Michael Seward Real Estate: Pioneer Valley & 5 Colleges Area Agency for the 21st Century Consumer


Awards are nice.  They are a nice recognition for a job well-done, they provide a sense of achievement, and they are good to keep one motivated.  REALTORS® are not shy about advertising their awards in newspapers this time of year.   Here is an inside look into what these awards mean, and what they don't mean.  Pioneer Valley home buyers and sellers shouldn't look at these awards as a reason to work with a particular agent or agency. 

REALTOR® awards can be categorized into office awards, agency awards, real estate franchise awards, REALTOR® association awards, and made-up awards.   The award in the photo is a "national" franchise award from 2005.  (A franchise is your Coldwell Bankers and Century 21s, which, incidentally, are both owned by the same corporation, which also owns numerous other brands that likely each distribute their own awards. There will be more on this aspect of the industry in another post.) 

When I started in real estate in May of 2003, I sold $1.5 million in the last 6 months of that year.  It was not a bad start to my real estate sales career, if I do say myself, which I am more than happy to do.  I ended up getting a Rookie of the Year award for my office and agency, and I was a northeast region finalist for Rookie of the Year for the franchise.  I didn't get it.  My award for the office achievement was a certificate and Positive Putty, which was nothing more than a can of silly putty.  I still have it.  A couple years later, my agency saw fit to award me a Movado watch when I was number one in sales for my office.  I still have that, too.   My broker at the time had to spring for a more expensive Movado, because the year before I awarded myself the entry-level Movado.  I deserved it, regardless of what others thought.  But did I sell more homes than others in my market?  I don't know, but that agency advertised my award and I was appreciative.   I was also appreciative in 2016 when an ad appeared showing that I was number one in sales within a legacy Amherst real estate agency, but I would have been more appreciative of an expensive new watch.   

These awards are an integral part of REALTOR® marketing.  That's why they exist.  I recently opened a local newspaper, where I saw several sales award advertisements.   The agencies even sprung for color.  One was a franchise ad touting their "national" awards, which they can do because they met the sales requirements for a national franchise, not because the nation recognizes them.  Another award was for a team that bragged about being the "#1 Team company wide".   What the ad didn't state was that company only has one team, or that the team was made up of 10 of the 26 agents in one office and included the broker of the company.  Then there was an award by another real estate agency that claimed sales not reported in the multiple listing service and left out certain real estate agencies to proclaim themselves number 1 in sales for the region.  It's not true.  REALTOR® association awards aren't legitimate either.  They aren't sales awards. They are sales and REALTOR® function attendance awards.  One must attend a certain number of REALTOR® functions to qualify for those awards.  None of these awards are in comparison to all Pioneer Valley real estate agents.  They are essentially participation awards.

These are all dishonest advertisements.  They fudge the numbers to rationalize an award, whatever it takes.  The franchise I worked for at the start of my career even changed the criterion used to qualify for an award during the financial crisis.  The same office I worked for gave me a buyer to represent up in Colrain, but the boss was to receive credit for the sale to help build up his numbers.  That happens all the time to manipulate the sales numbers.  I've done deals since where the agent wanted me to record it under another agents name for the same purpose.  Agents and agencies then publish their accomplishment in newspapers, put it on their website, post it on social media, and use them in consumers' living rooms on listing presentations to get their business.  They use dishonest ads to get more business.  I've seen one Pioneer Valley real estate agency employ the same tactic for years.   It's disgraceful, frankly.  

We are talking about false advertising in an industry that requires sterling character.  It's a huge responsibility to represent a home buyer in the purchase of their biggest investment or a home seller sell their largest asset.  Consumers should be able to trust the agency they hire to look out for their best interests, not an agency that lies to them to get their business.   But that is exactly what these agents and agencies are doing.  

Home buyers and sellers should beware of such advertisements.  If agents and agencies are willing to manipulate the public about their sales accomplishments, one should ask what the same agents and agencies did to get those sales in the first place.  Other than getting business by making disingenuous claims in their advertising, did those agents and agencies adhere to real estate license law?  Did they adhere to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics?   Consumers should ask if they want those agents and agencies doing it to them for a 5% or 6% commission.  

