Five Questions With NYSAR President Jennifer Vucetic

Five Questions With NYSAR President Jennifer Vucetic
Jennifer Vucetic, 2022 NYSAR President

The recently installed 2022 President of the New York State Association of Realtors Jennifer Vucetic AHWD, CIPS, GREEN, MRP, SFR, PMN, CBR, ITI, C2EX, EPRO, takes the helm of the organization at a time of drastic change with COVID infections on the decline throughout the state, but the specter of rising interest rates and low for-sale inventory weighing on the market in New York State and across the nation.

Vucetic, Broker/Owner of EXIT Realty Empire Associates in Clifton Park, is a veteran of the real estate industry for 17 years. Born in Hudson, NY, Vucetic was a well-known tavern owner/restauranteur in the Albany area before entering real estate.

Earlier this month, Vucetic chatted with Real Estate In-Depth on a variety of topics that included her chief goals as NYSAR President, the need to promote diversity and inclusion, pending legislation affecting real estate and her views on market conditions going forward.

She was named Realtor of the Year by the Greater Capital Association of Realtors in 2016 and served as the 2017 New York State Women’s Council of Realtors president and also served as the regional vice president for the National Women’s Council of Realtors.

Nationally, Vucetic is a 2020 graduate of the National Association of Realtors Leadership Academy. She is a 2012 graduate of the New York State Association of Realtors’ Leadership Academy and a 2019 Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC) Hall of Fame inductee. She serves as a Region 2 RPAC Trustee and is on the Realtor Safety committee.

Real Estate In-Depth: What are your chief goals for 2022 as president of the New York State Association of Realtors?

Vucetic: I have three goals—making members aware of our new “Opportunity Plan,” increasing networking among Realtors and making members aware of NYSAR’s legislative advocacy efforts.

The first one involves our recent strategic planning session and we have decided to rename our Strategic Plan “The Opportunity Plan.” We felt that the word “strategic” was daunting to the average member and we wanted to make it more welcoming. The new Opportunity Plan is a customizable journey for the membership. So, any member can decide what their pathway is—it doesn’t have to be becoming the next NYSAR President. It can be serving on Housing and Opportunities (Committee) or working with the REALTOR Party. So, they can choose their own pathway and be involved as much as they want to.

In relation to my next goal, we are really happy to be working in what is now a hybrid world. At our Mid-Winter Business Meeting we were able to meet in person for the first time in two years and I really feel that people needed it. They were Zoomed out. Some people who didn’t feel safe had the opportunity to stay home and were able to watch the meeting via livestream. Our Board of Directors meeting was a hybrid session where members were able to Zoom and be heard. So, that was excellent. But, I felt that in talking with everyone their tanks were filled and that they just needed to see their fellow Realtors and be able to commiserate about what we had been through and really get the sense that we are all in this together and we all have been going down similar paths and that it is OK and we are all going to get through this. … The overall feeling I got is that everyone was so happy to be able to receive information in person because with so many Zooms over the past couple of years, and with multi-tasking, they just zone out sometimes.

The most important goal I have is to stress that NYSAR has the best Government Affairs Department. It is second to none in the nation. It is just incredible. But, I think they do a very bad job of touting their accomplishments. If you know Mike Kelly (NYSAR Director of Government Affairs), he is a very humble man. I don’t think he sleeps. He does more in a day than most people accomplish in a week. He just has his finger on the pulse of the State Legislature and in turn he is so well respected (by state lawmakers). So, with that being said, what we are doing this year is we are producing a video series and I just met with Mike yesterday and we did two new three-to-five-minute videos updating membership on advocacy efforts.

The first one we did (earlier) was on the nine Fair Housing bills that came out (and were recently signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul) and broke them down into segments that the membership could understand because these bills can get very technical. The videos let them know what is the practical purpose of these bills and how do they affect us? … It has been very well received. The videos we did yesterday were a recap of what we talked about at the Mid-Winter Business Meetings and we also talked about good cause eviction.

Real Estate In-Depth: In this upcoming legislative session, what measures would you like to see passed into law?

Vucetic: Legislation correcting the current ban on telemarketing during any state of emergency. Also, a bill that would provide increased predictability and transparency in the purchase of a co-op and increased funding for affordable/workforce housing, along with increased broadband.

I have to go back and say that I was very happy that we were able to work collaboratively with the legislators on the nine Fair Housing bills that were passed. I think that was a big win for us. What was uncovered in the Newsday article was very hard to digest. Out of all of that I think it was a very well-done, teachable moment for us. The fact that we were asked to have a seat at the table and participate in the creation of these Fair Housing bills really was amazing.

Real Estate In-Depth: What proposals currently under consideration by state lawmakers would damage the real estate industry in New York State and hurt consumers?

Vucetic: So-called “Good Cause” Eviction legislation would do tremendous harm to housing providers that have already experienced tremendous challenges over the last two years from non-payments of rent to eviction moratoriums.

