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Members of the Greater Lakes Association of REALTORS Join Thousands of Realtors® to Advance Key Housing Issues and Priorities in Nation’s Capital

TJ-web-7733         Carrie Lee for ballot         Jeff Kruschek      shelia-h

T. J. Simon                        Carrie Lee                   Jeff Kruschek            Sheila Holley

staff-janie     staff-marissa

Janie Weston        Marissa Skuza

Baxter, MN 5/20/15 – Fighting for all current and prospective American home and property owners, more than 8,500 Realtors® stormed Washington, D.C., this week to urge action on various real estate issues during the 2015 REALTOR® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. T.J. Simon, President; Carrie Lee, President Elect; Jeff Kruschek, Director; Sheila Holley, National Director; Marissa Skuza, GLAR Governmental Affairs Director and Janie Weston, CEO of the Greater Lakes Association of REALTORS®  joined fellow Realtors® from every corner of the country to attend the meetings and visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Realtor® attendees, members of the National Association of Realtors®, focused on several major issues pertaining to both residential and commercial real estate during the legislative meetings. Of top importance was opening access to safe and affordable credit for qualified buyers and protecting real estate-related tax policies, both of which are vital to the growth of homeownership and therefore the national economy.

“It is crucial that our lawmakers understand the serious issues that face the real estate industry.  Realtors® lead the way in advocating for home and property owners in their communities, and we showed this week we can do the same here in our nation’s capital with our elected officials,” said T.J. Simon, Association President.  “Investing in policies good for homeowners and property owners not only strengthens our communities and helps families build stable futures but also drives a strong economy.”

While GLAR Members were in Washington, they met with Representatives John Nolan, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken on Capitol Hill to influence public policy decisions that will directly affect consumers’ ability to buy, sell and own real estate. Specifically, Members urged the Legislators to preserve current real estate-related tax policies and extend the recently expired Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which stops distressed homeowners from receiving excessive income tax bills on forgiven home loan debt.

Other pressing matters included patent reform, the creation of nationwide data security standards, and the passage of the Mortgage Choice Act to end discrimination against affiliated lenders.

“Congress is set to take up legislation on several issues in which consumers and Realtors® have a real stake, so it is very important our elected officials know the impact they have on our communities and nation as a whole,” said Simon. “Through the strength of the Realtor® Party, we have made known where we stand on key issues that affect home buyers, sellers and investors right here in the Greater Lakes area.”

During the week-long conference, Realtors® participated in sessions with a variety of industry experts and government officials who discussed many of the critical housing, mortgage finance and real estate investment issues facing real estate today. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro provided a housing industry outlook to meeting attendees and referenced credit availability as the biggest hurdle to homeownership. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray discussed changes to loan closing procedures and documents, stating that the new mortgage rules are in place to educate and empower buyers to “know before they owe.”

In addition, Realtors® heard from political strategists Donna Brazile and Ed Gillespie, who shared their perceptions on how social media and the 24-hour news cycle impact congressional priorities and play a role in the political gridlock in Washington. Move, Inc. CEO Ryan O’Hara spoke about the year ahead for® and unveiled a visual rebranding of NAR’s official listing site that included a new advertising campaign. Attendees also heard from senior staff from the Federal Aviation Administration Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office about drone technology and from NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who shared residential and commercial real estate market and economic outlooks.

In addition to the informational legislative sessions, GLAR Members also had the chance to explore the latest industry innovations and get up-to-date on how new products are transforming the real estate business, as more than 100 exhibitors showcased the newest real estate products and services for the industry during the trade expo.

The Greater Lakes Association of REALTORS is located in Baxter, Minnesota and is made up of REALTORS and Affiliates who service Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena Counties. The Association is governed by a Board of Directors made up of Association Members and Affiliates. The members of this Association adhere to a strict ethical code; as well as foster the education of our Membership. The Association provides services to Members including access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) which houses the listings of our Members and listing from around the state of Minnesota.




Stage Set to Revive First-Time Buyer Market

Stage Set to Revive First-Time Buyer Market | Realtor Magazine

Daily Real Estate News | Friday, December 12, 2014

The move by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac this week to offer 3 percent down payment loans may reignite the first-time home buyer market.

