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What all should real estate brokerages pay for?

Should brokers help pay for agents’ online advertising, technologies, training, photography, or mobile devices? Let’s take a look at what some large brokers already offer.

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Brokers helping their agents to thrive

With ever-improving tech and new ways to advertise every day, agents obviously need to stay up-to-date on the best technology to get ahead and keep improving. Besides honing skills, utilizing technology to your benefit can one day put you in top producer status, too.

But what about brokerages? What should brokerages be doing in terms of technology to help their agents’ businesses in terms of staying ahead of the game?

I reached out to a few brokerages to see what they provide and pay for to help their agents:

Coldwell Banker

I asked Rich Rogola, digital strategist for Coldwell Banker’s Chicago offices, what most of the company’s money goes to when it comes to websites and software that helps agents. “We invest a lot of money into our own technology and end up building a lot of that out,” he said. “Most of our marketing spending and strategy goes into generating online business for our agents, making sure those leads go back to our agents as quickly as possible and then giving them the tools to stay in touch with their clients during and after the transaction.”

Coldwell Banker also has various partner programs. In Chicago, the brokerage has a subsidized deal for single property websites through Homefinder.com, and Coldwell Banker also pays for agents’ listings on Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia.

In addition, the company has an eMarketing platform available for free to all agents that helps them stay in touch with clients through email or social media, and provides Homebase, a secure and paperless online transaction management system, for free.

Baird & Warner

This company recently implemented a texting program available to all agents for free, according to Andrea Cordts, communications manager for Baird & Warner. Any buyer interested in any Baird & Warner property can text “BW” to the number 59559, and the user will receive information and property photos via their mobile device. From there, the listing agent will receive the user’s phone number and be able to contact the potential buyer regarding more information or a showing.

“Since it was launched in January of last year, Baird & Warner has received over 30,000 buyer inquiries from this marketing method,” Cordts said.

In addition, Baird & Warner has a mobile CRM that helps them respond to clients in a timely manner, and the company runs over 6,000 websites integrated within this system, and provides the means for agents to create individual property websites for agents to market listings. Baird & Warner also hosts a seminar called “Career Institute” every few months to make sure all agents are familiar with its tech tools.

Century 21

The company has several partnerships, among them with HomeFinder.com, Realtor.com, Homes.com and Trulia, which provides discounts to its agents for certain advertising packages with the various partner sites. For example, agents have a 50 percent discount with the Showcase Advantage program with Trulia and Homes.com.

Conlon

This boutique firm of about 159 agents and four offices in Chicago pays for all of its agents’ advertisements on Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com and the Chicago Tribune. The agents are on their own for their own websites.

The takeaway

To me, the most helpful tech “tool” brokerages could do for agents would be paying to advertise listings online. Are brokerage-provided CRMs of any benefit to agents? What do you wish your brokerage provided for you, and what’s better handled yourself?

Note from AGBeat: not all brokerages responded in time to be included in the story. The above is a sampling of brokerages, and is not meant to be a complete dissection of the industry.

Stephanie Sims is the managing editor of Agent Publishing, which currently has online publications in Chicago, Houston and Miami. With expertise in evaluating housing markets, website content and social media strategy, and reporting information agents want to know about, Stephanie can be found at her desk with coffee that got cold or not eating lunch because she’s busy planning editorial assignments and interviews for the Agent Publishing websites.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. victorlund

    September 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    It is a great question, and the answer is grey. Brokers use these payments to recruit, others use them to justify higher broker splits, others charge technology fees to the agent, and still others just do it because they believe that their agents will be better if they have these tools that they might not otherwise buy.
     
    Frankly, brokers get much better deals on technology – all technology. There is an economy of scale. But there are certain areas where broker spending is competitive with the agent.
     
    If an agent wants to define their value to a seller, they may talk about online marketing (geeks may call it listing syndication). An agent who enhances their listing on T, Z, H, or R.com is stepping up and investing in the success of that listing. If the brokerage does it, it levels that playing field for all of its agents. The agent must turn elsewhere – like to a single listing website or a virtual tour. Again, if the broker provides VTs on every listing – the agent looses yet another opportunity for differentiation. B&W provides a website with IDX, CRM, lead management, flyer management, drip campaigns, etc to every agent – again – leveling the playing field. In many cases, agents are already paying for these services that are bundled into their MLS dues.
     
    There is no answer to this question – only possibilities and competing interests. Its philosophical.

    • victorlund

      September 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      P.S. Baird and Warner offer an amazing suite of agent productivity tools – 

  2. michaeltudorie

    September 15, 2012 at 12:09 am

    @RealtyNinja Canadian content please..

  3. 85255Home

    November 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Good read, thank you Stephanie.

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Business News

Study: Employers are inadvertently punishing women that suffer from Endo

(BUSINESS NEWS) A new study reveals the widespread impact of Endo (Endometriosis) in the workforce as well as the entire economy. Change must be made. Quickly.

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Women still face many barriers in their career. It’s been more than half a century since federal law addressed gender discrimination in the workplace, but it still occurs. Whether it’s lack of access to training, an inability to speak up, or pay inequality, it’s all wrong. Sadly, a new study identifies another potential barrier to a woman’s career path – endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) reports that “endometriosis happens when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside the uterus.”

