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March/April 2014 VOL. 13, NO. 2


18 features

18 Face Value

By Daniel Rome Levine Top CRSs understand and can explain the important role appraisals have in the home-sale process.

22 School Rules

By Gayle Bennett Houses in less desirable school districts are best served by savvy marketers who have done their homework.

26 Water Pressure

By Gwen Moran Properties in floodplains present specific challenges for buyers, sellers and REALTORSŽ. Here’s what CRSs need to know.

30 Game Changer w w w . c r s . c o m

By Emma Beck CRSs open up about how getting the Designation forever changed their real estate careers.

Cover photo by Steve Craft | 1

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5 16 departments 4 PRESIDEN T ’S MESSAGE 5 Q UICK TAKES

inside CRS FROM 36 NEWS THE COUNCIL Sell-A-Bration® Delivers CRSs of the Year CRS Webinars Your Home newsletter

By Ron Canning, CRS

Home price index gain, young adults living trends, and more

9 GREAT FINDS 10 TECHNOLO GY Open house helpers


Advice from the country’s top agents

By Jennifer Lubell Keeping client information safe and secure


By Regina Ludes Reverse mortgages for older homeowners


The benefits of video

Seth Dailey, CRS, and Alyce Dailey, CRS The Dailey Group, Keller Williams Realty Baltimore


Reviewed by Allan Fallow Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time By Brigid Schulte

2 | March/April 2014


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Coming in the Next Issue ... n State

of the Market

CRSs give a ground-level view of how the market is performing in their areas. n Open


CRSs discuss the effectiveness of open houses in today’s marketplace. n Multi-Generational

Housing Market

Agents are learning to work with families who will have two or three generations living under one roof. n 30

Under 30s

Many CRSs have been named to the NAR 30 Under 30 list over the years. Where are they now? Would you like to be 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 2014 editorial calendar online at

Specia li s t

EDITOR Michael Fenner Email: Tel: 800.462.8841, ext. 4428 Fax: 312.329.8882 2014 COMMUNICATIONS ADVISORY PANEL Moderator: Clark Niblock, CRS Co-Moderator: Lois Cox, CRS 2014 COMMUNICATIONS ADVISORY PANEL MEMBERS Richard Bradford, CRS Gretchen Conley, CRS Clyde Cooper, CRS John Cotton, CRS Geri Kenyon, CRS Michael Maher, CRS Colleen McKean, CRS Michelle Rosenkoff, CRS Darlene Price Bailey, CRS Patricia Tasker, CRS John Stark, CRS Darlene Stouder, CRS Marylea Todd, CRS Kristin Triolo, CRS Beverlee Vidoli, CRS CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mary Ellen Collins, Daniel Rome Levine, Gwen Moran OFFICERS: 2014 President Ron Canning, CRS

PLUS: How to build your brand for mobile devices

Chief Executive Officer Lana Vukovljak 2014 President-Elect Dale Carlton, CRS 2014 First Vice President Janelle Pfleiger, CRS 2014 Immediate Past President Mary McCall, CRS

PUBLICATION MANAGEMENT Tel: 202.331.7700 Fax: 202.331.2043 Publishing Manager Andrea Gabrick Email: Managing Editor Rebecca Scherr Email: Advertising Manager Andrea Katz Email: Tel: 202.721.1482 Project Manager Katie Mason Art Director Chelsey Fredlund 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 d ­ istributed to members of the Council as part of their membership dues. Non-members may purchase subscriptions for $29.95 per year in the U.S., $44.95 in Canada and $89.95 in other international countries. All articles and paid advertising represent the opinions of the authors and advertisers, not the Council. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to The Residential Specialist, c/o Council of Residential Specialists, 430 North Michigan Ave., Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60611-4092. COPYRIGHT 2014 by the Council of Residential Specialists. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A. Jan uary /Feb

ruar y 2014





With Are You Working ERS? BOOMERANG BUY

S, takes the Ron Canning, CR S president reins as 2014 CR | 3

President’s Message | News from Ron Canning, CRS

Chris Cone

Growing Season

Take advantage of the webinars, online courses and events that you have access to as a CRS member.

4 | March/April 2014

I love gardening, and with spring quickly approaching (albeit not soon enough), my mind is filled with thoughts of enjoying my backyard garden. Soon, my witch hazel bush will be blooming, which signals that winter’s grip is finally coming to an end. The year is off to a strong start, and I’m really getting excited about what lies ahead — both for my garden and my business. If you’re in the same frame of mind, you’re already thinking of ways to make your business grow and thrive this year. Take a moment to review the tools and resources the Council offers. Please take advantage of the wonderful webinars, online courses, and both national and local in-person events that you have access to as a CRS member. Whether you’re just starting out, or you are looking to bring your established business to the next level, these are resources designed specifically for you — and more are being released every month! One of the new resources I’m most excited about is the “Find a CRS” mobile app. As real estate professionals trying to build up our referral base, we’re always looking for other top-notch REALTORS® and CRSs to refer our clients to when needed. The “Find a CRS” mobile app is a convenient tool, since it allows you to access a database of CRS Designees right from your iPhone — and Android and iPad versions of the app are due to be released soon! You — and even your potential clients — can download the app and search by ZIP code, neighborhood or last name to find CRS agents in a specific area. Then, with just a few taps, you can call, text or email them. The database is updated regularly so we always have access to the latest list of Designees and their contact information. This is perfect for those of us who are always on the go. If you haven’t already, please download the “Find a CRS” app from the iTunes Store ( and let the Council know what you think! Email your feedback to This is just one example of the free resources we have access to as Council members, and more are coming soon. What are you waiting for? The CRS app or one of the other resources could kick-start a growing season for your business, so check out the CRS website to start taking advantage of your member benefits. Happy growing season!

QuickTakes | Industry headlines, statistics and trends

A Sunny Outlook

Clockwise from top left: Evgeny Dubinchuk/Thinkstock; Sunstock/Thinkstock; Dragon Images/Thinkstock

At a late January meeting, Federal Reserve officials noted hopeful signs about the state of the housing market, consumer confidence and the economy at large. Minutes from the meeting convey officials’ belief that strong consumer spending is driving an improving economic outlook and that the housing sector plays a key role in that recovery. “The pace of activity in the housing sector showed some tentative signs of stabilizing, as the effects of the past year’s rise in mortgage rates appeared to wane,” the report says. “Single-family housing starts increased in November and only partly reversed that gain in December, while permits for new construction rose a little, on balance, in the fourth quarter. New-home sales declined in November and December but were nonetheless higher than in the third quarter, and existing-home sales flattened out in December after decreasing for several months.” “Although the recovery in the housing sector had slowed somewhat in recent months … various factors were seen as likely to support stronger growth in the sector going forward, including favorable housing affordability, which was in turn partly due to still-low mortgage rates, and demographic trends,” the report says. “However, there were also reasons for being cautious about the prospects for housing construction, such as recent disappointing news on permits for new construction and the possibility that investors’ interest in purchasing properties for the rental market would recede.”


Home prices ended 2013 up 11.3 percent from the year earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Year over year, the 10-city and 20-city index composites posted gains of 13.6 percent and 13.4 percent. The index ended its best year since 2005, says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee. “However, gains are slowing from month to month, and the strongest part of the recovery in home values may be over.” Blitzer says the data indicate that the market has lost some of its momentum. Still, all 20 cities included in the 20-city index composite posted yearover-year price increases in 2013, ranging from 25.5 percent in Las Vegas to 4.5 percent in Cleveland.

HOME AGAIN More than 24 million young adults ages 18–34 are living with their parents or parents-in-law, according to analysis by the National Association of Homebuilders. The study attributes the trend to tough economic conditions, rising unemployment rates and increased housing costs in the late 2000s. Older young adults (ages 24–34) typically compose approximately half of all first-time homebuyers. But their delayed willingness and ability to leave their parents’ homes contributed to lower housing demand during the recession. Young adults living with parents are twice as likely to be unemployed (14 percent in 2012) compared with those who live on their own (7 percent). On average, states with larger increases in unemployment rates among young adults registered larger gains in the percentage of young adults living with parents, the study finds. | 5

QuickTakes | Industry headlines, statistics and trends

SELLERS LOOK FOR BIGGER, NEWER HOMES According to the NAR 2013 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, almost half of home sellers last year “upsized” to a larger, more expensive home, and 59 percent bought a newer home. The report finds that the typical home seller had lived in their home for nine years last year, up from the typical tenure in 2007 of just six years. REALTORS® still play a huge role in the home sale and purchase process: 88 percent of sellers were assisted by a real estate agent when selling their home last year. Recent sellers typically sold their homes for 97 percent of the listing price, but 47 percent reported they reduced the asking price at least once. Homeowners who were underwater on their mortgages (13 percent) said they had to delay selling their home. Meanwhile, 36 percent of sellers offered incentives to attract buyers, such as assistance with home warranty policies and closing costs.

The housing market for homebuyers over age 55 is expected to continue to grow in 2014, according to the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). The group projects that the share of U.S. homes owned by people over age 55 will increase from 43.3 percent this year to 46.6 percent in 2020. “The 55-and-over population … will steadily rise over the next several years, and the need for housing to accommodate that group will also rise,” says Paul Emrath, NAHB’s vice president of survey and housing policy research.

RESPONSE FAIL REALTORS® face a lot of challenges each day, but one of the biggest is something they can control: responding quickly to leads. A recent study by WAV Group and Weichert Lead Network finds that 48 percent of buyer inquiries never receive a response from the agent. REALTORS® call leads back an average of just 1.5 times and send an average of 2.07 emails. The average response time is more than 15 hours. Victor Lund, a partner at WAV Group, says, “These numbers reveal a staggering failure of real estate professionals to serve the consumer. But this failure actually represents an important opportunity. If brokers and agents take steps to rectify this problem, and respond more effectively to consumers, they are opening the door to a great increase in revenue.”

6 | March/April 2014

Clockwise from top left: Ron Chapple Stock/Thinkstock; Hermin Utomo/Thinkstock; Indigo Betta/Thinkstock

A Graying Housing Market


Two recent studies paint different pictures about the state of housing affordability. The fourth-quarter report from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR) shows strong growth in single-family home prices in most metropolitan areas, which is good news for homeowners. However, average household incomes are not keeping up with home prices, resulting in fewer affordable options for potential homebuyers. NAR’s annual Housing Affordability Index fell 10.5 percent in 2013 from the level recorded in 2012. NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says the equity gains homeowners have realized in the past two years are helping stimulate the overall economy. But “at the same time, home prices have been rising faster than incomes, while mortgage interest rates are above the record lows of a year ago. This is beginning to hamper housing affordability.” NAR attributes the double-digit price growth to a tight supply of homes. There was a 4.9 percent supply of homes in the fourth quarter, nearly unchanged com-

pared with the same period in 2012. A significant increase in new home construction in appreciating markets will help relieve that pressure, but affordability challenges will remain, Yun says. But a separate study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/ Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index finds that housing affordability held steady in the last half of 2013. The Index reports that 64.7 percent of home sales from October to December were affordable to families in the U.S. with a median income of $64,400 — which is virtually the same as the 64.5 percent reported in the third quarter. The national median home price fell 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter to $205,000 from $211,000 in the third quarter, NAHB says. In this same period, the average mortgage interest rate rose from 4.45 percent to 4.54 percent. According to NAHB chairman Kevin Kelly, these numbers show that housing affordability is stabilizing while the national housing market continues to gain strength.

