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REALTOR® Associations to Help Rebuild a Better Louisiana

January 1, 2009

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many communities in Louisiana found themselves taking a good, hard look at how they would rebuild and grow.

A nonprofit planning firm in Louisiana, the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX), proposed developing model growth-management guide to help Louisiana communities encourage development that revitalizes neighborhoods, protects farmland and open space, keeps housing affordable, and provides predictable future development.

The Louisiana Association of REALTORS® jumped on board the project and rallied local associations across the state. The local associations endorsed the idea of bringing more structure to the land use decisions made in their communities and set out to engage their local decision makers. The project was big enough that the associations collectively sought a large Smart Growth Action Grant from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR’s grant money helped pay for the development of the Louisiana Land Use Toolkit and a ten-city road show to present the kit to local officials, planning staff, and REALTORS®.

This past spring, the CPEX crew rolled around the state to deliver the toolkit to communities, which featured the NAR and Louisiana association logos prominently. The local REALTOR® association in each location helped bring out key community players. In all, more than 800 people attended the 10 workshops. Nearly 25 percent of those were -REALTORS®, who received CE credit for attending the three-hour workshop.

At the outset of each workshop, the local AE or board president spoke a few words about why the REALTORS® were supporting this effort. As a result, REALTORS® earned “a place at the table” to contribute their opinions and ideas before the land use rules are passed, says Mary Jane Bauer, RCE, e-PRO, CEO of the REALTOR® Association of Acadiana. “The Land Use Toolkit Workshop was a catalyst for our community to take our land use master plans off the shelf and begin implementation.”

The Louisiana Association of REALTORS® expects to launch a follow-up smart-growth planning program in 2010.

Access the Louisiana Land Use Toolkit, with interactive exercises, a code summary, and handouts, online at www.landusetoolkit.com.

“Membership Pays” Campaign
Like most associations, the McHenry County Association of REALTORS®, Ill., has seen its membership numbers drop over the past year. But they weren’t resigned to sit back and watch members walk away. Instead, the association’s PR Committee launched the “Membership Pays” campaign to promote the value of membership via a 10-point list of the greatest values (right).

“We smack them in the face with these 10 images every time they come into our office, go to the Web site, need a form, or come for training,” notes association CEO Jim Haisler, RCE, e-PRO. The graphical top 10, which is printed on posters, postcards, and Web banners, is beginning to yield results. “We’ve actually heard ‘thank you’ from some members for all we do for them! How incredible is that?”

Calif. Offers Member Services via iPhone, BlackBerry

The California Association of REALTORS®’ now offers members a way to track market data for 21 regions in the state on their -iPhones and iTouch Web-enabled mobile devices.

My C.A.R. is a free mobile application (also available for BlackBerry and other devices) that offers members current loan information, highlights from CAR’s Market Matters newsletter, and other association resources including license renewal and continuing education courses, hot-item news alerts, and links to information that may be of interest to CAR directors. Members first download the application to their phone, then launch the “Members Only” features with an access code. For more, visit www.car.org/tools/mycar/#.

Using YouTube to Promote Local Real Estate

In an innovative YouTube.com campaign, the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®, has posted seven comical commercials aimed at promoting now as the best time to buy a home in the state.
The public education campaign, called Get the REAL Story®, is an effort to deliver a positive market outlook to a wide audience of young, first-time buyers.

“We had an overwhelming response of over 600 hits overnight,” says association Communication Director Amanda J. Sacco, RCE, e-PRO.

Each video is based on a different reason to take advantage of the great opportunities available in New Jersey’s real estate market. “We are encouraging our members to spread their messages by posting the link to the Get the REAL Story® YouTube channel or their favorite Get the REAL Story® video on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds,” says Sacco.

Although the association hired an outside production company to handle everything from finding the actors to filming and editing, “a lot of the ideas came from our communications committee,” notes Sacco. All told, the eight videos cost nearly $50,000. YouTube pages, on the other hand, are free, including customized addresses, such as New Jersey’s www.YouTube.com/RealStoryNJ.

Also taking advantage of the popularity of YouTube, the Washington REALTORS® Association launched four homeowner education videos at its YouTube page (www.youtube.com/user/wahomeowners) that received 2,060 views in just two days. The videos are also posted on the association’s homebuyer and homeowner public Web site, WaHomeowners.com. Each video follows the adventures of Bob and Sally as they learn about mortgages, interest rates, closing costs, and the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit.

