Jan 172017
 

A question we often hear from potential sellers is whether or not they should renovate or otherwise improve the property before selling. While there’s no one correct answer (except “it depends”), most licensees will recommend some degree of “freshening” — cosmetic improvements that might fall under the headings of staging or curb appeal.

But what about the “bigger” stuff? Should we remodel the bathroom?

Every year Remodeling Magazine reports the results of research designed to determine which projects have the greatest dollar return. The results of the most recent survey are reported on REALTOR.COM and might surprise you. While sexy renovations may help with the sale, it doesn’t necessarily mean a great increase in value. The top return was attic insulation–statistically it returns more than the cost.

We ought to bear in mind (and explain to prospective sellers) that the value of the improvement shouldn’t simply be measured in dollars, but having some data beats pulling our opinions out of the air. If you look at the chart, note also there are regional differences. Also, pay attention to what people are saying. I know when I talk with folks who are buying and selling two things that come up consistently are “energy efficiency” and “aging friendly.” It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that in Maine where we have an aging population and some mighty cold weather.

One of the funnier questions I had a few years ago came from a young couple who wondered, “Should we remodel and add a bedroom if we’re planning to sell in ten years–will we get back the money we spend?” That’s some strategic thinking! In this case, they ultimately decided ten years living in a home with the additional bedroom would be worth spending the money–even if the long-term payback wasn’t guaranteed. There are too many “it depends” to answer the dollar question with any degree of certainty.

Seth Godin recently wrote a piece (Economics Is Messy) about the difference between value and profit. When considering the “Should I renovate…?” question, it’s an important distinction. The average dollar “return” on improvements is about 64%, making most improvements a loss if we only measure in dollars. When we look at the value we include factors like how much more salable the property becomes and how much pleasure the current owner will reap from the improvement. Those factors add value and may well offset the lack of dollar profit.

 

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Dec 292016
 

It’s that time of year when cars occasionally need help getting started in the form of a jump or boost that puts more power into the process. If you’ve been “thinking” about a career in real estate, now is a good time to put some power to your thoughts and dreams by taking the Sales Agent Course starting on January 25, 2017 at the Ramada Inn in Bangor Maine. *

This is a live (and lively!) course… admittedly intense and demanding–most students concede they didn’t realize how much there is to learn. But our material and teaching methods have a proven track record. Alumni Renee Jarvis says, “I enjoyed the way Walter taught the subject matter so it would be understood and not just memorized.  I truly love Walter’s teaching style…”

For additional information, course dates, and to register online, visit the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate Website or call the school at 207 856-1712. If you have questions about course content or a career in real estate let me know–I’ll be happy to help!


* The state of Maine requires that a person pass the 55 hour Sales Agent course and a state exam, both with a 75% or better, in order to qualify for a Sales Agent license. Our 55 hour Sales Agent course covers all of the material required by Maine License Law and Rules to qualify for a Sales Agent license.

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Oct 252016
 

tax-1351881_1280Licensees may not be tax accountants or qualified to provide tax advice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share resources with our clients. The United States Department of Agriculture recently released Tax Tips for Forest Landowners for the 2016 Tax Year. I’ll confess that reading it (it’s only two pages) made my eyes glaze over, but if the only thing it accomplishes is sending your client to a tax advisor, that’s probably a good thing!

A few years ago I had my small woodlot cut and would have reported the income as “ordinary income” if I hadn’t used a tax advisor. The tax savings was significant. It’s important to “know what you don’t know.”

Licensees could post this link on their website or Facebook Page or send it directly to those on your mailing list who own forest land. Obviously, you won’t be able to answer questions, but folks may appreciate the information you can provide!

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Sep 092016
 
Seagulls or birds? An argument worth having?

Seagulls or birds? An argument worth having?