Top left: roberthyrons/Thinkstock

Delinquency Rate Falls The percentage of mortgage loan holders who were delinquent on their payments for 60 days or more fell below 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to data from TransUnion. This marks the first time the delinquency rate has fallen below 4 percent since 2008 and the eighth consecutive quarter of declines. All 50 states and the District of Columbia recorded lower delinquency rates compared with the fourth quarter of 2012. Despite the encouraging numbers, TransUnion’s head of financial services, Steve Chaouki, strikes a cautionary tone. “It’s encouraging to see the mortgage delinquency rate drop for two consecutive years, but at the same time, mortgage delinquencies continue to be twice as high as levels observed prior to the housing bubble. The housing market also still shows some volatility, with both housing prices and originations dropping in the latter part of 2013 after experiencing improvements in the first part of the year.” States that posted the largest year-over-year delinquency rate declines were Arizona, California and Nevada — all states hit hard by the housing downturn and foreclosure crisis. States with the smallest declines were New York, New Jersey and West Virginia.

Largest year-over-year delinquency rate declines Smallest year-over-year delinquency rate declines | 7

QuickTakes | Industry headlines, statistics and trends


Houses Get Older The well-documented aging of the baby boomer generation may be mirrored by the aging of America’s housing stock. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s American Housing Survey finds that the median age of an owner-occupied home in the United States was 35 years old in 2011, up from a median home age of 23 in 1985. More than 40 percent of the owner-occupied homes in the U.S. were built before 1969. Homes built from 2000 through 2009 account for 15 percent of the owner-occupied housing stock. Aging homes could prove to be a boon for home remodeling businesses, the study finds. Older homes tend to be less energy-efficient than new homes and generally require more repairs.

8 | March/April 2014

MORTGAGE PAYMENTS ROSE IN 2013 Housing affordability numbers held steady in the second half of 2013, but a recently released analysis from RealtyTrac shows that U.S. families are spending more on their monthly home payments than they did last year. The analysis shows that the estimated monthly house payment for a median-priced three-bedroom home purchased in the fourth quarter of 2013 increased an average of 21 percent from a year ago, from $714 to $865. This figure is based on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with 4.46 percent interest — up from a 3.35 percent interest rate in 2012 — and a 20 percent down payment. Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, believes this increase is due to rising home prices and an increase in interest rates in the last half of 2013. “The monthly cost of owning a home is still less than renting in the majority of markets, but the cost of financed homeownership is becoming dangerously disconnected with still-stagnant median incomes, driven not by shoddy underwriting practices this time around, but by investors and other cash buyers who are not tethered to the typical affordability constraints,” Blomquist says.

Clockwise from top left: Shaiith/Thinkstock; gzorgz/Thinkstock; lucato/Thinkstock

A study from RealtyTrac finds that distressed properties (short sales and foreclosures) accounted for 16 percent of all residential sales in the U.S. last year, an increase from the 14.5 percent recorded in 2012. But sales to third-party buyers at auction doubled last year, while all-cash sales and institutional investor purchases also rose significantly. The study finds that the national median home sale price — including both distressed and non-distressed sales — was $168,391 in December, virtually unchanged from November and up 2 percent from December 2012. “It may surprise some to see distressed sales rising in 2013, given that foreclosure starts dropped to a seven-year low for the year,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “And while short sales did trend lower in the second half of the year, there are still more than 1.2 million properties in the foreclosure process or bank-owned, providing a sizable pool of inventory that the housing market is in the process of absorbing. Meanwhile, non-distressed sellers have not listed their homes for sale in droves, helping to keep the distressed share of sales at a stubbornly high level.”

Great Finds | Tools of the trade

show and tell Spring has sprung! And so have the number of showings on your calendar. Are your clients really ready to open their doors to potential buyers? They cleared the clutter and painted the shutters, but a few last-minute touches might make potential buyers want to stay a little longer — and even make an offer. Create a welcoming vibe with these tips to help buyers envision themselves in their new home.

on the box Family photos and tchotchkes at an open house can be a distraction for potential buyers who try to imagine their own photos and heirlooms there. Hide personal items in plain sight with IKEA’s Kvittra box with lid. Available in sizes up to 12.5 by 9.75 by 7.75, the storage containers come in several patterns that can brighten or blend into any room. They are easy to assemble and transport, and made of 100 percent recycled and laminated cardboard.

3.99 – $8.99

soap’s on A peek into the potty is enough for most potential buyers. They end up spending more time in living rooms and kitchens during open houses. But consider helping sellers give bathrooms their own sparkle with Claus Porto Cerina Brise (Marine) Box of 3 Soaps. The clean fragrance, inspired by the beach, has notes of bergamot, apple and sandalwood. Unwrap the 5.28-ounce bars, or place the 100 percent natural shea butter and biodegradable soaps out for use. They are said to last three times longer than other bars of the same size.


guiding light Want to make light work of selling your next home? Open the window shades and turn on the 3-Piece Infinity Lamp Set to brighten any room with modern style. The matching 58-inch floor lamp and two 26.5-inch table lamps have a decorative twist with bronze finish. The neutral-colored trumpet shade looks like silk and provides soft lighting to create a warm welcome. Each piece has on and off switches. Bonus: The lamps come with CFL bulbs.


saved by the smell Lingering cooking smells or pet odors can have guests leaving faster than they came in. Instead, invite them to stay awhile with a fresh scent from Yankee Candle. Choose from containers including the classic jar, and from seasonal scents such as Ocean Star, Citrus Tango and Under the Palms. A large jar candle lasts up to 150 hours. Don’t want to keep a candle lit? Try a flameless fragrance.

up to $27.99

flower power Don’t let the curb appeal stop there. For a high-end client, bring spring inside with Flowering Forsythia Branches. A foyer or larger room will look sunnier than ever. The double-flowering and sustainably grown branches are shipped tight in bud from the Pacific Coast. Measuring 42 to 48 inches in height, the freshest seasonal selection can be stored at a cool temperature before opening. To arrange, cut lengthwise up the stems and place in fresh water.

38 | 9

Technology | Streamlining your business

security counsel What CRSs need to know to keep their clients’ information and transaction documents safe.

Target publicly confirmed that a December 2013 data breach compromised personal or payment information for as many as 110 million people.

10 | March/April 2014


oy Carter, CRS, knows what it’s like to get hacked. To solve a software installation problem, the information technology experts she works with briefly disabled her firewalls. That’s when a virus attacked her email address book. For Carter, with Keller Williams Partners Realty in Coral Springs, Fla., the incident turned out to be no more than a mild annoyance for a day, and no sensitive information was compromised. Yet, it’s just another reminder of the vulnerability of online systems. A December 2013 data breach at Target serves as a cautionary tale for other industries. The big-box retailer reported that 40 million customers’ debit and credit card

data, as well as at least 70 million customers’ personal information, had been stolen. This recent fiasco is a wake-up call, says Carl Medford, CRS, with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley, Calif. “We better start paying attention to this and deal with it before it becomes an issue.” What’s alarming is that many REALTORS® don’t understand what they should be doing to secure their documents, Medford says. “To be really honest, there’s not been a hue and cry in the industry about security. It’s not been an issue,” he says.

Data Points Several trends demand increased vigilance when it comes to data security: the movement from paper-based to cloud-based

Max Kabakov/Thinkstock

By Jennifer Lubell

“There’s been no dialogue on online security, because it’s a new issue. You can bet, after Target’s issues, that the conversations are beginning in earnest.” transactions and document storage, and the increasing transfer of sensitive information through electronic means. Cloudbased technology refers to software and data that runs on the Internet instead of directly on a computer. Money is a big driver of this trend, says Medford, who teaches a class on going paperless. “Every time you touch a piece of paper, you have to store it, run it through a copier, and then handle it, process it and store it in a physical location. You pay for the ground the file cabinet sits on — and probably for the heat for that space.” Whether REALTORS® realize it or not, they’ll sooner or later need to adopt a cloud-based system, because brokers are becoming less willing to pay to store documents. What’s more, a growing number of consumers are demanding online access to those documents throughout the life cycle of the transaction. Medford says the technology makes it easier to store and share documents. His office uses Dropbox, a system that parks data in the cloud and simultaneously transfers and updates data across platforms. While he trusts all of the agents on his team who use the Dropbox system, he does have lingering concerns about security. Dropbox says it secures people’s information through a two-step verification and encryption process. According to the company, its “website and client software are constantly being hardened to enhance security and protect against attacks.” Right now, there is no one-stop solution that handles the migration of documents from generation to archive in a fully secure manner, Medford says. Most REALTORS® still must download sensitive documents into a non-secure environment and then upload them back into a secure one. Another technology that’s gaining in popularity is electronic signatures. Carter, a nearly 30-year veteran in real estate, remembers when she used to hand-deliver documents to agents. “If we made an offer to a

REALTOR®, we’d go to their office and drop it off ” or fax it, she says. Today, all contracts in her office are signed electronically. In a 2013 survey of its members, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® reported that 56 percent were using e-signatures in some capacity; 44 percent said they rarely or never used this type of business software. Among e-signature users, 13 percent said they used it daily or nearly every day. The technology first emerged on the West Coast, with companies such as Seattle’s DocuSign trailblazing electronic signatures, Medford says. In the San Francisco Bay Area, he says, the technology is popular among clients and REALTORS® alike. Clients love it because they can literally sign documents on their phone in a car on the freeway. “We’ve had no pushback on this, because it’s made things more convenient” for everyone, he says. While digital signatures are certainly more secure than signatures that have been through a fax four or five times, Medford acknowledges it is still possible to get around security if you know how.

Safety First In the event a breach did occur, it would be difficult to source it back to the REALTOR®, Medford says. If someone obtains a Social Security number and sets up a fraudulent account, “there’s no way of having a conversation with a perp to find out where they got the information. So we don’t know if it’s our documentation they got ahold of or if the client simply didn’t shred their account statements before throwing them in the trash.” REALTORS® nevertheless can be technically liable in the event client information is compromised, either through a mistake on a contract, a breach in fiduciary responsibility, or carelessness, Medford says. This is why all agents are required to carry errors and omissions insurance, which covers agent liability in the event they are

sued. But the industry has historically not had much training in online security, Medford says. “There’s been no dialogue on online security, because it’s a new issue. You can bet, after Target’s issues, that the conversations are beginning in earnest.” Someone will eventually figure out that agents are a link in the chain, Medford says, “and then, like any other lawsuit, we’ll be named a liable party along with any others they can bring to the table. REALTORS®, at the end of the day, need to be very conscious about removing any potential liability no matter where it occurs.” In his classes, Medford teaches the importance of blacking out account numbers and Social Security numbers when sending out financial information. “You’d be amazed at how many offers we get that have full copies of buyers’ statements with all the information there. Too few agents are thinking about this.” To shield her client information from breaches, Carter says all of her devices are password-protected. The paper data is kept under lock and key. Anything with a signature on it gets shredded or archived when the transaction’s over. For the handling of pesky email viruses and other issues, “we have an IT company on retainer,” Carter says. Another security measure Carter takes is refusing to take Social Security numbers when she drafts contracts. The closing agent can ask for that information directly. And, maybe most important, Carter protects her phone with a password, as well as a system called Lookout. In the event her phone gets stolen, she could remotely clear its data. “I take my clients’ security very seriously. These are huge financial transactions for them, and I don’t want to cause them any grief.” Jennifer Lubell is a writer based in Washington, D.C. | 1 1

Trends | Today and tomorrow

role reversal

Reverse mortgages have their advantages, but are they the best financing solution for older homeowners?

