Friday, June 23, 2006

Technology and Being Better at What We Do

Yesterday I did one of my favorite things – I shared knowledge and experience with a group of fellow real estate professionals. The Maryland State Chapter of The Women’s Council of Realtors sponsored “A Day of Education”, and I was pleased to be asked to present on “The Internet for Agents”.

What realtors do is actually very low-tech – we list, sell, and get to the settlement table. That’s it. At the beginning of the session I held up a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and said that these are all I really need to do my job. You don’t need technology to network and meet people. You don’t need technology to listen to sellers talk about their home, and no computer can show a house for you. All that creativity – and the personal approach – must come from the agent first.

But if you are a good at listing and selling, you can do everything faster and with more efficiency by choosing the right technical tools and learning to use them. And here’s a nice bonus: while you are using technology to streamline your business life, you are finding more time for your personal life, too.

My bag of tech tricks comes on a single shoulder strap. During the session I pulled out one toy after another to illustrate that I had everything I needed for a listing. With the tablet PC I have anywhere-anytime Internet access, fax software, all the forms I need for listing and selling, and a stylus for signing listing agreements and sales contracts right on the computer screen. Attached to the “bump case” that protects the PC is a small pouch that holds my laser measuring tool, a mouse, power connectors, and a digital camera the size of a deck of cards. To illustrate the power of this package, I took out the camera, had someone take a picture, plugged the camera into the computer, downloaded the photo, and emailed it, all in a matter of minutes.

One of the best parts of the session was the way people were sharing. One agent with a Blackberry could show another some tricks. Treo owners could swap suggestions. Everyone likes to show off their toys, and realtors are no different! Sharing the knowledge makes us all better at what we do.

Personally and professionally, it was a delightful day. Martha Stephens did a marvelous job of organizing, and my friend and first trainer in real estate, Anne Hruby, introduced me at the start of the session. As you can see, we had a great time.

Margaret Rome, Martha Stephens, Anne Hruby

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Contest Winners!

I’ve always said there are a lot of very creative people in the world, and it’s clear that some of them are reading this blog! I asked for ideas on how to use this wonderful historic church, and the suggestions were even better than I’d hoped. In fact, there were several very good ideas, and it was impossible to choose just one.

The first place winner is a combination of two ideas that seemed to blend the best of history and today.

Dia said she would turn the building “…into a Cafe/Gallery/Museum where the community can come and enjoy local artists, food and spiritual connections.” Karen said she would “…convert it to a Children's Museum [including] historic information regarding the community, the State Flower, any wildlife in the area.” By combining these two great suggestions, we have a coffee shop-type environment with rotating exhibits by Maryland artists, regional interest books for sale, children’s art and nature activities, and benches around the grounds for quiet reading. Can’t you almost smell the coffee? Congratulations to Dia Sanders and Karen Villa Schweinfurth!

I can’t choose second or third or fourth…because any of these could be a great use for this building:

Velma Evans suggested creating a conference center that could offer overnight accommodations so that small groups could “get away” to a quiet place for training, brainstorming, planning, and rejuvenating. The historic church is a natural environment for reflection and enjoying a break from the day-to-day routine.

Jean sees the church as a beautiful “serenity spa” with Zen gardens, yoga instruction, and meditation rooms. With a Japanese tea ceremony, she sees this as a great stress-relief site.

Marcia has a similar idea, noting the building has its roots in the spiritual health and well-being of the community. She envisions a venue for alternative health and education practitioners offering massage, acupuncture, nutritional education, and exercise in a spiritual environment.

Perhaps one of the most creative uses was suggested by Richard who sees the building as an ideal recording studio with a natural full, reverberating sound that will appeal to acoustic ensembles. I wonder if Richard knows that this church has hosted many memorable chamber music evenings?

Thanks to everyone for sharing your creativity!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Location, Location…It All Depends on Where You Are

In today’s InmanNews, the real estate news service, Janis Mara had a very good article about the differences in the real estate market around the country. Whereas in Baltimore it is a good market for first-time home buyers, Californians are seeing a very different market - not many first-time buyers in Baltimore hope to find something for $900,000!

The answer to, “What’s the market like for my house?” is, as you might guess, “It all depends.” It depends on where you are and what the trends are in your area. Some places like Baltimore have a good inventory of homes for sale which makes it a great time to be a buyer. With fewer people competing for houses, it’s not necessary to pay more than asking price or waive any important steps like a home inspection.

My friend Linda DeVlieg in Albuquerque said it best: "It's a challenge and I think the consumer has to be more educated and work with an agent who is also educated…." Whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, it can seem like a jungle. Take the time to find an experienced Realtor to guide you safely through.