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Massive Canadian real estate scam is shocking, echoes of problems in U.S.

Here’s a tale of two countries (and at least as many cities) and the scam real estate deals that tenuously bind them together.

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Here’s a tale of two countries (and at least as many cities) and the scam real estate deals that tenuously bind them together. Welcome to the United States and Canada and more specifically, New York City and Vancouver. Without a doubt there are other cities playing the real estate shell game. Miami comes to mind.

But here’s the deal: in Vancouver, NYC and Miami foreign buyers have made serious money hiding behind fake names and shell companies to purchase real estate in cash. We’re talking homes you couldn’t even dream of dreaming about!

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Buy, flip, repeat

Buy the property, flip it for profit and launder the money back to China or wherever. All done anonymously and going on longer than most people realize until finally the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) will start identifying and tracking secret buyers of properties who pay $3 million in cash or more in NYC or $1 million or more in Miami. Not only that, title insurance companies will be required to notify the identities of the buyers, which investigators will compile in a database. The requirement is temporary, from March-August 2016, but if it gets results, the program could be extended nationwide. The rule change will affect billions of dollars in real estate transactions.

The rule change will affect billions of dollars in real estate transactions.

Segue to Vancouver, BC

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay maybe not, but the Vancouver real estate market is HOT. Thing is, it’s not the Canadians who are snatching up all the property.

The Vancouver Sun recently reported that sellers are celebrating a banner year for Vancouver’s real-estate market. Case in point: The benchmark price for residential property in Metro Vancouver was $752,500 in November, up nearly 18 percent from 2014 (according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver). But it doesn’t stop there. Zerohedge.com points out that in Vancouver, residential property sales in rose 31.7% in January. That’s 46% above the 10-year sales average for the first month of the year and the second highest January ever.

High demand and low supply will keep prices climbing for some time, but critics say the high prices could create problems for the region’s economy and environment.

Lack of cooperation and communication

So you get the point. The average person in Vancouver is not throwing down change for a house. Foreign investors ARE and buying property hand over fist. The lion’s share of these deals isn’t legal either. Kind of sounds like Miami or New York City. Now you would think that the US and Canada would notice similarities here. Maybe a trend of sorts and entertain the idea of working together.

They are not.

Similar to the Big Apple or Miami or who-knows-really-where-else-this-is-happening, the Vancouver real estate market, at least a good part of it has all the elements of a television thriller: shady deals, money laundering, and an occasional body that turns up in the trunk of a car. It would all make for great entertainment if not for the fact that all the above are really happening. Read more and prepare to be shocked when you dig into an investigative expose by Sandy Grossman on Storify.

It just unveils a huge, intricate network.

It also begets the question of what money fuels the Vancouver real estate industry? And in what light does it show how well the real estate profession is policed in this city?

It’s obvious that on some level Canada is dragging its feet in establishing specific methods of resolving these money-laundering real estate scams. Maybe because there’s money to made? Canada needs to take action and America for her part needs to make the temporary status permanent.

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Sandy Garossino breaks it down:

#ShadyVancouverRealEstate

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

Real Estate Brokerage

4 tasks your business should consider outsourcing

(REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE) As your business becomes busier and more successful, you may find outsourcing will streamline your workflow. Let’s talk what’s best to outsource.

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Freelance worker at a laptop writing notes in a notebook, outsourcing work.

As your business grows, it becomes impossible to continue doing everything in-house. At some point, you have to think about outsourcing. The question is, which tasks do you hand off in order to maximize efficiency and leverage better talent?

The Pros of Outsourcing

Outsourcing, which is basically the act of taking a job duty or responsibility and paying someone outside of your organization to handle it on your behalf, has become more popular and practical with the rise of the internet and various freelance marketplaces. The advantages of outsourcing include:

  • Cost savings. Outsourcing is a very cost-effective decision, regardless of whether you go with an offshore agency or a local freelancer. Offshore partners can cost as much as 60% less than a similar professional in the U.S. Onshore freelancers are more expensive than offshore options. Still, they’re cheaper than hiring an employee.
  • Time savings. If you hire an outsourced partner to do 20 hours of work per week, that’s 20 hours you’re saving your team. This allows you to reallocate time to focus on the internal tasks that matter most to your organization.
  • Better talent. When you hire full-time employees, your talent pool is often restricted by location and budget. When outsourcing, you have access to more talent than you’d be able to afford when hiring.
  • Leaner business. There’s something to be said for keeping a small team with low overhead and minimal fixed costs. By outsourcing, you’re able to keep your business lean and scalable.