Nearly 60,100 reverse mortgages were originated in 2013, according to the Federal Housing Administration.

12 | March/April 2014


ou’ve seen the late-night commercials touting the benefits of reverse mortgages. But do they live up to their hype? Relatively new to the mortgage marketplace, reverse mortgages have become more popular in recent years as many older homeowners have learned they can tap into their home’s equity to make ends meet. “People are struggling, and a 30-second commercial does not convey all the information they need,” says Susan Nielsen, CRS, with The Real Estate Group in Torrance, Calif. “Their pensions and Social Security aren’t covering their needs like they used to, so they are looking for options to retain their independence and buy groceries,” she says. While reverse mortgages may be the best solution for some borrowers to refinance or purchase a new home, some

agents believe there are better financing options available. While the advantages are obvious — no monthly mortgage payment, few credit restrictions and easy access to funds when they need them — hidden pitfalls can derail the best-laid plans. REALTORS® who can explain the basics of reverse mortgages to their older clients can help them determine if a reverse mortgage is right for them.

Know the Basics Reverse mortgages were once perceived as a last-ditch option for homeowners who had fallen on hard times, and while someone might have qualified for a loan before, it did not necessarily mean they had money to pay for taxes and insurance, says Kathy Conley, housing specialist with Greenpath, a not-for-profit agency approved by

Evgeny Sergeev/Thinkstock

By Regina Ludes

the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide reverse mortgage counseling to consumers. “The changes to reverse mortgages that were introduced in October 2013 allow people to access extra money for medical expenses, travel, or just to have a line of credit on hand, which is what the reverse mortgage was intended to do,” Conley says. Conley points out that these loans can be complicated. Counseling can help prospective borrowers get the answers they need to common questions, such as: What happens to the home in the end? What are their responsibilities? Will their heirs inherit the home? “Most people we counsel have already received information from a lender. The bottom line is that borrowers can retain their home, the loan is payable when they leave the house, and the property must be the principal residence. Borrowers are also responsible for taxes, insurance and maintenance, so their budget needs to cover those things,” Conley says.

Financing Alternatives Many older adults have misconceptions about reverse mortgages, Nielsen adds. Nielsen’s clients often are surprised to hear about a “due on vacancy” clause, which stipulates that the loan must be paid when the homeowner moves to a nursing home or passes away. “Many clients assume that their heirs will automatically inherit the house,” Nielsen says. Typically, the heirs must sell the property to generate the cash to repay the loan. Nielsen is leery of reverse mortgages because banks have restricted how much they will lend, which might result in a bad deal for the client. “As I tell older clients, banks are not charities. They are in the business of making money.” She advises clients to seek other alternatives like a high-interest bond fund. Nielsen says


2013: 60,091 2012: 54,822 2011: 73,131 2010: 79,106 2009: 114,692 Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

when her parents refinanced their current home, they took out 50 percent equity on the home and put the money into a bond fund that earns 7 percent. “They never touch the principal and live off the interest, which covers their living expenses. Why let the bank take interest when another source will give it to you?”

Pros and Cons Sherri Burlison, CRS, with Keller Williams Realty Coastal Area Partners in Savannah, Ga., thought there was a stigma attached to reverse mortgages and never took them seriously. “I had seen the commercials on TV, but I always thought they were just for homeowners who had owned their home for a long time and built equity in it. I never knew you could use it for home purchases, too,” Burlison says. W hen Burlison’s mother-in-law moved from New Orleans to Savannah after her husband died, she used a reverse mortgage to purchase a home. “We found that with the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), based

on her age and price point of the property, she would have to put down a certain percentage and never have to make a monthly mortgage payment. She would still have to pay insurance and property taxes and it would have to be her primary residence. She even had some credit issues in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but that was not a factor in the application process.” The only caveat is that the HECM is an FHA product, Burlison says, so a purchased property must be FHA-approved. “Reverse mortgages are great options for seniors to purchase a home and eliminate their monthly mortgage commitment,” says Steve Mohseni, CRS, with Mohseni & Associates at RE/MAX Accord in Pleasanton, Calif. “It is also an easy way to downsize an existing house and purchase a more suitable one without worrying about the loan qualifications.” Despite the advantages, there are some downsides, says Mohseni. For example, loan acquisition fees and interest rates are higher for reverse mortgages than conventional loans, and the program negatively amortizes the loan. “If someone has other resources to tap into for income, they don’t need to apply for a reverse mortgage,” Mohseni says. Most agents agree reverse mortgages can work depending on the individual’s circumstances, but homeowners should work with a lender or mortgage consultant. “I feel strongly about the program and what it can do for seniors, but it’s not the only product and [it’s] not necessarily the one they should go with,” Mohseni says. “But for those on limited income who don’t have family members to leave the house to, this is a great way to get the resources they need to lead a better life.” Regina Ludes is a freelance writer based in Chicago. | 1 3

Pipeline | Strategies to grow your business

video aims By Michael Fenner

Despite video's popularity with consumers, 62 percent of REALTORS® say they never use video software. Source: NAR 2013 Member Profile

14 | March/April 2014


aby and cat videos, move over. Internet users are craving more robust video content. When Google bought YouTube, a then-unprofitable startup, for $1.65 billion in 2006, few could have imagined the explosive growth that would drive the online video-sharing service to become a cultural phenomenon. In 2006, YouTube reported about 20 million unique visitors each month. That year, about 100 million videos were available on YouTube on a given day, with 65,000 new videos added every day. That sounded impressive then. How times have changed. As of February, more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month, the company reports. People watch 6 billion hours of video each month on YouTube, and 100

hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Nielsen reports that YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18–34 than any cable network. The company’s success is a testament to the growing power of video in consumers’ daily lives. “Our community has played a vital role in changing the way that people consume media, creating a new clip culture,” YouTube CEO and co-founder Chad Hurley said at the time of the acquisition. This “clip culture” has had a huge impact on the way businesses interact with customers, either on YouTube or on their own websites. REALTORS® build much of their business through personal customer interactions, while homebuyers and sellers want to work with somebody they know and trust. Savvy REALTORS® realize that in a clip culture, the right video strategies


CRSs are realizing that video can help them build their brand and win more business.

Highlight schools, parks and restaurants to give potential buyers a sense of what it might be like to live there. can help them make direct connections with consumers, define their brand in the marketplace and win new business.

Engaging Interactions “You are a connector,” said Philip Becker, CRS, who appeared as a panelist in a packed session at the CRS educational event Sell-a-bration® in January in Coronado, Calif. Becker and his fellow panelists agreed that using video marketing to engage people with interesting information about their communities helps agents make that all-important customer connection. For example, panelist Raziel Ungar, CRS, has gained a reputation in his Burlingame, Calif., market for posting excellent video tours of neighborhoods on his YouTube channel and his website. He highlights schools, parks, restaurants and more, which gives potential buyers a real sense of

WATC H TH I S These CRSs have made video a successful part of their marketing strategy. ▶ PHILIP BECKER ▶ RAZIEL UNGAR ▶ JEFF WU

what it might be like to live there. It also connects him to the community. Ungar said this approach allows him to skip a step when he gets a call from a potential client who found out about him through his videos. After all, they’ve already learned about the neighborhood by watching the video, so they can get right down to the business of finding the right home in a specific area. That way, Ungar said, during the first meeting with a client, REALTORS® “can be listeners rather than talkers.” Posting quality video about the local community offers another major benefit in search engine optimization. “All you have to do is create compelling content, and the search engines will find you,” he said. Videos that are tagged with keywords related to the phrases potential homebuyers might punch into a Google search — for example, “homes in Burlingame,” “Burlingame neighborhoods” or “Burlingame schools” — will rise higher in the search results. Likewise, posting videos on YouTube increases their visibility and gives agents an easy way to post links to those videos on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Fellow panelist Jeff Wu, CRS, takes yet another innovative approach. He prefers to keep his videos simple and cover a wide range of topics in his Tysons Corner, Va., community. His site features the usual neighborhood tours, but also man-on-thestreet videos and others highlighting local businesses. He even posted an interview he did with a local politician. Making and posting simple but effective videos “shouldn’t be too hard,” Wu said.

A Growing Giant • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. • People watch 6 billion hours of video each month on YouTube. • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18–34 than any cable network. • Mobile devices are responsible for nearly 40 percent of YouTube’s global watch time. Source: YouTube, 2014

“Decide what you want to do,” then do it. That said, some agents take a more elaborate approach. Becker even owns a drone that takes aerial video footage of the properties he has listed to give potential buyers a sense of what the immediate neighborhood is like. When it comes to measuring a return on investment, the panelists admitted that the benefits of using video to build business and win clients can be tricky to quantify. But agents should consider video as a component of their overall marketing strategy, Wu said. Despite the murky metrics, the ultimate goal in any video campaign is to gain exposure as an expert in your community. After all, buying a home is often about buying a lifestyle. And, as Becker said, potential homebuyers usually search for neighborhoods — not agents. Michael Fenner is editor in chief of The Residential Specialist. | 1 5

Up Close | Profiles of people to watch

alyce dailey,

CRS, &

seth dailey,


The Dailey Group of Keller Williams Realty, Baltimore

Alyce Dailey, CRS: REALTOR® since 2005, CRS since 2007 Seth Dailey, CRS: REALTOR® since 2008, CRS since 2011 Contact: alyce@ thedaileygroup. com; seth@ thedaileygroup. com

What’s it like working with your spouse? Seth: There’s not a part of what I do that Alyce doesn’t know or vice versa. The real estate industry can be stressful and requires a lot of energy to do it well. There can be tension if your spouse doesn’t understand your work and the demands that it can have. We have empathy and sympathy for each other. We enjoy working together because we get the opportunity to play to our strengths. We get to do the things within the business that we each really enjoy doing. AD: Even after 14 years of marriage, I love working with my best friend and business partner. We really enjoy being together, so working side by side professionally and personally is very holistic and joy-filled for us. We love that our kids get to see us working together as a partnership. SD: The possible downside of working together is that there isn’t a natural break or an “off ” switch. We have to be really intentional about taking time off and knowing when each of us needs a break individually and together. But overall, the benefits of working together far outweigh the cons. What’s your advice for other couples who want to work together? AD: Have grace with one another. Know when your spouse needs some space or when they need you to jump in and help so they can take a break. If you have young kids like we do (ages 10, 8, 5 and 2), find ways to incorporate your family into your business so that they can be a part of

16 | March/April 2014

what you’re building. Our kids enjoy being a part of our business and our clients love it as well. We also set aside time regularly throughout the year to set both personal and professional goals so that we can track our progress toward things that are most important to each of us. What’s your market like right now? AD: Baltimore is a very affordable city sandwiched between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Our market is a transient area with many government and military jobs. Although Baltimore suffered a decline, like most other markets when the economy took a downturn, we are certainly seeing many signs of health and recovery. Homes in good condition, good locations and priced correctly are receiving multiple offers. Personally, the Dailey Group’s business has increased every year over year since we started in 2005. To what do you attribute your success? SD: We are in the lead-generating business. It’s all about the quality and the quantity of leads. We’re constantly keeping an eye on how to generate more client leads in an authentic referral-driven way. Secondly, we are always lead generating for talented people for our team. Success occurs through people, and we’re always on the hunt for great REALTORS® and administrative team members. What is the best piece of business advice you’ve received? AD: Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn’s quote always comes to mind: “Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” Instead of placing blame elsewhere when I have a rough day, my goal is to figure out the lesson in it for me and to figure out how I can become a better person because of it. SD: In this industry, we can get lost in the idea that what we do is about the money when it really isn’t. As Rohn says, “Set a goal to become a millionaire for what it makes of you to achieve it.” The Dailey Group has set a goal to do 200 units this year and to grow to be a 10-person team. The money? That’s the easy part. Set the goal to be a millionaire for what it will make of you and what it requires of your business habits to achieve it. The true profit is in all the lives you are able to impact along the way.

