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Housing Expos Aim to Educate

January 1, 2010

Through the gloom of default notices, short sales, and foreclosures, there is also the light of first-time homebuyers and investors who are hungry for useful advice and practical tips. And who better to bring this information to consumers than REALTOR® associations, says Philip Tedesco, CEO of the Tucson Association of REALTORS®.

“Associations that position themselves and their members as a resource for the community are the ones that are going to remain relevant and successful,” say Tedesco, who developed his first housing expo in 2007 at the Santa Cruz County Association of REALTORS®.

There’s little doubt that consumers who understand mortgages, real estate contracts, wealth building, and the true cost of homeownership make better homeowners. A fact that makes housing expos, or home fairs, an excellent opportunity for REALTORS® and affiliates—such as, mortgage brokers, banks, and others—to bring their knowledge and expertise to their communities.

Home fairs may be viewed as especially necessary today as a vehicle to dispell pessimism about homebuying. In its marketing material, the 2010 Southern California Home Buyer’s Fair (sponsored by the California Association of REALTORS®) says its mission is to “address and alleviate fears about the current real estate market through educational how-to seminars on the home buying process.” A record crowd of more than 7,200 potential homebuyers are expected to attend the event in March. The association has even ramped up its event marketing with ads on backs and sides of metro buses and bus shelters, according to Anne Framroze, communications director.

To address today’s consumer information needs, the Santa Cruz County Association of REALTORS® has added new seminar content to its Housing Expo including foreclosure and fraud avoidance. By offering this type of information—in conjunction with non-profit housing counselors—county officials and housing agencies see the REALTOR® association as a leader in providing free education to the public, particularly in a time of need, says Tedesco. “We are helping people on the verge of losing their investment with the contacts and information they need to stay in their homes, and we teach people about avoiding illegal scams.”

When Tedesco moved from Santa Cruz to the San Mateo County Association of REALTORS®, he created a housing expo in that California county as well drawing almost 600 attendees in 2009. San Mateo’s 2010 Housing Expo is in a larger facility to accommodate an anticipated higher turnout. New topics include “home-buying 2.0” for the consumer who has done a fair amount of Internet research, but still needs to learn homebuying specifics. Expanded expo marketing efforts include blogging and promotions on social media tools, such as Facebook.

Now in its seventh year, the Home Buyers’ Expo, sponsored by the Northeast Florida Association of REALTORS®, draws about 1,500 people. Every year the session topics change to reflect current consumer need. “When the market really started tanking, we started seminars on short sales and foreclosures,” says Melanie Green, communications director. New for this year’s expo in April are sessions for home sellers, such as staging, and sessions explaining the new homebuyer tax credit. “A few years ago we had green building, but interest in that has dropped off,” notes Green.

REALTOR® associations of all sizes bring crucial information to their communities with the help of grants through the National Association of REALTORS®’ Housing Opportunity Fund. Last year the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® was awarded $3,000 toward a series of free homebuyer training courses. The Maryland Association of REALTORS® will use its $2,500 grant to support homeownership fairs and events for several local associations in 2010 and 2011.

NAR receives about 50 grant applications a year, and a quarter of those are for homebuyer fairs, according to Wendy Penn, NAR’s housing opportunity program representative. However, in the last round of grant applications in October, Penn noticed fewer were for homebuyer fairs and foreclosure avoidance fairs and more were for community symposiums and forums to discuss local housing needs. Another trend Penn sees from housing grant applications is associations targeting specific workforce segments, such as city employees or first responders, with their housing education efforts. “Although these homebuyer fairs are nearly always for first-time home buyers, and still tend to be open to the public, there’s special marketing to these groups,” says Penn.

Today’s housing expos cover broad and diverse housing education needs. But equally important, “they provide an invaluable community outreach and public relations opportunity for your association,” notes Tedesco. “Through our housing expos, we’ve gained positive media coverage, stronger ties with nonprofit housing agencies and government officials. And the members appreciate the marketing opportunities.”

