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

Father Helping Teenage Son Pack For College

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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 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.

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.


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.


Referrals can come from anywhere. As a real estate agent, everywhere you go and anyone you talk to can potentially lead to a referral or business opportunity. Below are eight ways to build your referral business and make the most of everyday interactions.

  1. Friends, families & neighbors: Friends, family members and neighbors may be the most obvious source of referrals for your real estate business. They’re the most likely to sing your praises and vouch for your professionalism and outstanding work ethic. Remind them that you are never too busy for a referral.
  1. Chance encounters: Wearing a branded hat or t-shirt on vacation, during business travel or when you’re out shopping is any easy way to promote your business and show you’re an agent. It’s also a potential conversation starter that could lead to something more.
  1. Professional contacts: Your professional contacts (i.e., veterinarian, financial planner, doctor) often know their clients very well. Make sure they know what you do in case they can ever refer one of their clients looking to buy or sell their home.
  1. Service contacts: Small business owners from your local drycleaner, shipping store, florist or coffee shop often know their customers very well and see them often. Consider leaving them flyers or business cards in case they know anyone moving in or out of the area.
  1. Organizations, associations, groups: Joining local organizations, associations and groups such as a charity group, book club, homeowner’s association or union group is a great way to meet potential clients. Get involved by offering to hold a home buying/selling seminar or write an article for one of their newsletters if they have one.
  1. Business-focused: Seminar leads, moving companies, open house prospects and former real estate agents are excellent sources for new referrals. Reach out to them to see if they or anyone they know are interested in buying or selling their home. If your client is moving to a new city, help them on both sides of the transaction by submitting them to be matched with three top realtors in their new area through ReferralExchange.
  1. Corporate relocation: Many companies or organizations like regional retailers, military bases, local sports teams or colleges don’t have an official Relocation Department. Try reaching out to their HR department to offer your services.
  1. Advertising: Advertising your services in the local paper, newsletter (see tip #5), on Facebook, websites or through quarterly mailings are still effective ways to promote your business and attract new clients.

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.

Last week, our VP of Marketing Lisa Fettner spoke at the annual CRS Sell-a-bration and offered tips for managing your online presence. Lisa stressed how important it is for agents to keep their profiles current and fresh, and shared the following six tips to help you do just that.

1) Make sure you have a professional and current photo. If your client can’t recognize you from the picture on your business card or website, it’s probably time to get those new headshots. It’s also best to save the selfies for your friends on Instagram and Facebook.

2) Keep your profile clean, crisp, typo-free and forget the agent-speak. If you tell your client you did “150 sides” last year, they will most likely look at you sideways. When it comes to your online profiles, it’s important to always be professional, always tell the truth and always be current.

3) Know your unique selling proposition. Think of it as your 30-second elevator pitch. Ask yourself, “who am I and what do I do better?” “Why am I an agent?” Write it down and back it up with data. Here’s an example: With 20 years of experience, Amy Agent has become Anytown USA’s “Go to” agent with a reputation for tenaciously protecting her clients’ interests. Savvy negotiation skills, cutting-edge marketing efforts, and uncompromising integrity have made her the top-producing agent in her area 10 years in a row.

4) Google yourself. Have you done it lately? There’s a good chance your client will. Make sure the information and images that appear are what you want them to see. Pro tip: If you put your name in all CAPS, LinkedIn will list you first among other users with the same name.

5) Content is key. Lisa shared 11 types of content that will help make a great online profile: a professional photo, a concise and impactful headline, your “who am I?” summary, your professional experience highlights, skills & designations, recommendations/testimonials, involvement in groups or organizations, education, additional languages, and projects and awards.

6) So many sites, so little time. Make a point to update your online information once a year when work slows down a bit. Keeping all your information in one central place (e.g., Google doc) and maintaining a master spreadsheet with links to all of your profiles will save you time and stress when making these updates.

Yes, managing your online presence is something we all have to do, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Remember these three takeaways: it’s about reputation not vanity, virtually show your customers who you are and be professional, but human. Access the full presentation 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.


