Todd Urbanski takes the reins as 2019 president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors (MAR) at a time of moderate tumult for the industry and the association, which represents more than 8,000 members in the 16-county Twin Cities metro and western Wisconsin.
The association has a new name, is on the hunt for a new executive director and is grappling to serve buyers and sellers in a market that is plagued by a lack of listings and record house prices.
At the same time, the Minneapolis City Council is considering an ordinance that would add a Residential Energy Scoring Disclosure to its Truth In Sale of Housing (TISH) requirements.
You’re “director of agent training/Realtor” at Fazendin Realtors in Wayzata, does that mean you don’t work with buyers and sellers?
About 75 percent of the work I do is agent development. It’s really to keep agents up on what’s happening in the marketplace and the trends we’re seeing. I oversee new agent training and also do an in-house training program.
What’s your best advice to new agents right now?
I tell everyone to get ready to be comfortable being uncomfortable. People will work with you if they know you, like you and trust you. Try to figure out what your prospective clients need from you, sometimes it’s just advice.
How did you get into the business?
This is my 20th year in the business. I was in the printing industry, then just didn’t want to do that anymore. I was a plumber for about four years and then learned the trades, but a bad back wasn’t going to allow me to do that.
That new TISH proposal in Minneapolis could include several new energy efficiency-related inspection and testing requirements that MAR says could add at least $200 to the current $275 cost of a TISH inspection. Are you on board with the idea?
I understand what they’re trying to accomplish and that’s a good thing. I’m not in support of the way it’s laid out right now. I like the proposal for what it’s trying to do but I don’t like putting the cost on the seller at the time of sale. Somewhere between 10 to 20 percent of sellers are selling because of some sort of hardship and oftentimes these hardships are financially based and then we’re asking them to invest more in the home. It becomes an affordability issue.
You have been helping your nephew buy his first house. What is your advice to other first-time buyers?
Have all your ducks in a row. Figure out how much you’re going to spend and know what your total payment is going to be on the house you want to buy, and then start basically making that payment every month right now so you get used to making it.
Any thoughts about getting a mortgage?
The biggest fear for a lot of people about financing is they think that it’s so hard to do. In reality, there’s a lot of paperwork that’s generated — from tax returns to bank statements that you have to provide. It’s not necessarily a painful process, but it’s a little more drawn out. As a society, we’re used to hitting a button and having things done.
Where are those first-time buyers going to get the best value?
The entire Twin Cities. When I look at the city of Denver, which is somewhat similar to the Twin Cities, the average sale price is just under $500,000; by the end of 2018, the Twin Cities was under $280,000 when the year-end numbers come in. When I look at other parts of the country we are still a relatively affordable community. Not that we don’t have issues with affordable housing, that’s every city, but if you look at how we’re rated from health, education and the business climate, we’re usually rated in the top 5 in all these different categories, so to live here for less than the cost of a lot of the other major metro cities … it’s still a good deal.
What are your priorities as MAR president?
I get to help 8,500-plus members become better small business owners. For example, MAR is forming a green committee for the first time. The other big things moving forward is looking at our partnerships — can we partner more with the BATC (Builders Association of the Twin Cities) and can we partner more with other business and other groups that would benefit our members and our communities?
What do you and your wife, Zina, like to do when you are not working?
When I grow up I’m hoping to be a ski bum! In that effort, I’m a ski patroller for Afton Alps and we try to hit Colorado or Montana twice a year for ski trips. We also enjoy cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and the North Shore. We have a small cabin that we are renovating just outside of Brainerd on the Mississippi River.