Get to Know the Realtors Property Resource™

The Realtors Property Resource™ (RPR™) is expected to be available through select MLSs by May 1. This massive property data project, which will contain information on more than 140 million properties across the country, has been the buzz of the industry since it was unveiled at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in November.

To help AEs understand what the RPR™ is and how to explain it to their members, an industry relations team has been crisscrossing the country presenting demonstrations of the RPR™ front-end, and discussing plans for MLS participation in the RPR™ launch later this year. In addition, the Realtors Property Resources, LLC, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, launched a blog (http://blog.narrpr.com) in January containing a 28-minute demo video, posts and comments from visitors, a lengthy FAQ section, and a subscription newsletter.

The project will launch in beta testing in multiple markets in March and according to Jeff Young, senior vice president of operations, there are still opportunities for input from NAR stakeholders including MLSs, commercial information exchanges, association leaders, and members from across the country.

“The response to the beta testing and RPR™ User Advisory Council has been very positive,” notes Young. “The RPR™ is a very fluid project and is likely to gain even more support as the potential of the RPR™ system is seen by more and more members.”
For more information on the history of the project and the latest developments, visit http://blog.narrpr.com.

NAR’s 2010 Member Reference Guide; Hurry, March 5 Deadline

Every year, hundreds of REALTOR® associations take advantage of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ program enabling them to add their state or local benefits information to the annual Member Reference Guides. Free again this year as part of the Right Tools, Right Now initiative, all associations can include a message that prints on the front inside flap of the guides, which mail to their primary renewing members. Go online and follow the easy three-step process: Log in and verify contact information; input and proof the approximately 600-word message as you would like it to appear; and submit. Fee-based copy writing services are available. The site is open through the March 5 deadline and has been updated to be more user-friendly. Start the process at www.customnarguide.com, or contact Rebecca Daly at rdaly@realtors.org.

AEs Make “Most Influential Real Estate Leaders” List

Three REALTOR® association chief executives are among the most important people in real estate, according to Inman News’ “100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders: 2009” released in December. Annually compiled, the list reflects the “industry’s best and brightest, who have risen to the challenge posed by a battered economy and housing hardships on an immense scale,” the news service says.

Dale Stinton, CEO of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, was recognized for his role in Second Century Ventures, a venture capital fund that NAR established to boost real estate technology innovation. Stinton also launched the Right Tools, Right Now program, which offers many NAR services and products for free in addition to making essential services to REALTORS® more affordable.

Bob Hale, CEO and president of the Houston Association of REALTORS®, was recognized for his active support of technological innovation within the association and its Multiple Listing Service, including a new tool that allows homebuyers and homesellers to rate their REALTORS®. Hale is also involved in
MLSCloud.com, a group of public real estate search sites operated by -REALTOR® associations across the country.
Joel Singer, EVP, California Association of REALTORS®, was recognized for helping create Real Estate Business Services Inc., a for-profit subsidiary of the association that produces and distributes real estate transaction technology.

Also making the top 100 list this year were NAR executives Mark Lesswing (chief technology officer) and Lawrence Yun (chief economist), as well as 2009 NAR President Charles McMillan.

NAR’s Campaign of Optimism

To carry forward NAR President Vicki Cox Golder’s “On the Rise” theme for 2010, NAR is launching a social media campaign for members and associations, titled “Heart of the Market.”

The campaign, to debut early this spring, is twofold: It serves as a reminder that REALTORS® are at the center of the real estate transaction—essentially the “heart” behind this very personal transaction—and also explores how REALTORS® truly make a difference in people’s lives by simply doing what they love to do.

Along the lines of the highly successful “Face of Real Estate” campaign two years ago, members will be asked to actively participate in the campaign. -REALTORS® are encouraged t0 post text responses and stories answering the question: Why do you LOVE being a REALTOR®? to TheHeartofTheMarket.com. Beginning in April, members can go online to tell us why they do their job, how the -REALTOR® family has helped them advance their career, and why they’ll keep doing what they do best—helping clients achieve the American Dream. The messages will be used in upcoming NAR marketing materials, including NAR-TV, and for members to post on their Web pages and social -media sites for consumers to view.

