Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Maine Bus to the NAR Rally to Protect the American Dream

 How many REALTORS does it take to make a change…?

The last three days have been one hectic run-on sentence, and I wanted to finish up by getting home and showering before trying to put it all together for you.

Wednesday morning many of us boarded a Peter Pan bus (see references to the Land of the Lost Boys later in this blog) in Augusta, picking up more people in Portland and one last person at the York Park and Ride, making a group of nearly 50 REALTORS from Maine, and headed south towards our Nation's Capitol and the “Rally to Protect the American Dream” festivities.

We picked up, in addition to the other REALTORS, a lovely surprise in Portland. Phenix Title and a number of other benefactors had prepared goodie bags with all sorts of treats including homemade pretzels, puzzle books, sandwiches and beverages for us all. How great was that? On our return trip several of our previous state presidents provided us with yet another selection of treats for our trip. We thank all these people very,very much.

A mere thirteen hours later found us roaming around Bethesda in the wee hours of Thursday morning with about eight of the more helpful of our group, GPS Apps in hand, urging our slightly bewildered driver to “Turn right here”, “No, left”, “Go around”, “Now you’ve passed it”, “What was that address again?”

Check-in at the lovely Hyatt Regency Bethesda was, as Cindy (MAR staff) had predicted and as we have come to expect of events orchestrated by her, simple and swift.

We all scurried, well, maybe lurched is a better word, to our rooms, some showering, some just waving a toothbrush in front of our mouths and falling into bed.

After a refreshing four hours of sleep, down we went to the lobby and loaded ourselves onto the waiting bus which had returned from somewhere in Neverland to retrieve us.

The promise of a warm, sunny day and a boxed breakfast spurring us on, we headed toward the Washington Monument and Region 1, designated for New England REALTORS on our maps.

We started seeing blue t-shirts several blocks from the site and easily found our drop-off place. State of Maine flags were passed out as we left the bus, and we were repeatedly reminded that we would not see this bus again until 8:30 Thursday evening. Little did we know.

We followed informational signs and arrows and the growing groups of large white “R”s emblazoned on all those blue shirts.

This was a very well-run event. We entered the grounds and were given signs, fans, sun-screen, backpacks, bottles of water, that boxed breakfast I mentioned, and in the backpack, that all-important blue t-shirt which we all hurriedly put on wanting to be recognized as part of the group.

By the end of the rally it was announced that the park service had estimated that there were 13,800 of us there! It was quite a sight.

The crowd was growing, there was no doubt about that. Hastily eating our breakfast (juice, Danish, and an apple), we found our area and greeted others from Maine who had come down earlier in the week for the Midyear Legislative Meetings and Hill visits and who now joined us to make a group of close to 100 Mainers!

We all waved our flags and greeted old friends and colleagues.

Music was playing with most people singing along and inspirational quotes and short recorded speeches were being projected on a huge screen.

NAR President Moe Veissi, spoke a number of times, exhorting the crowd to chant enthusiastically their feelings about supporting and sustaining the American dream of home ownership.

A number of senators and state representatives were in attendance, and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) spoke eloquently about what owning a home means and has meant in his life. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) spoke about how politics as well as real estate is all local.

Gerardo Ascencio, NAHREP President, reminded us that no child thinks “When I grow up, I want to be a tenant.”

One of the most enthusiastic speakers was Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist, who was a real crowd pleaser with his nearly euphoric report on housing prospects for the future.

Finally, President Veissi recalled a man being interviewed, or there being an attempt at interviewing him, on 9/11 saying to the reporter, “Leave me alone. I just want to go home.”

There were more Hill visits scheduled for the afternoon by many delegations from all over the country, but first there was a boxed lunch.

Here again, everything was extremely well-organized with people getting their lunches quickly and easily. In our backpacks was a foam cushion, and many groups were seen seated on these around the grounds eating their lunches and chatting in the warm, late morning sun.

There were plenty of portable toilets, ample shuttle buses, helpful red-shirted NAR staff, and I saw only a small amount of litter, and that was mostly where trash barrels had overflowed. People were certainly trying to be tidy and respectful. Lots of good cheer and a distinctly upbeat atmosphere prevailed.

Shuttle buses would take those who were interested back to the conference hotel which was near the Woodley Park Metro station. From there people could take in some of the trade show at the conference, go to the National Zoo or meet their transportation to other sites.

There were other options, of course, as there always are in Washington, DC.  Many chose to visit some of the attractions around the Mall. The Smithsonian, The Capitol, The White House, National Gallery of Art, and some chose the popular trolley tour. One group of enterprising folks from our group, so I hear, even commandeered a rogue shuttle bus and had their own private tour of the local sites.

Ah, we REALTORS are a creative lot!

Several of us opted for the zoo, not realizing that there was a private event scheduled, and it was closing at 3 pm. We did manage to wheedle our way in by saying we just needed to check on the status of the new elephant habitat. The docent waved us by.

Someone questioned how the zoo could just kick out the public like that in favor of a private event. The response to that was that, while all the public places in DC have free admission, if some person wants to actually pay to rent the space for a private occasion, they’ll gladly take the money. Funding for these institutions being what it is these days.

Dining out for dinner Thursday was on an individual basis; so people scattered to favorite spots or to venture into some new area or dining preference.

