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Michele Cummins: A foolproof “do what it takes” motto | REM

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What surprised Michele Cummins the most when she started her real estate career?

“In real estate they have this ‘have your cake and eat it too’ mentality,” she says. “As in, ‘We’re all Realtors here and we’re all one big happy family,’ and then the next thing you know, your Realtor “family member” is actually your most cutthroat competitor.




But looking back now, she’s not sure why she was surprised. When there are a dozen local Realtors vying for the biggest listing in town, cutthroat competition is expected. This made Cummins more resilient and less lazy, she says. In other words, she picked the hard way by presenting her genuine self to clients and Realtors.

In 2016 and 2017, she was Re/Max’s No. 1 selling agent in Fraser Valley, B.C. and one of the top one per cent agents Canada-wide. Now Cummins juggles her full-time real estate career, based at Re/Max Little Oak Realty in Mission, with co-hosting Fraser Valley’s only real estate radio show alongside radio personality Curtis Pope on Country 107.1 FM.

Cummins says the secret to her success is simple: “do what it takes. If nobody in my town knows who I am, I go knock on doors. If I’m expected to knock on doors, in the rain, on a Sunday when the game’s on, then yes, that’s what I’ll do. If my client wants to call me at 9 p.m., then I’ll do it, even if I had plans for a movie night,” she says.

Indeed, it’s a door knock that earned Cummins her first sale in the first month of her career. When she knocked on the doors of her first listing, a couple opened the door. They instantly suspected her because at 28, Cummins looked 10 years younger. “Are you new?” they asked. “Yes,” she said. “And because I’m new, I have the energy, the newest rules and laws and the most updated information at hand, because I just went through all the courses. I’m eager and hungry and I want to help you make the most money.”

“Well, come on in,” replied the couple. “We like your energy. Have a look at our place. We’re thinking about selling.”

She helped the couple sell their home and buy a new one. That was 20 years ago. They remain in touch with her to this day and exchange gifts on Christmas, every year.

Cummins didn’t intend to be in real estate. She bumped into it by happenstance.

An American transplant, Cummins has “been making her way north” since she was in her teens. When her family moved from California to Oregon, she was 13. Homeschooled by her mother, she helped her parents in their family-owned candy and gift store. At 15, she got her GED that allowed her to enter college. Cummins grew up in the country surrounded by acres of farm and horses. She developed a love for horses that quickly led to her breeding them and competing in Oregon’s horse circuit. At one point, her family owned 20 horses.

Cummins also had a love for acting. Her Hollywood dreams weren’t too far fetched. She grew up performing in community theatres and traced her ancestry back to MGM Studios, where her great-grandfather worked for 50 years, her cousins acted and her father manned the special effects for seven years. Acting was in her veins. In 1998, when her boyfriend, soon-to-be husband and Canadian musician Richard Cummins alerted her to Vancouver’s reputation of being “Hollywood of the north”, she knew what her next port of call would be.

When they moved to B.C., Richard found them a small cottage at a horse breeding farm owned by a Saudi couple who were doctors living overseas but needed a manager to look after their Swedish warmblood Olympic horses. This was a win-win deal.

While pursuing touch-and-go acting jobs, Cummins also worked at a car and truck rental. One day a Realtor with car trouble requested a rental while his car got fixed. Impressed by Cummins’s computer skills behind the counter, he quickly offered her a temporary job to help him as an office assistant. Cummins says, “It was a Tuesday. He showed me his office where he didn’t have a computer. He was old school, but his office was amazing. I met his manager, and then at the end of that one-hour walk-around, I said, well, if I do this, I would want to be a Realtor.”

Since then, Cummins hasn’t looked back.

Her training in the arts was put to good use too. In September 2018, Country 107.1 surveyed the region’s top selling agents to co-host a real estate radio show for their listeners in Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford, Mission, Maple Ridge, Richmond and North Vancouver. They called upon Cummins, and in short order, she got the job.

“Being a radio show host is definitely something that you have to grow into,” says Cummins.

With Curtis Pope, her show is like listening to two good friends having a conversation about real estate over coffee. While information-heavy, the question-answer format of their show allows them to convey boring stats engagingly.

“I add to this things like a hot topic where I will do a mini essay on a relevant and current industry issue, and because of the ever-changing market and rules, this is a good reason to tune in weekly,” she says.

