Jan 282012

Since tragedy and comedy are not always far apart… perhaps this can be seen as humorous. (Thanks to Steven Cook’s Real Estate Economy Watch for the information.)

It seems that Britain is not without their share of real estate market issues… many of which parallel the U.S. According to Cook’s newsletter, a relatively new British Company called “In-Deed” has researched the issue and found that,  “Difficulties securing mortgage finance is a key factor, seriously aggravated by declining service standards among property professionals, according to the firm’s research…”

So In-Deed has launched an on-line game called Angry Buyers. According to the opening page, buyers can relieve stress by launching a mortgage broker, property lawyer or estate agent out of a canon and into a building! I’m not much of an online gamer, but it appears the objective here is to “break as many windows as you can” while relieving your frustration. Doing so means you accumulate points and ultimately might win the prize of having your mortgage or rent paid for six months.  (I didn’t look for rules, but would imagine residents of other countries are not eligible.)

Of course there’s really no market for a U.S. version…


Jan 242012

Reprinted with permission from WoodsWiseWire, an occasional electronic newsletter provided by the Maine Forest Service, on topics of general interest to woodland owners, foresters, loggers, and others interested in Maine’s forests. For more information on MFS programs, services, and publications, call the Maine Forest Service at 207-287-2791, or 1-800-367-0223, or send an email to forestinfo@maine.gov  Visit our website at www.maineforestservice.gov.

Tree Growth – also known as the Maine Tree Growth Tax Program – is Maine’s current use tax program for productive forestland. The program is administered in organized municipalities by town assessors and in the unorganized territories by Maine Revenue Service’s Property Tax Division. “Current use” means that enrolled land is valued according to its ability to grow trees for commercial use, rather than according to its fair market value. This often results in a significantly reduced property tax bill for enrolled landowners.

Tree Growth can be a beneficial program for landowners who manage their land sustainably for commercial forest products. In exchange for generally lower property valuations, landowners commit to following a written Forest Management Plan prepared by a Maine licensed forester. A licensed forester must also certify that landowners are following their plan.

Landowners are required to submit a signed Tree Growth Application and a supporting map to the assessing agent. The details of the forest management plan belong to the landowner and are not public information, although the Assessor may request a copy of the plan and hold it for a reasonable period of time for review.

The Maine Forest Service (MFS) provides assistance and education about the Tree Growth Tax Program, and forest management and planning in general, but does  NOT administer the Tree Growth Tax program.

Landowners should be aware of some very important requirements:

1) Land enrolled in Tree Growth must be recertified every ten years. Written management plans must be updated at least once in a ten year period. Could this be your year to update your plan and recertify?

2) In addition, when Tree Growth land is purchased, inherited, or otherwise acquired, new landowners must re-enroll within one year of the date of transfer. New landowners may not harvest timber until they have had a new forest management plan prepared or adopted a previous but still valid plan, and re-enrolled. Have you acquired or inherited forest land recently? 

Why is this important?

Because Tree Growth forest land that no longer complies with the program – including failure to recertify or to re-enroll on time– must be withdrawn from the program, with potentially significant monetary penalties to the landowner. Withdrawal can occur even if you were not the owner at the time the land was first enrolled, because Tree Growth status “runs with the land” – the parcel remains enrolled, even if it changes hands. Continue reading »

Jan 172012
“Leave me alone!”

Nearly every day I have to delete emails or “zip flyers” from other  agents who feel compelled to “market” their listings to me. In some cases these flyers come as huge files that take forever to download… in other cases they represent properties outside the area I tend to work in. Some clearly violate real estate/fair housing rules and a majority violate the “CanSpam” act.

I used to respond directly to the sender with suggestions and observations, but I found the odds were about equal. Half would thank me; the other half would basically tell me to “mind my own business” because they are busy doing their fiduciary duty to their client.

Since I’m pretty obsessive about fiduciary duty (there are actually seven listed in Maine Real Estate Law) I decided to do a little more research on the outside chance I was missing an opportunity to serve my clients. On occasion, I’ll ask my real estate students about “marketing” and what they think it means — especially in terms of fiduciary duty to the clients they represent. Many take the position that “all exposure is good.” I challenge that thinking with this suggestion: “Then I hope you are taping your business card to the wall of every public restroom you use.” How’s that for a technique that is low cost with lots of exposure!? (Pun intended.)

Maybe it’s because I’m an instructor that I tend to wonder what we are teaching our clients with some of the stuff we do and don’t do. I also tend to wonder how much our clients know and don’t know. I do know that when there’s an online real estate discussion, it is clear many do not know basic real estate law and practice. Heck, I see it in my own practice.

Now admittedly, a seller is unlikely to get into legal trouble if the agent representing them violates one of those laws previously mentioned. But a seller does need to monitor their agent’s performance to be sure their “marketing” program is efficient, professional, and not so intrusive that people are responding “leave me alone.”