or renovating facilities and on housing assistance, including support services for people who have been determined to be seriously mentally ill or chronically resistant to treatment. On a historical note, the State Housing Trust Fund was established in 1988 by the legislature to provide a flexible funding source to assist in meeting the housing needs of low-income families in Arizona.

Recap of Fiscal Year 2020 Budget:

Education:

Teacher pay and restoration of additional assistance: Continues the implementation of the average statewide teacher pay raise of 20 percent by school year 2020 ($165 million) and accelerates restoration of District and Charter Additional Assistance with $136 million.

K-12: Increases Result Based Funding by $30 million for a total of $68 million ongoing with the funding model directing more dollars to high-achieving, high-poverty schools.

CTE (Career and Technical Education): Phases in a $10 million bonus program for schools producing high-school graduates with industry certifications in hand.

Universities and community colleges: Increases funding to state universities distributed based on student population. Community colleges funded for coursework in allied health profession training ($5.8 million) and aerospace industry coursework ($15 million).

Tax Conformity:

Moves the state from the current five brackets to four brackets and lowers the top rate from 4.54% to 4.5%. Aligns the state’s standard deduction with the federal standard deduction. The reform takes single taxpayers to $12,000 and married couples to $24,000.

Transportation:

The budget includes $130 million in Interstate 17 improvement dollars. The bill phases out the 2019 Highway Safety Fee ($32 dollars annually per registered vehicle) over two years.

Healthcare:

The budget contains a $1.6 million revision to KidsCare enrollment to ensure the ongoing strength of the program with coverage for approximately 6,000 children.

Rainy Day Fund and Debt:

The budget will result in a $542 million deposit into the rainy-day fund, bringing the balance to $1 billion (a top priority of Governor Doug Ducey). The budget also pays off $190 million in recession-era debt.

Overall, the Fiscal Year 2020 spending plan ensures that Arizona remains competitive, attractive to job creation and prepares for our state’s future. The governor achieved many of his top priorities in the approved budget and it is anticipated that he will sign it into law.

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NAR Legislative Meeting Recap

NAR Legislative Meeting Recap

Each year, thousands of REALTORS® members from across the country converge on our nation’s Capital for the annual REALTOR® Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo. Amongst the thousands of individuals that attend, a select few are chosen to directly represent our Arizona membership before our members of Congress.

In Arizona, we have nine United States Congressmen and Congresswomen and two United States Senators. These meetings are led by individuals called Federal Political Coordinators (FPCs). The designated FPCs to each member of Congress leads the assigned attendees in the Hill Visit talking points. This year, the National Association of REALTORS® asked our FPCs and assigned delegates to let our policy makers know “Who We R” and what we care about. Namely:

  • The value that REALTORS® bring to communities;
  • The impact of real estate on the economy and the vital role it plays for consumers; and
  • The importance of property ownership in building safe communities accessible to all.

Some of the key “Who We R” items conveyed to our members of Congress are that REALTORS® adhere to a Code of Ethics that is a pledge of honesty, integrity, professionalism, and community service. Nationally, 70% of REALTORS® volunteer in their communities, 82% donate on average $1,000 to charities annually, 92% have a post-secondary degree, 68% are sales agents; and 20% are brokers.

With a thriving economy, it was important that our meetings addressed the critical driving role real estate plays in the U.S. economy. To start, we shared the fact that real estate accounted for one-fifth of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 and that the Federal Reserve calculated homeowners’ equity to stand at $15.5 trillion in 2018. Prospectively, a typical homeowner’s wealth is estimated to reach $262,500 in 2019 and that 84% of non-homeowners want to own a home in the future. On the commercial front, commercial real estate supported 8.3 million American jobs in 2018 and generated $325.9 billion in salaries and wages, contributing $1.0 trillion to the U.S. GDP.

