Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Arriving at the NAR Convention in San Diego

Bart Stevens reports: I am anything but an early morning riser, but this morning found me out the door at 4:30 am for the long ride to the Portland Jetport and onward to San Diego - for the National Association of REALTORS Convention and CRS meetings. Incredible how warm it was in Maine at 4:30 am - my car showed 52 degrees!

The trip took went through Atlanta which was experiencing heavy rains courtesy of a November tropical storm. Looked like we could be stranded but ended up in San Diego only 15 minutes late. Sunny and mid-70's here but predicting low 60's later in the week with rain -- what's with that? Isn't it always sunny and 80 in Southern CA?!

My internal clock is winding down. Ordered dinner in and frantically figuring out a way to stay awake to see who gets the boot on Dancin'? Might just have to read about it!

Tomorrow will be filled with CRS meetings, reconnecting with CRS friends from around the country, and hopefully time to beat the crowds and get registered. Some additional Maniac's will begin arriving tomorrow, but I understand we have a light attendance this year.

Stay tuned as the schedule is jam-packed the next 5 days!

Bart Stevens (CENTURY 21 Nason Realty, Winslow) is the 2009 President of the Maine Chapter of CRS

Friday, October 30, 2009

UPDATE: Maine's Smoke/CO Detector Law

Note: Due to law changes in March 2010, this post has been deleted.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

MAR Convention: Day 3 Report

Bart Stevens reports: On the outside, Day 3 dawned bright and sunny, but a little on the windy side. Inside, we prepared for the final morning of Convention ... rushing around gets thinks packed and in the car before arriving at breakfast where we enjoyed a lovely buffet, an industry update from Ron Phipps, 2010 NAR President-Elect and, finally, the ever entertaining Ms. Sheryl Gregory - of prize give-away fame.

Thanks to all the boards and councils that provided prizes and especially Machias Savings Bank for the $500 grand prize. Unfortunately I was not nearly as lucky in the prize category this year as last year - in fact I won NOTHING!! Never confuse me as one to hold a grudge, although thankfully I had the car to myself all the way home to sulk in private!

Thanks also to all the sponsors of this year's convention - without the exhibits, sponsorships and hospitality suites, convention just wouldn't be the same.

After breakfast it was one last class - a choice between Linda Gifford's updates on form changes, energy efficiency, or learning a little bit about twittering, tweeting and all those things!

The convention was a resounding success. Attendance was down slightly but saw a last minute uptick as many were feeling a bit better about our financial situations than when registration first began. Thanks to Cindy, Tanya, Suzanne, Lynn, Chris, Pat and Tammy for making things look so easy. The convention committee also did an outstanding job. Putting one of these events on requires a lot of behind the scenes work.

Special thanks go to Kennebec Valley's very own Tammy LaPierre. Not only is she our Board's AE but she's also the central person for the Maine Chapter of CRS. Tammy does a phenomenal job!

Before you know it we will be arriving in Bar Harbor for our 2010 convention!! In the meantime have an enjoyable, and hopefully busy fall. I hope to see many next month in beautiful San Diego, CA for the NAR convention!

Signing off 'til next time - Bart Stevens, 2009 President, Maine Chapter of CRS

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MAR Convention: Day 2

Bart Stevens reports: Well another MAR Convention is rapidly coming to an end - but not before another day filled with education, networking and fun! Day 2 (or 3 for some) was jam packed with opportunities - beginning with an early morning opportunity to have breakfast and visit the exhibitors and ending with a "Party Like it's 1999" dance. In between was opportunity to learn - national speaker Bernice Ross on trends; foreclosures; legal updates with the ever popular (and informative) Linda Gifford; industry updates; and tech time with MREIS.

The banquet, emceed by Chris Philbrook and Michelle Flaherty, gave us the opportunity to watch the installation of the 2010 officers: Pres Elect Mike LePage, First VP Tina Lucas, MAR First Vice President; and Gail Rizzo, President of MREIS.

Special congratulations to my business partner and the next President of the Maine Association of REALTORS - Marc Chadbourne! Ron Phipps, 2010 President Elect of the National Association of REALTORS traveled up from RI to perform Marc's installation.

1999 NAR President Sharon Millett (of Maine) presented MAR President Rita Yarnold with a special gift from NAR President Charles McMillan. From there it was onto recognizing the Local Board/Council REALTORS of the Yea. 2005 MAR President Tobin Malone and Leanne Nichols recognized each ROTY and presented beautiful crystal awards.

All this led to the highlight of the evening - the announcement of the State REALTOR of the Year. Don Plourde had the privilege of presenting this year's award to a member Kennebec Valley Board of REALTORS: Marc Chadbourne of Century 21 Nason Realty in Winslow. Congratulations Marc!! This was a banner day for Marc - he started off by winning a GPS in the exhibitor drawings, moved on to be installed as the next President of MAR, and ended the evening as the newest inductee into the State REALTOR of the Year Hall of Fame - what more could one ask for?!

Tomorrow wraps things up for this year's Convention. Special kudos and thanks to this year's Convention Committee for a job well done!

