Friday, February 29, 2008

REALTOR loses everything in fire

Androscoggin Valley Board President Georgia Chomas sent this message to membership today:

"One of our REALTOR members, Dennis Dufour of CENTURY 21 Advantage in Lewiston, lost his home in Mechanic Falls to a fire this week. Dennis, his wife Robin and their 5 children lost everything in the fire. Dennis asked me to remind everyone to check their homeowners or renters insurance and determine if their coverage is adequate especially if you have refinanced in the last 5 years as he had done. He also stressed the importance of doing an inventory for each room with pictures. It goes without saying that this information should be kept off site. Dennis is planning to rebuild.

A trust account for cash donations has been set up as follows: Rainbow Federal Credit Union, 391 Main Street, Lewiston, ME 04240. Checks need to be made payable to the Dennis and Robin Dufour Family Fund. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated by the family. The youngest children are daughters aged 7 and 12. Thank you for your consideration."

Picture from WBLZ2 site

It's TIME to get serious ...

Time Magazine recently featured a story "Ignore the Headlines" that tells the message: "But let's say you are emotionally ready to be a homeowner. You have good credit, plan to stay put for five years and have been waiting for the perfect entry point. It's time to get serious--before an inevitable rise in interest rates wipes out your advantage. "

NAR President Dick Gaylord gives his thoughts about the article on the NAR President's blog.

We're listening

MAR and MREIS are listening ... Two Designated Broker and Manager Town Hall Forums were held in Portland and Bangor this week. Purpose: to review new programs before implementation, get feedback, and to allow time for companies and members to prepare for impact. Five Town Hall Forums for the general membership are being scheduled in March. No cost to attend. Ensure two-way communication. Participate!

Pictured: Ellis Cohn (Camden), Alan Peoples (South Portland), Richard Littlefield (Ogunquit)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Media Coverage - Habitat Build

A Village Soup article (2/18) about the MAR Habitat Build in Mobile starts with this ....

"As Pete Wood boarded a plane bound for Alabama, he remembered the support Maine received from people all over the country during the ice storm that blew through the state 10 years ago. 'That's what I thought about on the way down there,' said Wood, a real estate agent with Town & Country Realtors in Belfast. It's so good to be able to give back.' "

Whining is not an option

Best-selling marketing author and blogger Seth Godin posted this advice for real estate agents today:

"If you’re not going to be able to make a living ... by selling houses the way everyone else does, by using the never-ending rise in real estate prices to make sales, then what are you going to do? Whining is not an option. In fact, I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for you. Without a frenzy, without short-term competition, you can actually build assets that will pay off for the long run. I have two in mind ... "

Note: Picture of Seth Godin from NAR Convention in Las Vegas.

Video Message from NAR President Dick Gaylord

NAR is now delivering video messages from NAR President Dick Gaylord. Click here to watch. Think about how you might be able to integrate video into your own communications, such as video messages to your customer base?

Note: Picture is NAR President Dick Gaylord with 2006 MAR President Gail Rizzo at NAR's recent Policy meetings

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Decision making and influencing decisions

MAR's bylaws allow decision-making by technology - like this conference call equipment which facilitates some calling in with others physically present at a meeting. Certain committees, like legislative, meet frequently and may not have more than an hour of needed deliberations.

Most of this week's hour was around a proposal in the Maine Legislature to require septic system inspections on all coastal properties at the time of transfer. There are already septic system requirements and laws for all properties, but time of transfer laws increases transactional costs. And does nothing to address every other property not for sale. MAR continues to try to get the Legislature to connect the impact of added costs and burdens with home sales to slowing and stopping sales. The economy depends on a good real estate market.

MAR Life Member Chris Cokinis

At the Coastal Mountain Council of the Mid-Coast Board's recent membership meeting, REALTOR Chris Cokinis (Camden Real Estate, Camden) was recognized for recent achieving Life Member status in MAR. Life Membership is provided with 30 years as a REALTOR plus notable contributions to real estate association and industry, and local community service. Council President Annie Kassler (pictured) chaired the membership meeting. Updates given about education, fundraising, community service, and MAR; and local membership relayed support for coordinated local open house tours.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Piece of Maine

REALTOR Mary Kuykendall includes this on her website:

"I fell in love with Maine before I’d ever been here. It was an idea - a feeling - a subtle call that brought me here for the first time in 1993.

It was like coming home to a place I’d never been.