We headed for Chinatown, having had good luck there on other occasions. My friend and I were quite hungry by that time and while a restaurant called “One Big Wong” looked inviting or, at least, curious, we opted for a terrific Japanese sushi bar/restaurant next door. It was spectacular! The sushi was exquisite, and the shrimp and scallops in garlic sauce that I had was wonderful. To say nothing of the two passion fruit martinis.

Back to the hotel we went, full of great food, warmed by the setting sun of early summer, watching fireflies, remembering the speeches of the morning and thinking of, perhaps, catching a little more sleep than last night (or was that this morning) on the bus.

We were told to be at the entrance to the hotel by 8:30, ready to board and that the bus would leave at 9pm sharp, whether we were on board or not. We were there. We had snacks. We had anything we had accumulated during the day. We had eaten dinner, we had walked many miles today. We were tired. We had said goodbye to new friends and old. What we did not have was a bus.

Eight-thirty came and went. Then eight-forty-five. Here is where the Land of the Lost Boys comes in. I firmly believe that is where the driver and bus were. Nine-fifteen and people were beginning to repeat the mantra that was heard so many times at the rally this morning in stories about the American Dream. “I want to go home. I want to go home.” At nine-forty it pulled up and off we went into the night.

We had an uneventful trip home with but one stop before York. We took a 10-15 minute break at 4:06am somewhere in CT for restrooms and tea.

I remembered a quote that I have read and always thought of when dealing with homebuyers. This is from another president: “Look well to the hearthstone; therein all hope for America lies.”—Calvin Coolidge.

We are safely home again and wish sincerely that someday, due largely to our unselfish efforts this week, anyone who wishes to will be able to say the same.

Written by REALTOR Mary Kuykendall (pictured below) ... comments are those of the author.

Monday, May 14, 2012

For Safety's Sake #10: Are you itching to get outdoors?

When I was in grade school I was intrigued, and more than a little incredulous, about a story I read in a science book postulating that at some time in the future the world would be taken over by insects.  I am beginning to see the possibilities of it.

In the past two weeks I have had to have two ticks removed at a local clinic and am currently on antibiotics which make me violently ill.

This is a situation that I would like you to avoid, if possible.

We’ve all read the articles and heard the warnings. We know about the tiny red deer tick and the bull’s eye rash. Having that knowledge still isn’t going to save us entirely from the problem.

The mild winter didn’t succeed in killing off the ticks and many other vermin that typically annoy us during the warmer months, and let me attest to the fact that you don’t have to be crawling around on your belly in the underbrush to attract the little devils.

The first one my husband generously shared with me after he had been working in the yard all day and I had remained safely inside. Note to self: “ Never thank a man for doing yard work prior to his being carefully examined for foreign creatures, showering and changing clothes.”

The second one I got while taking ten minutes to put up a sign in a yard. No high grass or leaf litter. Just me, the sign, and the crawlies.

I couldn’t believe it. I was outraged. It wasn’t fair!

So, what can we do about it? Do we just throw up our hands and surrender? I’m not ready to do that.

There are multitudes of products on the market as well as old remedies handed down for generations. I just saw a display in a grocery store today that held no fewer than 23 types of sprays, creams, mists, lotions, foggers, and bracelets for repelling the onslaught.

If you have a tried and true method, by all means, this is the year to use it.

Here’s what you must do. Put something on your shoes, socks, pant legs, arms, any part of you or your clothing that might brush up against grass, trees and leaf litter. I’ve heard it said that oak leaves are the worst for hiding the little nasties. Who knows?

One physician suggested a product that contains a certain chemical, but when my husband purchased it there was a cautionary note that it is not to be used on humans. Huh? My advice is to read all labels carefully and follow the directions. This may take a magnifying glass. I don’t know about you, but to me, print seems to be getting smaller all the time.

At any rate, protect yourself the best you can. Check yourself and/or have a buddy check you as soon as practicable. Check again before and after a shower. Wash and dry your clothes at the hottest temperatures possible for the fabric. Do not place your clothes in the hamper or even lay them on the floor after you think you may have been exposed. Put them directly into the washer, then immediately into the dryer when the cycle is finished.

Removal of the tick from your body can be tricky. If someone has a steady hand and the appropriate tool for doing so; it can be done by a lay person, but things being what they are, I’d let a professional do the removing so that it can be determined if it has been completely detached, then identified, and a proper course of treatment prescribed, if necessary. Interestingly enough, common thought among medical folks these days is that if the head of the tick cannot be removed, disgusting as it sounds, it’s better to let your body absorb it than to do unnecessary cutting to get it out.

Contrary to some provincial wisdom, you do not build up a resistance to ticks and our other BFFs--black flies and mosquitoes. These little nuisances are the ones who are building up barriers against us and to our repellents.

Carry your protection in your car at all times, along with the sunscreen and other items we’ve discussed previously.

This is serious business. Lyme disease can take a long time to develop and can be difficult to diagnose. If there is a chance that the tick might have carried the virus you can be treated early, easily and preventatively with antibiotics (even though that might not be an altogether pleasant experience) and you should be fine, but try to protect yourself beforehand, if you can.

You see--you’re itching right now. Aren’t you?

Submitted by Mary Kuykendall. Mary is a REALTOR in Bangor, Maine, and the Greater Bangor Association's 2011 REALTOR of the Year.  All opinions belong to the author.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

For Safety's Sake #9: Safety and the REALTOR Code of Ethics

One doesn’t necessarily pair ethics and safety in the same thought process, but bear with me.

