REALTOR® to REALTOR®: Back to Basics

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Have you ever noticed how successful you are when you focus on the basics in any undertaking? 

Think about when you bake a cake. If you leave out just one ingredient or over-mix the batter, the project is usually a flop. Or in T-ball, where coaches preach three rudiments: hit the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball—the team that practices these fundamentals consistently is very likely a winning team.

We have essentials to follow in good tooth care. Remember the childhood song, “Brush your teeth, round and round, circle small, gums and all?” As adults, we often neglect flossing, brushing longer than 20 seconds, or cleaning our teeth at bedtime. 

Fundamentals are especially important in relationships. Taking time to really listen, apologizing when we’re wrong (even when we’re not wrong), showing appreciation, providing moral support during challenging times, and remembering special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.

In learning a new skill or trade, we pay close attention because we want to master the fundamentals. We practice until the process becomes mechanical. Unfortunately, after a time we perform many tasks, such as driving five-thousand-pound vehicles, changing baby diapers (especially boys’!), chopping with sharp knives, or performing our REALTOR® duties on auto-pilot. Our lack of attention and focus can lead to disaster!

Do you recall the fundamentals that you learned when you first became a REALTOR®?

  • Set goals in writing for the day, week, month, year, two years, three years, five years, and ten years. Yes, even if you’ve been in the business for 30 years! Set goals and refer to them daily.
  • Network. Network. Network. Get out of the office and meet people!  Put your business card into the hands of everyone you encounter. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to engage with you when you’re warm, funny, and cheerful—when you make them feel special.
  • Attend monthly Chamber meetings, economic development and planning events, and weekly TBR breakfasts; volunteer for community outreach programs.  You’ll have fun while planting seeds for your business.
  • Ask for an appointment! This is HUGE. Don’t just send out information if you can possibly set up a face-to-face meeting. Experts have found that meeting a potential client in person is much more likely to result in a contract.
  • Have a plan when you make a presentation, whether in person or by electronic means. Don’t just wing it! Make your clients feel that you went to great lengths to prepare for your meeting with them. 
  • Stay in touch with existing and potential clients on a regular and frequent basis. Use a program like Top Producer to assist in managing your customer base. Send out postcards or letters to remind your clients and potential clients that you’re ready, willing, and able to serve them and their family and friends. Ask them to refer everyone they know to you. Do some “farming.”
  • Attend continuing education classes to keep up with the constant changes in our profession, and to network with other professionals. Court builders, lenders, and other REALTORS®—they are your best customers.
  • Make sure that YOU are a team player and that you’re working with a supportive team. This is imperative if you want to be a successful REALTOR®.

Now get out there and turn over every rock! 2015 is your year!

Constance Hardwick
BlueWater Realty Group

Homestead and Second Marriages

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Homestead continues to be one of the most misunderstood provisions under Florida law. It has applicability to probate, protection from creditors, and real estate taxes. So why is it misunderstood? Because frequently lawyers and REALTORS® do not know what they are talking about. Probably the most attuned individuals are title agents, as they see it face to face, and deal with what can be cured and what cannot be cured. 

The typical lien that comes up on a residential closing would be a judgment lien, where a creditor has sued the owner for a debt, gotten a judgment, and recorded it in the public records, along with an affidavit with the address of the creditor. This might be the kind of judgment a credit card company or health care provider might get. It is presumed to create a lien on the property, behind any taxes, mortgages, association dues, and other judgments. 

If the property is the homestead of the debtor, such judgments would not attach as liens to the homestead or the proceeds from the sale of the homestead, as long as such proceeds are identifiable as such and are to be used to acquire another homestead. Even putting such funds into a stock account temporarily would allow them to still be exempt, per a recent appellate court opinion. 

