Page 1

September/October 2012




How to stay out of harm’s way on the job


The State of the New-Home Market Tips and Tools for Better Photography Strategies for Serving Clients With Disabilities

Meli Gerogianis, CRS


The success of your business depends on your skill, determination, hard work, and the quality of service you provide to your clients. Likewise, the strength of Pillar To Post速 lies with each of our home inspectors, who share the commitment to service and professionalism for which we are known. In fact, Entrepreneur速 magazine has ranked Pillar To Post #1 in the Home Inspections category on its Franchise 500速 list for the past six years. We invite you to contact Pillar To Post to learn more about how we can support your success. From our Information Series resource to our Continuing Education Program that can help you meet your CEU requirements, we go beyond the home inspection to partner with you and your business.


Find the inspector nearest you and discover the Pillar To Post difference for yourself

(800) 294-5591


residential The

S pecia li s t

September/October 2012 VOL. 11, NO. 5


32 features

20 Safe House

By Gwen Moran How REALTORSÂŽ keep themselves safe on the job.

24 New Plan

By Daniel Rome Levine After a multiyear slump, the new-home market is starting to show encouraging signs of recovery in some locations.

28 Open Access

By Regina Ludes Working with special-needs clients requires agents to be patient and cultivate a deep understanding of home accessibility issues.

32 Photo Finish w w w . c r s . c o m

By Rebecca Scherr A listing just isn’t a listing without photos. CRSs share their views on getting behind the camera and snapping the best shots.

Cover photo by Tamara Reynolds | 1

residential The

S pecia li s t


10 departments 4 6 10 12



Q UICK TAKES Reverse mortgages; veterans’ housing issues; foreclosure update; and more

GREAT FINDS Networking tools

TECHNOLO GY By Dan Tynan Location-based marketing








By Mary Ellen Collins Hiring an assistant

By Michael Fenner Customer-focused service

Julie Beall, CRS Irongate REALTORS® Springboro, Ohio

Reviewed by Allan Fallow Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell — and Live — the Best Stories Will Rule the Future By Jonah Sachs

NEWS FROM THE COUNCIL NAR Conference & Expo 2012 Sell-a-bration® Anniversary New Unveiled Your Home newsletter

By Mark Minchew, CRS


2 | September/October 2012

inside CRS

47 48

REFERRAL MARKE TPLACE ASK A CRS Advice from the country’s top agents


residential The

Coming In The Next Issue ... ■

State of the Condo Market

Examining the recovery in the condominium and townhome market. ■

Building a Referral Network

What steps can agents take to build a solid referral network with other real estate professionals, related businesses and their client base? ■

Changing Strategies

A look at how a change in business strategy can help agents become more successful. ■

Counseling Clients

How can REALTORS® best serve clients who are facing financial challenges? Would you like to be considered as a source for a future story in The Residential Specialist? Send an email 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 2012 Editorial Calendar online at

PLUS: Fighting Social Media Overload

Specia li s t

EDITOR Michael Fenner Email: Tel: 800.462.8841, ext. 4428 Fax: 312.329.8882 ASSOCIATE EDITOR Regina Ludes Email: Tel: 800.462.8841, ext. 4404 Fax: 312.329.8882 2012 COMMUNICATIONS ADVISORY PANEL Moderator: Colleen McKean, CRS Co-Moderator: John W. Goede, CRS 2012 COMMUNICATIONS ADVISORY PANEL MEMBERS Israel V. Ameijeiras, CRS; Shelly Campbell, CRS; DeDe J. Carney, CRS; Gretchen Conley, CRS; John B. Cotton, CRS; Lois Cox, CRS; Wendy Furth, CRS; Hap Hilbish, CRS; Geri Kenyon, CRS; Rita McNeil, CRS; Nancy Metcalf, CRS; Thomas M. Patterson, CRS; Vince Price, CRS; Rae Roeder, CRS; Cynthia J. Ulsrud, CRS; Beverlee A. Vidoli, CRS CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mary Ellen Collins, Daniel Rome Levine, Gwen Moran OFFICERS: 2012 President Mark Minchew, CRS Chief Executive Officer Nina J. Cottrell 2012 President-Elect Mary McCall, CRS 2012 First Vice President Ron Canning, CRS 2012 Immediate Past President Frank Serio, CRS


Tel: 202.331.7700 Fax: 202.331.2043 Publishing Manager Andrea Gabrick Email: Advertising Manager Andrea Katz Email: Tel: 202.721.1482 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? Email 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 distributed 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 2012 by the Council of Residential Specialists. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A. Ja nua r y/

Feb r ua r y



T BUILDING TRUS in Tough Times



ST ■



New CRS president Mark Minchew looks to create a new wave of member engagement. | 3

President’s Message | News from Mark Minchew, CRS

Michael Thad Carter

Reaching Milestones

We need more top professionals to become Designees so we can make them — and our industry — even better.

You have asked for it, and now it is here. CRS has unveiled its new website (, which is designed to better meet the needs of CRS Designees, members and the public. Visitors can access portals for CRS education, designation requirements, chapters, events, committees, resources, course schedules and even an improved online directory to help them find CRS Designees from across the country and around the world. The site allows you to find CRS Designees according to their NAR designations, NAR certifications and the counties and cities they serve. You can make notes about the agents you have used in the past and add them to your community network of agents. In order to take full advantage of this benefit and ensure the database’s accuracy, Designees should be sure that the Council has your latest photo and contact information. Log in at to update your information, or call CRS customer service for help at 312.462.8841. Meanwhile, we’re working hard on the Council’s strategic plan between the May and November meetings. The Chapter Leadership Training Program took place in late August, and CRS leadership is preparing for the November meetings in Orlando, where Mary McCall, CRS, will be installed as the new CRS President. The membership and Chapter Regional Vice President committees are working together to seek ways to grow our membership and chapters. The education advisory board has been busy improving our educational offerings with the instructors’ invaluable help. Our staff in Chicago has been working hard on the ongoing development and implementation of the new CRS website. (A special thank you goes to Keith Tristano, chief financial and information officer, for heading this up.) The Sell-a-bration® 2013 program is coming together and will include speakers and sessions that will be sure to wow you. Brian Copeland, CRS, is helping CRS put together another spectacular event, which will be held at Caesars Palace in fabulous Las Vegas, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, 2013. I know you are all busy as you wind down your summer activities and head into autumn, but please remember to ask every good agent you meet if they are a CRS. If they are not, help spread the word about the Council. We need more top professionals to become Designees so we can make them — and our industry — even better. I wish you all the success you so richly deserve. See you in the trenches,

4 | September/October 2012

QuickTakes | Industry headlines, statistics and trends


Reverse Mortgage Confusion

Veterans’ Housing Struggles

Many older Americans don’t understand the complexities of reverse mortgages, and their lack of understanding could put them at risk of losing their home, according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A reverse mortgage is a type of home loan that allows older homeowners to access the equity they have built up in their homes and defer repayment of the loan until they pass away or sell the property. The loans require no monthly mortgage payments, but borrowers are still responsible for paying property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. But according to the report, nearly 10 percent of reverse mortgage borrowers are in default of the loan because they failed to pay taxes and insurance on their home. The original purpose of reverse mortgages was to help older homeowners convert home equity into an income stream or line of credit they can tap into in retirement or to allow them to age in place in their current homes. But what is happening in practice is quite different, the study finds. For example, nearly 70 percent of borrowers choose to receive a lump sum rather than an income stream or line of credit, raising concerns that they will have fewer resources available later in life for other expenses, such as taxes and insurance, which puts them at risk of losing their home. Also, older Americans are applying for reverse mortgages at younger ages, many at age 62, the first year in which borrowers are eligible for them. By electing to receive benefits sooner, these borrowers may not have financial resources to pay for major and everyday expenses that might occur later in life or to move to another home. And some older consumers have received deceptive and misleading marketing information about reverse mortgages that tout these loans as a government benefit rather than a financial product. The Bureau plans to use the study results and feedback from consumers to formulate new policies about the fair use of reverse mortgages.

Despite job training programs designed to help them find solid employment, many American military veterans still face housing affordability challenges, according to the Center for Housing Policy’s report, Paycheck to Paycheck 2012. In many housing markets across the country, the jobs that servicemen and -women find after deployment often do not pay enough to cover the costs of buying a home or, in some cases, renting an apartment. The Center for Housing Policy also examined trends in housing affordability for carpenters, dental assistants, electricians, firefighters and truck drivers. Of these professions, only electricians received wages high enough to pay the mortgage on a typically priced home, and dental assistants did not earn enough to afford the typical rent on a two-bedroom apartment. “Veterans face a wide range of challenges after returning from deployment,” says Jeffrey Lubell, the Center’s executive director. “There are many outstanding service organizations across the country that provide assistance to veterans, but their efforts are often undercut by steep housing costs that make it difficult for veterans to make ends meet.”

6 | September/October 2012

Babar760/Veer; Dmitry Kutlayev/Veer

Zillow has launched a service that allows real estate agents to create a custom WordPress-based website for their personal brand and business. Premier Agent Websites is designed for agents who do not yet have a website, who want to improve their existing site or who want a more affordable custom website solution, the company says. Agents can add an IDX feed of local MLS listings to their site, and they can register a personalized domain name at no additional cost. Agents can select from a variety of templates, themes and colors to create their site and customize it with local content, such as a personal blog, video, real estate data, photo slideshows or school information. Current subscribers to Zillow’s Premier Agent program will get a website for free, while non-subscribers will pay $10 per month.

Walkable Communities Thrive Walkable communities tend to be better off economically than communities that are not pedestrian-friendly, according to an economic study by the Brookings Institution. In its analysis of several neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C., area, researchers found that office, residential and retail rents, retail revenues and for-sale residential values rose as the number of environmental features that facilitate walkability increased. The study also found: • Pedestrian-friendly locales benefit from being near other walkable areas. On average, walkable neighborhoods in the D.C. area that cluster and form walkable districts exhibit higher rents and home values than stand-alone walkable locations. • Residents of walkable neighborhoods have lower transportation costs and higher transit access, but also higher housing costs. Residents of pedestrianfriendly communities in the D.C. area, for example, spent an average of 12 percent of their income on transportation and 30 percent on housing, while those who lived in less walkable areas spent 15 percent on transportation and only 18 percent on housing. • Residents in less walkable areas are generally less affluent and have less education than residents in more pedestrian-friendly communities. However, there is no significant difference in transit access to jobs between walkable and non-walkable communities, the study concludes.

Dmitry Kutlayev/Veer

As housing prices start to rise in many markets across the country, the prospect of a market rebound has prompted many Americans to think big — perhaps a little too big, according to results from a recent Trulia survey. Six out of 10 Americans believe home prices in their local market will rise in the next year, and 58 percent believe home prices will return to their previous high sometime in the next 10 years. After steering away from supersized McMansions during the recession, Americans are growing more enchanted with the idea of larger homes. The number of people who expressed a desire for a home of more than 3,200 square feet nearly doubled from 6 percent in 2011 to 11 percent in 2012. More than one in four Americans (27 percent) say their ideal home size is more than 2,600 square feet, up from 17 percent who said so in 2011. When asked what amenities would make them fall in love with a home if they were shopping for

one, 62 percent of renters mentioned a master bathroom, 56 percent said a walk-in closet and 50 percent said a gourmet kitchen. But only 26 percent of actual first-time homeowners had a master bathroom in their first home, while 35 percent had a walk-in closet and 9 percent had a gourmet kitchen. “Few homebuyers — and even fewer first-timers — can afford 3,000 square feet and a gourmet kitchen,” says Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. “Buyers need to take a hard look at what they can actually afford, and give themselves some cushion in case a euro crisis or federal budget battle pushes us back into recession.”

Think Big

Americans | 7

QuickTakes | Industry headlines, statistics and trends

New Homes Get BIGGER

New homes are getting larger again, reversing a trend that began a few years ago, according to new statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2011, newly built, single-family homes averaged 2,480 square feet, up from 2,392 square feet in 2010. Nineteen percent of new single-family homes completed in 2011 had a three-car garage. Characteristic



Size of new homes

2,480 sq. feet

2,392 sq. feet

4 or more bedrooms

39 percent

35 percent

3 or more baths

28 percent

25 percent

3-car garage

19 percent

16 percent

Average sale price of new homes sold



Percentage financed by conventional loan

62 percent

58 percent

Percentage financed by FHA loan

20 percent

25 percent

LOOK WHO’S TWEETING Twitter usage has nearly doubled among adults who are online, rising from 8 percent in November 2010 to 15 percent in February 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. At the same time, the proportion of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has quadrupled from 2 percent in November 2010 to 8 percent in February 2012. Several groups tweet more often than others: • 28 percent of AfricanAmericans who are online use Twitter, compared with 14 percent of Hispanics and 12 percent of white non-Hispanics. • 26 percent of Internet users ages 18–29 use Twitter, nearly double the rate for those ages 30–49 (14 percent). • More individuals with no high school diploma use Twitter (22 percent) than those with a college education (17 percent).

