Oct 212015

bored_reading_paper_400_clr_5342Now that I’m teaching more real estate continuing ed classes, I have found the second most frequently asked question is “Where are the handouts?” (The most frequent question is “Where is my certificate?”)  This, of course, has set me to thinking about the role of handout material in and after class. The following article addressed the topic contributes some important ideas. Watch for some differences in the courses I develop–and expect to be reminded that learning isn’t supposed to stop when the class is over!

The following article was published in the October 2015 issue of Training Doctor News — one of my absolutely favorite publications on the topic of training and adult education. It is reprinted here with permission. Visit www.trainingdr.com for more information!

Are Participant Materials “Necessary?”

We recently had a lively discussion with a training group regarding this statement: Participant “materials” (workbooks, job aids, infographics, etc.) are “nice to haves” but people rarely use them back on the job.

The group unanimously agreed that rarely do participants use these items on the job, and, more often than not, they are left behind “in the classroom.”

This lack of respect for training materials is quite detrimental to adult learning for a number of reasons:

Most people are visual learners

80% of Americans are visual learners, which means they “understand” information better (and retain it longer) if it is presented in a visual manner. If 80% of your audience spoke “in another language” wouldn’t you present in that language? And yet, we often completely ignore providing tangible, visual elements that complement our training offerings.

Seven-to-ten days after training, people remember only 10 – 20% of what was taught them in a training class
If your “training” consists of providing information, with no reference materials, how can anyone be expected to remember what was taught? Back on the job, it would be helpful to have a job-aid or infographic to refer to in order to do one’s job or refresh one’s memory about the proper process / sequence / tasks.

Temporal contiguity

Brain research tells us that it is better to present concepts in both words and pictures than solely in text format. Typically, 3-days later, text-only information is recalled at a rate of just 15%, but the same information, when presented in both text and visual (a’la an infographic) is recalled at a whopping 65%!

Muscle memory

Muscle memory is not a memory stored in your muscles, of course, but memories stored in your brain (although its origin is related to physical fitness). Providing workbooks or worksheets in which participants actually work (answer questions, complete diagrams, underline pertinent facts in a case study) aid in retention because the body is also physically involved in the learning process.


The “problem” is not that participant’s don’t see the value in the learning materials you provide, but rather, the problem lies with us trainers who do not show people how to use these materials while they are in the training. The solution is to utilize the training materials at the time of teaching. Don’t teach a process and then say “Here is a job-aid to take back to your desk,” but rather teach the process as participants follow along using their job aid. The solution to participant materials being “left behind” is to utilize them during the training process so that their usage becomes part of the learner’s muscle memory.

Oct 152015

stick_figure_presenting_with_pen_150_clr_3808I’ll be teaching an AGSRE Continuing Education Course at the Ramada Inn in Bangor on Tuesday, November 17. This course is being offered as part of a full day of courses being offered–check out all the offerings here.

Starting at 5 PM, I’ll be teaching Do You Need to Take an Aspirin When Writing an Offer? For a complete description, check out my Course Calendar and click on the name of the course.

You can register online at the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate website or call 856-1712.  I’m looking forward to seeing some “alumni” from licensing courses I’ve taught!


Oct 092015

The following article is reprinted with permission from the September 2015 edition (Volume 4, Number 9) of Maine Woodlands, a monthly publication of Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine. It includes some interesting background and insight into today’s forestry and land use laws.


pine_tree_400_clr_17374Newspapers and magazines have been reminding us it’s the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the “Great Charter   signed under duress by King John in 1215. It turns out that, in addition to protecting the traditional rights of the barons, it also created medieval forest rights that are still with us today.

Almost everyone knows that in 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, defeated Harold Godwinsson, King of England, at Hastings, and took the crown for himself as William the Conqueror.  He turfed out the feudal lords owing homage to the crown, replacing them with his own retainers and relatives. England became involuntarily Normanized. What you may not learn ln school is that these kings enjoyed the hunt. Medieval monarchs circulated around their domains, requiring hospitality from their barons. At every stop a hunt was virtually mandatory. Hunting was not only recreation, it was business, part of the proper upbringing of a knight or young nobleman. Hunting supplied familiarity with movement on horseback in rugged and unfamiliar terrain, training in teamwork, and exercise in marksmanship — all important martial skills. And the venison was popular at table. Some centuries passed, though, before literacy was considered essential to an aristocrat’s upbringing.

In their legal tradition kings  did not  own the wildlife, but they controlled hunting rights. King William marked our hunting reserves he personally controlled. These, he called “forests.” The original foresters, then, were the royal game wardens and managers.  Historians estimate England at the Conquest was 15% tree-covered (FIA had not yet been invented). Many of the royal forests contained farmland, pastures, marshes, and even villages. Some of William’s Royal Forests exist today, at least in outline and popular geography, though not in legal form. The New Forest is a popular tourist destination.