No visits with our members of Congress would be complete without the discussion of very important policy related issues. For our Arizona members, addressing the need to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program was of utmost importance, as Arizona has the most policies issued under the NFIP for any non-costal state. Additionally, in each of the meetings the importance of helping the Treasury Department and the Administration with rules on Qualified Opportunity Zones was discussed as this program aims to encourage development and job creation in economically distressed communities. Other areas of importance addressed in each Hill Visit meeting were: Infrastructure, Technology Data Privacy and Security, Access to Health Insurance, Fannie and Freddie Reform, Federal Taxation, and Fair Housing. (Click HERE for more details on each area).

As stated by J.T. Tsighis, Federal Political Coordinator to Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, “All in all, we left the meeting with our Member of Congress’ acknowledgement and support for each and every issue presented.”

In all, the 2019 visits on Capitol Hill were a success. The message that REALTORS® do more than buy and sell homes was heard far and wide. That WE stand up for the property owners of today and tomorrow, and that is “Who We R.”










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15 Ways You Can Make Your Community Safer

In a society where we refer to our homes as our castles, it makes sense that we also want to feel safe and secure in our residences. But as we spend more time inside looking at screens and less time outside making connections with neighbors, it also makes sense that many homeowners today feel less safe and secure than they did a few decades ago.

The irony is that violent crime rates have decreased even as our feelings of danger lurking around every corner have increased. So what can you do to help assuage your fears — and actually make your community safer in the bargain?

Plenty! Establishing yourself as a community and working together with your neighbors is one of the best ways to increase feelings of safety while actually reducing crime in your area. Here’s how to get started.

Form a Facebook group

Let’s face it: We are all on Facebook a lot more than is probably healthy for us. But this can be turned to your advantage if you leverage it as an asset.

Form a community safety Facebook group that is geared toward your specific community. There is more than likely already a general community Facebook group; join that one, too, and ask the moderators if it’s okay to advertise your safety-focused group there.

It’s up to you if you want to create standards for joining the group. If you decide to do that, it might make sense to recruit a moderator or three to help you manage join requests and to maintain the standards of the group.

You can use this Facebook group to talk about safety issues, advertise safety meetings, make safety-related announcements, and much more.

Leverage Nextdoor

The great thing about Nextdoor — the neighborhood-focused social network — is that Nextdoor does the hard work of verifying that the people in your neighborhood group actually do live in your neighborhood (no lurkers!).

Using Nextdoor can be another excellent way to figure out which of your neighbors are interested in helping you increase community safety, and to warn your neighbors of any thefts or other safety risks in the area. If you do use Nextdoor as a warning method, make sure you’re providing only factual information and not conjecture or speculation. You want your neighbors to pay attention and act accordingly, not for the conversation to devolve into an argument over whose houseguest might have been trespassing on whose property, or whose kids are inviting unsavory characters into the neighborhood.

To that end, talk to your neighbors online about standards for identifying scofflaws and their behavior (especially underage ones). For example, if there’s a teenager who drives erratically and over the speed limit down a road with small children every day, most parents are going to be fine with identifying the vehicle make, model, and color, the sex and general appearance (clothing, hair color, and so on) of the driver, the time of day they usually drive down the road, and other details specific to this situation. Sharing a license plate number or taking a picture of the driver on social media, however, might be considered a violation of privacy by some parents.

Create clean-up groups

Some safety issues emerge because city and county departments might be strapped for cash or short several employees, and things that ought to get done as a result just … aren’t. Maybe a tree fell across a popular trail and hasn’t yet been cleared, or maybe there are local public-access staircases that are covered with slippery leaves or other debris.

If there’s a safety issue that you can easily and professionally tackle with a group of people, organize one! Use your social media groups or fliers in the local cafe or post office to advertise a clean-up day at the local park or along a busy street. Ask the local dump or trash company if they’d be willing to donate a dumpster or supplies and trash pickup. Sometimes all it takes to make an area safer for everyone is a little coordination and elbow-grease, and the coordination is the hardest part, so try to tackle it and see where it gets you.

Start a neighborhood watch

Do you know all your neighbors? Are you familiar with the cars they drive, their regular visitors, and any special guests who pop in from time to time?

