Am I a criminal?

 Posted by at 10:59 am
Feb 212014

For real estate licensees, this question arises at least several times. The application for a license is the same for sales agents, associate brokers, and brokers. Very close to the top you must decide:

NOTE: Failure to disclose criminal convictions may result in denial, fines, suspension and/or revocation of a license.

1. Have you ever been convicted by any court of any crime?

And there are only two possible answers: “Yes” or “No.” There is no option “I’m not sure.” Given the warning that “Failure to disclose criminal convictions may result in denial, fines, suspension and/or revocation of a license,” you probably would like to get this right. (A similar question applies when renewing a license or applying for an agency license.)

The second time this arises is not a fixed event, but falls under Title 32 §13195 (that would be page 13 in the Maine Real Estate Law and Rule Handbook published by Abbot Village Press): “…criminal convictions… must be reported to the director no later than 10 days after…” In what will at first seem plain language, if you are convicted  of (not arrested for) a crime, you have ten (10) days to so inform the Maine Real Estate Commission. As with most legal questions, the answer is not always as straight-forward as one might think.

law_book_and_gavelThere are some not so obvious cases that most people wouldn’t consider a crime. In a recent consent agreement a licensee agreed to a fine for failing to disclose a criminal conviction within ten days. His crime was “operating an unregistered motor vehicle.”

If you are surprised by this, raise your hand. I thought so. Since I was also I did a little research and found that there really isn’t a clear definition of which motor vehicle violations are considered criminal. The two answers I received that made some sense are:

  1. Consult an attorney.
  2. It should indicate whether or not it’s considered criminal on the actual ticket.

Bear in mind this also is not limited to traffic violations–there are fish and wildlife violations that may also be considered criminal offenses.

But there’s good news. We can make this complicated topic very easy. If you run afoul of any law and are found guilty (convicted), you don’t have to figure out whether or not it’s a criminal case, you can just report it. I suppose parking tickets might be an exception… but what I found in my research is that almost any violation can rise to the level of a criminal offense.

Understand I’m not providing legal advice, just being practical. Every so often I will cover Title 32 §13195 in a licensing class and see a deer in the headlights look accompanied by an “uh oh.” We have to remember that our licenses are privileges and that privilege is easily endangered when there is a “change in the conditions or qualifications set forth in the original application” that we fail to report. Remember, we’re not just talking about “bad” things–a change of address qualifies.

Some of the basic changes can be completed online at the Maine Real Estate Commission website. Some require the completion of a form and payment of a fee. Others (such as criminal convictions) can be accomplished by sending an email, letter or fax – if available, the notification should include the judgment and commitment document or decision/consent agreement for professional discipline. Be sure to keep a copy in your file–probably with your Continuing Education Credits!

Much like the wisdom we apply to property disclosures, “when in doubt, disclose.” Getting convicted for operating an unregistered motor vehicle doesn’t mean you’ll be disciplined by the Maine Real Estate Commission. Failing to tell them it happened could.





It’s a #New World!

 Posted by at 9:03 am
Feb 152014

tweetEvery day is a new day; every day the world remakes itself in a myriad of ways–one of those truths that is both remarkable and at the same time stressful. Technology advances in leaps and bounds. Even how we view that new world changes. It seems the one thing you can be certain of is change. As a writer, I’ve always tried to stay very aware of how our language changes. An incident last week reminded me it’s tough to keep up.

A little background… as program director for Valley Grange, I get to work with third and fourth graders on an annual “Newspapers in Education” project. The short explanation is the kids design newspaper ads promoting Valley Grange. In an effort to make sure their ads contain the required information, we provide a “cheat sheet” that includes our official designation: Valley Grange #144. (The number indicates we were the one hundred forty fourth Grange to be chartered in Maine.)

The third graders had been designing and drawing intently with occasional requests for help when one called out, “Mr. Boomsma, do we have to include the hashtag?” I confess I suffered a moment or two of confusion regarding what she was talking about. (For those who don’t know, hashtags are words or phrases preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.) That symbol used to be the pound sign and somewhere along the way it became the number sign. But to this young lady it’s a hashtag.

I was in a meeting a while back during which a self-appointed expert took over the marketing discussion by assuring us all social media was the answer to every one of our marketing challenges. Those who disagreed were informed we “didn’t get it.” Contrast that with the person who proclaimed that there was no way she would ever have a computer in her home. I resisted the temptation to prove her wrong–she probably has several–a television and remote, maybe? I also haven’t told her she “doesn’t get it.”

Personally, I do have a love/hate relationship with social media and the talking heads assure me that I’m not an exception. There’s some data suggesting that people are becoming increasingly frustrated with Facebook. I do, however, accept the reality that it’s part of the new world order. I also believe that whether we love it or hate it, we really should be using it mindfully. To that point, I’d like to offer you some examples of “mindfulness” as applies to social media.

Do you know what (according to one survey) the biggest Facebook dislike is? Find out here! But don’t just read the biggest one, read the list. Even more importantly, ask yourself what you’re doing on Facebook? If you think you are using to build your business, are you also doing things people dislike?

At the other end of the spectrum, you’re eyes may glaze over at the detail included in this article about the seven biggest social media mistakes you may be making.  There’s even lots of information about hashtags.

Mindfulness and curiosity go hand-in-hand. After you read those two articles, why not google (a word that is a relatively recent addition to our vocabulary) “Common Social Media Mistakes.” And to be truly mindful, remember the age old wisdom not to put all your eggs in one basket. If you spend all day on Facebook, you won’t reach the woman who thinks she doesn’t have a computer in her home. The problem with marketing is it’s easy to forget markets don’t hire real estate agents and markets don’t buy things.