We all take the required quadrennial ethics class, checking it off of our “To Do” list and assuring ourselves that not only do we not need it (although the CE credits are nice), but also that it’s a bother, because we--sterling folks that we are--would never commit an ethics violation.


Well, guess what? We do.

I’m not going to embarrass us all with a long list of the unintentional slips that we make in our attempts to put deals together. Most of us probably never realize, except in retrospect, and with a sigh of relief in not being called on it, that we’ve made a mistake. We’ve jeopardized client confidentiality. Haven’t done our due diligence, met deadlines or disclosed all we should have

Then there are the larger breaches, the ones committed intentionally.

It is a safety issue. Your career could very well depend on your knowledge of and adherence to our REALTOR Code of Ethics.

What is important enough for you to safeguard in this economic climate if not your job? These days when consumer confidence is at an all-time low? How important is it to you to get it right?

You don’t take chances when you cross a busy street. You don’t take it for granted that all the traffic is going to stop or that all drivers know that pedestrians have the right of way. You could be facing an out-of-state driver. Someone from away who’d say “We don’t do it like that where I come from”.

Be alert. Be the one who gets it right. The one whose own sense of fairness and personal ethics go safely hand in hand with and even beyond that of the National Association of REALTORS.

Don’t take a chance with your integrity.

Know your Code of Ethics. It is a beautiful document of which you should be extremely proud. Carry it with you. Give a copy of it to clients and customers.

If the Preamble doesn’t send a little shiver down your spine, you may very well be in the wrong profession.

And, for Pete’s sake, and yours as well, take the class more than once every four years. Four years may be too long to wait.

Submitted by Mary Kuykendall. Mary is a REALTOR in Bangor, Maine, and the Greater Bangor Association's 2011 REALTOR of the Year.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

For Safety's Sake #8: The Times, they are "A'Chain-Gin"

Of all the resolutions you’ve made in the last several weeks, I hope that taking stock of and rehabbing your personal safety equipment was among them.

You’re certainly correct in mentioning this year’s deviation from our usual Maine winter weather, but, hey, it’s only late January, folks. There’s bound to be some nastiness waiting in the wings, and I’m not just talking about the wings on that plow that took out your mailbox four times last winter.

I’m not going to do product reviews, as such, but do want to talk about some things that are out there that will make your life a little easier, and, of course, safer.

Winter treads on your car, well, that pretty much goes without saying. If you don’t have all-wheel drive, and even if you do, you might want to think back to the days when we all wrestled with tire chains. Not a pleasant memory, is it?

Not only have the times changed, the chains have changed too. If you’ve followed that last sentence, let’s continue.

First of all, remember that tire chains are intended for use on ice and snow only, not on dry pavement.

There are a variety of tire chain options. Be sure you choose those that are appropriate for both your vehicle and the conditions you’ll be facing.

If you need traction for a very short distance just to get out of a tight spot in a parking lot or driveway, or over a limited patch of snow or ice, you might consider what are called “emergency chains”. They are easily installed (be sure to follow instructions carefully) and inexpensive. Probably less than $20. Note that you must not exceed 5 mph when using these emergency chains.

There are several other types of tire chains on the market today.

Because of relatively low clearance on many cars, there is not much room in the wheel wells for thick chains. Improper size can cause damage to brake lines and impair steering.

While online prices may seem attractive, it’s probably best to stick with a local dealer who can give you advice and actually see your vehicle.

Keep in mind that the highway department’s salt will cause corrosion. As soon as possible after removing the chains, wash off the salty brine, dry them thoroughly, then spray on a drying agent such as WD-40, and store them in a bag or the case they came in, preferably not plastic. This will protect them and keep other items in your vehicle safe.

Here’s what we’ve got:

Conventional link chains. Least expensive. Most difficult to install. Very effective. Must lay the chains out on the ground and drive over them, then “hug the tire” and reach around to the back to fasten them. Messy and not much fun. Cost for these is about $30-50 a pair. Have a tarp and gloves ready for this chore.

Diamond-pattern link chains. These are a bit easier to install, offer the greatest traction, but are fairly pricey at around $75-150 a pair.

Steel cable. Not link chains. Thinner and easier yet to install. Dealers claim they do not offer as much traction as the others. Cost is $30-75 a pair.

It’s your choice.

Keep some tube sand or kitty litter in your car for weight and traction and for chucking a few scoopfuls under those tires when you need extra help.

Windshield washer fluid should be checked regularly and topped off, if needed. These sloppy, slushy, salty, semi-frozen roads use up a lot of it. Don’t forget to check your headlights and taillights frequently and clean them off to increase your visibility. If you don’t have anything else on hand to do it with, grab a handful of snow. It will do in a pinch.

Pull those worn wiper blades off and replace them, and don’t forget to tip them out while you’re inside if winter precipitation is expected. It’s easier and faster to clean a windshield that doesn’t have wipers frozen to it.

Once you’ve gotten where you’re going, navigating over ice or snow to get to the house is your next concern.

You probably carry some sort of traction devices for your feet other than boots. You do have boots in the car, don’t you?

Ranging in price from around $4 to $50, what you fasten onto your shoes or boots can have many names and configurations. There are ice cleats and other products made under names such as Spike & Coil, Due North, Stabilicers, Yaktrax, and Get-a-Grip.

These can save you time and the unpleasant repercussions of a nasty fall. If you are feeling particularly generous, carry some extra ones for your clients.

