How Administrative Mistakes Can Cost You as a Broker

How Administrative Mistakes Can Cost You as a Broker

What is the real cost of administrative mistakes? As a broker, your clients depend on you to handle things professionally. Administrative mistakes by a broker can have a domino effect and affect everyone involved in the deal. Let’s take a look at some administrative mistakes to avoid and how they can cost you as a broker.

1. Grammatical and typographical errors

Part of a broker’s responsibility is handling paperwork between clients. The correct use of grammar and punctuation is imperative. One misplaced character and failure to carefully proofread documents can cause untold damage. The following incidents are examples of the catastrophic consequences that may arise from such errors.

In 2006, a typo by Alitalia Airlines resulted in business-class flight tickets being sold for $39 instead of $3,900. The result? More than 2,000 people purchased the $39 tickets leading to a $7.2 million loss by the airline. Another incident, albeit more costly occurred in Tokyo when a typing error saw the shares of a renowned company go on sale leading to a $340 million loss. Moral of the lesson? Grammatical and typographical errors are administrative mistakes to avoid.

2. Poor advice and or unethical behavior

When a client hires you or chooses to work with you as a broker, they expect you to act professionally and do your job in terms of giving them good advice. They are paying for your expertise and experience. Doing a half-hearted job and failing to provide clients with honest, accurate, and fair assessments of their situation can result in you being sued if the client loses money in any way.

You may be surprised to learn that as many as 25% of homebuyers said they would never work with their broker or recommend them to anyone. Brokers do get sued for a variety of reasons – fraud, breach of duty, giving advice that’s not within their scopes (e.g. offering legal advice) negligence and breach of contract. These are all administrative mistakes to avoid.

3. Poor data management and failure to document

If there are two administrative aspects of being a broker that should never be overlooked, its documentation and filing papers properly. Poor data management can result in you not being able to find a critical document when it’s needed. There is no excuse for not having a defined records system. This is certainly high up in the list of administrative mistakes to avoid.

4. Hiring the wrong brokers for the brokerage

Do you have a strategy for hiring people? Not having a time-tested solution can result in you hiring the wrong person. This can be extremely inconveniencing not to mention expensive. You’ll want to avoid having to repeatedly post job openings and screen candidates. By following our advice on hiring better agents, you can improve your retention rate.

When you cannot afford administrative mistakes look no further than Real Estate Back Ops (REBO). We’re one of the leading real estate technology and consulting companies in the US. For the best brokerage services don’t hesitate to contact us.

5 Property Staging Trends for the Fall & Winter Months

5 Property Staging Trends for the Fall & Winter Months

Are there people interested in viewing homes during the colder months?

Should you attempt to sell your house during fall or winter?

Do people really buy homes in winter?

Yes, yes, and yes!

If stats are anything to go buy, nearly one million homes are sold each winter between December and February. If you’re looking for serious buyers, the fall and winter months may be the ideal time to stage your property. So, how do you go about property staging during winter? Let’s find out!

1.    First impressions matter – a lot

How important is curb appeal? Extremely important. For buyers, first impressions matter greatly. Do you know that most buyers make up their minds about your house within the first 15 seconds? That’s a lot of pressure. Fortunately, you can do something about it. To help win buyers over, ensure that your yard is well-maintained. Leaves should be racked, hedges trimmed, and the lawn perfectly manicured.

2.    Turn on the interior and exterior lights

You want the house to feel warm and welcoming. So, don’t hesitate to light the driveway and walkway to your front door. Turn the lights on indoors as well. Light is an excellent medium and will help to highlight and draw attention to both the interior and exterior. Lamps and strategic lighting solutions can make rooms appear bigger and make the house feel more inviting.

3.    Keep décor simple and neutral

Are you big on decorating the house during Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas? If yes, you may want to tone it down a notch when you are property staging. Avoid over-the-top decorations such as blown up lawn elements, streamers, and religious symbols. Opt instead for more subtle pieces of décor such as a simple wreath on the front door and electric candles strategically placed around the home.

4.    Evoke the senses with seasonal scents

Human beings are sensory by nature. If you can appeal to people’s emotional side you can influence their decision on a deeper level. Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman in his book, “How Consumers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market”, demystifies the buying experience by claiming that at the core, we are emotional buyers. Zaltman attests that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.  So how do you incorporate this into your property staging? Through the use of pleasant seasonal scents; think cinnamon, freshly baked goods, and oranges.

