Aug 302015
 

anxious_scared_figure_400_clr_8434According to a recent study by Redfin, buyer’s worries have changed slightly. Of course, that makes sense because we all know the market changes constantly. Last year (2014) buyers were most worried about inventory. This year “prices” are in the number one spot. Actually, the worry seems to be more about prices rising and affordability becoming an issue.

Some will suggest that reflects an improving market with good news for sellers. Others will suggest it buyers are showing a lack of confidence in the general economy.

According to the survey of 3,500 buyers, the top five worries this year are:

  1. Prices (prices are rising or too high)
  2. Competition from other buyers
  3. Inventory (there aren’t enough houses to choose from)
  4. Selling my current home first
  5. Having enough for a downpayment

You might find it interesting to compare that with the top five worries last year. It will not take too much creativity to support your current opinion of the state of the market and the direction it’s taking. But you’ll have to rationalize some things. For example, the fourth worry of buyers last year was that mortgage rates might rise before they could buy–that didn’t make the list this year. Another concern last year that didn’t make the list for 2015 was “fatigue” — referring to buyers finding the process difficult and tiring.

Most know that all generalities are false. In this case, that’s especially true because “worries” are very personal. So while how those 3500 people felt is mildly interesting, real estate licensees should be much more focused on a much smaller number–the number of clients you are working with.

You want to know a lot about your client. Most of those things are basic and concrete. The questions you ask probably include things like, “What is your price range?” and “How many bedrooms?” and “How much land?”

Those are certainly important conversations. But why not ask “What are you worried about?” Some will say, “Nothing,” partly because they are overwhelmed with excitement and haven’t thought about the concerns. It might be tempting to accept that answer. But aren’t there some things a buyer should be worried about?

One of the saddest listings I ever took involved a couple in the middle of a divorce. The short version of their story was they visited Maine and fell in love with our great state. They spent the last few days of their vacation finding a real estate licensee and then a house. It was a very smooth and speedy transaction–their agent handled “everything” while they went home to pack. The realities started showing up after they were settled in their new home. One spouse was forced to return to their home state to find employment that wasn’t available in the vacation area they’d bought. The other found work, but it involved a long commute with resulting childcare and expense issues. Thus began the breakdown of the family. The home they purchased was not an “easy sell” so by the time they realized their mistake, the market was not in their favor.

A little “worrying” during the process might have made a world of difference in the outcome. Personally, I think the licensee who represented them in the purchase should have noticed there were some things they weren’t worried about and raised some of the issues they weren’t seeing.

Of course, licensees also find themselves representing worriers. Folks in the real estate business like to focus on “making it easy” and “getting to closing.” If that’s the case, remember that it’s easier to smooth the road if you locate the bumps and potholes. No matter how you cut it, a discussion of worries with clients (buyer or seller) just makes sense.

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Jun 232015
 

067067I’ll be teaching this AGSRE Course at the Ramada Inn in Bangor on Tuesday, July 14 starting promptly at 5 p.m. For more information or to register you can visit the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate website or call 856-1712. (There are several other CE courses being offered earlier in the day.) Here’s the official course description:

Are you assisting sellers and buyers in pricing residential property only to have the appraisal come in low? If so, this is the course for you. This course goes over the restrictions placed on appraisers and the methods the appraiser uses in determining value. The closer the real estate licensee is to using the appraiser methodology, the more the likelihood the property will appraise after it is under contract. The class will discuss amounts to use for adjustments, which properties to use for comparables, presenting the CMA to your buyer and seller client, and much more. You will not want to miss this class. This cour067se is approved by the Maine Real Estate Commission for three clock hours of continuing education.

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Jun 162015
 
Check out this resource!

Check out this resource!

I somewhat stumbled on to an interesting resource for real estate licensees this morning: The First Tuesday Journal. Let me quickly point out that this claims to be the “California real estate news source,” and, therefore much of the content is based on California law and practice. That said, there is enough general information to make this site useful, plus there can be some interesting comparisons to how things are done in Maine. (My bias is that just about anything that makes you think has value.)

There are some “FARM” templates that appear to be free for the downloading–and some of them are quite well done! Here’s a quote from one entitled, “How to gain an advantage when buying a home.”

