Thank you to Arlene Mason for her inspiration to reflect on the impressive history of the Association through the eyes of some of its distinguished leaders.
My, how time flies…
Pat Breme, RCE, CIPS
Chief Executive Officer
Organized originally in 1956, as the Fredericksburg Board of REALTORS® (FBOR) members believed in the direction of the national association to share listing information to increase exposure for sellers. Some agents preferred the concept of keeping the listing information to themselves but in the end, it made more sense to share and NAR set up the rules for cooperation and compensation.
Those early REALTORS® also embraced the 17 Articles of the Code of Ethics authored by NAR. It elevated the practices of the time and it is still the beacon of professionalism for REALTORS®.
Locally, the sharing progress went from agent’s pockets to index cards, to a routinely printed book of listings. Those who remember the “Book” were sad to see it go because the online system eliminated the possibility to pour over the listings with a cup of coffee or give it to clients to peruse (Actually, against the rules, but it happened, a lot.)
The association was run by volunteers for a time and then several hired executives. My recollections came from my predecessor, Kay Patterson and Sharon Toombs, FAAR’s longtime bookkeeper. They operated in an office on Bragg Rd. in the late 70’s.
The office eventually moved to the Kenmore Ave. address and that was where I began by career in 1987 as a public relations director. It was President Bev Mabbitt’s idea to hire a PR person to enhance the public image of REALTORS®. I also was tagged to set up education classes, market the association’s services to members and assist with events. We all wore many hats!
Eventually, the Kenmore office was renovated to include a good-sized classroom and that gave impetus to start our own school, the Real Estate Career Academy (RECA). In those days, a courier service delivered the MLS books and stacks of association flyers to the real estate companies. Before the rise of computers, flyers were done with copied graphics and headlines created with rub off letters.
FAAR has always been involved in supporting the community. The Association won many Virginia Association of REALTORS® sponsored scrapbook contests showcasing community revitalization, community projects and American Home Week events.
FAAR raised money for Habitat for Humanity and Kids on the Block (a puppet program that taught children about disabilities). I don’t recall a period when members were not giving time and money to local organizations and charities.
My favorite endeavor was the Rubber Duck Race where thousands of pre-numbered plastic ducks were dumped off the Falmouth Bridge to float down the Rappahannock River. The adopting parents of the rubber ducks plucked from the river won great prizes, including sometimes, a Safford Dodge car. Perhaps the most ambitious fundraiser was for Hope House where a house, donated at cost by the Silver Companies, was raffled off. The raffle was open to the public. Lots of rules and regulations but a family won the house and Hope House was $51,000 dollars richer.
The Association partnered with the Central Virginia Housing Coalition and set up a revolving security deposit program. This program and the Hope House raffle were recognized by VHDA. The Fredericksburg REALTORS® Foundation, founded in 1990 was an idea of Alex Long. Just since 2010, the Foundation has assisted organizations, agencies and programs with funds totally over $120,000.
Members were never afraid to get out of there comfort zone to raise awareness. Bev Babbitt dressed up as a colonialist at the Spotsylvania Mall when we celebrated the Bicentennial. We even hired a bus to take members of the public to visit the National Archives in DC to actually view the Constitution.
Back in the day, even before my time, FAAR members were a VERY social group and there are a lot of photos of FAAR members dancing at the Fredericksburg Country Club. Jo Knight is in most of them with her blonde hair tucked in a bun.
Production awards, the Million Dollar Club, had a long run. Marilyn Love was the agent who everyone wanted to out produce, but few did. It was a huge undertaking for the Awards Committee to review applications for accuracy. When the number of categories and the criteria became very complicated, the Committee and Association cried uncle.
The Million Dollar Club concept was replaced by a merit awards system. So now we have Spirit, Good Neighbor, REALTOR® Choice, Icon and other awards that present a better image to the public.
Giving back to the community was important but providing services to the members to be successful has always been the Association’s driving purpose. Engaging in a computerized MLS was a big step but even bigger was when FAAR gave up its privately- owned system to join MRIS. Brokers were thrilled that they could reduce the number of associations they had to join to expose listings to the widest range of agents.
A map book was published for each county in FAAR’s jurisdiction. For relocation efforts, folding maps and welcome guides were printed. In 1996, The Source Book was published, one per office, loaded with great reference information. FAAR partnered with The Free Lance Star’s, Star Web Homes, the first internet home listing site in the area featuring only FAAR listings. The second project of the partnership was the Real Estate Showcase magazine, a tabloid printed every week that was distributed locally and up the I-95 corridor.
