Retirement Planning Tips for REALTORS®

It’s never too early for REALTORS® to begin planning and putting money aside for their future retirement. In this video, tax expert and Illinois GRI instructor Chris Bird outlines some of the tax deferred retirement savings options available to real estate professionals, including Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs and Self-Employed 401(k)s.

Chris Bird talks future tax code changes

Any future increases to income tax rates or the capital gains tax could negatively impact home sellers, making it advantageous for them to sell in 2012 rather than wait, says tax expert Chris Bird. In this video, he talks about potential tax code changes to watch over the next 15-18 months.

Cooler weather brings thoughts of energy bills


Real Estate Tax Expert Chris Bird

“Homeowners can get bigger tax credits for making energy-efficiency improvements or installing alternative energy equipment,” said real estate tax expert Chris Bird at his popular tax session for Illinois REALTORS® at the IAR Convention in mid-September. Bird, a former agent for the Internal Revenue Service and certified financial planner, urged REALTORS® to share the site with their clients so they can take advantage of the energy and tax savings.

To qualify for the tax credits,  home improvements such as insulation and energy-efficient windows and doors, certain roofing and heating/cooling systems must be “placed in service” from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010 in the taxpayer’s principal residence (existing homes only). The tax credits are available at 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500.

For new construction (and existing homes), tax credits are available at 30 percent of the cost, with no upper limit through 2016 for geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, solar water heaters, small wind energy systems and fuel cells.

Complete guidelines for “Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency” (updated September 14, 2009) are available at The site will give tax credit specifications and notes for what qualifies.

Bird recommends for record-keeping to save your receipts and the Manufacturer Certification Statement. He says improvements made in 2009 can be claimed on your 2009 taxes, filed by April 15, 2010. Use IRS Tax Form 5695 (2009 version).

The ABC’s of earning your GRI in Illinois

GRICalling all Illinois REALTORS® who are interested in making themselves better at what they do! As a member of the Board of Governors for the Illinois GRI program I am here to tell you the real reasons earning your GRI (Graduate of the REALTOR® Institute) designation is worth the time, effort and money.  I’ll cover the normal talking points but also give you my #1 reason I truly believe GRI are the three best letters you can have after your name being in this business.  Let’s begin:

  1. The GRI program is 90 hours of curriculum covering almost every aspect of the residential real estate industry.  It teaches you not only about real estate but HOW TO DO IT!  Big difference.  As a Governor for the program I can tell you that the people volunteering their time to make this the best designation are always coming up with new material and up to date material in this ever changing market.  Classes on short sales have been introduced to compliment timeless classes such as marketing and listing presentations.  All in all once you receive your GRI you will be wanting more….and you can have it if you choose to attend the GRI Grad Program we offer.
  2. 90 hours of class work sounds pretty boring….sounds like I’ll be sleeping through half of it.  That is what I thought when I earned my GRI in 2002 & 2003.  All I can say is IT’S NOT!  The only way to keep people’s attention for that length of time is to get the best instructors from across the nation.  It’s one of those things where if I described it then justice would not be done.  Let me put it to you this way:  after a GRI session is complete we always take surveys and pretty much every year one of the most popular instructors is a gentlemen by the name of Chris Bird.  What does Chris teach?  TAXES!!  I mean c’mon.  If we have found somebody that can make a few hours of taxes interesting then you can only imagine how our other instructors are with material we’re all actually interested in.
  3. This, I would argue, is the #1 reason to attend the GRI program.  THE NETWORKING!! Above I told you a few (of many) reasons I feel getting your GRI is worth the time and effort but what about the money??  The money you make by attending GRI will pay for the cost of GRI.  What do I mean?  I mean if you actually attend the program mentally and not just physically there is a great opportunity to add/supplement your existing business.  I mean if you go outside your comfort zone and have lunch with someone you have never met or if you actually mingle and NETWORK with people from outside your area then GRI WILL MAKE YOU MONEY!!

The concept is simple.  If you just be yourself and talk to people and they actually wind up liking you then they will send you business when they can.  Also the best reason I can give on traveling to GRI no matter how far away it is.  If you live in Naperville and GRI is in Bloomington then GO TO BLOOMINGTON!  Stay the week, network and in the long run you will increase your referral business.  It’s that simple and yet one of the hardest things for some of us.  When it comes to doing well in real estate it is not who you know but how many people you know and making sure they know what you do for a living.

So, how did I do?  I could keep going but I feel like I’ve gotten my point across.  If you are looking for a way to keep up with your business and you are seriously considering a real estate designation to attach to your name I would urge you to strongly consider GRI.  It’s a designation I have worn with great pride over the past several years and at this point the only one I have.  If you have any questions feel free to get in touch as we are all here to help.  Best of luck!!