The Residential Specialist, May/June 2011

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The State of the Rural Homes Market Finding Work/Life Balance Green Home Trends

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Agents’ previous jobs shape their real estate careers in unique ways


Todd Smith, CRS


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residential The

S pecia li s t

May/June 2011 VOL. 10, NO. 3

18 30 features

18 Past Lives

By Regina Ludes For many agents, real estate is a culmination of past experiences.

22 Balancing Act

By Mary Ellen Collins In the chaos of a 24/7 world, where agents feel pressure to be on call all the time, setting work/life boundaries can be challenging.

26 Wide Open Spaces

By Mary Dixon Lebeau CRSs offer an up-close view of the state of the rural homes market.

30 Lean & Green

By Daniel Rome Levine Despite the tough economy, green home features are still in demand—but on a much smaller scale.

w w w . c r s . c o m Cover photo by Jay B. Sauceda | 1

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16 departments


5 President ’s Message 6 Q uick Takes By Frank Serio, CRS

FSBOs; mortgage IQ; shadow inventory figures; and more

inside CRS

9 Great Finds 10 Technolo gy


Travel accessories

Sell-a-bration® Recap New CRS Chapter CRS Exec Retires Your Home newsletter

By Chloe Thompson Smartphone options

12 Trends

l 46 Referra Marketplace 48 Ask a CRS

By Gwen Moran Strategic defaults

14 Pi p eline

Advice from the country’s top agents

By Michael Fenner CRS education

16 Up Close

Todd Wiley, CRS Zephyr Real Estate San Francisco

34 Good Read

Reviewed by Allan Fallow Your Digital Afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr and Twitter Are Your Estate, What’s Your Legacy? By Evan Carroll and John Romano

36 2 | May/June 2011

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Coming In The Next Issue ... n

Cloud Cover

You’ve heard of cloud computing, but what exactly is it? You’re probably already using it. n

Movin’ on Up

The move-up buyer has always played a key role in the real estate market. How has that changed amid still-sinking home values? n

Unusual Suspects

Unique properties — hunting lodges, homes with unique architectural designs or historic homes — stand out from the crowd. But do they sell in a tough market? n

Giddy Up

Is partnership right for you? An overview of the benefits, what to look for in a partner, and more. Would you like to be considered as a source for a future story in The ­Residential Specialist? Send an e-mail to to be added to our potential source list. To see a list of the topics we’ll be covering, check out the magazine’s 2011 Editorial Calendar online at PDF/editorial_cal.pdf.

Specia li s t

EDITOR Michael Fenner E-mail: Tel: 800.462.8841, ext. 4428 Fax: 312.329.8882 ASSOCIATE EDITOR Regina Ludes E-mail: Tel: 800.462.8841, ext. 4404 Fax: 312.329.8882 2011 COMMUNICATIONS ADVISORY PANEL Moderator: Lois Cox, CRS Co-Moderator: Mark Shepherd, CRS 2011 COMMUNICATIONS ADVISORY PANEL MEMBERS Rebecca Boomsma, CRS; Gretchen Conley, CRS; Jeff Dowler, CRS; Daisy Edwards, CRS; Treasure Faircloth, CRS; John Goede, CRS; Sandy Kaplan, CRS; Geri Kenyon, CRS; Daniel Kijner, CRS; Colleen McKean, CRS; Rita McNeil, CRS; Nancy Metcalf, CRS; Landa Pennington, CRS; Rae Roeder, CRS; Cynthia Ulsrud, CRS; Beverlee Vidoli, CRS CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mary Ellen Collins, Daniel Rome Levine, Gwen Moran OFFICERS: 2011 President Frank Serio, CRS Chief Executive Officer Nina J. Cottrell 2011 President-Elect Mark Minchew, CRS

PLUS: QR codes 101

2011 First Vice President Mary McCall, CRS 2011 Immediate Past President Gregg Fujita, CRS


Tel: 202.331.7700 Fax: 202.331.2043 Publishing Manager Andrea Gabrick E-mail: Advertising Manager Kathleen Thomas E-mail: Tel: 202.721.1497 Project Manager Katie Mason Art Director Josh Coleman Production Artist Tommy Dingus The Residential Specialist is published for Certified Residential Specialists, General Members and Subscribers by the Council of Residential Specialists. The magazine’s mission is: To be a superior educational resource for CRS Designees and Members, providing the information and tools they need to be exceptionally successful in selling residential real estate. The Residential Specialist is published bimonthly by the Council of Residential Specialists, 430 North Michigan Ave., Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60611-4092. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL, and additional mailing offices. Change of address? E-mail requests to, call Customer Service at 800.462.8841 or mail to CRS at the above address. The Residential Specialist (USPS-0021-699, ISSN 15397572) is d ­ istributed to members of the Council as part of their membership dues. Non-members may purchase subscriptions for $29.95 per year in the U.S., $44.95 in Canada and $89.95 in other international countries. All articles and paid advertising represent the opinions of the authors and advertisers, not the Council. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to The Residential Specialist, c/o Council of Residential Specialists, 430 North Michigan Ave., Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60611-4092. COPYRIGHT 2011 by the Council of Residential Specialists. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A. Ja nua r y/

Feb r ua r y



nts Working With Clieaster Affected by Dis ships Managing Relation With Vendors


s Small Brokerage Thrive

ST ■



4 | May/June 2011



President’s Message | News from Frank Serio, CRS

Gary Landsman

Strive for Change, Accomplish More

Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.

I was recently asked to speak at a friend’s year-end company awards breakfast. I wanted to do a good job and deliver an appropriate message, so I asked the group how many of them got what they wanted last year. There was silence. Then a few attendees spoke up and said, “No, I did not get what I wanted last year.” But in reality, they all did get what they wanted. The truth is that if you truly want more, you will do those things necessary to accomplish more. However, we tend to do the same things we have always done and still expect more. There is an old adage I like to share: “Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.” I encourage CRS Designees to look for ways to grow. Benchmark other industries and grow your business. Big businesses spend large sums of money looking for new and innovative ways of marketing, but in real estate we tend to focus on what the competition is doing. That means we often fail to make changes that would differentiate ourselves in the eyes of the consumer. CRSs must innovate, differentiate and strive for a lofty goal. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Here at CRS, we are setting our goals high and working to bring about the change you have asked for in surveys. We want more. We want to maintain CRS as the educational leader in real estate. If you haven’t attended a class in a while, live or online, or participated in one of our fantastic webinars, please check them out at The changes we are making will help you get what you want in 2011. Sign up for a class today and reap the rewards. | 5

QuickTakes | Industry headlines, statistics and trends


A New Look for 2015

Newly built homes in 2015 will be smaller, they will include more environmentally friendly features, and their living rooms will either merge with other spaces in the home or be eliminated altogether, according to a study by the National Association of Home Builders. Survey respondents say they expect the average size of single-family homes to be 2,152 square feet by 2015, 10 percent smaller than homes under construction in the first three quarters of 2010. More than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) say homes will have more green features, followed by technology features (29 percent), greater universal access (20 percent) and more outdoor living space (10 percent). As homes get smaller, the living room area will also change. More than half (52 percent) of respondents expect the living room to merge with other spaces in the home, while 30 percent believe it will vanish altogether in an effort to save square footage. So-called great rooms and walk-in closets in the master bedroom will become more common, while second master bedroom suites, sunrooms and media rooms will be less popular.

Tools That Drive Business

What marketing tools do agents plan to use in 2011 to drive business?

2.6% print





online advertising Source: Real Living survey, February 2011

6 | May/June 2011

social media

Home sellers who use a REALTOR® are more successful in selling their home and more satisfied with the sales process than those who attempt to sell on their own, according to a recent HomeGain survey. • 83 percent of homeowners say they used a REALTOR® to sell their home vs. 17 percent who tried to sell their home on their own. • 59 percent of homeowners who used a REALTOR® were successful in selling their home vs. 39 percent who were successful selling it on their own. • 88 percent of homeowners who successfully sold their home using a REALTOR® and 81 percent who attempted to sell their own home say they would use a REALTOR® in the future. • 24 percent of FSBOs eventually enlisted the help of a REALTOR® to sell their home.

Doubling Up on Foreclosure Prevention The number of foreclosure prevention actions completed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac more than doubled in 2010, rising to 946,305 from the 431,098 recorded in 2009, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s fourth-quarter 2010 foreclosure prevention report. The agency says that although overall loan modifications declined for the second consecutive quarter, refinancing via the Home Affordable Refinance Program, which is designed to help underwater homeowners struggling to refinance their mortgages, increased 30 percent in the fourth quarter.

Home Improvement

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, home improvement spending is expected to increase 3.5 percent between 2010 and 2015, following a decline of 1.4 percent between 2005 and 2010.

Mortgage Confusion More than two-thirds of Americans (70.6 percent) believe access to affordable mortgages is a serious problem, according to a recent survey by Respondents also say the biggest challenge to getting a mortgage is understanding the mortgage process and dealing with lenders’ requirements, ranking it more challenging (32.3 percent) than getting the mortgage itself (23 percent) or negotiating the sale price on a home (25.3 percent). More than three out of four recent homebuyers (79 percent), especially those earning more than $50,000 a year, say getting a mortgage was more difficult than they expected. To add to the confusion, nearly onefourth (22.9 percent) of buyers say applying for a mortgage was challenging because their lender kept changing the documentation requirements; 21.6 percent say their lender used too much technical jargon; and 20.7 percent say it was difficult to find a lender that was easy to work with. Borrowers considered these problems more challenging than the amount of time it took to fund a loan (19.1 percent) and qualifying for a loan due to their credit rating (6.9 percent).

Homeowner Improvement Spending 1995-2015 Compound annual growth rate (percent)

3.9 %

1995–2000 2000–2005 2005–2010

7.3 %

-1.4 %


3.5 %

Homeownership Benefits Many first-time buyers were surprised by the immediate benefits they received once they purchased their first home, according to a recent survey by Coldwell Banker. •

67 percent said the market conditions provided them the opportunity to buy a home sooner than they expected

• 50 percent said they found a home in a more desirable location than they expected

• 61 percent got a home for a better price than expected • 40 percent got more space than expected • 43 percent locked into a lower interest rate than they expected

A recent report from Standard & Poor’s finds that it may take 49 months, or more than four years, to clear the supply of distressed properties that were on the market at the end of the fourth quarter of 2010, an increase of 11 percent from the previous quarter and 40 percent higher than the fourth quarter of 2009. The number of distressed properties currently on the market is falling, but not as quickly as it had been, the study finds. At the end of the fourth quarter of 2010, Los Angeles had the largest balance of so-called shadow inventory, but New York had the longest timeline — 130 months — because of low liquidation rates. Miami is the only top-20 market in which the time to clear inventory of distressed properties remained stable since the fourth quarter of 2009. Before the first quarter of 2008, higher inventories of distressed properties due to higher default rates were to blame for the increased timeline to clear the shadow inventory. Since then, slower liquidation rates have created longer timelines, the report concludes. | 7

Chad Baker/Getty Images

Clogged Pipeline

QuickTakes | Industry headlines, statistics and trends

A large majority of Americans believe home prices will stabilize over the next 12 months, according to a recent national housing survey from Fannie Mae. Nearly four out of five Americans (78 percent) believe housing prices will hold steady or increase over the next 12 months, up from 73 percent a year ago. But nearly two-thirds (61 percent) still believe the economy is on the wrong track, which is unchanged from last year. The survey also finds that younger Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans have a more positive outlook on homeownership than the general population. Almost six out of 10 Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 say buying a home has potential as an investment, while 34 percent of Hispanics and 35 percent of African-Americans say they expect to purchase a home within the next three years, compared to only one in four (23 percent) of all other Americans.

54 percent: emails came too frequently 49 percent: content became too repetitive 47 percent: received too many emails and

needed to get off some companies’ lists

25 percent: content wasn’t relevant 22 percent: signed up for a one-time offer 13 percent: circumstances changed (i.e., moved, got married, changed job, etc.)

8 percent:

vided better information

another company pro-

6 percent: they could get the information from another source (e.g., blogs, Facebook, etc.) Source: ExactTarget and CoTweet

Gen X to Lead

Housing Recovery

When the housing market begins to recover, Generation X adults (ages 31 to 45) will likely lead the way, according to a panel of real estate experts who delivered an educational webinar presented by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). While Generation X is not the largest generation, it makes up roughly one-third of the home-buying population. They are the most mobile of the generations, they are in the prime of their careers, and they need to accommodate growing families, the panel experts say. Community amenities are important to Generation X buyers, and many look for homes on large lots in suburban locations. They also want more storage, an open floor plan and flexibility in the garage. “While Gen X numbers are smaller than the birth cohorts before and after them, their numbers have been enlarged by steady immigration,” says NAHB chief economist David Crowe. “Gen X may wait longer than their predecessors to establish their own household or buy a home because of the recent recession impacts, but the trends are still likely to occur as they have for past generations.”

