As we were sharing an association update with our MAR Western Regional Representative, Barbara Davis Hassan, we couldn’t help but realize that we get so caught up in the work, it’s great to see how much we have going on! If you’re not already working on a project or committee, or attending classes, we sure hope to see you soon!
Government Affairs: On the legislative front, our Government Affairs Committee is acting on several local issues.
- Housing Summit: We have moved our awards ceremony back to the annual meeting and are hosting a fall Berkshire Realtors’ 2018 Housing Summit. Scheduled for September 20th at the historic Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, this will be an opportunity for legislators, town leaders, housing practitioners and the general public to get the latest information on our market, exchange ideas to overcome challenges and build relationships to support a healthy housing market and ultimately a healthy Berkshire economy. Our goals: http://berkshirerealtors.net/housingsummit/
- Berkshire Flyer: We were proud to receive an appointment by State Senator Adam Hinds to serve on the Mass DOT Workgroup to Study Rail Service from the Berkshires to NYC. Our Government Affairs Chair Billy Keane is serving as our representative and sees a viable future for a Berkshire Flyer summer train service on existing track in New York, by 2019/2020. Our Association just had a very well received letter to the editor printed highlighting the vital role this will play in the development of our local economy. http://berkshireeagle.com/stories/letter-berkshire-flyer-is-wiseinvestment-in-future,537706?
- Rental Bylaws: The Town of Lenox proposed very restrictive rental bylaws, and we have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to convey concerns over private property rights and constitutionality with some of the provisions. MAR’s Justin Davidson has been incredible helpful and we have shared some compelling facts on the matter to those seeking input. President Cortney Dupont is ready with our official message, but the town meeting to discuss the vote has been postponed until September. Further, the CEO is working on a proactive letter to towns about rental restrictions that could help mitigate future issues.
- Mandatory Energy Scoring: We are working to draft simple talking points for members on this issue and will be working to establish a message to the public about the legislation. We have been approached by members of the community asking why Realtors are not supportive of energy efficiency. Our Government Affairs Committee, with ratification by the Board, will create an educational campaign about the ways REALTORS care greatly about efficiency, commonly urge home sellers and buyers to get audits done through MassSave and use efficiency as a key marketing and valuation tool for properties. We believe it is important that our message dispel the myths – we are positive toward efficiency yet truthful about the harm of requiring a mandatory score before sale will have on our community and our homeowners.
- Last Mile Broadband: We have several Government Affairs Committee members serving on rural broadband committees and we are tracking and advocating for the advancement of this critical infrastructure at each meeting. Since our advocacy with Franz Forster, Tim Lovett, Tom Doyle and Sandy on the state Broadband subcommittee and appointment of Peter Larkin to oversee the program, it seems progress is finally being made. We always appreciate periodic updates from Tom Doyle, Ann Spadafora and Mary Jane White.
- Town Monitors: We have 18 new Town Monitors serving many communities in Berkshire County. We are still seeking coverage for unserved areas – with 32 towns it is a challenge. Town Monitors are key players that connect the Berkshire Board of REALTORS to the communities we serve. Our Association Executive participated in a Train the Trainer Town Monitor event at MAR last month and is hosting a training program in May to help volunteers feel comfortable in their role. http://berkshirerealtors.net/berkshire-realtor-town-monitors/ Date to be announced.
- REACT Charitable Work: Our REACT (Real Estate Agent’s Charitable Taskforce) is hard at work as always. We will be hosting a Women’s Build day for Habitat for Humanity in May.
We stock a “Book House” for kids to have access to reading materials during the summer months. And, as the old real estate adage says, location, location, location – our book house is located in the play area outside of Krispy Kone ice cream palace, so our Book House “lends” a LOT of books. We add custom bookmarks to each book we give and are happy to have kids take and enjoy. We accept donations! We have our Annual Battle of the Bartenders fundraiser coming up this spring and our Chili Cookoff in the Fall. We shop, cook and serve a community dinner for those in need twice a year, and monthly Realtors gather to cook, serve a dinner for those in need South County. We will do our One-and-Done projects that come by request, allowing us to give back to the community in small but powerful ways. Since 2000, we’ve raised/donated over $250,000 to our local charities.
- Public Relations: We have developed an extensive plan to increase awareness of our association, the value of our members and promote the work we do for our economy and our community. It is a multi-faceted plan, and we are currently interviewing PR firms to help develop achievable goals and strategies to reach outside of our organization with this message. More to come!
