Gaining a competitive edge in today’s real estate market is vital to homeowners’ equity interests. Owners want to feel secure that the money they invest in their home increases in value. Many communities are a co-op or are age-restricted and, in the case of all HOAs, amendments are made to the governing documents and new legislation is passed, changing the rules in ownership and title. This change requires additional expertise on the part of realtors if they are to represent the owners at the most informed level possible.
One manager at Professional Community Management of California Inc. (PCM) realized it takes great effort to clarify the governance structure and the seemingly contradictory rules and regulations that are unique to one of the corporations within Laguna Woods Village. To meet this need, Community Services Manager Pamela Bashline developed the Village Real Estate Sales Symposium to educate realtors.
“In such a challenging economy, we believed the symposium was a great way to raise our community profile and make the resale process more understandable for those realtors who want to do business here,” Bashline said.
As the coordinator of the program, Bashline developed a panel of speakers including a real estate attorney, a high-rise manager, a risk-management expert and a property services manager.
“There has been some confusion about housing here in the Village,” she explained. “Within the Village, there are four kinds of housing options – co-operatives, multi-family condo, high-rise condo and detached condo – and each of the boards has established specific financial requirements and occupancy rules to safeguard the viability of the individual corporations. We felt that it was in the best interest of our owners and the community real estate values to educate realtors regarding the different options.”
Symposium topics included the basics of selling a home in the Village. This encompasses the unique features of cooperative housing, agent access to the community, open house and real estate signage, prospective buyer financial qualifications, home inspections, age and occupancy restrictions, insurance coverage, the corporations’ right of first refusal, historical sales and lean statistics and other information pertinent to marketing properties located in the Laguna Woods Village.
“A very common mistake results when a realtor thinks an owner doesn’t need insurance because the HOA is insured,” she said. “But in the event of a fire, the HOA’s insurance does not cover personal items within the home that was damaged or lost, and that can be devastation for homeowners.”
Several members of the board of directors attended the event to answer questions and meet with real estate professionals. Bashline also brought in management staff from different departments to discuss architectural and landscape standards, open houses and real estate signage.
“We have high hopes that the real estate symposium provided realtors with the information they need to present reliable and accurate information to prospective buyers,” said Gail McNulty, president of the United Laguna Hills Mutual board of directors. “It’s disheartening when we hear a new resident remark that his or her realtor hadn’t told them about specific rules they need to know about.”
McNulty also agrees that these types of events ultimately serve to preserve the investment value for homeowners.
“We don’t see this as an exclusive, closed-gate place to live,” McNulty adds. “Laguna Woods Village is designed specifically for seniors who want security, service and community. If realtors are informed and understand the values of the community, then they can increase their business by being fully informed to best serve their buyers and sellers. Our new neighbors are happy and settled and, in short, everyone wins.”
More than 150 industry professionals attended the first Village Real Estate Symposium, including Marlene Bridges, a realtor (certified residential specialist and seniors real estate specialist) with Sherman Smith and Associates.
“When I began representing buyers and sellers in Laguna Woods Village, I had to learn the right questions to ask my clients,” she said. “I was also able to help my sellers by staging and marketing properties in ways that hadn’t been done before in the community.”
Bridges was so excited by the symposium that she volunteered to help develop the symposium that will be planned for next year.
“I’m willing to help other agents,” Bridges said. “It’s not about competition. Someone I help may bring a buyer to one of my listings and vice versa. The most important thing in my particular specialty is to do everything I can to help seniors and their families.”
Bashline also worked closely with the communications team at Laguna Woods Village so that prospective residents could peruse the community website for real estate agents who attended the symposium. She regularly communicates with symposium attendees through email so that everyone is made aware in real time of changes when they occur.
“The symposium was the first step in reaching out to the local real estate firms that serve our community,” Bashline said. “We are continuing to build on these relationships by communicating new developments and information via regular email blasts.”
For any community manager considering developing the same type of symposium, Pamela Bashline recommends the following:
- Reach out to local experts to present or speak at the event – lenders, escrow companies, insurance experts, attorneys, city officials and of course the HOA community board of directors
- Offer tours or give exciting visual presentations on the amenities and unique benefits of the community
- Create a survey for attendees to provide feedback. Ask if their expectations were met and what they would like to see in future communications or symposiums.
- Consult with the HOA board of directors in creating the program
- Include food and beverages with the event and allow time for informal social networking
This article first appeared in CondoManagement.
Donny Disbro, MBA, CCAM
Professional Community Management of California, Inc.
Lake Forest, CA