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, 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 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