How to Avoid a Realtor’s Nightmare

by Peter Thomas Ricci


Martin Walsh is a broker with @properties in Winnetka and the 2012-13 chairman of the board for The North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors.

It’s a Realtor’s nightmare: after closing, it becomes apparent that zoning regulations won’t let your client complete the home renovation of her dreams.

The reality is, Realtors are obligated to know municipal regulations concerning real estate and stay on top of any changes. While city of Chicago Realtors apply their regulatory knowledge daily, the challenge is even more pressing for Chicago suburban agents.

The area I serve with my suburban colleagues includes more than 30 villages, towns and cities. Our understanding of individual community zoning regulations is essential, along with knowledge of varying demolition taxes and fees, fair housing laws, rental ordinances and special service areas.

This intelligence can save our clients a great deal of time and money. It’s as important as our ability to manage mortgage documents and all the other technical paperwork needed to help homebuyers fulfill their dreams – and avoid expensive mistakes.

In addition to helping buyers make well-informed decisions about which homes will best serve their long-term needs, familiarity with local real estate regulations also prompts Realtors to more heavily engage in influencing local policy.

Knowing firsthand how an issue like a proposed new rental ordinance or change in the mortgage interest deduction could affect our clients – and our business – is the first step in backing advocacy to support pro-homeownership legislation and affordable home pricing.

Local government more immediately affects your clients and your ability to make a living than any U.S. presidential race. Here are some tips for staying informed:

• Know your Realtor government affairs representatives at the local and state levels. Attend your association’s government affairs programs.

• Read local news. Check out online news sites and the Chicago suburban and neighborhood weeklies. Pay attention to community members’ follow-up comments posted to articles online. These are often a great resource for judging community climate.

• If you are new to a community, talk with long-established colleagues, municipal officials and your Realtor government affairs rep. Peruse municipal Web sites to increase your familiarity with local zoning, planning and development, and other departments.

• Identify your communities’ elected officials and their basic stance on issues related to real estate and private property rights.

• Join conversations. At community meetings, parties or the grocery store, what are people buzzing about? Any proposed taxes or ordinances, for instance, that might affect residents’ ability to buy, sell or rent a home?

These tips are simply strategies toward the greater goal of being an excellent resource for your clients comparing communities and deciding where to live. Don’t live a Realtor’s nightmare! Know your turf and stay informed.

Martin Walsh, ABR, SFR is a broker with @properties in Winnetka, and the 2012-13 chairman of the board for The North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors.

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