To further encourage participation, contributing members who provide their name and address will receive an “I Love being a REALTOR®” pin.

NAR will provide state and local REALTOR® associations with a variety of marketing materials to encourage member involvement in this movement. Additionally, prizes will be awarded to the associations that have the most member participation in the campaign. Look for more details on the contest and how you can participate in the “Heart of the Market” program this spring.

HouseLogic.com to Make Public Launch

HouseLogic.com, NAR’s new Web site for consumers, is set to launch with a public marketing campaign in February. The site, which debuted to members in November, is an easy-to-use resource for homeowners on the information they need to protect, maintain and enhance the value of their home. It’s also a resource for REALTORS®.
Members can log in (with their NRDS ID) to www.houselogic.com/members and find free, ready-to-use content for their own Web sites, blogs, and newsletters. Topics include: Good questions to ask before hiring a contractor; When to make an insurance claim and when to skip it; and How to plant trees in the right spot. The site also provides an opportunity for home owners and REALTORS® to speak together to federal legislators on public policy issues of common interest.

AE Essential Skills Revised

If you’re a savvy AE, you already know about NAR’s “AE Competencies and Body of Knowledge” document—the list of what every REALTOR® AE needs to know to effectively run an association. But as markets shift, technologies advance, and member demands evolve, what you need to know changes. With new updates, now is the perfect time to take another look at this powerful tool.

Last year, a workgroup of your fellow AEs updated the competencies, while at the same time the companion tool, the REALTOR® Association Models Planning Tool, was also revised. The competencies focus on an AE’s professional growth, while the models (administrative, management, and leadership) focus on an association’s growth, including roles for both staff and volunteer leaders. More information on the new and improved models tool will be available at the 2010 AE Institute and on REALTOR.org this spring.
The revised competencies feature a new focus on the practical application of essential skills that association AEs are now capable of with advancing technology. The competencies document is useful in determining what new training or professional development would enable you to reach your full potential as an AE.

This document is used as the basis for all Association Executives Committee program planning and the REALTORS® association Certified Executive (RCE) exam. AEI attendees will receive a copy of the revised AE competencies document in their registration packets. It is also available online at -REALTOR.org/association_executives
/ae_subcommittees/aecomp.

Schulte Honored with Community Leadership Award

“I don’t see myself as doing anything special,” says Kathleen Schulte, this year’s recipient of the Terry McDermott Community Leadership Award. Yet the long list of charity work and community programs she dedicates herself to is a testament to her exceptional character.

Schulte, the CEO of the Northwest Montana Association of -REALTORS® and its MLS, has shared her home with more than 40 abused and neglected teenage girls, served as a volunteer grievance counselor for her church, helped local food bank’s canned food drive, served on the board of a homeless shelter, and developed a puppet program for preschoolers to teach them how to get along with others. “Having watched my parents do volunteer work for the school, hospital, and church, I thought everyone did volunteer work,” she says.
Much of her expertise in caring for the abused and grieving comes from her university degree in social psychology and early career work with the state department of social services, but the compassion and drive come from her faith and her family, she says.
“There is an old proverb that states, ‘A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark,’” Schulte says. Her mark of caring and empathy has been left on hundreds, and she’s not done.

Schulte plans to retire from the REALTORS® association this summer but will continue charity work with her church (helping build a new Web site) in addition to helping a school on a -local Native American reservation. “I know that I still have to earn my eternal ticket and have much more work to do,” she says.

“As AEs around the country, the contributions you all make improve the communities you live and work in, and I am humbled to have been one of you for so long,” Schulte says. “I believe that the work we do with our members is background work helping to put families in homes and improving lives.”

Schulte will be formally recognized in April at the 2010 AE Institute in Quebec, Canada. She can be reached at kathyschulte@schultemahoney.com.

