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RISMEDIA, December 4, 2009—As 2009 winds down, no doubt your planning for 2010 is just gearing up. Considering ongoing turmoil in the real estate industry and the forecast for the next few years, I can’t stress enough the importance of diversifying your skills and knowledge to avoid falling behind permanent shifts that some reluctant agents are treating as here-today-gone-tomorrow trends.

It’s not too late to specialize and make adjustments that will go a long way in sustaining your career through all market ups and downs. Here are some of the market opportunities that you should be aware of as you shape your business goals and allocate your business-development time and money.

Green Real Estate
Today’s economic challenges have consumers thinking more about cost- and energy-efficiency. It’s safe to say you can count on your clients becoming increasingly discerning when it comes to their wants and needs in a home and an agent. They’re finding more and more value in environmentally friendly products and practices. Learn how to help them get more for their money in green real estate by exploring applicable courses and certifications. The NAR Green designation and the EcoBroker designation are strong launching points.

Distressed Properties
Short sales, foreclosures and REOs are expected to make up a greater segment of the marketplace in 2010 than they did this year. Half of all closed transactions in 2009 involved properties that were in some form of distress. Along with the growing distressed property inventory, there are an increasing number of resources to help you tackle short sales and foreclosures. The Distressed Property Institute’s Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) course and NAR’s new Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource Certification (SFR) are among them. With more and more options out there, there’s no excuse not to learn how you can make a difference—and a living—in the distressed property market.

FHA 203(k) Loans
A byproduct of the growing number of distressed properties is more homes in disrepair languishing on the market and driving down the value of other homes in the area. Buyers who can afford the payments but not always the repairs, namely first-timers, are increasingly tapping into a little-known FHA loan program that allows them to lump refurbishing costs into a single FHA mortgage: the 203(k). In 2008, FHA issued less than 7,000 of these loans; in 2009, the tally is expected to jump to 30,000, and there’s reason to believe the numbers will hit the hundreds of thousands in the next few years. Search “203k” at for more details, and visit to learn about a program for real estate agents who are interested in becoming 203(k) experts.

Whether you tackle one or all of them, these programs present an opportunity to make a fresh start in the new year and the new marketplace.

Margaret Kelly, CRB, is chief executive officer of RE/MAX International, Inc.

For more information, visit