Opening the Credit Box

2015: Year of the First-Time Home Buyer

3% Down Payments May be Game Changer

Prior to this week’s announcement, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued loans with a minimum of a 5 percent down payment—however, the standard down payment for mortgages insured through Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was 20 percent, the Associated Press reports.

That meant a first-time buyer would need about $41,600 in cash to buy a median-priced home of $208,300, according to National Association of REALTORS® housing data. With a 3 percent down payment, buyers would need a fraction of that – about $6,200 to close on a loan.

That may make home ownership more feasible for first-time buyers. A recent study by RealtyTrac showed that it can take on average 12.5 years for first-time buyers to save up a 20 percent down payment based on a current personal savings rate at 5.6 percent. The figure also takes into account current median home prices.

In October, only 29 percent of home purchases were from first-time buyers – way below the historic average of 40 percent, NAR reported. NAR issued a report last month that showed despite an improving job market and low interest rates, the share of first-time buyers had fallen to its lowest point in nearly three decades.

The new loans announced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be fixed-rate mortgages for up to 30 years, available only on a primary residence. Fannie plans to begin issuing the 3 percent loans before the end of the year. Mortgage insurance payments will be required, and qualified buyers will need to complete a financial counseling program.

Freddie Mac plans to start issuing its 3 percent loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers in March 2015. Eligible borrowers will be required to earn less than an area’s median income and will also have to pay mortgage insurance and undergo financial counseling to participate. Monthly payments also will have to fall under 43 percent of the borrower’s income.

Source: “More Americans to Buy Homes with 3 Percent Down,” The Associated Press (Dec. 11, 2014)

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Zebra mussels confirmed in Cass Lake in Cass County

From the Department of Natural Resources

Zebra mussels confirmed in Cass Lake in Cass County
Zebra mussels have been confirmed in Cass Lake located in Cass County in northwestern Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
A citizen discovered the zebra mussels earlier in the week while collecting shells on the beach on the southeast corner of Cedar Island. The area is a popular beach and swimming area where people park their watercraft to swim and fish.
Three hollow (dead) zebra mussels of varying sizes (ages) were collected. The samples were given to a DNR creel clerk who submitted them to the DNR area fisheries office in Bemidji where they were verified to be zebra mussels.
Following the identification, DNR staff conducted a search on Cass Lake around the northwest and southeast points of Cedar Island. The crew inspected more than 200 items along 565 feet of shoreline and 2,500 square feet of lake habitat and found zebra mussels in a variety of sizes.

“This is the first confirmed adult zebra mussel find in the Bemidji area,” said Nicole Kovar, DNR invasive species specialist.

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Zebra mussels discovered in 2 Crow Wing County lakes


Zebra mussels discovered in 2 Crow Wing County lakes

Adult zebra mussels have been found in Gilbert and North Long lakes in Crow Wing County, resulting in both lakes being designated as infested, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The lakes are located near Brainerd.

The initial discovery was reported by the parents of two young boys who retrieved a plastic container with attached zebra mussels while snorkeling in Gilbert Lake. A few days later, children swimming in North Long Lake found zebra mussels and their parents reported this discovery to DNR. Following the positive identification of the zebra mussels, DNR aquatic biologists searched both lakes and found additional specimens to confirm the diagnosis.

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Accuracy Matters Campaign invites Consumers to Participate! just launched a new promotion in support of its current #AccuracyMatters campaign. 

 Share your photos or video!! And possible WIN!

This social media promotion runs through Aug. 18 and encourages consumers to share a photo or video of why accuracy matters to them for a chance at $10k. Participants can submit entries through an image-rich microsite, the® Facebook page or by using the hashtag #AccuracyMatters in native social environments.


Volunteer Water Monitors Sought to Help Protect Minnesota Lakes and Streams

St. Paul, Minn. – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is recruiting volunteers to help track water quality changes in lakes and streams across the state. Minnesota’s volunteer water monitoring programs are among the largest citizen science programs in the nation, but in order to reach all the lakes and streams across Minnesota, more volunteers are needed.