I immediately began rearranging my life so that I could make a permanent move.

From an icy dip in Linekin Bay on January 1, 2000, to celebrate the Millennium, to a gallery tour hosted by Bangor artists, a Saturday night bean supper in front of a crackling fire at a Hampden meeting hall, a lazy afternoon spent sunning on a rock waiting for another seal to surface, to filling 'just one more pail' with tiny, wild blueberries, my love affair with Maine continues.

Come home to Maine. We've saved a place for you."

Note: Mary Kuykendall is president of the Bangor Board of REALTORS

Ignoring it can hurt your business ...

Last week we clearly saw how participating in the political process can have a direct impact on Maine's homeowners. FHA increases supported by the REALTOR organziation and President Bush got the support needed in Congress to be a reality. Some of you responded. But not all. Which means we need to do a better job explaining. Because many market issues (stimulus or slow-downs) are decided by elected officials.

A reason sometimes given for not giving to RPAC (REALTORS Political Action Committee) or for not answering a legislative Call to Action is "I hate politics". Even it you hate it, you can't hate it. Because decisions made by Congress, legislators and regulators are going to impact whether or not people can buy homes, stay in their homes, or be faced with additional taxes or regulations that will price them out of home ownership. The same is true with commercial real estate and land.

Contributing to a PAC can help elect legislators and Congresspeople who "get" the importance of real estate to Maine's economy and Maine citizens; and answering a Call to Action can help move the economy or make an important change to the industry and small business people. Like health insurance.

If you care about your business, you can't hate politics. Political issues are there, and they can hurt you much more by ignoring them than by participating. If real estate is your profession, then politics is your business.

Give to RPAC. Answer Calls to Action.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

More Media Coverage - Habitat Build

A Bangor Daily News article about the MAR Habitat Build, quotes Mary Kuykendall and JoAnn Higgins.

"Charity work is more rewarding when you physically take part in a project, Kuykendall said. While it was refreshing to help a family, the destruction of Hurricane Katrina is everywhere. There is no rubble cluttering the roadsides and most of the destroyed homes have been cleared away, but there is emptiness ... ‘The devastation,’ as they call it, is still very apparent ... There are driveways going off from the roads, but they lead to nothing."

A Village Soup article (1/29) quotes Marsha Steinglass, "In the end, all this work, camaraderie, sunshine and joy of life will bring a home to Natasha and her daughter ... The work of Habitat for Humanity, the Realtors on this build and the people of Maine who helped to make this trip happen all contributed to make this world a better place, a world where people care, give and act on behalf of one another."

Note: Click the Flickr icon on the blog to see 705 pictures from the Build.

In Memory: REALTOR Barbara Shields

Barbara Shields passed away January 25, 2008. She was a REALTOR for over 30 years in the Lewiston/Auburn area when she retired in 2004. Awarded Life Membership in MAR for decades of service to the REALTOR association, real estate industry, and her community, Barbara's contributions included RVP of MAR, 3 times president of the Androscoggin Valley Board of REALTORS, twice local REALTOR of the Year, plus many state/local committees. She was a beloved and dependable volunteer who genuinely cared about the issues and people she worked with.

Barbara suggested to the then-pregnant CEO of MAR that she put aside "special wrapping paper" for each child (or grandchild) so they can find their own gifts without needing tags.

Her early years in real estate included the former ERA McCann Realty in Lewiston and Mark Stimson in Auburn. She was a long time member of Central Maine Medical Center Women’s Hospital Assn. and ran their local gift shop; and served 20 years on the Auburn Community Development Committee.

NAR and MAR past president Sharon Millett (Coldwell Banker Millett Realty, Auburn), who worked with Barbara for many years relayed, "It's very sad for all of us who loved her."

In Memory: REALTOR Joe Jones

REALTOR Joe Jones (Jones Co., Bath) passed away February 4, 2008. He entered residential and commercial real estate in Maine in 2004, with nearly three decades of real estate experience in another state. We got to know Joe quickly, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that he made sure to get know to many brokers, his community and MAR staff quickly. From attending many meetings and education programs, to regular communication by phone/email, and even sending postcards to MAR while on vacation - Joe made sure he was in contact. He'll be remembered for his friendliness and work ethic.