We had many memorable Potomac River cruises raising RPAC contributions on Stanley Palivoda’s paddle boat. Betty Jasmund was the chief arm twister. No one ever refused her “ask”!
Adding value to membership is still FAAR’s primary goal. Today faarmembers.com connects members to local resources and to VAR and NAR. The school, now called The Academy, educates hundreds of FAAR members and is a vital non-dues revenue source.
FAAR has established relations with elected officials who contact the Association and ask members opinions on topics they are considering. FAAR is the area’s voice for real estate. FAAR collaborates with FABA, the Chamber, the Fredericksburg Alliance, the George Washington Regional Alliance, Main St. and many charitable organizations. FAAR is a player in community.
Be proud of the impressive accomplishments of the Association- small efforts, at first, that were the foundation of many years of good works in the community and dedication to bringing the best services and products to the members.
Are you contributing to the history being created right now?
FAAR’s formative years described by past presidents and leaders
On June 21, 2019 a group of FAAR senior past presidents and notable long-standing members gathered to look back at the formative years of the Association. The gathering was hosted by Arlene Mason, who was to be president in 2020. Unfortunately, due to an unpredicted long recovery from surgery, Arlene had to stepped down from the Board of Directors. To Arlene, 2020 was a good time to collect FAAR memories of past leaders in order to plan for the future.
So, the group, Nick Calamos, Jo Knight, Priscilla Sheeley, Bev Mabbitt, Betty Jasmund, Melanie Thompson, Latana Locke and long-standing members, Marilyn Love, Ann Black and former CEO Kay Patterson shared these memories–
As they say, back in the day, MLS was index cards. No lockboxes, no electronic keys, agents picked up the key from the listing agent. The majority of listings were pocket listings and sharing information was minimal. The first local MLS was broker-owned. Eventually, FAAR, then the Fredericksburg Board of REALTORS®, formed its own MLS which it maintained until 1996. With the urging of the broker community, FAAR joined MRIS. Over the years, additional staff was employed for marketing, governmental affairs, education and communications. From a 2- person office to now 8, the professional staff provides specialization, resources and professional development so members can be successful in the business of real estate.
All of the attendees remembered presenting offers in person. Buyer representation wasn’t a formal thing yet, but agents in the Fredericksburg and Stafford area knew each other and frequently worked face to face. Everyone misses the personal touch. Arlene and current President Drew Fristoe, listened to the recollections with great interest and agreed that it’s all about knowing the person on the other side of the transaction.
After the June meet-up, other past presidents were contacted to provide their memories.
1976 Carole Williams
In those days, NAR only allowed brokers to have a vote.
During my early years as an officer, each officer did all the paperwork required – the President, the Vice-President and the Secretary-Treasurer. No other help!! I created a newsletter to increase communication among the members.
When I was Vice-President, the Board voted to start their own MLS system, replacing a privately owned one that an entrepreneurial broker had started a year or two before.
Before that, you had to call another real estate company for permission to show their listing and you had to accept a smaller portion of the commission, IF they agreed to co-op!!! They didn’t always.
We managed to scrape up enough money (no sponsors!) to have a dinner-dance (at the former Sheraton) for the first time, during my term as President and then went on to have two formal celebrations every year.
In other world events in 1976, according to Wikipedia:
Microsoft officially registered with the office of the Secretary of the State in New Mexico. Apple Computer Company formed.
United States Bicentennial celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
First Class of Women inducted at U. S. Naval academy, Annapolis, Md.
Viking 1 landed on Mars.
Clifford Alexander, Jr., confirmed as the first African-American Secretary of the United States Army.
Jimmy Carter defeated incumbent Gerald Ford as President of the United States.
1977 Nick Calamos
FAAR’s MLS of the mid to late 70’s, charged $20 for each listing. The revenue was substantial, allowing FAAR to purchase the building at the Kenmore location. I recall when MLS’s were consolidating, the days of a bi-weekly printed MLS were coming to an end. When FAAR joined MRIS, a dependable non-dues revenue stream ended.
1979 Jo Knight
I attended a meeting at George Washington hotel, and almost walked out of meeting when I discovered the purpose was to discuss a computerized MLS.
FAAR was very social back in the day, I fondly recalled lavish formals, I had a closet full of gowns.
