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

As we head towards the home stretch for 2015 and the market starts to slow down, it’s time to take advantage of the quiet and update our online profiles and bios.  Many websites utilize your stats to assign agent ratings and rankings, so it’s more important than ever to make sure that your information is correct. Given below is a quick “top 6” of items to update/double-check before the end of the year:

1) Update Your Photo:  If you haven’t changed your photo in five years, or if you’re still using a quick “selfie” you took at your desk, it’s a good idea to have a new one taken.  While you don’t need to use a professional photographer, be sure to dress professionally and avoid taking pictures against a busy background.  A “head and shoulders” shot is best – especially for smaller profile photos.

2) Update Your Sales and Transactions: Make sure your sales and transaction data – as well as property types – are current. 2015 was a great year — and you should showcase your success!

3) Coverage Area:  If you expanded your business to cover new zip codes, towns, neighborhoods, or cities this past year, make sure your online profiles reflect all of the areas you cover. You don’t want to lose prospective clients because they don’t think you have expertise in a particular market.

4) Specialties: Do you speak another language? It’s important to list this information. As more foreign buyers enter the U.S. market, additional language skills can make the different between whether or not you retain a client.

5) Awards and Designations: If you’ve obtained any new realtor awards or designations, make sure to add them to your website to show your successes and qualifications.

6) Be Consistent: Make sure that your information is consistent across all profiles. A prospective client will often check multiple sources when looking for an agent, and inconsistent information makes you appear less organized and professional.

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.

Affordable, accommodating, accessible—these are just a few of the favorable attributes used to describe and explain the rising housing trend of multigenerational homes, which has become increasingly popular for a myriad of reasons. According to a Pew Research report, “a record 57 million Americans, or 18.1% of the population of the United States, lived in multigenerational family households in 2012, double the number who lived in such households in 1980.”

If you have clients interested in purchasing, building, or selling a multigenerational home, here are a few tips:

Know the family members and their needs. Multigenerational homes can accommodate several types of family members in one household: adult children, aging grandparents or elderly relatives, special-needs children, live-in nannies, home-based-business owners or immigrant family members. Before showing your clients different houses, sit down with them to determine how many will be living in the house and their individual needs or preferences. This will help determine the types of home layouts and features they may need, such as first-floor bedroom suites, private entrances, home offices, full bathrooms and guest houses.

Encourage open communication among the family. Challenges are inevitable when accommodating different lifestyles living under one roof. If your client is purchasing, it can be tough for families with different opinions to agree on important decisions like who is contributing to the finances or getting the master bedroom. That’s why it is key for families to be able to compromise, communicate and discuss expectations with family members beforehand. Encourage your client and their family to discuss boundaries, finances, the home layout and whether it makes sense to move or renovate a house first, to help make the transition go more smoothly.

Remind your clients of resale. If your client is interested in building or renovating a multigenerational home, remind them to keep in mind the resale value of their home. For example, adding an unattractive chair ramp to the home may turn off future buyers, and will cost them money if they have to remove it. Instead, encourage your clients to work with a good designer and architect to include universal and integrated designs – while keeping in mind potential buyers down the road.

Highlight key features when it’s time to sell. If your client is selling their multigenerational home, highlight features that may attract other multigenerational families when marketing their property. Homes with first-floor bedroom suites, multiple full bathrooms, private entrances and finished basements are all marketable assets that will standout to families looking to buy a multigenerational home.

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.

6 Tips to Improve Your Website

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Your website is often a first impression for a buyer or seller—which makes its appearance, personality, and effectiveness critically important in today’s real estate environment. At its most basic, your website is a place for buyers and sellers to view your listings, find your contact information, and quickly refer friends and family by sharing your website address. But at its best, your website is a reflection of who you are, how you work, and your success in business.

To guarantee your website works as well as you do, consider employing the following tips:

1) Make it mobile friendly. With the continued rise of mobile users, it’s more important than ever for your website to be easy to navigate on a mobile device. According to a 2014 analysis by Smoke of comScore Media-Metrix data, millennial real estate mobile usage grew 81% from May 2013 to July 2014 – and has continued to rise in 2015. What’s more, in an effort to encourage others to adapt their websites to mobile devices, Google favors mobile-friendly websites, e.g., improving SEO, so it’s smart to make sure your website is easy to view from a hand-held mobile device.