But how does the title company tell if the property really is the homestead of the seller? For years, title underwriters required the seller to get a court to issue an order that the property was the homestead of the seller. In 2000, the Florida Legislature enacted Section 222.01, F.S., to allow a seller to get the Court Clerk to issue a “Notice of Homestead” and mail it to the creditor, who then had 45 days to file suit. If not, the seller could close on the sale within 180 days of the mailing of the notice. But it still meant that you had to wait 45 days to see if the creditor filed suit. 

More and more title underwriters now, 15 years later, are accepting Affidavits of Homestead, to at least insure over the possible problem. A typical affidavit would have to be signed by the seller, attests that he or she has owned as their primary residence the property since at least before the judgment was recorded, and, oh yeah, it had to be truthful. With that, title agents are granted more leeway to insure title on the properties, without exception for the judgment. REALTORS® faced with this situation should ask about it at the time of listing, to adequately prepare for handling it. 

On the second prong of homestead, is the ad valorem taxation benefit. That is the most understood matter of homestead and need not be addressed here. 

But the third prong deals with an owner not being able to alienate the homestead without the spouse’s consent. Article X, Section 4, Fla. Const. provides for the treatment of homestead. In probate, homestead normally would pass outside probate if it goes as provided by law. If it goes to a charity, or an unrelated individual, it would be in probate, and possibly subject to claims of creditors. 

A title owner, in his or her own name only, if married cannot deed away the homestead without joinder by the spouse, even if it was owned before the marriage, and even if it is to a trust for the spouse and others. A deed to a trust or an individual, by an owner, but without joinder of the spouse, fails, and it is as though it was a nullity. In such event, and if the owner has minor children, the spouse would get a life estate and the children would get the remainder. 

An owner of homestead may be able to borrow from a lender, but any mortgage on the property not also signed by the spouse may be defective, especially if the owner dies first. 

This is particularly troublesome when owners think they have the right to deed a homestead because they owned it before they married. If it also troublesome where parties are divorcing, the homestead is in the name of just one of them, and that spouse dies while the divorce is pending. The surviving spouse has at least a life estate, no matter what the deceased spouse’s will provided. A person who marries without a prenuptial agreement, especially a second or more marriage, will be bound by constitutional rules that they do not know may limit their alienation of the homestead. 

So you can see now why homestead is so misunderstood.  

Joe R. Boyd
TBR Legal Counsel
Board Certified Real Estate Attorney
Boyd & DuRant, P.L.

What is a “Wild Deed?”

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The phrase “wild deed” is used often, but most people do not understand it. The same is true when people talk about a “quit claim deed,” which simply releases claims to property a person may not own at all. On the “wild deed,” it can have devastating consequences to the true owners.

A wild deed is described by courts as “a purported instrument of conveyance executed by the named grantor knowing that he or she has no title of any kind to the property described therein.” Frazier v. Goszezynski, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D2133, (Fla. 5th DCA, Oct. 10, 2014). It literally is a wild deed as it does not have any relationship to the chain of title.

But it can be the basis of a root of title for the purposes of the Marketable Record Title Act (MRTA), a law intended to simplify title issues by saying that you look to the first deed just past 30 years back, and if you have a good title since then, you do not have to go further. There are numerous exceptions, but generally, this is why we no longer need or use big abstracts.

MRTA was the law relied on in the Calusa Country Club case in 2014 that we addressed previously. It allowed the golf course owner to throw out a 99-year restrictive covenant for land to be a golf course, to the surprise of 248 adjacent property owners and Miami-Dade County government. A state-of-the-art adult community is now planned there.

But the wild deed in the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) case with Mid-Peninsula Realty Investment Group, LLC, (MID) cost FDOT land that it had condemned in 1971.

Former owners in 1971 owned land near State Road 52 and U.S. Highway 19. FDOT sought to condemn some of their land and the land of others in order to construct a drainage canal. FDOT got the land in 1971 in fee simple ownership.

The former owners in 1974 conveyed all or most of their remaining land, and included the FDOT land in the conveyance. Many conveyances followed over the decades, always including the land previously obtained by FDOT.