Homeowners who fall behind on their mortgage payments are more likely to seek help from loved ones than from mortgage relief agencies, according to a recent survey by Money Management International. Half of homeowners surveyed say they would first seek help from family and friends before talking with their lender (26 percent) or seeking assistance from a housing counseling agency or mortgage relief program (13 percent). More than half (53 percent) say they are concerned about possible scams and fraudulent practices by mortgage assistance agencies, that the services they offer would cost more money than they could afford (51 percent), and that the process would be confusing or they would choose a solution they don’t fully understand (45 percent). Nearly two-thirds of respondents who sought help did so when they were one to three months behind on their mortgage payments. Twenty-two percent were four to six months behind, and 4 percent were more than seven months behind. Some 57 percent say they would seek help only after they had lost their job, and 27 percent would seek help if they missed one mortgage payment.

Konstantin Yuganov/Veer

Mortgage Relief?

Eyeing Foreclosures The stigma attached to buying a foreclosure seems to be fading. According to a survey, nearly two-thirds of homebuyers (64.9 percent) say they are likely to buy a foreclosure, compared with 25.3 percent who said the same in October 2009. A majority of buyers (92.1 percent) say they plan to live in these properties rather than use them as investments. attributes the increased demand for foreclosure properties to a reduced supply of homes on the market, expectations of rising home prices and changing attitudes toward foreclosures. However, many Americans remain concerned about the large number of foreclosures on the market. More than half (55.7 percent) worry that the 1.5 million backlogged foreclosures expected to be released by major lenders will drive down home values in their local markets. Midwesterners (62.2 percent) are more concerned about this issue than residents in the nation’s other three regions. Foreclosure data varies considerably from one study to the next, but according to, foreclosures have declined 34 percent nationwide in the past 12 months. Still, most Americans say they have not seen improvement in foreclosure activity in their local markets. Nearly half of those surveyed believe the foreclosure situation is about the same today compared with a year ago. While 34.9 percent of Americans are concerned that they or someone they know will lose their home to foreclosure within the next year, that figure is far below March 2009, when 52.5 percent of Americans expressed this same concern.

pmphoto/Veer; JohnKwan/Veer


Consumers aren’t the only ones actively participating in social media. An increasing number of U.S. companies are also working to exploit its potential benefits, according to research by Belgian firm InSites Consulting. Four out of five U.S. companies have a presence on Facebook, nearly half (48 percent) have a LinkedIn page, 45 percent have a Twitter account and 31 percent use YouTube. While most U.S. companies respond quickly to customer inquiries via social media, they aren’t as successful when it comes to engaging in online conversations. Six out of 10 companies (61 percent) listen to what consumers say about them on social network sites, and 83 percent say they always deal with questions or complaints sent to them via social media. However, only 54 percent actively and consistently participate in online conversations with consumers. Additionally, 11 percent of U.S. companies are currently integrating social media into their overall corporate strategy, while more than 26 percent have no long-term plans for how to use social media, the survey finds. “A huge number of companies feel external pressure to be present on social media,” explains Steven Van Belleghem, partner with InSites Consulting. “Unfortunately, this often results in static corporate pages where nothing really happens. It too often leads to mere presence, not engagement with people. In doing so, companies create enthusiasm among their customers, which in the end turns into disappointment.”

Renters’ Sacrifices According to a Century 21 survey, 82 percent of renters say they plan to purchase a home at some point in the future, and 80 percent are willing to make a few lifestyle sacrifices to finance their home investment. • 50 percent would cut back on dining out • 49 percent would cut back on shopping for nonessential items, such as clothing, accessories and technology gadgets • 47 percent would give up luxuries, such as expensive cable packages and trips to the salon • 39 percent would cut back on vacations • 10 percent would contribute less to their 401(k) plan | 9

Great Finds | Tools of the trade

net worth

When it comes to business networking, the philosophy is simple: Any connection could lead to your next client. But in every step of the process — from the initial meeting to the conversation to the follow-through — REALTORS® need the right tools. Consider these items to help you network more effectively and stand out from the crowd.

shutter speed Still using your Rolodex to store business cards? There’s a better way to file away names and contact information. The password-protected CamCard app for the iPhone lets users take a photo of the card and instantly store all pertinent information — email, mobile and office phone numbers, and contact name — in the phone’s address book as well as a “Card Holder” folder in the app that’s searchable by name. The app works on a cloud system to sync across multiple devices to restore cards and contact information in case of accidental deletion or a lost phone.

carry all In conversations, you want to be the standout who brings something other than your business agenda to the table. If your iPad is always with you, use it to keep printouts of relevant documents, such as your latest company newsletter or interesting real estate articles, at the ready with the Tablet Portfolio for iPad from Brookstone. Fill the portfolio’s slots and pockets with prospects’ business cards, and zip up the portfolio afterward to ensure all your documents stay tidy.


trump card Business cards are a networking staple, but fumbling around for a loose card in your wallet or pocket can leave the wrong kind of lasting impression. Keep your business cards organized and easily accessible with the Executive Leather Card Case from Memorable Gifts. The easy snap closure on this professional card case will keep cards in their rightful place, and the included miniature pen is a suave way to write down memorable notes or extra contact information.



pen pals In an inbox filled with thousands of emails, a message from a REALTOR® that says “nice to meet you” is likely to be deleted. Make your follow-up notes stand out with a handwritten message on customized stationery from Zazzle, which has a real-estate-specific section. Personalize your notes and cards with a letterhead stating your personal motto or real estate company to cement your name with new contacts.

Price varies; starts at $0.90 per sheet 10 | September/October 2012

book smart Are you attending a slew of networking events and conferences and just not making connections? For a little guidance in an easy-to-read format, pick up a copy of Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-how for Clients, Cash, and Career Success by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon. This 272-page book outlines simple steps even the biggest introvert can use. Dog-ear the top 10 networking mistakes (such as ignoring the 50/50 split between listening and talking), how to draft a networking strategy and even decoding body language.


Technology | Streamlining your business

location, location, location Mobile, location-based services are changing how REALTORS ® market their properties — and themselves.

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, 28 percent of mobile phone owners use the device to find product information, 18 percent to find store locations and 12 percent to compare prices during the shopping process.

12 | September/October 2012


o matter where she roams, Chris Griffith, CRS, is never far from Foursquare. Like many REALTORS®, the broker with Downing-Frye Realty in Bonita Springs, Fla., has found the locationbased social network to be an invaluable marketing tool. Following a recent home inspection, for example, Griffith checked into the Foursquare location for that neighborhood and added a note: “Nearly new single-family homes from the low to mid 200s. There are some great values in this ’hood!” Within minutes, Griffith received a response from someone who was interested in a property for herself, as well as for a friend. As lead-generation tactics go, that’s a potentially huge return on investment for a few seconds’ worth of tapping, notes Griffith, whose Foursquare profile boasts 65 “Mayorships” for having the most public check-ins at a single location. “And,”

she adds proudly, “that check-in just made me Mayor of Emerson Square.” As smartphones proliferate, technologies such as Foursquare, text-back services, QR codes and geotagging are becoming essential tools for savvy REALTORS® who want to make data available to clients on the go, while burnishing their reputations as local experts. In some cases, location really is everything.

Foursquare Dancing Ira Serkes, CRS, a broker with Pacific Union International/Christie’s Real Estate in Berkeley, Calif., uses Foursquare to share information and market himself as a person who really knows his way around town. “The real advantage to Foursquare is that you can brand yourself as a local expert by leaving tips in different locations,” says Serkes, who has left more than 500 tips, including the easiest places to park at the Oakland airport, the best dishes to order at


By Dan Tynan

a local taqueria, and guides to hiking paths in the Berkeley Hills, on his Foursquare profile. “You want to spread the information around and give people something they can benefit from.” Foursquare also provides a great way to build relationships with local businesses, says Leigh Brown, CRS, a broker-owner with RE/MAX Executive Realty in Charlotte, N.C. “I live in a small suburb outside of Charlotte and I’m Mayor of several spots in town, which leads to some great conversations with business owners,” she says. “They’re thrilled that my check-ins help promote their businesses, and as a result I become their go-to person when they have questions about real estate.” In fact, the key to using Foursquare successfully is to back off the “hard sell” and focus on being helpful, says Brown. “Our local airport is littered with tips from local businesses saying, ‘Hey, if you’re moving here, come look us up,’ ” she says. “It’s a blatant sales pitch that I doubt is really working for them. I always think, ‘For the love of God, please stop selling for two minutes and just be yourself.’” But privacy and safety are justifiable concerns for REALTORS® who choose to use applications that reveal their exact location, such as Foursquare. Brown only checks into locations as she’s leaving them, which means the application reveals where she just was, not where she currently is. “As a woman who’s by myself a lot, I find that’s the safest way to approach Foursquare.”

Text Generation “Texting is a great way to have a low-key conversation with a prospective client,” Brown says. “I engaged with one couple recently via text where I was able to direct them to a nearby community pool they never would have found on their own. It’s much less threatening than a ‘Hey, I want to sell you a house’ phone call.” Brown uses VoicePad, a mobile marketing platform, so buyers can get the essential data about a property without having to talk to an agent. Prospective clients can call a number, type in a street address and have the MLS listing sent via text to their phones; they can also listen to a recording with the pertinent details or request a call from a lender or broker. VoicePad captures their phone number, so brokers can call or text back with more information.

Brown says agents should resist the urge to call a prospect after they’ve requested information. “When we tried that, we found we got a poor conversion rate,” she says. “Texters only want to be texters. If you can figure out how to text them back, you can have a great conversation.”

Cracking the Code Many agents have started using QR codes on for-sale signs and other marketing collateral materials to deliver instant, on-site information to prospective clients who scan the code with their smartphones, but perspectives on the strategy’s effectiveness are mixed. The biggest problem with QR codes is many people don’t know what they are or understand the benefits they provide, says John Caughell, marketing coordinator for ArgentStratus, a provider of cloud-based applications for REALTORS® and other small to medium-sized businesses. “Most REALTORS® don’t calculate the amount of time and effort they put into filling that little plastic box in front of a listing with paper flyers, most of which end up being taken by the neighbors,” he says. “Used effectively, QR codes are a way to get people who are sitting on the fence to step off and engage with the broker.” Still, some REALTORS® are wary of QR codes. “Frankly, I think they’re the mark of the beast,” says Brown. “I’ve never run into a customer who’s willing to pull out her phone and start scanning them.” Griffith, on the other hand, uses QR codes on For Sale signs in areas where association rules limit the amount of information she can put on a sign. While they have yet to generate a huge number of leads, she says they make it possible to put more data in buyers’ hands. “There are 65 gated communities in Bonita Springs, and a lot of them don’t allow signs or restrict them to just the name and number of the REALTOR®,” she says. “I order my QR

stickers through Zazzle so I can control the colors and designs. A lot of communities have particular color schemes you have to follow.” Caughell advises agents not to link a QR code back to their home page. The link should draw clients to a subpage or specific URL they have created for that property so they can track the link’s effectiveness, or to a video that shows the unique characteristics of a home.

Mapping the Territory Other forms of location-based marketing are less obvious. For example, Serkes consistently posts photos and videos of Berkeley neighborhoods and events to Flickr and YouTube along with location data — a technique known as geotagging — so that when people search an area for listings, his pictures show up higher in Google results. “Lots of people who come to me tell me they saw my videos and photos,” he says. “They say, ‘You must really know these neighborhoods.’” He also plugs MLS and IDX data directly in to BatchGeo, a free program that generates an interactive map of his listings on his website,, so that visitors can sort by price range, neighborhood, number of bedrooms and more. He even plugs in data provided by a local geologist showing how close each house is to major earthquake fault lines and slide areas. Serkes geotags photos and videos with location (longitude and latitude) information, and adds the street address and neighborhood to any text tags associated with it. That allows Google to place them on a map and causes them to show up higher in image searches. “The whole point of these locationbased tools is so people can find you when they search,” he says. “As long as they find me, I don’t care how they did it.”

“The whole point of these location-based tools is so people can find you when they search.  As long as they find me, I don’t care how they did it.”

Dan Tynan is a writer based in Wilmington, N.C. | 1 3

Trends | Today and tomorrow

hire power Assistants, virtual or otherwise, can help agents do their jobs better and run their businesses more efficiently. Do you need one?