The president of Canadian Home Builders’ Association, innovative builders, home inspectors, lawyers, mortgage brokers and other trusted subject matter experts are often invited as guests of the show.

Nowadays, Cummins finds herself toggling between getting straight to the point with her real estate clients off-air and elaborating the point on-air. “Every second counts in radio. On the radio, people want to hear the multiple layers to an answer, and all the factors that bring you to the eventual reasoning.  The ‘why?’ factor. Elaborating is the core of good radio, and so I have to shift into that mode when I get in the studio,” she says.

Over the years, Cummins has become a keen student of the real estate market. She likens it to climbing a mountain where there are peaks and valleys. “It goes up for about two to three years and then it always corrects about 10 to 12 per cent, before stagnating for an average of seven years,” she says. She predicted the price correction after spring 2018, and since last year, transactions for most Realtors in her region have halved, she says. Realtors are having to work harder and market more creatively.

Having her radio show has certainly helped Cummins’s career from a marketing standpoint. Most valuable, however, is the respect she receives from her peers.

For Cummins, real estate is more than a nine-to-five job. “Build your reputation, document your success, be innovative with your services, and you will have plenty to bring to the table in a client interview without ever having to resort to only looking good by making others look bad,” says Cummins.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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5 savvy renovations to make your kitchen look like new

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(NC) The kitchen is the heart and focal point of any home. But if yours is looking a little tired, a few simple renovations can change the feel of the entire space.

Whether you’ve just moved in, have been meaning to update for years or are experiencing life changes, remember that a kitchen uplift doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag. These small-scale projects could be the change your kitchen needs:

  1. Brighten it up.Adding LED lights below your cabinets will brighten your backsplash and counter and provide a warm glow. Place your favourite containers below to act as focal points – those copper canisters that are hiding under the island and the marble coasters you couldn’t resist can now all be on display.
  2. Swap the old with the new.The backsplash is the first thing you see, so replacing it can be enough to give the space a whole new look. Try a unique shape or colour to change things up, like turquoise or patterned tiles, hexagon-shaped tiles or even a full slab of stainless steel.
  3. Rework what you have.People often think new cabinets are necessary for a kitchen reno, but a lot can be done with what you’ve got. Repainting the cabinets and switching out the knobs to chic new handles will do wonders for a makeover.
  4. Don’t hide away.Try adding some open shelving in an unused spot, such as above the sink or window, or next to the cabinets. Display your most beautiful dishes and add some decorative pieces to give the space a modern, airy feel.
  5. Add new materials into the mix.Changing the island to a butcher-block counter adds warmth and practicality.

Taking on a renovation can often feel overwhelming. But if you talk to your contractor about budgeting and spreading out payments through services like The Home Depot Project Loan, it can be easier than you think. The service allows you to finance any home projects, big or small and is available at locations across Canada.

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How to afford a home renovation that fits your life

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(NC) Changing seasons always bring about the desire to update our living spaces. But your life stage and budget can influence what kind of upgrades you can make. Here are some tips to get you started.

Assess the investment. The first step is to gauge how much value your investment will bring, whether you’re looking to sell or grow into a family home. A common misconception among home owners is that all renovations will increase a home’s value; unfortunately, this is not always the case. It’s always a good idea to strategically renovate the space to fit your life plan and goals.

Plan for both long- and short-term value. As a homeowner, it is important to assess what kind of value items can contribute to your life plan. Searching for products that are energy efficient, like an eco-friendly washing machine or water filtration system, can help you save on your monthly bills. A long-term investment, such as hardwood floors or bathroom tiles, can spruce up a living space for years to come. While sometimes this require a larger budget, the project can be both appealing to future buyers and stand the test of time in a family home.

Create a renovation budget. Once you have a clear plan, you’ll need to create a budget to align with your financial goals. Always ensure your budget includes any interest you’ll be paying. Ask multiple sources for competitive quotes.

Use a payment plan. For those high-ticket investment items, consider using a payment plan. Payment solutions such as The Home Depot Project Loan can help with bigger renovations. This allows you to stick to your budgeting goals while using a flexible payment plan to make larger purchases more accessible.

Use DIY to offset costs. In addition to using a payment plan, taking on a few safe and simple renovation projects yourself is an easy way to offset renovation costs. Your local hardware store can help source materials and provide helpful tips to make those do-it-yourself projects, such as refinishing cabinets or sanding old hardwood floors, a breeze.

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