A measure of a good agent is not awards.  A measure of good agent is knowledge and experience.  A good agent has the strength of character to put one's clients interests before your own every time.  It means continuing one's education above and beyond what is legally required, which is 12 hours every two years in Massachusetts.  Being a good agent is the ability to come up with innovative solutions to help a client achieve their goals, not an agent's sales goals.  It means staying informed about real estate news on the local, state, and national level to better advise your clients.  It means offering great marketing for your clients. It also means sacrifice.  That's what it means to me, anyway.  It certainly doesn't mean fudging the numbers to justify a dubious award to increase business.  One would think an industry with it's own ethics code would understand that. 

So take it from me, The Greatest Real Estate Agent Who Has Ever Lived, consumers should not base which real estate agent with whom to work on disingenuous and self-aggrandizing sales awards.   I was kidding about being the greatest...kind of.  ;)

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.   He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist.  He has been a REALTOR® since 2003.  Mike also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology and a Master of Arts Degree in anthropology. 

Enjoy these videos of great homes for sale in the Pioneer Valley.  Then call Michael Seward at 413-531-7129 to schedule a showing.



Pioneer Valley home buyers would be wise to keep an eye on financial news in the days, weeks, and months to come, even if they aren't invested in the market. They should consult with their lender about making a home purchase sooner in the year to lock in a lower mortgage rate, while home sellers may want to consider putting their home on the market sooner.

Home buyers should understand how mortgage rates are affected by recent financial market volatility news.  It's not the drop in the stock market indices for which home buyers should be concerned, it's one of the reported causes of the stock market volatility: higher U.S. Treasury bond yields.  Mortgage rates are important to home buyers, because mortgage payments increase as mortgage interest rates increase. 

When the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, that doesn't refer to mortgage rates. Mortgage rates are tied to bonds yields, and, more specifically, U.S. Treasury bond yields.  

As the New York Times recently put it: "Higher government bond yields can make it more expensive for individuals, companies and governments to borrow money. They serve, for example, as the foundation for the interest rates that banks charge on fixed-rate mortgages."

CNBC put it this way: "The 10-year Treasury is the one to watch, and while many strategists targeted rates under 3 percent for this year, they acknowledge the risk is to the upside with yields potentially climbing to 3.25 percent. The 10-year is the benchmark best known to investors, and its yield influences a whole range of loans, including home mortgages."

The stock market has been in what has been characterized as a correction since Friday, February 2.   Investors have reportedly been concerned about the impact of good economic news, like wage and job growth.   It has been reported that the good news along with the impacts of the recent tax overhaul has caused fears that central banks will raise interest rates faster to fight off inflation.    Financial professionals have reportedly been expecting a stock market correction, as there has been steady growth without much volatility in recent months.   

Higher government bond yields have reportedly been tied to higher government spending and news that the Bank of England may raise interest rates sooner than expected due to strong global economic growth. 

The volatility in the stock market could lead to another challenge for home buyers: institutional investors looking to change their portfolio to real estate investment, Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of real-estate analytics firm Attom Data Solutions told Marketwatch.

That would create more competition in a real estate market already plagued by low inventory. 

Call Michael Seward Real Estate at 413-531-7129 to buy or sell a home.

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.   He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist.  He has been a REALTOR® since 2003.





U.S. Congressman Richard Neal posted a press release on his page announcing that the IRS has extended the timeframe for which homeowners with crumbling foundations can claim the cost of the repair on their federal income taxes. 

"Under the guidance issued today, homeowners will now have through the end of 2020 to make qualified repairs to their home and until April 2021 to claim those repairs on an amended 2017 federal tax return," the press release stated, which was a joint announcement with Connecticut congressmen Rep. Joe Courtney and  Rep. John Larson.  Rep. Neal helped get the original tax break as the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which crafts tax law.

Masslive reported that Neal helped Connecticut representatives get the original tax break, which, according to Masslive, the IRS announced in November 2017.  "Then the new federal tax plan was signed into law in December and it did away with provision in tax law the IRS used to grant the deduction," Masslive reported.

Neal represents western Massachusetts, where the same company that delivered the contaminated concrete responsible for the crumbling foundations in Connecticut also did plenty of business.  The concrete is contaminated with pyrrhotite, which reacts with water and oxygen over time in a manner rendering the concrete useless. It was delivered by J.J. Mottes, which is no longer in business.  The company has contended improper installation of the concrete was the reason for foundation failures, not contaminates in the concrete itself.  Other employees claimed that the company's business practices contributed to the problem.  J.J. Mottes was located a short drive from the Massachusetts border, where former employees confirmed in a 2016 news report that profiled homeowners in East Longmeadow that J.J. Mottes delivered concrete from Springfield to Charlton.  