2) Include your social media channels. Social media is an easy and effective way to market yourself and connect with buyers and sellers in real-time. If you’re active on social media, make sure you include social media buttons at the top, bottom, or sidebar of the page to encourage visitors to follow you and share your content. You never know when a tweet might lead to a referral or the perfect buyer.

3) Create a call-to-action. Encourage visitors to sign up for your newsletter or email list. This is a simple and yet very effective way to grow your audience. It also allows you to build and maintain your relationships with clients and prospects by consistently sharing valuable tips, resources, or news updates.

4) Feature your photos. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is especially true in the real estate industry where stunning photos are key to attracting buyers. Because many buyers often search online for properties before contacting a realtor, it’s important that your website is oriented around your most fetching hi-res images. Consider having a featured slideshow on your homepage to highlight different properties.

5) Share your kudos. Remember when your client said you were the most efficient agent they ever worked with? Share it! Include client testimonials on your website and update them frequently. It’s a great way to show how you’ve successfully helped buyers and sellers, and makes you look even better to prospective clients.

6) Keep it fresh. Whether it’s your contact information, profile photo, or coverage area, make a note to update your website content and information every 4-6 months. In addition, if you’ve obtained any new realtor designations or certifications, make sure to add the badge to your website upon completion. If you’re a certified ReferralExchange member, you can embed the badge on your website here.

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.

Seminars are great tools to educate prospective home buyers and sellers in person while showcasing your local market expertise. Host a seminar with these simple suggestions for success:

Topic selection:  Topic selection is critical and should focus on the real estate needs in your community/area. Do you have a lot of vacation properties or first-time buyers? Or, perhaps you work in an area where many people are retiring and thinking about selling their homes.

Timing:  The day and time of your seminars are important as well. Consider doing a “lunch and learn” if you are partnering with a company. Wednesday and Thursday evenings are the best days and times to hold seminars. If you’re focused on first-time buyers, hold these seminars about one month after tax day — these younger buyers might have received refunds and have cash for a down payment. If you’re working in an area with lots of vacation properties, hold a seminar at the end of the season, when people are thinking about purchasing versus renting.

 Clarify your purpose:  Seminars aren’t for selling — they are for educating. Be sure to clearly differentiate yourself from and provide something of value. Give homebuyers access to tools they can’t find anywhere else.

Partner with someone else:  Find a relevant partner to hold your seminar with.  Doing so helps you attract more attendees and makes your seminar more interesting. For a retiree seminar, consider having a downsizer attend. For first- time buyers, have a financial planner or accountant join you.

Open your portfolio:  Stretch your contact reach by way of personal interests. Connect with your gym, your place of worship, or a local community center that may be interested in hosting a seminar. Start with a local business’ lunch-and-learn to reach a wider audience.

Follow up:  Print and hand out powerfully visual take-home swag and be sure to follow-up to set appointments with interested attendees. Don’t loose those contacts – references are crucial to building a successful business.

Extra credit Video promotion:  Film your seminar for marketing purposes. Add it to your email signature, send it to prospective buyers, and promote it through traditional media. Today’s homebuyer is visual and will respond to something they can consume quickly.

Build a valuable reputation in your market and gain customers in the process by hosting a winning seminar today.

And, be sure to place any seminar referrals that don’t make sense for you to work into ReferralExchange! We’ll match them with 3 agents from our network, handle all of the paperwork and processing, and pay you a 25% referral fee when the deal closes.  

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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 that 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.

 

With today’s technology, working with out of town buyers isn’t as difficult as it used to be. Here are a few simple tips to make remote buyers feel like they’ve seen a property in person!

