Weekly Update: October 19, 2017

   HBAI hosted a breakfast meeting this month with fellow association executives to discuss identity theft, wire fraud, and general hacker attacks.  Mark Densmore of Densmore Insurance Strategies presented a long list of very scary scenarios that could affect your business.  Check out the next two articles below – it’s not a matter of if – hackers are working on it right now.

Take the Steps to Protect Your Business

At the breakfast meeting, Mark Densmore discussed quite a few steps that you can take to protect your business.  Many of them are not that time consuming, nor do they cost much.  Here they are:

The U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology lists these guidelines:

  1. Identify:  What do I have to protect?  Emails, Ransomware, PII, PCI, PHI Info, Inventory computer equipment.
  2. Protect:  What can I do?  Two step authentication for email and social media; education by training staff; adopting pass phrases and not changing vs. 90 password changes – phrases like HBAIisthegreatestorganization are really hard to break through; have a cyber security policy – otherwise you might be exposed to a lawsuit or breach laws.  Check into the FCC response plan.
  3. Detect:  Watch logs (automate); intrusion detection system for emails; regular, non-electronic communication; and scrutinize email requests.
  4. Respond:  If you’ve bee hacked then:  Contact banks and financial institutions, contact local FBI office, and go to IC3.gov to file a complaint.
  5. Recover:  Who’s responsible?  There are reporting agencies all over; reputation damage, balance sheet disruption, backup and backup, and look into cyber insurance.

For more information, go to the FTC’s small business portal by clicking here.  There are tip sheets, videos, a blog, and enforcement cases.

Wire Fraud and Real Estate

Email hackers are becoming increasingly devious. And now, more of them are targeting consumers involved in real estate transactions.  A growing trend among hackers is to rummage through consumers’ email inboxes to identify people in the process of buying a home or land.

When these hackers find a potential target, they send a bogus email that looks like it’s from the home buyer’s real estate agent, title company or attorney saying there are new money-wiring procedures. The home buyers are given falsified instructions and a fraudulent account number to which many of them unwittingly wire funds – which rarely are recovered.

The American Land Title Association recently formed a coalition of industry organizations to discuss best practices and develop methods of educating consumers to better recognize possible scams.  In addition to NAHB, the coalition includes representatives from the Credit Union National Association, the National Association of Realtors, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American Bankers Association, Wells Fargo and others.  Some of the tips shared by these groups, as well as feedback from NAHB members, include:

  1. Consumers should use caution when hitting “Reply” to certain emails. Criminals often use email addresses that are very similar to legitimate ones. When drafting a reply email, it’s safest to delete the email address in the “To” field and then re-type the intended address to ensure it goes to the correct person.
  2. Title companies and lenders should require all wiring instructions either to be faxed, delivered by courier, or requested in-person. Many businesses have already deemed email and telephone calls as unacceptable methods of conveying wiring instructions.
  3. Consumer requests regarding wire transfers should only be done in-person at a financial institution. In the case of requests to wire loan proceeds, the bank should initiate contact with the attorney to obtain wiring instructions.
  4. Companies should consider adding a notification below email signatures. For example: IMPORTANT NOTICE: Never trust wiring instructions sent via email. Cyber criminals are hacking email accounts and sending emails with fake wiring instructions. Always independently confirm wiring instructions in-person or via a trusted and verified phone number. Never wire money without double-checking that the wiring instructions are correct.

State Fire Marshal’s Code Amendment to Carbon Monoxide Alarms

The Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office will hold a stakeholder meeting in early November regarding changes to carbon monoxide alarms.  Check it out here and email Jay Iverson with any questions or concerns.

Made your IBS Room Reservations Yet?

There are only 83 days until the 2018 International Builders’ Show® (IBS)! Have you made room reservations? The HBA Housing Deadline is October 30. You can find more information here regarding hotel and travel to Orlando.  Our Iowa block is at the Springhill Suites and you will be directed to there, if any rooms are left.  We will once again have a gathering of our Iowa registrants at the Rosen Centre – combining efforts with our Area 10 friends:  Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  You will receive a personal invite if registered.

Association Health Plans – Finally Some Progress!