News reports vary on the known scope of the problem.  In its most recent report, Masslive reported that homeowners in East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Monson, Palmer, Wales and Ware have been affected.   Western Mass News recently reported that a homeowner in Brimfield reported the problem, and the 2016 news report also included Hampden.  

Connecticut took action to protect homeowners there from insurance companies by issuing an order that they don't cancel policies because of crumbing concrete.  More Massachusetts homeowners may not be coming forward because the commonwealth has yet to take such action to protect homeowners in the Bay State.    

Despite knowing of the problem previously, Neal is only beginning to seek help for Massachusetts homeowners now.  He said that he is seeking help for homeowners here, according to Masslive.  

"He'd like the Massachusetts Bankers Association to work with owners of homes with failing foundations so they can avoid foreclosures, which benefit no one's bottom line.", Masslive reported, referring to Neal. "He plans to ask Attorney General Maura Healey...to get insurance companies and anyone else who bears responsibility for the failing foundations involved in helping homeowners."

State Senator Eric Lesser, whose district includes some of the towns known to be affected by crumbling concrete, told Western Mass News that homeowners are coming forward in other districts.

"I've already begun to hear from other legislators, other state senators, other representatives in communities around us who have had constituents come forward to them so there is power in numbers," Western Mass News quoted him as saying.   

The news report didn't follow up with questions regarding which senators and representatives Lesser spoke to and the other towns affected to help determine the scope of the problem.  There is also no press releases on Attorney General Maura Healey's website about an investigation or Lesser's website, nor are there currently any pending bills addressing the matter posted on his official state legislature profile. 

News reports of western Massachusetts home foundations failing began to appear in 2016, but it is only recently being reported in local press, after a Longmeadow attorney sounded the alarm.  Nearly two months after the first news report, the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley (RAPV)  issued its first concrete advisory.  It is likely both western Massachusetts representative and the state and local REALTOR® associations knew of the incredible scope of the epidemic here, given Neal's close relationship with the REALTOR® association, his role in helping Connecticut legislators get a tax break last year, and the fact that Connecticut REALTORS® have been issuing crumbling foundation advisories since 2015.   There are many officers on the RAPV and Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® who work for large real estate agencies in and around the affected area.

“This is welcome news for homeowners in our districts,” the U.S. Representatives from the Constitution State and Neal said in their joint statement on the tax break extension. “The additional three years afforded under this updated policy provides critical time for more homeowners impacted by crumbling foundations to make repairs and secure federal tax relief. Since enactment of the new tax law, we have been in regular contact with officials from the Treasury and IRS to explore ways to extend as much relief as possible to homeowners in spite of the changes made by the law.  We are grateful for their attention to our concerns and the support they have provided today to homeowners struggling with the damage caused by crumbling foundations.”

Michael Seward is a Massachusetts licensed real estate broker and member of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.   He is also a Certified Residential Specialist, Certified GREEN, Certified Buyers Representative, Certified New Homes Specialist, and Loss Mitigation Specialist.  He has been a REALTOR® since 2003.


In a press release by Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, also known as Freddie Mac, the multi-family housing market will stay strong in 2018.   The release and the report it summarizes can be found by clicking here:  Strong Multi-family Market Trajectory to Continue in 2018.

According to data from MLS Property Information Network, there was a total of 768 multi-family homes sold in the cities and towns across the Pioneer Valley in 2017.  That is over 100 more multi-family homes sold in 2016, which saw 650 such properties sold.  

Freddie Mac produced a video about the national multi-family housing market, which can be viewed below.  Call Michael Seward Real Estate at 413-531-7129 to buy or sell a multi-family home in the Pioneer Valley today. 

Check out the video tour of this multi-family home in Chicopee.  

Low inventory has been a problem for years, which is good for home sellers as it raises home prices.  But it also makes things more challenging for home buyers for the same reason.  Many local banks have competitive mortage rates,  but the national average is rising.  

According to CNBC's report: 

"Rising mortgage rates will make the market more competitive because they will decrease supply and increase demand. Potential sellers will not want to lose the record-low rates they locked in after the recession, so they will stay put. Potential buyers will want to move in faster before rates rise even more and price them out.

Homebuilders have been increasing production slowly, but they are nowhere close to meeting the growing demand."

Further Reading: 

US News & World Report: Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2018

Inman News: Low inventory will be huge challenge to home sales in 2018

Housing Wire: Here are four housing predictions for 2018

Check out this narrated video tour of a 5 bedroom home for sale with a  great backyard in Amherst, MA.