For most people, the answer is “definitely not.” But having a sense of who’s who in your neighborhood can help prevent a lot of crime, from illegally dumping trash to burglary or robbery.

If your block or neighborhood doesn’t already have a neighborhood watch program, consider starting one. The first step is to find neighbors who are interested in participating. Once you have a group of people willing to put in the time, call up your local law enforcement bureau and tell them what you’re doing. Many local law enforcement offices will be willing to send a police officer or two to your neighborhood watch meetings, which can be an invaluable resource for helping you learn how to spot and safely report any suspicious activity.

Coordinate meeting times for your neighborhood watch, which can be held in a community space or even online. Talk about the safety issues that concern you the most, and ask your law enforcement liaisons what you can do to help.

Secure your own space

There’s only so much that neighbors can do to help you keep your home safe. Ultimately, the responsibility to secure your property lies with you — so make sure you spend some time looking at your own home’s vulnerabilities and decide how to fix them.

For example, routinely leaving your door unlocked when you leave the house is a good way to invite burglary. Some smart locks allow you to remotely lock your door if you forget, so it might be a good idea to upgrade your door lock. New camera technologies allow you to see who’s on your front porch when the doorbell rings, and replacing broken or damaged windows is also a good safety move.

You can’t be responsible for everyone’s house on the block, but if you’re responsible for your own, the odds that you’ll experience a safety violation go down. It’s worth it!

Problem-solve using SARA (scan, analyze, respond, assess)

Many police departments use the SARA method to solve problems, and it’s a method that community safety advocates can also use with a lot of success.

The SARA method involves four steps: scan, analyze, respond, assess. First, scan the situation. Take it all in. Try to absorb everything you possibly can about what’s happening. In this step, you are identifying and describing the problem.

Next, analyze the situation. Think about who is involved, what they are doing, what social and economic realities exist that feed into the situation, and try to determine what has caused this situation or problem.

Then, respond to the problem. The response usually works best in a collaborative environment. Ask different people involved in the situation what they think. Involve the community in brainstorming possible solutions and arriving at an option that seems to work well for most people. Form an action plan for what you’re going to do — and do it.

Finally, assess the results. Spend some time looking at how your response has changed the situation (or not). Did it solve the problem? Did new problems emerge as a result of your response? How well did the response work in terms of both process and the impact it had? Who is happy with the results, and who is not, and why?

By using the SARA method for community problem-solving, you’ll help maintain the collaborative philosophy that’s central to any successful community safety program.

Host regular meetings or touch-base sessions

Meetings and touch-base sessions are the glue that holds any community group together, and this rings true for safety advocates, too. The people involved in your community safety efforts will want opportunities to talk to each other, share ideas, brainstorm ideas, or even just to get to know each other. 

Take the time to organize regular opportunities for the people in your community to get together and talk about safety. How often you do this really depends on your community; once a month is usually a good rule of thumb for setting up meetings, but some communities might prefer to meet every two weeks, while others don’t see a need for meeting more often than bimonthly. Supplement your meetings with social media Q&A sessions and other ways to involve your community, and consider taking notes at your meetings and making them available in your social media groups, too.

Warn people of suspicious activity

Your law enforcement liaisons will be the best resource for exactly how to do this. Maybe your contribution involves disseminating the police department’s announcements about crime more widely to your community group, or perhaps you can have regular discussions about what’s been happening in the newspaper’s crime blotter.

Talk to your law enforcement partners about which types of suspicious activity they think should include a community warning. It probably will also be helpful to them if you ask about false reports and whether there are any common themes. The last thing you want is for your police department to get tied up investigating something trivial and nonrisky, so make sure anybody warning others of suspicious activity in your community groups understands what types of activity are suspicious and doesn’t raise alarm bells unnecessarily.