5.    Use clean lines when arranging furniture

How furniture is arranged in a home can make or break the buyer’s experience as they walk through the house. Clean lines are important. Furniture that’s helter-skelter and follows no pattern or symmetry can feel disorderly. If you have a central feature in a room such as a fireplace, organize your furniture around it. Adding well-placed throw pillows and fur rugs can also accentuate the orderliness and comfort of a room.

Selling Your Real Estate Brokerage? Either Way, Get a Valuation

Selling Your Real Estate Brokerage? Either Way, Get a Valuation

If you’re planning on selling your residential real estate brokerage, a valuation is an obvious necessity, since no serious buyer would consider purchasing based solely on the word of the seller. A comprehensive valuation can help the broker to discern what actions can be taken prior to shopping their brokerage to increase its fair-market value. But what if you’re not selling? Is there any reason to get a valuation in that case? An annual physical with a doctor is recommended for your measuring and maintaining your health, and the same is similarly true of a residential real estate brokerage. It turns out, valuations offer several benefits to your brokerage even if you have no intention of selling anytime soon. As the old adage goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Valuations can allow brokers to analyze their brokerage from a different perspective and make changes accordingly to optimize their business.

DETERMINE EXACT RECRUITMENT EFFORTS NECESSARY

Valuations will show a broker somewhat of an ‘X-Ray’ of their business. It will outline each agent’s transaction count, average GCI per transaction, and compare this to business expenses allowing brokers to effectively determine exactly how many agents are required, (by applying average GCI/agent), in order to break even, or how much recruitment efforts would increase the cash flow and profit of the brokerage given measurable recruitment expenses and expected outcome.

SPLIT EXPENSES INTO OPERATING AND NON-OPERATING COSTS

Valuations will additionally provide an actionable guideline with regard to where exactly brokers can cut unnecessary expenses. Any expenses deemed ‘non-operating,’ (not contributive to the bottom line), likewise don’t contribute to the value of the brokerage, and cutting or reducing these costs will increase the value of a brokerage. Any broker thinking about selling their brokerage will definitely want to identify these costs and make cuts where necessary to get the highest possible fair-market value for their company.

IDENTIFY POSSIBLE CUTS IN FULL-TIME EMPLOYEE SALARIES

Valuations can bring to light the agent to employee ratio as it’s applied to profit generation, and spell out how this margin is directly affected by each full-time employee. This allows brokers to first, recognize which employee duties are considered either non-operating costs or extraneous to the brokerage operations, and second, exactly how much this margin will increase by making according cuts and how much that will increase the value of the brokerage.

ANCILLARY BUSINESS OPTIMIZATION

Brokers may elect to include other business models to the operations of their brokerage such as mortgage lending, home warranty services, property management, etc. Often times additional income from these businesses will convince brokers that the functionality of their brokerage is above average by industry standards if the profit analysis of these other businesses is muddled with that of their brokerage. Valuations can help to not only identify where immaterial expenses have crept into their brokerage as a result of these misleading values, but determine how the expenses can be cut, and how to better optimize those ancillary businesses.

IDENTIFY WHAT TRANSACTION COORDINATION EXPENSES ARE NECESSARY

If a brokerage has transaction coordinators employed full-time, (they will soon no longer be allowed to hire them as independent contractors), they are likely lowering their EBITDA during down months when transaction coordinators are processing fewer files due to this excessive expenditure, and thus, lowering the value of their brokerage. Valuations can help brokers to determine if this is the case for their brokerage, and whether or not it would be prescient to consider an outsourced transaction coordination service instead.

Valuations not only provide an accurate assessment of the current value of a brokerage, but can help to point out practical ways to increase that value, and therefore, the profitability, which is a good business practice regardless of a broker’s interest in selling or not. To learn more about valuations and how one could benefit you and your brokerage, contact payton@realestatebackops.com for more information.

The AB 5 Employment Law For Real Estate Agents and Brokers: Anticipate, Don’t React

The AB 5 Employment Law For Real Estate Agents and Brokers: Anticipate, Don’t React

If you haven’t been keeping your pulse on the changing landscape of the real estate industry and the likely future of brokerage structures, agent payment, and transaction coordinator employment status, you may not be aware of the Assembly Bill (AB) 5, the important legal statute passed by California Governor, Gavin Newsom, that just went into effect this month.

What is Assembly Bill (AB) 5?

AB 5 is a bill the Governor signed into law in September 2019 addressing employment status when a hiring entity claims that the person it hired is an independent contractor. AB 5 requires the application of the “ABC test” to determine if workers in California are employees or independent contractors for purposes of the Labor Code, the Unemployment Insurance Code, and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders.

