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Thoughts about real estate, referrals, technology and big data.

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So, you’ve decided to join the Snapchat phenomenon – now what? In the second of three blogs, we show you how to get started on Snapchat in three easy steps. Click here to read the first blog.

  • Create your profile and keep it consistent. This step might seem like a no-brainer, but you can’t begin to think about taking pictures or videos until you’ve created your account – and you want to make it easy for your followers on other social channels to find you. Download the app on your phone and try to use the same username (or something similar) as your other social accounts (e.g., Twitter, Instagram). Next, create your profile photo – four quick photos, which create a moving GIF. A black dot pattern will appear around your yellow profile image. This is your Snapcode – and it’s the easiest way for people to add you on the platform (they can add you by simply scanning the image).
  • Play around. Snapchat is supposed to be fun, so spend some time playing around on the app to familiarize yourself with it. Take fun videos and pictures around your office or home, and practice with the different filters and caption features. Going on a summer vacation? A vacation is a great opportunity to get creative and practice with the app by taking fun snaps on your trip. In addition, add other users to see what they are posting for inspiration. You can add users from your address book, by searching their username or by scanning their Snapcode. Need suggestions to get started? Start by following social media gurus @garyvee and @katielance1, digital marketer @joelcomm, content marketing coach @schmittastic and real estate agents @deanoullette and @dustinbrohm.
  • Tell others. Now that you’re on your way to becoming a Snapchat pro, it’s time to start promoting your account. Use your existing social media channels to garner new followers. Post, tweet, text and email your personal Snapchat URL (e.g., snapchat.com/add/rexchange) or Snapcode to allow others to easily add you. You can find an example here. Updating your existing social media profile pictures with your Snapchat picture is another great way to grab attention and cross-promote your new account. If you have a friend or agent in your office who is a Snapchat expert, don’t be afraid to ask them for tips or a quick demo!

Be sure to check back for our final Snapchat blog next week which will give you tips on incorporating Snapchat into your business.

We have a Snapchat channel as well. Add ReferralExchange here for exclusive, pictures and videos!

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“Don’t be afraid to make big mistakes.”   ̶ Ali Hamed, ReferralExchange Founder

From working 120-hour weeks, sleeping on an air mattress, and listening to the Jurassic Park soundtrack 8,000+ times — our founder, Ali Hamed, went on to write the code for what is now the largest agent-to-agent real estate referral network in the nation. He recently shared his journey to success at the 1000Watt “Turn On” event in Portland.

For Ali, it all started with walking away from his dream to become a professional baseball player, followed by several failed ventures. But, as he reminds us, it’s not about failure or falling down, it’s about seeing that what you do next is indifferent to all that has happened – approaching every event in your life with “fresh eyes.” For Ali, failure is no obstacle, and it shouldn’t be for you either.

Below are five life lessons he learned from his journey.

  1. Your heart must be in it. To reach any goal, it’s imperative that your heart must “burn with hunger” for it.
  1. There are no short cuts – don’t believe the fairytales. Build “brick-by-brick,” find the rhythm to your drive, don’t expect anyone to help you and always be in doubt.
  1. Don’t be afraid to make big mistakes. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. You will find the right path through the wrong ones.
  1. Don’t listen to the saying “never quit.” That’s a trap. Play the cards as best you can in the games you want in life, sometimes the house wins and sometimes it’s your lucky day.
  1. Every day is Day Zero – a fresh start. Even if you win or lose, have a good day or a bad day; just remember, every day is a new opportunity.

Your real estate business is bigger than you think. ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing.

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Managing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts for your business can be challenging. So is it really necessary to add another social media account to the list?

If we’re talking about Snapchat – the real-time image-based messaging app that has 100 million daily users, and your client base is primarily Gen Xers and Millennials – the short answer is yes. While you may be apprehensive to create yet another social platform, this app has already proven to be an excellent way to create client engagement and retention. Given below are six reasons you should embrace the Snapchat phenomenon.