MID acquired the lands above in 2008. A dispute arose between FDOT and MID as to who owned the lands unquestionably owned previously in 1971 by FDOT. A lawsuit followed. Putting the nuances of the suit aside, it really turned on the effect of the 1974 wild deed and the chain thereafter.

The FDOT lost at trial; FDOT lost on appeal.

The courts ruled that the 1974 deed, while clearly a “wild deed,” was still a proper root of title, or starting point, for MARTA. As such, it was irrelevant what happened before then, even though FDOT had fee simple ownership in 1971.

The lesson to REALTORS® is to know what real estate words mean and their implications. The lesson to owners of real estate is to never just assume anything about title, or, for that matter, the use by others of land that abuts you.

Joe R. Boyd
TBR Legal Counsel
Board Certified Real Estate Attorney
Boyd & DuRant, P.L.

Don’t “Short Sale” Yourself

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Who wants to become a REALTOR®? You want to show houses? You want to write contract offers? You want to place your sign in the yard? Well, not to bust your bubble, but so do all the other agents in town. So the question is, what do you do to set yourself apart?  

As a new REALTOR® myself, my biggest challenge has been getting new customers and keeping the existing ones engaged. However, in less than one year of practicing, I have found out that with creativity, commitment, and consistency, I can overcome that challenge. Here are three ideas to help you overcome your challenge(s):

#1. Find or create your own niche. Think outside the box, because everything doesn’t work for everybody. So find something that you love doing and that you’re efficient in doing and JUST DO IT! For me, I started doing homebuyer education seminars for first-time homebuyers. It’s a great way to educate potential buyers on the market and the home-buying process, as well as position myself as an expert in the field for first-time homebuyers.

#2. Build your database. After days of calling your sphere, many of us have exhausted our contacts. Well, that’s no excuse! Call expired listings, FSBOs, or just start calling out of the phone book (don’t forget to check the Do Not Call Registry). But be committed to make calls every day at the same time of the day—consistency matters. I have committed to making calls for two hours on weekdays. While the task seems daunting now, my pipeline is filling up with leads which will convert to clients and referrals.

#3. Follow up. After you have made the commitment to do both #1 and #2, you must follow up. Repeat steps #1 and #2. Follow up with your leads and your clients and…repeat steps #1 and #2! I know it sounds redundant and it is.  Don’t reinvent the wheel—if it works, work it! If you are consistently doing steps #1 and #2, you will always have follow up to do. Commit to a time of day that you only do follow-up, via call, email, or personal visits. I have a special tray that I place all my follow-up in, and I work on it twice a week. I had one lead that I followed for two weeks, and it got me a listing.

So, new agents, for every action you don’t do to build your business, another agent will. Don’t “short sale” yourself.  Find your niche, build your database, and follow up! 

Robyn Yant
Keller Williams Town & Country Realty

TRID Is Coming August 1

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What is TRID and how will it affect REALTORS®?

Have you ever taken a summer vacation in Europe only to discover that businesses are closed because many Europeans take the entire month of August off? This may be something you want to consider this year (just kidding, it’s not going to be that bad).

TRID is an acronym for the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures that will be replacing the current TIL (Truth in Lending disclosures), GFE (Good Faith Estimate), and HUD1 Settlement Statement. This change is a part of the Dodd Frank Act intended to simplify the disclosures to consumers and allow for them to be better prepared for their mortgage transaction. The new disclosures will be called the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure (and presumably will be referred to as LE and CD).

In addition to being easier to understand, this change consolidates the initial TIL and GFE into a single disclosure and combines the Final TIL and HUD 1 into a single disclosure. Because of this change, more of the liability for accuracy is being shifted to the lender. In order to provide consumers with more transparency, the closing disclosure is required to be delivered to the consumer a minimum of three business days prior to closing.