Take an open house promenade. With the convenience of online browsing, fewer homebuyers are taking advantage of open houses. Visiting the home in person gives you the advantage of knowing exactly what you’re getting, instead of relying on stylized pictures and generic listing descriptions.

I use this particular example to demonstrate the need for caution when using material from the site. While there are no legal issues with this bit of advice, you might want to consider changing the word “promenade” (commonly used in California) to “tour” (commonly used in Maine).

This site is not recommended for sales agent students–my strong recommendation is those just getting started stay very focused on the “need to learn” material and avoid branching out into other resources. For others, you’ll want to use material from this site with caution, perhaps even to the point of reviewing anything you plan to use with your designated broker.

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Mar 272015
 

take_a_walk_150_clr_8169At first, this seems like an easy question. But there are a number of factors contributing to the answer. Let’s review some basic facts.

A sales agent license is non-renewable and is valid for two years. In other words, you must be prepared to apply for and receive your associate broker license upon expiration of your sales agent license. (There are some circumstances which allow for a one year exemption, but the are exceptions. You should plan on becoming licensed as as associate broker at the end of your two year license term.)

An associate broker license includes two important qualifications. First, you must have been licensed as a real estate sales agent for two of the past five years. Second, you must complete the Associate Broker Course. (MRS Title 32, Chapter 114, Section 13199) In other words, you must successfully complete the Associate Broker Course before your sales agent license expires. But you still can’t become an associate broker until you’ve completed two years as a sales agent.

So an “easy” answer is “You should take the Associate Broker Course while you are licensed as a sales agent.” It would also be an accurate answer, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. A good follow up question is “Should I take the Associate Broker Course soon after I get licensed as a sales agent, or wait a while?”

The answer to that question depends on several important factors:

  1. How much practical experience are you gaining as a sales agent? The Associate Broker Course is designed to be more about experience and application than the Sales Agent Course. In fact, the Associate Broker Course is based largely on case studies and scenarios. Until you’ve been involved in an actual transaction, the course simply won’t have full value. In addition, completion of the Associate Broker Course includes a requirement you submit a completed Documented Field Experience Form. This form is completed in partnership with your designated broker or mentor and is designed to insure you’ve had some “hands on” experience.
  2. How available is the Associate Broker Course in your area?  The course is 60 hours long and is not something you can complete at the last minute in a few days. In the Bangor area I tend to teach it twice a year–spring and fall for the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate. That means there are three opportunities to chose from during your two year term as a sales agent. Note, however, that we alternate between weekday and weekend courses. If your schedule limits when (day of the week) you can take the course, that limits your choices.
  3. How certain are you that you are going to remain licensed? There are many different reasons that someone might decide not to pursue a career in real estate. Since taking the Associate Broker Course is an investment, it might make sense to wait until your second year as a sales agent.

There simply is not one answer to the question–you have to consider the factors. I have had students get licensed as a sales agent and come back to take the Associate Broker Course within a few months. Their explanation is “I want as much education as I can get as quickly as I can get it.” How can you argue with that?! (Again, understanding you’ll gain the best education if you’ve had at least some hands on experience.) I’ve also had students procrastinate taking the course for various reasons. Unfortunately that sometimes means I get a frantic email or phone call when they realize they are facing expiration of their licenses next month. It really is easier to plan ahead.

Let’s take a hypothetical student named Suzie who gets licensed on March 15, 2015. Her license is set to expire on March 15, 2017.  Using the “Spring/Fall” schedule I teach, that means Suzie can plan to take the Associate Broker Course in in fall 2015 at the earliest. She’ll have a spring and fall opportunity in 2016. She might have an opportunity to take the course in spring 2017 but will need to have completed it by March 15th.

Remember that the Bangor course I teach with the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate alternates as a weekday or weekend course. The spring course is typically a weekday course and the fall course is a weekend course. If Suzie is working full time and can only take the course on the weekends, she’ll need to take it either in the fall of 2015 or the fall of 2016. There are, of course, other courses available from other providers and instructors. I just happen to like having students return! I wish I’d kept track, because I know there are a number of students who have completed all of their licensing courses with me from sales agent through broker.

If you find this confusing or are uncertain what will work best for you, don’t hesitate to give me a call or email. We can talk through your options and figure out what works best!