  1. Millennials love it. Snapchat embodies everything millennials enjoy – content that is fun, fast, on-demand, easily accessible and engaging. According to a recent NAR study, 35 percent of all buyers were millennials, which means you want to be where this younger generation is – and that’s on Snapchat. In addition, millennial homebuyers expect their real estate agent to be tech savvy and current with the latest trends and apps, just like they are. Imagine how impressed your clients would be if you sent them a few Snapchat videos of the homes you were previewing for them!
  1. Real estate is a visual business. It’s not news that compelling photos and videos significantly help the sale of a home. Fortunately for those in the real estate industry, that’s what Snapchat is all about. Use the app as a “teaser” for your listings, sharing the best features of the home in a few snaps. In seconds, if your buyer likes what they saw, they’ll likely pick up the phone to call or schedule a tour. You can also build content around the neighborhoods you specialize in, such as sharing photos at your favorite local restaurant or coffee shop.
  1. You can use your current accounts to grow your following. Using your established social media accounts to help cross promote your Snapchat account is a great way to grow your following. For example, tweet a photo of your new listings and then tell your followers to add you on Snapchat for exclusive videos of the property. Plus, saving and repurposing your Snapchat videos on other channels is fast and easy.
  1. It’s a temporary, real-time engagement. Recipients on Snapchat can only view photos for one to ten seconds (24 hours when posted to your story) before it’s gone for good. There are two big benefits to this: the first is not having to hassle with the data storage of emailing and texting photos and videos. The second is having the recipient’s undivided attention because they don’t have distractions such as a newsfeed to intercept the message you’re trying to send them. In addition, if you send out a few photos on Snapchat of a home you’re listing, viewers will know those photos were taken the day you posted them and that they’re not six-year-old photos when the home might have been in a different condition. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that.
  1. It’s fun. Unlike other social media channels and apps, Snapchat does not show engagement metrics, such as how many followers you have or how many shares your posts have garnered. Instead, users can only see who has viewed the videos and photos they share. This means more time for you to focus on the fun and compelling content you are going to share, and less time worrying about another agent having more followers or “likes” than you. No numbers = no worry. Fun filters and the ability to easily add text captions make the process super simple.
  1. It’s not going anywhere. Snapchat’s popularity is only a glimpse at where technology and the real estate industry is headed. There’s no better time than now to start learning and embracing this fast-paced social media app. You can download the free app here.

There are numerous online tutorials available if you don’t have a teenager or millennial around to help you. Be sure to check back on our next two blogs – the first will give you some tips to help you start using Snapchat like a pro, and the final blog will give you tips on incorporating Snapchat into your business.

We have a Snapchat Channel as well. Add ReferralExchange here for exclusive, pictures and videos!

Coming to a City Near You

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Real estate conferences are great growth opportunities for agents. For many, it’s a chance to network, learn, meet new vendors, share ideas, catch up with peers and stay current with the latest trends and technologies that can help benefit them and their clients.

Although it’s impossible to attend every conference, we’ve compiled a list of the ones we’ll be exhibiting at in the coming months. If you’re planning to attend, make sure to stop by our booth and learn more about how ReferralExchange can grow your business. We hope to see you there!

May 25: Inman Connect on the Road Chicago. Inman’s single-day conference offers information targeted specifically to agents, brokers and those interested in learning more about technology. Join us in Chicago for a full day of learning and networking.

June 8: Inman Connect on the Road D.C. Same conference as Chicago, but for agents and brokers in the D.C. area.

August 2-5: Inman Connect San Francisco. Join us in San Francisco where thousands of influential real estate leaders gather at Inman Connect to network, make deals, explore current trends and technology.

September 27-29: California Realtor Expo. This three-day event in Long Beach, CA enables you and your team to meet fellow California movers and shakers, including brokers, lenders, marketing and social media experts. Experience cutting edge tech ideas during Tech Tuesday, featuring many technologies and concepts that are reshaping the industry.

November 4-7: National Association of Realtors Conference & Expo. Join us in Orlando, FL to hear from industry experts at 100 education sessions, get hands-on experience with the latest technologies from 400 exhibitors and learn about the future of the real estate industry from the very people who are helping to shape it.

December: Inman Connect on the Road Miami. The final stop on the Connect on the Road Tour.

Stay up-to-date by following along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for key insights from the conferences. 

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We recently hosted a webinar with Chad Corbett and Jim Sullivan, co-founders of AllTheLeads – a service that sends probate leads to agents nationwide. Probate, for those who may be unfamiliar with the term and/or its relevance to real estate, is a legal process that occurs when someone passes away and the estate has assets of debt. “Filing probate documents is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property under a will.”

Chad and Jim shared best practices for turning probate leads into listings including what the current market opportunity is, how to get and market probate leads, build your team, and how AllTheLeads.com can help you become a probate expert.

Opportunity with Probate

When it comes to opportunity in the probate marketplace, the numbers speak volumes. According to the Huffington Post and CNN Money, “Boomers will inherit up to $136 trillion in the next four decades,” and “Less than 30% of wealth advisors address inheritance strategy.” Chad and Jim emphasized the lack of competition in this market and the need for professional help for clients trying to sell property from an estate.