8 | May/June 2011

Artpartner-Images/Getty Images

Americans Upbeat about Housing

Why People Unsubscribe from Permission Emails

Great Finds | Tools of the trade

pack it in Between client meetings, conferences and personal trips, REALTORS® are always moving from here to there. And even though a life on the go has become old hat for a lot of agents, seasoned travelers know the right travel accessories can help make any trip more comfortable and productive, while turning any hotel into a home away from home. Here are a few to pack.

overhead ban If you’re reading contracts on the red-eye, be courteous to your fellow passengers by foregoing the overhead light. Try the eGear Ear Light instead. It illuminates only what’s in your direct line of vision with a single bright beam. The hands-free light has an energyefficient bulb that won’t need replacing and comes with a lithium battery. The inner surface is padded for extra comfort, and it’s completely adjustable so you can shine the light wherever you need. hide and seek Tired of having to pay for wireless Internet? Avoid the hassle with the Canary Wireless Wi-Fi Digital Hotspotter, which helps locate the nearest wireless network at the touch of a button. Icons on the LCD screen display the signal strength and security status for each network. At three inches tall, the lightweight device is small enough to fit inside your pocket and uses AAA batteries.



full steam ahead You can keep your clothes looking like they came right from the dry cleaner — even after they’ve been stuffed in a cramped suitcase — with a portable steamer. The compact and lightweight Samsonite Dual Voltage Garment Steamer is designed for jetsetters; its foldaway handle and detachable brush make it easy to pack. And it’s easy to use, too: All you need is tap water and a steady hand to guide the brush over any fabric (including silk, linen and cotton) for a smooth finish.


tip off Is your smartphone your lifeline? If so, the very portable Mobile Power Pack from Tumi is your lifesaver. This compact device can power a variety of cell phones and other USB devices with a series of interchangeable tips and a retractable connector cable. Just plug the Power Pack into a wall outlet with the included AC wall adapter and then plug your USB device into the charger with the appropriate tip.

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Technology | Streamlining your business

mobile intelligence Finding the right smartphone is a matter of trial and error. By Chloe Thompson

U.S. smartphone usage jumped 60 percent in 2010 to an estimated 63.2 million users. Source: ComScore

10 | May/June 2011


ancy Alert, CRS, is known as a “tech guru” among her clients. Her latest technology-enabled save involved a client who had flown in from Boston to work with Alert, of Nancy Alert and Associates with RE/MAX Allegiance in McLean, Va. Alert showed the client, who was moving to the Washington, D.C., area, a few apartments in various complexes, but none was quite right. Her client then spotted a building that wasn’t on Alert’s list while they were driving to other showings in the neighborhood. Since it had piqued her client’s interest, Alert used the app on her smartphone to search the property address and determine if any apartments in that building were for sale.

“I pulled up a list of available properties in the area and there it was,” Alert says. “I hit ‘call’ underneath the number on display so the listing agent could set something up, and we went right in to talk to the people inside.” The building manager showed them the available properties, and Alert’s client fell in love with one of them. She wrote an offer for it shortly after. Alert’s client might credit the agent’s quick thinking for setting up the impromptu viewing, but Alert knows exactly who — or what — to thank: her smartphone. She’s not alone. According to the 2010 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Member Profile, more than 50 percent of REALTORS® use a smartphone daily or almost daily.

In today’s fast-moving world, smartphones are becoming ever more vital to staying efficient and productive in the real estate business. And with so many models to choose from, the search for a perfect match can be a tall task. But there’s something for everyone, and as these CRSs demonstrate, finding the ideal phone is worth the effort.

User Friendly Scott Hayes, CRS, with Austin Real Estate Agency in Texas, has been in real estate for about 15 years and says he’s gone through at least that many phones. Hayes, who recently started his own brokerage, ticks off the list on his fingers — “at least three BlackBerrys; the Treo 600, 650 and 700; a few Sprint flip phones; and finally, the latest iPhones,” he says, laughing. “I think the first thing people underestimate is the ease of use,” says Hayes, who has settled on the latest iPhone. “All the bells and whistles are great, but if you don’t know how to use the basic features of the phone and enjoy it, then it’s going to be just that: bells and whistles.” Although he was wary of it at first, the touchscreen on his iPhone 4 is a big reason he likes his current phone so much. A self-declared “big guy,” Hayes often made multiple errors using the small, multi-letter keys on his previous phones. “There’s nothing more clumsy than having big hands and trying to type on a phone,” he says. “I need that full keyboard.” But beyond this simple but important feature, Hayes finds his phone indispensable because it holds his calendar and crucial documents, all of which sync automatically to his laptop and iPad. And then, of course, there are the apps. “What sets the iPhone apart from the other phones I’ve had is how the applications make the phone so much easier to use,” Hayes says. For example, with the Supra eKey Professional attachment and the accompanying app for his phone, he opens lockboxes when showing homes to clients. Another application he uses frequently is the Mortgage Calculator, which helps calculate a ballpark interest rate and home payments for the buyer on the spot.

Small But Mighty It’s the little things that can make or break an agent’s relationship with a smartphone. For Alert, that little thing is actually quite big — she loves the large screen on her Motorola Android 2 Global. “It’s great for reading documents, which I can then easily e-mail to a client,” she says. Alert previously used BlackBerrys, but she found the small screen and the slow service cumbersome compared with the ease of use of the Droid. In addition to being able to respond instantly to Internet leads — Alert has them sent to her phone so she can respond via email — she uses the Droid for social media too. Alert uses the Twitter and Facebook applications to tweet or post real estate-related articles to Facebook without

An App a Day... Applications are part of what makes smartphones so smart. Beyond the obvious real estate-related apps agents use every day, here are some others that CRSs say are key to their business: Mortgage Calculator, Free (iPhone, Droid) Enter the down payment and the full cost of the home, and the application will calculate a ballpark interest rate and future payments. GPS Navigation (comes with Droid and iPhone; additional purchase necessary for BlackBerry) Turn-by-turn directions can be seen in map format or as spoken directions (needs additional free voice application download). DocuSign, Free (iPhone) Electronically sign documents and send to appropriate parties. CamCard, $11.99 (Droid, iPhone) Take a mobile photo of a business card, and the application automatically syncs all contact information to the phone’s address book. DeJa Office-CompanionLink Software $39.95 (Droid) Syncs Outlook emails with Droid. One-time fee.

having to exit and sign onto a different website. The Droid also comes with a free navigation app, which she says has come in handy while driving around with clients. “Directions and I, we don’t work well,” she says laughing. “This has definitely helped me.” Her only gripe about the phone is that her Droid needs an extra paid application to sync her Outlook contacts with her phone. To bypass the fee, Alert created a Gmail account and transferred her contacts over (Gmail accounts sync automatically for free with the Droid upon setup). Nonetheless, Alert says this was a small price to pay to have a phone with better service and better capabilities than her previous BlackBerrys.

Touch Points Brian Dunham, CRS, with Coldwell Banker Brenizer in Eau Claire, Wis., uses the touchscreen-only Droid X, but doesn’t mind the lack of a QWERTY keyboard. “It has a ‘swipe’ feature so you don’t have to hit every key; you can just swipe over the top of them, and it’s smart enough to figure out what you want to say and imports it into the conversation,” Dunham explains. His favorite phone feature is the Droid’s multiple home screens — he has separate screens set up for the weather, social media, news, voicemail and speed dials, and simply has to swipe through each to get his basic information. “Essentially, you’re walking around with a handheld computer,” Dunham says. With his new phone, Dunham says, he’s also become more of a shutterbug. The Droid X’s screen is one of the biggest on the market, and he says the exterior shots he takes of homes are comparable to those of a high-end stand-alone camera. He plans on using the high-quality camera feature to take photos of clients throughout the closing process and then make personalized calendars to send along as a closing gift. The search for the perfect smartphone can be a long one, but it’s a worthwhile hunt. “The smartphone is definitely part of the package that I have to have in order to stay in this business,” Alert says. Chloe Thompson is a writer based in Washington, D.C. | 1 1

Trends | Today and tomorrow

key decision What do CRSs need to know to counsel clients who may be considering a strategic default on their mortgage?

23.1 percent of all U.S. residential mortgages were underwater at the end of 2010. Source: CoreLogic

12 | May/June 2011


arlier this year, Joe Bourland, CRS, a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Professionals in Avondale, Ariz., was trying to help a seller with a short sale. The client had purchased the property in 2006 and lived there for two years. In 2008, after a job transfer to Florida, the client turned the property into a rental. Eventually, it became impossible to manage from a distance, and he decided to try to sell the property, which was now worth less than the mortgage owed.

Bourland listed the property and received an offer, but the bank demanded a $30,000 promissory note from Bourland’s client in addition to the deal. Arizona, however, is a nonrecourse state, meaning banks cannot pursue a shortfall from a short sale or foreclosure by demanding assets from or suing the borrower. Bourland thought it would be a simple administrative issue to clear up. He was wrong. “My client consulted his attorney and they tried to inform the bank that the client

Comstock/Getty Images

By Gwen Moran

didn’t have to pay, but the lender declined the buy,” recalls Bourland. As a result of the failed short sale, the client decided to let the property fall into foreclosure. In some cases, this scenario, known as a strategic mortgage default, is a business decision for a family, says real estate attorney Lance D. Churchill, co-founder of Frontline Companies, a real estate training company in Boise, Idaho. Even if borrowers can pay the mortgage, when the property value falls to much less than what is owed, they may conclude they are “throwing money into a black hole,” he says. And it seems fewer people are willing to do that. While the numbers of strategic defaults are difficult to track because there is no uniform definition or criteria to measure them, a December 2010 Trulia/RealtyTrac survey found that nearly half (48 percent) of homeowners with a mortgage would consider walking away if the property was underwater — up 7 percent from May 2010. An April 2010 report from Morgan Stanley found that borrowers default at an increased rate, “reaching 17 percent of households defaulting strategically, when their equity shortfall reaches 50 percent of the value of their homes.” The study also found that people who know someone who defaulted were 82 percent more likely to do so themselves. As short sales and foreclosure rates rise, CRSs increasingly find themselves working with clients facing tough financial decisions — including the possibility of walking away from their mortgages. It’s in agents’ — and their clients’ — best interests to make sure they fully understand the laws, regulations and implications surrounding any advice they may give, Churchill says. And agents who can connect such clients with top legal and financial professionals will go a long way toward building client loyalty and referrals for the future.

The Consequences REALTORS® and their clients must carefully consider the consequences for borrowers who decide to default on their mortgage loans. In June 2010, Fannie Mae announced that defaulting borrowers who walk away from their loans and have the

capacity to pay or did not try to work out payment with the lender in good faith will be ineligible for a new Fannie Mae-backed mortgage for seven years from the date of foreclosure. Borrowers who have extenuating circumstances or hardship may be eligible for a new loan within a shorter period of time. But Churchill suggests that Fannie Mae has never adequately defined its criteria for a strategic default, so it’s unclear how that provision will be enforced, he says. If a client has substantial assets or lacks extenuating circumstances, such as job loss, divorce, illness or other hardship, it may not be possible to qualify for a short sale to begin with, says Travis Waller, CRS, with RE/MAX Advantage Plus in Teaneck, N.J. Other roadblocks to qualifying for a short sale might include multiple liens on a property, such as tax liens or a second mortgage. In those cases, homeowners may choose to strategically default to prevent spending money on a property that will never regain its value. New Jersey, like most states (except Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin), allows lenders to seek reimbursement for any shortfall resulting from a short sale or foreclosure. Steven J. Elliott, CPA, tax director with accounting firm Schwartz & Co., in Bellmore, N.Y., says REALTORS® need to be careful when they talk to clients about potential tax consequences for any debt that is forgiven as part of the short sale or foreclosure. Unless a borrower has filed for bankruptcy or can prove insolvency — more liabilities than assets — lenders can pursue legal action for the difference in what was owed and what was received, he says. In some states, there is a window of only a few months in which lenders can do so. Therefore, it’s critical that agents know how the laws in their state could affect their client’s situation.