Bart Stevens, 2009 President - Maine Chapter of CRS

Pictured: Ron Phipps, Marc Chadbourne; Art Gary, MAR President Rita Yarnold; Tobin Malone, Bart Stevens

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

MAR Convention: CRS Class, CRS Annual Meeting

Note: On first day of the MAR Convention, students have option of taking regular convention courses or an additional one-day CRS course. This report is about CRS.

Bart Stevens reports: Day 2 found us back in class again. I guess word spread that we had a good CRS instructor as we had a large number of walk-in registrations today - a great problem to have! It's a sizable commitment to hold two classes.
The Maine Chapter of CRS Board of Directors is committed to bringing classes closer to our membership, but can only do so with continued support of membership attendance. Quality education comes with a premium price, BUT well worth it!

Today's class, "Maximizing Your Potential -Personally and Professionally" was very well received. Comments indicate that everyone walked away energized. The subject matter was in not new but made us sit back and rethink where we want to be in a year or more. How do you manage stress? How much stress is actually good for you? How important is a "real" life outside of real estate? What motivates you? The importance of life planning and goal setting. Are you a goal setter? (Note: Most people are not!) Written goals are essential to a successful balanced life. Time management - the benefits, values and objectives - why do most people find time management difficult? Thank you to instructor Mark Given.

After the dreaded "test" it was on to Chapter business - the Maine Chapter of CRS Annual Meeting. The first item of business was to recognize CRS Designee John Lane as Realtor Emeritus. John joined REALTORS in 1959!! Fifty continuous years as a Realtor and a charter member of the Maine CRS. John was present for both classes, is still very active and credits his success in the business to listening, adapting and never passing up an opportunity to learn something new. I had the privilege of presenting John with a beautiful pin and certificate.

We were fortunate once again to have Region 1 Vice President Nancy Rogers join us all the way from Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri to install next year's Chapter Officers and Directors. Lori Gray of Homestead Realty in Winthrop was elected President; Steve Dyer, Keller Williams Rockland as President-Elect; Gail Rizzo, Lakepoint Real Estate in Belgrade Lakes as Secretary; Sheila Bonenfant, Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate in Waterville as Treasurer, and yours truly as Immediate Past President. Additionally the following were appointed to the Board of Directors: Betsy Ames Fitzgerald, Cathy Lamb, Linda DiTomaso, Arthur Gary and Jeff Davis. A great team to continue the work of the Maine Chapter!

From the CRS Annual Meeting it was on to the exhibits, networking and beverages. A great opportunity to catch up with others. The Maine Chapter of CRS has a display booth and is holding a silent auction raising funds for our "Chapter With a Heart" charity - the Rockland Area Habitat For Humanity. Thanks to REALTORS generosity we have been able to donate several thousand dollars to Maine charities in the past several years and we hope you stop by to bid while the opportunity exists.

The evening moved on with hospitality. The Kennebec Valley Board of Realtors hosted a reception honoring Marc Chadbourne, Century 21 Nason Realty, Winslow who will be installed as 2010 President of the Maine Association of Realtors tomorrow evening. There will several other "networking" opportunities available as well - those were great glasses from Machias Savings Bank! Please make sure to find time to stop by the exhibit hall and thank the sponsors for their generosity and support.

The evening ended with a quiet dinner for me with Nancy Rogers and her husband Jim - but boy is it hard to find a restaurant in Rockland serving lobster after 8 PM! Always a great fan of the dances, I instead find myself in bed typing this report - age must be catching up with me! It's been a very full day and tomorrow promises to be equally busy.

Make sure you mark your calendar now for next year's convention in Bar Harbor - you don't know what you're missing if you've never been!

Bart Stevens
2009 President -Maine Chapter of CRS
Century 21 Nason Realty, Winslow, ME

Monday, October 5, 2009

MAR Pre-Convention: Going Green, Going CRS

Bart Stevens reports: Thirty-two REALTORS from around Maine chose to leave their warm beds early this morning to get a jump start on MAR Convention activities. They all have one thing in common - CRS (Certified Residential Specialist). Each is either a CRS designee already (17) or at a stage of receiving the CRS designation - last class for one person, first class for several others.

Monday at 8:30 a.m. found us at the Samoset already hard at work at learning how to "Be Green" and how to "Make Green" ($$). Mark Given, national CRS instructor, traveled from NC to share 2 days of class instruction. Today -"Going Green"; tomorrow - CRS 103 "Maximize Your Potential."

Today's class taught ways to assure we are thought of as the source when someone has a question about being green or going green. It's nearly impossible to open a paper or turn on TV without some reference to Green. And, it's all encompassing - can mean a simple effort at having a more efficient home (changing to CFL's, wrapping a water heater, low flow aerators, etc.) or more complex, such as orienting a new home's direction, solar, wind, geothermal, VOC's or chemical free. Everyone can make a noticeable difference beginning at a very small cost.

Notable statistic: Who is the most likely candidate interested in green? Interestingly enough it's the younger, educated female.

CRS Designees represent 3-5% of all REALTORS nationally. Here in Maine we fall into the mid-range of 4%. CRS offers some of the best instructors in the business, and many of the most popular subject matter. CRS Designees are a close group - very willing to share their knowledge - such as, what has worked and what has not worked for them. We WANT our fellow designees to succeed.