There is an association for just about any group that you can imagine and we’ve always dreamt about pooling resources together for an opportunity to empower small businesses to pool together to purchase health insurance plans for their employees.  Iowa is especially difficult and the inability to sell across state lines has been an issue.

Now that President Trump has signed an executive order that would ease restrictions on association health plans, what’s the next step to make this a reality for local HBAs across the land?

While we are very excited by Trump’s actions in signing the executive order on association health plans, there are still a lot of unanswered questions moving forward. Though the general intent is clear, the executive order itself does not change existing law. Rather, it directs federal agencies to determine the extent of the regulatory actions they can pursue to meet the President’s health care directives.

Those actions are likely limited compared to legislative steps like bills passed by the House and pending in the Senate that could make more substantive and permanent changes to the law to expand the ability of businesses to form association health plans.

The executive order directs the Department of Labor to consider proposing regulations or guidance on association health plans within 60 days. As a result, it will be weeks if not months before we see a proposal take shape. We will have a better idea of how plans would need to be structured and how state insurance regulators will respond once that becomes available.  Additionally, it is likely that there will be legal challenges mounted that could further slow the process as implementation starts to take shape.

Homeowner Equity Keeps Improving

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System published the Financial Accounts of the United States for the second quarter of 2017. The balance sheet of U.S. households with real estate continues to improve as the increases in home prices continue.

Households’ owner-occupied real estate increased to $23.8 trillion in the second quarter of 2017, $1,597 billion more than the second quarter of 2016. Total home mortgage debt outstanding stands at $9.9 trillion, $250 billion more than the same period of 2016. Since the market value of households’ real estate appreciated and liabilities (home mortgages) grew more slowly, the value of owners’ equity in real estate, the difference between the value of owner-occupied real estate and home mortgage debt, rose to $13.9 trillion over the second quarter of 2017.

The figure below shows the changes in the aggregate market value of households’ real estate, aggregate mortgage debt and the aggregate value of owners’ equity in real estate.

Member Advantage Discounts

Your 3-in-1 membership includes an exclusive program from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) called Member Advantage. This offers you ways to reduce expenses, increase efficiency, and maximize profits through discounts on products and services with leading, national companies. To learn more about these discounts and how to access the savings go to NAHB Member Discounts. Click here for an overview of all discounts.

NKBA Vendor Show November 9

The Iowa Chapter of NKBA would like to invite our members to their vendor show on November 9 in West Des Moines.  If that’s of interest, find the details here.

Iowa Skilled Trades Limited Edition Shirt

This is a limited edition (150) Iowa Skilled Trades shirt just like you saw at the Iowa Skilled Trades event. Just like the event, all proceeds will go to Skilled Trades scholarships throughout the State of Iowa.  Shirt sizes run big and will not shrink.  Click here to claim yours today.

   The Greater Iowa City HBA held their membership meeting at Kinnick stadium last week with wrestling coach Tom Brands.  It was a well attended event.

Weekly Update: October 12, 2017

HBA Iowa Des Moines rezoning   

  The room was packed last week for a proposal from the City of Des Moines on zoning.  Will it potentially have an impact on you in your community?  We do not know, so that’s why we try to keep up on proposals all over the state.  If you want an interesting read, check out the issues that the DM Developers Council has put together here.  A letter from the HBA of Greater Des Moines is here.

NAHB Tax Reform Policy Changes

NAHB unanimously voted to revise its policy regarding the nation’s tax code in light of recent discussions on tax reform between congressional leadership and the Trump administration.  The NAHB Executive Board decision provides greater flexibility as the tax debate unfolds and stakeholders seek consensus to shape a tax code that best serves the nation’s consumers and small businesses.

“This is the first time in NAHB’s 75-year history that we have been open to the idea of broader options regarding housing tax incentives,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald. “Now is the time to reform tax policy and housing will not be left behind in this process.”

NAHB supports a tax system that is simple and fair, and that promotes greater housing opportunity for Americans across the economic spectrum.  The tax policies that NAHB is promoting include:

  • A homeownership tax incentive;
  • The low-income housing tax credit, along with additional resources to meet the affordability crisis;
  • Tax incentives for remodeling, including energy efficiency tax credits;
  • The exclusion of capital gains on the sale of a principal residence; and
  • Business interest deductions for small businesses.