Giving Good Counsel Of course, REALTORS® cannot give legal or financial advice and must always refer clients to legal, financial and tax professionals about such issues. And it’s critical

for agents to be well-versed in the laws and regulations that affect their interactions with clients. One such rule is the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, issued in November 2010. Although it is targeted to mortgage relief companies, FTC materials state that the rule covers real estate agents who promote their services as a way to help consumers avoid foreclosure, such as getting a lender’s approval for a short sale. Under the rule, agents must disclose that they are not affiliated with the government, advise borrowers that lenders may not agree to mortgage adjustments, and tell them that not paying the mortgage could result in damage to their credit rating and the loss of the home. Waller now deals 100 percent in short sales. He says one of his biggest challenges when counseling clients considering strategic default is their emotional state. “They’re angry that they pay so much for a home and then the home is worth 40 percent less than what they bought it for. They ask, ‘Why should I keep paying for something that’s not worth the value?’ ” he says. When attending meetings with homeowners facing such tough financial decisions, Waller always brings proof that the clients are not alone. He brings listings of available homes sold in the previous three months, as well as lists of homes with payments that are at least 90 days late. Once they see the overwhelming number of properties that are embroiled in similar circumstances, they begin to relax and can make more informed, analytical decisions, he says. If a client does decide to default, Churchill says a plan is in order: Get good legal and financial counsel and look at the move as a business decision rather than a moral one. “Some people think that they’re breaking the law. This is certainly not a criminal violation. It’s a contract issue,” he says. “If you’re 20 or 30 percent or more underwater and you don’t have other options, it might be something to consider.” Gwen Moran is a writer based in Wall Township, N.J., and is a frequent contributor to The Residential Specialist. | 1 3

Pipeline | Strategies to grow your business

a different angle A new CRS course focuses on the buyer side of distressed properties. By Michael Fenner

Foreclosure filings were reported on 681,153 U.S. properties in the first quarter of 2011. Source: RealtyTrac

14 | May/June 2011


ar too many REALTORS® avoid the distressed property market — which includes foreclosures and short sales — because they lack the necessary skills, strategies and information they need to guide their buyer clients through one of these transactions successfully. But distressed properties accounted for 34 percent of fourth quarter 2010 home sales, up from 32 percent a year earlier, according to data from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR).

Further, distressed properties might represent a good bargain to the right buyer. RealtyTrac finds that homes in the foreclosure process sold at an average 28 percent discount last year compared to nondistressed homes, up from a discount of 27 percent in 2009 and 22 percent in 2008. This presents a big opportunity for buyers — and to those REALTORS® who are qualified to assist them through these often tricky transactions. To prepare agents to serve this growing demand, the Council of Residential

Specialists has developed a new course, Guiding the Buyer in the Distressed Property Market (CRS 112), that gives agents the practical tools and skills they need to counsel clients about distressed property transactions. Building upon the success of CRS’s existing Short Sales and Foreclosures: Protecting Your Clients’ Interests course (CRS 111), the new course’s program focuses on the buyer side of distressed property transactions. “This course is a direct response to market demand,” says Mary Beth Ciukaj, CRS education director. “Agents realize that when more than one-third of all existing-home sales involve distressed properties, it’s time to learn how to serve consumer demand in that area. This course aims to help them do just that,” she says.

The Basics Guiding the Buyer in the Distressed Property Market (CRS 112) earns attendees eight units of CRS education credit toward the CRS Designation, and it has been approved as a qualifying core course for NAR’s Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource Certification (SFR). REALTORS® who complete the course successfully will be able to: • Counsel and prepare their clients to purchase a distressed property. • Find and select those distressed properties that meet their clients’ specific needs. • Successfully prepare and negotiate an “offer to purchase” contract. • Finance REO and short sale properties. • Qualify and work with the listing agent in order to avoid unnecessary delays and problems. • Successfully sell REO and short sale properties. For details about the new course and to find it in your area, go to:

U.S. Properties Receiving Foreclosure Filings 2007 2008 2009 2010

2.20 million 2.33 million 2.80 million 2.87 million Source: RealtyTrac

Developed and taught by senior instructors Frank Serio, CRS, and LeRoy Houser, CRS, the course includes specific sales strategies that will help both new and experienced REALTORS® represent their buyers in the most professional manner possible. Course attendees will gain the knowledge they need as they build confidence in their ability to navigate the many complex processes involved in a distressed property transaction. “At a time when so many residential properties are distressed, there’s a good chance that agents will work with a buyer client who wants to buy one of these homes in the near future,” says course co-author and 2011 CRS president Frank Serio. “Guiding the Buyer in the Distressed Property Market is the perfect course to teach agents the techniques they need to better serve these clients who must navigate the tricky transactions prevalent in today’s market.” Course co-author LeRoy Houser adds: “This course was written to be much more than just another distressed property seminar. More than that, it is a great sales course that is directed at the buyers of distressed properties and their buyer’s agent. We teach those systems and strategies that make buying and selling REO and short sale properties much more feasible and realistic for both REALTORS® and their buyer clients.” Houser presented the course for the first time in Arlington, Va., on April 11. Paul DiCicco, the executive vice president and

managing broker of McEnearney Associates, which sponsored the course, says it provided his agents with a blueprint of how to educate their buyer clients about what to expect before deciding to purchase a short sale or foreclosure. “It gave them the tools they need to be able to deal with a buyer and negotiate all the landmines that can be involved in the transaction process,” DiCicco says. “It’s a super tool to educate buyers’ agents about the process, because it’s definitely a different beast than dealing with (distressed properties) from the seller’s side.” Course attendee Betty Thompson, CRS, of McEnearney Associates in McLean, Va., says CRS 112 delivered a host of valuable solutions. For example, she learned where to find the best online resources for distressed property sales information, in addition to practical strategies for counseling clients who may be considering the purchase of such a property. She also learned the importance of working with an attorney throughout the transaction process. “Considering the number of distressed properties in the marketplace today and the fact that they will affect the real estate market for the next five years at least, it’s important to take this course,” Thompson says. “This is the one course I would take this year if I didn’t take any others. And the sooner, the better!” Michael Fenner is the editor of The Residential Specialist. | 1 5

Up Close | Profiles of people to watch

todd wiley,


Zephyr Real Estate, San Francisco

Designee since: 2009 Contact: toddwiley@ or 415.317.5888

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When you entered the profession, the market was at a high point. How have you adapted to the lows in what’s now a tougher economic climate? It’s made me a lot more focused and is forcing me to dive into things that I didn’t necessarily want to do — working with short sales and pursuing foreclosures. I’ve done what I’ve had to do to survive and to do better than most of my peers. I’ve also found a lot of support and inspiration in the Northern California CRS chapter. Some of the people I’ve met have been incredibly instrumental just by talking to me about their business, how they’re using CRS and other channels, and how they’re applying technologies. It’s given me a real road map. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to really pay attention to successful people and what they’re doing — and how it applies to my market. Not everything that’s being done in other markets has been done in yours. I think agents need to stay on top of the technological changes while also keeping a firm grip on the past, and to take bits of the past and bits of the future to find out what works for them. I’m currently trying to create more cohesion among my LinkedIn and Facebook pages and my website and create

more of a landing page. Technology is great, but traditional forms of marketing still work, too. It’s amazing to me that some of the really established agents, some of the biggest names in San Francisco, own market share and some of them don’t even have websites because they’re already branded in their neighborhoods. What do you see as the key to thriving in the business in the years ahead? My boss, who’s retiring, has been in the business for 35 years, and he and a lot of brokers will provide excellent training and insight into the things that they know will work. But they’re not necessarily going to teach agents how to adapt and move forward with the latest trends — that’s what you get from agents outside of your own market spaces. The most successful agents within your market space, nine times out of 10, feel like they’re competing with you. You’re able to get a lot more information from people outside of your market who feel a lot less threatened to help you succeed. What’s one thing you do that you think all REALTORS® would benefit from doing? You’re not going to necessarily get what you want to help your business grow, even from the happiest clients, if you don’t finish things up with something like an exit interview. I found it’s better to ask very detailed questions in the beginning about how clients want to communicate, what their desires are, and discover how likely it is that they are going to be realistic about the housing market in your area. The hard part, and one I am still trying to grasp, is learning to read a client well from the beginning to determine if they are a good personality fit and willing to learn, or whether the whole process is going to be a long, drawn out, arduous affair that goes nowhere, or one that will end in success and a happy client. I ask them about their customer experience specifically and listen to criticism for things that I could have done better. Definitely put that out there with your clients and ask what they would have liked to see. In that interviewing process, you’re showing that you care enough to ask how you can improve your business. At the very end of that is an opportunity to ask them to write something favorable for you, and you can use that in your marketing. If you can get more client leads, you’re inevitably going to connect with more people.

Robert Houser

REALTOR® since: 2004

How did you get started in real estate? I worked in technology sales for about 11 years. I was on the road a lot, working in 13 Western states, and my wife and I had one child with the second on the way. I realized I really didn’t want to — and couldn’t — continue traveling like that and decided that it was probably a good time to make a career move. Real estate was booming at the time, in the beginning of 2004, and it seemed like a good fit. I chose real estate more as a necessity to accommodate my needs for family and lifestyle. Being around to enjoy my family is very important to me. I got my CRS Designation a couple of years ago, but have been really only recently getting involved at the chapter level. Initially, I think I was pretty oblivious to the value of the Designation, but once I started doing the coursework, I realized the classes and the credentials were extremely valuable. I now know there’s a lot of credibility that comes along with the Designation. I really didn’t appreciate the value of CRS in relation to the other designations, but now that I’ve obtained some of the others, I realize that first and foremost, this is the one that offers the most value.

“You’re able to get a lot more information from people outside of your market who feel a lot less threatened to help you succeed.”

Todd Wiley, CRS | 1 7

18 | May/June 2011



At first glance, real estate has little in common with the moviemaking business. But Todd Smith, CRS, a film industry veteran who is now broker-owner of Fine Austin Living REALTORS® in Austin, Texas, says the two careers share similar traits. “Real estate is very project-oriented. Just like the movies, once a property is bought or sold, you move on to the next thing. You learn about projects by word of mouth, you deal with hypersensitive personalities, and you are hired to solve problems,” says Smith. When Smith brought his family to Austin during a film project in the late 1990s, his wife loved the area so much that Smith decided to relocate and make a career change. He reactivated his real estate license, which he had obtained during a previous part-time stint in property management, and set up shop in Texas.

By Regina Ludes | 1 9

Jason Loucas/Photolibrary

For many agents, real estate is a culmination of past experiences.

According to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR), 94 percent of REALTORS® have had at least one previous career before entering real estate. Many agents came from traditional careers such as finance, sales, marketing, education and hospitality. But even those who took nontraditional paths developed valuable skills that they carried over into their real estate careers, such as business management, staging, negotiations, customer relations and problem-solving. Those critical skills, rather than the job titles or business experience, helped many successful agents forge their own path to success.

Visual Perspective

a colleague, he worked on several films in the 1990s, overseeing the production crew, work schedules, logistics and finances. He also negotiated contracts with union laborers. “I learned to put things together quickly and make sure they run smoothly. When I hire [REALTORS®], I look for people who can manage different schedules and juggle priorities, which I learned from the film industry,” Smith says. Smith’s production experience also boosted his visual acuity, which helped him see clients’ homes through the eyes of prospective buyers. “From an artistic standpoint, set design translates to staging — how to set up a room to attract the eye. My listing clients see me hold my finger and pinkie as I enter a room as if to scope a photo. That comes from being around cameramen and directors who know how to create that visual perspective. I also coach my agents on how to shoot a house in interesting ways,” Smith says. His biggest challenge in real estate was launching and building a business in a new city where he didn’t have any contacts. But by getting involved in his children’s schools, his local church and a business networking group, Smith says he was able to build his network gradually as his business got off the ground.

Smith worked on the production of more than 40 feature films in his 17-year career, including Wall Street, Big and Working Girl. He started out in accounting and finance in the corporate office of 20th Century Fox, before moving to on-location film projects, where he learned how to deal with some temperamental personalities. The lesson? “Whether you are in film or real estate, you treat everyone with courtesy and respect, no matter who they are,” Smith says. Between film projects, Smith obtained his real estate license and dabbled in property management. After learning the production side of the business from

Todd Smith, CRS

Jay B. Sauceda

Crisis Management

20 | May/June 2011

Like Smith, Bonnie Dixon, CRS, knows a thing or two about managing different personalities from her previous career. When she entered the real estate business in 1996, her experience as a corrections officer and hostage negotiator proved to be an asset in her client relationships. Before becoming a REALTOR®, Dixon worked for 15 years in a maximum-security facility in Wisconsin that housed 350 male inmates. She was assigned to a unit holding inmates who were mentally unstable, and her job was to make sure they took their prescribed medications every day to keep them calm. Dixon says she preferred not knowing what the inmates’ crimes were so it wouldn’t affect how she dealt with them. “If they took their medication and we treated them with respect, they would treat us with respect in return. If someone didn’t take it, we knew there might be trouble,” says Dixon, who is with Stark Company REALTORS® in Sun Prairie, Wis., near Madison.