Stinton Named a Top Association CEO
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® CEO Dale Stinton has been named one of the country’s top association CEOs by CEO Update magazine. Stinton earned his place on the list, which was reported in the magazine’s July issue, by “uniting a diverse organization and reacting well ahead of the slumping housing market with programs, education, and online resources—including the multi-million dollar campaign ‘Right Tools, Right Now’—to help -REALTORS® confront industry challenges.” NAR’s Right Tools, Right Now campaign, which launched this year in response to the softening economy, provides REALTORS® with more than 300 NAR products, research reports, services, education courses, and tools for free or at reduced prices.

This is the first Top CEOs list compiled by CEO Update, and the selection process for these finalists included input from their peers—hundreds of CEOs were asked—as well as executive recruiters and “CEO Update” staff. CEO Update identified its top CEO picks by taking into account leadership skills, legislative success, membership excellence (in areas such as education and certification), and the leaders’ ability to build coalitions.

Among the other 42 CEOs honored were National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney, Associated General Contractors CEO Steve Sandherr, and National Retail Federation President and CEO Tracy Mullin.

Minnesota Associations to Merge

The Southern Twin Cities Association of -REALTORS® (STCAR) and the St. Paul Area Association of REALTORS® (SPAAR) will merge by the end of this year, according to a joint association press —release. The new organization, yet to be named, will continue to provide current services at its two existing locations but will use savings from streamlining of operations to create and expand other services. The combined associations will serve more than 5,900 members in the metro area.

“We are two very strong associations that are coming together to create an even stronger resource for REALTORS® in this marketplace,” says Tony Maurer, 2009 president of STCAR.

The new organization will have a stronger and more coordinated public affairs presence across the metro area, provide additional education opportunities and enhanced communications tools, and make a larger network of contacts available to members.

A transition team consisting of representatives from both organizations has been working on the merger plan for several months. The group is now drafting a final plan, which will require approval from each association’s board of directors. Once the plan receives board approval, the memberships will vote on the plan and individuals from both SPAAR and STCAR will be selected to serve on a new board of directors. To date, the plan calls for St. Paul EVP Keith Holm to serve as CEO through the first year of the merger and for Ron Covert, CEO of the Southern Twin Cities, to be the chief operating officer.

NAR and Hewlett-Packard Company have come together under the REALTOR Benefits® Program to provide REALTORS® with special savings on HP’s business product line.

For more, visit http://www.hp.com/go/NAR1.

Contributing to Communities: The Big Fix in Charlotte

More than 700 REALTORS® in North Carolina traded BlackBerrys for hammers for one day to make a lasting impression in the lives of 33 homeowners. The Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association’s first REALTORS® Care Day, held in April, was an all-day home-repair project to help those with critical home-maintenance needs.
With the help of a NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® $5,000 grant and community sponsors, the CRRA Housing Opportunity Foundation equipped members with tools and supplies to replace and repair roofs and gutters, paint entire exteriors, and perform a host of exterior repairs for homeowners who were identified by regional Habitat for Humanity chapters and other community organizations.

“As housing industry professionals, REALTORS® are keenly aware that many community members lack the physical ability or financial resources to maintain and sustain their homes,” says Donna Anderson, Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association and Carolina Multiple Listing Services Inc. president. Through REALTORS® Care Day the association was able to embrace its collective power and make a real difference in the community.

Details about the 2010 REALTORS® Care Day will be available soon at http://www.Realtorscareday.com.

In Memoriam: After an extended illness, Mary Lou Whitham, RCE, former executive officer of the Greater Tyler Association of REALTORS®, Texas (1991-2008), died June 27. She will be greatly missed by the REALTOR® family.

French Listing Exchange Deal Includes Referral Fees

In a deal that signals growth in the international real estate industry, France has opened its national real estate listings to REALTORS® in the United States.

The French association of real estate professionals, the Federation Nationale de l’Immobilier, has contracted to translate all French real estate listings into English and make them available for REALTORS® in the United States to market on their own Web sites.

An added incentive for -REALTORS® to market Parisian villas alongside their local ranch houses and condos is a unique referral fee agreement. REALTORS® will earn referral fees on the sale of French property that results from a buyer clicking on a widget embedded into the REALTORS®’ Web site. Referral fee agreements between the international property professionals are supported by the protocols of the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations (ICREA). Both the National Association of -REALTORS® and the Federation Nationale de l’Immobilier are ICREA members.