“Tax policy is key to homeownership, affordable rental housing, business success and job creation,” MacDonald said. “That’s why NAHB will be fully engaged in this debate and pushing for innovative solutions that bring a better policy environment for American enterprise and lasting prosperity for our nation’s people.”  For more information, visit nahb.org/taxreform.

Treasury Withdraws Regs that Would Hinder Home Building

Big wins for reducing unnecessary roadblocks for home builders came out of the U.S. Department of the Treasury late last week, as it announced plans to withdraw two proposed regulations that would be costly and burdensome.

In its announcement, the Treasury said it plans to withdraw proposed regulations under Section 2704 that would have hurt family-owned and operated businesses by limiting valuation discounts. The regulations would have raised taxes on family businesses when an owner passes away and chooses to leave the business to the next generation. The valuation requirements of the proposed regulations were not sensible from an economic standpoint, were unclear and could not be meaningfully applied.

Treasury also plans to withdraw proposed Section 103 regulations on the definition of political subdivision. The proposed regulations would have prohibited most development districts, which are used in many states to finance the construction of sewer systems, water lines and other infrastructure necessary to incorporate a new development into a city, from issuing tax-exempt municipal bonds.

For example, community development districts in Florida, municipal utility districts in Texas, metropolitan districts in Colorado, and rural utility districts in California have been set up to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance public infrastructure for a wide array of development projects. NAHB had urged Treasury to rescind this rule that would have severely limited such districts.

As we reported in July, the Treasury Department had identified eight tax regulations that were considered burdensome, costly and ineffective. These are two regulations from that list. NAHB backed the rescinding of the eight listed burdensome regulations, with particular concerns about the rule that would have restricted eligibility for developments that are deemed “political subdivisions.”

“The withdrawal of these two regulations is a big win for the home building industry,” said J.P. Delmore, AVP of Government Affairs at NAHB. “Home builders benefit in a real way knowing they can pass down their company to a family member without the government blocking their way. And when new development can be financed through development districts – providing a cost effective mechanism to fund the infrastructure needed for new development – it’s a win for the entire community.”

hba iowa charles schneider

   It’s the season for political fundraisers.  We have been represented at events for approximately 14 legislators on both sides of the aisle.  Here is Senator Charles Schneider’s last week at the Stine Barn.  It should be a most interesting session again, somewhat more tame than this past assembly, but with lots of stuff on the list of to dos.  We will be working it and paying attention to everything that comes out.

MidAmerican Notice of Adverse Construction Conditions Charges

Here is a note from HBAI Board of Director Member Eric Heikes to developers, homebuilders, and contractors on behalf of MidAmerican Energy:

MidAmerican Energy Company’s base installation costs for electric and gas facilities assume installation under normal weather, soil, and site conditions. If installation is required under adverse conditions, additional charges will be applied. Adverse construction conditions include snow, freezing rain, ground frost, extreme cold, or unusually muddy or rugged terrain. These adverse conditions are most prevalent between November 15 and March 15.     Projects that are ready for construction by October 31, 2017 will be completed without adverse construction conditions charges.  All projects that are ready after October 31st may be subject to additional charges based on existing conditions at the time of installation.

The following conditions must be met for your project to be considered ready for MidAmerican Energy to schedule installation of electric and/or gas facilities:

  • MidAmerican Energy has received a signed Gas/Electric Service Facility Service Application Agreement and/or a signed extension contract and any required payments.
  • Customer has met all the requirements on the extension contract for extensions.
  • Customer has met all the requirements for site readiness noted on the back (or second page) of the Gas/Electric Facility Service Application Agreement.
  • All applicable permits or inspections have been approved and released by the appropriate parties.

If you have any additional questions regarding these adverse construction conditions charges, please contact your local MidAmerican Energy representative or dial 888-427-5632.

hba iowa homes with porches

   This is an interesting pictogram showing the number of new homes with porches.  There are lots of interesting demographics available on our industry.

Iowa Skilled Trades Limited Edition Shirt

This is a limited edition (150) Iowa Skilled Trades shirt just like you saw at the Iowa Skilled Trades event. Just like the event, all proceeds will go to Skilled Trades scholarships throughout the State of Iowa.  Shirt sizes run big and will not shrink.  Click here to claim yours today.