Broker-owners / Designated REALTORS® / MLS Participants all have different needs, concerns and interests from the general membership. With our market dynamics changing, we understand that the decisions you have to make on a daily basis are more complex than ever before and the profit margin for the average office is shrinking in this competitive market.
Here then, are the tools and latest news about risk reduction practices to help keep your office operating at peak efficiency and in adherence to local, state and national laws as well as structures and resources to help you succeed.
Referral Fees & Open House from MAR Legal Hotline
Steve Ryan & Margy Grant Give Update
The MAR Legal team cover how and when to legally pay referral fees to Active and Inactive Salespersons and address open house blues - when something happens is the Realtor on site liable?
Professionalism Reminder of the Month
Establishing Client Relationships
Respecting your Peers Rule #12 - “When approached by a potential buyer or seller, always ask if they are already working with another agent exclusively.”
It is understandable that when working in the best interests of seller clients, agents jump to assist any prospective purchaser inquiring about a property - but it is equally important (and ethical) to ask if the buyers are already working with an agent. We have seen it time and time again - after a considerable amount of work is done by the seller’s agent, suddenly there is a buyer’s agent on the scene and involved in the transaction. And the battle begins….
For Seller’s Agents:
You must ask each and every buyer if they are working with an agent at the onset of their first discussion with you, and this alone will solve most issues before they become big, contentious disputes. There are certainly times when an uninformed buyer steps away from their agent, for innocent reasons that do not terminate their agency relationship (if I hear one more buyer say “I didn’t want to bother them until I really knew what I wanted and was ready to buy”….) Unfortunately in some situations, buyers have been so “considerate” of their agent’s time that the agent never got to do their job, never procured the sale and therefore never got to collect their commission either!
Seller’s agents should also know that if a buyer tells you they are already working with an agent - STOP - it is time to get that agent involved! Remember, the Code of Ethics Article 12 states, “REALTORS shall not engage in any practice or take any action inconsistent with exclusive representation or exclusive brokerage relationship agreements that other REALTORS have with clients.” I bet that you don’t want agents interacting with your seller clients - now return the favor and open the lines of communication immediately between the buyer’s agent and client.
If, on the other hand, the buyer says that they are not working with an agent exclusively, you can always ask them to write it down for you… something as simple as “I, Jane Doe am not working with an agent that represents me in this transaction, at this time.” Isn’t the timing of the agency disclosure form a perfect place for this type of conversation? Remember too that buyers can always be represented in a transaction - right up until the closing - but the only party that is being offered compensation through the MLS is the PROCURING CAUSE of the sale.
A broker will be regarded as the “procuring cause” of a sale, and be entitled to a commission, if his/her efforts are the foundation on which the negotiations resulting in a sale are begun. A cause originating a series of events which, without break in their continuity, result in accomplishment of prime objective of the employment of the broker who is producing a purchaser ready, willing, and able to buy real estate on the owner’s terms. (Mohamed v. Robbins, 23 Ariz. App. 195, 531 p.2d 928, 930.)
For Buyer’s Agents:
If you want to earn a commission posted in the MLS, it is all about being the procuring cause of the sale. As it reads above, it is important that you take an active role in not only drafting the Purchase and Sale but in ALL steps involved in the buying experience. The word I love most in that definition is EFFORT, but you and I both know that putting in the effort is only one part - the other is making sure you are the CAUSE that began a series of events that lead to the sale. The only way you can do that is to:
1) Clearly explain to your buyers when first offering to represent them that they MUST call you to handle the process for them - since that’s exactly what you get paid for.
2) Keep the lines of communication open and actively assist your buyer client in finding their desired property.
3) Consider executing a buyer agency contract that lays out what is expected of both you and your buyer during the whole relationship. (MAR has a great contract you can use). Don’t forget - contracts can be for 1 day or 1 year and state, in writing, mutual promises verbally made.
4) If your buyers are attending open houses without you, make sure to arm them with the property information, your business cards and a clear directive to inform the listing broker that they are working with you at the first opportunity.
Agency relationships, in and of themselves, do not determine entitlement to compensation. These actions will all help to secure your place in the transaction as the procuring cause of the sale.
It should be noted that we are sending out more arbitration papers than ever and there are many, many factors that go into determining Procuring Cause. You can look on www.Berkshirerealtors.org under Professional Standards for all of the guidelines, and factors that go into such a decision and determines who rightfully earned the cooperative commission.
Asbestos Issues Found, Seminar Held
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with Asbestos handling & Liability
In recent weeks, the Board office has fielded several calls regarding asbestos, and a REALTORS obligation and liability of disclosure.
Expanded Advertising Opportunities
Did you know about Reciprocal MLS?
