Real Estate

How realtors stay ahead of the game

Debbie Fleming, an associate broker with Bagshaw Coldwell Banker in Riverhead since 1994, takes industry training courses to keep up with the latest technologies.

Like many other licensed professionals, realtors are required to hone their skills on a regular basis by completing mandatory continuing education courses. And what courses local realtors are taking could tell a lot about industry trends and the characteristics of a particular market.

For instance, Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Gayle Marriner-Smith can’t say enough good things about the training she took eco-broking, which relates to environmentally friendly buildings.

“They train you to be the source for issues like retrofitting homes for geothermal or solar,” she said. “I learned a lot about reducing my carbon footprint. I have the eco-broker designation and I’m in the middle of the second home and resort designation, and that is going to be so useful here where second homes are so much a part of the East End.”

New York’s Division of Licensing Services oversees the licensing of real estate professionals and requires realtors to complete 22.5 hours of approved continuing education every two years. (Real estate brokers with long-term experience are exempted from the education requirement although they, along with more junior realtors, are required to take regular ethics classes.)

Karla Dennehy, manager of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Mattituck office, said the realtors in her office have wholeheartedly embraced the requirements.

“The state requires it and the local boards like the Long Island Board of Realtors and the Hamptons and North Fork Realtors Association have done a great job of keeping up with changes,” she said. “They both offer really substantial courses that people enjoy and get a lot out of.”

The Long Island Board of Realtors offers online and in-classroom courses at its Riverhead Realtor Service Center, where April’s offerings include instruction on short sales (sold out), a class on important regulatory changes and another on risk management solutions.

The North Fork group offers both classroom and online courses, said executive officer Richard Stauffer. “People do have learning preferences so we offer both. We just completed classes in Southold and Greenport,” he said.

So whether they opt for online or classroom instruction, what sorts of courses do other North Fork realtors favor?

Anne Brouillard of Century21’s Greenport office says she likes classroom instruction for the interactive experience. “There are so many choices,” she said. “I took a fabulous [Long Island Board of Realtors] course a month ago on the paperless future of real estate. We’ve been trying to get everyone here to embrace paperless systems because that’s what’s coming sooner rather than later.

“I’m so excited about the idea of having all of the paperwork in one place online and that everything will be signed digitally. It’s so green.”

Ms. Brouillard also likes the courses that give realtors a leg up on other facets of the home-buying process.

“The public already has access to so much information online,” she said. “These courses allow us to absorb a lot of vital material that we can pass on to our clients. As just one example, we are really fortunate to be able to learn in detail about issues like the home inspection and then pass that information on to our clients.”

Debbie Fleming of Coldwell Banker Bagshaw Realty said the courses are a godsend when it comes to keeping up with ever-changing technologies.

“I always try to choose courses that are relevant to today’s practice,” she said, “like the technology courses that teach you how to use your Blackberry more effectively and how to use Facebook and blogs to work with younger home buyers.”

Ms. Fleming, who renewed her license last year, also emphasized the importance of the fair housing and ethics components of continuing education for realtors.

“I took a course called ‘Check up from the neck up’ which explained in the clearest possible way what you can and cannot do as a realtor,” she said.

Century21’s Jo-Ann Wind is also sold on online courses. “It’s really convenient for me,” she said, from her Greenport office. “And the huge number of online courses gives you a chance to customize your knowledge base and to specialize in the areas you really want to.”

Courses do more than offer the chance to specialize, however.

Most importantly, though, said Ms. Marriner-Smith of Prudential Douglas Elliman, continuing education equips the realtor to provide the most up-to-date information to buyers and sellers.

“I love what I do and I love learning how to do it better,” she said. “I think it’s important for the public to know we really know our stuff.”