Coming attractions…

 Posted by at 8:57 am
Feb 152014

I’ve recently added to events to my calendar…

Tuesday, February 25th I’ll be at Jeff’s Catering to teach “Transaction Troubleshooting” sponsored by the Greater Bangor Association of Realtors. This course is also approved by the MREC for 3 hours of continuing education. If you’re a member of GBAR and attend the lunch meeting in addition to the course, the fee is $23.00.  If you don’t attend the meeting, the course fee is $25.00. Non-members and members of another board will pay $35.00.  The class is from 1:30 – 4:30. Please preregister for lunch and/or class online at Please note you must register for this class by Wednesday, February 19, 2014.

Monday, March 3rd  I’ll be participating in the ERA Dawson Mixer for folks who are curious about or considering a career in Real Estate. This is primarily a networking opportunity (with really good food–I love being invited to these!), but also includes brief presentations by folks working in the industry. I’ll of course be talking about the educational requirements. The mixer will begin at 5 PM in the ERA Conference Room, 417 Main Street in Bangor. For more information contact Julie Williams
at or at (207) 947-6788. (Registration is not required, but helps with planning.)

And don’t forget–the spring Associate Broker Class starts on Wednesday, February 26 and the Sales Agent Class starts on Wednesday evening, March 5.


What do I do…?

 Posted by at 7:30 am
Feb 042014

“What do I do in this situation?” is a continuing ed class I’ll be teaching on Thursday, February 13th at the Ramada Inn in Bangor. This is a case study based class with lots of discussion and some situations that just might make your eyes cross! There’s still time to sign up by visiting the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate website or calling the office at 856-1712. Additional classes will be available that day, taught by colleague Dale Midgely. Dale will be covering “What every real estate agent should know about financing” and “The A-Z’s of Rural Development Housing Loans.” Both include all the latest financing information… change is a constant!

Just a note–these classes will be held, we are not cancelling due to the storm. 


The 200 Letter Revisited

 Posted by at 7:22 am
Feb 042014

mailbox receiptFor those who don’t know, the 200 letter was for years a standard practice assigned to newly licensed agents. Many agencies would help promote the new licensee with a press release to the local newspaper and require the licensee to develop a mailing list of 200 people, then send those people a letter announcing his or her new role as a sales agent with ABC Realty.

There was nothing particularly sacred about 2oo–although there has been some research done indicating that most people do, in fact, know at least 200 people beyond a nod and a smile. You’re supposed to include everyone you can think of… your doctor, auto mechanic,  pet sitter, etc.

This does not exactly qualify as “targeted marketing” until you realize that we are in a relationship business. Fortunately (or unfortunately, in some cases) for many people considering a real estate transaction, they will first think “Who do I know?” and if they can’t come up with a name, they’ll start to ask their friends. (You’d think the question would be “Who’s the best in this business?” but it isn’t.) For the 200 letter  this suggests we include two business cards–“one for you and one for a friend” along with the hope of reaching upwards of 400 people.

Personally, I think it’s still a valid approach to getting started. It’s admittedly gotten expensive–mailing 200 letters is going to cost close to $100 just in postage. But that’s still a small investment in your future business. Some of the factors that “make it work” are not “cheaping out” when printing the letter and cards, writing a letter that makes a strong impression, and some degree of repetition or reinforcement. It’s not just about getting started if it’s done correctly.

An alumnus of a sales agent class once contacted me because she was having trouble with her 200 letter. It seems she couldn’t come up with 200 names of people she knew and she wondered if she might contact her 600 Facebook friends and request their mailing address. I replied that I doubted many would send her their address and suggested she put more energy into thinking about people she knew outside of social media. If you have a name and town, you can often dig out the address with some Internet research.

We can, of course, debate whether or not she should have a “600 Facebook Post.” But before we jump on Facebook (the good news is the bad news–it’s easy) let’s get a good solid list of people we know. Maybe you can’t come up with 200–there’s a message for you in that. As part of your business plan, you’re going to want to start thinking about how you will network and make contacts. Remember, this is a relationship business. The more people you know, the more prospects you have.

Just don’t be obnoxious about making those friends, please. Years ago I knew an agent (not from this area) who would clip newspaper obituaries. She would at least wait until the body was cold before sending a letter “Sorry for your loss… if your personal situation suggests it might be time for a change, I’d love to talk with you about listing your home for sale…” No, I am not making this up. Yes, there are better ways of meeting people.

(If you’ve taken a class with me, you’ve probably heard me describe “undertaker agents” — those who drive buyers around until they either buy a house or die. The above example represents the other side of the transaction. The seller undertaker agent waits until someone dies to start a relationship.)

One of the failings of the 200 letter is in its name–it’s one letter to 200 people. Why not have a plan that increases those numbers? “I’ll send a 200 letter announcing my new career. Six months from now I’ll have met another (pick the number–50?) people so I’ll send a 250 letter with some market updates and a reminder that my business is growing…” To be really sophisticated, collect the email addresses of these people and consider how email might support the program. The 200 letter is really about starting (or altering) a relationship on a professional level. The wise licensee recognizes the need to nurture that relationship on an ongoing basis.

I hear a lot of complaints from licensees about the lack of loyalty in our business–usually after they’ve driven by a friend’s home and seen a competing for sale sign on the lawn. One of the reasons it happens is we’re not reminding them we’re in the business and we’re not giving them reasons to turn to us when the need arises. What’s your plan for doing that?