Many REALTORS, including me, work for large franchise companies - but when it comes to referrals we look for the CRS designation first. A CRS Designee knows how much time another CRS has put into education, staying on the cutting edge and knowing what it takes to keep clients satisfied. That knowledge is a crucial consideration when referring valuable clients to another.

I encourage you to check out the CRS designation at your earliest opportunity. The Maine Chapter of CRS has committed to bringing CRS courses and instructors to Maine on a regular basis - to assist in obtaining the skills necessary to stand out from the competition. We hope you take advantage at the earliest opportunity!!

Bart Stevens
2009 President -Maine Chapter of CRS (Council of Residential Specialists)
Century 21 Nason Realty, Winslow, ME

Monday, September 21, 2009

Maine's New Smoke/CO Detectors Laws

Note: Due to changes in the law (10/30/09) this video is deleted

Friday, September 18, 2009

NAR: 17 depts/programs on Twitter, 14 on Facebook

National Association of REALTORS social media links ...

NAR departments and programs on Twitter:

NAR’s call center, answering members’ questions (@askNAR)
Center for REALTOR Technology (@crttweet)
• NAR’s Info Central call center & library (@infocentralnar)
• Observations/news from Midyear meeting (@nar_midyear)
NAR’s Research Department (@NAR_Research)
• Info about the 2009 NAR Annual Conference (@nar2009)
• NAR’s Public Affairs news releases (@NARmedia)
• Weekly safety tips (@narsafety)
Commercial Division/Realtors Commercial Alliance (@RCAtweet)
REALTOR Action Center (@RealtorAction)
REALTOR Magazine (@realtormag)
NAR headlines and other relevant info (@realtors)
• The REALTORS Federal Credit Union (@RealtorsFCU)
• Real Estate Today radio show (@RETradio)
• Updates about Right Tools, Right Now offerings (@righttools)
Seniors Real Estate Council (@SREScouncil)
• REALTOR Magazine’s Young Professionals Network (@ypn)

NAR departments and programs on Facebook:

• NAR's Appraisal Program
• NAR Research
• NAR's Auction Program
• NAR Leadership Academy
• REALTOR Action Center
• NAR Resort
• Center for REALTOR Technology (CRT)
• Real Estate Today Radio
• Young Professionals Network (YPN)
• NAR Info Central

Are we missing any?

And of course, you can follow MAR on Twitter (@mainerealtors); or be a Fan of MAR on Facebook too ...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

MREIS Data Field Change - Flood Zone

MREIS is eliminating the Flood Zone data field from the MLS database. Find out why, and additional guidance from MAR Legal Counsel Linda Gifford on this video.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NAR Leadership Summit '09: Report from Tuesday

Bart Stevens reports: A few final thoughts as we sit in the airport waiting to return to Maine.

Today we were all back in our seats at 8 AM. The day started with an introduction of NAR's new Real Estate Today radio program - which can even be added to company/agent web sites. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun gave an economic update including that housing affordability is the best in 10 years. The NAR Chief Lobbyist highlighted largest areas of NAR legislative and regulatory focus including expanding the tax credit, appraisal issues, jumbo loans and health care. NAR's Chief Technology Officer took the stage dressed as Dr. Spock, and NAR CEO Dale Stinton announced NAR contest to identify "game changing" ideas - and asked for us all to submit ideas (by Oct. 1) - the best of which NAR will fully fund and implement nationwide.

The conference ended as it began - on a high note. The last speaker was Christopher Gardner - his amazing story out of homelessness was the inspiration for the movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness". Did anyone see it? Chris was played by Will Smith. An amazing story of misfortune and the overwhelming desire to succeed.

I believe the 1800 in attendance left believing the conference is well worth the time to attend, and we're looking forward to the year ahead as leaders of their Boards and Associations -I know our group from Maine is excited!

Also had the opportunity to pop into the NAR building to visit my CRS friends, Rachel Tristano in particular, and got the personalized tour. CRS chapter leadership are off to Phoenix this weekend for training. I'm really going to miss the trip this year. It's networking to the extreme with pretty much every Chapter President in attendance.

Marc, Linda and I found some time before our flight for seeing the sights and left with a little more than we came with - they don't call it the Magnificent Mile for nothing! Association Execs Cindy Butts and Kelly Craig moved onto AE classes for the balance of the day and the others had various flight times.

It was great having this opportunity and I firmly believe our Boards will benefit greatly from it next year! And NAR is funding it again next year for state/board incoming presidents and AEs!

Bart Stevens is the 2010 president of the Kennebec Valley Board. Pictures of NAR building by Monika McGillicuddy, the 2010 president of the NH Association of REALTORS

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NAR Leadership Summit '09: Report from Monday

Bart Stevens reports: Awoke to an absolutely spectacular day here in the Windy City – sunny skies, warm temps, no humidity and no wind. We were in our seats before 8 AM prepared for a full day of enlightenment.

We weren’t disappointed – the day was packed with insightful sessions. I was particularly struck by how different this conference is from other leadership sessions I’ve attended. The emphasis is much more subtle – none of that “do it this way, do it that way.” This conference is geared towards “real life” skills – it’s not the obvious which distinguishes a great leader from an okay leader, but rather the way we choose to tackle our daily lives and challenges – how routine and day-to-day issues impact our ability to lead in the face of so many changes and challenges bombarding us daily.