Marc Corriveau

Marc Corriveau

 

If you listen to Walter, pay attention to his anecdotes, ask questions, and study with your fellow students; you are assured to benefit from the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate. I attended the class in September of 2014, and was quickly picked up by the ERA Dawson-Bradford Real Estate Agency in Bangor. The Arthur Gary Class and Walter’s teaching method have propelled me into the career I wanted.

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Mar 182015
 

bored_reading_paperAs we begin another season of licensing courses, it’s a good time to consider our study habits.

“If you study to remember, you will forget. If you study to understand, you will remember!”

Truer words were never spoken—at least for most! This course is intense and for most students will include new concepts, new vocabulary, and require some basic math skills. While there will be some things that require memorization, much of the course is about applied learning and understanding how you will be using information once licensed. Most people underestimate the difficulty level and commitment it will take to succeed, but most people also end up getting through the course and passing. Failure is certainly possible, but it is the exception.

If you’ve been out of school for a while, you’ll want to develop a plan for studying. Most students will affirm, you can’t simply sit in class and expect to pass the course. Some successful techniques students have used:

  • Create a daily study plan or routine, regardless of the time between classes. Even if it’s only 15-30 minutes, review at least some portion of your notes every day. Remember that studying isn’t just about going over material. Think about how you will best learn and remember. People “chunk” information differently. Consider how you’ve learned things in the past and plan your learning. I remember one student who created a second notebook and quite literally re-wrote (in long hand) her entire notes after every class. I wouldn’t learn that way, but she surely did!
  • Hone your note-taking skills. Remember they are your notes and they should reflect how you best learn and remember. Attempting to take down everything the instructor says verbatim may not be most effective. I’ve seen students draw pictures and diagrams or concept maps. One memorable student needed extra space for her multicolored highlighters and stick on flags. While I never fully understood her system, it did seem to work for her.
  • Flash cards can be a great study aid—particularly with vocabulary. As part of your study plan, use index cards to record a word on one side and the definition on the other. You can create them from your notes. You’ll have quite a pile by the end of the course, but you want to flip through them, testing yourself. When you find yourself getting the answer right consistently remove the card from the deck so you are working on the concepts and definitions necessary. (You should probably review all your cards before the final exam!)
  • Consider finding a “study buddy.” While a classmate can be ideal, it can be someone who actually doesn’t understand the material. One student gave her young daughter her flashcards and had her ask questions during a long trip they made together while Mom was taking the class.
  • Where you study can be important. It might go without saying, you’ll want a place that allows you to concentrate. You should have everything you need and nothing you do not need. Turn off the smart phone. In general, avoid distractions and create a block of “quality” study time. Although I remember one student who was struggling until she decided to spread her flashcards on her kitchen island. Every time she passed the island she’d pick up a random card. You have to discover what works for you and remember that how you study may be more important than what and for how long.
  • Avoid studying to the quiz (or test). As the quotation at the beginning of this article suggests, study to learn and understand. When you focus on a quiz or test it can create additional anxiety. Shift your thinking from “I’ve got to pass” to “I want to learn.” Relax! Give yourself breaks and rewards and try to stay positive. If you find yourself getting anxious and confused, take a short break.
  • Teach the material you’re trying to learn. It’s generally accepted that a very effective learning technique is to teach the material. You can do this with your study buddy from class or even someone who knows nothing about the topic. He or she may not know if you are correct, but if you can get them to understand it, you probably understand it as well!
  • Talk to your instructor if you are having difficulty in general or with a specific aspect of the course. He/she understands there are different learning styles and sometimes a “one on one” conversation can create an “Aha! Now I get it!” that may not be possible in a group setting.

Picasso said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Focus on the doing. Challenge yourself! There may be times when you feel you aren’t getting something, but just keep doing. Don’t think, for example, “I can’t do cap rates!” Do them. You will learn how.

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Mar 032015
 

There are plenty of jokes about California… while avoiding all those (including the observation that all crazy ideas start there and work their way east), here’s a link to a post originally mentioned in Oakley Signs “Tuesday Tactics.”

Before you go to read… Note that I actually may have asked you the wrong question at the title… While what you think is certainly interesting and important, what are prospective customers and clients going to think? Not too many would argue the need in our business to become more client focused.