In trade, French real estate professionals will also be marketing American properties and receiving referral fees from REALTORS® in the U.S. The American properties involved are from those MLSs that have joined the Global Listing Exchange, a property translation platform created by Camden, S.C.-based Immobel, that includes -REALTOR® organizations in Florida, California, Las -Vegas, and Washington, D.C., totaling more than 300,000 listings.

The REALTOR® Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches and the Sarasota Association of -REALTORS®, Fla., participated in a pilot program that offered translated Parisian listings through Immobel’s Global Listing Exchange, while Parisian brokers marketed Miami and Sarasota listings translated into French to their own clients. The result was a significant increase in serious buyers from Paris and the French markets to Miami, says Teresa King Kinney, chief executive officer of the Miami association. “French buyers represent an important market segment in South Florida,” she says. “These buyers are knowledgeable, sophisticated, and serious about owning in Miami.”

For more on the Global Listing Exchange, visit http://www.Immobel.com.

REALTOR® Association Educators Summit, Feb. 10-12, 2010

The program of the fourth annual REALTOR® Association Professional Development Directors and Educators Summit promises to help educators adapt their programs to the needs of the REALTOR® of tomorrow. Summit speakers include Larry Kendall, the author of Ninja Selling; Richard Mendenhall, past president of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®; motivational speaker Zan Monroe; and Diane Simpson, NAR education consultant and evaluator. Tuition: $225 before Nov. 15, $275 after. NAR will reimburse REALTOR® association education directors, education managers, and education vice presidents $400 for attending. Location: Hotel at Old Town, Wichita, Kan.

For more, contact: Karen Becker, 316/263-3167 or Karen@wichita-realtors.com.

Empathy Programming

Support groups are designed to give participants understanding, inspiration, and even a forum for their feelings. That’s the idea behind the REALTOR® support group, launched recently at the San Mateo County Association of REALTORS®.

“We want to help agents help each other in the downturn,” says Julie Ziemelis, the association’s director of public affairs. The group’s twice-monthly meetings aim to encourage members to stay in real estate by sharing business-building information, such as how to use low-cost marketing or social media to attract customers.
“We had a woman come who was almost in tears about how the downturn has affected her business,” says Ziemelis. “We gave her some ideas, a pep talk, and by the next meeting, she came in all smiles and said she was taking the advice and things were looking up. You can imagine how much she values her membership with SMCAR now.”

Helping Homeowners Understand Property Value

Homeowners across the country know their home values have declined but they cannot understand why their property taxes haven’t fallen as well. Who better to help with this valuable discussion than the local REALTOR® association, thought Jim Haisler, RCE, CIPS, e-PRO, chief executive officer of the McHenry County Association of REALTORS®, Ill.

The association’s Property Assessment Seminar was simple in nature. “For the first half hour the county’s supervisor of assessments discussed the assessment process, the tax process, and how the two are and are not related,” says Haisler.

The second half of the session allowed members of the public to sit down with trained REALTORS® to give them an “approximate market value range” for their homes as of Jan. 1, 2009, to coincide with the assessment card homeowners recently received.

The first session attracted 35 local homeowners and the following two sessions were standing-room only with more than 70 homeowners.

“The county supervisor explained to me before our first session that people were calling her office asking why the REALTORS® were doing this,” says Haisler. “They all thought this was some kind of scam to take listings.” The supervisor explained it was purely a public service and the association plans to offer the program again next year.

Award Program Boosts Service

The public display of accomplishment is a strong motivator. That’s the idea behind a program at the Harford County Association of REALTORS®, Md., that has dramatically improved customer service and member satisfaction.

In the Awesome Membership Service Program, each staff person receives certificates, which they ask every serviced member to sign if they received “awesome membership service” that day. When a member signs the certificate, which names the staff person, it’s hung on the lobby wall. The staff member with the most signed certificates at the end of the year wins one week’s pay.

This seemingly simple incentive has motivated staff to try a little harder to be helpful and understanding to members’ needs, says Mark F. Wilson, EVP. “Staff loves having these signed and displayed plus they compete over the members now.”

Members, too, are inspired by the program and eager to acknowledge good service. “When members see these certificates on the walls they aren’t as inclined to be irritable or unprofessional. The walls are filling up and we still have two months to go.”