Endo, as its often called, causes varying levels of pain, often chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis. The tissue outside the uterus grows in areas where it can cause even more problems by blocking fallopian tubes and forming scar tissue. There is no cure, but there are some treatment options that can work.

Endo affects about 11% of American women who are ages 15 to 44. Despite the fact that the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology describes endometriosis as “nothing short of a public health emergency,” data suggests that about 60% of endo cases go undiagnosed.

I repeat: 60% of endo cases go undiagnosed.

More than 6 million American women are living with the symptoms of endo without knowing the cause or having the capability to manage their symptoms.

Endometriosis was once considered a career woman’s disease, but a two-year-long study from Finland shows that the disease shapes a woman’s career, not the other way around.

Women with endo take 10 or more sick days than women without endo. They also use more disability days. Other studies support these findings. A 2011 analysis reported that women with endo could lose almost 11 hours of work each week because their endo made it difficult to complete tasks. One US study estimated that women with endo experience more sick days each year, up to 20.

These women often have a lower annual salary and slower salary growth.

How can employers address endometriosis in the workplace?

It’s difficult enough to discuss any type of health problem at work, let alone one that relates to menstruation. Employers have a big problem just dealing with short-term illnesses. It’s hard when a key employee is out for one or two weeks from a surgery. Long-term chronic illnesses, especially those that are invisible, are challenging in the workplace.

Most workplace cultures aren’t designed for people with chronic conditions or disabilities.

It’s going to take a major shift in thinking to deal with endometriosis in the workplace.

Endo isn’t painful period cramps. It’s a serious condition without a cure. Employees who are dealing with endo may be battling intense pain or fatigue. Yes, work needs to get done, but when people are living with a chronic condition, they need accommodations.

Endometriosis may be a woman’s disease, but it does impact the entire economy. One study found that endo had a similar economic burden to that of heart disease or diabetes. Most employers would not think twice about a man who needed extra time to deal with coronary disease, but women often don’t get that consideration, regardless of the condition.

Women with endo aren’t incapable or shirking their duties. They may just need to deal with their pain to stay focused at work. Let’s drop the stigma and help accommodate women who deal with endo.

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Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but sometimes things can go south – here’s how to escape when they do.

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

How to keep Pride month going year-round (without rainbow washing)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Pride month is over and companies have deleted their rainbow website adornments. Without much effort, your company can easily keep the commitment to kindness going – here’s how.

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Pride month in the US is behind us now and already the rainbows have faded from mega-corporate logos and branding. Making a constant commitment to inclusivity and anti-discrimination isn’t always easy and marketing has minefields aplenty.

So how does a small business navigate this? We’re starting from a deficit of trust and there are a few reasons why.

The large scale, mega-corporate marketing and PR targeted at the LGBTQIA+ community that goes on in June for Pride month, collectively referred to as “rainbow washing” (or sometimes even less flattering pandering accusations), has come under fire for being largely lip service and sometimes downright harmful by community advocates.

For example, one independent journalist just penned an editorial, putting AT&T on blast for publicly supporting LGBTQIA+ causes while funding political initiatives that negatively impact the community. I’d consider this a prime example of what not to do.

Businesses who want to be genuine in their commitment to pride have plenty of options that don’t require vast marketing or PR budgets.

Pride is ultimately about celebrating progress and obstacles surmounted by the community and highlighting the work needed to promote equality for everyone, regardless of identity or orientation.

The first thing any business can do is reflect internally. Address any dirty laundry that might be kicked behind the couch in the corner.

Try asking these questions:

  • Are our policies gender neutral?
  • Do any job titles involve gendered terms?
  • Is the language in morality clauses modern?
  • How do your benefits packages handle LGBTQIA+ health issues?

The other thing businesses can do, even if you are a business of just one person, is be an active member of your community.

Below are a few accessible, actionable suggestions on how to promote a welcoming and inclusive world:

  • Listen – Be informed about what goes on in your locale. Sometimes just being aware is more than half the battle.
  • Speak – if there is something going on in your community that you have a strong opinion on, speak up. Twitter is popular these days. Few things are more impactful than a call to city hall or the commerce department from a local business owner. You have more power than you probably realize. And yes, it IS good for business because it builds trust and loyalty within your customer base. Good things happen to those who make an effort to do the right thing.
  • Ask Questions – Nothing beats good old honesty and accountability. Colleagues, customers, and the community at large will respect you more if you are willing to open a dialog. This can be individual conversations, or a short survey in a newsletter or social media post. This builds trust and gives you an opportunity to serve as a role model for others.
  • Back Local Events – Get your name and logo out there. I know this one feels inaccessible to smaller businesses, but hear me out. Obviously, organisations running events like financial or in-kind contributions. If you can do that, great! A lot of organisations struggle with finding safe meeting spaces- can you unlock the office for 2 hours one evening after work one night a month? Something as simple as volunteering your parking lot for some extra space or putting a banner on your webpage for a week makes a big difference too. Push their events on your socials. Can I borrow your printer?

At the end of the day, every day, everyone just wants to be treated equally, with kindness and compassion.

Last I checked, those are two things we haven’t put a commercial price tag on yet. So, above all else, be kind. It’s amazing how far that can get you.

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