How to Get and Market Probate Leads

The best way to get these leads is by visiting your local courthouse (or county clerk’s office), pulling records and recording the contact information. Chad and Jim recommend compiling the information into a spreadsheet for easy tracking and follow-up. In addition, you should be marketing your skills and service to probate attorneys, personal representatives, nursing home and retirement home program coordinators, and family law/estate planning attorneys. Best practices for marketing to these individuals include direct mail, phone calls and networking in your community.

Build Your Probate Team

Probate properties aren’t always in the best shape, so you need to identify key partners to align yourself with to help you provide multiple solutions to sellers. These include cash buyers/investors, contractors, an estate sale company, a clean-out crew, and a title company/attorney.

Setting You Up for Success

Want to become the probate expert in your community? In addition to sending you monthly probate leads, AllTheLeads.com offers 50+ hours of professional training, customizable letter templates, automated direct mail services, a customizable WordPress probate website, and more.

Access the full presentation here.

Interested in attending our upcoming live webinars? Get exclusive access to our webinar series when you become a ReferralExchange member.

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Working in the real estate industry can be unpredictable—filled with ups and downs, highs and lows. One minute you’ve helped your clients close on their dream home, while another has fallen out of escrow. Yes, this business is unpredictable, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.

Everyone lifts themselves up in different ways—whether it’s listening to music, taking a long jog, or reading pearls of wisdom from the great minds and sages of the world. As Epictetus once said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Whatever it may be, don’t forget to share it with others; e.g. send an email, post on a whiteboard or share on social media by using hashtag #MondayMotivation or #WisdomWednesday.

Given below are ten quotes to share with your team and colleagues to motivate, inspire and help them.

  • “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”  ̶ Arthur Ashe
  • “Don’t be the person who is given a mile but only takes an inch.”  ̶ Seth Godin
  • “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  ̶ Jim Ryun
  • “If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it.”  ̶ Anonymous
  • “Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.”  ̶ Sam Levenson
  • “Nothing will work unless you do.”  ̶ Maya Angelou
  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” –Thomas Edison
  • “Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.” –Chris Grosser
  • “Good things come to people who wait, but better things come to those who go out and get them.”  ̶ Anonymous
  • “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  ̶ Milton Berle

Your real estate business is bigger than you think. ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing.

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There’s no way around it, supporting a college student can be very expensive. Food, books, and most importantly, housing — all add a hefty expense on top of tuition. That’s why the idea of purchasing a property for a college student can be a good investment strategy for families and an alternative to paying rent for four years. If you have clients with children going off to college, use this list to help them weigh the financial pros and cons of buying their college student an off-campus home.

Pros:

  • Offers possible tax benefits, appreciation in value, rental income, etc. Educate your clients on the area and demographics of the town in which they’re considering a purchase, as well as the current property values and typical rent prices.
  • Provides a stable living situation for their child and helps avoid rising rent prices and security deposits.
  • Eliminates any need to pay storage costs for furniture during summer breaks. In addition, they can rent the property out during the summer to make money.

Cons:

  • Creates homeowner costs such as a mortgage, insurance, and repairs. Have your clients determine a budget and create a list of estimated costs.
  • Unlikely to turn a profit or even recoup the costs of buying and selling the property after their student graduates (e.g., 3-5 years).
  • Must be prepared for the typical “college renter” consequences, i.e., the occasional party trashing, heedless roommate damage, etc. College students don’t have the best reputation when it comes to taking care of properties. Make sure your clients are financially prepared to cover possible repairs.
  • Inherent risk: their student could decide to transfer to a different school, or move back home. Make sure your clients have thought about what they would do if something like this happened.

Give this checklist to your client to help them determine if buying a property for their college student is a good investment.

Your real estate business is bigger than you think. ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing.

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Tax time is just around the corner. If you haven’t already done so, here are some tips to help you get started – and to get you better organized for next year! And, of course, always work with a Tax Advisor or Accountant:

1) Use a Money Management Program: Organize, track and manage all expenses with finance tools like Quicken, Quikbooks or Mint.com. Automatically integrate these platforms by adding personal bank accounts to categorize spending habits, so you can track details year round.

2) Reference last year’s tax returns: Reference last year’s returns to make sure that you don’t miss any deductions. You can also ask your Tax Advisor for a list of items you’ve deducted in the past.

3) Check your figures and any changes: It’s key to remain as accurate as possible for deductions and tallied expenses to ensure you don’t have any erroneous data entries, and in order to protect yourself from being audited.  Also, make sure they comply with current deduction requirements, formulas and amounts. Your Tax Advisor can help you determine how much and what you can/cannot deduct.

