Sunday, March 30, 2008

Coming up Roses ...

Among the floats in the next Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena (CA) will be a REALTOR float. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of NAR, and the role the organization has played for real estate - making it a "Great American Institution", the parade organizers approved the inclusion of a float. Announced by NAR President Dick Gaylord at today's NAR Association Executives Institute in Boston.

President Gaylord also thanked association executives for their dedication, hard work, being the glue that can hold the organization together, and commitment that ensures volunteers can make a difference. He also showed a preview of an 8-minute online video on "top 10 tips for boosting business" that will be emailed to the entire NAR membership in mid-April.

Association Execs Conference

Most of Maine's Association Executives are participating in NAR's Association Executives Institute, held this week in Boston. Over 1300 REALTOR association executives from across the country (and Internationally) participate in professional developments programs that includes 45 education courses, along with NAR and policy updates.

Pictured: Tammy LaPierre (Kennebec Valley), Beverlee Beers (Hancock-Washington), Marcia Bartol (Bangor), Nancy Lawson (Mid Coast), Cindy Butts (MAR) and Kelley Craig (Greater Portland). Not pictured: Tanya Sirois (MAR)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Able to buy the house of their dreams ....

This from an article in the Kennebec Journal (3/27/08):

"Thanks to a drop in prices, favorable interest rates and a glut of houses to pick from, the Hamels were able to buy the house of their dreams. Their offer was accepted a few weeks ago, and they will be moving in soon.

'We found a deal,' Wendy Hamel said.

For buyers who felt shut out by the booming housing market for most of this decade -- and who can still obtain loans in this time of tightening credit requirements -- the downturn in the economy has presented new opportunities.

That's one bright spot to be found in the slowdown. And despite the parade of bad news making headlines recently, there are others."

Monitoring, Negotiating, Amending, Stopping

This time of year things really heat up in the Legislature, especially as the budget process wraps up and bills need to be reported out of legislative committees. A huge amount of MAR time is spent monitoring bills we don't believe we need to be concerned about (but learned from history have a way of changing if don't actively watch them) and working on bills we know we're concerned about. Some bills require substantial negotiation to get language amended or removed - and that doesn't just happen by asking for it. Frequently research, documents and deep explanation are necessary. In addition, many regulatory agencies consider issues that impact real estate, and those require monitoring and sometimes action too.

MAR even briefly saw another suggestion by the Taxation Committe to remove the Mortgage Interest Deduction as part of "Tax Reform" this week. But looks like that's dead (again).

Today's MAR E-NEWS (our electronic membership newsletter) includes updates about advertising issues at the Maine Real Estate Commission, and legislative updates on lead paint registry, septic system inspection requirement, building codes, vernal pools, historic properties tax credits, protecting sellers when buyers don't pay future taxes, and statewide energy and building codes. Be sure to read it.

What happens in the legislature, at regulatory agencies and in Congress can impact you and your business.

On, Off, Up, Down

Even real estate association office buildings face heating systems and server issues. This entire week MAR has started the day with no heat. If we had a webcam you could have seen staff answering the phone with coats and hats on. There's currently a monitoring device to identify the problem. In addition, around 11 AM each day this week our email and Internet access stops working. Then up, then down, then up, then down .... Constant state of testing to see what can resolve it. If there's ever a time you don't hear from MAR within a few hours, please try again. Impossible to know what email may never arrive even when things ARE working correctly.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What over 1,200 REALTORS saw this week ...

Sherry Gregory reports: "A large crowd attended the presentation by MREIS at the Augusta Civic Center today. Terry Fitzpatrick our long time rep of MarketLinx (our MLS vendor) was on hand to walk us through some of the new features that our MLS is providing at no additional charge. Highlighted the ability to have us develop client pages, agent web sites, virtual tours of our properties, ListHub access and other items all available at the touch of one 'BIG Button'.

No longer will people need to agonize over computer design. Technology has caught up with the techno-challenged! Of course you can always still screw it up but there are tutorials on line so that you can replay at your speed of learning. Great information and new tools to wow your buyer and seller clients. If you haven't attended, be sure to watch for future learning opportunities."