The ABC test is intended to address 3 requirements:

  1. Is the worker free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact?

  2. Does the worker perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business?

  3. Is the worker customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity?

How does this affect my real estate business?

As the real estate industry currently operates, agents and transaction coordinators are usually hired as independent contractors. Federal Law guaranteeing agents’ rights to operate as independent contractors will likely take precedence over AB 5, but the status of transaction coordinators will most definitely be addressed. Most brokerages hire transaction coordinators as independent contractors, and there’s an increasing trend of agents hiring personal coordinators as independent contractors directly. This will likely result in a tumultuous upheaval of business operations for brokers and agents alike for most in California, however, it presents a unique opportunity for those ahead of the curve to gain an edge on the competition. We’ll get to that soon, but first it’s necessary to go over the issue the unprepared brokers and agents will falter over.

What does this mean for transaction coordinators?

Of course, coordinators will no longer hold the opportunity to be hired as independent contractors directly by brokerages, but what about agents, (assuming they are afforded the privilege of maintaining their independent contractor status), who hire transaction coordinators directly? Independent contractors are responsible for paying their FICA taxes quarterly, (typically 15%), while employers of standard employees are responsible for paying half of these costs, and the employee the other half. Does this mean in the instance an agent contracts a transaction coordinator directly that the agent will now be responsible for half of the FICA fees incurred by the coordinator?

There’s no Federal Law in place advocating for the coordinator’s continued role as independent contractors, as is the case for agents, so someone, whether the agent or the broker, will now be paying this additional tax. If the broker has a degree of separation from these coordinators, since they hire agents as independent contractors, who then hire the transaction coordinators, the cost may very well fall to the agent.

How can brokers and agents capitalize on this impending shift?

While the future of employment status for agents is still an undetermined proposition at this time, there is good news for agents and brokers concerning the new requirement that transaction coordinators must be hired as employees. Outsourced transaction coordination services, like REBO, allow brokers and agents alike to circumvent these new incipient tax implications.

Transaction coordinators working for these services will uphold the new requirements as full-time employees, but they will be employees of these services, not of the brokerage or agent. Contracting these services, and allocating transaction coordination responsibilities from the broker and agent will effectively maintain broker and agent compliance with Assembly Bill 5, while passing the new tax costs to those services. It is apparent that these services are invariably the future of the transaction coordinator – agent relationship, and any broker or agent that resists this change breaks the law and invokes the wrath of the IRS at their own peril.

To learn more about adjusting the transaction coordination process of your brokerage or personal real estate business, contact REBO at payton@realestatebackops.com

5 Tips For Starting A Real Estate Blog

5 Tips For Starting A Real Estate Blog

The existence of such a wide array of blogger tools available for free today, starting a real estate blog has never been easier.

Blogs are a good way to provide personalized content directly to your target audience.

Writing your own content is the perfect way to demonstrate to your social sphere that you are the arbiter of knowledge and experience in your local real estate market.

Just follow the step by step guides provided by one of the blog building software available online like SquareSpace or TheBlogBuilder and begin producing valuable content for your clients and readers right away!

In today’s user-friendly online environment, creating, implementing, and promoting your blog is easy as ever.

The hard part, is writing content for your blog in a way that best expresses the value you provide as a Realtor and real estate market place guru.

We have compiled a list of advice and tips for best reaching your audience, claiming a high SEO score, and generating leads from your blog.

Consistently producing high value content peppered with optimal key words, increasing traffic to your website, and retargeting visitors is a key component for keeping up with the changing landscape in the increasingly technologically driven business of real estate.

Failure to adjust to new marketing trends like localized blogging surrenders territory to those who do adopt the new ways and allows them to dip their hands into your lead and referral business.

Reposting from other sources is a good way to accomplish this when time is short, but generating your own content as well will better guarantee your posts are localized and relevant.

Stop using a lack of ideas for content as an excuse to begin this essential cornerstone to your business. Here are your tips for setting yourself up to create valuable, recurring content and ensuring you capture as much business as possible with your new blog:

1. LOCAL NEWS

Providing your target market with information relevant to your local community is absolutely crucial for imparting valuable content and establishing an authoritative SEO score.

There are several earmarks in your local community that will consistently give you the opportunity for generating this content since there will often be updates and changes within those earmarks.

a. Local Schools

Local elementary schools will host fundraisers, sporting events, concerts, plays, and a variety of other events that you can report to your local community. This information will be relevant both to your immediate sphere of influence and anyone interested in purchasing property there from out of the area.