A word of caution: Remember to remove them when you get inside. Some, not all, of them declare themselves to be safe for wearing inside, saying they won’t damage floors. Don’t do it. Take them off. Roll them up, stick them in your pocket or set them by the door, but TAKE THEM OFF. It’s not the floors I’m worried about so much. Just last week I was in the waiting room in a local hospital when a woman came in for an outpatient procedure, stepped off the doormat onto the tile floor by the reception desk and did a split Cathy Rigby would have envied. I know I’ve dated myself with that reference, but, suffice it to say, it was painful to watch and, I’m sure, much more painful to endure. That colonoscopy suddenly became the least of her concerns.

While your body heat creates a melted cushion for the Yaktrax (or whichever brand of these you use) to grab onto, there is no such effect once you’re inside and on a tile or wood floor.

If you routinely show foreclosed or unplowed properties and find yourself faced with an expanse of snow and ice to traverse between you and the door you’d better be prepared with some cross country skis, snowshoes, or, at the very least, some ski poles.

You also don’t know what’s under that snow; so be extra careful and have something, (if nothing else, a long-handled ice scraper) to probe the depths for hazards before you step.

Of course, you carry a snow shovel in your vehicle.

For good measure, throw some of those hand and foot warmers in your toolbox, along with extra gloves and socks, and, of course, don’t forget the candy canes!

Stay warm and safe.

Submitted by Mary Kuykendall. Mary is a REALTOR in Bangor and the Greater Bangor Association's 2011 REALTOR of the Year. (Credit: Picture of Tidy Cats cat litter)

Monday, December 12, 2011

For Safety's Sake #7: Safe Showings in the Holiday Season

The “safety” this month deals mostly with ensuring that your relationships with your sellers and buyers are safe.

As you are hanging tinsel and spinning dreidels, munching cookies, humming carols and lighting candles keep in mind the extra precautions with the intangibles that should be taken in this festive holiday season.

Your sellers have entrusted you with the marketing of their home. This is a precious thing. It means a great deal to them, and they have many emotional as well as monetary attachments to it.

The holidays are particularly stressful times as all the thoughts of good times and sweet memories of days gone by are flooding back coupled with the mixed emotions concerning the future and the hopes that buyers will love and appreciate the home as much as the present owners have. It is a difficult time. Please bear with your sellers.

Many homeowners suspend showings during the holidays for just this reason. It might not be a bad idea.

If they insist that they’re ok with continuing to show, fine. Don’t ever let them think you suggested it because you haven’t finished your shopping or you want to sneak away to Aruba for a week.

If you do find yourself showing property, remember that in houses, as in relationships, decorations may be covering up flaws and that the aroma from a freshly-baked plate of gingersnaps is not a satisfying remedy for mold in the basement.

Watch out for icy sidewalks, blocked entrances, and unexpected delays. Families which have not suspended showings during the holidays may need some special handling during this time.

They will need to be comforted and reassured that their privacy and possessions are being safeguarded. Advise them accordingly.

Council them, when scheduling a showing, to keep money, jewelry, and expensive gifts out of sight. This is probably not the time for an open house either.

Make sure they keep track of gifts, wrapped and unwrapped, that are under the tree or elsewhere. It’s easy to forget that new Kindle Fire that Uncle Bob sent, and that the sapphire ring hasn’t been added to the insurance policy yet. Have them secure packages when they return from shopping and encourage them to keep a list of items purchased. With six showings in one weekend in late December, it doesn’t do to vaguely recall in March that Cousin Sylvia send Larry a set of antique fishing lures. Didn’t she?

Added precautions should be in place when your sellers attend holiday activities and services away from the home. There’s that FOR SALE sign out front, and extra presents + extra money + extra busy people=less attention to security.

Your sellers will have hectic schedules, many visitors, and unplanned interruptions to juggle along with your arriving with a client who is on vacation from Memphis and who thought this would be a good time to look for property in the northeast.

“It’s so picturesque!”
“A real New England Christmas!”

It may very well be. Certainly not a more quaint time could be found. But try to take care to see that everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

If a property is empty, see that it is plowed out and winterized, or that is has a carefully monitored heating plan.

Do your part.

Try to see that furnaces and fireplaces and chimneys have been cleaned and serviced. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in place. Firewood, kindling and other combustibles stored safely.

Encourage your sellers to check all electric appliances and decorative lights for signs of wear and to use them according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Snow and ice removal, lighted entryways and a minimum of unidentified objects hidden under the snow will go a long way towards a happy buyer and a successful sale.

Stay warm and safe.

You can go to Aruba in February once you’ve closed the deal.

Submitted by Mary Kuykendall. Mary is a REALTOR in Bangor and the Greater Bangor Association's 2011 REALTOR of the Year.

Monday, October 24, 2011

For Safety's Sake #6: Was that you I saw ... ?

We’re all trying very hard to keep up with the times and sustain our livelihood in these difficult days.

Technology is moving far faster than my social practices, at least, can adapt.

I’d like to quote from a recent article by Walter Kirn in the New York Times.

“In George Orwell’s 1984, the great mistake was to emphasize the villainy of society’s masters while playing down the mischief of the masses. As the internet proves every day, it isn’t the stern and monolithic Big Brother that we have to reckon with as we go about our daily lives, it’s a vast cohort of prankish Little Brothers equipped with devices Orwell never dreamed of and who are loyal to no organized authority. The invasion of privacy, of other’s privacy but also our own, as we turn our lenses on ourselves in the quest for attention by any means has been democratized…Information flows in all directions and does as it pleases, serving no master.”