Within the forests, it was not only unlawful to take venison — the big game, though a modern hunter wouldn’t consider the animals “big”— but also to harm the “vert,” the habitat. So, within the forest’s limits, neither baron nor commoner could clear shrubby or wooded land for crops. The kings also owned manors and woods in their own name, so- called demesne” lands. But “Royal Forests” were areas where the king controlled the hunt on lands of feudal tenants. The kings at times went to extremes, evicting local farmers and burning villages. The opening of Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood film recalls this.

The King’s control over hunting went down poorly with the lords and barons, who, being Normans, also liked to hunt. Worse, the villeins (farmers) could not kill game animals that fed on their crops. Deer must move freely — no fencing for livestock or to protect crops. Dogs in and near the forest had to have claws removed. “Fence months” were periods when forests were closed to grazing to avoid disturbing does giving birth. Since grazing was a key use, this was a major blow. This was equal opportunity confiscation and oppression, though the poor rarely dined on venison. The Royal Forests disrupted the local economy. Robin Hood got in trouble with the law for two things: robbing the rich to help the poor, and killing the King’s deer.

The Normans and their Angevin successors were serious: Initially, poaching the King’s deer was punishable by death. By 1215, 140 years after Hastings, Royal hunting forests had been extended. They were controlled by Royal “Forrest Lawes,” administered by Forest courts. With this, and various taxes, the barons were fed up. They caught King John at a weak moment and forced him to sign Magna Carta.

What you don’t learn in school is that among ringing declarations of rights of “free men — the barons, not the common folk — there were several clauses dealing with forest rights. The subject was so detailed it was soon necessary for the King to issue a separate Forest Charter (1217). It repealed the death penalty for poaching deer, replacing it with a fine, or a year in jail if unable to pay. It created new “verderers courts” to administer the forest laws. Some of Richard’s and Henry’s expansions were “disafforested,” and rights returned to local feudatories and villages. Later, entire books were devoted to details of Forrest Lawes, referring specifically to the Royal hunting forests, not woods and coppices generally.

Does any of this look familiar? The heritage of the Middle Ages influenced English legal thinking for centuries. Massive tomes on Property Law, which law students suffer through, often begin with medieval property rights, including forest law. Under Maine law today, as in Richard’s time, the government does not own the wildlife. Instead, the “ferae naturae” are the trust property of the entire society and its people. Government administers them as a trust. Landowners and others often differ on how to manage wildlife, and hunting (Sunday hunting, anyone?) No legislative season passes without the introduction of numerous bitterly contested bills concerning what is to be hunted, when, and how. Some things never change.

Lloyd C. Irland is a forestry consultant, sometime teacher, and writer. While in forestry school he was a history geek who took courses in Medieval History for fun.

Oct 022015

panic_button_400_clr_2667Many will recognize the title of this post as a line delivered often by Henny Penny in a folk tale that by some estimates has been around for more than twenty-five centuries. As with most stories that old, there are various endings–some happy, some not so happy for Henny as she and her friends get eaten by a fox. The moral therefore has several twists, but the commonalities are usually around the theme of having some courage and not believing everything you hear. We might also conclude, rightfully, that hysteria is often contagious.

TRID (TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule) is coming this weekend. Actually, it’s been coming for a long time. Now it’s finally arriving.

There has been a certain amount of “The Sky is Falling” hysteria surrounding the implementation TRID. This is evidenced by some of the dire warnings that licensees should expect problems, add extra time to their closing windows, etc.

Personally, I think it may rain for a while, but the sky will not likely fall. Why? For one thing, the changes aren’t really that massive. However, any change that impacts an entire industry (real estate, lending, legal/closing) will surely create some temporary disruption. Learning curves are real, but their steepness often depends on the learner. The changes didn’t come as a surprise. I suspect some lenders are well prepared and will find the change relatively smooth. One thing that will help those lenders is for the other parties to become informed and stay calm.

The CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) has actually created a “Real Estate Professional’s Guide” on their website that might be very reassuring, particularly if you accept the idea that we most greatly fear the unknown. Did you know, for example, there are only three changes that will trigger a new three-day review period? (And one of those three has existed for quite some time–it’s not new.)

I’m not suggesting it wouldn’t be a good idea to prepare customers and clients for the change. In fact, educating your buyers about the “new” process will streamline the steps between pending and purchase–as it always has. I’m less certain that we need to start adding days and weeks to closing. We still need to focus on our clients’ needs. Another thing that hasn’t changed is the reality that the length of time required to close is still dependent on the capability of each and all of the involved parties: borrowers, licensees, lenders, title companies, attorneys, etc.

In at least one version of the tale, the panic starts when an acorn falls on Henny Penny’s head and she mistakenly concludes it’s the sky that is falling. The implementation of TRID will be an acorn for those licensees who do not panic, become informed, and facilitate keeping their client’s transactions on track. If it helps, you can give yourself the nickname “Ducky Lucky” and be like a duck: be calm on the outside while you’re paddling fast beneath the water.