Sherry Gregory (Homestead Realty, Winthrop) is a past president of MAR and current chairman of the MAR Foundation

Yes you can ... put on that new lockbox

Yes, it's been a winter of endless snow ... but we're hoping it's time to put on those new electronic lockboxes. Here's a picture of 3 cottages that MAR immediate past president E. Pat Foster is adding lockboxes to this weekend ... snowshoes and all .....

Need to take safety precautions ...

This week a man in Wisconsin was arrested for murdering a REALTOR at a showing of a vacant property. He had apparently never been to the office before and she met him alone. In a letter to members the Wisconsin REALTORS Association relayed, "Do not let your guard down - your safety is primary!"

Sadly, several murders in Maine during the past decade have been REALTOR members and daughters of REALTORS - a devastating reminder that violent crime can happen in small communities, safe communities, and as people do ordinary daily things. Please ensure your office has specific safety procedures, take safety courses, and talk with your children about date rape drugs being put in drinks (often used prior to assault). Here's a safety video and safety materials from NAR.

In Memory:

Amy St. Laurent - pictured (daughter of REALTOR Diane Jenkins)
Ashley Ouellette - pictured (daughter of REALTORS Lise Oullette & Bob Ouellette/deceased)

Maine named Second Safest State

In its annual State Crime Survey, CQ Press, a division of Congressional Quarterly, has ranked Maine as the second safest state in the nation. This is the fifteenth year in a row that Maine has been reported in the top three safest states. New Hamsphire ranked first, and Nevada last.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Promotion Logo

This is what you'll see in upcoming promotions for "Your Piece of Maine" which will launch mid-April with cable television commercials, a Facebook site, You Tube campaign, new consumer site, and social media effort. Today a group of REALTORS in the demographics of the campaign (35 and under) reviewed materials to ensure headed in right direction (note: they found things to fix.) Specific info will be available in early April including how you can participate with the campaign too.

Participating: Jenny Chop (Morton Real Estate, Brunswick), Michelle Flaherty (Prudential Northeast Properties, Westbrook), Lucas Adams (Adams Realty, South China), Jennika Lundy (Town & Country, REALTORS, Rockland) and Jeff Mateja (RE/MAX By the Bay, Portland)

Full House for Maine CRS Course

The Maine Chapter of CRS held CRS 200, "Business Planning and Marketing" on Monday and Tuesday at the MAR office. Class attendance sold out. Chapter President Elect Lori Gray (Homestead Realty, Winthrop) relays: "The class was great, and the instructor a riot. Many ideas explained, and students will have to decide which ones to start working on first."

Click here for more info about the Maine Chapter of CRS.

Pictured: students Judith Reidman (Keller Williams, Portland) and Lori Barrett (Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty, York)

MAR Past Presidents Advisory

You're not looking at a picture of the MAR Past Presidents as pictures taken are trapped in the MAR digital camera .... which doesn't have a generic memory card.

Each year the MAR Past Presidents are convened to advise the MAR President and CEO about current and emerging issues, and to provide advice as requested. Among other topics, discussed E&O insurance, materials to use with public about market conditions, short sale confusion, and ways to improve two-way communications with the membership.

Participating: Sharon Millett, Don Newell, Ed Getty, Pat Plummer, Kim Coit, Sherry Gregory, Don Plourde, Sam Mitchell, Gail Rizzo

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Alicia, if you love the house, buy it

MAR President Patti Lawton moderated the real estate economic panel at the 2008 New England REALTORS Regional Conference (NERC). Panelists included Lawrence Yun, NAR's Chief Economist and Alicia Sasser, Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's New England Public Policy Center.

They reviewed economic and policy issues impacting real estate in New England and provided their outlook. Presentation materials (Powerpoint and printable documents) for both economists are at this link under Presentations. The best quote came during the question and answer period when Alicia Sasser mentioned discussing a home she loved and was considering buying with another Boston-based economist.

His response to her, "Alicia, if you love the house, buy it. What are you waiting for?"

Pictured: Lawrence Yun, Patti Lawton, Alicia Sasser

3 things bringing us together

In the opening invocation to the 2008 NERC Conference, Ohio REALTOR Steve Brown noted these 3 things that bring us together:

1. Fellowship
2. Cooperation
3. Innovation

Steve Brown is a 2007 NAR Liaison to Federal Issues and a past president of the Ohio Association of REALTORS

Report from NERC 2008

Kyle Rogers reports: I always enjoy attending REALTOR events and inevitably bring something back to use in my personal practice. The New England Regional Conference (NERC) gave ideas too.