Host a self-defense course

Although playground fights may have been a rite of passage for some of us, many of us don’t have any experience with self-defense and wouldn’t know what to do if (heaven forbid) we were actually attacked. A free, local self-defense course with a qualified instructor can give everybody who’s interested a little bit of training and supplement their confidence in being able to take care of themselves under adverse situations.

Ask your local law enforcement liaison if there are any self-defense instructors they recommend or use themselves, then talk to that instructor about whether it’s possible to set up a free class. You can give the instructor the opportunity to plug more extensive training before and after the session. Invite everyone who might be interested, and ask questions of both the attendees and people who expressed interest but didn’t attend. It’s possible, for example, that some women in your community would prefer a women-focused class and decided not to attend for that reason — if that happens, then you’ve got a great case for asking the instructor to come back and teach gender-specific mini-courses.

Share tips for safer landscaping

You might not think of your landscaping as a safety hazard, but think again: Dead or dying trees or carpets of dry pine needles can be a real fire hazard, and if your landscaping allows someone to creep up to your front door unseen by anyone else, that can be a problem, too. And that’s not all. There could be an insect or vermin infestation that presents a safety hazard (wasps’ nests, anybody?).

Landscaping safety might not be at the top of your list of things to address, and that’s okay, but it’s a good topic to consider once the low-hanging fruit has been plucked. Again, your local law enforcement liaison may have ideas and thoughts about which hazards are most critical for your area, so talk to them about the landscaping safety tips they wish everybody knew, then do your best to spread the word.

Coordinate community events to reclaim spaces

Vacant lots or abandoned parks are nobody’s problem and everybody’s problem all at once. There might not be a lot you can do about private property, but if there are any public areas that have fallen into disuse or disrepair, then maybe those would be a good project for your community safety group to tackle.

Just cleaning up the trash and removing dead plants and shrubs from an area can eliminate or reduce new refuse and discourage people from dumping hazardous materials there. If you can take additional steps to repair and revitalize public spaces, so much the better. Your local law enforcement liaison can help you identify spots that could use a little bit of attention and contact the appropriate people in the city and county offices to make sure you’re moving forward with everyone’s blessing.

Document your strategy and analyze your results

There’s nothing wrong with approaching your neighborhood watch with the philosophy of throwing things at the wall to see if they stick — but if you can be methodical about how you document what you’re doing and the results, you may find a whole world of opportunity opens up. Public funds might become available once your local administrators see what a great job you’re doing. Other people might become inspired to join in and help out if you can articulate how you’ve improved the neighborhood.

Talk to the different members of your neighborhood watch and ask if there are any analysts or analytically minded members who might want to take on this task. Ask them to keep notes and track metrics around your activities, and encourage them to report back to the group about what they discover. Your ability to cite cold, hard numbers when you’re having conversations about community safety will benefit you everywhere.

Teach social media safety

Even though billions of people are on social media, it’s still a new world for many of us. As a result, people often post updates or photos on social media that are an actual safety risk.

One obvious example is announcing your vacation plans on social media, or posting photos of your trip while you’re still away. It might not lead to anything harmful, but if someone happens to be waiting for an opportunity to break into your house … well, you just provided them with a good one.

Share safety tips and best practices on social media with your community group, and encourage them to spread the word. The more people know about the risks of posting random life updates on social media, the better — after all, you can always upload those photos of your toes in the sand after you’re back at home, giving yourself a little vacation extension at the same time.

Give neighborhood tours for kids

We don’t let kids run around outside as much as we used to, but it’s nonetheless a really good idea to make sure the children in your neighborhood know how to navigate it. One way to encourage kids to learn more about their neighborhood is to host a kid-friendly tour that parents can join, too.

What should be on the tour? Kids might want to know where the schools, playgrounds, parks, police stations, and fire stations are in their neighborhoods, so include those for sure. It might also be worth your time to talk to retail store owners or other stakeholders in the neighborhood and ask them if they have any information they want you to pass along during the tour. Where can kids go to skateboard without breaking any rules? Does the owner of the ice-cream shop have a bike rack where they can lock up their bikes?