FAAR sponsored many epic fundraisers. One year we convinced the City of Fredericksburg to close down William Street for a Board Mardi Gras parade. The proceeds went to the Stafford County YMCA.
I embraced the rise of computers. My first computer cost $11,000 and I spent several thousand more on software. It was all obsolete 2 years later.
In the early development of Aquia Harbor, the marsh soil attracted marijuana growers. Apparently, I appeared in many police surveillance videos showing buyers the area.
1983 Priscilla Sheeley
For over 40 years, Betty Jasmund and I traveled together to state and national conferences. I was involved in the early efforts to adopt Fair Housing standards before they became the law. At the time, this was somewhat controversial and not everyone was initially on board. FAAR members went to the newspaper to ask them to place the fair housing ad in the paper. They were told that someone would have to pay for the ad. It was Mayor Davies who convinced the FLS to run the ads without a charge.
The formation of the Fredericksburg REALTORS® Foundation was spearheaded though the efforts of Alex Long, who identified a need for FAAR to have a charitable arm. I remember Alex saying, “There’s money there, go get it!” Early fundraising efforts went to “Kids on the Block” and eventually transitioned to housing related charities.
1987 Bev Mabbitt
I was in awe of the first fax machines. I sent a contract to a client in Singapore and I was incredulous thinking that it would be in someone’s hands across the world a few seconds after sending.
I remember MLS directions, before GPS! The directions could be hard to follow, and sometimes when you finally arrived at the home, no key was left out. Since there were no cell phones, and limited payphones, you had no choice other than to drive back to town and try to get the key from the listing agent.
In 1987, when I was president, Pat Breme was hired as a public relations director. I saw the success many other associations were experiencing through the efforts of a PR person who touted the services of REALTORS® and their involvement in the community.
1988 Caryn Self Sullivan
In 1988, the biggest event we did was, The Hope House Raffle, $10 per ticket. The home was a donated at cost. We had to extend the raffle a month, but ended up netting about $50,000 Hope House, a local shelter for abused women. As a result of that, and other events that were huge successes thanks to the hard work of our BOD and other volunteers, we won 7 state awards, setting a record for FAAR and perhaps VAR.
Buyer Brokerage was considered RADICAL. I remember being one of the first agents to represent buyers and shocking most of the rest of area REALTORS®. They all thought I was crazy… Many of us also joined the NVAR so that our listings would attract agents from up north. I taught the SWEATHOGs Marketing Program for new agents.
1988 saw indictments handed down related to the Iran-Contra affair, George H. W. Bush elected as President, and Sonny Bono elected as the Mayor of Palm Springs. I cannot remember the year I installed my Motorola (now vintage) Mobile Phone in my car, but it was after 1988. It saved me hours at the office, but added hundreds of $$ to my expenses. Using computers was pretty new, all DOS based, using Word Perfect, I think! I used to print 50 photos of each new listing, then attach them to sticky post card paper that I had printed out using mail merge and my contact list.
1991 Betty Jasmund
I became a REALTOR® because of a horrible transaction I had with my own home purchase. I remember one-page contracts and when a builder contract merely stated, “Builder will build home similar to the one on X street.”
In my day, I was the RPAC fundraising member that no one resisted, “I would call agents and tell them I would be by to pick up their check.”
1992 Gayle Elliott
There was no succession ladder and I ran against a formidable opponent for the office, Alex Long. I made campaign flyers and visited offices to ask for votes. Pat Breme was the Public Relations Director. We spent a lot of time at community events, giving away American flags, competing in the Chili Cook Off, and racing rubber ducks down the river to help housing entities provide affordable housing. We created the REALTOR® Hall of Fame award to recognize our very special peers. It was an honor and a pleasure to serve.
1998 Melanie Thompson
I attended member meetings in the early to mid-80’s at the Country Club and the George Washington Hotel. They were well attended, lively with a copious number of adult beverages. It was the place to be seen then.
2002 Chris Kaila
My tenure started in the wake of 9/11. NAR’s annual convention was scheduled in Chicago in October 2001. It was almost cancelled, but Pat and I and a few others went after they decided to carry on. I adopted “God Bless America” as a theme and had it sung at major events during the year, focusing on the theme, “Home, Sweet Home”. Local governments were trying to slow growth with proffers on new subdivisions, and I represented FAAR at several public meetings and spoke against the “no growth” policies.