Just 18 percent of REALTORS® have an assistant. Source: 2012 NAR Member Profile

14 | September/October 2012


weary agent walks into her office at the end of a 12-hour day and finds the items her assistant has left on her desk: a new, typo-free listing description; a revised schedule of upcoming closings; the draft of a marketing plan; and a note that says the priority packages went out in the 2:00 mail. Fatigue gives way to gratitude and relief. According to the 2012 NAR Member Profile, only 18 percent of REALTORS® have one or more assistants. Perhaps this reflects the tough market, when every extra expense feels risky. Or maybe it’s due to an “I can handle everything” multitasking mentality. When business is slow, the prospect of hiring and managing an assistant can be daunting, but the investment can be well worth the effort. For busy REALTORS® who need to keep clients happy while building the business, backup support is a valuable asset.

Being able to rely on an enterprising assistant who possesses excellent organization and communication skills sets an agent up for success and creates a foundation for a prosperous team for years to come.

Is It Time? How do you know it’s time to hire an assistant? “When you’re doing an assistant’s job,” says Sue Lusk-Gleich, CRS, ABR, with Keller Williams Capital Partners in metropolitan Columbus, Ohio. “If I’m doing work that’s taking away from lead generation and bringing in business, I’m not doing my job.” Dal Sohal, a success strategist for REALTORS® and a certified coach, suggests asking these questions to clarify whether hiring an assistant makes sense: • Are certain tasks falling by the wayside? • Do you want to increase your productivity?

Blend images/Glow Images

By Mary Ellen Collins

• Do you need more time to focus on relationship building and lead generation? • Are you running on empty or lacking a personal life? Agents who answer “yes” to one or more of these questions may need some assistance, Sohal says. But before hanging out the “help wanted” sign, a little preparation will increase the odds of finding an assistant who’s a perfect match with the job and the team.

Needs Assessment Hiring the right person starts with clarifying the qualities necessary for the tasks at hand. Lusk-Gleich and her team members list a prospective full-time assistant’s ideal skills and characteristics, which then guides her in narrowing the stack of resumes and choosing people to interview. “Our closing partner needs to be highly detailed because she’s handling 20 closings at one time, and needs to keep everything moving ahead. The listing partner needs to have high social skills and writing skills because she’ll be talking with clients, helping with price adjustments, and working on marketing the listing.” She also requires all assistants, whom she calls partners, to have a real estate license, because Ohio law mandates that a person needs a license to talk about a property or quote a price. Assistants who work with clients typically work in the office, but for agents who just need online support, a virtual assistant may be the answer. “Virtual assistants are best if you think you need help with your website, blog writing or social media, which can take up so much time,” says Sohal. “The good thing about a virtual assistant is that you don’t have to worry about overhead, an office or a salary. You hire and pay them to perform a specific job or task.” Lusk-Gleich also employs a virtual assistant who does some blogging and researches articles for her team to read and discuss.

The Hiring Process For some agents, résumés and references don’t provide a full picture of a candidate’s qualifications. Dave Robison, CRS, CRB, a licensed broker with Robison and Co. Real Estate in the Salt Lake City area, asks candidates to complete the DISC personality assessment, which measures traits of dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance. “I want to know how people communicate, how they problem solve and what their talents are,” he says. “Some people are good

at research and some aren’t. If I’m going to force an assistant to work against their grain, that’s going to be catastrophic for our team.” Sohal, however, cautions against making personality tests part of the interview process. “People are more than just their personality types. These types of assessments are not predictors of performance and could result in inaccurately and prematurely screening people out.” Instead, she recommends asking scenario-based questions to see how the candidate would handle a problem. (See sidebar below.) Lusk-Gleich employs the DISC test, but she also conducts multiple interviews and focuses on getting to know the person, with questions ranging from “Who was your best boss?” to “What’s your favorite book?” “I hire very slowly,” she says, “but I am very fortunate that I don’t have to do it very often. My closing partner has been with us for 15 years, and the listing partner has been here six years and she replaced someone who had been here 12 years. … I see dysfunctional teams that constantly have assistants come and go, and I can’t think of anything worse. It would make me crazy. I want to get the right people and I want them to enjoy their jobs. If you hire

What’s the Scenario? Consultant Dal Sohal suggests asking prospective assistants these scenariobased questions:


You’re hosting an open house with a few couples going through the home. You notice a woman in the bedroom touching the dresser and then putting something in her purse. You think she might have taken something belonging to the owners, but you’re not sure. What do you do?


I’m out of the office and have you working on my social media campaign. Another REALTOR® drops by your desk and asks you for help. She needs to dash out to meet a client and doesn’t have time to arrange for a package to go out by courier. She asks if you can photocopy and gather her set of documents, create a package and call the courier company to pick it up. What do you do?

the right person and put them in the right seat on the bus, they’ll go with it.”

Making It Work Once an assistant comes on board, Sohal recommends meeting weekly to review tasks and progress, and advises agents to consider implementing a probationary period. “Talk about how their goals support your goals, so they know how their work connects to the big picture,” Sohal says. “Don’t wait till the end of the probationary period to say, ‘This isn’t working out,’” she says. “If something’s not going well, catch it quickly and correct it.” Lusk-Gleich asked the coach who works with her sales staff to coach her assistants as well. “They love it!” she says. “They like being able to air things and find solutions to problems. It’s part of empowering them. They speak up more and help to problem solve.” Robison, who implements a probationary period, emphasizes the importance of making sure his assistants’ jobs play to their strengths. He once asked his detail-oriented assistant to call a prospective client about doing a training session for them. Because she wanted to finalize details first, she delayed the call and lost the job. He also asked his sales-oriented assistant to review a contract, and she overlooked a clause that locked the business into having to pay for a piece of equipment. He lost revenue in both cases, but takes full responsibility. “Because I know it was my fault for giving them the wrong tasks, we just reworked what tasks go to which people to reflect their strengths. They are very successful now because they work in their areas of talent, and we get more things done faster and more efficiently.” Hiring and managing an assistant takes thought, time and effort, but the investment can be well worth it. Although it’s certainly possible to function as a one-person shop, agents who rely on an assistant realize that strong administrative support ultimately contributes to the success of the entire team. As Lusk-Gleich says, “Yes, I’m the rainmaker and so are the other sales partners, but we couldn’t do our job without those people. They’re as important to my business as I am. They make the whole engine move.” Mary Ellen Collins is a writer based in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is a frequent contributor to The Residential Specialist. | 1 5

Pipeline | Strategies to grow your business

raising the bar By renewing their focus on what consumers want, REALTORS ® stand a better chance of winning clients in a tough economy.

If agents can help people buy or sell a home and remove the tension involved in the process, they will create clients for life.

16 | September/October 2012


ocusing attention on clients’ primary needs — buying and selling homes — seems like it ought to be second nature to successful CRSs. But speakers at the August Inman Real Estate Connect event in San Francisco advised agents to redouble their efforts to deliver top-notch service and recommit themselves to delivering more customerfocused service. “Give the client what they deserve.” That sentiment, voiced by conference panelist Raj Qsar, principal and owner of Premier Orange County Real Estate in Brea, Calif., exemplifies what many speakers and panelists touted at the event. REALTORS® who manage to deliver on that promise put themselves

in good position to succeed, especially in today’s uncertain economy.

The Right Profile There are hurdles to jump, to be sure. For example, agents have little control over what their clients say about them on online review sites, such as Yelp, or the agent ratings provided by listing aggregators, such as Zillow or Trulia. Linnette Edwards, associate broker at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Piedmont, Calif., said she puts her profile everywhere she can online, and it has brought big dividends. For example, she said, Yelp “has been a great way for me to generate additional business.” Exposure on that site, which allows con-

Ocean Photography/Veer

By Michael Fenner

sumers to post reviews of businesses, restaurants and other service providers, fills some REALTORS® with trepidation. But agents who manage their profiles well and respond to both positive and negative comments set themselves up for success, she said. Still, today’s homebuyers and sellers look for more than positive reviews of REALTORS® online. Matt Beall, principal broker and owner of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers based in Kauai, said real estate agencies need to be nimble enough to change along with the market. Edwards agreed. “Being open to change [such as working with short sales or foreclosures] has been the most important thing,” in her success. When it comes to social media, which REALTORS® seem to either love or hate, it may be time to “stop calling it social media and just call it media,” Beall said. It needn’t matter which way consumers choose to communicate with agents — but those REALTORS® should be ready to answer their clients using any platform, be it email, text, Facebook or Twitter. When it comes to touting your skills as an agent, social media can play a huge role. “If you’ve got one client, you’ve got a story,” said Lisa Archer, a broker and agent at Keller Williams Realty in Charlotte, N.C. Agents who manage to get positive reviews and recommendations from their clients will thrive. After all, she said, “It’s not about that one transaction. It’s about [building] a lifelong book of business.”

It’s the Economy Building that business by focusing on client service may be the right goal, but current economic realities present big challenges. The drawn-out recovery will likely be uneven or delayed due to uncertainty in the global economy, according to a panel of economic and real estate experts who spoke at the conference. Panelist Bill Emmons, an economist and assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, suggested caution. “This is not a normal [economic] cycle. Real estate typically leads us out of a recession. This has not happened in this case,” he said. Since the U.S. economy is growing more slowly as a whole, the recovery from this recession will “look different,”

“If you’ve got one client, you’ve got a story. It’s not about that one transaction. It’s about [building] a lifelong book of business.” he said. The European financial crisis continues to be a major concern for the Federal Reserve, since it “could send shockwaves” through economies around the globe if the situation does not improve. A globalized economy brings significant implications for both investors and REALTORS®, the panelists said. Amy Brandt, CEO of Vantium Capital, noted: “I think now instead of the Declaration of Independence we have the Declaration of Interdependence.” In other words, the U.S. real estate and financial markets do not operate in a vacuum: The global economy has changed the rules. That means that changes in U.S. economic policy and regulation may not result in a big improvement, since the country’s economy is tied so closely with the broader global markets. All the panelists agreed that despite deflated property values and historically low interest rates, investors have become cautious. Uncertainty regarding the presidential election could also act as a drag on the economy, according to Brandt. “There has definitely been a flight to safety” when it comes to where investors are willing to put their money, she said. Emmons said he does not foresee a significant rise in national

home prices in the near future until consumer and investor confidence rises.

Behavior Matters The global economy has a big impact on the decisions people make in their everyday lives, but when it comes to predicting consumer behavior, there may be no more important factor than the power of habit. Conference speaker Charles Duhigg, a staff writer for The New York Times and author of the bestselling book The Power of Habit, shared his insights about how powerfully habits can affect the decisions consumers make — and how REALTORS® can recognize them. For example, Duhigg pointed out that the mega-retailer Target used predictive analysis tools to determine if female consumers were pregnant based on their buying habits. Those habits tend to become ingrained — in fact, they often become almost second-nature. Major life changes, such as pregnancy, college graduation, marriage, divorce or purchasing a home, trigger major changes in people’s behavior, Duhigg said. “When someone changes where they live, everything changes.” Duhigg’s research led him to two rules for creating new habits and consumer behavior. First, there must be a simple cue that is easy for people to understand. For example, if a growing family would benefit from living in a larger home with more space, it’s an obvious choice. Second, consumers need a reward for that behavior that comes quickly and cannot be ignored. For a family that moves from a cramped apartment to a more spacious single-family home, the rewards are noticeable and immediate. “The single most important and powerful reward [people receive from changing their habits] … is removing tension,” Duhigg said. That brings people a sense of satisfaction and calm. If agents can help people buy or sell a home and remove the tension involved in the process, they will create clients for life. “Your clients are coming to you and begging for you to change their lives in a positive way,” he said. “The biggest question you should ask yourself is, ‘Which [of my clients’] habits should I focus on?’ Because those will unlock everything else.” Michael Fenner is editor of The Residential Specialist. | 1 7

Up Close | Profiles of people to watch

julie beall,


Irongate REALTORS ®, Springboro, Ohio

REALTOR® since: 2001 Designee since: 2006 Contact: juliebeall@; 937.546.0222

How has having your MBA helped your business? I think it’s been instrumental. I started my MBA in 2008 when the market changed, and I realized, through an interaction with a client, that people’s lives and livelihoods were intertwined with real estate — they were losing their jobs and their homes. I think it’s really important to treat your clients like important people with real problems, and I felt like I needed to really understand the economics that were affecting my clients. If I’m going to sit and help people who might be losing their homes and are trying to make a huge life decision, I’d better understand the basics of why or where the economy and the market are going and be able to make educated economic projections — become more of an adviser. I definitely think having an MBA increases my credibility. I’m able to become more of an adviser/strategist versus a person who’s just trying to buy or sell a house on their behalf. When my clients know I’m an MBA, it leads into a conversation about [current] economics, about what it means to selling their house, to their community, and I see them finally drop their shoulders and just sit back and listen to me. You recently gave a presentation with other REALTORS® in Chicago about rethinking the future of real estate. What does the future hold? Well, things are transforming pretty quickly. And technology has been disruptive. It’s been very disruptive, but innovative. I don’t think it has affected the entire business per se; it’s affected the tools of the business, so we’re able

18 | September/October 2012

to provide better service faster, which allows agents to service more people. And within the industry, that’s set a new standard for some of the younger agents who are quicker to adopt technology compared with agents who’ve been in the business a long time. We really need to bring a whole group of people up to speed. I’m 51, and that puts me right at the cusp of two generations. I’m sure there are agents who feel like they don’t belong anywhere. But I think we need to find a way to bring everyone together, because the changes ahead are too critical. What’s going to happen to the industry as society changes? We’ve got to find some way to make sure that agents aren’t dividing over opinions about things like technology and data threats. When you have a split like that, you lose a little bit of power and innovation. And we need the innovation. These young people are awesome. But we need the wisdom and experience from the older generation, too. If we don’t have a united front, I don’t know how we can confront these changes in real estate — the real threats will come from outside the industry. We truly need an all-encompassing real estate strategy to get through what the future promises to bring. What’s the key to success in this rapidly changing environment? I think it’s really important to understand who your customer is and who they are not. And to understand what is the one thing that you do that nobody else can repeat. That gives you competitive advantage, and competitive advantage is sustainable only for a little while — then you have to find something new and different, and that’s pretty much how every company competes. Agents just don’t get that. I mean, it’s an easy concept, but it’s hard to do. It’s really more than strategy. It is defining a purpose that truly matters, personally and professionally. For me, on a personal level, my volunteer missions in Africa are my purpose. But at a professional level, my purpose is to be an educated, proactive real estate adviser and strategist to the best of my ability.