When my oldest daughter was a toddler we were at the beach. In a parental desire to show her things and develop her understanding and vocabulary, I pointed out sea gulls. (She liked animals and birds–still does.) In short order, she began pointing and saying, “Daddy! Birds!” Somewhat absent-mindedly I would reply, “Those are seagulls, Bethanie.”

After several of those exchanges, she said pointedly, “Daddy, you can call them seagulls. I’m going to call them birds.” I have always admired her independence. On this occasion, I opted to accept her refusal to adopt my vocabulary.

But names can be important. So after announcing that “new core courses” are being released, we will not be referring to them as “new” and “old.” We need some fairly precise language here, so I will refer to them by their proper names. Effective October 1, 2016, there be a Core Course for Designated Brokers 2 and a Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers 2. These courses effectively replace the Core Course for Designated Brokers 1 and the Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers 1. When I say “replace,” understand that the courses numbered 2 are different than the courses numbered 1–both in content and application.

So what should you take (or have taken) before you renew your license?

What hasn’t changed:

Designated Brokers must take the “Core Course for Designated Brokers.” Brokers and Associate Brokers must take the Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers. That’s actually pretty straight-forward.

Where it potentially gets confusing:

Whenever there’s a change in core courses, the question always raised is “which core course do I need to have completed when I renew my license?” The answer is, “It depends!” While figuring out the answer initially sounds a bit daunting, this too is fairly straight forward for most licensees. It depends on the expiration of the license you are renewing. It might help if you have that information before reading further.

Brokers and Associate Brokers with a license expiration date prior to April 1, 2017 may fulfill the core course requirement with either the Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers 1 OR the Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers 2.

Designated Brokers with a license expiration date prior to April 1, 2017 may fulfill the core course requirement with either the Core Course for Designated Brokers 1 OR the Core Course for Designated Brokers 2.

Brokers and Associate Brokers with a license expiration date on or after April 1, 2017  must fulfill the core course requirement with the Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers 2.

Designated Brokers with a license expiration date on or after April 1, 2017 must fulfill the core course requirement with  the Core Course for Designated Brokers 2.

The same explanation would apply to activating a currently inactive license. If you activate before April 1, 2017, either course is acceptable. On or after April 1, 2017, you must have the appropriate Course 2.

For most, the expiration date will determine which course is required. However, if your license expired prior to April 1, 2017, but you do not renew it until after April 1, 2017, you would need Core Course 2.

If you are at all confused, don’t guess! You can, of course, also ask your DB or call the Maine Real Estate Commission if you need some help determining the answer.

As a reminder, continuing education is only required to renew a license. Sales Agents, for example, are not required to have continuing education hours–a Sales Agent License is not renewable. A Sales Agent’s “continuing education” is the Associate Broker Course. Associate Brokers who plan to take the required course and apply for a Broker License would also not need “continuing education.” Personally, I still think continuing education is a great idea in both of those scenarios even though it’s not required. I remember one sales agent who came to the Associate Broker Course with a lot of “under contracts” during a very depressed market. His classmates were in awe and wonder. He explained, “I’ve taken over 40 hours of continuing education. There might be a correlation!”

I will be teaching both the Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers 2 and the Core Course for Designated Brokers 2 on Friday, October 7, 2016 at the Ramada Inn in Bangor. For more information and to register, you can call the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate at 856-1712 or visit the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate Website.

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Aug 052016
 
Let's think about this.

Let’s think about this.

Since I’m not actively engaged in brokerage on a daily basis, I take some extra steps to make certain I’m keeping current with “what’s going on in the business.” I know all too well the hazards created when class content and delivery aren’t in tune with the current environment.

One of those steps is to scan the media regularly and consistently. Recently there have been some headlines regarding action taken by the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) that are at best misleading. One I saw this morning claimed “CFPB makes clear lenders’ ability to share closing disclosure.” Actually, the CFPB has proposed some changes to TRID (TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule). Until those changes are adopted, nothing has changed. The original rules remain in place.