Sessions ranged from meeting NAR’s 2010 Leadership team - led by President Vicki Cox Golder (AZ) and President Elect Ron Phipps (RI - a New Englander!) - to an incredible keynote ending. Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe helped introduce the 2010 Leadership Team with a twist.

2003 NAR President Cathy Whatley and St. Paul (MN) AE Keith Holm lead us through an entertaining session focused around the "marriage" between the President and AE. We were given “pre-nups” to fill out and sign detailing how this important relationship will evolve over the next year. Successful marriages require a lot of work and understanding – very similar to the AE/President relationship!

Our very own Cindy Butts has been appointed NAR's 2010 Liaison to Technology by President Vicki. We know Cindy’s love of technology and wish her the best of luck.

The day’s session ended with the highlight of the day – keynote speaker Alison Levine’s talk entitled, “Oxygen not Included.” A truly dynamic young woman, she overcame much diversity to climb high peaks on every continent, served as the team captain of the First American Women’s Everest Expedition – and skied across the Arctic Circle. Her presentation offered a unique perspective on types of leadership, teamwork, innovation and dealing with a changing environment. Taking risks, knowing when to turn back, understanding the importance of having a strong team apply to both mountain climbing and leading associations – truly moving.

Our group of 8 ended with a group dinner at The Cheesecake Factory – oh those desserts! It was just one of those wonderful summer evenings that make you want to wander the streets, taking in the sites and sounds of this wonderful city.

Just remember, as one of the speakers said, “It’s never crowded along the extra mile.”

Bart Stevens is the 2010 president of the Kennebec Valley Board (and currently president of Maine Chapter of CRS & Treasurer of MREIS)

NAR Leadership Summit - Sunday (pre-conference reception)

Bart Stevens reports: Arrived in Chicago Sunday afternoon to sunny skies, warm temperatures and LOW humidity. Reason for Chicago? NAR's Leadership Summit! Together with 7 others from Maine, we join 1800 state/local president-elects and association executives from around the country for a day and a half of skills training and top industry presenters.

Merrymeeting Board President Elect Linda Dupuis and I shared an uneventful flight from Portland, and with some free time on our hands set out to explore the city. We stood in line with hundreds of others to get to the top of the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) but the wait was well worth it - the views were spectacular! Crystal clear skies with views of 4 states. They have a new feature on the 103rd floor - 4 glass modules which extend out from the building. You step out into them and you have a completely unobstructed view - even 103 stories straight down beneath your feet. Not for the height challenged!

Later we caught up with our other Maine attendees: 2010 MAR President Marc Chadbourne, MAR CEO Cindy Butts, Greater Portland Board President Elect Wayne Syphers, Greater Portland CEO Kelly Craig, Bangor Board President Elect Rosanne Bates and husband Keith, at Chicago's Navy Pier for NAR's welcoming reception at the Crystal Garden. Great networking had by all. From the reception we headed down to Bubba Gumps for dinner and relaxation - and to celebrate Rosanne's birthday!

With the one hour time difference added on to a full day's activity it was time for bed. Stay tuned for more later - lots of great speakers scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

Bart Stevens is the president elect of the Kennebec Valley Board. Pictured: Linda Dupuis; Marc Chadbourne; group - Wayne Syphers, Linda Dupuis, Rosanne Bates, Kelley Craig, Bart Stevens, Cindy Butts

Monday, June 29, 2009

Countdown Until the $8,000 Tax Credit Ends

Create clock for your site using this link: http://www.oneplusyou.com/bb/countdown

You can use colors that match your site - Change date to November 30, 2009 and use text THE $8000 TAX CREDIT ENDS

Note: You'll need to remove the text (in html) that says "Created by .... " if you don't want that to appear with the clock

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Press Conference for "Gift of Green" ...

MAR President Rita Yarnold relays: Last week, a press conference was held at the Greater Portland Board of REALTORS office. Governor John Baldacci and Dale McCormick, Director of Maine Housing, announced the new Gift Of Green Program sponsored by MSHA.

I was honored to introduce Governor Baldacci and thank him on behalf of Maine REALTORS for this incredible program, which we believe is the most innovative approach nationwide for both maximizing the federal homeownership stimulus funds and improving energy efficiency in Maine homes.

After Governor Baldacci announced the Gift Of Green, there was a question and answer period which included Ms. McCormick, Chris Pinkham, President of the Maine Association Of Community Banks and John Murphy, President of the Maine Credit Union League.

Highlights of the Gift Of Green include (see link for more details about program & limits):

  • It's a grant, a non-payable gift of $5000

  • The current rate with no points is 5.25

  • The Borrower must contribute at least 1% to the transaction

  • The 1% may be a gift from a family member

  • Still take the Federal $8,000 First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

  • Borrower must complete a 10-hour class

  • Includes a coupon for an energy audit

    • This is an amazing opportunity for Maine REALTORS® to acquaint their Buyers with the Gift Of Green, to ensure that the we keep Maine's economy on the road to recovery!

      Rita Yarnold (Bay Realty Associates, Portland) is the 2009 President of the Maine Association of REALTORS

      Thursday, May 28, 2009

      Reflections from REALTOR Rally ...

      Mary Kuykendall reports: Hi, everyone ...