In technology, e-keys (Supra) were introduced in Spring 2002, and we used a PalmVx to interface. At the end of my term, I became the Chairman of the Building Committee and started a 3-year search for a new location to accommodate FAAR’s growth. The search ended up at our current location with the purchase of our 1.32-acre site in Celebrate Virginia.
2003 Gail Penman
My year as President started with my installation being the first one to be taken ‘off site’ and held at the Kenmore Inn. We had outgrown our current building on Kenmore Avenue – and had plans for bigger and better things to come. My emphasis that year was for a more involved role in assisting the homeless population in the area.
2009 Sherry Bailey
The real estate market was in the midst of a down turn which resulted in numerous short sales and foreclosures. Very little guidance was available on how to deal with the ethical dilemmas brought on by these transactions. Under my direction, FAAR invited 4 surrounding associations to begin a dialogue on the affect current market conditions had on the business practices and professionalism of our members. The dialogue crystallized the problem and generated many useful tools to assist our members – a resource web site, VAR’s Short Sale Road Show, Short Sale Tips, SFR Certification courses, The Citation System and an open dialogue with MRIS for better reporting practices.
Map books were still in use but losing popularity due to GPS. Barack Obama was sworn in as our 44th President.
2010 Latana Locke
I worked for my broker mother. She told me to become involved at FAAR. I recall at my first installation event, Kevin Breen was given tennis shoes to keep up with Pat, or perhaps it was the other way around but as I watched the interactions of engaged agents, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
2012 Chip Taylor
As far as memorable events/issues go – Honoring and celebrating Pat Breme for 25 years of dedication to FAAR was made more memorable by Doris Buffet’s refusal to leave the stage making that event go ridiculously long, lol! Who could forget the RPAC Murder Mystery Dinner? I’ve never laughed so much in my life and that’s the night I met…Kevin McGrath for the first time!
My favorite personal, presidential memory was good membership outreach. I’m still very proud of mailing out over 500 handwritten notes to members and made well over 20 office visits. My hands have never been the same! We were still on the Supra lockbox system in 2012.
Obama was elected to his second term. The economy was actually finding its legs again with the unemployment rate locally, finally dipping below 8%. November 2012 had seen the best home sales in the last five years as consumer confidence continued to improve. The Great Recession was getting further and further behind in our rearview mirrors! Loved every minute of being a FAAR President.
2017 Linda Fosdick
In 2017, after multiple years of stringent budgeting during a prolonged economic slump, FAAR was finally experiencing optimism that we had survived the worst of it. Now the focus was on positioning ourselves to weather any future economic challenges.
Our MRIS MLS had just officially merged with TREND MLS to become an expanded and full featured BRIGHT MLS. As shareholders, this was an important decision and vote for our future, with an impact on our finances. Rather than our scheduled share revenue, we now received a lump sum payout with a cessation of anticipated future dividends. We used some of the dividend funds to pay a portion of our members lockbox fees for the next three years. Funds were also invested to plan for the looming balloon payment on our building mortgage. To offset the tax effects of the lump sum revenue, capital improvements were made to expand our classroom as a greater revenue source for FAAR, as well as a build-out of needed meeting space on our first level.
All decisions were made with the intent to ensure FAAR’s future financial health. With that in mind, FAAR was able to purchase the lot adjoining our office. The vision is to use that property for future revenue generation. I felt a surge of pride and excitement when I signed the purchase documents.
I dreamed that one day our members would reap the financial benefits of our investment foresight, just as we now benefit from the decisions of the many talented leaders who have preceded us and made FAAR a successful and widely admired Association.
As a new agent, I remember breaking down in tears when I presented a low offer to a seller who fumed and yelled at me but he eventually accepted the offer.
In the late 70’s, I recall several agents were excited about attending some of the first computer classes at Mary Washington College. They invited me to join them, I declined, telling them, what a waste of time- the computer fad won’t last.
My scariest real estate mishap was when I took a shortcut though a very remote area and ran out of gas. This was before cell phones so I had to spent the night in the car and waited for help to come the next day.
1979-1996 Kay Patterson, former CEO
There were NO written records. We didn’t know who was a member. I had to contact NAR to get our membership roster. Sharon Toombs was the only other employee. I liked having a new President every year… new energy and ideas. I remember one prediction that proved very wrong, a lender announced at a breakfast meeting that there will never be a 30-year mortgage and interest rates will never be under 15%.