Monday, December 12, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do your part.

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

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

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

Stay warm and safe.

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 16, 2011

For Safety's Sake #5: September Safety

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

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

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

Those are the essentials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be careful!

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

Sunday, August 14, 2011

For Safety's Sake #4: Show and Tell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.

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

Saturday, August 6, 2011

In Memory: REALTOR Wayne Syphers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Wayne, we'll miss you.

Pictured: Wayne Syphers with Senator Olympia Snowe

Saturday, July 23, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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

A Member Perspective:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 12, 2011

For Safety's Sake: Clean Out Your Car

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More in a few days.

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