Oct 012015

stick_figure_presenting_with_pen_150_clr_3808I’ll be teaching two AGSRE Continuing Education Courses at the Senator Inn in Augusta on Thursday, October 15. These courses are being offered as part of an AGSRE Education Spectacular starting on October 13–check out all the offerings here.

Starting at 9 AM, I’ll be teaching Transaction Trouble Shooting and then at 1 pm Getting Licensees and Appraisers in the Same Boat. For complete descriptions, check out my Course Calendar and click on the name of the course.

You can register online at the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate website or call 856-1712.  I’m looking forward to seeing some “alumni” from licensing courses I’ve taught!


Sep 232015

You don’t have to have been in the real estate business for very long before you find yourself in a situation where you feel a bit uncomfortable, if not downright threatened. And, unfortunately, the media often provides a story demonstrating that real estate agents are vulnerable. We of course apply common sense and many companies have policies and practices that provide a level of security.

Thanks to mobile technology, it now becomes possible for anyone (not just real estate folks) to have a “virtual sidekick” along 24/7. Introduced by a company called React Mobile has introduced a product that utilizes an app, Bluetooth technology, and small “panic button” you can wear or carry. The system works a bit like the medical alert systems used in homes.

As I understand it, you program a contact list into the app on your smart phone. If you press your panic button the system calls your list with an announcement indicating you need immediate help. After a 10 second delay, it then calls 911. (There are numerous options and features, this is just a basic explanation of the default settings.) According to the React Mobile Website, the system works with both Android and IOS.

Understand I’ve not researched, tested, or in any way used the product, so this is not an endorsement or recommendation; I’m merely offering the information. The idea certainly makes sense and, as the promotional material suggests, has any number of applications: runners, travelers, even as a way to keep track of a child.

After doing your own research, if you decide to try the product, I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

Sep 022015

figure_trips_custom_text_13907There’s a little girl at school who I’ve known for several years. She’s a great kid, smart, and fun. If I were allowed to have favorite students, she could qualify. The one troubling thing about her is that she often cries when she realizes she’s made a mistake, even a small one.

Today, I know how she feels. I made a mistake yesterday and missed an event I was scheduled to speak at. (Fortunately I wasn’t the only speaker!) I can say in all honesty, this is only the second time in my career I have missed a speaking or teaching assignment.

Perhaps I can balance my sadness by telling the story of the time I almost missed a teaching assignment. Actually, I didn’t totally miss it and it’s a sorta funny story. Let me explain.

I was conducting a series of supervisor training classes in conjunction with a project at a client’s site. I was on site, working in a spare office. One of the other consultants, Bill, stuck his head in the door and announced, “You know there are a bunch of supervisors waiting for you in the training room?” I immediately realized I’d forgotten I had a class scheduled and jumped up in panic.

Bill started laughing. You have to be creative and flexible in the consulting business. Bill was certainly not an exception. He motioned me to sit down and then told me the rest of his story.

“I was walking by the room and noticed them all in there… so I walked in and asked them what was going on. One of the students explained that they thought ‘Walter is punishing us…’ When I asked why, they explained that many of them had been late for the last class and they were pretty sure you were showing them how it felt by not being on time yourself.”

Now it would be great if the story ended there. But Bill had more to tell me.

“I asked them how the class usually started and they explained that they usually reviewed homework as a group. So I suggested they start without you. That way they could show you that they were learning to accept responsibility and becoming self-starters. So if I were you, I’d give it a couple more minutes, the stroll in casually and act surprised.”

I did just that.

When I walked into the room, one of the students was standing at the flipchart recording the group’s answers while another student was facilitating a discussion of the homework. After that portion of the class was over, I thanked the self-appointed leaders and continued with the rest of the class as if I’d actually planned it that way. We “debriefed” the process and decided to rotate the responsibility among the students for the homework discussion during future classes.

Thanks to Bill’s quick thinking we truly made lemonade from a lemon. My reputation remained intact, the students learned something, and future classes were actually improved.

Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with a similar solution for this time. I suppose I could call Bill to see if he has any ideas, but it’s probably too late. Due to distance and time there was no way I could make it by the time I received the phone call asking where I was. It didn’t occur to me to cry, but I did (and do) feel really bad.

Today I’m trying to remember some of the things I say to my young friend when she cries. “Making mistakes is okay… sometimes what you think is a mistake isn’t… we can learn from our mistakes…” Ultimately, it is about perspective, right?

The shared story happened about thirty years ago. So if I can go another thirty years without forgetting a teaching or speaking assignment, I guess that’s not a bad record, really.

Wait! I didn’t actually miss that class thirty years ago–I was just late. So if I can go this long before I miss another teaching or speaking assignment, that will be a pretty good record. And I’ll also be really old!


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.

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.

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.