In layman’s terms, the current rules adopted last fall created a reluctance on the part of lenders to share Closing Disclosures (a detailed statement of the buyer/borrower’s costs) with third parties–including real estate licensees. I suspect this stemmed in part from a desire to protect borrowers’ privacy. That would seem to be noble goal. But it was a change that did not sit well with some licensees who had become accustomed to the lender sending the previous disclosure (called ” the HUD”) to the licensees involved in the transaction.

Under the new rule, lenders were given strong confidentiality guidelines that actually go far beyond the issue of who gets the closing disclosure. Those guidelines increased the borrowers’ confidence that information about them and their transaction would remain confidential. Nothing, however, took away the borrower’s right to share that information with others.

Personally, I never understood why this created a problem for licensees. Under the new rule, the lender would send the closing disclosure to the borrower. The borrower would, if he or she wished, contact his real estate licensee and provide a copy for review and discussion. I informally polled some of my students and, while many admitted it felt like an extra step, no one reported a serious problem with the process. In exchange for what might be seen as an extra step, the buyer/borrower received additional protections and maintained responsibility for the the process. So the campaign to change this rule feels a bit like a solution in search of a problem.

Perhaps someone can help me understand why this change is necessary. The lines of communication between a real estate licensee and his or her client should be open and frequent. We say it often, “The agent (licensee) advises, the client decides.” Why would that not apply here? The information contained in a closing disclosure belongs to the client, not the licensee. This change might actually be seen as a power grab, taking away a borrower’s right.

We sometimes hear licensees “complain” that buyers and sellers do not accept enough responsibility for what happens in a transaction and are quick to blame the licensee when things go wrong. If that’s true, does it really make sense to take this step?

I haven’t looked at the specific language of the proposed rule changes, but a summary indicates the change will include (among other things) “guidance on sharing the disclosures with various parties involved in the mortgage origination process.” It seems to me that we already have that and we might think about what we’re doing and saying if we change that guidance.

 

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May 052016
 

067There are two real estate continuing education courses coming up next week… and one is for the first time ever!


May 12, Thursday, 9:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.
Market Analysis—More Than a Price**

What does it mean to complete a market analysis? In this course, we’ll look at the types of analysis that deal with more than a price. You’ll discover some untapped resources and ideas for developing more than a boilerplate marketing plan. This course is approved for 3 clock hours of continuing education by the Maine Real Estate Commission.


May 12, Thursday, 1:00 p.m. — 4:00 p.m.
Transaction Troubleshooting*

Every transaction has issues that crop up at some point. How do effective licensees handle these issues? What are the Licensee’s duties and opportunities in helping solve problems that arise? Can some of these issues be avoided in the first place? These and many more questions will be answered during this lively course. Topics will include clauses in a purchase and sale agreement, stigmatized property, handling of offers and counter offers, due diligence, earnest money deposits, and much more. This is an intermediate level course featuring lots of class discussion and input. This course is approved for 3 clock hours of continuing education by the Maine Real Estate Commission.


Register for either or both courses by visiting the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate website or calling the school at 207 856-1712. Both courses will be held at the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road in Bangor.

The instructor instilled a level of confidence in his teaching due to experience with the subject matter. I felt extremely comfortable asking questions in relation to the material presented. I have experience teaching/instructing and receiving such in six years of college. I have no issue stating that this instructor is among the top three I have had.

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Dec 282015
 

 

board-928390_1280Here’s a summary of the real estate continuing education classes I plan to teach this spring. Note that most of the classes are part of a day or more of classes being offered by the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate and check their website for a complete selection.

January 21, Thursday, 5:00—8:00 p.m.
Getting Licensees and Appraisers in the Same Boat*

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.


April  5, Tuesday, 9:00 a.m. —12:00 p.m.
Widen Your Horizon When You List  Real Estate*

Red flags are an important part of the real estate business. Real estate licensees are expected to disclose those things that they know, or should have known. Topics covered in this course include, property condition red flags as well as red flags when dealing with deeds, property restrictions, insurance, financing, building uses, purchase and sales agreements, etc.