Depending on how many children are in your neighborhood, this might be a one-time activity, or it could be something you repeat several times a year. Talk to the parents in your community safety group to ask them what’s best for them — maybe one of them can help coordinate the tours moving forward.

Set boundaries for where your children may go

If you have kids yourself, make sure that they not only know their neighborhood, but are also very aware of their own boundaries. If you don’t want them venturing onto undeveloped property or beyond certain roads, tell them! Show them exactly where their cutoff points lie and talk to them about what to do if they’re tempted to travel beyond them — maybe after a lost ball. Help them make a plan for how to handle those situations so they won’t be hurt and you won’t be angry.

Making the neighborhood safer isn’t just one person’s job — it’s everybody’s. By joining forces with your neighbors and working with local law enforcement, you’ll be improving safety in your area by leaps and bounds.

Independent contractor or employee? How to ensure your agents and assistants are properly classified.

Independent contractor or employee? How to ensure your agents and assistants are properly classified.

Special Guest Column –  Art Bourque

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is an ass — an idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”   Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1838)

 You do not want to be Mr. Bumble.  Bumble did not know the law.  As a result, he was held responsible for someone else’s misconduct.  With no real argument to make, he famously protested:   “the law is an ass.”

Little has changed since Bumble bungled in 1838: have you ever spoken with anyone who has lost in court or been churned-up by the legal system?  I thought so.  You’ve likely been told to “stay out” because it is often unfair and always expensive.   This is good advice.

The best way to stay out of court is to understand the law at the outset — when organizing your business and hiring agents and employees.  You will sleep well and know that you have minimized the risk or a lawsuit or government audit.

This is the first of three articles as to whether your agents and assistants are independent contractors or employees — because the distinction has significant legal consequences.  Each article will test your wits through several true/false questions.  This first article introduces classification challenges facing brokers and agents.

Without further ado, here we go:

  1. Employers have the right to control the manner in which employees work, whereas those who retain independent contractors may only direct results, not the manner in which the result is accomplished.

True     _____              False _____

  1. Degree of over control of working condition is the main factor courts look at in deciding whether a worker has been properly classified as an independent contractor.

True     _____              False _____

  1. An employing broker can exercise reasonable supervision its agents’ activities without turning them into employees, but exercising control over agents converts them to employees.

True     _____              False _____

Let’s see how you did. Nos. 1 and 2 are true — employers have the right to control the manner in which employees work. Contrast this with an independent contractor, for example a painter or plumber:  when you hire such a person you are directing results, you are not controlling the manner in which their job is accomplished.

No. 3 is false.  Arizona Department of Real Estate (ADRE) regulations require that “[a]n employing broker must exercise reasonable supervision and control over the activities of sales persons.”  Seemingly this would make all agents employees because we learned in Nos. 1 and 2 that if a company controls its workers the workers are employees, not independent contractors.  But this is not the case.  Arizona law requires a degree of control over agents, but still allows agents to be classified as independent contractors.

How can you reconcile this seeming contraction in the law to properly classify your agents and assistants? By threading the needle as follows:  (1) you must have a written policy that states the details of your supervision and control over agents as required by the ADRE and (2) you should have independent contractor agreements with your agents that identify the areas you do not control.

In sum, to comply with ADRE rules and maintain agents’ independent contractor status, a broker must supervise and control where required and stop there.  Brokers risk converting independent contractors into employees with each aspect of control they exert above and beyond that required by ADRE rules or applicable statutes.

The second and third articles in this series will again test your wits, and provide practical solutions so that you do not find yourself in Mr. Bumble’s shoes.

 

Bourque Law Firm, P.C. is focused on helping businesses, human resource professionals, and individuals succeed. Art Bourque is an AV rated attorney who has been practicing employment law, commercial litigation, and tort litigation for 27 years. A Dean’s List member each semester of law school and moot court winner for best oral argument in his law class, Mr. Bourque has continued to excel as a professional with a simple formula: working hard.

http://bourquelaw.com/Attorneys.html

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