So here is where this change will impact the way that you do business, so you can set proper expectations and help buyers and sellers plan for closing:

  • Communication is key. It will be even more important to promptly notify the lender of any changes to the transaction so that they are known when the closing disclosure is initially delivered to the buyer (this could save you three or more days per change).
  • Title company/attorney selection. Because the lender is taking on additional responsibilities for the closing disclosure, you will want to make sure that the lender and settlement agent have an acceptable working arrangement prior to making that selection.
  • Setting expectations. REALTORS® and buyers need to make sure that all transactional decisions are made well before closing. I would recommend at least two weeks, then no more changes. Since the requirement is that the closing disclosure is delivered three days prior to closing, additional time will be necessary if your buyer is not comfortable with electronic disclosures.
  • Early homeowners’/hazard insurance selection. Getting early binders from insurance companies can be tricky when the closing date is still variable. A good relationship with an insurance agent to provide accurate quotes at the time of the initial offer can help to minimize delays in receipt of the binder and closing disclosure preparation.

The new disclosures are a package deal—August 1is the first day that the new applications will use the new Loan Estimates and, later, the new closing disclosure. This means that for the first few months settlement agents will be phasing in the new closing disclosure as closed-end loan transactions that were initiated after August 1 make their way to the closing table. The gradual transitioning from the HUD 1 and Final TIL to the Closing Disclosure may take a little longer while lenders and settlement agents acclimate to the new process. Additionally, this new process won’t impact cash sales, or those financed using HELOCs, so the current processes will still exist as well.

Jay Ralstin
Waterstone Mortgage
President, Mortgage Bankers Association of Florida

President’s Message: Welcome to 2015

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2015 is the year of working together as a team, and TBR will offer the Leadership Academy this year to provide training to future leaders of our association. One of my goals is to help TBR members, along with the Board of Directors and committee chairmen, to be more productive and profitable together. We will focus on the tools and strategies to help every member master the skills necessary to be successful in the real estate business.

Member participation in RPAC is very important to our Board. For years I have been involved with TBR’s RPAC fundraising committee. I am a major investor, “Sterling” level for the past three years, and I am planning to continue to contribute at this level as long as I am a REALTOR® helping customers. Our advocacy is vital to keeping us as the voice for real estate and consumers, from our big push to fix the flood insurance crisis to reauthorization of terrorism insurance, and our work to lower real estate license fees and preserve property rights.

Members need to understand how important it is to get to know your fellow REALTORS® and Affiliate business partners. When it’s time to write an offer, to help a buyer or seller, you already know that the transaction will be easier with the other REALTOR®, local lender, and friendly title company. Transactions, with all the changes we’ve seen in the past couple of years, are difficult as it is; however, having a team can make the transaction much less stressful.

Involvement with the community is another goal for me as your 2015 President, and this is very important to me personally and professionally. As most of you already know, TBR hosted our first “Hoofing It for Habitat” 5K run/walk last November 2014 at the Centerville Conservation Community, and the run had sponsors and TBR members helping to put this together; overall, for it being the first time we’ve held this event it was very successful, and I’m looking forward to continuing it this year and hoping that it will become an annual event. “Hoofing It for Habitat” is open to the community in Tallahassee and the surrounding areas, and we even had participants from out of town; I am very confident that, given all of the positive feedback we’ve received from our first event, this year’s 5K will be another success.

TBR also participates each year in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event with our “REALTORS® for Relay” team, and 2015 will be very special and bittersweet, since we lost Gerri Roberts last year. Gerri was a very sweet and giving person, and consistently raised the most funds locally for Relay. Years ago, we named our annual Volunteer of the Year Award for Gerri. This year we all gather in memory of Gerri, and I know she would be so proud to see a huge attendance for the walk. This great cause looks every year for donations, and Relay participants volunteer to walk through the night because Cancer doesn’t sleep. The walk will be at Chiles High School on May 1—more details coming soon. We start collecting donations now.

And as TBR President, I have the honor of choosing a charity to receive funds raised at the annual Presidential Gala. I will focus on a charity for children, because they are our future in our community. More will come later.