      The heavy March rain which pounded down on the St. Paul Center and threatened to distract Linda Gifford in her 2-hour CE class prior to our State House visi.....no, wait a minute, it's late May, isn't it? Well, the temp on my porch at 7:15am as I shuffled to my car and headed for Augusta was 36F, so I just assumed ...

      Anyway, Linda's class was lively, informational and helpful, as usual, and we soaked up her insights and headed off to our vehicles at about 10:40 to rendezvous in the Hall of Flags to get our name badges and finish composing our notes to those legislators we felt we had, at least, a minimal "in" with.

      Some of us trouped up to the House gallery to listen to proclamations concerning Camp Sunshine, hear a welcome from House Speaker Pingree to her mother who was on the floor visiting and who, in a moment of confusion, she referred to as her daughter, and then caught the bulk of the enthusiastically-supported or, just as enthusiastically-opposed, debate on clotheslines and solar panels being permitted in rental properties and condominiums. In an increasingly energy conscious state, this is not a trivial issue.

      We had been issued stickers with the red circle with the slash / through the "1088" which is the LD number of the bill concerning the transfer tax "modernization". These had to be removed, however, in order to enter the gallery to observe the floor action. They would re-appear when we returned to the Hall of Flags for lunch and chatting with legislators.

      While Linda admitted that she thinks the stickers are a little tacky, they do seem to work at getting attention.

      We kept focused on our tasks rather than too much time for chatting with each other.

      One of the highlights of the day had to be when Linda Gifford announced that the flags flying over the State House this morning were to be presented to the Bangor Board as a gift from Rep. Andre Cushing R-Hampden, who is a member of the Bangor Board of Realtors. The proclamation was quite touching and referenced the "dedicated men and women who serve their communities by making the dream of home ownership possible for Americans."

      We hope, at most, to have made some legislators consider and vote favorably on those issues which are important to us, and, at least, to make our presence and concern a part of their consciousness.

      If you missed Rally Day, I am sorry. If you were there, thanks.

      REALTOR Mary Kuykendall serves on the MAR Board of Directors

      Saturday, May 23, 2009

      Board Book Club: Schedule Time to Read

      Michelle Flaherty reports: We Realtors are a distractible bunch. As much as we relish being in the driver’s seat of a well planned day, we are pretty quick to slam on the brakes and make a U-turn for a buyer who’s ready to sign. And that’s not meant as a criticism—it’s just how we’re wired, and in many ways it works. However, the unpredictable nature of our day-to-day lives can leave less urgent activities like reading (e-mails, text messages, and tweets don’t count) in the dust—a scary concept for anyone claiming true expertise in our ever-changing industry.

      In a move to combat this epidemic of Realty Induced Attention Deficiency, the Greater Portland Board of Realtors recently introduced its first ever Realtor Book Club. Each month, we read one business book and meet for a one-hour discussion. The commitment to the club is light, but the requisite reading takes time.So far, the book club has introduced an element of accountability into the good intentions many of us have of getting some reading done this year, added depth to our continuing education efforts, and—Bonus!—brought some fun, like-minded people together for a lively chat once a month.

      The books we have chosen all have ties to the Realtor community. The first, David Meerman Scott’s the New Rules of Marketing and PR was the topic of a presentation at this year’s NAR convention in Orlando. The second, Jennifer Allan’s Sell with Soul, gained much exposure on the popular online real estate community Activerain.com. And our current selection, Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman’s Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic, was recommended to our local Association Executive at last year’s AE Institute.

      As we move forward, we will be pulling selections from the Recommended Reading lists from CE and designation classes—those books you always mean to read—and may even pick up—but that get pushed until tomorrow as you wind down from a long day of lock-boxing and problem solving.

      All in all, it has been an experiment in diligence, and it has paid off - not only in measures of education and pleasure, but also in the kind of confidence that can only come from education, and that our small group keeps bringing freshly each month to our clients in the field.

      Michelle Flaherty (Prudential Northeast Properties, Westbrook) serves on the MAR Board of Directors

      Monday, May 18, 2009

      After NAR Midyear - More CRS (Day 7)

      Bart Stevens reports: What a week - traveling beast that I am I never thought I'd hear myself say this but it's going to be really nice to be home! I miss the family but not sure about what faces me at the office.

      Sunday was a busy day with the CRS Leadership luncheon. Each Region sat with their Regional VP to do some brainstorming. Region 1 consists of ME, MA and CT - there are no Chapters in the 3 other New England states. Nancy Rogers from Missouri has been assigned our regional VP for another 2-year term. Nancy will be coming to Maine in October to join us at our annual meeting. Disappointing as it is, learned we are not alone in membership issues and class cancellations. I heard this all weekend and it was confirmed at today's CRS Board of Directors meeting. CRS is close to a million dollars off on budget projections year to date (times like these really point out the need for associations to have a reserve fund).

      A couple of final notes: Instead of a $20-25 taxi ride I decided to try the Metro to Reagan National Airport - it cost $1.35! Not bad if you don't mind dragging a suitcase around. And there are absolutely no lines at the airport 8 pm on a Sunday night!