You are able to submit listings to the Columbia County Multiple Listing Service and the Greater Capital Region Multiple Listing Service without having to hold membership! We have a reciprocal agreement with both MLS’s allowing agents to advertise their listings in the MLS without holding full membership. More Information
The Berkshire Blueprint is a community-generated strategic plan designed to grow the region’s economy. It provides a means for measurement of economic progress as a community. The Berkshire Economic Development Corporation is taking a leadership role in oversight of the plan and will continue to ensure that the plan remains effective and sustainable. Interesting material for those in the real estate field seeking to know where the region is heading, the community goals established and the methods set to achieve them.
If you are interested in learning more you can view the following PDF files:
The Berkshire Blueprint is an action plan that encourages and motivates cooperative regional initiative and outlines a clear, well-articulated focus on priorities business issue areas.
The Berkshire Strategy Project provides a comprehensive evaluation of the entire regional economy with a baseline of current metrics and a detailed analysis of selected industry clusters; it also contains a prioritization of key areas of focus to increase the competitiveness of the region.
The Berkshire Creative Economy Project focuses on the Creative cluster comprising nonprofit institutions, individual artists and commercial businesses that produce and distribute creative products and services.
The MLS Board of Directors did extensive research into the issue of co-exclusive listings and their legality in Massachusetts as well as their acceptance in our Multiple Listing Service database. The results are posted for those interested. More Information
Short Sale Foreclsoure Information
Compiled Material from the Berkshire, Mass and National Associations
The Board held a Short Sale / Foreclosure Breakfast Forum and distributed quite of bit a helpful information for REALTORS. We have included all of the materials provided here as well.
They’re not just for Trekies anymore
Portals are for Realtors too
Do you have to be Bill Gates or Donald Trump to work with your clients virtually?No way!FlexMLS has an integrated client portal, where you can manage your contacts, learn about client property preferences, communicate back and forth, and have a complete history of a client’s home search.A portal is a special, private web space that you can create for your business and then you can provide some or all of your clients with unique user names and passwords to log-in and access private information you’ve established, electronically.They can run searches you set, view listings in the same format (tabbed) as you do, rate listings (love it, hate it!) to help you gage their preferences, manage their contracts and forms, set up showings and appointments with you and more!How much does it cost?
Three limited medical plans were designed to meet the diverse needs of Realtors
The REALTORS Core Health Insurance (RCHI) provides guaranteed-issue, affordable, Limited Medical health insurance plans to REALTORS® and full member (REALTOR) Appriasers.
Clarification: Tax Credit Used as Down Payment
Advise Buyers to Consult with Banker
We've received questions about the $8,000 tax credit being used as a buyer's down payment, and asked Steve Ryan, MAR General Counsel to respond. Steve said, "Under the new rule the tax credit can be used for FHA loans for both the down payment and for the closing costs but only AFTER the buyer has come up with the first 3.5% themselves. The 3.5 can come from their savings or from a gift from relatives.
The 8k can be used to buy down the interest rate or to decrease the principal of the loan but, again, the first 3.5% has to be their $ not the tax credit. The reason the feds changed the original plan was due to concerns about buyer getting homes with none of their own money being involved and thus having no stake or 'skin in the game' as they keep saying.
Alternatively, MHFA already has a no $ down program for certain buyers and 3% down program for all buyers & those may actually be the better programs here in MA." Mass Housing Program Details
PLEASE NOTE: Tax credit is available on ALL 1st time homebuyer new purchases within the loan/income limits, not just FHA mortgages. The ability to use the tax credit for a downpayment is limited to FHA borrowers, but not all Berkshire lenders are participating in this program - encourage your buyers to ASK. More information below.
Foreclosure Prevention Video Series
FREE For Berkshire Realtors, Online NOW
A partnership of local Realtor Assocation across Massachusetts joined together in late 2009 to apply to the National Assocation for assistance in training members on Foreclosure Prevention and Short Sale Processing. A 7-series set of videos was created specifcally for you, and a live training program will be scheduled in 2010 free of charge to all Realtors of the Berkshrie County Board. Check the calendar for details on the live session, and visit our Online Education Center to view the videos at no cost.
New Free Guide on Wells:
What Every Realtor Should Know about Private Drinking Water Wells
The EPA has sent the Board Office a new brochure entitled " What Every Realtor Should Know about Private Drinking Water Wells" This brochure can be viewed online for free (you can print it yourself) or you can call the Board for one hard copy (while supplies last) I also have a contact in the New England EPA Office if you would like me to request more hard copy brochures for your clients.
