Changing market conditions spur continuing education updates

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Published: September 1,2008

The state’s licensed Realtors must fulfill continuing education requirements every two years. However, in light of the current market, course offerings are reflecting changing needs and issues.

“We have to understand we’re in a difficult market and cannot do business as usual,” says John Phillips, vice president of professional development for the Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR). “We have to learn new skills and ways of doing business.”

Phillips is serving as education director for the state. His license is now inactive, but he spent 35 years as a salesperson, broker and owner of large and small real estate businesses before Hurricane Katrina washed away his Gulfport office and home.

“We’ve had some interesting markets in 35 years. In the late 1970s we had interest rates of 17% and a lot of people paid nine, 10 and 11 discount points,” he recalls. “I made enough mistakes, so I tell people to just listen to me. I think about what helped me as we plan the courses to offer.”

All continuing education courses must be approved by the State Real Estate Commission. There are currently 15,000 active and inactive licensees in the state and approximately 1,700 licensed appraisers and home inspectors. Mark Cumbest, a member of the commission and owner/broker of Cumbest Realty in Pascagoula, says there are a huge variety of continuing education courses being approved by the commission.

Covering the spectrum

“We’re approving an average of seven or eight courses at our meetings, and they cover the spectrum,” he said. “Besides having to have continuing education to maintain licenses, Realtors need it in this market. The business is changing.”

Phillips says MAR endeavors to make sure content and instructors of courses are what Realtors need. “We’ve got to listen,” he said. “Continuing education is more important now than ever. We’re trying to keep it fresh and new.”

He takes classes on the road to area associations, too. “Tonight I’ll be in Summit with a class on license law,” he said the day of the Mississippi Business Journal interview. “We still have a lot of people signing up but don’t have as many new people off the street getting licensed. When we offer new courses, old Realtors want them.”

Licensees are signing up for new MAR offerings that reflect the changing times and market. Some of those include “Relocation 101,” “Sustainable Housing & Building Green” and “Condos & Co-ops.” A series of computer programs remains popular, beginning with the basics, then a second level and ending with a master’s series.

New skills in demand

“The key is to become proficient in a lot of things in this market so we have a lot of ways to help buyers,” Phillips said. “We’ll have to be a lot better at what we do. We get a lot of calls wanting to learn new skills.”

Reflecting the industry’s changing needs, he says specialized skills are required to help with employee relocations. Another hot item is learning about energy efficiency — thus the sustainable housing course is getting a lot of interest.

“We’ve learned that 97% of buyers say energy efficiency is important and 42% say it’s very important,” he said. “We need to be able to understand and define building green so we can walk through a property and determine how green it is. We’ll be able to point out such things as insulating properties to buyers.”

Condos and co-ops are new in Mississippi but are growing in some areas. Phillips says the few Realtors who know about them are getting the business. Getting a better understanding of credit rates and how to look at credit reports is also gaining interest among professionals.

Some courses are offered online, but Phillips is biased to an in-person classroom where there’s give and take among instructors and students.

Changing times

Cumbest points out some recently approved courses that reflect the changing times. Those include “Agency & Ethics,” “Recognizing and Recovering from Real Estate & Mortgage Fraud,” “Working with Developers, Builders and Contractors,” “120 Ways to Market Yourself and Your Company,” “Land Use & Zoning Law Litigation,” “Real Estate Safety 101,” “Evolution of Finance and the Mortgage Market,” “Landlord & Tenant Law,” “Homes for All: Serving People with Disabilities,” “Boundary Disputes: Resolving Conflicts” and “Life in the Six Ds: Defects, Discovery, Data, Disclosure, Damages and Defendants.”

In addition to MAR, courses have recently been approved for the Southern Prevention Task Force, National Business Institute and the National Association of Realtors.

“These courses cover important issues and concerns,” he said. “We want licensees to be effective and have the continuing education they need.”

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

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