      Great week with an overload of information. Sure will be to sleep in my own bed. Signing off from Reagan National Airport. - Bart Stevens

      Special Thanks: MAR sincerely thanks Bart Stevens (2009 President, Maine Chapter of CRS and 2009 Treasurer, MREIS) for his updates during the past 7 days in Washington, DC!

      NAR Midyear Meetings - Days 5 & 6

      Bart Stevens reports: Friday and Saturday found the few remaining Mainers busy with NAR governance meetings. Rita, Marc, Patti, Mike, Sharon, Cindy and Gail were all busy with New England Regional discussions, and the NAR Board of Directors meeting.

      From MAR: Among other things, the NAR Board of Directors voted several changes to the composition of NAR committees, approved a monument commemorating the Federal Fair Housing Act to be placed in a very small National Park adjacent to the NAR building, approved $72K in legal action funds for 3 court cases, approved reimbursing 33 organizations for 1/3 of attorney fees spent on NAR's DOJ subpoenas (including MREIS), continued to support enforceability of pre-dispute agreements to resolve contract conflicts, adopted a new Standard of Practice (to Article 15) to include duty to publish clarification or removed statements by others on electronic media the REALTOR controls when learn its false or misleading, clarified Standard of Practice 3-2 for marking time when an offer of compensation is considered accepted, made MLS short sale language option for local discretion instead of must, and referred back to committee language related to indexing of IDX sites by search engines.

      MAR's National Directors headed home in a variety of different directions - National, Dulles and Baltimore. Flying is so much fun these days!

      Saturday found me [Bart] at CRS Budget & Finance. Like everyone these days, CRS is looking for ways to economize while maintaining the benefits of CRS membership. Afternoon was devoted to CRS Leadership updates and brainstorming regarding course changes for next year. Thanks to my MA counterpart, we got tickets to a great play; then had a late night dinner. Must admit 11 PM dining is not my bag.

      Pictured: 2010 New England RVP Barbara Schmerzler (CT); 2009 RVP Bonnie Guevin (NH); State Presidents from NH, CT, RI, ME and VT.

      Thursday, May 14, 2009

      NAR Midyear Meetings - Day 4

      Bart Stevens reports: Thursday found us awaking to meetings and classes. President Rita Yarnold and President Elect Marc Chadbourne had early morning breakfasts with NAR leadership. Several members took advantage of our wonderful NAR building tours, while others participated in the MLS Policy meetings where "green" building features in MLS, short sales, IDX and other national MLS issues were discussed.

      The afternoon found us back on Capitol Hill for more Congressional Visits. First was a visit with the newest of Maine's Congressional Delegation, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. I was personally quite impressed with the reception our group received, as she seemed genuinely interested in hearing our concerns. The next stop was meeting with Congressman Mike Michaud. Another successful visit with positive conversations. We are most fortunate in Maine to have such a warm and receptive Delegation representing us in DC. These annual visits are informative and fun ... and worth considering if you've never attended.

      After our visits, parts of our group headed in different directions - some back to Maine, some to the new Capitol Visitor's Center, to the trade show, and others to dinner. MREIS President Jack Taylor, his wife Terri and I tried a new experience - a 2-hour Segway evening tour of DC. Oh my God was it fun! We even stumbled upon the premiere of the "Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian" movie at the Air & Space Museum. We got a little wet towards the end of the tour, and totally soaked by the time we made it to dinner - but worth every minute.

      Tomorrow finds me shifting gears and moving into the CRS stage of my trip - CRS meetings and networking. MAR and local leadership will participate in governance and leadership training activities. Stay tuned ...

      NAR Midyear Meetings - The View

      The view from the top of the NAR Building in DC ...

      Pictured: REALTORS Carroll Fernald (The Swan Agency Sotheby's International Realty, Northeast Harbor) and Joe Wright (L.S. Robinson Company, Southwest Harbor)

      Wednesday, May 13, 2009

      NAR Midyear Meetings - Day 3

      Day 3 started early with a Federal Issues briefing at 7:00 a.m., followed by business meetings. Linda Gifford needed to stay in Maine to work on several bills in the Maine legislature, so we were missing her. Barbara made a trip to the ER in DC due to breaking a bone in her foot last night - and quickly found that Hill Visit days aren't easy with crutches.

      We met with Senators Snowe and Collins, and their staffs, thanking them for their support of several important bills and providing info about current challenges in the real estate industry in Maine. Issues discussed included: FHA, Small Business Health Plans (SHOP), the $8000 tax credit, preservation of the mortgage interest deduction, reasonable approaches to energy efficiency, and providing liquidity to commercial real estate markets.

      A behind-the-scenes tour of the Library of Congress informed us of the array of material in their collection - including cartoons, playbills, film, audio recording, children's books, maps, memorabilia and a scientific research area. President Rita Yarnold found Charles Stanhope, a senior official with the Library, to be a classmate from kindergarten through high school. Mr. Stanhope credits a kindergarten teacher and summer job at the Portland Public Library as starting his interest in libraries.

      With our cost-saving efforts, we headed to a small Mexican restaraunt for Maine Night Out where we enjoyed fajitas, quesadillas, fried ice cream, flan ... and a margarita.