Social and business networking has certainly changed in the last few years.

What used to take place among four or five people at a wine and cheese get-together is now seen instantly by hundreds, thousands before we can wipe the chardonnay off our chins or take back that unfortunate remark about the “buyer from Hell” we’re working with.

The worst thing is: We’re doing it to ourselves and with little or no thought of the consequences, it seems.

How are these new, instantaneous technologies affecting the way we do business?

Do you have separate accounts for business and personal use? Many of you don’t.

I see your kids’ soccer game scores, complete with photos of the young athletes, right above your showing schedule. What are you telling people? Do you honestly believe that everyone who follows you on Twitter or Facebook wishes you well? Is there no one who might make note that your Mercedes was just ransomed out of the shop so that now you can show those properties on Saturday afternoon?

How do you decide whom to “friend”? Who do those “friends” re-post your glad tidings to?

It is a dangerous development and one that is just beginning to be evaluated. In my information systems classes in grad school one of the first things I learned was that any new technology will be adopted first by the criminal element and put to use.

A lot of young people, especially, have absolutely no idea of the potential consequences of putting their lives out there for everyone to see.

I heard a comment over dinner in Atlanta recently that soon blackmail will be a thing of the past, the speaker said, because we will have divulged everything about ourselves online for the world to see.

Things are moving fast. Take time to think before you post. Be careful!

Submitted by Mary Kuykendall. Mary is a REALTOR in Bangor and the Greater Bangor Association's 2011 REALTOR of the Year

Friday, September 16, 2011

For Safety's Sake #5: September Safety

September is REALTOR Safety Month; bringing with it the distressing news that violence in our profession is on the increase. Fifty-four percent of REALTORS nationwide report having a safety concern within the last 12 months.

This isn’t to say that we all are in danger or even that half of us are in danger, merely that we need to ratchet up our awareness of both environmental and inter-personal safety issues.

Fall is the time to think about putting some hunter orange items in your car. Vests, hats, bandanas. Enough for you, your clients and their pets. Time, also, to check your supply of lock de-icer, flashlights, batteries, and the location of your extra keys. If you’ve recently gotten a new mobile device, phone, etc., make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with it. It doesn’t do much good to be in a tense situation only to find yourself desperately swearing at your phone.

Those are the essentials.

Here is a miscellany of cautions and advice that I have heard in the last two days. All of these have put REALTORS in peril:

* Do not put your home phone number on your business cards!
* Lock your doors immediately upon getting into your car.
* Never let your gas tank get lower than ¼ full.
* Keep your vehicle well-maintained.
* Be aware of road rage and its implications.
* If you can at all afford one, get a GPS (and, yes, buy the updates) for your vehicle.
* Allow your eyes to adjust when going from a blindingly bright snow-covered landscape into a house.

Some more thoughts on foreclosures: A few years back, in what is now being referred to more and more as “the good times” of real estate, there would be one, possibly two agents in your office who handled a foreclosure--once in a while. These days you’d be hard pressed to find one or two people in your office who do not have a foreclosure among their listings.

I mentioned in an earlier blog a couple of things to be aware of in showing these properties. Here are a few more:

When setting up a showing ask if there are any safety issues that might not be mentioned on the disclosures, and do make doubly sure that when you do the disclosures for your own listings, that you make it clear what possible hazards might exist in them.

When showing or listing foreclosures watch out for tall grass, broken steps, missing flooring, mold, standing water, trash, rodents and other living (and dead) things, faulty wiring, missing light bulbs (almost goes without saying, that’s why you should carry at least one light bulb with you), freezing temperatures (inside and out), locks that refuse to work, inaccessible walkways, loose banisters, slippery floors, etc. Don’t ever rush into a foreclosed property. Be cautious. Remember, too, that conditions could have changed since the last time you were there; so don’t assume anything.

I know you have more instances of curious discoveries and experiences, and I’d love it if you’d share them with us here on the blog, and I also know that these conditions could exist in regular listings as well, but they’re far more prevalent in foreclosures.

Sorry there wasn’t more humor in this posting. Maybe next month. Halloween is coming up, you know.

Be careful!

Submitted by Mary Kuykendall. Mary is a REALTOR in Bangor and the Greater Bangor Association's 2011 REALTOR of the Year.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

For Safety's Sake #4: Show and Tell

Well, that’s what we do, isn’t it? We show houses, and we tell prospective buyers about them.

What precautions should we take to see that it is a safe and productive showing?

If at all possible, and I know that many times it is not, drive by the property in advance of the showing to get a feeling of the neighborhood, see who’s around. Check out your choices of parking spots.

Park your vehicle facing out and in a position where you cannot be blocked.

Be sure you have: Your car keys, your phone, the showing folder, and a flashlight if there’s even a possibility you may need it. You do not want to be running back to the car for something and leaving people alone and unattended inside the house. Do not take your purse or wallet with you. Lock these in the car. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, do not wear lots of obviously expensive jewelry or carry large amounts of cash with you. Leave these at the office or at home. Fortunately, I guess, for most of us, this isn’t an issue.

When you unlock the door, step aside and allow the buyer to proceed into the house in front of you.

Do not allow the buyers to wander around and explore areas of the property where you cannot keep track of them. Explain, if asked, that for liability purposes, you must keep everyone together.