Tony Donovan (Fishman Realty Group, Portland) who runs the Maine Commercial Association of REALTORS (MCAR) monthly commercial marketing sessions, relayed this: "MCAR member and Realtor Joe Jones passed away this week. Joe was a regular attendee of our sessions, a good source of information for the mid-coast area and in general a really great guy."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Discussing Maine's federal real estate issues

Sherry reports: Today in DC, Maine's Federal Political Coordinators (Gail Rizzo for Sen. Snowe, Sherry Gregory for Sen. Collins and JoAnn Higgins for Congressman Michaud) and our MAR President Patti Lawton headed to Capitol Hill via the Metro. It was a quiet day in DC as the taxi cab drivers were on strike from 7am to 7pm.

Gail & JoAnn went to meet Sen. Snowe's staff to discuss our issues including raising the limits for FHA loans, GSE reform, appraisal/mortgage reform, strong concerns for flood insurance, natural disaster insurance, the perennial banks in real estate, and small business health coverage. Patti & Sherry headed to meet with Senator Collins and her staff - Priscilla Hanley, her health advisor, Jennifer Capricola, her housing advisor, and Clark Irwin, who deals with banking issues. We were so engaged in our conversation that we didn't take MAR's requested blog photo!

It was nice to have unrushed open communication. Some of our counterparts across the country do not get such direct communication with their Member of Congress.

MAR CEO Cindy Butts spent the day with the NAR Officers and staff, including NAR President Elect Charles McMillan from Texas; who also confirmed his willingness to fly from a convention in Hawaii to Maine to speak at the MAR Convention this October.

Note: Sherry Gregory is a REALTOR in Winthrop and Chairman of MAR's public policy committee

Volunteering and Travel

From time to time dates for NAR meetings can overlap with weekends or holidays ... or the Super Bowl. This week includes the NAR Policy Meetings in DC where those appointed to serve as NAR political coordinators (acronym is FPC) to specific Members of Congress meet in DC to learn about and discuss federal housing policy issues. State Association Presidents and State Association Executives also attend to meet with the NAR Leadership Team and lobbyists to discuss implementation including grassroots efforts.

NAR set up big screens and funded a Super Bowl buffet for the game. Naturally those from Maine wore Patriots clothes on Sunday night .... others wore SUITS! A suit with a Patriots sticker on it just doesn't seem like the Super Bowl spirit.

Naturally we did not watch any game recaps today and the USA Today newspaper with its game headline got pushed aside.

Friday, February 1, 2008

How to find your lockbox key card

Attach it to your key chain.

As demonstrated by REALTOR Mike LePage (RE/MAX Heritage, Yarmouth) at MREIS Board of Directors meeting. Also pictured - Sharon Millett and Marc Chadbourne.

The local story isn't quite so bleak ...

These excerpts from a Bangor Daily News OpEd written by Jane Irving: "The national news is replete with stories about low consumer confidence and the subprime mortgage crisis. But the local story isn’t quite so bleak. Last week in "Bangor: Real estate trade ‘fairly stable’ despite dip" (BDN, Jan. 19), the Bangor Daily News correctly reported that the Bangor real estate market is showing evidence of good health in the face of the larger storm . Realtors Earl Black and Jon Dawson referred to stability and opportunity in the market. While I sit in my lender’s chair, I see the root of some of that stability.

As a local bank, we are experiencing consistent growth, and this is an important bellwether of our local economic conditions. Our mortgage lending team is meeting with business and home buyers alike at all hours of the day and night. From coffee before work to phone calls well after hours, Maine people are still looking for mortgages. Fortunately, banks are still very much able to lend, because of a significantly greater stability than many of the mortgage lenders who have had so much trouble this year.

Should Mainers be worried?

Bankers field calls from home buyers who find themselves stuck in "dry closings" because of mortgage lenders who have no money to lend. Though this causes great hardship and inconvenience to people all over the country, many people in Maine are finding that this does not mean that the loan they need is inaccessible.

There are still a variety of stable lending sources and innovative lending products that can help all types of buyers: first-time home buyers, experienced buyers and those looking to refinance.

Because Maine residents have access to stable financing, and we tend to be less susceptible to the swings of the market that are roiling places like Florida, real estate has the potential to be a bright spot in Maine’s economic health. Even as the speculative market continues to contract this year, buyers may find themselves well-positioned for sensible investments …

Despite daily reports of the tough situation around the country, the Maine market is holding its own. At our bank, we are not seeing major foreclosures, and we continue to help new customers with a variety of stable loans and services … "

Note: Jane Irving is a senior vice president at Bangor Savings Bank