Jonathan Willis

How did you get started in real estate? I was a nurse for seven years, and I actually still have my nursing license and sometimes volunteer in Africa. But I haven’t been a full-time nurse for almost 15 years. I got started in real estate to help buy and sell some of our investment properties. I got my license not long after we bought our investment properties. Then I started buying properties for other people and selling them, and I said to myself, “I like this. How fun!”

“I think we need to find a way to bring everyone together, because the changes ahead are too critical. What’s going to happen to the industry as society changes?”

Julie Beall, CRS | 1 9

Safe Hou 20 | September/October 2012

How REALTORS® keep themselves safe on the job



Ocean Photography/Veer

By Gwen Moran

bout three years ago, Meli Gerogianis, CRS, was preparing for an open house in her own neighborhood when a man walked in before the start time. He greeted her and dropped his business card into a collection bowl for a drawing she was holding, “moving in a little too close for my comfort,” she recalls. Gerogianis, who specializes in the Clarksville, Tenn., and Ft. Campbell, Ky., markets, tried to keep her distance, but the man followed her, making small talk. While he did nothing threatening, she felt something was wrong. He didn’t seem interested in the house — but he wasn’t interested in leaving, either. | 2 1

Soon, a prospective buyer arrived, and she offered to give him a tour. Once beyond earshot of the unwelcome visitor, Gerogianis explained the situation and asked if he would stay until a friend she had texted for help arrived. He agreed. Gerogianis’ friend kept her company until the end of the open house and then helped her close it. The unwelcome visitor was the last to leave, claiming he wanted to see if he won the drawing, which was held at the end. After they left, Gerogianis and her friend went to the local police station. She had the business card the man had left for the drawing and gave it to the officers on duty, explaining what happened. There, she learned that her unwelcome guest was a registered sex offender. “I hadn’t been in the business that long, and I was excited about that open house,” she says. “But it was a very scary experience.” In a people-oriented business like real estate, where anyone can be a potential client, it can be easy for agents to let their guard down. But the nature of the business can also put agents in harm’s way. No matter the market, whether it’s the people-packed streets of New York City or the wide-open spaces of more rural locales, and no matter how familiar an agent might be with a client or a neighborhood, there are precautions every agent should take and instincts they should never ignore.

Tech Advantage Marki Lemons-Ryhal, CRS, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Chicago, uses Google, and other online information sources to check out prospective clients before she meets them. Generally, the higher the price point of the home the seller is listing or the buyer is interested in seeing, the more information is available, because they’ve likely been successful, she says. Andrew Wooten, president of the Jacksonsville, Fla.-based Safety Awareness Firearms Education (S.A.F.E.), an organization that provides safety and security seminars and information, says it’s also a good idea to check out unfamiliar neighborhoods via Google Maps to see if there are other 22 | September/October 2012

homes or structures around the property. Wooten, who holds quarterly safety webinars for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR), also suggests searching for information about the neighborhood’s crime rate.

Phone Tag Keep your mobile phone fully charged and close by when you’re showing a home or at an open house. Also make sure that your phone is set up for one-touch 911 dialing, Wooten advises. Several free and low-cost mobile phone apps, such as AgentAlarm, Moby, StreetSafe and WalkWithMe, provide panic buttons, safety check-in measures, and live support to contact emergency personnel if you feel like you’re in danger.

Meet First, Show Later Leigh Brown, CRS, with RE/MAX Executive Realty in Concord, N.C., handles many foreclosure sales in her area, so she and her agents are “always walking into vacant properties,” she says. To keep them safer, she instituted a policy that no one is to show a property without having a copy of the prospective buyer’s identification on file. This usually requires the individual to come to the office, but that’s a small sacrifice, she says. “Why on Earth would you answer the phone and run out to show a house, vacant or not, to a person you’ve never met?” she asks. Former New York City police sergeant David Legaz, CRS, an associate broker with Keller Williams Realty Landmark in Flushing, N.Y., who also teaches safety courses for NAR, notes that while it’s not always feasible for someone to meet you in the office, it’s always a good idea to meet at a public place. “Have the prospective buyer fill out a new-client form, including name, address, telephone number and email,” he says, and ask for identification for verification. Agents can take a photo of the completed form and text or email it to colleagues at the office.

Good Housekeeping Although some REALTORS® choose not to hold open houses at all — because of stories like Gerogianis’ or of open houses gone truly awry — many agents

still include them as part of their marketing. For those who do, Wooten suggests making them safer by working in pairs or having a friend come along as company. In the days or hours before the open house, agents should introduce themselves to the neighbors, letting them know they’ll be hosting the open house and inviting them to drop by. This will ensure that people know who the agents are, and they might keep an eye out for anything strange. Wooten also advises agents to note all exits, and make sure they’re unlocked so it’s easy to leave quickly if necessary.

Whereabouts Agents should let colleagues know where they are when they’re out and about on business or meeting with new or prospective clients. Lemons-Ryhal notes all of her appointments and the individual with whom she’s meeting in her Google calendar, which is accessible to her entire office. She typically advises someone in her office about her whereabouts, as well, and when she expects to be finished. If she’s late checking in or returning to the office, someone knows to contact her and make sure everything is OK.

Code Conduct If Gerogianis calls her office and says, “Could you pull the red file on my desk and bring it over? I’m at [the address of her location] with a client, and I’m going to need that file right away,” her co-workers know to call 911 and get the police there quickly. While Legaz says it’s a good idea to have an established emergency code in an office, he suggests making it tough to crack. Anything that might obviously be a code, such as “red file,” which was a common code in the 1980s, could make a would-be perpetrator realize that you’re aware of a threat, provoking an assault, he says. Instead, perhaps address a fictitious person when you call. (For example, when the receptionist hears you say, “Hello, Sally,” she knows to call for help.)

Hands Off Gerogianis typically keeps her hands free when she’s showing a property, with her mobile phone and her keys clipped to her

In a people-oriented business like real estate, where anyone can be a potential client, it can be easy for agents to let their guard down. REALTORS® can find important information, tips and strategies for keeping themselves safe on the job at

Meli Gerogianis, CRS

clothing or stashed in a pocket. Legaz recommends leaving handbags at home or, at least, in the trunk of the car. He also suggests that agents meeting a stranger or going to a property for the first time should avoid wearing expensive jewelry or carrying wads of cash. The only thing Gerogianis will carry is a heavy clipboard, “which can be used for something else if I need to protect myself,” she says.

Tamara Reynolds

Up in Arms? After Brown entered a vacant property that had an explosive device hanging from a light fixture, she took her entire team for concealed carry weapon training. “I decided it wasn’t worth it to feel nervous, so I got the concealed carry permit and started carrying a gun everywhere I go,” she says, noting that the agents found the training useful because half of it was about personal safety, which

has nothing to do with carrying a gun. Wooten is less enthusiastic about REALTORS® relying on handguns for protection, recommending pepper spray instead. He tells his students interested in carrying guns to go to a range with a good instructor and get a feel for whether firing a gun is something they could really do in threatening situations. If it is, he says you have to practice regularly to become proficient at handling a firearm for your own safety and that of those around you.

Gut Reactions In May, a Pennsylvania REALTOR® was allegedly kidnapped by a man who had contacted her to show him a house. She claims the man used a steak knife as a weapon and demanded that she drive him to an ATM and withdraw $20. While she was left unharmed, the incident illustrates the risks agents face when they meet

unfamiliar clients. In an interview with her local CBS affiliate after the kidnapping, she said that the man initially made her uncomfortable. That feeling, Wooten says, is important. If you feel like you are in danger, even if you can’t put your finger on why, get out. “[In that situation], what I’d love for you to do is pull out your cell phone, dial someone, and pretend like you’re taking a call, and your child is on the other end,” Wooten says. “Say, ‘Oh, you’re sick? You’re throwing up?’ Then turn to the client and say, ‘Listen, my child is sick. I have to go. I’ll call you back in an hour to reschedule.’ Give them your card, apologize profusely, and get out of there while you are still talking on the phone.” Gwen Moran is a writer based in Wall Township, N.J., and is a frequent contributor to The Residential Specialist . | 2 3

24 | September/October 2012

Chad Baker/Getty Images

Much like the overall housing market recovery, the turnaround in new-home sales nationwide can best be described as erratic. After sales of newly built, single-family homes jumped to a two-year high of 382,000 in May, they plummeted the next month by more than 8 percent, the biggest drop since February 2011. Compared with the May–June period last year, sales of new homes are up 15 percent to 20 percent but still well below the 700,000 annual new-home sales in a healthy market, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. “While a housing recovery is under way, fits and starts are to be expected, and clearly this summer [was] one of the fits,” Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at New York equity trading firm BTIG, wrote in a recent note to clients in late July. To take the pulse of the new-home market in a more tangible way, The Residential Specialist asked a handful of CRSs how new homes are selling in their markets. | 2 5

In the Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla., metro area, the new-home market is heating up. The turnaround started in the middle of last year, says Carol Marra, CRS, of Keller Williams Realty, and shows no signs of abating. “New-home building permits have increased year over year for two years now,” she says. “We are definitely turning the corner.” Area homebuilders confirm the trend. At River Strand, a community of 1,500 homes, townhomes and condos being built in Bradenton, sales have been rising each of the last three years, according to Mike Bisaha, a new-home consultant for Lennar, the property’s developer. The 200 new homes sold last year represented a 4 percent increase over 2010 sales, and

26 | September/October 2012

through July of this year, the developer had already sold 110 properties. “We are selling homes faster than we can build them,” Bisaha says. He added that area new-home sales, in general, are so hot that Lennar, as well as other builders, are seeing shortages of available construction workers. Neal Communities, a local new-home developer, is also reporting a boom in business. The builder’s sales director reports that the 403 new homes it sold in the area last year was a 47 percent increase over 2010 and says that through July of this year, it has already sold 325 new homes. One of the factors driving the torrid pace of new-home sales in Bradenton and Sarasota, Marra says, is a dearth of

existing homes for sale, including distressed properties. People who are thinking of selling, she says, are holding off, hoping that an uptick in prices seen early this year gains momentum. “People are expecting prices to continue climbing and are waiting to see what happens,” she says. “Because we lack resale inventory we must look to the builders to fill in the gap. We also never saw a big rush of foreclosures here.”

California In affluent Marin County, Calif., just across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the new-home market started picking up steam late last year after being mired in a five-year “black hole of despair,” says Kyle Frazier, CRS, a broker associate with Pacific Union International, Christie’s Great Estates. In addition to countywide statistics showing a more than 20 percent jump in new-home sales from 2009 to this summer, Frazier sees evidence of the pickup firsthand in his role as lead marketer for a major new-home development called

Chad Baker/Getty Images


What New-Home Buyers Want In California, says Kyle Frazier, CRS, many buyers are more attracted to new homes than existing ones because they are covered by a state-mandated 10-year warranty on any structural defects and a one-year warranty covering major components and systems. “You know that if anything goes wrong during this time, and it is covered, the builder is on the hook to fix it,” Frazier says. Frazier says that new-home buyers in his market are looking for homes with an open floor plan on the first floor where the kitchen opens to the family room, and people can sit around an island and chat while they are cooking and entertaining, he says. Home offices, hardwood flooring and high-end countertops are also in high demand.

New-home sales, 2001–2011 2011








New-home buyers in Sarasota and Bradenton, Fla., are more interested in what is offered outside the home than the features inside. Most new homes in the area are part of so-called resort-style communities that offer owners a wide range of amenities. “Because the weather here is so gorgeous, new-home buyers want a lot of outdoor activities, such as golf and tennis, to be part of their community,” says Carol Marra, CRS.