On Sunday Georgia Chomas, Cindy Butts and I drove to Cambridge, MA without incident and with a few wrong turns. What would we do without technology; Cindy has a GPS and without that little box we'd still be driving around Boston looking for the Charles Hotel. We met up with the rest of the Maine contingent, MAR President Patti Lawton, Rita Yarnold, Mike LePage, Michelle Flaherty, Cornelia Stockman and Cheryl Kaplan.

Monday morning began with Judy Moore, 2008 NAR Regional VP introducing 2009 NAR President Charles McMillan. I've heard many notable speakers in my past life in the Navy and my “grown-up” life as a REALTOR® and must say that Charles ranks right at the top. He urged us to “keep the message positive," and to find opportunities to speak with local media. The NAR website has many resources - such as their Surround Sound campaign. I'm going to look at how the Merrymeeting Board can implement some of the materials available in Surround Sound toolkit.

Another powerful message Charles relayed to us is about contributing. He asked each of us to find 3 REALTORS® not contributing their “fair share” and ask them to participate. If they say no, and they will, keep asking. I wouldn't be the President of the Merrymeeting Board if I had not been asked to be on their Board of Directors 4 years ago.

The keynote speaker was 2001 NAR President Richard Mendenhall. He's a very dynamic speaker, one that will have you in stitches laughing ... to then crying about the recent loss of his father. He's fifth generation of his family in real estate. Encouraged us to explore trends changing the real estate industry and your business. Survival goes to the most adaptable in an evolving market. A quote: “Success in real estate is a four-letter word - GUTS.” If you have the opportunity to meet Richard Mendenhall or hear him speak, you'll be awestruck too.

Our day continued with an economic update featuring NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. The presentation had everyone sitting on the edge of their seats. The Boston media filed into the room to listen to what Mr. Yun had to say about New England. Here's a link to his presentation in PDF format for use in your office. The news mostly good with some bad mixed in. I won't even mention which parts made the news.

The food at the conference was nothing less than spectacular. I was wondering why there was a scale in my room, not that I had to chance to step on it.

This conference featured Town Hall type meetings, allowing the audience to ask questions of the panels. The first featured Charles McMillan; Ron Phipps, 2009 NAR First Vice President nominee, and Laurie Janik, NAR's Chief Legal Counsel. Each offered thoughts on leadership, market conditions, blogs, and more. I could have listened to their insights for hours.

Jerry Giovaniello, NAR’s Chief Lobbyist reinforced the impact we have when we charge Capitol Hill in May each year. REALTORS impact how our elected officials view issues such as banks in real estate, health insurance for self employed, FHA and many more.

NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik briefed us on legal issues including recent legal victories and areas of continued concern, such as RESPA. She urged everyone to be careful.

A cocktail reception with a sixties theme - NERCStock - had a plethora of food and a sing-along to familiar songs. We sounded pretty good too if I might say so myself!

Tuesday morning had 2 more Town Hall discussions, the first featuring 4 candidates for NAR elected positions. This group relayed how they first got involved in leadership and what they recommend for anyone interested in a leadership position. One commented he'd probably not be sitting on the panel if someone didn't believe in him and ask; another had to be asked several times before the light came on. The most widely used excuse for not volunteering is “I don't have the time”; panelists suggested explaining business benefits, offering options with less time commitments, contributing to PAC instead of time, and more.

The last Town Hall forum was the most enlightening. The Under 30 panel featured our own Michelle Flaherty from Prudential Northeast Properties in Westbrook. Michelle and 5 fellow panelists gave their insights into brokerage and opportunities. The Vermont panelist tells a potential seller the advantage of his online placement, ”You can have your house buried in the aisles with the rest of thousands of products but I'll place your home right at checkout. By placing it at the checkout they'll see your home is for sale." Apparently this approach works as he closed 84 transaction sides last year and only in business a few years. Several panelists indicated even with use of social networking (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) it's still networking, the telephone, and quick response that makes them successful.

In closing I'd like to thank everyone who had a hand in producing such a wonderful event. It was truly a pleasure and an honor to participate and meet so many people. Now, if I could only find my car keys ...

Kyle Rogers is the 2008 President of the Merrymeeting Board of REALTORS