By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
Buying a home is one of the largest commitments in life, said Michael DeHart, executive officer of the Fort Hood Area Association of Realtors.
DeHart spends a good portion of his time with the local Realtors' association protecting rights for both homeowners and real estate agents, he said. He even traveled to Washington, D.C., in May and last week to attend a conference about legislative issues.
He was one of 20 national realty executives invited to attend the National Association of Realtors' Government Affairs Orientation on Monday and Tuesday.
It's critical that a homeowner know his or her rights before, during and after a purchase, DeHart said Wednesday during an interview at his Mary Jane Drive office.
DeHart said he believes that land ownership is the basis of the U.S. Constitution and the ultimate realization of the American Dream.
"Owning your own land or property has been the basis of our civilization and basic freedoms," he said. "Will Rogers said, 'If you want to invest in something, buy land because we ain't making any more of it.'"
The National Realtor Association has more than 1 million members across the country and is one of the most effective lobbyist groups, DeHart said.
He oversees the local chapter, which has more than 600 members. Through the local association, members get their required continuing education for licensing and can stay up to speed on current issues.
"Lending is the big thing now," DeHart said. "The number one thing is access to money."
The federal government is currently trying to work out what to do about lending. DeHart said private lenders are laying low right now, leaving the lending up to government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
He said the National Realtors Association agrees that there needs to be reform, but has no stance on what yet.
DeHart said there were several big victories won by the Texas Association of Realtors in the state Legislature this session that will affect Central Texas homeowners.
Eminent domain also was addressed by the Legislature and a bill was passed to provide better protection for homeowners. Under the new law, the government can only seize property to be used for public purposes and not for the profit of private entities. Also, if the property is not used within 10 years, the owner can buy it back for the same price he was paid for it.
DeHart said another issue he focuses on is keeping unfair fees out of real estate, and during the state session, private transfer fees were eliminated. These fees are included in sale prices of homes and given to the builder each time it sells, for up to 99 years.
DeHart strongly encourages anyone looking to buy a home to contact a licensed real estate agent who can help explain complex issues, as well as keep track of changes in laws.
"In our country we have the freedom to watch," DeHart said. "If nobody's watching, we can become a victim."
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.