Lexey Swall

How did you both get into real estate? Alyce: Seth and I met in college in the Chicago area and were married shortly after. We moved to my hometown of Baltimore, and I had a successful career in human resources while Seth worked as a CPA. We always knew we eventually wanted to own a business, and we had explored many different options over the years. A college friend introduced us to a Brian Buffini seminar, and it was then when we first saw that we could make a great living and have a balanced family life in real estate. When we learned this was possible, we were very intrigued by real estate as a true business. I became a REALTOR® in 2005 and in the same year, Seth went into the mortgage industry. As we decided to grow our family, it made sense for us to simplify to one business. Seth joined me in real estate in 2008.

“Overall, the

benefits of working together far outweigh the cons.”

Seth Dailey, CRS, and Alyce Dailey, CRS | 1 7

FACE VALUE Top CRSs understand and can explain the important role appraisals have in the home-sale process. By Daniel Rome Levine

18 | March/April 2014

David Arky/Glow Images

n her nearly 20 years of selling real estate in the Phoenix area, Linda Rehwalt, CRS, thought she had seen just about every challenging appraisal issue. But then in January, along came a couple who asked her to sell their one-story, 4,700-square-foot home in the suburb of Anthem, Ariz. Knowing potential buyers would need an appraisal of the home to qualify for a loan, Rehwalt, with RE/MAX Professionals, took one of the first steps she knew an appraiser would: She examined the sale prices of comparable homes sold in the neighborhood over the past six months to a year to determine the home’s market value. | 1 9

prepared them for the worst: “We may have an appraisal problem here, because there is just no comparable market data out there.” Appraisals are a standard part of the mortgage process, with banks and other lenders basing the amount they will lend a buyer on the appraised value of a given home. But those appraisals are not always accurate. Whether an agent is working with buyers or sellers, helping the client understand the appraisal process and effectively guiding them through it are two of the most valuable services a REALTOR® can provide. What’s more, it can make all the difference between a smooth, successful transaction and one that falls apart.

In the Details

APPRAISING THE APPRAISER Make sure to get a certified appraiser who is experienced in the local market with these tips from Michelle Czekalski Bradley, Czekalski Real Estate, and Linda Rehwalt, CRS, RE/MAX Professionals. Since they are responsible for letting appraisers into a home, listing agents will have the first contact with them. When the appraiser calls to set a time to see the home, engage them in a friendly, conversational manner and try to find out where their office is located, if they are members of the local Multiple Listing Service, if they have appraised homes in the local market before, and if so, how many times in the past year. If the answers are not satisfactory, call their bank manager, not the loan originator, and let them know you think they are not qualified to appraise in your local market. You can also ask for a different appraiser, Rehwalt says. 20 | March/April 2014

Rehwalt meticulously studied the features of her client’s house to understand its unique characteristics and how it compared to others in the area, then settled on a list price of $575,000. Before she even had a chance to put it on the market, Rehwalt felt she might have a prospective buyer, and her buyers did offer the sellers full price. But Rehwalt knew her buyers would likely feel differently if the appraisal came in for considerably less. As the listing agent, Rehwalt was the one responsible for letting the appraiser into the home. As she does for all her seller clients, she took this opportunity to explain to him, before he started his inspection, her justification for her list price. Not only did she go over the unusual circumstances regarding the lack of recent comparable sales, but she further established herself as an expert on the home and the area by providing an array of pertinent details. She told him that she knew from being in many of the neighborhood homes that it was one of the only models of its kind in the subdivision for sale and that it was located in a section that had the biggest lots. She pointed out it had a better view than any of the surrounding two-story units that had recently sold. She also presented him with a typed list of all the recent improvements the owners had made to the home, how much they cost and when the work was performed.

Rehwalt and her clients were thrilled when the appraisal came back a few days later at $575,000. “Appraisers love the help,” says Rehwalt. “After all, we as REALTORS® know these houses and why they are priced the way they are better than most appraisers. We are the experts.” Claire Bisignano Chesnoff, CRS, of Claire Properties on Staten Island, N.Y., agrees with Rehwalt that it is critical to share all pertinent data with appraisers. “They are just thrilled when you do that, because you are really doing their work,” says Chesnoff. Even though appraisals are typically ordered by lending institutions on behalf of homebuyers, Chesnoff strongly advises all her seller clients to get one before putting their home on the market. This serves several purposes, she says, including giving the seller peace of mind that they will know what number to expect when the lender’s appraiser comes through. “I don’t like surprises,” says Chesnoff. “The appraisers my seller hired are more than likely going to be the same guys who are going to come through the house when a buyer applies for a loan.” Having an appraisal in hand is also an effective and authoritative deterrent against low-ball offers, says Chesnoff.

Facts First In the Pittsburgh suburb of Natrona Heights, Pa., Michelle Czekalski Bradley, with Czekalski Real Estate, wears two hats — she is an associate broker and a certified appraiser. Bradley spends most of her time these days doing appraisals and educating agents about them in a class titled, “It Didn’t Appraise, Now What?” In October, Bradley led a CRS webinar titled “The Agent’s Guide to the Appraisal.” Just as Rehwalt and Chesnoff always make it a point to be proactive and meet the appraiser at their list properties so they can share relevant information, Bradley takes pains to make sure the information she shares is detailed, factual and credible. For instance, instead of just handing an appraiser sheets of raw sales data from the neighborhood, agents

Marat Utimishev/Thinkstock

That’s when she realized there might be trouble. The closest and best comp she could find for a similar home was a bankowned home that had sold in a foreclosure auction more than three years earlier for $399,000, about 45 percent less than what she and her clients felt their property was worth. To make matters more difficult, it had been over a year since any other onestory home of a similar size and style had sold in the entire subdivision. Even though she felt confident she could find a solution for her clients, she

Linda Rehwalt, CRS

Steve Craft

“After all, we as REALTORS® know these houses and why they are priced the way they are better than most appraisers. We are the experts.” should print out only the three or four best comparable sales available and write on the sheets exactly why they are the best comps. Point out especially pertinent facts, such as that the homes were built in the same time period or by the same builder or that they are in the immediate neighborhood, she says. Also, always be sure to tell appraisers if you have been in the homes you are using as comps, says Bradley, and stress that you are relying on this first-hand knowledge, not just market statistics, for your assessment.

And always conduct this discussion, says Bradley, in a collaborative, friendly manner that demonstrates you are trying to help the appraiser, not strong-arm them. “When you as an agent can demonstrate to an appraiser that you know more about a comp than they do, that carries so much weight,” she says. The same attention to detail matters, says Bradley, when an appraisal comes in much lower or higher than you expected and you need to appeal. Be prepared for such a scenario, she says, by finding out the lender’s appeals process before the situation

arises. When appealing an appraisal, do not contact the appraiser directly. Rather, reach out to the buyer’s lender who hired them. Instead of getting emotional, says Bradley, and making broad, subjective statements such as, “These are bad comps! Those homes weren’t in as good condition!,” focus your written appeal to the lender on specifics such as “the kitchen was 40 years old and dated,” “the carpeting in the living room was purple shag” or “the walls had never been painted and there was a smoker in the house.” “The more facts you base your appeal on, the more likely you will win,” says Bradley. Also, carefully read the appraisal report from start to finish to check for any factual errors that may have lowered the home’s value. “I review a lot of appraisals, and you’d be surprised how many times I find incorrect factual information,” says Bradley. “Maybe an appraiser missed a bathroom or a finished basement because the door was closed. I see these mistakes.” Also, make sure basic facts such as the municipality, school district, lot size, zoning and square footage are listed accurately, she says.

Appeal Process Rehwalt, in Anthem, Ariz., recalls the time she appealed an appraisal because she noticed the appraiser had not included an obvious comp just three doors down. The appraiser admitted that his assistant had pulled the comps and he had been unaware of the oversight. But CRSs agree that taking a proactive, hands-on approach in the appraisal process is critical for success. From the time agents meet the appraiser at the home for an inspection, to sharing relevant information with them, to carefully reviewing the appraisal report to make sure it is error-free, REALTORS® can give clients some solace that they know the property is being valued accurately. After all, buyers and sellers never want to buy for too much or sell for too little. Daniel Rome Levine is a writer based in Wilmette, Ill., and is a frequent contributor to The Residential Specialist. | 2 1

22 | March/April 2014

Donald Erickson/Getty Images


Houses in less desirable school districts are best served by savvy marketers who have done their homework.


n the 35 years Jon Loquist, CRS, has been a real estate agent, he’s never had a potential buyer ask him about the neighborhood fire or police department. “They might ask crime rates, but they don’t ask a lot of things that affect day-to-day life. But they always want to know about how the schools are, whether or not they have kids.” That’s the reality for CRSs everywhere. Homes located in a good school district, or even nearby, can command a higher sale price than similar homes located in less desirable school districts. Depending on the area, that difference can be huge. All other things being equal, marketing a house in a great school district is simply easier — like touting granite countertops versus Formica. But all is not lost for CRSs dealing with homes that are located in less sought-after school districts. Through extensive research and hands-on experience, smart CRSs learn as much as possible about area schools, allowing them to better market a house — and themselves. | 2 3

Get Involved, Get Informed

Homebuyers have a wealth of information about a neighborhood and its schools right at their fingertips (see sidebar). Particularly if agents are working in an area with schools that have lower test scores, they should know at least as much as the potential buyers and sellers. The best way to do that, say longtime CRS agents, is to go beyond the data and volunteer in the schools. Loquist, who works at Ruhl & Ruhl REALTORS® in Rock Island, Ill., a part of the Quad Cities area that encompasses five cities in Illinois and Iowa, served an eight-year term on the Rock Island school board and is now involved with a local education foundation. He says compared with the surrounding cities, Rock Island’s schools don’t have the best reputation due to some unrest at a school in the 1970s and relatively lower test scores. Given his


“People come to me because I’ve been on the school board and been involved. If they are concerned about marketing the school, they know I can talk about it.” Linda Domis, CRS, with Keller Williams Realty in Whittier, Calif., is very knowledgeable about the multiple school districts in her area, and she and her husband are involved in an educational foundation that raises money for one, the Lowell Joint School District. She is also active in the local Rotary Club, as are many of the local school principals. At Rotary events, she talks to them about what’s going on at their schools so she can pass that information on to clients. Julia Krill, CRS, of Windermere Real Estate in Bellevue, Wash., helps with fundraising and school auctions at her children’s schools. She finds that this hands-on experience in the schools goes even further with relocation buyers, of


extensive volunteer experiences, however, he can get beyond these perceptions and provide clients with information about the specific benefits of individual schools — like additional foreign languages offered. He also has personal relationships with school leaders. “Knowing the different principals and counselors, I’ve been able to [introduce] clients to them, and it makes you more credible,” Loquist says. His knowledge is also a big asset for sellers. 24 | March/April 2014

Source: July 2013 survey

which she sees many in this Seattle suburb. “When I’m specifically talking to relocation buyers, it makes them feel more comfortable that I have an insider’s knowledge, that I’m not just quoting stats off of a website.”