Be alert for curious questions concerning when the owners will be home, how often the property has been shown, and for anything you feel is of a personal, rather than of a business nature.

Make note of any issues with the house that the listing broker might need to be advised of such as broken windows or locks, frozen pipes, leaks, signs of recent occupancy in an otherwise empty house, or anything out of the ordinary that was not noted either on the disclosures or in conversation when the showing was scheduled.

Use caution when opening doors or windows. I suffered four broken fingers while demonstrating the convenience of tilt-out windows in a rural home a couple of years ago necessitating an agonizing 35 mile drive to the hospital in Bangor. There was a missing catch that could not be seen (to be missing), and its absence was probably unknown to both the seller and the listing broker. Be careful in assuming everything works properly just because it’s new!

Be aware that pets, which may be quite harmless in most situations, can be startled by “intruders” or become very territorial when you burst into their domain. Snakes in the basement aquarium may be beloved by their owner, but can give the unwary buyer quite a start when confronted unprepared.

To those who show foreclosed and abandoned property or property that has been unoccupied for some time, I advise special cautions.

Things will be broken, missing, frozen, unfinished, abused and downright scary.

Wear good shoes, stay alert and, as Elmer Fudd advises, “Be vewy, vewy careful.”

Take care.

Mary Kuykendall is a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker Heritage Real Estate in Bangor; and the 2011 Greater Bangor Association's REALTOR of the Year

Saturday, August 6, 2011

In Memory: REALTOR Wayne Syphers

Maine REALTOR Wayne Syphers passed away on July 16, 2011. Wayne was a beloved part of the REALTOR family: the Greater Portland Board of REALTORS (GPBR) 2011 REALTOR of the Year, past GPBR president, past MAR Legislative Chairman and member of our Board of Directors. He was a wonderful man and volunteer leader.

In tribute, here are thoughts from GPBR AE Kelley Craig: "I feel so fortunate that I was able to work with Wayne Syphers. His quiet competence and unyielding enthusiasm were matched only by his sincerity and level of commitment. He was one of the warmest people I’ve ever met. Wayne, the pleasure was all ours."

And this poem written by MAR President Mike LePage, originally for Wayne's REALTOR of the Year celebration:

"Wayne was 'the Man' as my son would say
As he understood life in a special way
Wayne always put others first indeed
Be it client, REALTOR or a friend in need.

He did it so quietly but I know you heard
'How are YOU doing' he’d ask with kind thoughtful words
Yeah how you doing as he’d just gone through something rough
Yes our Wayne Syphers was . . . very very tough

Tough of spirit oh yes no matter how grim
but tough with words? no that’s wasn’t him
He’d listen he’d think he’d solve til everyone would win.

We learn in the business by watching others perform
And Wayne’s performance was way above the norm
From his contributions to Windham and the retroactive moratorium defeat
To Chairing the Legislative Committee his actions are hard to beat.

Wayne cared about this business for you and for me
And he gave of his time so readily
Many are invited to serve – some say yes, some say no
But with Wayne he was always revved up to go.

So on behalf of your clients, colleagues and friends
We want to say you are missed but your impact will never end.
Cause Wayne, You were the Man there’s no doubt
You showed so well what life is all about."

Ah Wayne, we'll miss you.

Pictured: Wayne Syphers with Senator Olympia Snowe

Saturday, July 23, 2011

For Safety's Sake #3: What do you carry in your car's toolbox and emergency kit?

As promised, we’re now going to check to see what you carry in your car’s toolbox and emergency kit.

Keep in mind that it is now, theoretically, summer; so I’m guessing you’ve taken out the Yak-Trax, lock de-icer, and packages of hand and toe warmers. You have, haven’t you?

In the years I’ve been conducting sessions on Rural REALTOR Safety, I have amassed a list of some 153 items that we carry in our cars. The possible usefulness of a number of them has had to be explained to me, but I’m always willing to learn.

I understand and totally endorse the duct tape and the pry bar, the rope, hammer, various sizes of screwdrivers, tire gauge, nail file, and bug spray, and I completely agree that if you think you might need it, you’re justified in packing it along.

My personal list runs to about 65 items, and in addition to my regular toolbox, fills a plastic bin about the size of three laptops stacked on top of each other. This leaves plenty of room in your trunk for those signs and riders, lockboxes, measuring wheels, traction salt, and stuff you picked up at the yard sale on the way back from your last showing.

Of course I carry a small first aid kit containing: Antiseptic spray or wipes, adhesive bandages, scissors, tweezers, elastic bandage, tape, hand sanitizer, gauze, After-bite or its equivalent, and a cloth which can be used as a sling.

In addition, I take along any prescription medicines I currently need plus some OTC pain relievers and eye drops. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Now check your clothing situation. Hat, extra socks, extra underwear (well, you never know, do you?) and barn boots. Hunter orange plastic vests for you and your clients as well as a couple of hunter orange bandanas for their dog(s). They will love you for thinking of that.

A bit of food. Not for snacking! For emergencies only. That little empty corner of your tummy after lunch does not constitute “an emergency”. Granola bars are probably the best and have a decent shelf life. Hard candy is good too, and, yes, if you haven’t already heard the “Legend of Mary’s Candy Canes”, it’s true. Check with me in person sometime on that one. Seriously, every year or so we hear of someone who has gone off the road in a storm and survived for six days on some fuzzy, hard candy they found under the passenger seat.

