USDA/Rural Housing Fee Changes

 Posted by at 10:58 am
Jul 312011

I’ve never really pretended to “keep up” with all the mortgage and financing programs and their changes… thankfully, I’m able to depend on a few really good folks to keep me informed or work with clients when the need arises. One of those folks is Ron Taplin at Alpine Mortgage. (You’ll find a link to him in the “Buying Real Estate” Section on the left sidebar.)

Ron recently advised that there are some significant changes coming (effective October 1, 2011) to Rural Housing Fees. You may hear that the “up front fee” is being reduced and that is true: from 3.5% to 2.0%. But that is also not the entire story. There will also be a new annual fee: .30% per year for the life of the loan based on the unpaid balance.

Depending on how long you expect to keep your mortgage, this could be a significant increased cost even though the upfront rate is being reduced by over 40%. The short analysis is that if you are considering buying a home using this type of financing, you’ll want to get moving and get your commitment before October 1st.

Jul 252011

Here’s a list of real estate prelicensing courses I’ll be teaching in Bangor this fall. Note that there are additional options and dates available… this list includes only the courses I am facilitating.

Sales Agent Course

The state of Maine requires that a person pass both the 55 hour Sales Agent Course and a state exam with a grade of 75% or better in order to qualify for a sales agent license. This Sales Agent Course covers all of the material required by Maine License Law and Rules. The course starts on Thursday, September 7th with most classes scheduled on the weekend. For additional information and the exact schedule, visit the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate website or call the office at 856-1712.

Associate Broker Course

The state of Maine requires that a Sales Agent pass the 60 hour Associate Broker Course with a 75% or better in order to qualify for an Associate Broker license. This Associate Broker Course covers all of the educational material required by Maine License Law and Rules to qualify for an associate broker license. The sales agent will also have to complete the  required “Documented Field Experience Form.” The course meets on Wednesday starting on September 28th. For additional information and the complete schedule visit the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate website or call the school at 856-1712.

Designated Broker Course

This 45 hour course covers all the educational requirements that are necessary to apply for a broker license. To qualify for a broker license the applicant must apply to the Maine Real Estate Commission and show proof of having passed the Designated Broker Course. The applicant must also have been licensed as an Associate Broker for 2 years within the 5 years immediately preceding the date of the broker’s license application submission. Classes meet on Monday starting on October 17th. For additional information and a complete schedule, visit the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate website or call the school at 856-1712.


Can I Succeed in Real Estate?

 Posted by at 8:44 am
Jul 252011

As an instructor of pre-licensing courses, I’m of course intrigued and interested in the future of my students… I’ve not done any scientific analysis certainly–partly because success is one of those spongy terms that people actually get to define for themselves.

My sense is that many of the students who go on to acheive some level of success (defined here as staying at it for more than a year or two) do have some common characteristics:

1. Most have at least SOME experience in a service oriented job working with the public… waitressing, hair styling…they’ve learned a service mindset and how to deal with the public.

2. Most have a large degree of self-responsibility… they realize that success and failure are not things created by the brokerage company or employer. They have trouble whining.

3. Most have a decent sense of self-awareness. It may not always be accurate (“Will there be much math? I’m bad a math!”) but they are at least thinking about themselves and their skills. (As an instructor, one of my greatest joys is watching a student discover he or she can do something they thought he or she couldn’t.)

4. Most are almost obsessively curious… they WANT to know things well beyond the requirements for any state or course exam. I will always remember the returning licensee who matter-of-factly cited a large number of closings his first year. He later cited an equally large number of continuing education credits he’d earned even though they weren’t required. Gee, you don’t suppose there’s a correlation here, do you?

5. Most (particularly in the current market) are not dependent on real estate income for their survival. (My prophecy to future sales agents is ” the biggest mistake you will make is to not have money because it will make you stupid.”) Maybe a more accurate way to describe this is that most have a value system that forces them to put their clients’ needs first consistently.

Some would say you have to be an entrepreneur, but there is a difference between being self-employed and being in business and, at some level, successful people come to understand this… what I find interesting is that some  alumni start out being self-employed and end up with a business. But I also know licensees who’ve been at it for a lot of years who are really still just self-employed–they leave the business to the agency/brokerage, ride along, apply their social and interpersonal skills and make a living. I’m not sure one approach is right and the other is wrong.

Can you succeed at real estate? For most the answer will be “yes,” once you determine how you will define that success.

Many recent students have said that they think it’s a great time to get started. They understand that while the market is tough, that also means they will have to truly earn the business and they’ll have time to learn and develop at a slow and deliberate pace. That makes a lot of sense if you think about it. We might illustrate this with a “learning to drive” example. Would you rather get spend some time in class before getting behind the wheel or jump into a car that’s already traveling down the road at 50 miles per hour?

