By Martin Walsh
It’s a REALTOR®’s nightmare: after closing, it becomes apparent that local zoning regulations won’t let your client complete the home renovation of her dreams. The reality is, REALTORS® are obligated to know municipal regulations concerning real estate and stay on top of any changes. We also need to know how regulations, including real estate taxes and fees, vary from location to location. That insight can save your clients a great deal of time and money. It’s as important as our ability to manage mortgage documents and all the other technical paperwork needed to help our clients fulfill their home-owning dreams – and avoid expensive mistakes.
Staying in the know and up to date on real estate rules is a challenge I handle daily, as a Chicago suburban practitioner in an area that that includes more than 30 villages, towns and cities. My understanding of individual community zoning regulations, demolition taxes and fees, fair housing laws, rental ordinances, special service areas and more are critical components of educating my buyers to make well-informed decisions about which homes are right for them and will best serve their long-term needs. In addition, it prepares me to back advocacy efforts that influence pro-homeownership policies and affordable home pricing.
Local government more immediately affects your clients and your ability to make a living than any U.S. presidential race. Here are some tips for staying informed:
• Know your REALTOR® government affairs representatives at the local and state levels. Attend government affairs programs and meetings at your local association.
• Read local news in the communities you serve. Check out the weekly newspapers and also online news sites. Pay attention to community members’ follow-up comments posted after real estate-related articles on these sites!
• Tune in to real estate-related issues in your area and follow their progress, though local news and your REALTOR® association.
• If you are new to a community, talk with long-established colleagues, municipal officials and your REALTOR® government affairs rep. Peruse municipal Web sites to increase your familiarity with local zoning, building, planning and development and other departments.
• Identify your communities’ elected officials and their basic stance on issues related to real estate and private property rights.
• Join conversations. At community meetings, parties or at the grocery store, what are people buzzing about? Any proposed taxes or ordinances, for instance, that might affect residents’ ability to buy, sell or rent a home?
These tips are simply strategies toward the greater goal of staying informed and serving as an excellent resource for your clients comparing communities and deciding where to live. They will also prepare you to raise your own voice in your blog, client communications, local meetings or whatever forums you use to help drive home your standing as a local expert.
Don’t live a REALTOR®’s nightmare. Know your turf and stay informed.
Martin Walsh, ABR, SFR is a broker with @properties in Winnetka, Ill., as well as the 2012-13 Chairman of the Board with the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS®.
For more information, visit www.nsbar.org.
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