Information Broker

Even if the test scores aren’t telling a school’s whole story, agents shouldn’t just ignore them — clients won’t. Know the

test scores and rankings, but find out some data points beyond that. Krill, whose children attend a public high school in Bellevue, says overall the school district is very good, but her kids’ high school has the lowest test scores in the district. But she knows firsthand about the passionate teachers and smaller class sizes, and she tells clients that. “I’m a firm believer that it’s not all about the test scores. You can’t judge a school alone by its test scores,” she says. Loquist is quick to tell people that more National Merit Scholarship finalists come out of Rock Island schools than all the other districts in the other Quad Cities combined. But he knows he can only do so much to re-educate someone. “I have learned that I take the ball as far as I can until I feel either they don’t want to hear anymore or they’ve heard enough.” And in these cases of an entrenched mindset or a truly underperforming school, it pays to research the area’s private, public choice or charter school options, and find out if the school district allows open enrollment in out-of-boundary schools. Both Krill and Loquist have choice or charter schools in their areas, they can talk intelligently about the schools’ benefits, and they know the application dates. In Whittier, some of the school districts allow students to transfer among their schools and others do not. The boundary lines of the districts are also quite complex, with one district encompassing two different counties — a rarity in the state. People are often confused. “Unless you are really, really informed, you can give bad advice to someone,” she says. “They can move in and think it’s in one school district, and it’s in another.” Domis firmly believes that educating clients about schools is a critical part of a REALTOR’S® job. She works to do just that at open houses, on her website and blog, and via mailers. “Some [agents]


Here are a few of the sites that provide detailed information on schools. Clients are likely already using them.  This very popular schools website lets you input a school name and see test scores, course offerings and parent/student reviews. The site also allows you to plug in an address to see all the schools nearby — handy if the district allows open enrollment.  Similar to, this site allows you to plug in a school and see test scores, as well as how it compares to other schools in the district and the state overall. It also provides boundary maps for each school.   Plug in a home’s address, and see all the public or private schools nearby. Each listing provides a trove of school population data, but no test scores.

say, ‘Oh, I don’t even talk about school districts. I just let [clients] do that.’ How can you be of service if you don’t know these things?”

Jupiter Images/Thinkstock

Making the Sale

Nancy Hofmann, CRS, with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, does a lot of work in Towson, which is in the county of Baltimore, near the city but with its own school district. “One of the biggest draws to my area are the schools,” Hofmann says. Houses in Towson sell faster and for more money than those in the adjacent Baltimore suburb of Parkville, a fact she attributes to the schools. From January 2013 to January 2014, a three-

bedroom detached home sold for an average of $323,000 in Towson and $177,000 in Parkville. So, how does Hofmann market houses in Parkville? “Sometimes those houses are perfect for the f irst-time homebuyer who might not want to live in the city but don’t need the school district because they don’t have kids yet,” she says. “When a house isn’t in a good school district, you just talk about all the other attributes a house has, [such as its] proximity to downtown. You just don’t focus on the schools.” Similarly, Domis says that with a move-up house in an area of Whittier that doesn’t have great schools, “you know

that you are probably going to market that to people who have their kids in private school. You will be dealing with a smaller buyer population.” At one point or another, most REALTORS® will find themselves with a listing in an area with a less desirable school or district. “You just have to know the strengths of that area and focus on that,” says Hofmann. It might be the convenience to shopping. It might be a park. If it’s not the schools, then find something else to focus on, because there’s always something good.” Gayle Bennett is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. | 2 5

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Christopher Gonta/Glow Images


PROPERTIES IN FLOODPLAINS PRESENT SPECIFIC CHALLENGES FOR BUYERS, SELLERS AND REALTORS®. HERE’S WHAT CRSs NEED TO KNOW. Properties located in flood zones or flood-prone areas have always posed challenges for buyers and sellers. However, in recent years, high-profile storms have driven home the potential for flood-driven devastation. From 2003 to 2012, total flood insurance claims averaged nearly $4 billion per year, according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In high-risk areas, there is at least a one in four chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage, making floods the No. 1 natural disaster in the United States. | 2 7

28 | March/April 2014

insurance rates for properties in highrisk flood zones will move to full-risk rates when a community adopts a new FIRM. The NFIP’s website FloodSmart. gov offers updates on the new maps and


provides steps that both REALTORS® and homeowners can take to learn more about the new mapping and how to mitigate increased insurance costs.


Since most homeowners’ insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, both REALTORS® and their clients need to work to understand potential flood risks, government regulations and insurance needs. When properties are located in floodplains, REALTORS® may find themselves in the position of being de facto advisers, says Donna O. Smith, CRS, with Prudential C. Dan Joyner REALTORS® in Greenville, S.C. Thus, agents who deal in properties located in floodprone areas need to be aware of several important factors. Flood maps are shifting. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designates flood zones, which are geographic areas that have varying levels of flood risk and types of flooding. FEMA publishes these zones on its Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or Flood Hazard Boundary Map (FHBM), available at FEMA has undertaken a major effort to redraw these maps and identify Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) that are exceptionally flood-prone. According to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, grandfathered flood

“One of the biggest issues right now is that no one is clear on exactly what is going on. There’s confusion about the maps and what it will mean for homeowners. It’s difficult for us to tell them anything definitively,” says Sandy McCloud, CRS, with Century 21 Fox Properties in Savannah, Ga. Her area of Tybee Island, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, is slated to be remapped in 2016, so people who are buying houses now may find themselves in an entirely different flood zone designation in a few years, she says. Flood insurance rates are changing. In July 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law a five-year reauthorization of the NFIP. The program, which was created by Congress in 1968 and allows more than 5.6 million homeowners and business owners in more than 21,000 participating communities to obtain flood insurance, will experience subsidy cuts that will drive up flood insurance costs in many areas. According to the NFIP website, subsidies will phase out for nonresidential properties, severe repetitive loss properties of between one and four residences, and properties that have incurred flood-related damages with claims beyond their fair-market values. In addition, premium rates will increase by 25 percent per year upon policy renewal until they reach full-risk rates. New policies purchased after October 2013 will be issued at full-risk rates, even if the property was previously eligible for subsidized rates. [At press time on March 21, 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, which limits flood insurance premium increases to no more than 18 percent a year.] It’s a problem for Michael Lescher, CRS, with RE/MAX Showcase in Gurnee, Ill., who has lived and worked in his area’s real estate market for 25 years. He’s seeing rates go up dramatically. Buyers who used

to get quotes under $1,000 per year are now getting quotes of $3,000 to $3,600, he says, adding several hundred dollars onto their monthly payments. It’s possible to appeal your designation, but Lescher says many homeowners don’t realize they can do so. He advises homeowners to get a certificate of elevation, which costs roughly $600, showing elevations around the home. If these elevations are above floodplain, the homeowners can request a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) from FEMA, which will waive the need for flood insurance. If they got insurance and closed on the property but they get a LOMA within 90 days of closing, FEMA will refund their premium. If the certificate shows that the home is in the floodplain but the home’s lowest livable floor is above floodplain, the homeowner can get a significant reduction in flood insurance rates. “Many insurance agents do not know or will not go to the bother of helping a homeowner look into this. Many large insurance companies will tell you this is not available simply because they don’t get into that much detail,” Lescher says. “There are homes in the floodplain with floors above flood level that have been through many floods and have sustained no damage. This should be pointed out to buyers. There are homes built on ‘flow-thru’ foundations that are built to withstand flooding with no damage. Buyers often tell me they aren’t worried about flooding because the home is set back from the water. Horizontal distance makes no difference; only elevation gets you out of the flood zone.” Disclosure requirements. According to guidance issued by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, brokers and agents typically must disclose adverse material features, conditions or aspects of property of which they have actual knowledge. However, these

professionals are not generally required to investigate previous flooding or flood risks on their own. Still, if they have any knowledge of the property flooding, they have a duty to disclose that information. Smith is careful to caution buyers about the changing nature of floodplains and the potential impact of changes. She has clients sign a form that states she has given them that information. She also shares resources such as and, where clients can get more information about their situations. She also has local attorney and insurance broker contacts she is happy to share with clients to get more information. “As REALTORS®, we want to be resources. But we should not be putting ourselves in a position to be accountable for something we can’t control,” she says. Setting expectations. Because there is still so much uncertainty about FEMA flood maps and the resulting impact on flood insurance, McCloud says it’s important to manage expectations with both buyers and sellers. Buyers may fall in love with a house that ends up needing to be raised several feet to be insurable. Sellers in floodplains may be willing to negotiate on price. She says REALTORS® need to keep abreast of the flood issues in their communities to best counsel clients. In one case, she realized that a property her buyers loved was in a floodplain and that previously subsidized flood insurance rates would not apply. “I was able to negotiate a $15,000 reduction in the price because the listing agent wasn’t aware of the law. I was able to use that information to help my client,” she says. But that also means that sellers need to be aware they may be asked to make concessions to ease the pinch of floodplain property costs, she adds. Gwen Moran is a writer based in Wall Township, N.J., and is a frequent contributor to The Residential Specialist.

FLOOD ZONE INFORMATION RESOURCES If your clients or you need more information about flood zones, insurance, FEMA maps or other flood-related topics, these resources can help. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® site at is also a useful information source.   


TOTAL FLOOD INSURANCE POLICIES IN FORCE 2003: 4,565,491 2004: 4,667,446 2005: 4,962,011 2006: 5,514,895 2007: 5,655,919 2008: 5,684,275 2009: 5,700,235 2010: 5,645,436 2011: 5,646,144 2012: 5,629,396

NUMBER OF LOSSES PAID 2003: 36,850 2004: 55,855 2005: 213,288 2006: 24,617 2007: 23,162 2008: 74,652 2009: 30,969 2010: 29,078 2011: 77,268 2012: 36,590 Source: FEMA | 2 9

CRSs open up about how getting the Designation forever improved their careers. By Emma Beck 30 | March/April 2014




n 2009, Karen Eddinger, CRS, was the new agent in town. Her first order of business: Join the local CRS chapter. To Eddinger, with RE/MAX On The Lake in Seattle, and 33,000 other CRSs around the world, CRS Designation and membership has been about more than getting a top-notch real estate education. It’s about lifelong learning and building personal and business relationships, too. And when CRSs make a big move like Eddinger did, from St. Louis to Seattle, their affiliation with CRS gives them a ready-made professional community in their new town. Those three little letters behind a REALTOR’S® name represent big achievement in the industry and help CRSs identify themselves as top agents. To get the Designation, agents must complete extensive education requirements and meet certain production standards.

But CRS means more than just classroom time and proven success. It comprises a community among the cream of the crop of REALTORS® who share knowledge, camaraderie and a true passion for what they do.