In Charlotte, many new-home buyers are seeking out properties that are smaller than the ones they were buying at the market peak, which were often 3,000 square feet or larger. “Many people have gone through the big-is-better phase,” says Margaret “Micki” Fisher, CRS. “Whether it’s utilities or the cost of upkeep, they just don’t seem to want that much space anymore. They want something more moderately sized.”





the Landing at Hamilton, located in the town of Novato. When completed at the end of this year, the Landing will consist of 27 homes built on a former 400-acre Air Force base. When the first model homes opened in August 2010, the local real estate market could not have been more turbulent. “It was the worst market anybody had ever seen,” recalls Frazier. “We were launching right into the teeth of despair.” That year, a grand total of one home sold at the Landing. “Homes were just sitting there waiting for buyers,” Frazier says. “I couldn’t get anyone to take the plunge.” In the summer of 2011, Frazier met with the developer and argued forcefully that prices had to come down, or the Landing was at risk of crashing. Reluctantly, the developer agreed to lower prices by as much as 8 percent, but that was more than enough to jumpstart sales, says Frazier. Since the price drop, 18 homes have sold, and Frazier

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau

is confident the rest will be gone by the end of the year. Frazier credits the pickup in sales at the Landing to a combination of the lower prices and what he says was an increase, at about the same time, in positive national and local news coverage about the real estate market. “I think the changed course of media coverage, especially when it came to stressing affordability, had as great an impact on buyer willingness to jump in as the lower prices did,” he says. “At this point we just can’t build them fast enough. There’s extremely high demand.”

North Carolina It’s not the same story in Charlotte, N.C., according to Margaret “Micki” Fisher, CRS, of First Charlotte Properties. While the 6,223 new homes sold in the second quarter of this year is an 11 percent improvement over the same period in 2011, it is still more than 60 percent

below the number of new homes sold in the second quarter of 2008, according to Metrostudy, a housing market data provider. Fisher credits the year-over-year improvement in new-home sales to builders lowering prices and offering buyer incentives such as closing-cost help and hardwood flooring, upgraded appliances and other amenities. But, she says, with a large supply of distressed properties still on the market and, potentially, many more lurking in the shadows, new homes will struggle to make significant sales gains. “With the economy the way it is, people are looking to buy the least expensive home they can,” she says. “Distressed properties can be bought at a discount, so they have definitely affected the new-home market here.” Daniel Rome Levine is a writer based in Wilmette, Ill., and is a frequent contributor to The Residential Specialist. | 2 7

O 28 | September/October 2012

Open Access Working with special-needs clients requires agents to be patient and cultivate a deep understanding of home accessibility issues.

Whenever Lorrayne Ingram, CRS, travels anywhere with her client Roxy Furlong, she allows for extra time to ensure that Furlong, who has muscular dystrophy, has plenty of time to get in and out of the car. After Ingram settles Furlong into the passenger seat, she puts her client’s electric wheelchair into the lift in the back of Furlong’s SUV, secures it with a bungee cord and covers it up to protect it from the elements before driving to their destination. Traveling is even more complicated during the harsh Minnesota winters. When Ingram and the Furlongs visited a home at a new-construction site a few years ago, Furlong waited in the car while her husband and Ingram toured the property, because the site’s unpaved and snow-covered roads and sidewalks were too difficult for her to navigate in her wheelchair. Showing properties to clients who have a disability can be a challenge simply from a logistical standpoint, says Ingram, with Coldwell Banker Burnet in Apple Valley, Minn. “Many places we go to are not accessible, and some don’t allow a wheelchair,” Ingram explains. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 36 million Americans live with some type of disability. That large swath of consumers presents real estate professionals with a big opportunity — and a challenge — to assist special-needs clients with their housing decisions. But people with special needs are often limited to a handful of options when it comes to living comfortably in their home: modify their current home to meet their changing needs; buy a newer home that features some of their requirements and modify it further; or build a home designed specifically for them. Agents like Ingram say the key to helping special-needs clients is to thoroughly understand their particular disability — what it is, how it affects their client’s day-to-day life and whether or not it might progress. Once they understand these details, agents can | 2 9

Leonid Anfimov/Veer

By Regina Ludes

not only advise special-needs clients about the best housing solution for their current circumstances, they can also be prepared to provide new solutions if and when clients’ physical needs change in the future. “As agents, we need to have a conversation with our clients about their [disability] and its [potential] progression down the road,” Ingram says. “People with special needs depend on you to be there for them, and you need to be more aware of everything.”

Furlong can get through with her wheelchair. While living in the one-level townhome, she used crutches to get around, but as her condition deteriorated and she could no longer drive a car to her job, the couple needed more space that allows her to work from home. The home they bought wasn’t equipped with the features Furlong needed, so the couple made some modifications, says Ingram. For example, they installed a rollin shower in the master bathroom Source: 2009 American Community Survey, Creating a and had the bathU.S. Census Bureau Better Use of room door hinges Space moved to the inside so Ingram has helped Furlong the door opens wider, providand her husband move three times in the ing more space to enter. In the kitchen, past 10 years. In 2010, they moved from a the Furlongs replaced the two-level counone-level townhome to a newer two-level, tertop on the kitchen island with a singlelevel countertop that Furlong can reach three-bedroom, three-bath townhome with from her wheelchair, and they installed a an open floor plan and wider doorways that

36 m illion Am er icans h ave a dis abili ty, represent in g 12 percent o f t he civilia n noninst itution a lized populatio n .

By the Numbers 37 percent of adults 65 and older have a disability, and 10 percent of individuals 18 to 64 have a disability. 10.2 million Americans have a hearing problem. Of these, 5.8 million are 65 and older. 6.5 million people are visually impaired. 19.4 million

5 have difficulty walking or climbing stairs.

people over the age of

16 with a disability earn a median income of $18,865 compared with a median of $28,983 for those without a disability.

People over age

21 percent of Americans with a disability live below the poverty level. Source: 2009 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau

30 | September/October 2012

mechanical chairlift on the staircase that allows her access to her hobby room on the lower level.

An Eye on the Future Betty Kerr, CRS, with Keller Williams Realty in Palm Springs, Calif., thoroughly interviews her clients, many of whom are seniors or individuals with disabilities living on limited income, about their physical well-being and any special needs they may have. “We have to find out things that they may not be thinking about, such as the current state of their health and how active they are. Will they need surgery in the future? What will they be like down the road, not just for today?” She says it’s important to ask these questions to help clients make some tough housing decisions, not just for themselves but for their family members. For example, Kerr is currently working with a client couple in their 70s who have custody of their 32-year-old grandson who has Down syndrome. Both grandparents have had recurring cancers, and Kerr feels a sense of urgency to help the young man get settled before his grandparents’ health worsens. For a brief time, the young man lived on his own in a mobile home that his grandparents bought for him, but Kerr felt he should be surrounded by people his own age. “I didn’t want him to be around old folks in the mobile home park, so I’m trying to help them set up an arrangement so he can live more independently,” Kerr says. She encouraged the family to purchase a small house where they all live together, and in the event the grandparents pass away, their grandson will have a place of his own. Kerr knows there may be more work ahead. “Doctors believe [the grandson] may be going blind,” says Kerr, who adds that she will be ready to provide support and guidance if and when the family’s situation changes.

Build to Suit For Cindy Ulsrud, CRS, accessible housing is as much a personal matter as a professional one. While most special-needs buyers opt to modify an existing home, Ulsrud and her teammate and partner, Julia Thorstad-White, both with First Weber Group in Madison, Wis., chose to build a custom home with accessible

Facing Disability Challenges “Think about the disability as if you had it yourself. What challenges would you face?” says Cindy Ulsrud, CRS, who is president of the Wisconsin CRS chapter and frequently teaches workshops at the Wisconsin Association of REALTORS® about accessibility. When inspecting homes for accessibility features and modification potential, Ulsrud advises agents to consider several key issues. Adaptability. While it’s important to consider the needs of the person with the disability, make sure the house is adaptable for everyone in the household. Saleability. If the home is too accessible, will potential buyers want to buy it? “Sometimes people make modifications that can’t be changed, or it will cost too much to change, such as concrete ramps and accessible bath tubs/showers or lots of grab bars mounted in the house. Some folks might get a little scared or shy away from too many items that need to be removed,” Ulsrud says. Entrances. Are entrances accessible for wheelchairs?

features so Thorstad-White, who has multiple sclerosis, can live comfortably. In 1998, the couple approached three builders with a house plan and asked for recommendations. At the time, few builders understood accessibility issues, and the couple found that two of the builders did not share their vision. “They just wanted to add a ramp,” recalls Ulsrud. The builder they hired, however, took the time to understand Thorstad-White’s disability and researched accessibility features before picking up a hammer. “He was proactive throughout the process and kept us involved in the decision making. He would say, ‘What do you think of this idea?’ It was a learning experience for him, too, because he had never worked on an accessible home,” Ulsrud says. For starters, the builder increased the height of the foundation by four feet, so there would be no steps leading to the front entrance and from the garage. While the higher foundation created a minor pitch in the driveway, Ulsrud says it was worth it to have no stairs. The builder also installed a staircase leading down to the family room with steps wide enough to fit an entire foot and less height between steps. “It means more steps overall, but it’s less fatiguing

If they aren’t, can they be modified? It’s important to factor in wheelchair size when evaluating doorways and hallways. Not all wheelchairs are the same size. Turning radius. Is there enough space in the bathrooms for a wheelchair-bound person to turn around without getting trapped and still be able to shut the door? “We had to put in a pedestal sink because a cabinet-style wouldn’t provide enough room to turn around,” Ulsrud says about her wheelchair-accessible home. Americans With Disabilities Act compliance. Is there enough space to add a ramp that complies with ADA requirements? When Ulsrud and her partner wanted to add a ramp during a deck expansion project recently, the contractor they hired, who was different from the original builder, was not familiar with ADA compliance issues. “He had to change the ramp twice because it was not ADA compliant,” Ulsrud says. “It’s an ongoing struggle to educate people about what we need.”

and [there’s] less chance of slipping when going downstairs,” says Ulsrud. With an open floor plan, 36-inchwide doorways and a short pony wall, Thorstad-White can navigate around the house easily, Ulsrud says. The builder also installed lever door handles so ThorstadWhite, who has difficulty grabbing items with her hands, can open doors with her elbows. The wall outlets are set higher, and she can shut off lights by tapping the rocker switches. Many of these features are common in homes built today, but they weren’t 14 years ago, says Ulsrud. “The only way you would know that our house is handicap accessible is the roll-in shower in the bathroom,” she says. Whether advising clients about purchasing a new home with custom accessibility features or helping them find a home that can be modified, agents can provide special-needs clients with the support and expertise they need to make important housing decisions, not just for their current circumstances but as their physical needs change in the future. Regina Ludes is the associate editor of The Residential Specialist.

Fair Housing 101 The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability by housing providers, such as landlords, real estate companies, municipalities, banks or other lending institutions, and homeowners insurance companies. For more information, go to crt/about/hce/housing_coverage.php. For information about working with people with disabilities, check out the following resources: NAR: What Everyone Should Know About Equal Opportunity Housing NAR Field Guide to Complying With the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s frequently asked questions on housing rights of the disabled | 3 1

32 | September/October 2012

hotos can make or break a listing. Case in point: A nicely updated one-bedroom condo in a large development in Ashland, Mass., was listed at $199,900 with an agent for about four months last summer and fall. Bill Kuhlman, CRS, broker-owner of Kuhlman Residential Real Estate in Needham, Mass., took over the listing in January and listed it for $200,000. The condo closed 90 days later for $190,000, 20 percent more than any similar unit in the complex had commanded over the previous 18 months. The seller’s improvements surely made a difference, but the highdefinition photos and video sealed the deal. “We were able to market this place as if it were a model unit in a 2012 development, even though it was empty and built in the mid-1980s,” he says. There’s no question that CRSs should give their photography efforts more than just a passing thought. High-quality photos can help wow clients, sell more houses at better prices and earn more business. But most CRSs don’t have a photography degree — and some don’t even consider it a hobby. Time is money, and that time is often spent working with clients and not at a desk editing photos. The do-it-yourself approach needn’t be complicated — a good camera, easy-to-use editing software and a few tips and techniques are all it takes. If that still sounds like too much, hiring a professional might be the best route.