      NAR Midyear Meetings - Picture

      Tuesday, May 12, 2009

      NAR Midyear Meetings - Day 2

      Bart Stevens reports: Another productive day. Sunny but chillier than I remember for DC this time of year. More Maine attendees arrived today. We had a wonderful dinner get together this evening at Cafe Paradiso (a Maine favorite for the past few years). Great chance to sit back, relax and chat with fellow Realtors - many of whom we see infrequently outside an event like this.

      Several who arrived yesterday took part in the special NAR Housing Summit today. Since I was in day 2 of my Green Designation I wasn't able to attend but did here it was an interesting gathering. Perhaps someone else will be able to share more?

      [Addition from MAR: the NAR Housing Summit included an announcement from HUD that the $8,000 tax credit can be used for FHA downpayment; a keynote by Alan Greenspan; and panels discussing potential solutions for housing recovery. A great event.]

      I must share another interesting tidbit. Thrilling to me actually. It turns out Vice President Joe Biden was speaking to another group at the Hilton Washington (where my class was taking place). As we were breaking for lunch Biden was getting ready to leave the building and essentially no one was allowed in or out during his exit. Right place at the right time and without a camera, but lucky enough to get to shake hands with the VP!! Over in a flash though.

      As for the Green class - I survived the exam - yippee! And in keeping with yesterday's "did you know"- Did you know 16 billion pounds of greenhouse gas could be eliminated each year just by placing every monitor in US homes in sleep mode when not in use? Did you know one ton of recycled paper will save 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 60 pounds of air pollution? Any idea what "greenwashing" is? Outstanding class and I hope we can bring it to Maine in the not too distant future.

      An NAR survey shows that more than 90% of recent homebuyers thought energy efficiency was an important consideration when searching for a home. We can't do it all, or all at once, BUT we can begin to make a different step by small step, and day by day. Just think before doing.

      Bart Stevens (CENTURY 21 Nason, Winslow) is the 2009 President of the Maine Chapter of CRS and Treasurer of MREIS

      Monday, May 11, 2009

      NAR Midyear Meetings - Day 1

      Bart Stevens reports: Just returned from a nice dinner at Murphy's Irish Pub with the early arrivees now in DC for the NAR Midyear Meetings. Sherry Gregory, Patti Lawton, Gail Rizzo, Georgia Chomas, JoAnn Higgins and Steve Winkler helped to make a rainy night here in DC a bit more warm (drenched by the time we got back to the hotel!)

      After a 2 hour delay for the dreaded "mechanical problem" in Portland, I arrived in DC late last night. My early arrival coincided with my desire to earn NAR's new GREEN designation, with the core course being offered today and tomorrow. A full 8 hours each day, but if today was any sign, it will definitely be worth it! It rolled out in November 2008. Past MAR President Patti Lawton took the core course in Orlando and has since taken the required elective course making her the first (I believe) from Maine to earn the designation.

      Today I joined about 75 others here in DC taking the first step towards the designation. It's a relatively easy designation to earn with a 2-day core course requirement followed by a 1-day elective in 3 different tracks - residential, commercial or property management. There is a test though so I may have a different opinion tomorrow!! The core course cost is $295 (those taking it here in DC we were offered the core course at $150, a great savings). The elective courses cost $125 and can be taken on line or in person. This is the first designation offered by NAR where the acronym is the same as the name of the actual designation.

      Quick thoughts -

      Are you familiar with Green Pricing and Net Metering? Did you know you can collect 625 gallons of rain water for every 1 inch of rain falling on a 1000 square foot roof? Ever heard of Xeriscaping (landscaping plants native to a specific area - dry climates)? How about the 2008 Yale Performance Index which ranks the US 39th out of 149 countries in sustainability? What makes a home or building "Green"? LEEDS certification? The list goes on and on and all of this just Day One. The instructor guarantees we will save the cost of this course in the first year just by implementing a few very common sense items.

      We ended the day with Indoor Air Quality concerns - did you know those off the rack cabinets we place in our kitchens are one of the leading causes of VOC-volatile organic compounds? Ever comment on that new car smell, or that new home smell? That smell is volatile organic compounds - the very things which make so many people ill - with the numbers growing every day. Tomorrow promises to be another eye opener as we get more into the Green design, concepts, etc.

      While laboring away in my class tomorrow many of the others from Maine will be up early attending the special Real Estate Summit put together by NAR. Compelled by the insistent fact that housing has always led this nation out of economic troubles, NAR's Summit features first-rate keynote speakers (including Alan Greenspan and FDIC's Sheila Bair) and two dynamic panels of experts in the areas of finance and real estate, who will be challenged to determine solutions to the present crisis, ensuring we don't face this crisis in the future. A very busy schedule for all but absolutely worth the time and effort in getting here. Til next time.

      Bart Stevens is the 2009 President of the Maine Chapter of CRS; and Treasurer of MREIS

      Saturday, March 14, 2009

      Now More Than Ever ...

      Bart Stevens reports: I'm home from NERC - that's New England REALTORS Conference for those of you wondering but afraid to ask! I joined 11 others from Maine, plus another 150 or so other REALTORS from around New England, for a day and a half of terrific information and training at the Sheraton Harborside in Portsmouth. Lovely hotel for those not familiar with it and just steps away from the historic downtown area of Portsmouth (reminds me of the Old Port!)