This content will likely be shared by social media friends with children or relatives participating in any local school events, expanding your outreach and driving more traffic to your blog.

b. Local Events

Most communities engage in shared events periodically throughout the year. These events usually relate to some holiday, like a local 4th of July parade or a community Easter egg hunt. 

Take advantage of these events by creating consumable lists for engaging in these activities specific to your community, like, “5 Tricks for Staking Out a Good Spot at the Walnut Creek Parade,” or, “7 Worst Foods to Cook at the 4th of July Crocker Heights BBQ.”

c. Local Sporting Events

If your city is fortunate enough to have local minor league teams, promoting their games, new acquisitions, or halftime extravaganzas are a good way to provide support for your local teams, and therefore help to establish you as the active go-to Realtor of the local community.

This will also be content that may be shared by team administrators, making your presence and expertise known to players and staff alike. Considering the high player turnover on semi-professional teams, this will allow you to position yourself as the preferred Realtor to be contracted by any new acquisitions. This is a more feasible goal than doing this at the professional level, since the amount of content covering these teams is much scarcer.

d. Local Policy Changes (Especially Affecting Real Estate)

Policy changes often go unnoticed by communities, as there is very little content relating to these changes at a hyper-local level. 

Take some time to attend City Hall meetings occasionally. Try to hand pick any new policy changes that will have a direct effect on the lives of citizens in your local community. Not everyone is willing to take the time to attend these meetings, but they’ll be much more likely to click an article discussing any new potential changes in their daily routines.

e. New Local Hotspots

This will help to provide additional relevant neighborhood information to keep you at the fore front of your local community. Anyone interested in the food and dining your neighborhood has to offer will be highly inclined to click on a localized article like, “New Dining Experiences to Try in San Jose.”

Notify the restaurants or bars you’re discussing. They’ll likely share it on their social media channels as well, heightening your outreach and driving more traffic to your site.

f. Local Charity events

Promoting local charity events will drive traffic to your site in addition to helping convey your charitable inclinations to the surrounding community. Displaying a list of charities your site promotes can also help to do this, as well as link your site to anyone outside your community searching for more information or trying to donate to these charities.

2. PERSONALIZED CONTENT TO INCLUDE HOBBIES AND INTERESTS

We’ve said it before, but it merits repeating – people like buying from other people like them.

By expressing your interests and hobbies outside of real estate on your blog, then tying them back to your real estate business, you will attract buyers and sellers who also express interest those shared activities.

Pick a hobby or activity in which you hold an exceptionable amount of knowledge and insight, then write articles that conflate it to real estate through analogy or metaphor.

For example, if you’re a dog person, write something like, “Why Single-Family Tudors are the Golden Retrievers of Residential Real Estate.”

Or, if you’re an NFL fan, “Which NFL Team best represents your neighborhood?” 

Then discuss commonalities between the two categories you’re comparing. These can be very broad comparisons, but will serve to attract like-minded people to your site.

3. PROMOTE YOUR EVENTS 

Hosting community events is a great way to rub elbows with your neighbors and potential clientele.

Not only can you meet new clients by attracting them to attend, but these are ideal for capturing new content to share on your blog.

The content you share can conform to what activities you arranged for your event. Discuss prize winners, contests, charitable givers, or whatever you feel best portrays your events as community unifiers.

Content generated from these presents the opportunity for promotion both before the event, and advertising your business afterwards.

4. DEMONSTRATE YOUR MARKET KNOWLEDGE

This might not necessarily be the focal point of your blog since it won’t generate as much interest, but demonstrating your professionalism, experience, and knowledge of the local real estate market is a good way to present your aptitude as a Realtor, and give you an additional recurring source of updates and information to maintain a blog with consistent posting.

a. Market Open Houses

Every time you host or hold an open house, this presents an opportunity for a blog post.

Write pricing comparisons of the house you’re hosting relative to the surrounding area, and include graphics from you’re CMA provider.

Describe the house briefly, (this can be the same description in your local MLS or on consumer facing listing platforms like Zillow), then add visual content like embedded drone videos, virtual tours, or listing photos.

This will not only increase traffic to your site and open homes, but demonstrate to sellers the amount of effort you put in when given the opportunity to represent a listing, increasing the number of leads you receive and your referral business.

b. Local Market Updates

To demonstrate you have your finger on the pulse of the local real estate market, periodically post market updates for the neighborhoods in which you operate.

These updates can also show readers that you are a credible source of real estate knowledge in their local area and can lead to more business.

c. Mortgage Rate Updates

Keeping your readers up to date with changing mortgage rates will help further establish your reliability as a real estate expert.