Outsourcing has always been a useful option, but with the current state of remote work and online freelancing, it’s now a practical choice for both small and large businesses.

4 Tasks You Should Outsource

Not all tasks are created equal. But as you consider outsourcing more of your business, here are a few to consider:

1. PPC

PPC advertising can be a significant revenue driver for businesses. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can also be a waste of money. By outsourcing to a PPC marketing agency, you can maximize ad spend and get the best possible results. They’ll charge you a fee, obviously, but the ROI of outsourced PPC almost always overperforms the ROI of in-house PPC (when there’s limited internal experience).

2. SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important investment for any business. But much like PPC, it’s highly technical and requires some expertise in order to master. While you can certainly learn some of the basics, you’d be wise to outsource the overall strategy and execution to an experienced professional. (Just make sure you research your options and choose a partner that practices white hat SEO.)

3. Accounting

Is there any task more universally boring than accounting? And yet, at the same time, it’s arguably one of the most important tasks a business owner has on their plate. (If you screw up accounting, you could sink your business in a major hole.) Outsourcing to an accountant or CPA is a great option.

“Having had my own business for 12+ years now, I can say without hesitation that the one area I immediately outsourced was taxes! I’ve never regretted hiring a professional to take care of this tedious – yet vital – task,” entrepreneur Michelle Garret writes. “My accountant saves my money and provides peace of mind, which is priceless.”

The good news is that you can get an outsourced accounting partner fairly inexpensively. Whether you want them to do all of your daily bookkeeping or just your taxes, you should be able to find a good option.

4. Graphic Design

Graphic design is one of those tasks where there’s a huge gap between basic skills and advanced skills. In other words, anyone can learn how to use some basic graphic design tools, but it takes a seasoned and creative professional to truly master the craft. By outsourcing, you can save yourself thousands of hours of learning and advance straight to expert-level output.

Maximize Your Internal Resources

At the end of the day, outsourcing allows you to maximize your resources and do more with less. And while you shouldn’t delegate core business tasks, handing off things like copywriting, PPC, SEO, accounting, and graphic design can free you up to focus on the projects and investments that matter most.

Give it a try and see what it does for you.

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Real Estate Brokerage

The best ways to handle stressed and stressful clients

(BROKERAGE NEWS) Moving can make even your calmest clients nightmare wackadoos. Here’s how to manage the stressed out moments to the best of your ability.

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A team of 3 researchers have published an interesting study on how customer service can be improved by recognizing a customer’s stress level before a connection with your business is made.

For example, a customer can often be anxious over using a particular service, i.e., a funeral home or a lawyer in connection with a divorce. By learning more about how your clients feel when they call your business, you can better manage the customer experience. This offers your business a more effective customer base of referrals and repeat business.

The researchers identified the following steps to manage stressed-out customers:

1. Find out how your customers are feeling when they need your service.

One reason so many breast cancer facilities are free-standing, away from the main hospital complex, is because women voiced their ideas to the healthcare team designing the facilities. Women wanted coordinated care under one roof, but felt like the hospital was not a calming environment. Use your empathy to walk in your customer’s shoes to change the experience.

2. Hire not only for skill, but attitude and personality.

Employees who love their job can’t be trained. The passion and enthusiasm, even for a high-stress career like a cancer nurse or funeral director, cannot be taught. Look to bring on team members who have empathy for your customers and understand that business is all about customer service. It’s far easier to teach someone the skills needed for a job than it is to teach them to be motivated to work.

3. Study your approach to the customer’s journey.

How does your business interact with the client? From the first link online or phone call, to the payment options, what is the customer’s experience? Do they come out more stressed, or less stressed than before? Address the high-stress interactions by providing information about your services. For example, when calling to view a listing, what can your customer expect?

4. Give the customer more control over the service.

Dealing with a mechanic who tells you that your engine is shot is highly stressful. Instead, learn to be more specific and talk to the customer in a language that can be understood by someone without technical knowledge. Make sure your customer has one point-of-contact throughout their experience. Have a plan B in place for when that individual is sick or goes on vacation. Empower your customers through today’s technology, maybe an app that tracks the sale. There’s no excuse today for poor customer service and information.

I would highly recommend that every real estate professional read the research from Harvard Business Review. Leonard L. Berry, Scott W. Davis, and Jody Wilmet packed so much information into their report that there’s no way I could cover it all here.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Pocket listings: The key to success in hot housing market?

(REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE) Despite NAR’s attempts to shut the door on pocket listings, the reality is that premarket sales are almost a necessity for buyers in hot markets.

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Dark house at dusk, a possible pocket listing to be snatched up.

Hot housing markets are like the “Hunger Games” right now – and the odds are definitely not favoring home buyers.

In fiery markets like Austin, high demand and low inventory are juicing prices and sometimes bringing an unprecedented number of offers. A home in the desirable, centrally located neighborhood of Crestview recently drew 27 offers, says Lisa Boone, Realtor, GRI, with Waterloo Realty. “Everyone is fighting over the same properties.”

For some buyers, that competition makes tapping into the robust, but controversial, “pre-MLS” private-listing ecosystem feel almost like a necessity. “My job has gone from trying to get people a deal on a house to getting someone a house, period,” says Anna Uliassi, associate broker with Compass in Austin. “I’d say it’s gotten crazier in the last six months.”

That private, or pocket, listing ecosystem is shifting, too.

Well-connected agents who find or sell off-market properties through friendly phone calls to their networks and tapping into private online forums have been told to cut it out. In a bid to level the playing field, the National Association of Realtors has essentially banned pocket listings with its “MLS Clear Cooperation policy,” As of May 1, 2020, agents must list properties on MLS within one business day of “public marketing,” which includes phone calls, forum posts, and even the buzz-building “coming soon” signs.

“There are no more private listings, unless the listing is kept private within your own brokerage,” Romeo Manzanilla of Realty Austin told the Austin Business Journal in August. “It keeps the integrity of the MLS from the data perspective. It also allows all MLS participants to have access to the same listings and not necessarily have to go fish through, ‘What Facebook group am I supposed to join to get these under-the-radar listings?’ “

But there are rules… And there is reality.

With tight inventory and rising concerns about privacy, demand for off-market transactions simply is not going away. Especially when it comes to luxury properties listed on places like Austin Luxury Network.

Now savvy buyers want to check the pocket listings. They’ve read articles on how to head off competition with off-market homes. Or they’ve had their hearts broken too many times by losing out on too many properties.

Also, buyer wish lists are becoming more and more specific based on lifestyle changes, says Gray Adkins, Realtor, GRI, with Waterloo Realty. “As a buyer, if you’re looking for something really specific, you’re just waiting. You’re sitting on your hands checking MLS every morning wondering if it’s going to get listed. We’re only seeing a handful of things getting listed in each market area per week, so it can be a long, drawn out process.”

For sellers, the pandemic has added a new twist. Many want to avoid the showing frenzy’s disruption to their schedules. They’re working from home and helping their kids with virtual school, and the idea of COVID-status-unknown strangers walking through their house is not appealing.

Still, what might slow the use of pocket listings in Austin could come from the seller side rather than policy.

“It’s not really the best route for the seller unless that’s really what they want to do for personal reasons, because the market is so excited about every new listing that comes up, and that’s what tends to drive things into multiple offers,” Uliassi says. “So I’d say that finding off-market properties now is harder and harder.”

That tight inventory means Austin agents are working harder and harder just to find properties. Prospecting agents are calling, texting, emailing, mailing and even old-fashioned door knocking. Some are using companies offering “predictive analytics” to identify owners who are more likely to sell fairly soon.

They’re also looking at sources outside of MLS. “There are companies that are trying to compete with Zillow and MLS and have their own private listings,” Adkins says, as well as iBuyer programs uncovering homes. But there’s still no substitute for developing hyper-local expertise, keeping your ear to the ground and networking.

“If you’ve been in the business in Austin long enough – everybody knows everybody, and you can get a lot of information just by making a few phone calls,” Adkins says. “Word gets around, especially if you want it to.”

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