Head of the Class CRS education starts with top-notch instructors, who are widely recognized as the best and brightest in the industry. Among the group of 20 CRS certified instructors, there are renowned experts in listings, referrals, business planning, technology and more. Eddinger says she remembers having a CRS instructor in the ’80s who didn’t work after 5 p.m. or on weekends and sold high-priced properties. “I couldn’t fathom being in his shoes, but he did illustrate a higher quality of life that was possible for REALTORS®. His ability to be so

in control of his time and his privacy was probably the most impressive,” she says. From a CRS instructor, Eddinger learned how to do a “trial close,” or what to say and what to avoid when sealing the deal with a client. For example, agents lose credibility if they are too pushy, she says. Instead, it’s vital to understand client interactions, noting the comments that they make and recognizing what they may actually imply, she says. “I’ve grown into a more effective agent as I’ve matured. My CRS education gave me a big boost toward that end,” Eddinger says. Jim Larson, a CRS with Keller Williams Realty Premier Properties in Islamorada, Fla., was an agent for 10 years before he pursued the Designation. The nowFlorida-based REALTOR® began his career in Michigan in 1965 and relocated to Atlanta in 1979. He moved to the Florida Keys in 1998.

“CRS raised my level of professionalism. It only makes you better at what you do.”

32 | March/April 2014


Above all, a CRS Designation enables REALTORS® to join a growing web of some of the country’s top agents — opening up opportunities for continuing education, while delving into the boundless networking opportunities. “It’s the spring of the CRS group,” Larson quips. “It’s a wonderful way to get referrals and make good contacts and friends across other states.” For Eddinger, serving in her Washington CRS chapter’s leadership some 30 years since getting her Designation has been one of her most rewarding professional decisions. It’s her way of giving back to the group that completely changed her career, she says. Today, she’s tasked with communicating CRS-related news to local agents. She attends area CRS classes and feels proud to call herself a part of Washington’s robust troupe of dedicated real estate agents. “CRS raised my level of professionalism,” Eddinger says. “It only makes you better at what you do.”

Value of a CRS Designation Average REALTOR® serving as a sales agent

Median Annual Income

CRS Designee


Continued Growth


But beyond just earning the CRS Designation, membership with the Council can pay big dividends — especially for those agents who work to build relationships with CRSs across the country. Larger companies often have their own referral networks, but as Patti Pacheco, CRS, says, “REALTORS® still go through the CRS website or book (the CRS Membership Directory)” to find qualified agents to send referrals to outside their area. Just a handful of incoming or outgoing referrals each year can make the difference between a good year and a great year when it comes to an agent’s bottom line. Pacheco, with Red Arrow Real Estate in Prescott, Ariz., and a REALTOR® since 1988, earned the Designation in 1995 after noticing CRSs in her area were “a step above,” she says. “Without CRS, I would be kind of meandering around and spending a lot more time waiting for phone calls to come in,” she says. Now, she says, 30 percent of her referrals come from CRSs. She took courses across Arizona — a point she says demonstrates a greater focus on working toward a career-changing professional achievement. “It’s a challenge to go out of town, but you get the feeling that you’re surrounded by other true professionals also striving to become a CRS,” she adds.

Compared with the average REALTOR®, Certified Residential Specialists are more successful. Annually, CRS agents earn more than double the income of the average REALTOR®, and CRSs complete nearly twice as many transactions each year. Out of more than 1 million REALTORS®, less than 3 percent are Certified Residential Specialists. That little percentage equals a huge advantage for agents looking to expand their real estate business, differentiate themselves from a million other agents, and put themselves on a proven path to success.


Opening spread: Patrik Giardino/Glow Images; Previous page: bugphai/Thinkstock

Network Solutions

Perhaps that commitment to excellence exemplified by CRSs fosters the distinct sense of community among agents, presenting a welcoming environment for agents to help — and want to help — one another. Larson has experienced just that. He purchases audio recordings of education sessions from CRS’s annual Sell-a-bration® conference for the years he can’t make the event. He had listened to a “particularly good” recording, “Expired Listings” from 2012, and reached out to contact the CRS who conducted the session to ask a few more questions. The two had never talked before, prior to the call. But as Larson recalls, the agent was receptive, offering to send him some additional materials related to her session.


Larson had taken his share of Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) courses, but he says nothing compares to the CRS education. “The CRS education was two levels up,” he notes. Larson’s CRS education introduced him to techniques he hadn’t learned before. For example, the biggest takeaways for Larson came through courses such as Listing Strategies. He learned the “farming technique,” a practice in which agents chase sellers instead of buyers to better the odds of making a commission. Today, 60 percent of Larson’s clients are sellers; 40 percent are buyers.

Median Annual Transactions

Sources: The 2013 NAR Member Profile and the 2013 CRS Member/Non-Member Survey Report

Emma Beck is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. | 3 3

Good Read | Resources in print

juggling act Will working parents ever succeed in carving out some true leisure time for themselves? Reviewed by Allan Fallow

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 330 pages, $26

34 | March/April 2014


iz Lucchesi is fairly typical of the many harried American workers that Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte profiles in her alarming new book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. A real estate agent and the mother of two, Lucchesi was getting by on four teeth-grinding hours of sleep a night when she finally sought help through a

“Time Triage” workshop. By then, Lucchesi confesses, she hadn’t seen her children in four days: “They’d be in bed by the time I got home,” the agent told Schulte. “My husband was furious, saying, ‘You don’t laugh anymore. You’re not fun to be around.’ We hadn’t been to church in a while. I was always so tired I’d get emotional and take things personally.” Sound familiar? Though Lucchesi had recently launched her own real estate practice after getting nowhere working for an all-male property management firm, she was frustrated to discover that being her own boss had brought her neither the time nor the flexibility she’d anticipated. Enter workshop leader and productivity expert Terry Monaghan, who forced Lucchesi to take the “most important pieces of her jigsaw puzzle and fix them in time on her calendar first. Everything else flowed around those big pieces.” As Lucchesi started to concentrate on doing what she truly enjoyed — building relationships with clients and writing contracts — her business picked up. She was able to hire others and delegate essential but labor-intensive tasks, such as putting up “For Sale” signs, maintaining

her website, doing her books and staffing open houses. “When I met her,” Schulte reports, “Lucchesi’s annual volume of sales had tripled from $15 million to $48 million. She slept eight hours a night.” Oh, and she had finally found time to play with her kids again. That’s one of the rare success stories in Overwhelmed, which often reads like a breathless mashup of Lean In and The Overworked American. But it’s hard to refute the dispiriting portrait Schulte paints of an especially vicious culture war raging in the country today: the clash between traditional family values and a new — and brutal — “ideal worker” mindset. In a nation where 75 percent of mothers of school-age children now work full-time, the author points out, the American workplace simply must do a better job of accommodating the scheduling needs of working parents. Nor is it just parents who have no time for work, love or play these days — it seems to be every one of us. Why else, Schulte asks, would McDonald’s have felt obligated to launch a recent ad campaign built around the slogan “It’s Your Lunch. Take It.”? Why else would the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority have seen fit to stage an ad blitz entitled “Take Back Your Summer,” in which a stresspuppy climbs atop her office desk and — shades of Norma Rae — displays a placard scrawled with the demand “VACATION NOW”? (And don’t even get the author started on the Orbitz initiative that tries to get visitors to the travel website to pledge they’ll use every last day of their annual leave!)

Facts of Life If Schulte (the mother of two kids herself) has a fault as an author, it’s her compulsion to shoehorn every bit of research she finds along the way into the pages of

We cannot hope to advance as a society until we force the corporations we work for to adopt more family-friendly policies.

• American adults can spend an astonishing 8.5 hours per day absorbed in screen time, excluding the work they do on computers.

this book. Remember that statistic about full-time working mothers? It appears at least four different times in Overwhelmed. Yet documenting the growing freneticism of our lives powerfully drives home the book’s main point: We cannot hope to advance as a society until we force the corporations we work for to adopt more family-friendly policies. Consider just a few bits of the evidence Schulte has marshaled:

• Though men today spend more time on childcare and household chores than their fathers did — average time on the latter task rose from four hours per week in 1965 to 10 in 1985 — married women in the U.S. still perform 70 to 80 percent of the housework.

• Fewer than 10 percent of workers say they do their best thinking at work; 71 percent of Americans report feeling emotionally disengaged from their workplace. • Working continuously, without breaks, is practically guaranteed to yield subpar work. Indeed, breaks spark creativity: Scientists have shown that those who take time to daydream score better on creativity tests. • There’s a direct correlation between animal play and the growth of the brain’s cerebellum; stress, by contrast, tends to shrink the prefrontal cortex.

• Five times as many high school and college students are depressed today as in the Great Depression. Not only that, but today’s high school students experience a level of anxiety equivalent to that of the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s. • Only 6 percent of children ages 9 to 13 play outside on their own in the course of a typical week.

So how do we short-circuit the craziness? Is there a surefire way to undercut the Overwhelm? Schulte resourcefully offers a wide range of answers, from the personal — don’t miss the book’s “Do One Thing” appendix — to the political: [W]orkplace cultures, government policies, and cultural attitudes…still act as though it is…1950 in Middle America: Men work. Women take care of home and hearth. Fathers provide. A good mother is always available to her children. But obviously, life isn’t so sharply divided anymore. And until attitudes, however unconscious, catch up with the way we really live our lives, the Overwhelm will swirl on. Allan Fallow is a magazine writer and book editor in Alexandria, Va. You can follow him on Twitter @TheFallow. | 3 5

Sell-A-Bration® Audio Files

CRSs of the Year

CRS Webinars

p. 39

p. 40

p. 42

inside CRS N E W S





New classroom courses designed to build vital skills Most residential real estate specialists know the importance of mastering the essentials. After all, your livelihood is based on your ability to convert leads into closings, negotiate transactions and assemble an efficient team. Now the Council of Residential Specialists is rolling out a new educational program to help you do just that. Three new CRS One-Day Essentials courses focus on the critical

36 | March/April 2014

skills REALTORS® need to take their business to the next level. Three different courses. One day each. Held in 30 locations across the country. Course 1: Lead Generation and Conversion: Digital Meets Traditional New agents and veterans alike know that attracting leads is key, but they must have effective systems for converting those leads into closings. This course highlights both traditional and digital approaches for finding

more potential customers and closing more leads. Course content covers all aspects of a successful customer interaction experience — attraction, first contact, needs analysis, incubation, conversion, closing and beyond. The course will teach REALTORS® the best practices for: capturing, converting and tracking leads; implementing customer-focused campaigns; boosting lead management efficiency; and creating an action plan to achieve lead conversion priorities. Course 2: Win-Win Negotiation The most recent NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers finds that 87 percent of homebuyers identified negotiation skills as a very important quality for their real estate agent. But it’s critical for agents to consider not only the outcome of a negotiation but also their relationships with other professionals involved in a home transaction. This course provides negotiation strategies that enable agents to achieve mutually satisfying results and build a stronger foundation for future business. The course’s interactive roleplaying activities will help agents develop and practice successful scripts for negotiating with clients, agents and service providers. It will also deliver key strategies to help agents: identify the interests of another party in a negotiation and establish a rapport; prepare for negotiations and create a game plan; and respond to any issues that may arise during a transaction.

Course 3: Hiring and Delegation Strategies for Building a Team Even the most talented and dedicated agents have limits on what they can accomplish alone. Successful agents know that when it’s time to find help as their business grows, hiring the right people is critical. This course offers strategies for delegating and outsourcing tasks to help agents focus on activities that make them the most money. Course instruction and workshops cover a range of responsibilities related to hiring team members: recognizing when you need to hire help; assessing the available options (eg: virtual assistants, in-house assistants, coordinators etc.); using proven techniques to find and interview candidates; determining job titles, compensation, licensing and responsibilities; and implementing effective management practices, accountability and work flow.