April 5, Tuesday, 1:00 p.m. — 4:00 p.m.
Core Course for Designated Brokers*

As of April 1, 2015, Designated Brokers are required to take this course in order to renew their license. This would also be an excellent course for Associate Brokers and Brokers to take for three elective clock hours toward license renewal. Come to this course so that you will know what the Designated Broker is required to do so that you will be able to practice in a manner that assists the Designated Broker in doing the job properly.


May 12, Thursday, 9:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.
Market Analysis—More Than a Price**

This course is in development and pending approval by the Maine Real Estate Commission. What does it mean to complete a market analysis? In this course, we’ll look at the types of analysis that arrive at more than a price. You’ll discover some untapped resources and ideas for developing more than a boilerplate marketing plan. Further information should be available by early spring!


May 12, Thursday, 1:00 p.m. — 4:00 p.m.
Transaction Troubleshooting*

Every transaction has issues that crop up at some point. How do effective licensees handle these issues? What are the Licensee’s duties and opportunities in helping solve problems that arise? Can some of these issues be avoided in the first place? These and many more questions will be answered during this lively course. Topics will include clauses in a purchase and sale agreement, stigmatized property, handling of offers and counter offers, due diligence, earnest money deposits, and much more. This is an intermediate level course featuring lots of class discussion and input.


Thursday, July 14, 5:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m.
What Should I do in this Situation?*

Case studies and discussion points are used to determine how selected situations should be handled by real estate licensees. The case studies and discussion points are discussed including with how they apply to Maine License Law and Rules as well as various other laws that real estate licensees are required to follow. Come and enter into the discussion and voice you opinions in this highly interactive program.


* Course is approved by the Maine Real Estate Commission for three clock hours of continuing education.

** Course is pending approval by the Maine Real Estate Commission  for three clock hours of continuing education.

All classes will be held at the Ramada Inn, 357 Odlin Road, Bangor

 

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Dec 152015
 

Jack is a longtime friend and colleague… one of the things I love about him is the way he shakes cages and challenges traditional thinking. The following piece is his Daily Investor Brief published by St Anselm College on December 14, 2015, challenging some of the traditional thinking often touted by the real estate industry.


Jack F HeadshotJust because everybody is doing it is no reason to do it! You’re allowed to be who you are and to plan your financial life as you please. “I’ll never have to cut the grass again!” is a poor reason for uprooting your life. Roots are worth a lot.

When the grass is cut by a condo association, you pay to have it done. You can pay to have your grass cut in the house in which you live. Think a little bit about the devil you know versus the one you don’t. Things change, and you may want big changes in your life at any time, but don’t let convention dictate your life.

In doing financial planning, your plan dictates your finances. If you want to fund a downsize move, so be it. Think through your goals and objectives, plusses and minuses, and then see what you can realistically finance. Your finances, of course, limit your plan, but get first things first. What do you want to do and why do you want to do it?

Many people live in the same place for many years and suffer no adverse consequences. Others have wanderlust and enjoy gypsy genes. Following children and/or grandchildren is not a bad strategy.  Think through your reasoning and then test the waters. What looks good in your imagination may not be ideal in practice. Then again, it might be far better than you ever imagined. Your reasons, whatever they may be, are the right reasons. Make sure they are your reasons.

Going home to the home you’ve lived in for forty or fifty years is not a bad place to go. Your investment in a home can also be an investment in a community. First it might be for schools. Next it could be for a religious congregation. Neighbors might become lifelong friends. All of this factors in. Next time you are cutting the grass, think about all this.


Jack Falvey is a widely published freelance business writer, contributing to Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News in the areas of sales, sales management, and marketing. He teaches professional sales and sales management at both University of Massachusetts Boston and at his alma mater, Boston College.

Falvey is currently a fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics & Political Library at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire where he offers daily Investor Education Briefs.


 

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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!

 

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