Seven days into my presidency I had the privilege of testifying before the State Senate in opposition to Good Cause Eviction. The name betrays what it actually is. There is nothing good about Good Cause Eviction. Basically, it is taking the rights of property owners away from them and forcing them to take time out of their days where they might have another job, and go to the courts and get permission to affect change on their property. There are six grounds that would qualify under “Good Cause,” however, we know there are a lot of things that occur that we know of that would not necessarily fall under that and you would still have to go before a judge and plead your case…

We preach that the easiest way to create wealth is through real estate and property ownership. This Good Cause Eviction proposal is forcing the Mom and Pop owners out of business. You have these big conglomerates and big groups that hold properties and budget the funds for vacancies and budget for repairs. They have the funding and the ability to pay for them. When you have a Mom and Pop owner or a first-time investor, they are probably running on a very slim budget. They may have had to put 20% down because they have a residence and this is an investment for them. So, they probably don’t have the capital behind them and when you have a tenant that is habitually late paying their rent, it makes them (the owner) late on their mortgage payment and that affects their ability to purchase in the future. Editor’s Note: NYSAR President Vucetic also noted that another impact on small property owners is the inability to raise rents appropriately to cover repair or replacement costs.

Good Cause Evictions are really pushing the small investor out of the market just because they don’t want to have the exposure of having a tenant not paying their rent and the fact that they cannot evict them.

Also, while not in bill form yet, we will be closely watching the recommendations from the New York State Climate Action Council, which could have far reaching impacts on housing as New York State tries to reduce the use of fossil fuels and reach certain emission standards.

Editor’s Note: The NYSAR President also said the association is having discussions concerning New York State’s ambitious timeline to move away from fossil fuels to green energy sources and a proposal to ban natural gas oil and propane fuel from all new construction.

Real Estate In-Depth: Do you believe the real estate industry needs to do more in terms of Fair Housing and Diversity and is NYSAR engaged in any programs to educate Realtors to promote the principles of Fair Housing and Diversity in their business practices?

NYSAR, NYSAR Instillation, NYSAR 2022, Desmond Hotel, Albany

Vucetic: So, yes, yes and yes. Once again, I truly believe that Newsday’s “Long Island Divided” series was a gift. … One of the incredible things about the story was that there were (Realtors) from protected classes who were guilty of violating Fair Housing and they admittedly said they would never do it because it happened to them and here they are on video doing it. So, I think that is a lesson to all of us that we do have unconscious bias and we can do better and we need to do better.

Nationally (through the National Association of Realtors) we have At Home with Diversity designation, Fair Housing Training (Fair Haven) and Implicit Bias training and we have been pushing those three things for everyone to do. However, at our last set of meetings, we really opened up and had roundtable discussions about race and real estate and we had some pretty raw conversations and it was excellent to hear from protected classes and their experiences as Realtors. … We were really fortunate to have representation from all across New York State and hear how it is to be a minority in real estate and the challenges that they face.

Editor’s Note: NYSAR has been working with NAR, HGAR’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer Freddimir Garcia and others on Fair Housing and Diversity and will be rolling out its own initiatives later this year.

Real Estate In-Depth: With interest rates rising and COVID infections on the decline in New York State in early 2022, how do you see the real estate market in the state performing this year?

Vucetic: I have been doing this for a while and I have lived through a couple of different cycles, what really concerns me about this is that traditionally the average price of a house in a market is $200,000. The buyer gets approved for $225,000. They would only buy at about the $200,000 price point because they were being conservative, although they were approved for more. With the lack of inventory for the last couple of years and people losing out repeatedly on multiple offer (situations)—four, five or six times—they go back to the bank and say how much can you get me? So, the banks say, ‘Ok, we can stretch you to $250,000.” Then they get to $250,000 and then beg, borrow and steal to get an extra $15,000 from a retirement account or a family member and now they are at $265,000. There is no equity left. They knew they could pay the mortgage payment. They budgeted for that. What they didn’t budget for is home heating fuel going up 20% and electricity doubling where your bill was $200, now it is $400. Everything has gone up and they did not take that into account that the cost of living would go up as high as it has.

I think we are going to see people struggling to stay in their homes. Whether interest rates go up or not, I see people sitting tight because they know inflation is going higher and now they will not be in such a hurry to buy a house. I definitely see an increase in short sales because some people will have difficulty paying their mortgage. They are going to be struggling.

What we went through (during COVID) was not sustainable and I feel that Realtors feel very beat up after the last two years. We had to work three times as hard to get someone into a house and we didn’t feel good about it because we felt they may have overpaid. And even if you were the listing agent, you had to call 10 of your fellow Realtors and tell them they lost out on a multiple offer and that doesn’t feel good either. We all just got really beaten down by this the last couple of years and I think everyone is just looking forward to a return to a more stabilized market.

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