New Data Security Regulations WISP
Effective March 1, 2010
Massachusetts has joined the majority of states in enacting a comprehensive data security law which governs theway personal information must be protected. After several delays, the final regulations to address the issue which become effective on March 1, 2010.
Berkshire Habitat ReStore
ReStore Open, Donations Needed
Berkshire Habitat ReStoreWho hasn't had clients remodeling, cleaning house (setting stage for that quick sale), or just 'storing' items, which could be donated to Berkshire Habitat ReStore? Either call 413/443-2106, or visit their web site at www.berkshirerestore.orgto learn more.
HouseLogic, NAR’s new consumer Web site
Free Content for you!
The new website www.HouseLogic.com offers everything home owners need to increase, maintain and protect the value of their home. The site provides free information and tools to help home owners with home improvements, maintenance projects, taxes, finances, insurance, and even community involvement and political advocacy.
What’s in it for you? HouseLogic allows you to use free, ready-to-use content, through its REALTOR® Content Resource (RCR). The RCR contains top-quality content for your Web sites, blogs, and newsletters. Easily integrate this content with your communications efforts and continue the conversation with your clients long after the sale.
Upgrades of Oil Tank Supply Line
New Regulation Effective July 1, 2010
Effective July 1, 2010, homeowners must upgrade their oil tank supply line to prevent undiscovered leaks. There are two manners of upgrade; an oil safety valve on the tank or a protective sleeve that encases the actual oil line from tank to burner. Since all homeowners (not just those transfering title) must comply with this new regulation, you'll start to see Home Inspectors identify this issue during their inspection and Fire Inspectors check when issuing a smoke/carbon certificate.
This regulation applies to 1-4 family homes heated with oil, unless the burner and entire supply line is located above the oil tank. Homeowners conforming with this new regulation will also be able to purchase insurance coverage for oil leaks (typically not covered), as mandated by the regulation. For more information, please see Mass DEP guidance
Health Insurance Assistance: Advocacy for Access
Options for Coverage
Looking for health insurance, or know someone who is? There is a little known free program called "Advocacy for Access" to help access various programs that can pay for healthcare services, thereby reducing or eliminating inability to pay as a barrier to receiving healthcare. There are several low-cost health insurance programs and new options under the state’s new health reform law. Walk-ins are welcome, or you can call to schedule an appointment.
BMC Hillcrest Campus: (413) 445-9480 165 Tor Court, Pittsfield , MA 01201 Monday through Thursday – 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, Friday – 7:00 am to 3:00 pm
Fairview Hospital: (413) 854-9608 29 Lewis Avenue, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Additionally, the state and Berkshire associations have affiliations with insurance brokers that can help you select from one of the popular plan options at a group rate (Realtors Association) The local contact is:
We are pleased to announce that the REALTOR.com iPhone application has had over 1,300,000 downloads since it was launched in January 2010! It is the most comprehensive real estate search on iPhone. Consumers can search based on GPS location, search nearby Open Houses, show listings on a map, and "one tap" call to the listing agent.
The June 30th Update requires (among other things) lenders use of appraisers with a direct, local knowledge of the area, offers guidance when using distressed property comps, allows Realtors to provide factual info directly to appraisers to help ensure accuracy, and prohibits lenders from changing the appraisal / home value. Read the full Inman News Article
Law Changes Homestead Declaration Protections
$125,000 automatic, up to $500,000 if filed
On December 18th, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that automatically provides Massachusetts homeowners with a $125,000 cushion against debt collectors, if they hold that much equity in their properties. The statute originally provided $500,000 in protection from creditors — but only for homeowners who file a homestead declaration with a county registry of deeds, a process that can cost between $35 and $100. Under the new law, homeowners do not have to make such a filing unless they hold more than $125,000 in equity in their homes. They can still get $500,000 in protection if they file a homestead declaration. More Information: Read the bill text for exact language.
Center for Ecological Technology(CET)
Help for Homeowners
Outreach specialist for CET wants to help you and your clients with making homes more cozy, increasing savings on utility bills, and increasing the home's overall value.
Help Prevent Online Fraud
Simple way to monitor seller's information appearing online
Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. You only need to enter the topic [or seller's address] that you wish to monitor, then click preview to see the type of results you'll receive.
New Mortgage Assistance Rules
Three NEW disclosure you may need to provide
Under new MARS rules there are three potential disclosures that a REALTOR® may need to make. Here are models that could be used in written materials (the requirements vary slightly for oral communications made to consumers).
Berkshire County Board of Realtors® -
99 West Street, Suite 200 Pittsfield, MA 01201-5845 413-442-8049 Sandra
J. Carroll, Chief Executive Officer - Sue
O'Brien, Member Services Admin - Kim Gritman, Office Clerk