Need more help? Has becoming a broker ever crossed your mind?  If so, where do you start?  Who do you hire first? There are a lot of questions and details involved when building a real estate team. Knowing where to start and how to maintain long-term success will make building a successful team easy.

Know what’s important

Every agent has their own strengths and weaknesses, and your team should be built around members who are able to fill in those gaps. You want quality team members who are a good fit for what you’re trying to accomplish and share your values and overarching business goals. Creating a trial period of several months can make it easier for you should you decide to part ways. The wrong choice can create more work for you, and a bad experience for your clients.

Who you hire first

Some agents feel that they should start with hiring a buyer’s agent and most of the time those agents are new to real estate or have a lot of time on their hands. The first person you hire should be an assistant or transaction coordinator. The transaction coordinator can be licensed or unlicensed, however an unlicensed assistant can’t answer questions related to property, show homes, or do any property related tasks. When you hire an assistant, you free up time to focus on appointments and more client-facing issues that impact your bottom line.

Hire a Buyer’s  Specialist

Your next new team member should be a buyer’s agent who will help with the additional leads and business that you have. Typically, buyers take much more time and effort than sellers. Buyer’s agents can support lead generation, consult on needs, show properties, submit offers on homes and work with lenders to help buyers get approved for financing. In addition, they can help manage the closing process by negotiating the inspection and executing the final walk through. Eventually this agent can train, mentor and assist additional buyer agents that you add to your team.

Find a Listing Agent

After you have hired a buyer’s agent, it’s time to find a solid listing agent. The listing agent prospects to generate leads, prepares Comparative Market Analyses to determine fair market value, makes listing presentations to prospective clients and converts them into listing agreements. It’s important for this agent to keep a close eye on how the listings are progressing and whether or not a price needs to be adjusted. The listing agent will also need to negotiate all contracts and manage the closings.

Bring in the right Marketing Guru

There are a few things to consider when you look for a Marketing Director for your real estate team. You want to make sure you have someone with a broad range of experience and knowledge. Find someone who is an expert in everything from traditional marketing to social media. The marketing director will manage your CRM to make sure the proper follow up is executed with Drip Campaigns and Direct Mail initiatives.

Having a marketing expert on your team is important because this person is responsible for promoting both active and previously sold listings for your clients and potential clients. Your marketing director will also implement open house marketing strategies to ensure as many potential buyers are brought in as possible. It’s important that your marketing efforts are attracting the correct demographic to your open houses. A lot of real estate teams also have their marketing director send thank you gifts, and holiday and gift cards to help their referral business.

Ultimately, you will be able to scale and improve your overall business with a solid real estate team. After you start your team, it’s going to be very important that you or a team leader nurtures and develops your team members. These practices will keep your team members happy and will lead to long-term success.

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.

Organize Your Way to Success


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 to simply remember where you have posted profiles or information in the first place. Having all of your important data in one central, master document makes updating your information a breeze.

  • To make the process easier, create a document that contains all of your stats, key phrases, professional headshots and information on it – you can do this in Word or Google Drive. List all of the different websites, groups, social media channels and organizations that you’re affiliated with, as well as a link to the login page, your password 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.
  • Consider managing your document throughout the year with a note-taking app like Evernote. This will give you the accessibility to make notes while on the go that you can later refresh the document with.
  • At the beginning of every year, update that document – years in the business, memberships, group affiliations, sales data, certifications/designations, etc. If you’ve expanded your business to cover a specific buyer/seller type, property 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.

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.

7 Ways to Keep Clients for Life

You’ve spent months and months helping your client look for their dream home. Finally, the papers are signed and the keys in their hand. Your job is complete – so what happens next? It’s easy to become consumed by the next buyer or seller, however it’s equally important to maintain relationships with former clients. After all, a happy client will likely use your service again and is often the best referral source for future business. Below are seven easy ways to maintain relationships with your old clients while garnering new referrals.