Once she overcame her initial fear of working in the prison environment, Dixon learned to enjoy her job. “I realized I had a skill for negotiating and dealing with the inmates in crisis situations. If a prisoner was freaking out, I could use my voice and demeanor to bring calmness, and the officers coming on the next shift wouldn’t have to deal with any turmoil,” she says. At the advice of a female lieutenant at the prison, Dixon joined the hostage negotiation team, where she received training from FBI and law enforcement agents and practiced role-playing in different hostage scenarios. “If I could negotiate with hostage takers to release their hostages, I knew I could negotiate a real estate transaction.” Despite her success, Dixon knew it was time for a career change when she went home one night and told her 9-year-old son, “Go to your cell.” The next day she asked to be transferred to another department where she investigated internal complaints from inmates. While she worked that desk job, she studied for her real estate license and dabbled in the business part time. “I just wanted to see if I would be good at it,” she says. Perhaps one of the biggest and most unusual challenges Dixon faced during her career transition was breaking the habit of using profanity outside the prison environment. “Prison shop talk uses foul language, and when you leave work, you still speak that way. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t around criminals anymore,” Dixon says. She had also become suspicious of people in nonthreatening environments, like the shopping mall. “In the prison, your first name is not on your badge. You refer to the inmates by their last name, and they call you by your last name. You didn’t talk about where you live or about your family. Once I left the prison, I was still reluctant to talk about myself. It took six to eight months to get back to being OK with the public,” Dixon says. But by the time she entered real estate full time in 1996, Dixon knew she had a knack for keeping people calm during stressful situations. “It’s so much easier taking a deal to closing when all parties are calm and fully understand the process and the why’s. We all know that stress, and not

Only 6 percent of REALTORS® say real estate is their first career. Source: 2010 NAR Member Survey

says. CRS courses also boosted his career. “The connections and referrals have been powerful in keeping things going.” Spake says he has no regrets about getting into real estate. “I like the corporate world fine, but I prefer the freedom of having my own business,” he says.

Navigating Change knowing how to deal with it, can kill a deal in a New York minute.”

Jack of All Trades Joe Spake, CRS, with Revid Realty in Memphis, Tenn., did a little bit of everything before he entered the real estate business in 1996. He first worked as a boat captain and tour guide for a Mississippi River cruise boat, then as a part-time radio disc jockey, a construction worker, a counselor, a customer relations specialist, a FedEx manager and a network designer for BellSouth. Spake says the common thread among these jobs was the organizational and management skills he developed. What’s more, he gained an appreciation for what it takes to be industrious and responsible, which he says is just as important in real estate. “When things are slow, it’s tempting to hang out and slack off. But if you work for yourself, you need a lot of self-discipline,” Spake says. In 1994, he was working happily for BellSouth as a network designer, laying cable wire in older office buildings that were being rehabbed. Then the company downsized, and Spake was out of a job. Thankfully, he had 18 months’ advance notice, and a REALTOR® friend encouraged him to go into the business. “I knew I would be outsourced, so I had time to prepare myself for real estate. I had my marketing plan and my database set up. By the time I left, I was ready to go full time.” The only difficulty Spake encountered during his transition was adjusting his lowkey personality to his new career. “I’m not a hard closer. I’m more low-key than that. I didn’t want to come across as high-pressure like other agents.” His prior experience with computer networks also taught him the need to adapt to rapidly developing technology trends. “I built my website early in my career at a time when few agents had one,” Spake

Sara Griffin, CRS, spent 28 years in a UPS office, often starting her day at 3 a.m. The self-proclaimed “package detective” worked on her feet all day, sorting packages and lifting heavy boxes. If an address label was torn, Griffin had to figure out where the package should be sent, so she quickly learned street names and landmarks. “The area knowledge I gained dispatching drivers is embedded in my brain. My associate laughs that I have a built-in GPS,” says Griffin, with Tropical Realty in Merritt Island, Fla. Her extensive knowledge of the area comes in handy when traveling to property showings. “As a lifelong resident, I can be in an area that’s not close to where I live, and I can still detect a landmark.” The seven-year real estate veteran honed her customer service skills helping UPS customers locate misplaced packages and resolve delivery problems. “I used to tell co-workers to think like a customer. Treat them right and listen to them, and help them find what they need,” she says. A work-related foot injury signaled to Griffin that it was time to move on. So in 1998 she completed a real estate class and obtained her license. “I always liked real estate, and I love where I live. So while I still worked at UPS, I worked as a referral agent on the side. Then one of my regular customers got me an interview with Tropical [Realty] because his wife was one of the co-owners,” she explains. Griffin left UPS in 2004, and many of her former UPS customers became clients. “The biggest fear I had was that I could not afford to leave the corporate world. Despite what the market has done since 2004, I have earned more by being a REALTOR® than I did after 28 years of lifting boxes all day. Sure, I now work many weekends, but I don’t miss getting up at 3 a.m.,” Griffin says. Regina Ludes is associate editor of The Residential Specialist. | 2 1

By Mary Ellen Collins



22 | May/June 2011

Fuse/Getty Images

In the chaos of a 24/7 world, where agents feel pressure to be on call all the time, setting work/life boundaries can be challenging. aylon Chavez, CRS, with ABQ Premiere Properties in Albuquerque, N.M., credits his 5-year-old son, Ryan, with helping him reorder his priorities. “Last year, he was saying, ‘You’re always talking and texting, Dad. Put the phone away!’ I had to do something so I could grow my business and have a life with my family.” He decided to work Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays by appointment, and reserve Sundays for family. “It was hard for me at the beginning,” he admits. “In the back of my mind I thought, ‘What if I lose customers?’ But the opposite happened. I increased my production by 15 percent last year, and my service rate improved because I had to make the hours I worked as productive as I could. … And my customers respect what I do. If they call after 6 p.m., they will leave a message that says, ‘I’m sorry I’m interrupting your family time. Please call me in the morning.’ ” Technology that lets agents work anytime, anywhere — combined with a tough real estate market — can make them feel pressured to be working all the time. After all, you never know when that one call or e-mail you don’t answer right away might represent the next big deal. As many agents find themselves working harder to earn less income, they’re also finding it more challenging than ever to keep their professional and personal lives thriving. But many have joined Chavez in saying “No thanks” to a life in which agents race between appointments and stay tethered to their communication devices around the clock. Even in a down market, CRSs demonstrate that you can put quality of life at the top of the priority list and be successful without shortchanging clients, your family or yourself. | 2 3

Manage Your Accessibility Maura Neill, CRS, with the Gebhardt Group in Atlanta, knew what kind of REALTOR® she didn’t want to be. Before getting her license in 2005, she spent four years as the assistant to the woman who is now her partner, whom Neill describes as “a [baby] boomer and a quintessential workaholic.” “For a long time, she would say, ‘You should get licensed’ and I would think, ‘No way!’ I didn’t want her life,” says Neill, a Gen X’er. “I think family and personal time is more important to my generation. I look at work/life balance in terms of ‘How much is enough? How important is it to be the number one agent?’ It’s about

asking yourself what you need to do in order to be happy and satisfied. You have to know yourself well enough to know what’s important to you.” When Neill did decide to get her license, she did it knowing she wasn’t going to emulate her partner’s work style or schedule. In addition to making time for activities like working out and consulting for the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, Neill also preserves her mornings at home. “Most days, I try not to schedule anything before 10:30 a.m. It’s really important to me to have my mornings. From 7:00 or 8:00 until 10 is my time at home to read the news and blogs, and work on my website,”

Sandy Gervais, CRS, ABR, with RE/MAX West of the River in Farmington, Conn., is a 24-year real estate veteran who doesn’t give out her cell phone number. “I’ve learned to put parameters around my life,” she says. “When I first meet a client, I tell them how I work — that they can reach me through the office or leave a voicemail there. When you explain it up front, they understand.” She updates her voicemail daily to reflect when she’ll be in, and she returns calls promptly, but never when she’s with another client. “I think it’s rude to take a call when you’re with someone else. When I’m out with a client, that’s the most important person to me right then.” Her strategy

Separate Peace Looking to set some boundaries for keeping work and personal life separate — and balanced? Here are some rules of thumb. When creating annual, monthly or weekly goals, include personal goals as well as work-related ones. Schedule personal activities the same way you schedule work appointments. Set specific times to return work calls and emails. Enlist like-minded colleagues in developing a plan that will support downtime and flexibility for everyone.

24 | May/June 2011

works for her: Referrals from past clients compose 87 percent of her business, and she consistently makes more than $100,000 a year.

Alexandre Fundone/Getty Images

Rely on Your Team When Dave Robison, CRS, CRB, principal broker and owner of Robison & Company Real Estate in Salt Lake City, set out to create a high-performing team, he did it with work/life balance principles in mind. “As we created our core values, we developed a system where agents can have a life and balance, and still give clients what they need.” The result is a one-for-all and all-forone approach. When agents go on vacation, they forward all their calls — desk and cell phone — and emails to the front desk. Everyone’s business cards have the office number rather than their individual cell numbers. Staff members take turns being on call every night and on weekends, forwarding the office phone calls to their personal phone lines and taking all calls. “My agents love this. They get time to go to all their family events, and we have people watching our backs when we are doing that. We help each other with no thought of reward, and no adjustments for splits.” For example, last Valentine’s Day, almost everyone in the office had a date planned. One agent was out of town, and his client wanted to look at houses that night. Although Robison was sick, he talked it over with his wife, and she decided to go with him to show the homes. “Those clients turned 150 percent loyal to us after that — they were so grateful and enjoyed the fact that my wife was there on Valentine’s Day. Clients don’t usually talk about what a good REALTOR® you are, but they will talk about a memorable experience. That was a memorable experience. And our agent got the deal.”

Protect Your Private Time Gervais believes her past experience working for Aetna refined her time-management skills, which allow her the freedom to exercise, volunteer and focus on her family.

“In a corporate environment, you tend to be very task-driven, or you get fired. I have goals and a plan, and I work very efficiently. I try to take a day off in the middle of the week and schedule all my personal appointments then.” When her son Griffin was growing up and playing sports, “I would put his games in the calendar. They were appointments for life. We also take four to five vacations a year. To us, it’s a nice way to have committed time and something to look forward to. You don’t get family time back.” In addition, she makes time to volunteer for causes like the Farmington Community Chest, and she doesn’t let anything encroach on her commitment to exercise and wellness. “I need some ‘me time,’ and spinning class is the most efficient way for me to maximize my calorie burn. I’m blessed with good health and I want to continue that. I work out Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, so when I book a Saturday appointment, I say I’m available from 10:00 on.” Robison says that although he’s had to increase his work hours because of the market dip that occurred after the tax credit expired, he hasn’t sacrificed his downtime. “Even after the market crashed, I stuck with taking a week off every quarter. When the market tanks, income drops and you have to work harder, and if you don’t take time off, you’ll burn out. You can do it without spending a lot of money. I do everything on American Express points, so I accumulate a lot of air miles and hotel stays. I’ve been lucky to be able to take my wife to Hawaii or on a cruise and to take the family to Disney World.”

Merge Work and Play Although Neill created to generate business and offer a resource to clients who are moving to the area, it has become a source of fun opportunities for her and her husband. “It gets me out of the office to review restaurants or attend concerts. We do things weekly, but it’s more spur-of-the-moment, because I often get emails from reps who want me to review something that night. So

many REALTORS® are ‘pop-up agents’ — a client calls and wants to see a house right then and we say, ‘OK, let’s go,’ ” Neill says. Agents drop everything to go show a house, so why should they feel they always have to schedule a date night in advance? “It’s important not to be afraid to [be a pop-up agent] for yourself.” Chavez, whose business is 95 percent referrals, sees some unexpected benefits from his new schedule. “I go to the gym three days a week, and my son is in junior wrestling, so I make it a point not to miss any of his practices or his tournaments on Sunday. Just being out there helps me meet and develop more relationships with new people. I’m making a good living, supporting my family, and I have a life. When people ask how I do it, I tell them to give [my way] a try.” Putting yourself first may take a 180-degree change in perspective, but even one small change can start tipping the scale. So instead of telling yourself why you can’t — get a massage, turn off the phone, or go home at 4 p.m. — tell yourself why you should. And then do it. Mary Ellen Collins is a writer based in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is a frequent contributor to The Residential Specialist.


Open Spaces CRSs offer an up-close view of the state of the rural homes market.

26 | May/June 2011

By Mary Dixon Lebeau


and stretching out so far and wide, Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside. Those lines from the opening lyrics to Green Acres tell one version of the classic American dream — to own an expanse of lush, green property blocks or even miles away from neighbors, stores or any other signs of civilization.