Picture-Perfect Tools

By Rebecca Scherr

When it comes to taking good photos, equipment matters. More expensive cameras take better photos, and better photos can increase the return on investment. Single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, which employ a mirror-and-prism system that allows photographers to | 3 3

Caroline Purser/Getty Images

A listing just isn’t a listing without photos. Stunning photography can sell a house. CRSs share their views on getting behind the camera and snapping the best shots.

see exactly what will be captured, are more expensive, ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Point-and-shoot cameras use a viewfinder, which doesn’t allow for as much control, but they can be much more accessible in terms of price, with some available for less than $150. According to a 2010 analysis by online real estate brokerage Redfin, real estate listings with photos taken with higher-end SLR cameras are generally linked to better performance compared to those with photos taken with point-and-shoot cameras. The Redfin analysis, which looked at listings in Boston and Long Island, N.Y., found that those with higher-quality photos closed between $934 and $116,076 over those taken with photos from cheaper cameras. Listings under $300,000, however, were less likely to sell with nicer photos, according to the study.

Larry Lohrman, a blogger in Salem, Ore., who specializes in real estate photography, says about 10 percent of agents really understand the importance of good photography in real estate. “When top agents connect with how important good photography and marketing is, they tend to invest and get good equipment,” he says. On his blog, Photography for Real Estate, he has polled the 40,000 to 60,000 average monthly visitors — a third of which are agents and the rest are professional photographers, he says — about their tried and true cameras and lenses. The most popular camera body gets his vote too: the Canon EOS 5D Mark II ($2,100). “This camera was first in the DSLR [category] that shot really awesome video. If you’re a real estate photographer, you tend to also shoot video as well as stills.” The most popular lens is the Canon 10–22mm

Phone Home? In 1975, CRS certified instructor Michael Selvaggio toted a Polaroid camera to snap black and white photos for MLS listings. At that time, it would have been mind-bending to think that one day he and his peers would be capturing shots with a cellphone that could be shared instantly with clients. But Selvaggio, CRS, broker-owner of Delaware Homes in Townsend, Del., has kept pace with photo technology, from color film to digital cameras and, most recently, in-app photo editing. At first, Selvaggio started using his iPhone as a supplement to his Kodak camera, which has a wide-angle lens. But now, he says, “I have found that the new iPhone lens is pretty incredible. In fact, I have sometimes used it exclusively for taking photos for listings.” The new iPad is also great for taking photos on-site and showing them immediately to seller clients, he says. Selvaggio also uses his phone to edit photos. Among the editing apps he uses is Photo Sense ($1.99), which can adjust exposure, contrast, saturation and color correction. He also recommends Photosynth (free), which can create a panorama by stitching multiple photos that were captured at the same place and focal length. Larry Lohrman, who started in real estate photography in the 1980s, says one of his friends took the same exterior shot with a DSLR and an iPhone 4S and challenged Lohrman to pick the one taken with the DSLR. He picked wrong, but he says that the interior shots are what matter in real estate. Those won’t turn out as well with a smartphone. “I do not recommend trying to use any cellphone ever to shoot real estate photos, because the two most important factors that contribute to a quality interior photo are a quality wide-angle lens with effective focal length between 16mm and 24mm and good lighting with small flashes,” Lohrman says. “It is impossible to do either with a cellphone.”

34 | September/October 2012

($799), according to Lohrman’s poll results. Michael Selvaggio, CRS, broker-owner of Delaware Homes in Townsend, Del., suggests getting a brand-name camera for between $200 and $300, with at least 6 megapixels and liquid crystal display (LCD). Selvaggio uses two Kodak cameras and his iPhone (starting at $199) for convenience. The Zi8 Pocket Video Camera ($399.89) takes still images and video, and the Easyshare Z981 Digital Camera ($299.95) has a 26x optical zoom lens with a button for uploading photos to social networks or your computer.

In Balance Anyone who’s ever searched listings online has seen terrible photos, and Lohrman has blogged about the number of websites that aggregate bad MLS photos, such as the aptly named Bad MLS Photos. These sites provide a chuckle while teaching REALTORS® what not to do. For example, CRSs or their clients should not appear in the listing photos, especially floating in the property’s pool, as one photo published on Hooked on Houses demonstrates. Agents who use common sense, take the time to learn their camera’s features, and learn a few tips about lighting and editing probably won’t find their photos going viral for all the wrong reasons. Lighting is perhaps one of the things that trips up amateur/novice photographers most — and one of the reasons many REALTORS® turn to the pros, Lohrman says. Half the photographers in the industry use the small flashes attached to the top of the camera, he says, and others use bracketing, a technique that takes several shots of the same subject at different exposures, which might be easier for amateurs. “There are photographers who do quality work either way. Ultimately though, flash lighting probably gives the highest quality results, because the photographer has total control of the light,” says Lohrman, who uses bracketing with a single flash. You can use the flash that is built into the camera; however, it is not powerful enough to light interiors, which matter most in real estate photography, he says. Whatever technique you use, turn on all the lights, and you’ll get a more natural look. One way to ensure you get the best shot is to follow the 5:1 rule, or take five photos for every shot you want. That’s what Selvaggio,

who for the past 12 years has taught a CRS technology course that touches on photo techniques, recommends. Holding the camera at different elevations (above your head or at a lower level) from all corners of the room can give you a dynamic selection. Taking extra photos will be most important in rooms with mirrors, especially tiny bathrooms. Amateurs don’t always understand image resolutions, which describe the detail in an image (the higher the resolution, the more detail), and how to best use them. Use low-resolution photos for the Web and high resolution for print. Bigger photos will take up more space on your hard drive, so back up photos on an external hard drive (between $80 and $140). CRSs who are just beginning to store images might not realize how quickly they can become unorganized. Selvaggio suggests creating a folder for every listing, otherwise, he says, photos will get lost in one big “My Pictures” folder. He also advises using a consistent naming system, such as the street name and the house number (e.g., “Apple Lane 555”), which will help agents quickly find the shots they need at a moment’s notice. And, maybe most important, don’t forget about copyright laws. If you need pre-existing images, you can buy them at sites such as Shutterstock and credit them appropriately. Also, if you are taking photos of people (for testimonials) or their property, make sure to get their permission, Selvaggio says.

Frame of Mind Whether you’re promoting a house that’s $300,000 or $700,000, photos always matter, Selvaggio says. But he’s quick to point out, “Prime time for REALTORS® is with buyers and sellers. Don’t let [your photography] interrupt your business. It’s all about what you can do effectively and how quickly.” Selvaggio says that most CRSs he knows take their own photos. But seeking help from professionals who specialize in real estate photography can also be a wise investment. That’s because for an extra couple hundred dollars per listing, a professional photographer can save time, make clients happier, sell houses faster and for more money, and generate future business. Kuhlman, who has reaped the benefits of quality photography, has been in the industry

The photos on the left were shot pre-staging with a regular lens; the photos on the right were shot post-staging with a wide-angle lens.

for 18 years and considers himself savvy about photography techniques and equipment. Even so, he has enlisted the help of professionals for the past five or six years. Kuhlman’s main challenges — lighting and editing — are child’s play for most pros. “Just like a seasoned CRS helps clients get better outcomes when they buy and sell houses, a professional photographer can deliver better images and save us time,” Kuhlman says. “Even though I have a pretty good eye for photography, I can’t touch the quality of the photos and videos my guy takes.” To find a quality professional real estate photographer, Kuhlman, president of the Massachusetts CRS chapter, recommends networking at CRS events. That’s how he found his current help. For most listings, Kuhlman pays about $200 for video and $150 for photography services. The photographer edits the shots, delivers them in three resolutions, attaches them to the MLS listing, and syndicates the video to websites such as YouTube and WellcomeMat. He typically schedules the photographer to shoot several days before the listing is to go live (allotting time for unexpected delays such as weather). Kuhlman meets him onsite for about an hour and a half, making

himself available for questions and greeting the sellers. But, he gives the photographer free rein: “When you hire a pro, you put your faith in them, and their livelihood depends on doing an excellent job every time,” he says.

Best Shot Quality photos are key for listings, but CRSs should also consider using highquality images for all of their marketing materials: presentations, listing and prelisting packets (with testimonials and listings that sold), fliers for the front lawn (with interior shots), a PDF for the seller to pass around to his or her network, and the agent’s own online profiles and pages. “I learned a long time ago that if there’s a tool or a strategy I’d use to market my own home or that of a family member, I owe it to each client to do no less for them,” Kuhlman says. “If I were selling my home today, I’d definitely hire my photographer to make my property look its best. Without something to make a listing stand out from the competition, many buyers won’t choose to step over the threshold.” Rebecca Scherr is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. | 3 5

Good Read | Resources in print

story tell So-called “empowerment marketing” — enabling you to craft unforgettable, iconic campaigns — may be the ultimate secret weapon for winning the story wars. Reviewed by Allan Fallow

Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell — and Live — the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs, Harvard Business Review Press 264 pages, $27

36 | September/October 2012

If you’re about to revive, revise or launch a personal or professional brand, you won’t find a more thoughtful starting point than Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs, the cofounder of Free Range Studios. Did you scratch your head over that author credit? I did too, but in the course of bringing “key social issues to the attention of more than 60 million viewers” online, as his bio claims, Sachs has become a guru of “legendary viral videos” such as The Meatrix and The Story of Stuff. He has also accumulated three “Best Of ” awards from the hipster mecca that is Austin’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival. His specialty? Helping social brands and causes break through the clamor of competing media with campaigns built on proven storytelling strategies. What comes to mind when you think of storytelling as an activity? For me it’s a first-grade classroom or — far worse — one of those insufferable folklorists on public television. But Sachs makes it clear that his battlefield for the “story wars” encompasses virtually all of humanity. When we hear about “unlikely heroes … lured into a dangerous quest of selfdiscovery,” he writes, it has an impact on what we believe we can accomplish in our very own lives. Whether it’s an ancient tale (Moses parting the sea to save the Israelites) or a modern one

(Frodo resisting the pull of the ring), the stories that stick with us boil down to one thing: “people reaching for their highest potential and struggling to create a better world.” That’s great if you happen to traffic in human aspirations, but can mastering this form of communication bring success in a classic business setting? Absolutely, says the author: A small group of storytellers have perfected a formula — the essentials of which he promises to share with us in Winning the Story Wars — that have enabled them to build “wildly successful brands, entertainment, and political messages that burst through the media din and become legendary.”

Moving Minds Before he spells out the ingredients in that recipe, however, Sachs spends a good 100 pages telling us about “the broken world of storytelling” — that is, the battle tactics that are not currently effective at winning the story wars. Most of these commit a sin that Sachs calls the inadequacy approach, which capitalizes on “fear, greed, and vanity to move minds and messages.” First, a marketer establishes that the consumer is suffering from some fundamental lack — pleasant breath, say. The marketer then sets out to redress that deficit by providing just the right product (in this case, Listerine mouthwash).

The 1922 ad that first played on consumers’ anxiety about whether they might have halitosis, too, featured a 30-year-old pitchwoman named Sad Edna. Devised by two cynical admen, Milton Feasley and Gordon Seagrove, it was titled “Always a Bridesmaid” and would go on to sell millions of dollars’ worth of Listerine — enough to land it at No. 48 on a list of the 20th century’s top ad campaigns. It set the tone for almost a century’s worth of come-ons that followed, in which the marketer would first gin up some type of anxiety — sometimes personal, sometimes social — and then arrange for the product being hawked to ride to the rescue as a magical solution to all the customer’s ills. Sachs likewise indicts Edward Bernays, a Roaring Twenties–era marketer who coined the phrase — and the field of — “public relations.” Approached by the president of the American Tobacco Company in 1928, Bernays came up with a brilliantly manipulative way to get more women smoking: He made cigarettes seem like an emancipatory status symbol worthy of the newly liberated generation of American women who were demanding everything that men had, too: “Bernays hired a bunch of glamorous young women to march in the New York Easter Day parade posing as suffragettes,” Sachs reveals. “At a given signal they were to reach under their skirts, pull out cigarettes and light up, calling them ‘Torches of Freedom.’ ” Bernays alerted the press in advance of his stunt, and the taboo against women puffing cigarettes in public went up in smoke. (Is it any surprise that Bernays was also the nephew of Sigmund Freud?)