  1. Get Interactive: The video and photo quality on most smartphones – as well as the variety of video apps currently available make it easy to show a property to a remote client. Take your client on a live, virtual tour of the home using FaceTime or Skype and point out signature features on-the-go. You can find a list of the top 10 video recording apps for real estate agents here.
  1. Virtually Tour the Neighborhood: Even if your client can’t drive down the street to see the area themselves, you can provide a comprehensive list that includes local highlights and points of interest. Since you’re familiar with both the neighborhood and the client, be sure to personalize it based in their specific needs. For a young family, you might want to include nearby schools, parks, and the number of children living on a particular street.  For an outdoorsy couple, you can provide information on trails and hikes. If there’s a cute shopping area close to the property your client is interested in, make a video of that too!
  1. Provide Resources at a Glance. Make a list of crucial contacts that your client will need. Nearby professionals like doctors and dentists, as well as recommendations on the best mechanic or shoe repair shop will make your client feel more comfortable about moving to a new area.

Working with out of town buyers can be challenging – but following these tips will help you become a trusted resource to your clients and help you close more deals as well.

And, ReferralExchange can help with any buyer outside of your preferred area.  Simply place a referral into “The Exchange” and we’ll take care of the rest.

Organize your way to success

Having all of your important data in a single, master document makes updating your information a breeze.

Getting organized is a popular New Year’s Resolution for many of us – but probably one of the hardest to accomplish.  Especially, when it comes to updating information and profiles on the myriad of CRM systems and websites you’re a member of.  Making these updates can be laborious and time-consuming.  Not only do you need to make sure that your information is consistent across all sites, but sometimes it’s a challenge is simply remember where you have posted profiles or information in the first place.

To make the process easier create a document that contains all of your stats, key phrases, and information on it – you can do this in Word or Google Drive.  List all of the different websites, groups, and organizations that you’re affiliated with, as well as a link to the login page and the date that you make an update, for each.  Every time you join a new group or create a new profile, be sure to add it to the master list.

At the beginning of every year, update that document – years in the business, memberships, group affiliations, sales data, etc.  If you’ve expanded your business to cover a specific buyer/seller type or a new neighborhood or city – make sure you include that information as well.

Next, click on each profile link and copy/paste your information as needed. It’s as easy as that.  No more having to search for current data each time – or worrying about what you put where.

Having all of your important information and data in a single, master document seems simple, but makes updating your information – and achieving one of your New Year’s goals – a breeze.

Stress-Free Holiday Giving

Finding the “perfect” holiday gifts for clients can be as easy as thinking personalized, practical, and charitable.

The holidays are quickly approaching, and finding the perfect gift for your clients can be stressful. To make the most impact this year, think personalized, practical and charitable.

1. Personalized

Monogramming is a great way to make an everyday item special and meaningful. For example, a monogramed welcome mat marks the purchase of a new home, can be immediately put to use, and has that personalized touch. Using the image of your client’s new home can make your gift special enough to cherish over their lifetime. Creating a painting from a picture of their new home, making an engraving of their new home and framing a copy of their new house key in a shadow box all highlight this milestone in an unforgettable way.

 

2. Practical

Nothing will keep you in the forefront of your clients’ minds more than giving them something they will see and use regularly. Personalized pens and luggage tags or travel coffee mugs with a picture of their new home are all useful items which will likely be used on a regular basis and keep your clients thinking of you.  Consumables are a special treat which can also highlight your client’s new area, such as locally made artisanal chocolates, pastries or wine.

 

3.  Charitable

Giving to a local charitable organization in your client’s name can be a great gift this season. You can even personalize their donation by choosing a cause close to their heart: animal shelters for pet owners, a children’s hospital for families, third world entrepreneurs for business moguls, etc.

 

We give gifts to show our appreciation and gratitude for our clients’ business and hope they bring us referrals in the future. Keeping these guidelines in mind for your holiday shopping will help you find the perfect gift for each client on your list!

Smart Technology in the Luxury Market

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ReferralExchange CEO, Scott Olsen, spoke at Inman News’ Luxury Connect event in October on the “Putting Networks and Technology to Work in the Luxury Market” panel. He and fellow panelists emphasized that luxury clients use technology just as much as standard clients do – perhaps even more. The key to success is to provide technology that also offers a high level of service and support.

ReferralExchange CEO, Scott Olsen, spoke at Inman News’ Luxury Connect event in October on the “Putting Networks and Technology to Work in the Luxury Market” panel. He, and fellow panelists Greg Schwarts, Chief Revenue Officer with Zillow; Russ Cofano, SVP – Industry Relations with move.com; and moderator Jennifer Berman Holt, General Manager with Hilton and Hyland, emphasized that luxury clients use technology just as much as standard clients do – perhaps even more.  The key to success is to provide technology that also offers a high level of service and support.

