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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Nov 172014
 

Brains_99_2SMI suppose the USPS driver thought it a bit odd that I proclaimed “my brains are here!” when he set the box down.

For one thing, it was a fairly large box.

Dealing with test and quiz anxiety is typically a challenge for some adult learners. A few years ago I learned that using stress balls (sometimes called “squeezies”) can help restless children focus… the constant motion seems to release energy and allow the child to focus. So, I thought. “Why wouldn’t this work with adults taking quizzes and tests?”

My first experiment with the theory included a young man who was self-proclaimed “A.D.H.D.” and he actually broke the stress ball I provided. But he also got a pretty good grade and thought having it helped. So I ordered more–different ones that wouldn’t break. The first batch were in the shape of cubes.

These cubes proved popular–so much so that they disappeared quickly. I decided to get a little creative the second  time I ordered… and I was quite pleased to find “squeezies” in the shape of brains. How much more appropriate could things be? Take a test–squeeze your brain! You might be surprised to discover what comes out!

Those too have disappeared… but I now have more!

I’ll be posting the spring schedule of real estate licensing classes soon… sign up for one–brains are provided!

Brains_99SM

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Confused About the Core Course?

 Posted by at 9:05 am
Sep 302014
 
Don't you hate options?

Don’t you hate options?

The Maine Real Estate Commission recently introduced a new core course. Well, more accurately, TWO new core courses. This means a lot more options for licensees but it also means a lot more potential confusion.

Let’s start with the basics. Most know that 21 hours of continuing education are required to renew a real estate license and those 21 hours must include a core course.  The confusion often comes about when there is more than one core course being offered. This newest release means that for a few months, there will actually be three core courses available. Which one do you take?

The answer lies in knowing when your license expires and what type of license you will be renewing. If your license expires on or after April 1, 2015:

  • If you are renewing an Associate Broker or Broker License, you’ll need to take the Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers – I.
  • If you are renewing a Designated Broker License, you’ll need to take the Core Course for Designated Brokers – I.”

It’s really that simple–after April 1. Just understand, the course required is based on the license you hold. Designated Brokers must take the Designated Broker Course. If you are a Designated Broker, taking the course for Brokers and Associate Brokers will not satisfy renewal requirements. Likewise, Brokers and Associate Brokers must take the Broker and Associated Broker Course. Taking the course for Designated Brokers will not satisfy renewal requirements.

It may well be that the best approach is to take both courses! You’ll still get three hours of credit for the course that isn’t required. For example, a Designated Broker must take the Core Course for Designated Brokers – I” and would earn three credit hours.  That Designated Broker could then take the Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers – I” and earn three credit hours for a total of six towards the requirement of 21.

What if your license expires before April 1, 2015? In an attempt to keep it simple, all that happens is you have one more option and this third option is the same for all licenses.

The two courses already mentioned work the same–you would take one of those two courses based on what license you are renewing. All licenses have a third option of taking the “Working With Buyers – What Have We Agreed To? Core Course”

In other words, if your current license expires before April 1, 2015, here’s how you could meet the core course requirement:

If you are an Associate Broker or Broker:

  • Take either the  “Working With Buyers – What Have We Agreed To? Core Course” or “Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers – I”

If you are a Designated Broker:

  • Take either  Working With Buyers – What Have We Agreed To? Core Course”  or “Core Course for Designated Brokers – I

After April 1, 2015 The “Working with Buyers” course will NOT satisfy the core course renewal requirement.

This really sounds harder than it is, but you do need to be certain you “get it right.”

 

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Sep 122014
 

elephant_on_hose_400_clr_11550Hopefully, most are at least aware of the elephant standing in the room even though he’s easy to ignore. We don’t like looking at him because he represents an area that can seem confusing and make him look even bigger than he actually is.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to roll out revised flood risk maps that are dramatically impacting homeowners (existing and potential) and businesses. Another reason the elephant is easy to ignore is so far only seven county’s maps have been released: Cumberland, Hancock, Knox, York, Lincoln, Waldo and Sagadahoc.

The bad news is that flood risks are changing and flood insurance premiums are dramatically affected. The good news is that there are often options and alternatives, including  subsidized and grandfathered rates which can be transferred to new owners. However, rates will still increase gradually over a period of years.

If you’ve been ignoring the flood risk elephant, it’s time to stop. A good place to start getting some basic understanding is a recent article published by the Bangor Daily News. Licensees can and should understand the issue as it relates to businesses, primary and secondary homeowners–both sellers and buyers. This is not an issue that should be reserved until closing.

Ultimately and at a basic level it’s not much different from other risks homeowners must face. There are parallels to homeowners insurance and title insurance–for licensees with clients, it’s about helping those clients manage risk. Just like other risks, another good place to start is by becoming familiar with those companies who provide the insurance necessary.

Aristotle said, “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” You can’t lose by getting smarter!

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Aug 052014
 
You get the keys for people buying houses, how about for your career?

You get the keys for people buying houses, how about for your career?

Many associate brokers somewhat automatically take 21 hours of continuing education and renew their licenses time after time perhaps because they think, “I never intend to be a designated broker.” Of course situations can change quickly and there are probably more than a few DB’s who did not arrive in the position intentionally. But this course is about a lot more than being a designated broker. In the words of one student,

I learned so much from the instructor and other students… very interacting… it showed me what I didn’t know!

You’ll learn what you don’t know and gain a whole different perspective about the business of real estate. The course requirements established by the Maine Real Estate Commission changed significantly in 2013 and I am proud to be a significant contributor to the development of the course offered by the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate.

(I liked) the instructors approach to teaching with examples and (how) he encouraged lots of discussion during class.

This is truly a course about the practice and the business of real estate–not just law, vocabulary and theory. Upon completion of the course and two years practicing as an associate broker, students become eligible to apply for a broker’s license and are then eligible to fill the role of designated broker. But even if you have no interest in being a designated broker, you’ll want to consider taking this course.  You’ll develop a new understanding of the business as we look at some of the management issues and opportunities that exist in the increasing complex business of real estate. You’ll learn about things like business planning, ethics, and risk reduction–topics only touched on briefly in previous licensing courses.

Walter is an excellent instructor! Can’t wait to take another class with him!

Many students have indicated that taking the course will help them build their personal real estate business as they apply sound management and business principles. They discover the benefit from exploring some basic training techniques and consider the role of policy in building their business as an individual as well as a company. How about “risk management” strategies? Are they ways to minimize your exposure to complaints and law suits as while practicing brokerage?

If you’ve held a broker’s license for a while, you might also consider re-taking the course as a refresher and see how much things have changed since you were licensed. As a reward for doing so, you’ll receive 18 hours of continuing education credit! (You’ll still need to take the current core course to meet the full CE requirements.)

The course is offered alternatively as a weekend course and weekday course each fall and spring in the Bangor area. Details for the next course are available on the Arthur Gary School or Real Estate website.

 Of the three licensing courses one must take, this was by far the most interesting, the most useful and incited the most thought.

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