Dancing with the REALTORS®

Inspired by the popular Dancing with the Stars television show, dozens of REALTORS® from the Eastern Middlesex Association of REALTORS® (Mass.) compete in the “Dancing with the -REALTORS®” -annual charity event. This year’s event, held Jan. 18, -attracted more than 500 people and raised $125,000 for Habitat for Humanity. Although -REALTOR® volunteers got a discount on their ball-room dancing lessons and trained with professional dancers, they were responsible for their own costumes, which can be very theatrical. The event is now held in -several other Massachusetts -associations. For more details, contact Carol M. Shapiro, RCE, CEO, Eastern Middlesex Association of -REALTORS®, 781/944-6006.

36 Program Ideas to Revolutionize Your Association

The challenge was issued: Develop an innovative, fresh, exciting program to advance REALTOR® association member service.

Ideas poured in to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Game Changers Challenge from associations of all sizes. In November, 14 were selected to receive full funding from NAR for their program and a coach to help them get started. An additional 22 associations will receive funding to begin implementing their ideas.

But the winners are not just the 36 associations (listed with their programs online at REALTOR.org/gamechangers). All REALTOR® associations can benefit from this pool of program initiatives, ranging from technology solutions, to education, to community awareness.

REALTOR® AE magazine will follow these associations as they implement their programs. Throughout 2010 and 2011, we’ll feature their successes and hurdles with tips on how associations of all sizes across the country can tailor these innovative programs to their needs.

“In these challenging times, NAR’s leadership strives to assist its members with financial resources to help develop new programs that will ultimately enhance and improve their members’ skills,” saysNAR CEO Dale Stinton. “Investing in our members today will provide a return that will benefit the real estate industry and the American homebuyer.”

Time to Expand Your Land Education

Last fall, NAR amended Article 11 of the Code of Ethics to include land as a real estate discipline that requires specialized expertise. Article 11 explains that REALTORS® should not provide specialized professional services concerning a type of property or service that is outside their field of competence—unless they either engage the assistance of someone who is competent in a specific discipline, or fully disclose to the client that they do not possess expertise in a particular area. The REALTORS® Land Institute (www.rliland.com) partners with state and local associations to deliver a 10-course curriculum through its Land U program. Courses are available for the classroom, online through REALTORS® University, and through “hybrid” programs that combine independent study with instructor teleconferences. Contact Michele Cohen (mcohen@realtors.org, 312/329-8837) for more on providing land education to your members.

Association Investment Program Yields Returns

In the spring of 2007, when the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® launched a program to help associations invest their swelling reserve funds, no one could have known that the economic collapse was only a year away.

But for associations that participated in NAR’s Association Investment Program with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, the timing was perfect. They received professional advice on securing funds for the future that helped them better protect their assets in a turbulent financial market.

The AIP provides associations of all sizes access to full-service financial professionals who specialize in investing for nonprofit organizations.

“The AIP has been very successful for REALTOR® associations despite the volatility in the stock and bond market,” says Jim Phillips, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney senior investment management consultant. In fact, many associations that made adjustments to their investment portfolios in the past 12 to 18 months were able to profit from the lows in the bond market, he says.

“Our returns have been much better than we had even hoped for, especially given the economic climate in 2009,” says Ed Berry, EVP, Bryan-College Station Regional Association of REALTORS®, Texas.

Because the program is for long-term reserves, not daily cash flow, most associations have had a conservative strategy, says Phillips. Yet, in the last year he has advised some associations to decrease their long-term reserves to maintain sufficient liquidity for day-to-day operations.

Access to ongoing professional investment advice has turned out to be the key to AIP’s success. Phillips says the portfolio monitoring and 800-number for associations have been the most popular features of the program lately. And many AEs who are not invested in the program are also calling for advice.