Mariela Bartens Santurri
2015 TBR President
Coldwell Banker Hartung & Noblin

Coastal Construction Permitting in Florida

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Do Your Due Diligence 

Do you dream of finally building that beach house at the coast? Maybe put a little dune walkover in front so you can get to the beach easier? Adding a seawall to reduce erosion? Enlarging an existing house for the growing number of friends and relatives whom you haven’t seen in years who suddenly want to visit you? You’re going to need a permit for that. Among other things, you will need a Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL) permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). So, if falling interest rates have given you the bug to buy that beachfront lot, there are some considerations you need to make before you sign on the dotted line.  

The stated purpose of the CCCL program is to protect Florida’s beaches and dune systems from development that may harm those systems by increasing erosion, threatening upland structures and property, interfering with sea turtles, or affecting public access to the beaches. The program attempts to balance the right for reasonable use of property with the need to protect these natural habitats. With that in mind, the State of Florida began establishing the coastal construction line in 1984 on a county-by-county basis. Twenty five counties are included. The line is based on historical weather information and is designed to predict areas that would be impacted by a 100-year storm event. With minor exceptions allowed by exemption, any construction seaward of that line requires a CCCL permit. DEP provides a website called Map Direct, where you can locate the property in question and see if it falls under the CCCL program. By the way, Wakulla County does not fall under the CCCL program, as its shoreline is mostly vegetated. 

Jurisdiction for coastal construction is granted by Florida Statute 161.053. Coastal construction is regulated in Florida by Chapter 62B-33 of the Florida Administrative Code. Chapter 62B-33 provides the design and siting criteria that must be met in order to qualify for a permit. If you qualify for a General Permit, Chapter 62B-34 is the regulatory chapter. Essentially, the criteria require that you must build a structure that will survive a 100-year coastal storm event. The structure must be situated so as not to destabilize the dune system, cause other properties to be damaged during a storm, or interfere with nesting sea turtles. 

The design criteria are extensive and the data and drawings you must submit for an application are voluminous. You will therefore need to assemble a team of people to help you obtain a CCCL permit. This may include a civil engineer, architect, environmental consultant, surveyor, and even a landscape architect. Your construction drawings must be signed and sealed, and the survey requirements are way more extensive than a standard boundary survey. You will also have to provide a sea turtle friendly lighting plan, a landscape plan, and many other drawings. 

Before you do all of that, however, it would be wise to locate the property using the Map Direct program, find the reference markers shown on either side, and make a call to DEP’s Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems to discuss your proposed project with one of the permit managers. They can tell you if the area is one that has critical erosion concerns or other problematic issues that may make obtaining a permit difficult or cost prohibitive.

 If you decide you want to move forward, remember to get your checkbook out: a single family residence with less than 2,400 square feet can cost upwards of $3,500 in permit fees, once garages, pools, and other minor structures are added. 

Valerie Weeks
The Phoenix Environmental Group, Inc.

Legal Update: Do Not Stop a Home Inspection

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Buyers will insist on the right to have a home inspection by a qualified home inspector. The various forms of real estate contracts used around the state have different time frames related to inspections. They also provide for the consequences from the inspection; i.e., new negotiations or either side can terminate the contract. But Johnson v. Davis disclosures are not excused because the buyer failed to pursue a home inspection.

But more importantly, a seller or a REALTOR® who convinces a buyer not to get the inspection contracted for, may be making a big mistake. That may have been what happened in the appellate case of Southern National Track Services, Inc. (“Purchaser”) v. JD Gilley (“Seller”) in October last year.

That case out of Hamilton County was reversed by the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee on a procedural point. It was sent back to the local trial court for further action. But the issue seemed to be that a buyer who does not exercise his right for an inspection does not necessarily forfeit its right to complain about what would have been revealed by the inspection.

