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MARILYN HAGERTY: Rita Schuster off and running as state Realtors head

It's often the kitchen that draws a woman to think seriously about buying a certain house. Her husband is likely to check out out the garage. Most people are drawn to houses that are well kept. They don't go for homes that seem dated. They don't ...

It's often the kitchen that draws a woman to think seriously about buying a certain house. Her husband is likely to check out out the garage.

Most people are drawn to houses that are well kept. They don't go for homes that seem dated. They don't like the prospect of having to buy new carpeting right away.

In her 26 years as a Realtor in Grand Forks, Rita Schuster said she learns something new every day. She loves her work even though she can't count the hours it takes to hold offices, work as a Realtor and serve as sales manager for Greenberg Realty. She is one of about 180 Realtors in Grand Forks.

She had never given a thought to selling real estate when she came from Northwood, N.D., to UND in 1975. As a student, she majored in education and home economics. After graduation, she worked for Dayton's long enough to know for sure she liked sales work. She launched out into real estate and has twice been Grand Forks Realtor of the Year and has twice served as president of Grand Forks Board of Realtors.

This January, Rita Schuster is starting her year as president of North Dakota Association of Realtors. She's excited about the prospect of two trips to Washington where Realtors have a chance to lobby for their profession. And she is pleased that North and South Dakota Realtor Associations will hold their convention Sept. 14-17 in Grand Forks. The two states work together for more leverage.

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Right now, Realtors are stressing the stimulus program tax credits available to home buyers until the end of April. And they are telling homeowners about the $6,500 credit that is available through April for those who sell homes. These are government aids for the troubled home buyers market across the nation. They are a boon in this area, Schuster said, because the market has been stable. And she lists three reasons:

n There has been more conservative lending without the bait and switch systems where one rate is offered at time of purchase and switched later.

n This area, in general, has not been overbuilt as some areas of the country.

n We don't have large corporations with huge layoffs of people.

"We're still ahead of the game," she said, "with values holding strong." In Grand Forks, the average price of homes sold last year was $158,600 and the midrange in this area was $141,500.

Schuster has a positive, cheery approach to her work as a Realtor. When she started in the 1980s, there were fewer women selling houses. And there were fewer people who were willing to work on commissions alone. There were some who would go into the business if a second person in the family with an assured income.

It takes 45 hours of courses plus an examination for a person to get a license to sell real estate in North Dakota. Another 15 hours of course work is required during the first year. And realtors are required to pick up 16 more hours every two years beyond that. They usually listen to speakers or attend seminars. Most Realtors join the National Association and the state and local affiliates. That gives them access to local database of homes for sale, known as Multiple Listing Service or MLS.

It costs money to sell real estate, Schuster said. "We are independent contractors. It costs money for promotions, dues, office space. It can cost up to $10,000 a year."

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Schuster said the commission for home sales is typically 6 percent to 7 percent here. The commission is split four ways: listing broker, listing agent, agent making the sale and the company he or she represents.

Still, the business holds appeal for many. And Schuster said people are more willing now to work only on commissions in various fields of sales than they were years ago. She lists houses on the market, she sells and she does training for 70 at Greenberg Realty. She works on committees and holds offices.

Schuster is married to Tom Schuster. They have a son, Ryan, a sophomore at Red River High School.

Right now, she doesn't have a full plate. Instead, she has a platter. In real estate, she said, "every transaction is different, and I cherish most the people I meet."

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or by phone at (701) 772-1055.

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