But that dream might not resonate as deeply with homebuyers these days. Throughout the country, the outlook for rural properties seems similar to that of the urban and suburban areas. Rural properties have faced the same boomand-bust trajectory seen in more highly populated areas. Demand and prices increased swiftly and then just as rapidly

began to decline, leaving many regions at a standstill. The rural homes market is affected by unique problems — rising gas prices make already long commutes expensive, property taxes on large parcels are on the rise and maintenance costs can be significant. Because all real estate is local, The Residential Specialist surveyed a cross-section | 2 7

Christine Schneider/Glow Images


of rural real estate specialists across the country to determine where the market is — and where it might be going.

New Jersey

“The definition of the American Dream has changed in my area, and that affects the market,” says Victoria Marton, CRS, a real estate associate with RE/MAX Classic Group in Branchburg, N.J., located on the border of Somerset and Hunterdon counties. Marton’s market is primarily the affluent Hunterdon County, which is located about 50 miles west of New York City. This rural area, with average zoning of 7.5 acres per home, was in great demand during the boom years, when it defined the American dream: McMansions on acreage. “In the 1990s to mid-2000s, we defined the quality of life by the school system, the size of the home, the amount of the acreage that provided privacy,” Marton says. “Now it’s defined by the availability and quality of mass transit to work in New York City, where the higher-paying jobs are, and how close by your friends are. Walkability within a community is considered a valuable asset.” “It’s a new generation of buyers,” Marton adds. “Buyers under 40 don’t want to live on a lot of acreage that they will need to maintain. Job productivity keeps rising, and that means everyone is working harder and longer. Time is now the most valuable commodity. Buyers now want to live in a neighborhood where they can walk to nice restaurants after work and meet their friends. “They want little or no land maintenance. Even a townhouse is sometimes more attractive to them than a home with land to maintain,” Marton continues. “Many of

28 | May/June 2011

these under-40 buyers are choosing not to have children, so higher taxed areas with better schools are not as important.” Marton reports that rural real estate sales are down significantly in her area. January 2011 sales were down 20 percent from the same time last year, which Marton attributes to several factors, including the particularly harsh weather in the region and the rising gas prices across the country, which make living closer to the city — and jobs — desirable. “We are estimating that since 2005 we’ve lost 30 percent of our market, and it’s not hit bottom yet,” she says. “We are still selling, but the market share is down considerably.”


“Texas is ahead of the nation overall in real estate. We were never hit as hard as the rest of the country and didn’t see the same overvaluation. And that’s reflected in our rural properties,” says Cathy Cole, CRS, a REALTOR® associate and sales manager at Heritage Texas Country Properties in Brenham. “[The rural market] has slowed down since the boom and prices have adjusted, but we’re staying steady.” Cole attributes this stability to location. Brenham is located between Houston and Austin, which is an easy commute to these big cities that employ many Texans. “We have a lot of commuters and four-day workweek-ers who are looking for a better lifestyle. [Living in the country] has become feasible for those with a shorter workweek or those working at home thanks to the Internet. It’s more economical than in the city,” she explains. Many of the homes she sells are second homes, used for investment, retirement or weekend getaways. “We’ve seen 11 percent

growth since 2000,” Cole says, attributing the growth to Texans looking to get out of the city. The housing market in this region might be stable for another reason. Cole describes the area as conservative, both fiscally and politically, and credits that mindset with the relatively small foreclosure numbers in the area. “A lot of people didn’t go into debt, even when borrowing was easy,” Cole says. “People took advantage of the tax credits when they could, but a majority of the people here didn’t do the zero-down-payment borrowing. They did the traditional five, 10, even 20 percent down, so we don’t have the foreclosure rate that other areas see.” That said, she has encountered some new challenges. The average days-on-market has increased, due in part to mortgage industry issues. “It’s extremely difficult to get financing,” she notes. Cole also says finding new, relevant comparisons for valuation is problematic because no two homes are alike. “We do mostly rural properties, so there are variations,” she says. “How much land is there? Is there a pond or lake on the property? Is there a hundred-year oak tree or just new saplings planted a few years ago? Is the house a new construction or a hundredyear-old farmhouse with a lot of character? It’s not like driving into a development and comparing two cookie-cutter homes. Rural properties are very individualized.”


Property values peaked in rural Calhoun County, Michigan, in 2007. “In 2006, the average home sale price in the rural market in the county was $110,834. In 2007, it reached a peak of $115,936,” says Michael Delaware, CRS, with Troxel Realty Company in Battle Creek.

By the following year, the economy plunged, and rural home prices in South Central Michigan dropped along with it. “In 2008, the average home sale price had fallen to $94,491. In 2009, it fell to $76,678,” Delaware reports. The latest figures showed a slight increase, to $87,575 in 2010. “Sales of rural properties may have slowed a bit because of the market saturation brought about by the high demand for these properties, and the high use of the popular United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural development financing program,” Delaware explains. Rural homes in the area are very popular with first-time homebuyers. “But they have to act fast to get one,” Delaware says. “We have a constant supply of urban properties, but if a rural foreclosure hits the market in this area, you can usually guarantee a sale within 90 days due to the USDA loan program.” The average sale price of a rural home with five to 10 acres is currently in the $50,000 – $100,000 range, largely due to foreclosures being sold off as distressed sales, Delaware says. “Back in 2006 and 2007, the same property sizes would have sold for a range of $100,000 to $250,000 or above.” Delaware says his role as a REALTOR® has changed recently, due in part to the USDA program. “I’m [becoming] more of a financial adviser, less of a salesperson,” he says. “The biggest hurdle I face these days is getting someone qualified for the loan. That’s the nature of my business here,” he adds. Delaware estimates 50 percent of his business involves buyers who qualify for the program who are interested in owning property that is quiet and spacious, yet still near the jobs in the city. “Usually only one out of 10 is willing to do what he needs to get qualified,” Delaware says. “What has to drive them is

their willingness to overcome obstacles, such as a challenged credit history.”


Although she’s relatively new to real estate, Vicki Owens, CRS, ABR, with Best Homes Real Estate in Marysville, Ohio, has seen many changes in the eight years she’s been working in the area. Marysville, the Union County seat just 30 minutes from Columbus, saw great development starting in 1990, much of it rural development in subdivisions or on one- to five-acre residential lots, often funded by USDA and FHA loans. But like many rural areas, Marysville overdeveloped during this boom, Owens says. Now the region has a near-20-percent foreclosure and short-sale rate. “Our market is seeing homes now list at 2007 prices, and some sell at 1997 prices. Not good news for those trying to sell,” Owens says. She offers this snapshot: In the Marysville School District consisting of just over 16,000 households, there are 202 active listings with a median list price of $169,900. Of those, 35 (or 17.5 percent) are foreclosed or short-sale properties. In the past 90 days, 50 homes were sold with a median sale price of $141,300. The size of the homes was an average of 2,130 square feet. Of those 50 sold, 11 (or 22 percent) were short-sale or foreclosed properties. The average days-on-market for sold properties was 127, up from the 2010 average of 88 days. “Houses are expensive to sell, and sellers haven’t gained much equity,” Owens adds. “Many have to bring money to closing to pay off their mortgage and close their transaction.”


John Daly, CRS, SRES, has been a REALTOR® for Coldwell Banker Grass Roots Realty in Grass Valley, Calif., for 30 years. He calls his area “a mini Silicon Valley,” with high-tech jobs and the best schools in the state, but the rural homes in this area an hour from Sacramento have been losing value since the boom years. “I would say we’ve lost about 30 percent value in our homes,” Daly says. “With properties ranging from $200,000 to $2 million, turnaround can be six weeks if it’s priced right. However, those priced over $500,000 take longer, usually two to four months.” Daly says much of his portfolio is made up of short sales and other bank-owned properties, which take longer than average to close. “I have two short sales right now [in February] that I’ve been working on since August,” he notes. “The banks are difficult to work with; they keep asking for different things every time they turn around. It’s especially difficult when there’s a second lien or equity line on a rural property, because I have to work with both lenders.” Daly predicts the market will be tough for his area in the next five years. “I’m working three times as hard for half the pay,” he says, adding that he has increased his online presence and hired an SEO specialist to help increase referrals. As these local snapshots reflect, a recovery in the rural real estate market is still developing. “Right now, the market is about price, not location,” Marton says. “But if you price a house to sell, I can sell it.” Mary Dixon Lebeau is a writer based in West Deptford, N.J. | 2 9


Lean Green By Daniel Rome Levine

30 | May/June 2011


n the last two years, I haven’t met a single buyer who hasn’t asked me the same question at every single house we’ve looked at: ‘What are the utility costs of this house?’ ” says Polly Briley, CRS, of RE/MAX on the Water in Oshkosh, Wis. “They want to know how much energy consumption is going to remove from their pocketbook. To me, that is the true green question.” Briley, who calls herself a green “evangelist” and has been preaching the benefits of environmentally friendly housing for the past two years, says reining in utility costs is at the top of her clients’ minds today, and they are more receptive than ever to her simple energy-saving tips, such as using

a programmable thermostat or removing trim from windows and reinsulating the gaps between the window and the frame. “Their eyes light up and they get excited when I suggest these things,” says Briley, who writes a green-focused real estate blog at “It never occurred to them that such little steps could make such a big difference.” The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® 2010 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers clearly reflects buyers’ priorities right now: 88 percent of buyers surveyed said heating and cooling costs were important to them. Close behind were energyefficient appliances, cited by 71 percent of respondents; 69 percent of those surveyed said energy-efficient lighting was a priority.

Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

Despite the tough economy, green home features are still in demand—but on a much smaller scale. | 3 1

“Interest in green and energy efficiency has gone up right along with the increase in energy costs,” says Kevin Morrow, senior program manager of green building standards at the National Association of Home Builders. “People are looking to save money.” Just a few years ago, going green was all the rage — and often thought to be expensive. So, given the housing market, one might assume interest in green amenities would be waning. But green is still in demand; the nature of the conversation, however, has changed. Clients are going green to save green. Many buyers are focusing on simple steps, such as beefing up their insulation and buying high-efficiency appliances and heating and cooling equipment. And although buyers are currently motivated more by saving money than saving the planet, it seems clear that they’ll be interested in greening their homes for many years to come.

Small Steps, Big Gains Debra J. Marshall, CRS, with Century 21 Mountain Lifestyles in Asheville, N.C., says up until about a year ago, her clients were still putting in higher-cost green amenities such as solar paneling, extensive outdoor water-conservation features and tiled flooring that absorbs and retains heat. “Now, with the economy being what it is, they can’t afford to pay for such things,” she says. Instead, many of her clients are focusing on simpler green steps, such as choosing appliances that meet the federal government’s Energy Star standard for high efficiency. Gas and other nontraditional fireplaces are also becoming increasingly popular as an alternative heat source, Marshall says. Even though they’re not an ideal green option because they still burn fossil fuels, they are preferable, she says, to a woodburning fireplace, which emits carbon dioxide and other particulates into the atmosphere and draws heated air out of the house. Bob McCranie, CRS, owner of Texas Pride Realty in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, believes homebuyers’ increased focus on “squeezing every penny they can out of their house” in the face of the economic downturn will raise green awareness in the long run. “If you have a $2,000 house payment, there’s not much you can do to 32 | May/June 2011

Claim Game

Bob McCranie, CRS, of Texas Pride Realty in Carrollton, Texas, was one of four winners last year of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Green Resource Council EverGreen Award for his role in advancing the green movement and for his creative green-living blog, He is alarmed by one green trend: exaggerating the environmental benefits of certain home features to attract buyers. “Calling a ceiling fan a green feature is a stretch,” he says. “One thing I worry about is that a lot of MLSs are listing things as green and energy-efficient features when they aren’t necessarily so. We need to watch out for the ‘green washing’ of the MLS.” “We don’t want to oversell the capability of homes as green when it’s just got something pretty in it that looks green. It is disingenuous, clients perceive it as overselling, and it will hurt our reputation in the long run.”

get that down,” he says. “But if you have a $400 electric bill, that you can change.” McCranie says the most popular green options his clients are seeking these days include extra attic insulation and higherefficiency heating and cooling systems. Some people, of course, have not been impacted as severely by the economic downturn and can still spend freely on green home features. For them, McCranie says, popular options include replacing conventional water heaters with solar-powered ones and installing radiant barrier foil insulation in attics to lower cooling costs. Briley says one of her clients recently salvaged the oak floors from a house that was being demolished and had them reinstalled in her house. “This reclaiming of wood products for reuse is very popular,” she says — but expensive. Some of Briley’s other green clients are installing bamboo instead of wood flooring or floors made of locally grown wood.