      This year's theme was "Now More Than Ever" and hosted by NAR Region 1 Regional Vice President Bonnie Guevin (from the great state of NH, must be why we were in NH!) Note this quote:

      "Though national headlines and made-for-TV sound bites would have us believe that this is a time for fear and paralysis, the world continues to move along. Life happens, and the need to convey real property happens right along with it. Yes, we live in uncertain times, with foreclosure rates high and consumer confidence low, but it is because of that very uncertainty that we, as the consummate industry professional, must be more prepared than ever for a public that needs us more than ever.

      Now, more than ever -

      .. Accurate information is critical
      .. Is the time to buy, with an abundance of opportunities and great rates
      .. Buyers and Sellers need REALTORS to navigate the buying and selling process
      .. Members need the tools of their local, state and national associations
      .. Our adherence to the Code of Ethics is paramount to our credibility and success

      Now, more than ever is the time to double up our efforts as association leaders to deliver those products and services that will benefit our members during these times."

      Quite a little phrase, and quite a conference. Geared towards leadership, this conference is open to any and all REALTORS.

      This conference was both topical in nature and well run. With a nice mix of local presenters and NAR representatives the conference remained well paced. Some highlights: Several key volunteers including our own Ron Phipps from Rhode Island (who is NAR First VP) spoke on industry trends, and what NAR is doing to assist us - such as NAR's new "Right Tools, Right Time" program. Adorna Carroll did a session on "Effective Meeting Management" - topical because of the lack of volunteers and the lack of time of those who DO want to volunteer.

      Scott Spaudling, former reporter spoke on "Dealing With The Media When They Come Calling To Discuss The Real Estate Market." Fantastic speaker who knew what he was preaching because he use to be one of them! Bottom line, we know more about real estate than reporters and they NEED us. Don't be afraid of the big bad media, BUT do prepare yourself!

      Day One wrapped up (just before the mandatory cocktail hour) with comedian Jimmy Dunn - an hour of absolute laughter! A great stress breaker, and contrary to comments I am publicly stating Carolyn Chodat (she's my CRS President counterpart in MA) and I have never been to France together! You had to be there for that one!

      Monday evening found the Mainers gathered at a great pizza place downtown for a relaxing dinner (fantastic food) and a chance to network and chat. We were joined by REALTOR Steve Brown of Ohio and will remain indebted to him for so kindly picking up the tab for us struggling Maine Realtors. Steve is the 2009 NAR VP & Liaison to Committees. With several people present that I don't regularly see or do business with, it was nice learning a bit more about them!

      Day Two started with a session by Peter Francese on "New England Market Demographics." Most of us have heard Maine has the oldest population in the country, but he relayed this is not necessarily bad - as older people generally have more money. He did stress the need to stop the trend of youth moving away from Maine; and also touched on what the next generation is going to be looking for in a home, neighborhood, etc. Gone (most likely) are the days of bigger is better - "Green" is the new buzz word. They want earth-friendly homes, are very much aware of operating costs, etc. Very enlightening session!

      Wrap us was done by NAR Legal Counsel Laurie Janik - always a great listen. I think she summed it up right from the start: "Bet you never thought you'd see the day when legal counsel was the one bright item on the agenda!" Lawsuits filed were way down this past year and most were won by the associations involved.

      I've attended 6-8 NERC (some have blurred) conferences and my hat is off to the NH Association for a job well done!

      REALTOR Bart Stevens (CENTURY 21 Nason, Winslow) is the 2009 President of the Maine Chapter of CRS and Treasurer of MREIS. Pictured: Maine REALTORS Marc Chadbourne, Bart Stevens, Ed Getty, John Bragg and Helen Fox

      Click Here for Ron Phipps' blog post about the NERC Conference.

      Friday, February 20, 2009

      Checking in with Senator Snowe's Small Business Staff ...

      On February 18th, MAR Lobbyist Linda Gifford, REALTORS Sherry Gregory, Gail Rizzo, Wayne Syphers, and MAR Government Affairs Director Chris Philbrook met with Senator Olympia Snowe's Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship staff, of which the Senator is Ranking Member.

      Matthew Berger, Economist and Press Secretary, Kathleen Black, Tax and Finance Advisor, Wally Hsueh, Staff Director, and Meredith West, Professional Staff Member represented Senator Snowe. Linda Gifford stressed the importance of "final decisions" from Washington saying, "Buyers are waiting on the sidelines because they hear a different message out of Washington each week." The tax credit is a step in the right direction. Snowe's staff acknowledged that confidence in the economy and market place are essential to fixing the housing crises.

      REALTORS Gail Rizzo, Wayne Syphers, and Sherry Gregory updated about home lending, the foreclosure process in Maine and overall market trends.

      Our final topic of discussion was health care. Senator Snowe's staff said the SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) bill is still in play, to the delight of MAR representatives. Snowe's staff believes health care reform is a primary goal of President Obama and will be debated and passed during this Congress.

      REALTOR Wayne Syphers, Chairman of the MAR Legislative Committee relays, "I believe we participated in a very serious dialog with Senator Snowe's staff, who understand the issues important to MAR. They articulated Senator Snowe's support of the stimulus package as believing it's in the best interest of the people in Maine and the nation, along with President Obama's acknowledgement of the need to fix the housing and mortgage markets."