More than 1,300 Minnesotans volunteer to track the health of their favorite lake or stream through the Citizen Lake and Citizen Stream Monitoring Programs. As part of the program, volunteers are asked to perform a short and simple test at their designated lake or stream once per week throughout the summer. Equipment and training are provided by the MPCA.

Volunteer data helps water resource managers to see trends in water quality and make watershed management decisions throughout the state. For some lakes and streams, volunteer-collected data is the only data available, making citizen involvement critical to ensuring to the long-term health of Minnesota’s waters.

Citizen Water Monitoring volunteers benefit from the program by learning more about their favorite lake or stream, connecting with their community, and helping to maintain and protect one of our state’s most precious natural resources.  

To become a volunteer or learn more about the program, visit the MPCA’s website at, or call 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities) or 800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota).

Article from the University of Minnesota Extension Water Resources News, Spring 2014 edition


Group touts benefits of state mortgage interest deduction

Posted: April 18, 2014 – 8:42pm by the Brainerd Dispatch

Chris Galler and Christine Berger of the Minnesota Association of Realtors were joined by former State Senator and Realtor Deanna Weiner, remodeler contractor Geoff Tilsen, carpenter contractor Mike Doyle and designer Angel Tilsen to announce statewide March home sales numbers.

The group reported the event was designed to emphasized the importance of the state mortgage interest deduction and served as a final reminder on the tax day filing deadline for homeowners to claim this tax incentive.

With the housing economy turning the corner after a difficult few years, the mortgage interest deduction has played a major role to in helping middle-class Minnesotans achieve the American Dream, the group reported.

Among the key findings the group released:

• Median home prices across the state increased 5.3 percent in the month of March when compared to transactions a year earlier.

• Median home prices have increased every month since February of 2012.

“With home prices rising across a majority of the state and affordability falling due to interest rate increases one thing remains clear: curtailing the state mortgage interest deduction would be a step backwards for Minnesota families,” said Christine Berger, spokesperson for the Minnesota Home Matters coalition and vice president of Political Affairs for the Minnesota Association of Realtors. “Any changes to the state mortgage interest deduction would have serious consequences to home-ownership levels in Minnesota, increasing home prices and harming middle income families.”

The event demonstrated the economic impact a vibrant real estate market has on the community — urban vitality and commitment; jobs for home builders including carpenters, architects, masons, plumbers, and electricians, to name a few; increased property value and resulting property tax revenues for St. Paul schools, Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul; and finally, a home for middle-class families, as a centerpiece of healthy and strong communities.

“Seventy percent of Minnesota’s homeowners with a mortgage itemized and used the mortgage interest deduction in 2011, according to data from the American Community Survey and the Minnesota Department of Revenue,” Berger said.

Changing established portions of the Minnesota tax code would be changing the rules in the middle of the game, locking middle class families out of the housing market and reducing home values for current homeowners, the group reported, adding any elimination or changes to the deduction would result in an estimated 15 percent decline in home values across the state.

Minnesota Home Matters is a project of the Minnesota Association of Realtors and is dedicated to ensuring the Mortgage Interest Deduction is available to help the middle class achieve the American Dream.

CapCon 2014




The Minnesota Association of REALTORS® hosted CapCon 2014 Day (formally Legislative Impact Day) at the St Paul RiverCenter February 19th.

 The National Association of REALTORS® President Steve Brown opened the event.  Our political environment must be important if the President of the National Association of REALTORS® comes to Minnesota in sub-zero temperatures to talk to us!  Other speakers were Doug Sosnik, Former Political Director to President Clinton; John Smaby, MNAR President Elect; MN Legislators Senator Tom Bakk, Senate Majority Leader; Senator David Hann, Senate Minority Leader; Representative Kurt Daudt, House Minority Leader and Representative Joe Atkins, Chairman of the House Commerce Committee.  Also present were Paul Eger, Ryan Hamilton, Christine Berger, Lobbyists; Chris Galler, MNAR CEO and MNAR President Ron Helm.  GLAR members that attended the CapCom14 day are:  T.J. Simon, Colleen Goedker, Kevin Goedker, Rebecca Sellnow, Doug Kern, Jan Schultz, Marissa Skuza and Janie Weston. 

Remember to mark your calendar for the GLAR Capitol Day March 26th.  We will meet with our Legislators.

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