- Awards: We have two fairly new awards that we are hoping to feature at our housing summit – the Housing Hero Award, given to any organization or individual who has made a substantial impact in the accessibility of affordable, safe or healthy housing in our community. We also have the Berkshire Beautification Award that will be given to any residential or commercial property owner who has lifted the value and enjoyment of their neighborhood by renovating their property, cleaning up a blight and/or working to bring improvements to their area. http://berkshirerealtors.net/housing-hero-and-berkshire-beautification-awards-2/
Other New Initiatives:
- Leadership Training: Under Cortney’s direction, we have been working on a Leadership Training Program that will expose volunteers and especially board members to tools and information to better serve our association and enhance skills that will help them excel in business and in life. This is still being worked on, but this month we start our WAVs of Change webinars on national trends, to help develop some big picture concepts. We also have public speaking and presentation training planned, as well as some team building events. We are embracing the new NAR Leadership 101 and 102 classes and hopeful to bring a one-day program here to Berkshire County with Adorna Carroll in the early fall. Anyone interested should contact Sandy!
- New Agent Skills Development: Led by Tracy Crawford, this workgroup has launched a Core Competency Quarterly Roundtable and Social event that was standing room only. Our 2nd event is coming up next month. The taskforce also has a Core Competency certification program laid out and will seek Board approval when complete. We are also reflecting on changing the orientation program to make it more effective and interactive.
- Strategic Planning: We have restructured our Strategic Planning Review Committee to be chaired by the Past President Church Davis and to be comprised on incoming leadership and current committee chairs. Since chairs are the lifeblood to the work we do in the field, it is important that the chairs understand and help set our goals, and full grasp the obligations we have to serve our association and its members. All suggested changes will be submitted to the Board of Directors for approval.
- For Safety Month in September, we are working to implement a security in medication program. Massachusetts and Berkshire County are heavily impacted by drug addiction, and the Safe Homes Coalition has proven that there is something powerful that REALTORS can do to help – educate clients about securing prescription medication during open houses and showings and the proper storage and disposal of powerful medications when preparing for a move. We are working to make bags available to Berkshire REALTORS so clients can easily secure their prescriptions during showings – and can use those same bags when the deal is completed to responsibility dispose of old or no longer needed drugs.
- Training: Staff is currently certified to teach Ziplogiz, RPR, FlexMLS and Professional Standards, as well as continuing education programs. They not only offer classroom education, but now also have an outreach program to attend office meetings to teach on any topics of the broker’s choice. Call if we can help your office. We’ve also restructured the continuing education offerings and now sell-out most every class held at our office. We sold out the PSA certification class and plan to offer a second to those that missed it. We are working to host a “Pot Panel” to discuss the emergence of marijuana growing zoning bylaw changes, growing and dispensary business applications. There will be brownies. HA!
- News: We offer a Friday Recap weekly e-newsletter that now has readership rates well over 40%. We consider this a key education and communication vehicle. Our goal remains to include more video content, not just from NAR but locally as well. We’ve also been asked to live stream events that agents miss or are sold out. We’ve integrated Amazon Polly into our website, and now you can listen to our posts as well as read them, and are slowly building our newsletter content into a monthly podcast.
- Contracts & Forms: We are in the final stages of making updates to our contracts and forms. Chair Mark McIlqham has focused on the Purchase and Sale Agreement so far. We administer all forms in-house for the entire residential real estate transaction, with over 50 contracts and forms available for member use. Available in FlexMLS, Ziplogix and Dotloop. We are planning to host our annual Lender Meeting to get an industry check-up, and will be asking them to help us develop a standard condo form for the seller to provide a buyer seeking financing.
- Quarterly Market Report: We began a new quarterly market video series to go along with our member’s Quarterly MarketWatch report. This is one way that we are trying to leverage technology to be more responsive to the needs of today’s members. We are developing custom, online training and video education as well.
- RESO Certification: YAY! We did it. The Real Estate Transaction Standard Organization (RESO) has issued our Web API platinum certification and our RESO data dictionary silver certification. This certification process is designed to ensure our fields and processes are aligned with national standards established by NAR. It is a combination of work by staff and our MLS vendor to complete.
- Informed Leaders: We have 7 members of our leadership team attending the NAR midyear meetings, so that we can cover both MLS and REALTOR issues and makes sure all visits to capitol hill are effective. While there, we will be attending the day long event, CMLS Brings It To The Table.
- New Policy: We are in the final stages of implementing “MLS of Choice” policies that will allow agents who are members of other MLSs and who do to do business here, greater flexibility about choosing their MLS service. Those will go out to the membership and be explained at SOS meetings in June.
- Training Options: We are also updating our MLS training to be accessible online, 24/7, to conform to new NAR standards.
As always, we explore new options and benefits for our membership!