Classes are starting this fall!


Staycationing in Maine

 Posted by at 8:26 am
Jul 152011

During the week of July17-22 I will be doing some “staycationing” and will be out of reach  as I make occasional  day trips to some areas with limited cell phone coverage… I will be checking messages and email, but some patience will bein order if you are trying to reach me. If you need immediate assistance, call Neil or Patsy at the office (207 564-8073).

I’ll be consulting “50 Great New England Family Fishing Vacations,” written by friend and colleague Sheila Grant. Sheila’s book is obviously about where to fish, but it is also about great places to camp, family-friendly cabins, resorts and hotels, where to hike, bike, watch wildlife, go whale watching, go horseback riding, visit a zoo or museum or historic landmark, play golf, have a kid-friendly and affordable meal, find unique shopping, and more. If you’re staycationing or visiting the area you might want to take a look too! Check it out on Facebook.


New Class for Fall…

 Posted by at 5:51 am
Jul 152011

I know you don’t want to think about fall… and back to school… but you might enjoy hearing about a new class I’ll be offering in conjunction with the Pisctaquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative. Not all the details (date, place, etc.) are available but the fundamentals are.  Designed for non-profit organizations and small businesses, this program will be based on the theory that the best advertising is often free!

No News Is Not Good News—Media relations for nonprofessionals

You may be making news, but is it news if nobody knows about it? This class will explore the basics of “getting the word out” through approaches that work for small businesses and non-profit organizations Participants will learn the how’s and why’s of getting a story in print or on television and take home samples of formats as well as a number of tip for maximizing their business or organization’s exposure in the press.

Check back here for details–probably in three or four weeks–or visit the PVAEC website for additional information.


Time to Lower the Price?

 Posted by at 7:41 am
Jul 132011

We’ve had our property on the market for a while and there’s been very little interest. How long should we wait before reducing the price?

Tough question, and maybe not the correct one to be asking. The first question I’d ask is whether or not your property is priced properly–at or near market value. Assuming it is, I’d look at recent sales activity in your town/market. One way to do this is to calculate what’s called an “absorption rate.”

Let’s say there are currently 75 residential properties on the market  and in the past six months there have been 26 sales… statistically speaking there is a 1.44 year supply of inventory.  So if you’re priced correctly and your property has been on the market for a couple of weeks… well, calm down. In that situation, unless we get ahead of the current 75 listings, it could take a year and half for your property to sell.

Reducing the price is only one of the ways to get ahead of everybody.  There’s a lot of emphasis on price these days, and the tempting conclusion is to think the price sells the property. What sells the property is locating a  ready, willing, and able buyer. So the real question we need to ask is “how are we going to find a buyer?” Part of that consideration is “are we priced too high to attract a buyer?” If you’re close to market/appraised value, the answer is “probably not,” so sit tight.

(Bear in mind market value can change very quickly and you should be revisiting your price position regularly. And don’t forget that market value is both science and art.)

The exception to this is when a property ends up priced so low a buyer can’t resist it. I remember years ago my mother came from shopping once with a container of “drip” grind coffee. We pointed out that she didn’t have that kind of coffee maker and she replied, “But it was so cheap I couldn’t resist it!” That’s an example of price “creating” a buyer. 

So price may “create” a buyer. But you still have to ask yourself “How many buyers can I create by reducing to an irresistable price?” Remember that if you only consider price you are competing with foreclosures… and that IF you can create a buyer with an amazingly low price that buyer STILL needs to either have the money or the ability to borrow it. I have a couple of low priced properties that generate frequent calls. Most of the calls start with “will the owner finance?” Guess we didn’t create a buyer after all–or at least not a qualified one. Would you be surprised to learn that another question is “Is that price negotiable?”

If you make it all about price… it will be all about price! Sell your property, not your price.



Bugs in the Well?

 Posted by at 9:38 am
Jul 072011

Buyers who are purchasing a home or camp with well water are wise to make their purchase contingent on a satisfactory water test. There are, of course, various types of tests for different substances. The most common problem we see with these tests is the presence of bacteria–particularly in systems that have been idle (such as camps) for sometime.

Even if you aren’t considering selling your property, an occasional water test is a good idea. You’ll find some easy to understand information at the University Maine Cooperative Extension website–you can download two brochures for free. One will explain the testing process–this can be a “do it yourself” project. The other will explain the process used for disinfecting your well if bacteria is found. The direct links to the well information are:

How to test your well.

How to treat your well.

“Disclaimer” — One of my volunteer positions is president of the executive committee for the Piscataquis County Extension. Even so, I can say with some objectivity that your local extension office is a great resource… as is extension in general. In fact, that’s one reason I agreed to accept the positon. If you’re thinking about moving to a new area, visit the chamber of commerce and the extension office. There’s lots to learn!