The Vision, The Society, The Future

Introduction: During our meeting in November in Ontario Bill Broadbent gave us a terrific talk regarding the vision and the future of the S.E.C. Education Foundation. I asked Bill to give me a synopsis, and he has done so. It says much more, with much more credibility, than anything that I could write for the Ed Foundation article. You can quote me on this!
– Stephen R. England, S.E.C.,
2007 President, The S.E.C. Education Foundation

In the 1950’s Richard Reno had a vision. It was a different approach to marketing real estate. He offered that vision to organized real estate (NAR) in the late 1950s. A committee was formed, chaired by Reno to study the idea. Many months later after a heated discussion a vote was taken and by a thin majority (2 votes) it was rejected. Reno believed in his concept and in 1961 he founded the Society of Exchange Counselors (S.E.C.) with 19 members.

It was July 1961 when I first heard Richard Reno give a short talk. In October he was a panelist on the topic of exchanging at our California state convention. His message was unique and I heard that he taught a one week seminar which I first attended in December of 1961. What an experience. He showed us that there were benefits other than cash. He broadened my geographic horizons, and proved that there was always more “EQUITY” in the real estate marketplace than money. He planted the seeds of “daring to do.”

In 1962 I took the early “numbers classes” which lead to the California designation C.P.E. Certified Property Exchangor. A year later the program was taken over by NAR and the designation was changed to CCIM.

Reno invited me into S.E.C. in 1962 and I earned my C.P.E. designation in 1963 and became a Charter CCIM, the first S.E.C. – CCIM in America. I received some teacher training for the numbers classes and one of the national leaders was impressed with my skill and work ethic and told me he would make me a national figure in real estate. He then said there was just one condition. “You’ll have to disassociate yourself from Richard Reno and the S.E.C.s. I didn’t care about being a “national figure in real estate” so I declined his offer.

In 1963 I co-founded the first local exchange group in America, the Central Coast Exchangors (CCE). Our membership drew from a tri-county area from Ventura, CA on the south to Paso Robles on the north. We used the exchange marketing concepts taught by Richard Reno. Completion of his class was mandatory to qualify for CCE membership. Madge Davis and Bob Steele visited our group and then formed the Orange Coast Exchangors. This was the 2nd group in the country and many others followed.

In 1969 Reno decided to broaden the education base. He selected five S.E.C.s to participate. Jim Misko (OR), Wally Walker (ID), Bob Steele (CA), Chuck Chatham (CA), and Bill Broadbent (CA). He asked each of us to develop a seminar based on techniques that we had proven to be successful. Reno believed that real estate educators should be doers more than teachers. Since Reno was the only one with national name recognition the classes would be offered under the banner of the Richard R. Reno Education Foundation.

I told Mr. Reno that I was flattered by his invitation but was philosophically further from him that the other four instructors. He just smiled and said “I know Bill, just do your thing.” My class was Conceptual Bridges Between Property and People. The objective was to show a middle ground between Reno’s People and Psychology focus, and the CCIM numbers game. Misko taught Creative Financing, Walker taught a general exchange class, and Steele taught a formulas class, “100 Solutions to Real Estate Problems,” only one of which was cash. Chuck Chatham developed the “Art of Real Estate Counseling” seminar which was first offered in 1970. Reno and the other instructors were all present. Upon completion I told Chuck that this was the missing link. I thought of a number of good people who had dropped out of real estate during the 1960s because they lacked the counseling and client management skills that Chuck had discovered and was now teaching. Within a couple of years Warren Harding, Cliff Weaver, and Bud Zander were added to the Reno Foundation’s teaching team.

Now, as I reflect on my 47 years in real estate I’m thankful that I met Richard Reno so early in my career. Without the leadership of Reno and Chatham I would probably have dropped out of real estate 25 years ago because traditional real estate bores me. Reno broadened my geographic horizons and inoculated me with the daring to do. Chatham’s non-sales non-manipulative counseling skills were extremely valuable. Reno spoke of counseling but Chatham developed the concept thoroughly. Its importance is underemphasized and the amount of appropriate training available is inadequate. While Chuck and I didn’t succeed in professionalizing real estate we did discover how to be professionals in the conduct of our business and in our relationships with clients. Without their example and encouragement (the daring to do) I would never have pioneered new ideas like Buyer Representation, Single Agency and non-contingent fees. All of this background was helpful when I got involved in the discounted note field and co-authored (with George Rosenberg) the book OWNER WILL CARRY. George was also a great supporter in the development and promotion of these new concepts.

I’ve seen real estate from many perspectives, as a broker, investor, educator (75 classes for 1970 to 1990 in 18 states) as a student (over 200 seminars in 47 years and author (many articles & contributed to four books). The Society of Exchange Counselors is a truly unique organization. There is nothing even close. Reno saw it as a large family and this approach to real estate as a “way of life.” It’s a “people business not a property business.” Much of the creativity in the real estate industry originated in S.E.C.

In the early decades (1960s & 70s) we were so busy discovering and sharing new ideas and formulas that little thought was given to perpetuating the Society into the future. In the late 80s the new mandate of continuing education for license renewal “dumbed down” the real estate industry. Royce Ringsdorf said it best, “Education is no longer desired because it’s required.” In the late 1990s the Society recognized the necessity for educational continuity for its own survival and set up and education foundation for that purpose. While some funds have been raised, more are needed.

Richard Reno’s legacy was the Society and its way of life. Our challenge is to keep it alive and thriving. One way to help in that effort is to leave a legacy. If you have significant assets, a portion of which are in a traditional IRA account or in a pension or profit sharing plan in your closely held corporation, these assets may be taxed at very high rates (70%m/l) upon your death. You could name the S.E.C. Education foundation as a beneficiary of a small portion of those assets thereby depriving the IRS and the politicians a big share of that amount. CAUTION: Be careful that you don’t mix non-profit beneficiaries with individual beneficiaries. Check with your tax advisor on this.

Another possibility would be to leave a bequest to the S.E.C. Foundation in your will. You could give a fixed dollar amount or a small percentage of your assets. A financially solid S.E.C. Education Foundation is the best way to assure the future viability of the Society for generations to come.

S.E.C. made a difference in my life and therefore I’ve followed the suggestions mentioned above. Has S.E.C. made a difference in your life, personally and professionally? Then leave something when you’re gone that will provide opportunity for new generations to come.

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