4) Track/Manage your deductions year-round: Over the course of the year, track your expenses and keep your receipts organized. Try to set aside some time each month to catch up.

5) Savings Accounts that also help you save on taxes: Work with your Tax Advisor to determine which retirement account makes the most sense for you.

Your real estate business is bigger than you think. ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing.

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As an agent, you know that getting a home “open-house ready” and listed to sell can be a lot of work. You also know that staging a home can help it sell more quickly—and for a higher price, yet many clients balk at doing so because of the cost and inconvenience. So what do you do when your clients are looking for a more budget-friendly alternative? We’ve put together a few tips to help.

Start by giving your clients a “to-do” checklist. That is, a list of low-cost and time-effective things they can do to improve the look of their home:

  • Give the place a deep cleaning.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color.
  • Spruce up the landscaping and garden.
  • Remove knickknacks and personal items

De-cluttering and de-personalizing the home is an important step for your clients to carry out so potential buyers can envision their own belongings in the house. All those items in your client’s home that they haven’t touched in years? Suggest they start making a Goodwill donation pile of these things. For the items they want to keep, recommend nearby storage companies where they can temporarily rent a unit. Boxing up these items for storage will give your client a jump-start on packing, too. Bonus tip for you: negotiate a discount for your client at a local and trustworthy storage company by agreeing you’ll refer future clients in return.

Another essential reminder is the importance of each room having a defined purpose. If your clients have a room that serves as both a home office and a playroom, have them adjust that room so that it becomes clearly one thing or the other. Using one room for several purposes can indicate to a buyer that the home is lacking space. Have your clients remove the multi-use spaces so potential buyers walk away with a clear understanding of what the home offers. You can even keep a few extra items on hand (e.g. furniture, tablecloths) to help them achieve this—why not go above and beyond and let your clients use them?

If you do have a home that desperately needs professional staging and a client who resists, consider alternative options such as offering to pay for the initial consultation or covering half of the staging costs yourself. After all, once you’ve helped your clients get their home looking sharp and sold, you can be sure they will share their great experience with others and refer you to their friends.

Your real estate business is bigger than you think. ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing.

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Got clients considering the purchase of a vacation home and they’re worried they can’t afford it? The good news is—vacation homes can also be great investments, enabling your clients to earn a profit in rental income while having a place to “escape” and call their own. With sites like Airbnb and HomeAway, vacation rental homes are more popular than ever. Not everyone wants to rent out their vacation property, but for those who do, it’s a smart way to offset the costs of owning a second home. There’s no doubt, it’s a major investment with several factors to consider. Fortunately, your client has you by their side to help and advise them through the process. It’s easy for buyers to get lost in the excitement of a new home in that “dream beach location” or “snowy mountain cabin with views,” which is why we’ve put together a few good tips to help you assist them in their search and ensure they make the right investment.

  • It’s not just a vacation home, it’s a financial investment. Don’t let your clients forget that this vacation home isn’t just one big vacation. Help them establish a solid budget and make sure they stick with it. Purchasing a second home is a major decision and can have a big effect on long-term goals (e.g., retirement). Remind them to calculate the costs, including having another mortgage, property tax, insurance – the list goes on. Important details such as making sure the furnishings are durable and consistent with the rental rates are also important for them to include in their budget. Having them create a financial plan is a great start.
  • Location matters, and not just for them. When helping your clients pick the right location, it’s important they consider a location that will be ideal for renters as well. Proximity to transportation (e.g., trains, airports) is a big factor in how appealing the home will be to others. And after all, it’s their rental income that will be covering much of the home’s costs. In addition, suggest that your clients spend at least some time in the area during different seasons throughout the year so there are no surprises for them or their renters.
  • Purchasing a home with another family or friend has its positives and negatives. The positives are that purchasing a home with family or friends can reduce the financial burden and your client can spend some fun days together with them at the rental. On the other hand, it can get complicated when making big decisions such as when they will be using the house, splitting emergency costs or repairs, and what happens when someone wants to sell. Recommend that they set expectations between all parties and put it in writing to mitigate these types of issues.
  • View it as a new home and a business. Unlike their primary home, your clients will need to view their vacation rental home as somewhat of a business. This means having a rental business plan and determining whether they will hire a management company, rental program or market it themselves on sites like Airbnb or VRBO, as well as deciding how they plan to receive their rental payments (e.g., PayPal, Stripe).

Your real estate business is bigger than you think. ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing.