Partner Blog

Educating Real Estate Professionals with Daphne Pee

Reaching and educating real estate professionals on properties with private wells and septic systems is one thing that the Private Well Class has been trying to accomplish within the past few years. Real estate professionals who are well-versed on buying and selling homes with private wells and septic systems are great assets and a good source of information for potential home buyers and sellers. We reached out to Daphne Pee of the Chesapeake Water and Septic Homeowners Education project to find out what it was like working directly with real estate professionals in Maryland. Daphne filled us in on some of her past experiences.

Q: Daphne, what is your position and role in the Chesapeake Water and Septic Homeowners Education project?:

DP: I am the coordinator of the Chesapeake Water and Septic Homeowners Education program.

Q: Please describe the program, in general, including how stable and successful the program has been over the years?:

DP: We started with a 2-year pilot program in 2012 with a mix of internal funding, a few small grants, and in-kind support from the Maryland Department of Health. Our program was modeled off of Virginia Tech’s Drinking Water Clinic, which consists of three meetings:

• Kick-off Meeting: Basic overview of the program, pass out the sampling bottles and surveys, and instruct the homeowners on how to collect their water sample.
• Water Drop-off: Homeowners drop off their water samples and surveys.
• Informational Meeting: Educational presentation which includes information about the homeowners’ drinking water source, how it can get contaminated, how their wells work, what they can do to protect their drinking water, and what they should be testing for and how often. 

The pilot program consisted of five clinics. Afterwards, we could not find a larger, more dedicated source of funding to launch the program more broadly. We then partnered with Virginia Tech to offer a more comprehensive water test, at a fee that was much less expensive than commercial water testing labs, but the cost was still too high and we got no registrants. This year, we have started conducting free, 1.5-hour seminars that covers most of the information from the clinics, but does not include water testing.

Q: What was your experience reaching out to the MD Association of Realtors (for your online seminar and article series)? Were they receptive?

DP: A few years ago, I contacted several people in the MD Association of Realtors headquarters and regional groups to introduce our work to them and try to find ways to offer training to their members. No one responded. Last year, a fellow Extension Educator who was also a Realtor sent an email to the MD Association of Realtors about our programming and I was immediately invited by their Director of Communications & Public Affairs to a meeting. We met by phone and I shared more details about the types of information I could provide and was offered a year-long series in their magazine, a webinar, and a series of infographics for their consumer-facing webpages. While their initial reception was encouraging, I have not heard much about the articles or webinar. I plan on following up with them after this last article is submitted.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge with reaching new audiences with the Chesapeake Water and Septic Homeowners Education program?

DP: The clinics and seminar cater to a very specific audience who has the interest in learning about their wells and drinking water, and the time and energy to attend a session on Saturday morning. So, our participants are typically older, wealthier, and well-educated. Working with the MD Assoc of Realtors was our first time reaching out to professionals. We would like to find a way to continue working with this group, as well as other professionals who need this kind of information and have continuing education requirements. Additionally, we would like to get this information to other homeowners who don’t fit the demographics of our clinic/seminar participants.

Q: In your opinion, what do you feel is the most misunderstood preconception that real estate professionals have about private well water and septic systems?

DP: I’m not sure. My experience thus far has consisted of me talking to them through articles and a webinar. I haven’t had a chance to talk to very many of them through this process.

Q: What sort of limitations have you encountered with your program and working with potential partners?

DP: Capacity has been an issue for us. Our Educators have a lot of demands on their time, so finding people who want to offer this program has taken a while. The topic is not one that naturally fits the expertise of many educators, so I don’t really blame them for not jumping onto the bandwagon. We are lucky that our Program Director for Family Consumer Sciences has been very supportive of our work. We also have several new hires with interest in the program, so we hope to be expanding our capacity this year.

Q: What important piece of advice could you give to other programs looking to work with real estate professionals?

DP: Find a realtor who sees the value in your program and can connect you to the right people in the organization to discuss opportunities to work together.