The Purchaser contracted to buy some property containing some cottages and a modular structure. It was the modular structure that was the basis of the lawsuit.

Mr. Plezia, an employee of Purchaser, was to be housed on the property, along with other employees, while working for Purchaser in the area. He did a walkthrough of the property before the contract, and had 20 days to have an inspection. The contract also provided that Seller warranted that there were no violations of local ordinances.

Mr. Plezia walked through the property again during the 20 days with the Seller and her daughter. It was undisputed that other than these walkthroughs, Purchaser did nothing to further inspect the property. He did nothing to have it inspected or confirm that the modular structure was constructed for use as a residence.

Months after closing, Purchaser learned that the structure was not built pursuant to local ordinance. And Purchaser noticed that water leaked into the structure, and it was worse during the rainy season.

Purchaser then learned that the local government required many repairs, and learned that the structure was not built pursuant to local ordinance. And it appeared that mold on the walls had been painted over. Purchaser sued.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the Seller, saying that Purchaser did not have its inspection done, and that would have disclosed the problems. In effect, Purchaser could not complain now since it did not protect itself.

And the Seller’s affidavit said there were no violations “to the seller’s knowledge.” But that is not what the contract called for.

To that last point, it is clear that there is a difference when a seller warrants that there are no ordinance violations and then only warrants to the best of seller’s knowledge. Purchaser contracted for the former, but the affidavit Seller got at closing was less than that which was contractually required.

But the biggest point is that the appellate court forgave Purchaser for not getting the inspection when it would have made a difference. The court said that some excuses may be enough to get by that defense.

Here, the purchaser alleged that the seller and her daughter had made representations that, in hindsight, were clearly false. The purpose of such representations, or the intentional non-disclosure of condition, was to assure the closing and avoid the home inspection.

If that was the intent, it worked.

Purchaser closed and did not get the home inspection because, it alleged, it was assured of both the good condition of the structure, and the lawful nature of the construction of the structure. Purchaser wanted to use the cottages and the modular structure for residential purposes; the latter it apparently could not.

The appellate court also pointed to the advertising related to the structure. The real estate advertisement referred to the structure as a two-bedroom home complete with a swimming pool and other accoutrements typical of a residence, not a converted storage shed, as apparently that is what it was.

The advertisement as a residence when it was not gave the appellate court a lot of concern. Because that was a material fact that was in dispute, the appellate court sent the case back to the trial court to hear all of the evidence.

The point to all REALTORS® is this: just because the buyer does not exercise its right for a property inspection does not mean that the buyer cannot after closing sue for matters that were not disclosed, even if they could have been discovered if the inspection had occurred.

But if the misrepresentation, assuming there was one, related to matters that are “obviously false,” a purchaser cannot later sue over the misrepresentation.

So, putting it all together, we know this:

   1. If the seller in the contract warrants that the structure is legal, the seller cannot at closing get by saying that “to the best of seller’s knowledge”—the contract calls for more.

   2. Buyer cannot rely on representations by seller that are “obviously false.”

   3. And most important, if a purchaser contracts for a home inspection to be made, the REALTOR® and seller should insist that the purchaser get that inspection, and stay away from talking the purchaser out of the need for such an inspection.

We do not know the final outcome of this case, since it was sent back to the trial court late last year. What we do know is that the parties are paying attorneys’ fees, and using up time, to deal with this case. And all of that might have been avoided by the purchaser getting the inspection on time, and not possibly having the seller and real estate broker dissuade the purchaser from getting the inspection.

Joe R. Boyd
TBR Legal Counsel
Board Certified Real Estate Attorney
Boyd & DuRant, P.L.

2015 Economic Forecast

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The market for residential real estate in Leon County displayed multiple signs of improvement in 2014, and there are several reasons to believe this trend will continue through 2015, as well.  

One of the more significant developments over the past year occurred on the supply side of the market.  In 2013, Leon County home prices began to rise again and uncertainty surrounding the direction of the overall economy continued to decline. As a result, many owners of non-distressed properties with a desire to sell finally hopped off the fence and listed their homes on the market in 2014. 