Register Today All courses offer valuable takeaways — such as sample scripts, forms and dialogs — that course attendees can use to improve their business immediately. Each eight-hour course is taught by a CRS certified instructor, and they are open to everyone. CRS Designees pay just $130 per course, while non-members pay $160. All those who register by April 30 will save $25 thanks to Early Bird pricing. Bundled course pricing discounts can also save registrants 10 percent off two courses or 20 percent off three courses. Each course is eligible for eight CRS Education Course credits toward the CRS Designation. These eighthour One-Day Essentials courses will run from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break. (Lunch is not provided.) Exams will be administered on-site during the course. To register: Call 1.800.462.8841. Space is limited, so call today. Online registration will also be available soon.




s the annual CRS educational conference Sell-a-bration® began, moderator Brian Copeland, CRS, made a point that would be echoed throughout the event: Agents need to make customers part of the listing process so they feel more involved in its success. REALTORS® must get clients to consider the best-case, worst-case or middling scenarios of how the sale process might unfold, in terms of price or time on the market. “This allows that seller to decide, ‘how does that [outcome] make me feel.’ It helps them take ownership of the plan,” Copeland said. In other words, they have “bought in.” More than 500 real estate professionals who attended Sell-abration® in Coronado, Calif., Jan 31 – Feb. 2 undoubtedly “bought in” themselves by gathering to learn from the best in the business and build lasting relationships with each other. The event’s educational sessions covered a wide range of success

Top: Brian Copeland, CRS Right: Ron Canning, CRS

strategies and delivered information agents need to take ownership of their careers and do their jobs better. Sell-a-bration® was sponsored by Cutco Closing Gifts, Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection and Corcoran Consulting & Coaching.

Assistance Wanted Many agents find themselves trying to do more with less, and they’re looking for solutions. An increasing number of REALTORS® now use virtual assistants (VAs) to accomplish those tasks that take agents away from what makes them money: working with clients and building business. In a Sell-a-bration® workshop session, panelists Alyce Dailey, CRS, Koki Adasi, CRS, and Bobbi Howe, CRS, explored the pros and cons of using VAs. Professional VAs can provide a whole raft of services, including | 3 7

inside CRS

Sell-a-bration® delivers top-notch educational sessions and valuable networking opportunities.

transaction management, data entry, blog writing, graphic design and more. When done right, working with a VA can help REALTORS’® productivity and give them more free time for work or family. Billing VAs is easy, and since they are not an in-house employee there are savings on office space, Adasi said. But there are potential hurdles. Monitoring a VA’s work can be a challenge, as can the lack of face-to-face time that in-house assistants have with their employers. And virtual workers obviously have little insight into the internal culture of the businesses they contract with. Maintaining communication with VAs is key. Dailey uses a host of solutions to keep in touch, including Google Docs, Google Chat, Dropbox, and more. Howe, a CRS who has recently begun doing VA work herself, said there is a robust market of both domestic and non-domestic VAs. Hiring domestic VAs will cost a bit more, she said, but they tend to have a wider variety of skills. Also, REALTORS® may even be able to find a VA who is a licensed REALTOR®.

38 | March/April 2014

“A VA can do almost anything for you, except meet with clients,” Howe said. But Dailey cautioned attendees: “If you do not have clarity about what you need done in your business, don’t even think about” hiring a VA. After all, if agents can’t provide guidance on the specific tasks they need done, how can they find the right VA, much less work with them?

Winning Listings

Once REALTORS® have the help they need, they can focus on the lifeblood of their business: winning new clients. In a Sell-a-bration® Mega Panel session, five top-producing agents discussed the techniques they use to attract and win new clients. One thing was clear: No one approach will work in every market. For example, panel moderator Leigh Brown, CRS, buys Facebook ads with a budget of $20 per day; they are targeted to customers who match specific criteria. These include ZIP code, age range, if they are a college graduate, and more. She also advertises on talk radio stations that speak directly to her main client base in Concord, N.C. On the other hand, Alex Milshteyn, CRS, uses a decidedly traditional approach: direct mail. In an era when many agents are dialing back their direct mail efforts, Milshteyn spends a whopping $100,000 each year on his direct mail program, which he bases on a demographic analysis of communities in his Ann Arbor, Mich., market. “I market to people who are either upsizing or downsizing,” he said. John Morley, CRS, has found success with radio and TV advertising. In 2013 he spent approximately $23,000 on

such ads, but they brought in more than $100,000 of gross commission income. To farm an area that includes nearly 2,500 homes, Jason O’Neil, CRS, analyzes the data from his target area to determine which neighborhoods are most active and served by the fewest agents. Then he makes an effort to stake his claim there through direct mail efforts: monthly postcards, quarterly market snapshots and occasional call-to-action pieces have been very effective for him in Indianapolis. Kyle Killebrew, CRS, told attendees what he does not do: online video, or radio or TV ads. Instead, “What I do is old school: geographical farming. It’s cheap, and it’s crazy effective,” he said. Regardless of the disparate approaches they use to generate listings, all of the panelists agreed that responsiveness counts. “It doesn’t matter how many leads you generate if you don’t know how to respond to them and how to track them,” Brown said.

Economy Matters REALTORS® looking to boost their listings would do well to examine the specific economic factors in their areas. Agents can find a host of tools to track down the data they need: NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun recently provided data detailing declines in shadow inventory in all 50 states. RealtyTrac offers statistics and trends about foreclosure rates across the country. NAR provides a simple explanation of the way to calculate absorption rate, which is one of the most important trend indicators in local areas. In her session, CRS Senior Instructor Jackie Leavenworth, CRS, pointed out that agents often have to work with sellers who are playing not to lose money rather than playing to win what is best for them. To combat this phenomenon, she again encouraged REALTORS® to bring their clients in while planning a listing or re-pricing strategy. People believe what they author, so “he who plans the battle never battles the plan,” she said.

Sell-a-bration® Audio Files CRS thanks attendees for helping make Sell-a-bration® 2014 a big success! We hope that the educational opportunities and networking events at this year’s meeting helped you discover strategies to improve your business. If you missed a session, or if you just want to review what you learned, there’s good news: Audio recordings and slides for the Breakout Sessions, Keynote Sessions, and MegaPanels are now available — exclusively for Sell-a-bration® 2014 attendees. If you attended Sell-a-bration®, you can download the session recordings in five easy steps: 1. Go to 2. Log in to the website with your email address and password 3. Click on “My Education” 4. Click on the “Go” button next to EVENT 5. Click on the Sell-a-bration® 2014 “Course Materials” link

Top: Merznatalia/Thinkstock; Bottom: Somchaij/Thinkstock

Make Plans For SELL-A-BRATION ®


The Council will present Sell-a-bration® 2015 Feb. 16 – 17 at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. Visit for more information and to register online at the Early Bird rate of $549 for CRS Members and $599 for Non-members. Or call CRS Customer Service at 800.462.8841.

Joanie & Tchotchkes helps Realtors® massacre their promotional products challenges by delivering laser-targeted, response boosting items that help build brand and establish customer relationships, in a timely manner, at the manufacturer’s lowest published price... GUARANTEED. Call or Visit us online for a FREE Catalog


inside CRS

CRSs of the Year C

ongratulations to all the CRS of the Year winners for 2013. These individuals showed exceptional dedication to their chapters, contributed generously of their time and resources to their communities and operated successful businesses. Winners also must be members of their local boards or state associations for more than five years. Here are the 39 winners who were notified by press time.

Mary Jane Owen, CRS, Fairhope Realty Group, Alabama

Linda Sparrow, CRS, Coldwell Banker VIP Realty, Kentucky

Holli Woodward, CRS, Keller Williams, Oklahoma

Bradley MacLay, CRS, MacLay Real Estate, Arizona

Carolyn Grimsley, CRS, Realty Executives, Louisiana

Diane Crawford, CRS, Prudential Seaboard Properties, Oregon

Carrie Weikert, CRS, Keller Williams, Austin Area

Jan Brito, CRS, Long & Foster Real Estate, Maryland/DC

Wendy Knorr, CRS, Realty World, Pennsylvania

Anne Newkirk, CRS, Long & Foster REALTORS®, Central Virginia Rob Burnett, CRS, Key Realty, Colorado Joan DiVincenzo, CRS, Coldwell Banker, Connecticut Vicky Matson, CRS, Park Co. REALTORS®, Dakotas Vince Price, CRS, Coldwell Banker, Florida Diana Ayers, CRS, Ayers & Associates REALTORS®, Greater Houston Julie Meier, CRS, Prudential Locations, Hawaii Aloha Michael Johnston, CRS, The Home Specialists R.E. Co., Idaho Sue Strang, CRS, Sue Strang Realty Group, Illinois David Goebel, CRS, RE/MAX Oak Crest Realty, Indiana Nancy Henry, CRS, Henry Homes ‘n More, Iowa

40 | March/April 2014

Richard Waystack, CRS, Jack Conway Real Estate, Massachusetts Daniel Boman, CRS, Counselor Realty, Minnesota Susan Bice, CRS, Century 21 Midlands, Nebraska Deborah Madey, CRS, Peninsula Realty Group, New Jersey Delaware Carolyn Vatuone, CRS, La Tierra Properties, New Mexico Gay Rosen, CRS, Houlihan Lawrence, New York State Bobbie Breeden, CRS, Rise Real Estate, North Alabama Leigh Brown, CRS, RE/MAX Executive Realty, North Carolina Lois Cox, CRS, Prudential California Realty, Northern California Roberta Kayne, CRS, RE/MAX Affiliates, Ohio

Donna Clark, CRS, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, Sierra Nevada Beth Ross, CRS, Carolina Pines Realty, South Carolina Alex Shadpour, CRS, Zip Realty, Southern California Randy Worcester, CRS, Avalar Real Estate, Tennessee Philip Becker, CRS, Becker Properties, Texas Lisa Jungemann, CRS, Windermere Real Estate, Utah Thai-Hung Nguyen, CRS, Westgate Realty Group, Virginia Karen McKnight, CRS, Keller Williams Realty, Washington Patricia Tasker, CRS, Shorewest REALTORS®, Wisconsin



Pricing Strategies


RESAAS - The Real Estate Social Network™ is an enterprise social networking platform designed specifically for licensed real estate agents and REALTORS®. Market your listings, build network and referral groups, share your industry expertise and generate leads by answering questions from home buyers and sellers.

As Martha says, “It’s all in the presentation.” On this CD, Coach Jackie will provide a unique and relevant twist on pricing to increase your list to sale price ratio, decrease your days on market, and make more money in less time.

SendOutCards is an online greeting card and gift company that easily helps you send personalized, printed greeting cards and gifts to your clients and referrals. Keep in touch, say “Thank You” and stay top of mind with your clients and referrals.


www.sendoutcards. com/111931

Fellow CRS Reviews... “I used RESAAS to set up our brokerage portal, and they’ve been great to work with. My agents have a secret group on this platform and are able to share blog posts with industry professionals. We can also post from RESAAS directly to our other social media platforms.”

“I loved this set of CDs! I learned a lot in a short amount of time. Jackie’s class materials were included, so I could follow right along. I highly recommend this to anyone who has experienced the frustration of dealing with unrealistic sellers in today’s market.”

“SendOutCards is very easy to use and has a wide variety of choices. In this day and age of quick and easy, it is a delightful way of keeping in touch on a more personal basis.”