Good Enough But what if we were to leave such “dark arts” behind, Sachs asks? What if instead of following the model set by Bernays, Seagrove and Feasley, we were to adopt the honesty-at-all-costs philosophy of another early advertiser, John Powers. Way back in 1875, Powers made Wanamaker’s

T h is n e w f or m of r ea c h in g an d s w ay in g y o u r a u d ie n c e d e m an d s t h a t y o u b e c om e so d e f t a t t ellin g t h e st o r y of y ou r b r an d — an d , c r u c ially, t h e m or al of t h a t st or y — t h a t y o u e n list y ou r list e n e r s as f e llo w f oo t so ld ie r s in t h e st o r y w a r s. department store in Philadelphia famous by brazenly informing the public that the store’s neckties, for example, were “not as good as they look, but they’re good enough — 25 cents.” Powers was driven by a simple but inflexible moral code, which basically came down to this: Be interesting. Tell the truth. If the truth isn’t tellable, fix the [product or service] so it is. If we are to win the story wars in today’s crowd-sourced moral landscape, writes Sachs, we are perhaps more in need than ever of Powers’ straightforward dictum. We are living in an era of unprecedented authenticity and transparency — and, OK, what business book of the past seven years hasn’t hammered home that message? But Sachs couches it in language and statistics that will “scare straight” the slickest snakeoil salesmen, if any are left over from the dying broadcast era: “The average tenure of today’s chief marketing officer is a minuscule 22 months,” he writes. At a time when audiences are more skeptical of and resistant to marketing messages than they’ve ever been before, the fact is that “these same audiences, when inspired, are willing and able to spread their

favorite messages, creating a massive viral effect for those who win their love.” The way to win that love, says the author, is through the art of empowerment marketing. This new form of reaching and swaying your audience demands that you become so deft at telling the story of your brand — and, crucially, the moral of that story — that you enlist your listeners as fellow foot soldiers in the story wars. Rather than appealing to the base self-interests of your potential clientele, Sachs earnestly assures us that we will be “encourag[ing] audiences on their path to maturation and citizenship.” Other brands have done this with pioneering courage — think Volkswagen, Apple, Nike, Tom’s Shoes, Dove beauty products, Grameen Bank and Wikipedia — so why shouldn’t you take a stab at it as well? You may have to gird yourself: The recipients of your marketing message might become the heroes of your freshly formulated stories. Indeed, they may even take over that narrative, tweaking it to suit their individual tastes and preferences as they pass it on to others hungry to hear it. But that is to be expected in our new digital culture of information sharing, Sachs concludes: “Even though we’re all aware that a shift to peer-to-peer, social media is under way — and unstoppable — few have begun to grasp what it means. Here’s what I think it means: the oral tradition that dominated human experience for all but the last few hundred years is returning with a vengeance. It’s a monumental, epoch-making, totally unforeseen turn of events.” No need to fear it, though. By undergoing the basic training that drill sergeant Sachs offers in these pages — in a nutshell, it’s to “build stories that point out the possibility for human growth and even transcendence” — you can compete in, and possibly even emerge victorious from, the story wars of modern marketing. Allan Fallow is a magazine writer and book editor in Alexandria, Va. You can follow him on Twitter @TheFallow. | 3 7

Sell-a-bration® 2013

Referral Story

Course Listings

p. 41

p. 42

p. 45

inside CRS N E W S



RSs are gearing up to join thousands of REALTORS® from all parts of the country at the 2012 REALTORS® Conference & Expo, Nov. 9 – 12 in Orlando, Fla., home of Disney World and the Magic Kingdom. Conference programming provides agents with an outstanding opportunity to build their business through networking opportunities and educational sessions that will provide practical solutions to everyday challenges. CRS




Orlando Designees who attend the conference will walk away with no-nonsense tips and strategies to help them close more deals and will leave inspired to achieve more in their personal and professional lives. With more than 100 contentdriven education sessions, agents can find solutions to their toughest business challenges. The Entrepreneurial Excellence Series features top entrepreneurs and business leaders who will share their

life lessons and perspectives. This year’s series features Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, who on Friday, Nov. 9, will discuss what it means to be fascinating and how to enthrall potential clients. Then the “Imagineers” from the Disney Institute will share how you can increase creativity and innovation in your organization, giving you the keys to success in a rapidly changing market. In his industry address, NAR 2012 President Moe Veissi will recognize the accomplishments of the 2012 REALTORS® of the Year and Good Neighbor Award winners on Saturday, Nov. 10. The keynote presentation will feature members of Afterburner, Inc., a team of elite military professionals who will discuss their high-stakes operations and the Flawless Execution model they use to succeed. The REALTORS® Celebrity Concert on Sunday, Nov. 11, features Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh, formerly of the rock band The Eagles, who will perform songs from that group and from their solo careers. Back by popular demand, the pre-concert REALTORS® Got Talent show will showcase several REALTORS® from around the country. The Inspiration Program on Sunday, Nov. 11, will feature Major Dan Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot who founded Folds | 3 9

inside CRS of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships to the spouses and children of military service members disabled or killed in action. More than 400 exhibitors will display their products and services at the REALTORS® Expo. Back by popular demand, the technology camps will feature updated presentations about some of today’s top technology tools and software programs. Explore global opportunities and worldwide properties at the International 2nd Home and Resort Pavilion, and develop referrals and find business opportunities at the International Networking Center. When agents register for a full conference, they also gain access to more than 100 hours of recorded education sessions after the event. Be sure to register for a full conference pass to take advantage of this opportunity. For details about the

Listing Legends Returns BECOME A LISTING LEGEND

40 | September/October 2012

complete conference schedule, go to CRS members can register for the convention at registration3. Default.aspx?affil=CRS.

Are you ready to become a listing legend? Learn the skills and master the tools you need to succeed as a listing standout at the next CRS Listing Legends Tell All event, presented Nov. 8 in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with the NAR Conference & Expo. This one-day event features panel discussions and presentations from top-producing CRSs who will share their strategies for listing and selling properties. Attract more motivated sellers, achieve sellable prices, outmarket the competition without breaking the bank, and use technology to wow clients — even if you’re not a techie. Attendees will receive eight education credits toward the CRS Designation. Visit for details.

REALTORS® who attend the NAR Conference & Expo will see more than 400 exhibitors displaying their products and services.

CRS Inaugural and Awards Dinner Join CRS for an evening of dining and dancing as the Council honors its incoming leadership team, outstanding chapters and other award winners at the CRS Inaugural and Awards Dinner on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, at the Renaissance Sea World Hotel in Orlando, Fla. The 2013 CRS officers will be installed, including Mary McCall, CRS, of Tampa, Fla., as the Council’s 2013 president, along with Ron Canning, CRS, from Cincinnati, Ohio, who will be 2013 presidentelect, and Dale Carlton, CRS, the incoming first vice president. For details, visit

A New



oin the Council of Residential Specialists and several hundred of your real estate peers as they mark the 25th anniversary of Sell-a-bration® at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, 2013. Since its inception, the annual educational event has attracted thousands of professionals of varying levels of experience from different parts of the world. They gather to learn from each other and build their professional networks. While much has changed in the real estate industry in the last 25 years, the camaraderie and educational excellence that Sell-a-bration® offers remain. CRSs walk away armed with fresh ideas, new contacts and a renewed commitment to their business. Agents also can earn 16 credits toward the CRS Designation by attending Sell-a-bration® 2013. “These three days [at Sell-a-bration®] are an amazing jumpstart to each

year. It motivates and inspires me more than any other event all year,” says Kelly Cobb, CRS, with Long & Foster in Cary, N.C. “[With] great content and exceptional instructors, [Sell-a-bration® provides] the very best bang for your buck.” Sell-a-bration® 2013 kicks off Jan. 31 with a series of interactive, topicdriven and solution-focused workshops; keynote presentations and educational sessions take place Feb. 1 – 2. Planned session topics include the following: the best real estate apps; lead generation and conversion; cloud computing; using the iPad for listing presentations; negotiating short sales; using Pinterest; lessons from the downturn; negotiating skills; prospecting; team-building; and more. (Session topics are subject to change.) Most important, the three-day event gives agents the knowledge and skills they need to resolve everyday real estate challenges. “Sell-a-bration® always gives me new ideas and tools to improve my business and my bottom line,” says Karen Picarello, CRS, with RE/ MAX Fine Properties in Scottsdale, Ariz., who attended Sell-a-bration® 2012 in Phoenix. “There is such a great amount of sharing from top agents around the country, and no one is trying to sell me anything. They just want to help other CRSs succeed.” For more information about Sell-a-bration® 2013 and to register, visit or call customer service at 800.462.8841. Sell-a-bration® will also feature a pre-conference course, Buyers Legends, on Jan. 30. Find more information at events/crs-legends.

he Council has unveiled its redesigned website,, which provides members with easier access to more information and tools to help them be more productive in their business. A clean, sleek design makes it easier for visitors to find the information they want quickly and easily. While the site contains many popular features from the previous site, such as the online membership directory and a resources section with links to customizable marketing materials, it also offers several new features. The new online directory features more detailed search capabilities, including a mapping feature that displays where CRSs work in a given geographical region. In the Community section, visitors can catch up on the latest industry and CRS news on the CRS Connect blog and read about business tips and industry insights on the Member Blogs, with posts submitted by CRS members. Separate sections for instructors, chapters and course sponsors provide tools and information specific to these audiences. For example, course sponsors can learn about sponsorship opportunities, service packages, course descriptions and instructor bios. For a tour of the site’s new features, check out the tutorial on community/new-crscom-public-site-tour. | 4 1

inside CRS Personalize, Reproduce and Mail This Newsletter to Your Clients

Referral Story: Chapter Leadership Pays Off


arlier this year, when Waylon Chavez, CRS, needed to find an agent to help a client couple sell their home Pam Ruggeroli, CRS in Arizona, he looked no further than his CRS chapter network. Though they lived in neighboring states, Chavez and Pam Ruggeroli, CRS, had become friends through their involvement in their respective chapters. Chavez, who is with ABQ Premiere Properties in Albuquerque, is the current president of the New Mexico CRS chapter, and Ruggeroli, an associate broker with Long Realty Company in Tucson, Ariz., is former president of the Arizona CRS chapter and a 2012 regional vice president. “We had met previously at many CRS Chapter Leadership meetings, and out of that we had built a friendship. So I knew Pam was very knowledgeable and professional Waylon Chavez, CRS and would take care of anyone I would send her,” says Chavez. The client couple wanted to move back to Albuquerque to start a new business, explains Chavez. Ruggeroli met with the couple in February 2012

Edit to help them get their home ready for the market, which took about two months. “Pam was in contact with the sellers and myself every step of the way. They listened to everything and did what Pam suggested. The home got listed and was sold within 12 hours!” Chavez says. “The home was in immaculate condition,” Ruggeroli says. “We priced it right and got a full cash offer on it in less than 24 hours. It was a smooth transaction from contract to closing.”

CRS Education Tip


RS certified instructor James Nellis, II, CRS, offers this tip from the two-day course Technologies to Advance Your Business (CRS James Nellis, II, CRS 206): Use Eyejot ( to create and send personalized video messages to your Internet leads. The tool can help agents stand out from the crowd, Nellis says. “It’s just a better way to give an impact to your client and to separate you from all the other REALTORS® who are responding to Internet click-though leads.” For more information about CRS classroom courses, eLearning and webinars, visit

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 e­ lectronically by downloading the Microsoft Word version at yourhomenewsletter.

PLEASE NOTE: The images featured in the YOUR HOME newsletter may only be used within the PDF version of the newsletter. These images may not be reproduced or republished elsewhere outside of this newsletter format. CRS members are free to re-use the text of the articles contained in the newsletter, however.


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 “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 email to your clients or create a Web link to the file on your website. 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.

42 | September/October 2012

For a complete step-by-step guide to personalizing and ­reproducing the YOUR HOME newsletter, visit magazine/your_home_newsletter.shtml.






H O M E O W N E R S ,

Clean Sweep


urling up by the fireplace is part of any picturesque winter scene, but only if your chimney and fireplace are in tiptop shape. To keep the cozy fires going safely all winter long, start thinking about your fireplace now with these maintenance tips. First, make sure to schedule a yearly chimney sweep and inspection. It’s best to hire a professional certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Check for a searchable list of professionals in your area. The pros will help remove creosote, a byproduct of burning wood that can cause chimney fires, as well as check for leaks or damages that might have occurred during the dormant summer months. After the sweep, repairs may be necessary. Common issues might include odors, water leaks and damages from animals that might have been calling your chimney home. A simple chimney cap ($50 or more, depending on materials and size) or screen can prevent unwanted critters and protect your chimney from damaging elements. In between checkups, consider cleaning the firebox (where the wood burns) at least once a week when the fireplace is in use to prevent ash buildup. Use a wet or dry vacuum with a disposable bag, but make sure the ashes cool for at least four days after a recent use to avoid any live sparks in the vacuum bag.






Water, Water Everywhere?


rought conditions across the United States have forced a lot of people to start thinking about water conservation and consumption. But that might already be top-of-mind for many homeowners who want to see the amounts on their water bills decrease. It’s easier than you think to conserve water. Cut down on your water usage with tips from the Arizona-based “Water — Use It Wisely” campaign. Your washing machine and dishwasher are major water hogs. No matter how full they are, you use the same amount of water. To save up to 1,000 gallons of water a month, be sure to run these appliances only when they’re full. To save more water in the kitchen, consider composting rather than dumping food waste down the garbage disposal with running water. Simply by decreasing your shower time by one or two minutes, you can save up to 150 gallons of water each month. Boost savings by installing a low-flow showerhead, which can cut the amount of water you use per shower in half. Another easy conservation trick is to partially fill a plastic container (an old milk jug works fine) with water or pebbles and place it in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used per flush; just be sure to keep it away from the operating mechanisms in the tank. Insulating your hot water pipes is a small step that requires a little extra maintenance but will reap big rewards. For your faucet, consider installing a faucet aerator, which screws on to the bottom of the faucet to automatically reduce water flow without sacrificing water pressure. Finally, see what’s really going down the drain with a professional water audit (or buy a do-it-yourself kit online). Once you know where the losses are coming from, it’s even easier to change your habits.

fast fact »


The most popular destination for “leaf-peeping” (observing colorful fall foliage) is Asheville, N.C., according to a recent survey by TripAdvisor.