“[The AIP] was the first investment our association has made that was not a CD,” says Karen Gehle, CEO, Kansas Association of REALTORS®. “Our directors have been very pleased with the returns and how responsive the advisors are to our questions and needs.”
Just as important as a savvy portfolio strategy, a comprehensive investment policy statement is critical to ensure that associations weather both economic flux and transitioning volunteer leadership, according to Phillips. “We’ve helped associations establish investment policy that helps them achieve continuity in the long term.” The AIP program enables associations to maintain their individual investment portfolios, but take advantage of low service fees that are based on the combined invested assets (currently more than $10 million) of REALTOR® associations at the local, state, and national level.
Is now a good time to start a long-term investment program? “Even if associations do not have the surplus that they may have had a few years ago,” says Michael Engel, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney senior investment management consultant, “setting the policy and strategy foundation now will enable them to benefit in the future.”

For more on AIP, visit http://fa.smithbarney.com/engelphillips. AIP investment advisors are available to meet with AEs during the consulting corner time slots at the AE Institute in Canada.

2010 Member Orientation & Communications Toolkit

By now, all associations should have received their 2010 Member Orientation & Communications Toolkit from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. The kit includes the tools associations need to help them welcome new members into the REALTOR® family at orientation and beyond. Again this year, the box and its color-coded tabs can be used to file information from NAR throughout the year, making it easy for associations to reference and share member communications.

The 2010 kit contains, among other items: updated New Member Orientation guidelines, REALTOR® pins for new members, an updated 2010 New Member Orientation DVD, and a New Member Programs & Services CD-ROM. All toolkit materials, plus an updated marketing calendar, links to Right Tools, Right Now promotional materials, and more, are also available online at REALTOR.org/aemembertoolkit.

Meet the New RCEs

These 28 Realtor® association executives earned their RCE (Realtor® association Certified Executive) designation after an extensive course of study and exam in November.

RCE is the only professional designation designed specifically for Realtor® association executives. The RCE designation exemplifies goal-oriented AEs with drive, experience and commitment to professional growth. Candidates earn the designation by accumulating points through an experience and education based application form and a comprehensive written exam. For more on the RCE designation, visit REALTOR.org/RCE.

Mike Barr, RCE, CAE, Greensboro Regional Realtors® Association, N.C.
Casie Conlon, RCE, New Jersey Association of Realtors®
Mike Valerino, RCE, Cleveland Area Board of Realtors®, Ohio.
Tyrone Adams, RCE, CAE, Colorado Association of Realtors®
Nicole Banbor, RCE, Middlesex County Assoc. of Realtors®, N.J.
Sherri Baumeister, RCE, Missouri Association of Realtors®
James Bindschadler, RCE, Realtors® Association of Metro. Pittsburgh, Pa.
Shannon Bubel, RCE, Granbury Association of Realtors®, Texas
Tracey Douglas, RCE, North Metro Realtors® Association, Minn.
Kris Erickson, RCE, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF Realtors®, Ill.
Heidi Henning, RCE, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF Realtors®, Ill.
Maranda Herrington, RCE, Duluth Area Association of Realtors®, Minn.
Vicky Kammeraad,RCE, Beverly Hills/Gr. Los Angeles Assoc. of Realtors®
Charles Kasky, RCE, Maryland Association of Realtors®
John Leonardi, RCE, Buffalo Niagara Assoc. of Realtors®, N.Y.
Patricia Manning, RCE, Eugene Association of Realtors®, Ore.
April Miller, RCE, Reno Sparks Association of Realtors®, Nev.
Robert Peirce, RCE, Scottsdale Area Assoc. of Realtors®, Ariz.
Tess Pickerel, RCE, Pueblo Association of Realtors®, Colo.
Kimberly Pontius, RCE, Traverse City Association of Realtors®, Mich.
Tia Robbin, RCE, NW Montana Association of Realtors®
Brenda Roney, RCE, Carteret Co. Association of Realtors®, N.C.
Emily Schwartz, RCE, Citrus Valley Association of Realtors®, Calif.
Ben Scranton, RCE, Realtors® Association of Pioneer Valley, Mass.
Maggie Thomas, RCE, Colorado Association of Realtors®
Teresa Tilton, RCE, New Jersey Association of Realtors®
Thomas Wissel, RCE, Ocean Co. Board of Realtors®, N.J.
Sally Young, RCE, Nevada Association of Realtors®