There’s a case to be made here that this is not so much about creating a “new” business model as it is about developing an approach that maximizes the use of technology in response to amazing leaps in technology as well as changes in the way people are using technology.

Be sure to read the comments… noting the fact that debating semantics aside, there are apparently versions of this approach to the business located around the county. That would suggest there’s a third question: How are rapidly developing technology and changing consumer preferences going to impact the traditional real estate model?

Here’s the link to the article: Open Listings Allows Buyers to Purchase Without Real Estate Agents (Note that “Open Listings” is the name of a company, not the type of listing agreement.)

Here’s a link to the company: Open Listings

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Feb 162015
 

Necessity never makes a good bargain.

attributed to Ben Franklin

Ben was a rather practical fellow and in this case I think he wanted to remind us that necessity can reduce our leverage and make us too impulsive. During the sales agent licensing course, I often describe “pop-tart” agents–usually newly licensed, they sit at the “up desk” waiting for the phone to ring or someone to walk in with at least a remote interest in real estate. They then “pop” out of the chair thrilled with the opportunity to demonstrate their new skills. “Let’s go look at some houses!”

But are they demonstrating their skills and value, really?

Oh no! What have I done?!

Oh no! What have I done?!

I recall some years ago watching this happen. In less time than it takes to tell, a newly licensed agent took a highly motivated buyer on a showing, wrote an offer and got it accepted. You can well imagine her excitement. But she only had twenty-four hours to celebrate her luck and skill before the designated broker found himself negotiating cancellation of the agreement after it turned out the buyer was afflicted with oniomania or CBD (Compulsive Buying Disorder). CBD is characterized by an obsession with shopping and buying and is believed to affect nearly 6% of the population. Fortunately, the seller was sympathetic and understanding.

We can certainly dissect Ms. Poptart’s performance and come up with a number of places where she probably went wrong. It would make for an interesting case study or group discussion and I suspect the answers would include comments about qualifying the buyer, asking for proof of funds, etc. All good points.

But note that those types of answers are actually defensive in nature–geared to avoiding something (such as a failed contract). While preventing problems can be an important part of the role of the agent in a transaction, it’s actually a very narrow focus. A comparison: do we use a GPS to keep from getting lost?

Many agents come to understand this difference after a few transactions. They learn to love calls from buyers or sellers that come way in advance that’s when they can do my best work for their clients. That best work is to devise a pre-buying or pre-selling action plan. These agents start their client relationship with questions like

  • “Have you bought and sold real estate before?”
  • “What did you like best about the experience/transaction?”
  • “What did you find least enjoyable about the experience?”

These are data-gathering questions that allow the agent to work with the client in a relatively unhurried and relaxed environment and build an approach everyone can can work with. One of my personal favorite questions is “Have you considered how you are going to go about this?” More often than not, the client doesn’t understand the question which suggests the answer is “no,” and this points up the need to for a plan. You may be good at preventing and solving problems, but you should be even better at planning!

Everyone benefits from good planning. I recall an agent telling me she had shown a potential buyer sixty properties. I’m guessing the buyer had a plan that didn’t really include buying. Clearly the agent did not have a plan–other than to go with the buyer on showings.

There’s a difference between a motivated client and an impulsive client. Impulsive clients can sound very appealing, but they can also be a nightmare to work with… and are often prone to the dreaded “buyer’s (or seller’s) remorse” Another observation you’ll hear in my classes is “You never want to get a call from a client that starts with ‘You never told me…‘”

Unhappy clients rarely blame themselves for what happened. Since you are the likely target of blame, why not accept the responsibility for what happens by creating a plan? Just remember, it’s not your plan. It’s a shared plan, developed with your client. You may slow down those impulsive clients. You may speed up those unmotivated or fearful clients, but it’s all part of the plan. Necessity never makes a good bargain, but intelligent planning often does.

 

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Jan 012015
 

Here’s some information from the Maine Real Estate Development Association:

stick_figure_graph_binocularsEach January, over 600 of the state’s leading real estate experts attend MEREDA’s TD Bank Sponsored Signature Event, the Annual Real Estate Forecast Conference. This annual event attracts hundreds from Maine’s real estate, construction, finance, architecture, legal, engineering, tourism, and economic development communities, the largest gathering of commercial real estate professionals in Maine.