Staying Ahead of the Curve The interest in green amenities is sure to grow in the years ahead as people look to save on the cost of homeownership and deal with rising energy prices. A recent

McGraw-Hill Construction report shows that homes that incorporate green building elements are on pace to account for up to 20 percent of all new home construction by 2013. And it’s critical that agents stay out in front. REALTORS® have to be farsighted, Briley says, and realize this is not just a passing fad, but the way of the future. “As CRSs, we are always being referred to, and we even refer to ourselves, as the experts,” Briley points out. “But when it comes to green, our buyers, especially the younger set, are coming to us way more informed than we are.” To make sure she is as knowledgeable as possible on green issues, Briley stays up to date with the latest news and developments by checking in every morning with 10 green-focused online news feeds and blogs. McCranie says the best way CRSs can help clients buy and sell green homes is by adopting a green lifestyle themselves. That’s what he’s done. His home has a high-efficiency air conditioner, top-grade insulation, a solar water heater and triple-pane windows. He traded in his Ford Escape for a Toyota Prius in 2006, and he hangs out his clothes to dry during the summer. McCranie realizes most REALTORS® won’t go this far, but he says even if they green up just a few aspects of their everyday lives, it will make them more effective at selling green in their jobs. “If you live it and breathe it, you can express it to your clients very intuitively,” he says. “A lot of people have gone out and gotten their short sale designation, but short sales and foreclosures are only going to be at the forefront for another two or three years,” McCranie says. “Green is going to be around for the next 30 years. If we can be beacons of knowledge to our clients and show them how they can save money in their homes through green, then we become all the more valuable to them.” “Green is such a growth industry,” Briley adds. “If we’re not staying on top of what’s happening, we CRSs will lose our valuable status as experts, and that will be a disservice not just to our clients, but to ourselves.” Daniel Rome Levine is a writer based in Wilmette, Ill., and is a frequent contributor to The Residential Specialist.

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Good Read | Resources in print

legacy key Digital photos, videos, and emails document our modern existence. Will your heirs be able to access these slices of your life? Reviewed by Allan Fallow

Your Digital Afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr and Twitter Are Your Estate, What’s Your Legacy? by Evan Carroll and John Romano New Riders 204 pages, $24.99

34 | May/June 2011

The last dozen years or so have seen a fascinating revolution in how we capture the details of our everyday lives. None have been more rapt or reverential observers of that trend than a couple of young techies from the Research Triangle of North Carolina, “interaction designer” John Romano and “experience designer” Evan Carroll. At Austin’s über-hip South by Southwest Interactive Festival in the spring of 2009, the pair gave a presentation called “Who Will Check My Email After I Die?” They have since expanded it into a book, Your Digital Afterlife, a thoughtful exploration of how, massively and almost unwittingly, we have evolved into (or at least toward) an all-digital culture. Although that shift confers certain benefits, Carroll and Romano want to make sure we recognize its perils, too: As we consign “future heirlooms” to digital form, we may simultaneously be placing them beyond the reach of our survivors. I am neither a Digital Native nor a Luddite — I text my kids but email my wife, tweet but don’t Facebook, and own a BlackBerry but can’t seem to keep it from “butt-dialing” my contacts. In other words, I’m the guy the authors are addressing when they write, “You may not think of yourself as someone who’s living the digital lifestyle, but here’s betting it’s been years since you used a film camera.” Sure enough, when I looked around the house I could find no film-based photos taken after 2003 or so. And that’s when I began to suspend my professional skepticism over authorial pronouncements such as

“Statistics show that … an increasing part of your life is lived online. While these changes seem inconsequential on the surface, the total effect is that digital technology is transforming the daily experience of life.” And death, the authors might have added. In this age when soldiers’ letters home have become emails, family photos are uploaded to “cloud storage” services such as Picasa, Snapfish, and Flickr, and home videos get archived on YouTube, we are creating “digital legacies that could be lost forever” if we don’t take steps to preserve them for our heirs.

In the Cloud To drive home the magnitude of society’s ongoing shift from physical objects to digital representations thereof, Carroll and Romano spotlight the case of U.S. Marine Justin Ellsworth, who was killed while defusing an IED (improvised explosive device) in Iraq on November 13, 2004. Ellsworth had told family members he planned to compile a scrapbook of the supportive emails he received from home, but when his father, John, tried to access his son’s email account, service provider Yahoo refused the request: Justin had agreed to Yahoo’s terms of service stipulating that email accounts were non-transferable. (Specifically: “Any rights to your Yahoo! ID or contents within your account terminate upon your death.”) Had John not sued Yahoo to gain access to Justin’s account, the service would simply have deleted its contents. (Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and YouTube all insist on similarly restrictive

Preservation of digital assets will become as important as physical preservation. service terms, with the accounts of deceased users being accessible only through the presentation of documents ranging from an obituary to a Power of Attorney to a death certificate.) The authors find a sobering object lesson in the Ellsworth episode: By the time we finally and fully understand all the ramifications of the migration from physical to virtual records, “it may be too late to save the digital assets that are important to you and may one day become family heirlooms.” Isn’t it odd, Your Digital Afterlife prompts us, that we have become such trusting users of these online repositories of our most treasured memories? Snapfish, the authors remind us, is one of the oldest photo-sharing services, yet it was formed only in 2000. Flickr, the largest, did not emerge until 2004. “As a result,” the authors report, “these private companies often become the sole home for many people’s photos.” Yet we routinely upload cherished files to outfits that betray us: Social-bookmarking service “suffered a catastrophic database failure” in January 2009. Facebook quietly relaxed its privacy policy in April 2010. And that same month, multimedia blogging service Utterz shut down its servers without warning (bye-bye any audio, images, or video you thought resided “safely” online!). You can see where the authors are heading with this, right? Within two generations, they write, the globe will be covered in “Digital Natives. As the Millennials and Gen Xers age, people with a lifetime of digital assets will begin to plan for their death. … Preservation of digital assets will become as important as physical preservation.”

Will Do Having made the case that one’s digital assets, carefully managed, can become digital

artifacts, Carroll and Romano spend much of the rest of the book prescribing preservation strategies. With a little preparation, they urge us, your “digital identity” can enjoy a robust afterlife of its own. Inventory your digital assets — list your hardware devices, your various email addresses, and your most important online accounts — and make known your wishes for their disposition. (To assist you in this process, the authors provide forms in the book, as well as templates online at www.yourdigitalafterlife. com/resources.) To whom will you pass on such crucial access details as your usernames and passwords? Which account contents do you want to archive? And which others would you like to bequeath to close friends or relatives? Perhaps most critical of all, which files, videos, or accounts do you want to see deleted altogether? Claiming knowledge of “marital affairs being discovered by the email trails left behind,” the authors suggest that you appoint a “digital executor” with wide-ranging (online) authority to “delete emails to or from certain people or from certain services or websites.” The authors are encouraging you neither to lie nor to deceive, they hasten to add. It’s simply that the goal of crafting a respectable digital legacy has inspired them to issue “this fair warning to tie up your loose ends.” This computerized tidying likewise explains why Carroll and Romano have seen fit to include sidebars on everything from the urgency of keeping personal content out of work emails (because most companies “delete or cut access to accounts the moment you no longer work there”) to appointing a digital executor fearless enough to delete from your machine “content that is, shall we say, ‘private.’ ” Many are the tools to forestall such a fate, for Carroll and Romano have sniffed out Web services that will automatically

erase sensitive accounts pre-selected by you. One such service, Entrustet, offers an “Account Incinerator” that deletes inconvenient accounts upon your demise “without anyone being the wiser.” Although Your Digital Afterlife feels underreported overall — more individual stories like that of John and Justin Ellsworth would have better made the authors’ case — Carroll and Romano have done enough research to warn that a digital executor lacks the legal authority of a formally appointed estate executor. (Mainly, they write, because law is still catching up to culture.) Sure, there are certain ways around this — you can instruct your digital executor to archive the contents of your Yahoo email account, for example, before presenting the service with a copy of your death certificate — but you would be well advised to appoint an overall executor with enough digital savvy to double as your digital executor. ( Just don’t include any usernames or account passwords in the will itself: “After your will is read it becomes a public record and anyone, not just your heirs, can have access to it.”) So whether you’re a timid Tweeter or a diehard lifelogger, I’d say Your Digital Afterlife makes the perfect point of departure for both heavy-duty and feather-light considerations of your, well, departure. Indeed, why not start drafting your final tweet or email bounceback now? I’m sure you can top those cited in this otherwise well-executed book: “It’s been real, friends. See you on the other side. Cheers.” “This is embarrassing, but I’m not alive anymore. It’s been a great ride. Peace out. —Joe” Allan Fallow is a magazine writer and book editor in Alexandria, Va. Follow him on Twitter (while you still can!) @thefallow. | 3 5

New CRS Chapter

New NAR Campaign

Course Listings

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p. 39

p. 43

inside CRS N E W S




Learning Solutions at Sell-a-bration® 2011


ore than 350 real estate professionals headed to the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Fla., to attend Sell-abration® 2011 Feb. 8 – 11. The annual CRS educational event began with a cavalcade of workshops highlighting specific real estate tools, technologies and strategies that savvy REALTORS® are using to get ahead. In the session Video Will Earn You More with Less Effort, Raziel Ungar, CRS, touted the best approaches for employing video in agents’ marketing strategies. Video is one of the most powerful tools REALTORS® can use, he said, because “people like to try before they buy.” Beyond that,

General sessions featured either expert panels or top keynote speakers.

36 | May/June 2011

high-quality video helps agents market their properties — and themselves. Ungar encouraged agents to produce specific neighborhood and community tours, client testimonials and how-to tutorials that engage potential clients while helping establish REALTORS® as trusted local experts. After all, “To become [recognized as] the hyperlocal expert, you must be in the content creation business,” he said. Deb Madey, CRS, tackled cloud computing in her morning session. Unlike traditional applications, which reside locally on a desktop or laptop computer, cloud-based applications reside on the network itself. “I run my business almost entirely in the

cloud,” she said. By using cloudbased applications, REALTORS® gain on-demand access to the tools they need when they need them, and these solutions are often cheaper than traditional computer-based applications, Madey said. Furthermore, REALTORS® who keep their business-critical data in the cloud needn’t worry about potentially catastrophic hard-drive crashes. But she cautioned REALTORS® to take care to use only those cloud-based applications that employ strong security features in order to protect sensitive client and business information. If Dale Carlton, CRS, had one message for attendees of his morning session on photography strategies, it was this: bad property photos can kill your listing. “Your property photos are much more important [to the successful sale of your listing] than the first potential buyer who comes to see it,” he said. Carlton recommended several rules for taking top-notch photographs that will show off a home best. Among them were: • Follow the rule-of-thirds: frame photos properly, both horizontally and vertically; don’t waste photo space with plain walls, ceilings, etc. • Take proper angles: property photos taken at an angle tend to show it off best. • Master your camera’s specific settings: use aperture, ISO and shutter speed settings to your advantage.

While the New York City real estate market may not be representative of many other markets across the country, Patrick Lilly, CRS, said that the lessons he has learned working there are applicable to any REALTOR®.“You need to be willing to change and grow. If you take that mindset, you will prosper,” he said in his session, Succeeding in Rapidly Changing Markets. “There is always opportunity, no matter how bad your market is.” During the real estate boom, many real estate industry experts advised agents to focus on a single niche market. But Lilly advised attendees who rely on only one or two sources of income to diversify their business practices. For example, REALTORS® might look into expanding into new construction, leasing, condos or different price points. The idea is to make yourself relevant to the market that develops around you, he said. An afternoon workshop panel moderated by Denny Grimes, CRS, compared traditional and cutting-edge approaches to winning clients and closing sales. Panelists Kristan Cole, CRS, Ron Kubek, CRS, James Nellis, CRS, and Jason O’Neil, CRS, seemed to agree that a healthy mix of old and new approaches are most successful. For example, O’Neil said that although he relies heavily on customer relationship management (CRM) systems and other technologies, the time he spends driving around his market area and talking to residents and potential clients is the primary driver of his success.

