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What Have Realtors Done For You Lately?

If consumers are not selling a home, or buying a home, or watching the news with bated breath to decide the time is right to do either, many might feel that Westchester’s Realtors are not relevant to their lives right now.  But every day your local REALTOR®, and the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors (HGAR), is keeping an eye on state and local government to protect property owners’ rights.  Realtor priorities are your priorities even if you don’t know it.

Every year, the all-volunteer Legislative Council of HGAR determines the legislative agenda in support of or opposition to various New York State bills that affect Realtors, homeowners, home sellers and home-buyers.  And every year these Council members, along with any and all local Realtors, drive to Albany to personally address local Senators and Assemblypersons on these matters.  It’s advocacy in action!

In choosing the legislative priorities the current economy plays a key role.  Two years ago we fought to raise the threshold of the “mansion tax” and we continue to oppose new transfer taxes and recording fees.   With the exception of supporting the First-time Buyer Savings Accounts, your local Realtor recognizes that our State government is unlikely to be receptive to any support or opposition to bills that will negatively affect the State budget.  And we will let our elected officials know that.  We’re not ignoring these important reforms, just picking our battles.

Here are issues that were priorities this year in face-to-face meetings in Albany:

1. Oppose new or increased real estate transaction taxes . Status: Successfully Defeated. This year we successfully prevented an increase in the mortgage recording tax.

2. Help first-time home buyers enter the real estate market Status: Failed to advance. HGAR continues to support a bill that would allow first-time home buyers to open tax-deductible savings accounts, which they can use to purchase their first homes.

3. Increasing the Historic Renovation Tax Credit. Status: Passed Assembly/Passed Senate, Under Consideration by Governor Cuomo. We supported a bill to increase the historic restoration tax credit. Under the bill a 20 percent state tax credit, up to $12 million, would be allowed per restoration/preservation project.  Current law only allowed for a 20 percent tax credit up to a maximum of $5 million.  The Historic Preservation Tax Credit is a great tool for developers and investors to be used to revitalize historic properties throughout New York State.

4. Doubling of Statewide Mortgage Recording Tax. Status: Successfully Defeated. We strongly opposed legislation that would have double the “Additional” mortgage recording tax in every county in New York State that is not part of the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District.  New York has the highest closing costs in the country already.  This bill would significantly increase the cost of purchasing a home and/or commercial property, and refinancing a current mortgage.

5. Statewide Transfer Tax Authorization. Status: Successfully Defeated . We opposed this legislation that would have allowed greater municipal oversight and responsibility for the approval of transfer tax increases.

There is no instant gratification in this process. Your local Realtors will work for years and years to get just one bill passed. Last year we supported the prohibition of private transfer fees paid by buyers to the original developers each time a property is transferred, for up to 99 years. These fees threatened to be an expensive barrier to home-ownership in New York, particularly in the lower Hudson Region. The prohibition passed last year.

State and local laws effecting property owners is a tremendous focus for the Realtors of Westchester County.  Assisting buyers and sellers in the sale of real estate is our job, when we are most visible, but rest assured our behind-the-scenes work helps us all.

Leah Caro is President of Bronxville-Ley Real Estate, 17 ½ Park Place, Bronxville and past President of the Westchester County Board of Realtors, now the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors (HGAR).  She welcomes your feedback and may be reached at 914-337-1234 or caro@bronxvillerealestate.com

The Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS® (HGAR) is a not-for-profit trade association representing over 9,000 real estate professionals doing business in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, and Orange counties.

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