Because of this infusion of pent-up supply, Leon County’s current inventory of homes for sale now contains a greater share of non-distressed properties, as well as a wider variety of sizes, qualities, and locations. 

The number of completed home sales in Leon County also increased by a healthy amount in 2014, which coupled with modest price growth strongly indicates that buyers have taken notice. Competition between buyers is expected to increase in 2015, as many factors which dampened housing demand in the Tallahassee area over the past few years continue to return to normal levels.  

Key among these factors are population and employment growth. More people means more housing is desired, and more jobs means more people can fulfill that desire. While employment has been increasing in Florida overall since early 2010, this has only been the case in Leon County since mid-2012. Tallahassee’s government-driven economy was somewhat shielded from the initial blow of last decade’s downturn, but at the cost of getting a late start on its recovery. So the strong recovery that has been occurring elsewhere in the state bodes well for Tallahassee over the next year as government and public university revenue sources continue to stabilize. 

While residential real estate in Leon County could still be characterized as a buyer’s market moving in to 2015, it is also an opportune time to sell for homeowners who wish upgrade and buy elsewhere in the market before interest rates begin to climb again in earnest. Expect home prices to continue to climb over the course of the year as housing demand catches up to supply and ushers in the return of a balanced real estate market. 

Brad O’Connor
Director of Economic Research
Florida REALTORS®

Galloway Scholarship Report

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Editor’s Note: Mary Applegate was awarded a Galloway Scholarship in 2014. Applications for the 2015 scholarship are being accepted through January 30, 2015.

I want to thank the Tallahassee Board of REALTORS® and the Galloway Scholarship committee for providing me a scholarship in 2014 to complete my Graduate REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation. I strongly encourage every REALTOR® to take the GRI series of courses.

I relocated to Tallahassee from southwest Florida in July 2011, where I worked previously as a REALTOR® from 2005 until 2011. Tallahassee and the surrounding counties are different than southwest Florida—different hospitalities, lifestyles, much less traffic, and totally different contracts. It felt all new to me and, yes, I felt as if I was starting all over again in my real estate career! Goals for me are important, and when I came on board with TBR, I knew I needed to start all over again, so I purchased the REALTOR® Enrichment Program (REP) pass and attended several courses and the weekly marketing meetings.

In 2012, I decided that I was going for my GRI designation, and I passed my GRI II and GRI III classes online. Then, in 2013 GRI classes weren’t available online and it was very hard for me to take time off to complete the classroom training.

In early 2014 I knew I was ready to make a change. I noticed that the Bay County Association in Panama City was offering the GRI I course, the last course to complete my GRI designation, and it was close to home; so, I took seven days off work and took the GRI 1 classes.

What a wonderful learning experience! I am thankful I took the time off for myself. I learned more in the classroom than both online GRI courses previously taught me. The instructors were Patti Ketcham, broker of Ketcham Realty Group in Tallahassee, and Stephanie White, Bay County Executive Director and former REALTOR® member of TBR. Their training provided practical knowledge, legal but common-sense training, and important tools: networking, negotiating, making a presence in the market, knowing your niche, advertising, and continuing education.

If you’re a hands-on or visual learner, or enjoy networking with other REALTORS® in different areas, you may want to consider taking GRI classes. To anyone that is sitting on the fence, I highly recommend the GRI program; you have five years to complete the three courses.

In 2015, I will purchase TBR’s REALTOR® Enrichment Program (REP) pass to keep up with contract changes further my professional development, continue to volunteer on TBR committees, and attend marketing meetings and socials. Networking with my peers is important, as is continuing my education and training, and I also plan to attend FAR and NAR conventions.

Thank you again TBR for providing the Galloway Scholarship; I am ever so grateful!

With appreciation,

Mary Applegate
Rossetti Realty, Inc