Joe Schutt, CRS

Sue Trautner, CRS

Lago Vista, Texas

Unit Realty Group

Product Review Committee Chair


Prudential PenFed Realty, LLC

Rise’ Johns, CRS Keller Williams – Lake Travis

San Antonio, Texas


To participate in the Reviewed Product Program, contact | 4 1

Personalize, Reproduce and Mail This Newsletter to Your Clients

CRS Webinars: Time Well Spent


hether live or recorded, CRS webinars are a great way for busy agents to keep on top of all the industry’s hot topics in 60 short minutes. The Council’s webinar program continues throughout the year. Be sure to check for the latest information and registration.

April 1

April 10

April 24

Creative Real Estate Financing 2014 and Beyond

Five Power Moves to Get Your Listing Found Online

This webinar will help you establish a strategy to help your buyers obtain financing in today’s market, with Marki Lemons-Ryal.

Matthew Rathbun, CRS, will present this skills enhancement session that covers five easy and free ways to make sure your listing is getting found on listing aggregators and Google searches.

Creating a Powerful and Consistent Online and Offline Marketing Presence Heather Ostrom will share her tips and tricks to make your online and printed materials recognizable and consistent.

Please visit for details.

RESOURCES • March/April 2014 Face Value

Water Pressure

Michelle Czekalski Bradley, CRS, Czekalski Real Estate, mbradley@

Sandy McCloud, CRS, Century 21 Fox Properties,

Claire Bisignano Chesnoff, CRS, Claire Properties,

Michael Lescher, CRS, RE/MAX Showcase,

Linda Rehwalt, CRS, RE/MAX Professionals,

Donna O. Smith, CRS, Prudential C. Dan Joyner REALTORS®, dsmith@cdanjoyner. com

School Rules

Game Changer

Nancy Hofmann, CRS, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, nhofmann@

Jim Larson, CRS, Keller Williams Realty Premier Properties,

Linda Domis, CRS, Keller Williams Realty,

Julia Krill, CRS, of Windermere Real Estate, Jon Loquist, CRS, Ruhl & Ruhl REALTORS®, JonLoquist@ruhlhomes. com

42 | March/April 2014

Karen Eddinger, CRS, RE/MAX On The Lake,

Patti Pacheco, CRS, Red Arrow Real Estate,


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

For a complete step-by-step guide to personalizing and ­reproducing the YOUR HOME newsletter, visit yourhomenewsletter.






H O M E O W N E R S ,



2014 MA R/A P R


The Green Mile N

ew light bulbs? Check. Thermostat lowered? Check. You’re working to be more energy-efficient, but how will you be green when it’s time to renovate or refresh your home? Learn what materials are good for the Earth — and even your health — with tips from Tree Hugger and the Environmental Protection Agency.



pring is prime time for itchy, watery eyes and neverending sniffles. Do you or someone in your house have allergies? Get relief — in every room — with tips from the Mayo Clinic on how to allergy-proof your house. Bedroom: Choose bedding that is made of synthetic materials, and wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets in warm water at least once a week. Comforters should be cleaned, too. While your laundry is in the wash, vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Keep the windows closed during pollen season, and turn on the air conditioning. Clean mold and condensation from the frames and sills. Washable curtains made of cotton or synthetic fabric are best. Bathroom: Watch out for moisture and mold. Avoid carpet and wallpaper, and dry the tub after use.

Right: Dreamstime

Kitchen: Make sure there’s a vented exhaust fan above the stovetop hood to take out cooking fumes and reduce moisture. Keep up on dishes and clear the fridge of spoiled food regularly. Cleaning cabinets and counters will also go a long way toward keeping your allergies in check.

Paint Plus: Pick paint low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contain hazardous chemicals and are found in many household products. The standard for low-VOC is fewer than 250 grams per liter, and zero-VOC labels must have fewer than 5 grams per liter. Several brands offer a variety of colors and finishes, including Behr Premium Plus Enamel Low Luster, Benjamin Moore Natura, Old-Fashioned Milk Paint, YOLO Colorhouse and Sherwin-Williams Harmony. Floor Cure: Hardwood might last longer than carpet, which can contribute to poor air quality and end up in landfills. Find lumber salvaged from construction and renovation sites through online marketplaces such as and Tile can be another green option (just use low-VOC adhesives and sealants). Bamboo is popular, too, but the shipping distance doesn’t make it the most sustainable choice. Clean Scene: Look for cleaning products with labels that include “nontoxic,” “biodegradable” and “made from renewable resources.” Or, try making your own. Vinegar and baking soda can be mixed with warm water to create an all-purpose cleaner. There are green housecleaning services, too.

fast fact »


16.9 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with hay fever in the past year. Source: CDC

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

MOW TIME D George Doyle/Getty Images

on’t let the grass grow under your feet this season. For a healthylooking yard, now’s the time to get started. Take a page from HGTV’s lawn care handbook with these tips. First, clear the weeds and roots and rototill 6 inches below ground. This will help prepare the area to include equal parts loam, sand and topsoil. During this time, create a slight slope to help with drainage. If sod is not in your budget, the next step is to hand-seed or hydroseed (a technique that spreads the seeds evenly).

Say Yes to CRS




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 3 percent in the nation. Contact a CRS today.



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

Choose the grass seed that is right for your climate and how you will use the lawn. When it’s time to cut the grass, set the mower to the highest notch that only mows the top third. This helps with root development and prevents the ground from drying out too quickly. Then, get out the hose. If you just seeded, water every day for five to 10 minutes. After new grass comes up, water once a day for 15 to 20 minutes. Consider your soil type to figure out how much. Twice a year, in spring and fall, fertilize.

In 2013 Americans planned to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green (84 percent), decorating their home or office (23.3 percent) and making a special dinner (34.6 percent). Source: National Retail Federation

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 March 25 – June 11, 2014. For more up-to-date listings, visit CRS 103 — Mastering Positive Change in Today’s World APRIL 7 LA VISTA, NEB.

CRS 201 — Listing Strategies for the Residential Specialist

CRS 204 — Buying and Selling Income Properties



Texas Lone Star CRS Chapter 409.201.5264 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS

Northern Wasatch Association of REALTORS® 801.476.4216 Instructor: Doug Richards, CRS


MAY 1 – 2 CAPE MAY, N.J.

South Metro Denver Association of REALTORS® 303.797.3700 Instructor: Rich Sands, CRS

New Jersey/Delaware CRS Chapter 855.696.5277 Instructor: Dale Carlton, CRS


CRS 205 — Financing and Tax Advantages for Agents and Their Clients

Birmingham Association of REALTORS® 205.871.1911 Instructor: Rich Sands, CRS

APRIL 23 – 24 ANCHORAGE, ALASKA Alaska CRS Chapter 907.561.2338 Instructor: Doug Richards, CRS

Nebraska CRS Chapter 800.777.5231 Instructor: Chuck Bode, CRS

CRS 202 — Effective Buyer Sales Strategies



Austin Board of REALTORS® 512.454.7636 Instructor: Mark Given, CRS

CRS 111 — Short Sales and Foreclosures: Protecting Your Clients’ Interests APRIL 22 MERRILLVILLE, IND. Indiana CRS Chapter 800.681.8056 Instructor: LeRoy Houser, CRS


Massachusetts CRS Chapter 781.839.5506 Instructor: Ed Hatch, CRS Association of REALTORS School 610.560.4800 Instructor: Gee Dunsten, CRS

Lancaster County Association of REALTORS® 717.569.5031 Instructor: Gee Dunsten, CRS

Iowa Association of REALTORS® 800.532.1515 x1 Instructor: Pat Zaby, CRS

Reno/Sparks Association of REALTORS® 775.823.8800 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS




APRIL 15 – 16 RENO, NEV.

CRS 200 — Business Planning and Marketing for the Residential Specialist Washington CRS Chapter 866.556.5277 Instructor: Dale Carlton, CRS

Ann Arbor Area Board of REALTORS® 734.761.7340 Instructor: Mark Porter, CRS






New York State Association of REALTORS® 800.239.4432 x219 Instructor: Gee Dunsten, CRS

MAY 6 – 7 BATON ROUGE, LA. Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS® 225.761.2000 Instructor: Pat Zaby, CRS

Maryland/DC CRS Chapter 410.515.5503 Instructor: Jackie Leavenworth, CRS Southeast Valley Regional Association of REALTORS 480.833.7510 Instructor: Chandra Hall, CRS


JUNE 11 – 12 CHERRY HILL, N.J. New Jersey/Delaware CRS Chapter 855.696.5277 Instructor: Chandra Hall, CRS

CRS 206 — Technologies to Advance Your Business

CRS 210 — Building an Exceptional Customer Service Referral Business APRIL 28 – 29 AUSTIN, TEXAS Austin Board of REALTORS® 512.454.7636 Instructor: Mark Given, CRS

MAY 21 – 22 MEDFORD, ORE. Rogue Valley Association of REALTORS® 541.770.7060 Instructor: Frank Serio, CRS Note: Instructors listed on all courses are subject to change. | 4 5


Purchase additional city listings and banner ads to increase your exposure in the number one place where CRS Designees find their referrals — the FIND A CRS Directory at

ADDITIONAL CITY LISTINGS – $25 As a CRS Designee, you get one complimentary listing in your office city, but you can dramatically increase your odds of being found in the online directory by ordering additional city listings for $25 each.

BANNER ADS – $250 Be a featured agent for a specific city search with a banner ad that links to your website. Create and upload your own banner for $250 or choose from a number of pre-designed ads for an additional $50. If more than one designee purchases a banner ad in the same city, the ads will rotate, so each designee receives equal exposure.

SECURE YOUR SPACE NOW! Log into your CRS account at and select the blue “Membership” tab. In the right sidebar, select the link to “Place Your Online Directory Order Today.” For questions, call Customer Service at 800.462.8841 or email us at

All online directory listings and banner ads will run for one year from the date they are posted. You will receive a reminder email when your additional city listing or banner ad is ready for renewal.



EAST COAST Your referral source for the greater




Serving Northern Virginia and the Dulles Tech corridor

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

Re/Max Premier offices in

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

Ashburn, Fairfax and Purcellville Direct: 703-999-6535 Office: 703-318-0067




Marie Pimm,


Realtor—CRS, CIPS, e-PRO, GRI

(239) 770-3383



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

Just call Joe Stella at GLC: 847.205.3127 | 4 7

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

virtual reality Q U ESTIO N : What have your experiences been working with a virtual assistant (VA)?

IN OUR EXPERIEN C E . . . “I HAVE an SEO and website maintenance VA. Love her! It’s so nice to send an email and have my request managed within hours.” Kim Ward, CRS Horizon Real Estate

“I HAVE had a virtual assistant from the Philippines for nine months. I love it! I use my VA for social media marketing and also for complex video presentations. He knows the MLS and assists me in writing a blog.”

“I TRIED in the past using a VA for transaction coordinator. It did not work for me. I still had to do most of the negotiating of repairs and problem solving.”

Gary Lanham, CRS

Lane Mabray, CRS Houston

Lanham & Associates Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

in active discussions like this at the Council of Residential Specialists’ » » » » » PLinkedIn articipatepage at 48 | March/April 2014








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The Residential Specialist, March/April 2014  

The March/April 2014 issue of the CRS magazine, The Residential Specialist

The Residential Specialist, March/April 2014  

The March/April 2014 issue of the CRS magazine, The Residential Specialist