Then you’ve got water, blanket, whistle, flashlight and extra batteries, matches, a bit of extra cash stashed somewhere other than on your person, latex or rubber gloves, light bulb, umbrella, toilet paper, tissues, towel, wash cloth, liquid soap, garbage bag, small plastic bags, and a shovel.

You can improvise with many of these items to fill other needs, i.e. water and tissues can be used to clean headlights; plastic bags can be used as gloves; candy canes can be used… oh, yes, we were going to talk about that later.

The basic thing to remember is that preparation takes but a little time and thought but will pay off, big-time, if you find yourself in a tricky situation. Tossing in those extra batteries for the flashlight will not only make your search for the breaker box less frightening, but will get you more points for professionalism with your clients, and, possibly move you safely closer to a sale.

That is what this is all about, isn’t it?

Mary Kuykendall is a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker Heritage Real Estate in Bangor; and the 2011 Greater Bangor Association's REALTOR of the Year

Friday, June 24, 2011

For Safety's Sake #2: Does anyone know where you're going?

So you just got a call to show that property out on Old County Road: the empty one with the nearest neighbor ¾ mile distant. Practically salivating at the thought of finally unloading it, you grab a showing folder, jump in the car and start to head out there, hoping to make it before dark. Fellow said he had to see it today, didn’t he? Well, let’s get cracking!

Un-uh. No. Get out of the car. I’m telling you not to do it.

First of all, how many safety rules are you violating here? Before you’ve even left the office?

Think about it.
• Did you ask him to come into the office before you met him at the property? No.
• Did you tell anyone in the office where you were going and/or fill out an agent itinerary sheet? No.
• Did you ask anyone to go along with you? No.
• Did you suggest another day when there was more daylight left might be a better idea for viewing the property? No.
• Has greed gotten the better of your judgment? Yes.

Alright, should you ever meet someone at an empty property? Someone who just called your office? No. Have we all done it? Of course.

My point is obvious, but possibly life-saving. Try not to do that. Really try.

Make sure you sign out with details of where you’re going, who you’re meeting, what time you’re meeting them, etc. Leave this information with someone dependable at your office.

At the very least, tell someone where you're going and give them all the information you can about the person you're meeting. Ask them to call you in 45 minutes and agree on a signal word or phrase to let them know if you're in need of help. It would be great if your office had a code word which you could use when calling for help. Our office has a code which, provided the agent has access to a phone, tells whoever answers, regardless if it's the DB or the FedEx man, that there is a REALTOR in need of help.

Better still, take someone from the office with you. Grab someone who’s not too busy to ride along. There will always be someone who’ll be glad to do it for you, because you will return the favor someday.

Take cues from the caller. Why does he have to see it today? Why did he call so late in the day?

You have the advantage while you're still in the office and calling the shots. You don't have to go out there. Say you'll be happy to show it to him in the morning. Be sure to cover all your bases as far as your safety goes. Suggest, strongly, that he come to your office first. Tell him it's your policy. Your office policy, company policy, something to make it sound firm and official. Line someone up to accompany you. Pay attention to your gut feelings too. If more red flags than normal pop up, don't do it.

Granted, in Maine, most of the dangers to REALTORS come from environmental issues and equipment failures, but problems with people who do not wish you well are on the increase, and no commission is worth it.

Take care.

Mary Kuykendall is a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker Heritage Real Estate in Bangor; and the 2011 Greater Bangor Association REALTOR of the Year

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Maine Real Estate: It's about Quality of Life Value

A Member Perspective:

In the crazy days of the real estate bubble it became all about the retail value of real estate: quick turn arounds - grab it while you can - it's got no place to go but up - and less about the individuals. No doubt, real estate has a retail value but it is not the best value, I believe.

The real value of real estate is the Quality of Life value.

Where do you want to live; where do you want your children to grow up; are you happy when you drive up to the house after a long day's work? Those values should be the ones we should never forget, and yet it happens every time there is a Seller's Market. Buyers get in a frenzy and purchase just about anything and they expect prices to go up.

People forget that we had another bubble that burst in the early 90's. By mid 90's many believed owners lost about 20% of their value if they purchased in the late 80's - only if they sold. By the late 90's they were either breaking even or actually making money on their home investment. All the while, they were enjoying the quality of life generated by their homes - retail value aside.

I doubt that concentrating on Quality of Life issues would have stopped the latest bubble. However, it would have set the right expectations that the year to year change in retail value is less important than living in and enjoying their homes.

So, let's learn for the last time - single family housing should be about Quality of Life and not necessarily the retail value at any given time.

Submitted by Earl Black (Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Town & Country, Bangor. Earl is also a past president of the Maine Association of REALTORS.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

For Safety's Sake: Clean Out Your Car

This is the first in a series of safety blog posts ...

Well, summer is upon us. At least, that’s what the calendar says, and that means changing over those safety items you carry in your car to the warm weather collection.

If you’re like me, you haven’t had to use much from your tool and emergency supply box the last six months or so apart from the screwdriver, hand sanitizer, jumper cables, and extra gloves, so it’s time to drag that thing out, dust the road salt off of it and check to see what’s inside.

First of all, empty it out. Throw out the crumbled, half-eaten granola bar and the highlighters that dried up last July. Take out, launder, and replace the collection of rags and towels you use to clean off headlights and boots, and dispose of the wrappers from the chocolate bars that you'd like to forget you ate anyway.