Availability Is the New Economy Sell-a-bration® emcee Brian Copeland, CRS, kicked off day two

Brian Copeland, CRS, served as the event’s emcee.

of the event with a key thought: “Availability is the new economy.” In other words, agents who work hard to make themselves approachable and friendly are much more likely to attract potential clients and referrals than those who don’t. With that sentiment in mind, Copeland introduced a point/ counterpoint session moderated by Deb Madey, CRS, that focused on the best techniques agents can use to reach clients. She explored the merits of traditional marketing versus more modern technology-based approaches with the help of two REALTORS® who work opposite ends of that spectrum. Diane Traverso, CRS, defended the merits of traditional marketing strategies, particularly advertising in print media. She typically runs a half-page ad in Home Source magazine, which she said has helped her reach homebuyers looking for property in her market area on the New Jersey shore. Further, “My sellers or potential sellers like to hear that their home is going to be advertised in a print publication as well as (on the) Internet,” she said. But Amy Smythe Harris, CRS, said she has built her business success on technology. She does not practice many tried-and-true real estate

practices, such as office “floor time” or door-to-door in-person marketing. In fact, “70 percent of my leads are generated through social media,” she said. But the key to either approach may be for agents to select strategies that fit not only their own personality and professional approach, but also the needs of clients in their specific market area. The quality of a REALTOR’S® website can make or break their business. Panelists on the Best REALTOR® Websites panel, moderated by Shane White, CRS, shared their top strategies for building Internet destinations that work. “Our website is our job interview,” said panelist Laura Duggan, CRS. She believes video is one of the most effective features agents can include on their websites, because “with video, you can really capture the essence of who you are.” She advised REALTORS® to keep their welcome videos, client testimonials and market updates short and punchy — approximately 60 seconds is ideal, but no longer than three minutes. Panelist Sam Miller, CRS, maintains niche Web pages focused on individual communities in his Knox County, Ohio area. These community pages provide helpful content about | 3 7

inside CRS the local area — he has created a unique page for each community he serves — and he links this local content to (and from) his other Web pages. This type of interwoven approach not only delivers valuable content to potential clients, he said, it also boosts his sites’ prominence on the Web (also known as SEO, or search engine optimization). In the Buyer Power Panel, moderator James Nellis, CRS, walked panelists through some top strategies for communicating with potential homebuyers. “If you have a client who consistently calls you, that means you have systems in place that are not working” when it comes to customer relationship management, Nellis said. At a time when the Internet has made it simple for consumers to find homes for sale, the REALTOR’S® main business has shifted, Nellis

suggested. Today’s buyers look for agents who can deliver specific market information and trusted consultation throughout the home search, purchase and transaction process, he said. Bobbi Howe, CRS, moderated an afternoon panel session of young CRS agents who have found success. Panelist Maura Neill, CRS, acknowledged that it can be a challenge to convince older clients that she is qualified to handle their home transaction professionally. But as she has gained experience, that problem has largely faded away. “I have a lot more confidence in what I know and how to explain it to clients,” she said. When it comes to deciding which tools are best to help REALTORS® connect with potential clients, Neill offers some specific advice. “The way people reach out to you is the way that [you should] reach back to them,” whether it be via email, telephone, text message or Facebook post. That approach ensures

Keynote speaker Jeff Turner asked attendees to hone their listening skills.

that agents are communicating with their clients in a comfortable and familiar way, no matter what their age.

Listen to Learn Although Jeff Turner, president of Web development and consulting company Zeek Interactive, may be known for his high-tech acumen, he opened his keynote presentation by saying: “We spend too much time talking about technology.” His point, he explained, is that mastering a host of individual technologies does not lead inexorably to success. Rather, agents should focus on those “technologies that enable you to have the best conversations.” Turner, a renowned expert on emerging technologies, said good conversations are based on good listening. And while tuning out noise and listening specifically to hear comments that reinforce one’s own opinions can be valuable, Turner encouraged attendees to focus on listening to learn. By training their listening skills in both their business and personal lives, agents will be better able to tune into their customers’ needs. “The closer you get to your customer, the better you hear,” he said. “You have to have the desire to dig deeper. You have to want to learn. This is hard, [but] the good stuff is always hard.”

A Focus on the Bottom Line

The event drew more than 350 attendees, including 53 real estate professionals affiliated with UCI from Spain and Portugal.

38 | May/June 2011

Day three of Sell-a-bration® began with a specific focus on something every REALTOR® worries about: their money. Tax expert Chris Bird told attendees at his morning keynote session that thanks to the tax cut extension passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in December, there is no need for REALTORS® to take drastic action to sell assets in an effort to protect their tax liability in 2011. Congress also raised the lifetime gift tax exclusion from $1 million to $5 million, effective for 2011 and 2012. Bird’s message to high networth individuals was to step up their monetary gifts to their children or others over the next two years in order

to take advantage of this policy while it is in effect. And although the last few years have been tough on many REALTORS® around the country, Bird said he has “seen an uptick in real estate, and an uptick in enthusiasm in the real estate community.” An improving market presents the perfect opportunity for agents to save more money for retirement. After all, “You can’t retire on income, you must retire on assets,” he said. Specifically, Bird suggested that agents who have a SEP IRA account should roll it over into a 401(k) account, which they can borrow from in case of emergency. In a morning Listing Power Panel session, moderator Leigh Brown, CRS, advised agents to focus their efforts on creating Web content that will be highly visible to clients looking for agents who boast a specific set of skills. For example, she said, “the [search engine] keywords that are driving people to me [are] ‘experienced short sale agent.’ ” To reach these leads more effectively, Brown hired a ghostwriter to draft articles about short sales which, once posted on her blog, helped boost her website’s prominence to search engines (SEO). In his afternoon panel session, moderator Nate Martinez, CRS, made a compelling case for agents to turn at least some of their business focus toward foreclosures. That’s because 14.75 million homes currently have negative equity, while four million of the mortgages on those homes are over 50 percent underwater, he said. Closing session keynote speaker Pam Ermen, CRS, focused on the rocky economy’s impact on real estate. “I see economic factors as early warning systems that tell us and our clients what to expect,” she said. REALTORS® must be able to comprehend and explain how economic forces, such as unemployment, foreclosures and mortgage rates, impact their local market. “It’s not our job to tell them what to think. It’s our job to give them the information that makes them capable of making good decisions.”

Audio files from nearly all of the event’s workshops and education sessions are available for purchase online at www. Also, mark your calendars for Sella-bration® 2012 at the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix, Jan. 19–21, 2012.

Council Launches Bahamas CRS Chapter


he Council of Residential Specialists launched the Bahamas CRS chapter in 2010, making it the 53rd chapter in the CRS family. Kathleen Albury, CRS, with H.G. Christie in Abaco, Bahamas, says the area’s remote location played a key role in the formation of the Bahamas chapter. “The logistics of getting people here for CRS courses is difficult. By having our own chapter, we can encourage educators to come down here so more people would sign up for them,” explains Albury, a chapter board chair representing Abaco, one of the larger Bahamian islands. As the chapter sponsors more CRS courses, it will be able to promote the CRS Designation to local REALTORS®, which will help boost membership, she adds. The chapter is also running a public awareness campaign, which includes print ads in the local newspaper and a real estate guide that features profiles of local CRS chapter members and information for buyers, sellers and anyone interested in Bahamian real estate. “Having our own chapter also helps us establish greater professionalism in our industry,” Albury says. Chapter president Elbert Thompson, CRS, with H.G. Christie in Nassau, says as more real estate agents in the Bahamas earned their CRS Designation, it was only natural that a local chapter should be established. While the fledgling chapter currently has 20 members,

Thompson expects the membership to grow as local agents become more aware of the value of the CRS Designation. “We hope to more than double the current number of chapter members [this year] and provide a framework to have the organization continue for many years to come with strong leadership. The chapter also hopes to get more funding through corporate support and provide more educational opportunities for agents,” Thompson says.

NAR Campaign Touts “Home Ownership Matters”


obs and Homeownership. You can’t have one without the other.” That is the core message of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (NAR) latest public awareness campaign, which is expected to reach 8 billion people throughout the year. Through a series of TV, radio, print and online ads, the “Housing First” campaign will remind consumers that homeownership not only benefits families, it also builds stronger communities and helps create jobs. “Homeownership is a pillar of our economy; our research suggests that home sales in this country generate more than 2.5 million private-sector jobs in an average year. For every two homes sold, a job is created,” says NAR President Ron Phipps, CRS. Campaign materials, including a downloadable brochure, posters and Web banners, are available to help local associations and their members reinforce the message in their own communities. To get more information about the campaign and to learn more about how agents can participate, visit the NAR website at homeownershipmatters. | 3 9


arol Raabe, the Council’s vice president of operations, has retired. She began her career with the REALTORS® National Marketing Institute and the Council of Residential Specialists in 1987, handling accounting and finance and later facilities management and human resources. Raabe also worked closely with the CRS board of directors and executive committee on fiscal and policy matters. Over the years she developed close bonds with many CRS members, including Kay West, CRS, Carol Raabe, the Council’s who is with Virginia Cook REALTORS in Fort former director of operations Worth, Texas. West, who was the Council’s 2007 president, says one word that comes to mind about Raabe is steady. “Things could be in chaos, and Carol had a calming influence. She was steady at the helm. She was always willing to do whatever she could to get information to you,” West says. West adds that Raabe helped her get a grip on the Council’s financial picture, especially during her CRS presidency. “As a financial person, she had the ability to watch the numbers, interpret where they were going, and get things down on paper that people could understand,” West says. Ingrid Glancy, CRS, with Denver Fine Properties in Denver and the 2005 CRS President, says Raabe also helped her become better prepared to handle the responsibilities of her presidency. “Carol took every incoming leader and tucked them under her wing. We knew that we could always go to her as we wended our way through the training process. She was the mother bird. We became better leaders because of her,” Glancy says. “Early in my involvement with CRS, I realized Carol was equal parts diplomat, political consultant, historical resource, educator and hand-holder for the leadership at the Council,” adds Gregg Fujita, CRS, immediate past president of the Council and a broker with Harbor Bay Realty in Alameda, Calif. “Carol’s focus was always looking at what was in the best interest of CRS while still ensuring the fiscal health for our organization. Her longtime dedication to our organization brought the Council an educated and historical viewpoint that was invaluable to our leadership,” Fujita says.

“Things could be in chaos, and Carol had a calming influence. She was steady at the helm. She was always willing to do whatever she could to get information to you.”


Leave YOUR HOME as is, or personalize the newsletter by adding your photo, logo, address and phone number to the mailing panel.* You can also substitute any article in the newsletter with one of your own. Edit the newsletter ­electronically by downloading it at newsletter.shtml.


Do it yourself with your office copier, or take the newsletter or electronic file (in addition to your photograph and any information you want inserted) to a printer who can prepare and reproduce the newsletter for you.


Mail. If you photocopy YOUR HOME or use it largely “as is,” please note that it is designed to be folded in a Z fold with the words YOUR HOME facing out on one side and the mailing panel facing out on the other side. Postal regulations require that Z folds have three closures (tabs or tape) — one on top in the center and two on the bottom. For your convenience, we have placed asterisks (*) where the closures should be. Be sure to check with your local mailer or post office to make sure you have prepared your mailings properly. Electronic File. Attach the customized newsletter file to an e-mail to your clients or create a Web link to the file on your Web site. Consult your webmaster or technician to make sure the file is prepared correctly for these purposes, since these basic instructions will vary by person and system. * This newsletter is for the exclusive use of CRS members.

—Kay West, CRS For a complete step-by-step guide to personalizing and ­reproducing the YOUR HOME newsletter, visit magazine/your_home_newsletter.shtml. 40 | May/June 2011

Carol Raabe Retires

Personalize, Reproduce and Mail This Newsletter to Your Clients


YOUR T i p s

a n d

T r e n d s

t o

h e l p

m a x i m i z e

h o m e

b u y i n g

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2011 s e l l i n g

Grill Master

Garden Secrets

ew things are better than a barbecue on a warm, sunny day. Keep those burgers and hot dogs coming by keeping your grill in tip-top shape. The National Barbecue Association recommends that you always start with a clean grill. Break up tough charred food and ashes from the last barbeque session with a metal-bristle brush or a steel wool pad. If the food is still difficult to remove, consider closing the grill’s lid and cook on “high” for an additional five or 10 minutes. The grill residue will turn to ash, which is easier to clean off. To prevent food or ash residue in the future, lightly coat the grill grate with vegetable oil. Two things to keep in mind: always apply oils with the grill off, and never spray directly into an open flame. Another simple approach is to rub down the grates using tongs with a paper towel dipped in oil for an even application. While cooking, try to avoid using sugar- or tomatobased sauces until the last 15 to 20 minutes of grilling time; they tend to cause meats to char. After you’re done cooking, allow the grill to cool. Once it cools down, remove all coals and liquids accumulated from inside the grill. These remnants can affect the taste of future meals and can collect moisture and impede the airflow within your grill, causing it to rust.

rowing your own vegetable or herb garden can help trim the fat on your grocery bill — and your body. Ready to start planting? HGTV experts suggest that you consider these tips before you let your garden grow. Start by making a list: it’s easier to plot out garden beds when you put everything down on paper. Write down the herbs you commonly use and look up their soil, light and water needs. Take note of a plant’s growing patterns, too — mint, a popular herb, tends to overtake gardens so is best planted by itself. There are some hard and fast rules for growing vegetables as well: Potatoes are known to inhibit the growth of tomatoes and squash, and beans can slow down a patch of onions. When considering which fruits and vegetables to plant, it’s important to remember there are cool- and warm-season crops. Cool crops include cabbage, lettuce and peas; warm crops include peppers, cucumbers and melons. And finally, size matters. Novice gardeners should begin with a plot no larger than 11' square, which will allow for nine 3' x 3' areas and enough walking space among the crops. Trying to take care of a large garden with little experience can be challenging, but a smaller, well-maintained area is more likely to yield success.



fast fact »


In 2010, consumers spent more than $1.6 billion on hot dogs in U.S. supermarkets.