Given below are some additional takeaways from the event that you can use to help grow your luxury client business:

 Online Exposure

Foreign clients constitute a sizable share of luxury property seekers which makes an expanded online presence essential. Often by necessity, these foreign and other luxury buyers will purchase a property, or at least significantly narrow their search, sight unseen. By providing an enhanced and comprehensive online experience that includes an expansive photo portfolio to truly showcase each property, you’ll increase interest in your listings.

 Comprehensive Resource

High-end clients are smart, business savvy and have plenty of options. Position yourself as an all-inclusive agent who can provide useful resources beyond their real estate needs:

  • Referrals to attorneys, tax consultants and other agencies versed in U.S. reporting regulations, tax requirements and security laws, especially those applicable to foreign buyers
  • Referrals to education consultants, doctors, decorators and designers, painters, staffing support, etc.
  • Additional information on the property and surrounding location, including neighborhood photos, statistics, entertainment, restaurants, transportation, shopping, even current trends!

Leverage your Network

Luxury home buyers are often in the market for more than one property. For example, your client searching for a high-rise in Manhattan may also find themselves in the market for a Miami beach house. Part of providing an enhanced, full service experience should include being able to provide reputable agents in your clients’ other regions of interest. Finding them a quality agent in another market who will provide equally excellent service, via a service like ReferralExchange, can help increase your value to clients.

Luxury home buyers and sellers have most of the world at their fingertips. Bringing extra effort to the table to create a holistic, integrated experience gives you a competitive edge, especially with foreign and out-of-area buyers who have limited reach into your market.

Do you have more ideas how to provide your high-end clients with a full service buying experience? Let us know in the Comments Section.

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We recently surveyed the 12,500 agents in our system. More than 50% said that maintaining a work/life balance was one of their greatest challenges.

We recently conducted a survey of the 12,500 agents in our system.  Not surprisingly, more than 50% said that maintaining a work/life balance was one of their greatest challenges​. They are not alone: according to a five-year study of the American workforce conducted by the Families and Work Institute, 30% of the workforce often or very often feel burned out or stressed by their jobs, 27% feel emotionally drained from their work and 42% feel used up at the end of the work day.

So, what to do?  The nature of the real estate business is serious hustle means better results, so the concept of “just work less” isn’t always the solution.  While it might sound ironic, applying a little discipline with a few simple changes to your daily routine can make you both more productive and feel more refreshed — and in turn, free up more of your time for friends, family and yourself.

Start by Working Smarter

Focus on those clients with whom you want to work, and refer the others.  Actively ask your favorite clients to keep you in mind for new opportunities, as it’s more likely that the clients you’ve enjoyed in the past will refer clients that you will enjoy in the future.

Maintain a focus on those properties in your preferred price point and property type.  Be picky– you don’t need to take on everything.  You can offer referrals for the rest of them, and you’ll feel more satisfied that you’re not stretching yourself too thin.

Hire an assistant (or assistants) to handle administrative or mundane tasks that can be delegated.  For example, putting up postings on social media or placing referrals into a system (like ReferralExchange).  You might even be able to find a high school or college student to assist you for a few hours a week.

Take Time for Yourself

Schedule time on your calendar every day to do something for yourself.  This “me time” should be an actual appointment – make a promise to yourself to keep it daily and schedule other appointments around it if possible.

Begin and end your day with a five minute meditation. At the beginning of your workday, visualize what you want to accomplish that day.  At the end, spend that time congratulating yourself for a job well done (no negativity!).

Get up and walk around.  Studies have shown that getting up from your desk every 30 minutes or so and walking around can benefit your health and actually lengthen your life.

Know when to STOP

None of us can work 24/7, so it’s okay to turn off the phone and step away from email, especially after your last appointment.  If you are trying to close a big deal that’s one thing, but if it’s a regular day, then disconnect yourself from your electronic devices.  And, be sure to charge your devices outside of your bedroom!

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