  1. Send them a closing gift. There’s no better time to give your client a gift and help them celebrate than after a transaction ends. Keep your name top of mind by giving them a thoughtful gift such as a monogrammed welcome mat or painting of their house they can enjoy and use in their new home.
  1. Be their resource. In the real estate industry, it’s natural to develop relationships over time with landscapers, roofers, plumbers, electricians, locksmiths – the list goes on. Connecting your clients with these reliable and trustworthy resources will save them time and proves you are valuable beyond closing. Ask your loyal vendors if they would consider giving discounts on their services to your clients. You’ll have happy clients and they will get new business and referral opportunities. It’s a win-win.
  1. Tell them about your upcoming open houses. Even if your former clients aren’t in the market to buy a new house, consider inviting them or giving them a heads up that you will be in their neighborhood to host an open house. Often times neighbors will pop into open houses to see how it compares to their house. You never know when a former client may have a friend or family member who is ready to buy.
  1. Call them occasionally. A simple gesture such as a phone call is an easy way to check in and catch up with old clients. A quick call from time to time to ask how things are going with the house is a great reminder that if they ever need anything – or if they know of anyone interested in buying or selling a home – you are just a phone call away.
  1. Add them to your holiday contact list. If you send out holiday cards each year, make sure to include your former clients. This can help you stay top of mind as they enter the new year. Find personalized and practical holiday gift ideas here. Also, don’t forget to include a couple of business cards.
  1. Host a client appreciation event. Hosting an event for your clients such as an outing to a baseball game or picnic is a fun way to reconnect with them. For your clients who have just moved to the area, it’s a great opportunity for them to meet new people. And, it’s a great way for you to catch up on their status – or if they have anyone to refer.
  1. Send them a handwritten note. In a world full of texting, tweeting and emailing, sending your former client a handwritten note may seem old school, but it won’t go unnoticed. Including your business card in the note can help ensure they have your contact information handy.

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.

As a real estate agent, you know building relationships with your community, family, friends and former clients is one of the best ways to expand your business. So what do you do when you move out of an area you’ve been living in and servicing for years? Relocating your business can seem daunting, which is why we’ve put together a few tips to help you hit the ground running in your new city.

Use your current network. Before you move, make a list of your current network of clients, family and friends and get in touch with them. Not only will this give you the opportunity to let them know about your upcoming move, but you can also ask if they know anyone in the new area where you are moving. A simple phone call to an old client can help you spread the word and make new connections. Don’t forget to keep in touch with them! Although you may be focused on attracting new clients, keeping in touch and continuing to market to your former clients may prove to be one of the best ways to meet new customers.

Update your online presence. Early on, make sure to update your website and social media channels with information about your new city so others are aware that you have moved. Blogging or posting on social media about relevant topics in your new area such as local housing trends is a good way to learn about the area while spreading awareness online. Crowdsourcing local information and tips on social media such as asking your Twitter followers what the best parks or cafes are in your new town is another great way to learn and engage with locals online.

Get to know your new city. Once you’ve moved, it’s time to explore and educate yourself on the area. Touring different neighborhoods and properties with other agents from your brokerage, eating at local restaurants, and visiting notable landmarks are easy ways to familiarize yourself with your new locale and learn information that may be useful when working with clients. If you have time, research local contractors, lenders, appraisers, etc. Making those connections and having your “go-to handy man” will be invaluable when working with buyers or sellers. In addition, attending local professional networking events or getting involved with different organizations (e.g., civic clubs, chamber of commerce events) are also fun ways to meet potential clients and feel a part of your new community.

Get back to basics. Even if you’ve been in the real estate industry for several years, it may help to get back to the basics and implement old strategies (e.g., cold calling, floor time) that helped launch your business in the beginning. Hosting open houses or offering to host one for another agent in your office is a simple way to meet people, network with other agents and gather contact information and leads. Consider passing out your business cards at local businesses you frequently visit such as your dentist’s office, coffee shop or dry cleaners. You never know when they or one of their customers may be looking for a great real estate agent.

Establishing yourself in a new city may feel overwhelming and challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Make sure to pace yourself, set expectations, be patient and remember, you once started your business from scratch in your old city – you can do it again.

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.