B R O U G H T T O Y O U B Y Y O U R A G E N T, A M E M B E R O F T H E C O U N C I L O F R E S I D E N T I A L S P E C I A L I S T S

Walk This Way


ore Americans prefer living in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with easy access to local amenities, according to a recent Community Preference Survey by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. More than half (56 percent) of respondents say they preferred living in a walkable neighborhood over one that requires more driving between work, home and recreation. When considering a home purchase, 77 percent of respondents say they would

Say Yes to CRS


s! al

I Lo

Buying or selling a home can seem like an overwhelming task. But the right REALTOR® can make the process easier — and more profitable. A Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), with years of experience and success, will help you make smart decisions in a fast-paced, complex and competitive market. To receive the CRS Designation, REALTORS® must demonstrate outstanding professional achievements — including high-volume sales — and pursue advanced training in areas such as finance, marketing and technology. They must also maintain membership in the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and abide by its Code of Ethics. Work with a REALTOR® who belongs among the top 4 percent in the nation. Contact a CRS today.

referr ve


Do you know someone who is thinking about buying or selling a home?

look for locations that had abundant sidewalks, while 50 percent say they would rather see improvements to the existing public transit system than initiatives to build new roads. While space is important to many homebuyers, some say they are willing to sacrifice square footage if it means less driving. Nearly three out of five homebuyers (59 percent) say they would choose a smaller home if its location promised a commute time of less than 20 minutes.

Candles are used in 7 out of 10 U.S. households.

Please mention my name.

This newsletter is for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for legal or financial advice. If you are currently working with another real estate agent or broker, it is not a solicitation for business.


inside CRS » » » » » » »


CRS Classroom Courses CRS classroom courses earn either eight credits (for 100-level, one-day courses) or 16 credits (for 200-level, two-day courses) toward the CRS Designation. CRS courses listed below are from May 15, 2011, to Aug. 31, 2011. For more up-to-date listings, visit, CRS 103 — Maximize Your Potential … Personally and Professionally JUNE 21 ELLICOTT CITY, MD. Maryland/DC CRS Chapter 410.575.5053 Instructor: Robert Morris, CRS, CRB

CRS 111 — Short Sales and Foreclosures: Protecting Your Clients’ Interests JUNE 22 ELLICOTT CITY, MD. Maryland/DC CRS Chapter 410.575.5053 Instructor: Robert Morris, CRS, CRB

CRS 112 – Guiding the Buyer in the Distressed Property Market

CRS 201 — Listing Course


Southern California CRS Chapter 949.766.2901 Instructor: Frank Serio, CRS, CRB

Roanoke Valley Association of REALTORS® 540.772.0526 Instructor: LeRoy Houser, CRS

MAY 25 GLEN ALLEN, VA. Long & Foster REALTORS® 804.346.2222 Instructor: LeRoy Houser, CRS

CRS 200 — Business Planning and Marketing JUNE 14 – 15 SANDY, UTAH Utah CRS Chapter 801.205.3535 Instructor: Chuck Bode, CRS

AUG. 15 – 16 ASHEVILLE, N.C. North Carolina Association of REALTORS® 336.808.4231 Instructor: Gee Dunsten, CRS


JUNE 15 – 16 GRAND JUNCTION, COLO. Grand Junction Area REALTORS® Association 970.243.3322 Instructor: Frank Serio, CRS, CRB

Aug. 11 – 12 Atlanta, ga. Georgia Institute of Real Estate 404.252.6768 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

CRS 202 — Sales Course JUNE 28 – 29 BEL AIR, MD. Maryland/DC CRS Chapter 410.575.5053 Instructor: Frank Serio, CRS, CRB

JUNE 29 – 30 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. New Mexico CRS Chapter 505.712.1340 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS | 4 3

inside CRS AUG. 25 – 26 MALVERN, PA

CRS 210 — Referral Course

Suburban West REALTORS® 866.495.7972 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB


CRS 204 — Wealth Building Course JULY 27 – 28 HONOLULU Hawaii Aloha Chapter of CRS 808.733.7060, ext. 103 Instructor: Dale Carlton, CRS

CRS 205 — Financing and Tax Course JULY 25 – 26 KAPAA, HAWAII

Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS® 301.590.8787 Instructor: Gee Dunsten, CRS

JUNE 21 – 22 ANNAPOLIS, MD. Maryland/DC CRS Chapter 410.575.5053 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB

CRS Elective Courses Each elective course is one day and earns eight units of credit toward the CRS Designation.

Outlook E-marketing Strategies

MAY 16 ANNAPOLIS, MD. Maryland/DC CRS Chapter 410.575.5053 Instructor: Mark Porter, CRS Rich Buyer, Rich Seller – Part 1: Positioning and Branding Yourself as a Luxury Home Expert

MAY 18 MIAMI REALTORS® of Greater Miami and the Beaches 305.468.7050 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore

MAY 25 OSTERVILLE, MASS. Keller Williams 214.485.3000 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore

Hawaii Aloha Chapter of CRS 808.733.7060, ext. 105 Instructor: Dale Carlton, CRS

Ninja Selling

CRS 206 — Technology Course

Lee County Association of REALTORS® 334.321.0606 Instructor: Michael Selvaggio. CRS, CCIM

Rich Buyer, Rich Seller – Part 2: A Luxury Marketing Idea Blitz

Ninja Selling Business Systems

REALTORS® Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches 305.468.7050 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore

AUG. 18 – 19 ANCHORAGE, ALASKA Alaska CRS Chapter 907.561.2338 Instructor: Robert Morris, CRS, CRB

NOTE: Instructors listed on all courses are subject to change.


JUNE 24 CHESAPEAKE, VA. Alpha College of Real Estate 757.427.1740 Instructor: Mark Given, CRS


MAY 26 OSTERVILLE, MASS. Keller Williams 214.485.3000 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore

May/June 2011 Guide to Advertisers Best Image 43 Pillar to Post cover 2 Stewart Title

cover 4

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C East Coast

Claire Bisignano Chesnoff

N.Y.S. Licensed Real Estate Broker, ABR, AHWD, ASP, BCREP, CHLMS, CRS, GREEN, GRI, SRES

Board Certified Real Estate Professional DIRECT: 917-974-2239 OFFICE: 718-524-4424 FAX: 718-524-8538


Serving the Real Estate needs of Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York

Your referral source for the greater




Serving Northern Virginia and the Dulles Tech corridor

Offices in Ashburn, Leesburg and Sterling Re/Max Select Properties, Inc.


I help clients make the Wright move Nancy Wright, ABR, CRS, GRI

RE/MAX Realty Brokers 5608 Wilkins Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15217 OFS: 412-521-1000 x170 CELL: 412-508-0040


SOUTH FLORIDA Greater Ft Lauderdale & the Palm Beaches

Ray Singhal

2010 CRS Agent of the Year

(954) 770-8083 Wieder Realty, Inc. Pompano Beach, FL



Fort Lauderdale, FL Your dedicated and professional Realtor serving all of South Florida. Gary Lanham Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS



The Kent Redding Group Prudential Texas Realty 512.306.1001 800.647.4711 “Unmatched REPRESENTATION and NEGOTIATION”


Specializing in Dallas areas’ finest neighborhoods since 1992

Maribel Hill Realty

Highland Park • Frisco • Plano Richardson • Downtown • Southlake

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Visit website for testimonials!

Plano, TX Mike Brodie, Keller Williams

Serving Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell, Woodinville and their neighborhoods since 1983.

3600 Preston Rd., Ste. 100 Plano, TX 75093 Office: 972-599-7000 Cell: 214-808-4900 Email: Web: Fax: 972-599-1163

Voted Best in Client Satisfaction for several years by Seattle Magazine. I create a community for your clients.

Realty-Broker/Owner; ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CLHMS

Serving: Allen, Frisco, McKinney, Plano, Dallas, Richardson Counties: Collin, Dallas, Denton Transnational Referral Certification Specializing in: Buyer Brokerage, Luxury Homes Sales, Residential Sales/Brokerage, Golf Course Communities Realtor since 1973

46 | May/June 2 0 1 1

we s t c o a s t Seattle & the 'Burb's

Barb Avery Broker, CRS, GRI, E-Pro, WCR, SRES Cell: 1-888-255-2272 Web: Email: RE/MAX Eastside Brokers

Covering Palm Springs Area of California Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Spring, Indio, Coachella, Bermuda Dunes and Thermal

Mike Duncan

CRS, CRB, FSP, CDPE, GRI, CEO / Broker California License #01276361 California License #01526220 51370 Avenida Bermudas Suite 6 La Quinta, Ca 92253 760-564-5678 760-262-3740 Fax 760-831-0484 Cell

we s t c o a s t


Broker Associate (#00547900) Cell: 951-970-5211 Direct: 951-461-4611


Real Estate



Duke Kimhan

(Principal Broker) (R) CRS, ABR, CRB, GRI, SRES, CDPE

Condo.Com 808-277-4677-Cell 808-447-5816-Office 808-675-5916-Fax 1888 Kalakaua Ave, Ste. #312 Honolulu, HI 96815 Making Business a Pleasure!

Please visit my Website @

Canada RESOURCES • May/June 2011

residential The

Specia li s t


to your region from more than

36,000 CRS Designees and members with an ad in the Referral Marketplace. Limited Space Available First Come, First Served Ask us about multi-issue discounts

Past Lives

Wide Open Spaces

Bonnie Dixon, CRS, Stark Company REALTORS®,

Cathy Cole, CRS, Heritage Texas Country Properties,

Sara Griffin, CRS, Tropical Realty and Investment,

John Daly, CRS, Coldwell Banker Grass Roots Realty,

Todd Smith, CRS, Fine Austin Living REALTORS®,

Michael Delaware, CRS, Troxel Realty Company,

Joe Spake, CRS, Revid Realty, joe@spake. com

Victoria Marton, CRS, RE/MAX Classic Group,

Balancing Act

Vicki Owens, CRS, Best Homes Real Estate,

Waylon Chavez, CRS, ABQ Premiere Properties,

Lean & Green

Sandy Gervais, CRS, RE/MAX West of the River,

Polly Briley, CRS, RE/MAX on the Water,

Maura Neill, CRS, the Gebhardt Group,

Debra J. Marshall, CRS, Century 21 Mountain Lifestyles, deb@debramarshall. com

Dave Robison, CRS, CRB, Robison & Company Real Estate, homes@utahdave. com

Just call Kathleen Thomas at 202.721.1497

Call Kathleen Thomas at 202.721.1497 to advertise

Bob McCranie, CRS, Texas Pride Realty,

w w w. c r s . c o m | 4 7

Ask a CRS | Advice from the country’s top Certified Residential Specialists

goal keepers Q U ESTIO N : How do you keep yourself on track to meet your goals?

IN OUR EXPERIEN C E . . . “I email myself every week with a to-do list of things I want to get done that week. I also email myself a to-do list every night for the upcoming day and a schedule. I prioritize the list so I do the most important things first. Not only does this keep me on track all day, but it forces me to brainstorm for new ideas and organize my priorities.” Paul Balzotti, CRS John L. Scott Real Estate

“When looking for a coach, don’t forget your managing broker. My broker is great and will meet privately with me for as little or as much as I need. A good (non-competing) broker should help you meet your goals at no additional cost.” Laura Bruno, CRS Baird & Warner Naperville, Ill.

“I just started a Monday morning mentoring group where we email our district manager [every day] with what we did that day for prospecting. It is amazing how that exercise makes me restructure my day, or wedge a five-minute phone call to a past client in between transaction management. I am hoping this will even out those peaks and valleys I experience and keep me moving steadily upward.”

Bellingham, Wash.

Cyndi Seefeldt, CRS First Weber Group REALTORS® West Bend, Wis.


Please submit real estate questions for “Ask a CRS” to Mike Fenner at

48 | May/June 2011

We’d color code the tools we offer for your business but we’d run out of colors.

Another reason why Stewart Title Company is the right choice for you. Okay, so maybe there are more colors than we have tools, but it’s close. Stewart Title has a wide variety of industry-leading products and services to meet your needs from pre-listing to post-closing. Your Stewart Title representative understands the challenges you face are constantly changing. They will work with you to ensure we consistently provide the tools you need when you need them to keep your transactions flowing smoothly and your business running profitably. Contact us for more information on the service and tools you’ll receive at Stewart Title. (888) STEWART

© 2011 Stewart.