MEREDA assembles some of Maine’s top real estate leaders to provide the annual Economic Overview and Outlook on Maine’s economy, which includes an examination of current State statistics and what they reveal about the future of Maine’s economy with an emphasis on real estate, along with the popular Market Overview by property type focusing on both Commercial and Residential Forecasts.  This unique forum is specifically geared toward developers, brokers, architects, bankers, attorneys, accountants and other industry professionals who will gain valuable insights on the state of the economy and what lies ahead in the coming months for the real estate industry.

For 2015, we look forward to welcoming highly experienced U.S. economic researcher and forecaster, Michael Dolega, Senior Economist at TD Economics, which supports all of the divisions of TD Bank Group, who will provide his outlook on Maine’s economy, and Maine’s Governor, Paul LePage will provide the Welcome Address.

This course has been approved for 4.00 hours of BROKER, LEGAL, APPRAISER & ARCHITECT Continuing Education Credits.

Supplementing the conference each year is MEREDA’s Annual Member Showcase with MEREDA Members exhibiting their products and services in front of the “who’s who” in commercial real estate.  The exhibition has become an integral part of our annual event providing a unique opportunity to network with MEREDA’s members.

For complete information visit the MEREDA site and check the events page.

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Dec 192014
 

Holiday GreetingThe holidays are a great time to reconnect and share news, but don’t worry—this will not be your typical Christmas Newsletter. I recall receiving one a few years ago that demonstrated how not to write an annual letter. A friend nicknamed “gloom and doom” sent Christmas Greetings along with the intimate details of her recent surgery. I learned more about female anatomy than I will ever need to know.

I’m pleased to report I’m relatively healthy. In fact, my doc says I should live to 87 and die peacefully in my sleep. At least statistically. So you won’t learn much about my anatomy from this letter.

I’m convinced that my good health is due in a large part to hanging around with kids. I continue to substitute teach kindergarten through grade six at Piscataquis Community Elementary School. I’ve actually become something of a “Kindergarten Specialist.” I don’t even mind that a lot of the kids call me “Mrs. Boomsma” since they (and perhaps society in general) aren’t sure men are supposed to teach kindergarten.

Occasionally I’m asked what my favorite grade is to teach. I do love the kinders—as one kindergarten teacher explained, “When a kindergartener tells you he or she loves you, they mean it.” But I seem to find something to like about every grade. Sure, there’s more drama in sixth grade, but when they are engaged they can be a lot of fun. My classroom expectations are the same for all grades. The second one is “We will enjoy learning.”

Another question I hear a lot is, “Are you still doing real estate?” The factual answer is that I am still a licensed real estate broker with Mallet Real Estate in Dover Foxcroft but I am not actively seeking clients. I will occasionally joke that I’ve discovered more fun ways to not make money, but this is really about focus more than money.  I am happy to consider working with folks on a limited basis. After all, I do need stories to tell when I teach real estate licensing courses!

While it won’t make the New York Times Best Seller List, I did release a second book this past year—a real estate law book that serves as a text for the real estate classes I teach. Unfortunately, some major course development work has kept me from several other writing projects that are at various stages of the pipeline. There will be a sequel to Small People – Big Brains and perhaps a real estate math book.

I’ve also been recruited by another Adult Education Program (M.S.A.D. 53 in Pittsfield), so the opportunities to teach are many. I’m always intrigued at how the challenges are similar whether the student is five years old or fifty. I’ve also discovered that my adult real estate students seem to enjoy stickers even more than the kinders!

One highlight of the year was being recognized by Maine Seniors Magazine for my work with children. If you missed the feature article in the October Issue you can find it on http://wboomsma.com. We even launched my future pop star friend Kendall’s media career with a great photo of her and I on page thirty five. (Kendall informed me several years ago her career goal is to be a pop star. She’s sticking with the plan.)

Kendall and the kids haven’t run out of things to teach me. They may be small people, but they really do have big brains and I like the feeling that I am touching the future when I’m with them. It’s fun to look ahead and imagine a world run by these future leaders.

Have a meaningful holiday and a new year filled with health, happiness, and prosperity — make these the best years of your life!

Merry Christmas,

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