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Realtors visiting D.C., sharing concerns with Congress

The Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR) is a busy advocacy group representing 6,500 real estate professionals from all over the state. Last week, chief executive officer Angela Cain answered several timely questions about the organization’s current activities.

Mississippi Business Journal: What is the biggest thing going on with your members at this time?

Angela Cain: About 100 members are preparing to visit Washington, D.C., next week. We’ll visit all members of the Mississippi delegation to discuss issues that matter most to our business, including a comprehensive natural disaster policy, housing finance reform, small business health coverage, responsible lending and a national policy against mixing banking and commerce.

We believe that a comprehensive natural disaster framework is needed to protect property owners and taxpayers. We think it should include aggressive mitigation and appropriate assumption of risk. A sound natural disaster policy would make property insurance more available and affordable for all homeowners and commercial property owners. A good first step would be to reform the National Flood Insurance Program to ensure its long-term viability.

We hope Congress will pass legislation to reform the FHA single-family mortgage insurance program. Had FHA been a viable mortgage alternative during the recent housing boom, many homebuyers would not have resorted to non-traditional, often risky, mortgages.

We also hope Congress passes legislation that protects all Americans from predatory lenders and preserves access to credit for future homebuyers. We worked with the Mississippi Legislature in support of various amendments to the Mississippi Mortgage Consumer Protection Law. We worked with the Mississippi Department of Banking and Mississippi Mortgage Brokers Association on making changes to the educational requirements of lenders and also stiffened the penalties for those caught committing mortgage fraud.

We will continue to push for steps to correct the inequities in the nation’s health delivery system and enact small business health reforms. Realtors, who are self-employed, depend upon the individual insurance market for health insurance.

MBJ: How’s the real estate business around the state?

AC: Business is good for much of the state. Unlike national trends, for the most part we are not experiencing a buyer’s market. Realtors in various markets, including Cleveland, Laurel and Natchez, are reporting an increase in land sales.

The Columbus, Starkville and Tupelo areas report an increase in residential sales. New home construction continues to be a major part of the Southaven market.

MBJ: What issues are on the minds of Realtors at this time?

AC: We’re very focused on this important election year in Mississippi. Our political action committee has been busy identifying key statewide and legislative races where we will get involved. As the third-largest PAC in the state and the largest business trade association, we believe we have an obligation to our members, homeowners and our local communities to elect business-minded leaders who support issues like housing opportunity, economic development and a greater quality of life.

Mississippi Realtors continue to fight impact fees and were successful in doing so this year in the Legislature and in Harrison County in cooperation with the Homebuilders Association of Mississippi.

MBJ: How is MAR serving its members? Any new programs?

AC: We continue to seek new ways to serve our members, keep them abreast of changes in laws, market conditions and business climates so they can be effective as the center of the real estate transaction for their clients.

A new offering this year is a Rookie Boot Camp course where new agents who’ve just earned their licenses can learn the ropes from seasoned practitioners who offer skills training, marketing, contracts and how to get more listings. The real estate school Web site is www.realtorinstitute.org.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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