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MAR stays busy this time of year

JACKSON — Things are busy at the Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR). Staff and members are involved with the general election, preparing to promote issues to the 2007 Legislature, working to find housing solutions for the Gulf Coast, and training an increasing number of persons to enter the real estate field.

“MAR is the voice for real estate in Mississippi and the business advocate for real estate professionals,” CEO Angela Cain said of the organization that represents 6,000 residential and commercial professionals active in all phases of brokerage, development, property management and appraisal.

For the November 7 election, the association officially endorsed five candidates for judgeships and state house and senate races. Cain said the MAR Political Action Committee (MARPAC) supports candidates without regard to party affiliation, who by their activities, personal conduct and records of performance have demonstrated concern for and interest in the preservation of real property rights, the integrity of real estate brokering as an independent profession and the legal and economic rights of the real estate industry.

“Mississippi has done a good deal in the past few years to improve its legal environment,” said MARPAC chairman Don Halle of Gulfport. “It’s important that we select judges who will uphold the law and protect the progress that we have made.”

Derek Easley, MAR government affairs director, said the association proudly supports the endorsed candidates. “It is important that we send business-minded leaders to Jackson who will continue to support legislation that encourages economic development and job growth, which is a catalyst for Mississippi to experience the American dream of owning a home.”

MAR will be going to the Legislature supporting the issues of eminent domain, impact fees and mortgage fraud/predatory lending.

“The FBI considers mortgage fraud to be one of the fastest-growing white-collar crimes in the country,” Cain said. “And, Mississippi has seen more than its fair share. It’s ruining the American dream of home ownership for those who have already struggled to make their largest single investment a reality. Our association is working to better educate its members and their customers and clients about the warning signs of mortgage fraud.”

Additionally, Cain said the state’s Mortgage Consumer Protection Law is set to repeal in 2007 and must be reauthorized during the upcoming legislative session. “MAR is interested in working with other interested parties, including the Mississippi Mortgage Brokers Association, to make changes to the law before it is reauthorized in order to better protect borrowers and to make sure that those who engage in predatory lending or mortgage fraud are prosecuted,” she said.

In efforts to help meet housing needs on the hurricane-devastated Coast, MAR and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) donated $155,000 to enable the RAND Corporation to extend its study of affordable housing needs in Mississippi.

The study by the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute will focus on low- and moderate-income housing in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties, which sustained about 90% of the serious damage the state suffered from Hurricane Katrina.

“We are so honored to be partners in this important project that will guide our leaders as they develop and implement solutions to the current housing crisis along our Coast,” said MAR president Pam Beard, who spearheaded the initiative.

The funding is the latest effort from MAR to promote post-Katrina housing opportunity and assist residents directly affected by the storm. Since September 2005, the organization has dispersed more than $3 million in relief funds to more than 3,000 families, purchased building supplies to aid reconstruction efforts and funded a program designed to assist with repairs to rental properties and get more of them back on the market.

The Mississippi Realtor Institute, the official real estate school of the association, reports that the number of students attending its salesperson pre-licensing courses — the 60-hour program required to be eligible to sit for the state licensing examination — continues to grow. Course enrollment has doubled since 2005 with more than 1,200 new students making their way through the classroom and online courses.

“Interest in the real estate business is at an all-time high,” said Jo Usry, vice president of professional development for the institute. “We offer courses monthly in Jackson and at various times throughout the year in Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Oxford and Tupelo.”

She notes that adult learners seem to enjoy the flexibility that online course provides. “They can take it on their own schedule at their own pace, even while they’re still in their pajamas,” she said. “Other traditional students enjoy hearing war stories and practical real world examples from our classroom instructors who are also licensed practitioners.”

Still, Usry cautions that the real estate business is often a lot more complex than students actually realize when they enroll in a course.

“I can’t tell you the number of times our students start out on the first day of class saying they’re good with people and can’t wait to show pretty houses,” she said. “When they open up the textbook and find legalese and math, they’re shocked.

The entrepreneurial spirit required of a Realtor and upfront marketing and start-up costs associated with breaking into this increasingly competitive business are things a prospective student needs to consider before setting foot in a classroom.”

Usry says the pre-licensing course prepares a student to take the real estate licensing exam but even then significant outside study is required. “There is so much more a new agent needs to learn before listing or selling real estate,” she said. “That’s why we’re launching a new Rookie Boot Camp program in 2007 focused on new agent training.”

The course will help rookies navigate their way through their challenging first year in the business. Course topics include creating a business plan and a marketing analysis; writing contracts and common contract mistakes; creating net sheets for sellers; presenting agency options to consumers; pricing property; buyer counseling; finance options and mortgage processes; and avoiding anti-trust and fair housing mistakes and servicing buyers and sellers.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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