Then the rusty “S” hooks from that sign on the land that never sold, the parking ticket, the (well, maybe don’t throw out the parking ticket, better pay that with a note of apology), the orphan keys, etc. -- put all these aside for later action.

Now clean it out. Really, I mean it. Clean it. Soap and water. Dry it. Now, let’s start over.

Put your tools back in. Check to see that they’re all clean and in working order. I know, what’s to check about a screwdriver? See that they aren't nicked or bent or that the Phillips isn't all smooshed from the time(s) you were determined to make it fit into the wrong size or type of screw. Make sure you have several sizes, Phillips and slotted. Spray all of these tools with a rust preventative and let them dry before returning them to the toolbox.

We’ll talk later about what else you should carry, year-round, in your vehicle, but are now concentrating on the warm weather things.

Top Five: Sunscreen, bug repellent, AfterBite or its equivalent, water, charged cell phone.

Always carry extra car keys ON YOUR PERSON. It doesn't do any good to have extra keys if they're locked inside the car.

Remember, being prepared for emergencies for yourself as well as in consideration of your customer/clients is not only good safety sense, it's good business.

Other than laundering the towels, this activity should take you no more than a half hour. Not a bad investment For Safety's Sake.

More in a few days.

Written by REALTOR Mary Kuykendall, Coldwell Banker American Heritage Real Estate in Bangor; who is also the 2011 Greater Bangor Association REALTOR of the Year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to go 200 MPH on a Motorcycle (and how that relates to real estate)

By REALTOR Dave Sleeper: This is a lesson in goal setting. Going 200 MPH on a motorcycle as a goal is no different than any other goal you might set in life, assuming it is physically possible to achieve the goal.

You start by setting the goal. The goal is set at a level that is beyond anything you have done before that is even close. For example, if you are making $20,000 a year and set a goal to make $100,000 a year, that is extreme.

Also, don't set goals that are totally impossible. For example don't set a goal to swim 100 yards through a shark infested tank. You might get eaten! Set goals that are within reach, and that will either enhance life for you and your family or be a great addition to your resume.

This is how I set my motorcycle goal. First, I had an idea, in February 2010. We all have ideas every day about a myriad of things. Most of these ideas come and go just as fast. Some are worthy of writing down and following up. For example, a real estate salesperson could come up with an idea for increasing sales through some new activity ... i.e., calling customers and clients on a regular basis, using a new form of advertising, or hiring an assistant.

I had an idea: I am going to try to go 200MPH on a motorcycle. Simple, but how? First, I had to convince myself that it was possible. I did this with research on the Internet and the media. I discovered that speed runs were done at venues throughout the country as organized events. Therefore, one part of the plan was to find an event, as opposed to going 200 MPH on I95. I found that venue - I decided to enter the
Loring Timing Association speed run on August 1, 2010.

The next feat was to figure out what kind of motorcycle would go as fast as I wanted to go. That was relatively easy. There is plenty of information on the web that helped me.

Now it was time to determine the cost/benefit ratio. A new motorcycle was about $12,000, plus the cost of add-ons and equipment to allow me to go that fast. I decided it seemed like a reasonable return. Add to that the cost of getting to the event and staying for a weekend; it seemed ok.

Then, I enlisted the help of experts. I found people on Facebook who had done this. I found other racers and mechanics who knew the details of how to set up the motorcycle to do what I wanted. The goal was started in February and would come to a conclusion in August. So, I set a timeline to get everything accomplished along the way. Each day was a learning experience as new things were learned, which led to altering course slightly to get to the final setup.

I also had to concern myself with clothing to wear. There are rules for clothing and the bike setup that had to be strictly observed. So, I got protective clothing that met the requirements. I rode the motorcycle almost 2000 miles in a couple of months to break it in and to get familiar with the bike. What really was super about this was that the bike that I chose fit perfectly!

Confidence had to be achieved before I did the run! To gain confidence, I went on the web and found videos of people doing this sport. Watching those over and over again allowed me to get the feel of what I was about to do. Conversations with other high speed racers allowed me to further learn tips on the proper methods to help gain knowledge and confidence.

Came the weekend of the event, and away we went! Bike in the trailer, wife by my side and bike mechanic along too. All this proved to be valuable. The mechanic allowed us to make some critical last minute changes. Having a team cheering was valuable to me to continue to build my confidence.

As in all goals, you get to build up to it, and so it was at the rally. First I had to prove I could go 125 MPH; then 150 MPH; and the 175 MPH. I did these with some minor problems. I found that over 150 MPH the visibility becomes limited. This then, caused me to change my glasses so that they would not fly off my head, even under a full face helmet. The 6th and final run that I did with everything I had learned over the 5 month period
was 180.187 MPH.

I discovered that even with all my planning and expense, I was not going to go 200 MPH. I had reached my limit at just over 180. However, the venture was a complete success! Had I not set the goal, I would never have gone 180 MPH. I never considered missing a goal is a bad thing. You set the goal, do all the things to achieve the goal, then go for the goal.

Can I achieve 200 MPH on a motorcycle? Of course! Reset the goal, plan and organize and go for it again! Anything can be done by anyone who has the real desire to achieve a goal that is worthwhile.

Dave Sleeper is the Owner/Designated Broker of Realty of Maine in Bangor, Maine

Monday, June 7, 2010

Please Vote on June 8: Yes on Question 1

A message from MAR Counsel Linda Gifford. Here is our rationale. Please vote.