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

Inspect for Success


hether you’re buying or selling a home, home inspections are a key part of closing any deal. The inspection serves as a top-to-bottom

overview of the home — from structure to plumbing and electrical — to ensure safety and peace of mind for new homeowners. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, home inspections can range from $350 to $500 depending on geographical location, and are typically the responsibility of the homebuyer, although it’s not uncommon for sellers to conduct them. Anything that is readily accessible and clearly visible can be a part of the inspection, which can take from two to four hours. Buyers should always tag along on home inspections to see firsthand what the inspector notices and identifies as potential cause for concern. This is especially helpful in making sense

of the inspector’s final summary report, which will note anything in the home that might need fixing or that could lead to big issues down the line, such as a cracked foundation, faulty wiring, defective heating and cooling systems, or the presence of mold or water stains. While it is not included in a normal home inspection, many experts recommend spending the extra money to conduct both termite and radon inspections before deciding whether to buy. Buyers shouldn’t be nervous to use the findings as bargaining chips during negotiations. Oftentimes, sellers will repair problems or lower the home price based on issues the inspection discovers.

Say Yes to CRS

referr ve

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 marketplace. To earn 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 in the top 4 percent in the nation. Contact a CRS today.


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


Nationally, the average family with K–12 students will spend $688 on back-to-school supplies.

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 Sept. 15, 2012, to Dec. 15, 2012. For more upto-date listings, visit

CRS 103 — Mastering Positive Change in Today’s World OCT. 29 ORLANDO, FLA. Florida CRS Chapter 407.513.7268 Instructor: Mark Given, CRS

NOV. 15 RICHMOND, VA. Central Virginia CRS Chapter 804.422.5000 Instructor: Mark Given, CRS

CRS 111 — Short Sales and Foreclosures: Protecting Your Clients’ Interests SEPT. 18 SUNRISE BEACH, MO. Missouri Association of REALTORS® 800.403.0101 Instructor: Chandra Hall, CRS

OCT. 19 ATLANTA Georgia Association of REALTORS® 770.451.1831 Instructor: Robert Morris, CRS, CRB

OCT. 26 INDIANAPOLIS Indiana Association of REALTORS® 800.284.0084 Instructor: Chandra Hall, CRS

CRS 200 — Business Planning and Marketing SEPT. 17 – 18 TULSA, OKLA. Greater Tulsa Association of REALTORS® 918.663.7500 Instructor: Pat Zaby, CRS, CCIM

SEPT. 20 – 21 IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO Southeast Idaho WCR 208.524.2121 Instructor: Chandra Hall, CRS


DEC. 13 – 14 AKRON, OHIO

Kachemak Board of REALTORS® 907.235.7733 Instructor: Chuck Bode, CRS

Ohio CRS Chapter 330.434.6677 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

OCT. 4 – 5 ANCHORAGE, ALASKA Alaska CRS Chapter 907.561.2338 Instructor: Chuck Bode, CRS

OCT. 11 – 12 MEMPHIS, TENN. Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® 901.685.2100 Instructor: Robert Morris, CRS, CRB

OCT. 15 – 16 EDINA, MINN. Minnesota CRS Chapter 952.912.2664 Instructor: Chandra Hall, CRS

OCT. 22 – 23 CLIVE, IOWA Iowa Association of REALTORS® 800.532.1515, ext. 1 Instructor: Chandra Hall, CRS

OCT. 24 – 25 MALVERN, PA. Suburban West REALTORS® 800.495.7972 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB

OCT. 29 – 30 CASPER, WYO. Casper Board of REALTORS® 307.237.1670 Instructor: Chandra Hall, CRS

OCT. 30 – 31 SARASOTA, FLA. Sarasota Association of REALTORS® 941.328.1167 Instructor: Gee Dunsten, CRS

NOV. 29 – 30 BELLEVUE, WASH. Washington CRS Chapter 866.556.5277 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB

CRS 201 — Listing Course OCT. 4 – 5 WALTHAM, MASS. Massachusetts CRS Chapter 800.725.6272 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

OCT. 10 – 11 CHERRY HILL, N.J. N.J./Delaware CRS Chapter 855.696.5277 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

OCT. 24 – 25 OMAHA, NEB. Nebraska CRS Chapter 800.777.5231 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

CRS 202 — Buyer Sales Course SEPT. 30 – OCT. 1 COLUMBUS, OHIO Ohio CRS Chapter 614.475.4000 Instructor: Mike Selvaggio, CRS, CCIM

OCT. 1 – 2 HACKENSACK, N.J. Eastern Bergen County Board of REALTORS® 201.488.2999 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

OCT. 18 – 19 SAN ANTONIO Texas CRS Chapter 210.602.2488 Instructor: Gee Dunsten, CRS

OCT. 22 – 23 HESPERIA, CALIF. Southern California CRS Chapter 760.831.0484 Instructor: Mike Selvaggio, CRS, CCIM

NOV. 1 – 2 WAUWATOSA, WIS. Wisconsin REALTORS® Association 608.241.2047 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

CRS 204 — Income Properties SEPT. 20 – 21 FORT COLLINS, COLO. Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® 970.223.2900 Instructor: Pat Zaby, CRS, CCIM

SEPT. 27 – 28 LAS VEGAS Southern Nevada CRS Chapter 702.889.3876 Instructor: Doug Richards, CRS, CCIM

NOV. 1 – 2 FARGO, N.D. Fargo-Moorehead Association of REALTORS® 701.235.6679 Instructor: Chris Bird

NOV. 1 – 2 SANDY, UTAH Utah CRS Chapter 801.699.9431 Instructor: Doug Richards, CRS, CCIM

CRS 206 — Technology Course SEPT. 20 – 21 CANCÚN, MEXICO Vacation Classes 866.279.6273 Instructor: Mark Porter, CRS | 4 5

inside CRS OCT. 3 – 4 HONOLULU

Ninja Selling


Hawaii Aloha Chapter of CRS 808.737.7060, ext. 105 Instructor: Robert Morris, CRS, CRB


Keller Williams Realty 214.485.3000 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore

OCT. 22 – 23 NORTH HAVEN, CONN. Connecticut CRS Chapter 203.215.6957 Instructor: Mike Selvaggio, CRS, CCIM

OCT. 29 – 30 LANCASTER, PA. Lancaster County Association of REALTORS® 717.569.4625 Instructor: Michael Selvaggio, CRS, CCIM

NOV. 14 – 15 NASSAU, BAHAMAS Bahamas Real Estate Association 242.356.4578 Instructor: Pat Zaby, CRS, CCIM

CRS 210 — Referral Course SEPT. 26 – 27 CHARLOTTE, N.C. North Carolina CRS Chapter 919.697.1258 Instructor: Mark Given, CRS

OCT. 17 – 18 CHEYENNE, WYO. Wyoming CRS Chapter 307.742.3255 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB

Elective Courses Elective courses vary in length and credits earned toward the CRS Designation. Please visit the CRS website for details. It’s a Price War to the Door

SEPT. 25 AMES, IOWA Iowa Association of REALTORS® 800.532.1515, ext. 1 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

NOV. 29 NORTHBROOK, ILL. Northshore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® 847.480.7177 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS Negotiations: The Games People Play

NOV. 30 NORTHBROOK, ILL. Northshore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® 847.480.7177 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS New Negotiating Edge…Getting Past NO!

DEC. 10 MALVERN, PA. Suburban West REALTORS® Association 866.495.7972 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB

46 | September/October 2012

Maine Association of REALTORS® 207.622.7501 Instructor: Walt Frey, CRS

OCT. 5 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. New Mexico CRS Chapter 505.712.1340 Instructor: Michael Selvaggio, CRS, CCIM Ninja Selling Business Systems

OCT. 26 SIOUX FALLS, S.D. REALTORS® Association of the Sioux Empire 605.334.4752 Instructor: Michael Selvaggio, CRS, CCIM

NOV. 1 MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. North Carolina CRS Chapter 919.697.1258 Instructor: Mark Given, CRS Presentation 2.0

OCT. 15 PENSACOLA, FLA. North Florida CRS Chapter 850.288.9725 Instructor: Rich Sands, CRS Real Estate Social Marketing — Strategies for Success Both On- and Offline

SEPT. 26 ANNAPOLIS, MD. Maryland/DC CRS Chapter 443.716.3510 Instructor: Gee Dunsten, CRS Rich Buyer, Rich Seller, Part 1: Positioning and Branding Yourself as a Luxury Market Expert

SEPT. 27 ASHEVILLE, N.C. Keller Williams Realty 214.485.3000 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore

OCT. 4 MIDLOTHIAN, VA. Keller Williams Realty 214.485.3000 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore

DEC. 5 MIAMI Miami Association of REALTORS® 214.485.3000 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore Rich Buyer, Rich Seller, Part 2: A Luxury Marketing Idea Blitz

SEPT. 28 ASHEVILLE, N.C. Keller Williams Realty 214.485.3000 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore

DEC. 6 MIAMI Miami Association of REALTORS® 214.485.3000 Instructor: Laurie Moore-Moore The Little EXTRAS…In EXTRAordinary Customer Service

OCT. 4 TINTON FALLS, N.J. Monmouth County Association of REALTORS® 732.918.1340 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB

OCT. 23 ANNAPOLIS, MD. Maryland/DC CRS Chapter 410.575.5053 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB

OCT. 26 MALVERN, PA. Suburban West REALTORS® Association 866.495.7972 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS, CRB Turn It On Automatic – Serving Repeat and Referral Customers

OCT. 10 SHREVEPORT, LA. Northwest Louisiana Association of REALTORS® 318.797.0054 Instructor: Pat Zaby, CRS, CCIM

OCT. 15 OKLAHOMA CITY Oklahoma City Metro Association of REALTORS® 405.840.1493 Instructor: Pat Zaby, CRS, CCIM Note: Instructors listed on all courses are subject to change.

New York’s Tech Valley & Capital Region

Your referral source for the greater




Albany, Saratoga & Schenectady Counties

Serving Northern Virginia and the Dulles Tech corridor

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

David M. Phaff, ABR, CRS, e-Pro, GRI, CSP O: 518 464-1600 C/T: 518 469-8984

Offices in Ashburn, Leesburg and Sterling

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


Re/Max Select Properties, Inc.






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

Real Estate

RESOURCES • September/October 2012 Safe House

New Plan


Leigh Brown, CRS, RE/MAX Executive Realty,

Margaret “Micki” Fisher, CRS, First Charlotte Properties,

Betty Kerr, CRS, Keller Williams Realty,

Meli Gerogianis, CRS, Keller Williams Realty, David Legaz, CRS, Keller Williams Realty, Marki Lemons-Ryhal, CRS, Keller Williams Realty,

Kyle Frazier, CRS, Pacific Union International, Carol Marra, CRS, of Keller Williams Realty,

Open Access Lorrayne Ingram, CRS, Coldwell Banker

Cindy Ulsrud, CRS, First Weber Group,

Photo Finish Bill Kuhlman, CRS, Kuhlman Residential Real Estate, Mike Selvaggio, CRS, Delaware Homes, | 4 7



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

wishful thinking Q U ESTIO N : What is the one piece of advice you wish you had received when you started out in real estate?

IN OUR EXPERIEN C E . . . “FIRST, I wish someone had told me to put money aside for taxes. Next, I wish I had started to acquire designations right away. It was five years before I knew about and understood their importance.”

“TAKE TIME for your family. Little ones grow up, and they remember you weren’t there. Make time for them as an appointment — no one needs to know it’s a ballgame — and move clients around that schedule.”

Alice Brupbacher, CRS

Carolyn Grimsley, CRS

Coldwell Banker United REALTORS®

Realty Executives SB

Pensacola, Fla.

Bossier City, La.

“TREAT real estate like a business, not social hour, which can sometimes be easy to do. Be consistent with your marketing activities. Block time out of your schedule every day for it. Just because you don’t get a listing immediately doesn’t mean your activity doesn’t work. Keep track of your data, e.g., where your business comes from, and focus on those activities. Do what works for you.” Nathaly Kolp, CRS Coldwell Banker Danforth Federal Way, Wash.


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

48 | September/October 2012

The Residential Specialist, September/October 2012  
The Residential Specialist, September/October 2012  

The September/October issue of the CRS magazine, The Residential Specialist