These posts are quick and simple since the data is readily available and require only short blurbs as to the effect on potential buyers and sellers.

5. TIPS FOR HOME IMPROVEMENT

We mentioned utilizing reposts from other blogs is a good way to uphold a consistent posting schedule, and there is no shortage of posts for this topic.

If you do use other posts for this category, try to make sure they reference local companies that can carry out these tasks for home owners. That way, your blog remains more relevant to the local community and additionally increases your SEO score.

If posts referencing local businesses don’t exist, use ideas or concepts from these other posts, then include services of local businesses that can remedy or help with these ideas.

As always, be sure to contact the local business when you do this and encourage them to share your post on their social media as well.

Key Takeaways:

Choose generalized topics in your local community that consistently generate new updates and information.

Once you’ve written about those changes and shared them on your social media channels, contact the organizations or companies mentioned in your article, and ask them to share it on theirs’ as well. 

If you’re busy with other facets of your real estate business, posting content from other sources particularly with regard to market updates or broad real estate questions the general public poses is a good way to maintain a consistent posting process.

9 of the Best Realtor Conference and Event Practices

9 of the Best Realtor Conference and Event Practices

A great way for real estate agents to learn about new developments in the industry, expand their referral network, and generally make new connections for their business is to attend real estate conferences and events. Many agents already implement this tactic, but are they positioning and marketing themselves as effectively as they can? If you’re going to spend the time and money to attend a real estate event, make sure you’re doing everything before, during, and after to optimize your experience and get the most out of their marketing ploys. Here is our list of tips for real estate agents to accomplish that when attending real estate events and conferences:

1. Collect numbers, not business cards.

Business cards create clutter, are ineffective at establishing yourself in the memory of your cohort, and generally yield very low call back rates. Instead, offer to exchange your phone number and email by creating a new contact in your phone on the spot. Then, send them a short, personalized email or text right away. They’ll be more likely to respond and remember you if you use this practice instead of being one of the hundred other agents that handed them a card.

2. Find the bar and stake it out.

Rather than trying to meet people by approaching groups or actively seeking certain individuals, get a space near the bar. You can strike up conversations with any agents who go to order a drink more innocuously this way. For those that have ever attended a real estate event or conference, you know you can expect a lot of agents to patron the bar.

3. Leverage the event to boost your social media outreach.

Post about the event before, during, and after on your social media channels. Be sure to include tags relevant to the event and referencing it so any agents searching for information about it see your posts. Your posts can be as simple as a photo of a speaker or a new insight you gained at the event.

4. Build a website page exclusively for the event.

Another good post you can promote on your social media channels is your personalized website page about the event. This is a good way to improve your website SEO for anyone interested in the event and is a good way to directly provide value to attendees searching for information about it. A call to action on this page like a newsletter signup or an eBook download. This will further help you stand out and increase your connection rate with attendees.

5. Research sessions beforehand and come prepared with questions.

Know what the topics of discussion will be so you can anticipate how you can better be proactive and participatory during sessions. Asking good questions can help you get noticed and increase the interest of other attendees in connecting with you.

6. Follow hashtags for the event on social media.

Another good way to stay on top of sessions and topics of discussion is to follow the event tags on social media. This will allow you to better provide value on your own posts and take advantage of any offerings or promotions advertised by the event hosts.

7. Learn about new developments in the industry and blog about them.

If you’re strapped for blog post ideas, this is a good opportunity to gain insight into changes in the industry or new technology being introduced. This will help you establish yourself as a real estate agent with their finger on the pulse of the industry, making you stand out to fellow Realtors and potential clients alike as a reliable, knowledgeable source for all things real estate.

8. Use name association to remember people.

You’ll meet a lot of people and remembering all of them can be difficult if you try to rely on your memory alone. Associate their names with unique physical features to improve your name retention. For example, if someone you meet named Dan has curly hair, use a simple word association process to connect his curly hair to his name. Curly hair -> curling iron -> iron man -> man rhymes with Dan.

9. Follow up afterwards.

Finally, to cement the connections you make at the event, be sure to follow up with new contacts after the event. Try to work in a reference to something that was brought up in your conversation with them to help them remember who you are, and convey that you were listening and care about this new relationship. Alternatively, you can send them an article that discusses solutions for any issue that in the industry that was referenced in the conversation.

 

Real estate agent conferences and events are great opportunities for networking and learning about new industry developments like REBO’s flat fee outsourced transaction coordination service. Sign up with REBO’s white-glove concierge service and let us handle all the paperwork and communication involved in a real estate transaction from offer to close!

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