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Real Estate Brokerage

We owe it to clients to address seller safety, not just Realtor safety

Seller safety is an overlooked topic that the industry should focus on to create an overall secure transaction for all, from meeting to closing.

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seller safety tip

There has been lots of advice recently about Realtor safety, but what about the home seller’s safety?

This area seems a little scant on advice, as a profession we probably owe more consideration to the sellers who pays for the food on our table. The appropriate moment to discuss safety with your new client is probably right after the listing is signed.

There are the points you should be covering with your seller:

Explain that you can’t protect valuables

If you’re planning on hosting an open house, remind them that you likely won’t be following every prospective buyer around the house. Unless you are insisting on visitors signing in or checking IDs, you also won’t know exactly who’s walking through the house either.

Unless you as the agent plan to be there for every showing, you’ll need to explain that you can’t protect their valuables.

Remove pharmaceuticals for every tour

Jewelry, laptops, iPads, personal mail and especially pharmaceuticals are prime targets for thieves if not put away properly. Encourage your seller to remove prescription drugs from the home prior to every showing, or properly dispose of expired prescription drugs. 

Mail may contain personal information and bank statements and are a risk from identify fraud. Explain that agents don’t want to be confronting someone taking these types of items from a home.

Put away knife blocks

Ask the seller to put away any knife blocks before showing. These may be a safety issue for any showing agent in the home.

With all those hi-definition images of the homes interior out there on every listing site, it’s like a robbers take out menu.  Suggest to your seller that they consider putting high-end stereos, flat panel TVs, etc., in storage until they sell.

Surprising tip: remove pics of kids

If your client has photos of their wife, teenage daughter or children displayed, tactfully suggest that this might not be appropriate, if say a pedophile or stalker walked through their home.

Tell sellers to not offer tours on their own

Even without a sign outside a property, the fact that the address is on every website in town is an open invitation (or an excuse) for someone to knock on the door and ask the sellers to “take a peek” inside. Explain that it’s not a good idea to let them in and that they should simply state “Please call my agent with any questions or to make an appointment”.

Explain Craigslist scams

With the growing rental fraud scams (listings are scraped by scammers who post bogus rental listings on Craigslist and other sites) potential renters could possibly be showing up at their doorsteps too, ready to move in

Check locks after tours

Discuss with them how to make their home burglarproof when it’s on the market and the need to check that a prospect has not deliberately left a door or window unlocked, so they can gain easy access later.

Recommend that if they don’t plan on returning directly home after a showing, that they should ask a trusted neighbor to pop in, to make sure your doors were locked and the windows are secured.

Consider that there would actually be a whole lot less to worry about, if we knew exactly who was looking at a home.

How are we protecting sellers?

So why are we letting any old Tom, Dick or Harry look at homes in the first place? Why are we allowing unverified buyers into our seller’s homes?

Agents should consider counselling the seller to only allow verified prospects into their home.

The Des Moines Area Association of Realtors have already come up with an innovative seller contract, that states that no real estate agent is allowed to show the home to anyone the agent has not previously met and identified.

As a positive side effect, with this contract in place it allows agents to tell prospective buyers they have no choice but to first meet the agents in public, because it is required by contract with the seller.

The other upside to this, is respecting the seller’s time and effort in preparing for each showing.

After all, sellers are expected to keep up with tidiness and be ready for the next showing. I’m sure many sellers spend quite some time preparing for the next showing, then having to leave the house, sometimes with kids and animals in tow.

The cheat sheet for your sellers:

Here’s a shortened version of suggested list of points you should discuss with a home seller:

  • Explain you can’t be there for every showing or be responsible for their valuables.
  • At open houses you won’t be showing every visitor around the home.
  • Jewelry, money, laptops, cellphones,  gaming systems and pharmaceuticals should all be stored away from plain view and out of the front of drawers.
  • Put high-end stereos, flat panel TVs, etc., in storage until you sell.
  • Remove any knife blocks and mail on their kitchen countertops
  • Remove personal photos of your wives, teenage daughters or children.
  • Never agree to let in a stranger knocking on the door.
  • Check doors and windows after each showing.

September is Realtor Safety Month

Consider making these recommendations your own personal standard. Ask your broker to incorporate these into their Broker Safety Policy (they have one, right?)

Talk to your local Realtor Association about the Des Moines Area Associations initiatives and how you can implement it.

(Disclosure – Peter Toner is founder of the safety app Verify Photo ID which verifies strange prospects photo IDs and checks against a National sex offenders list).

#SellerSafety

Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

Real Estate Brokerage

The impact of the pandemic on your homebuyer clients

(BROKERAGE) While the pandemic has impacted many changes, you can reassure your clients that the homebuyer housing market is doing surprisingly well.

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For sale house reflects homebuyer growth.

This year, a great many things have been impacted by the pandemic: Company closures, setbacks, etc. The one thing that may actually be surviving well is the housing market. A news release put out by Down Payment Resource stated that 81% of homeownership programs have funds available for the eligible homebuyer. This organization assesses the market around the country and reports on the conditions it finds.

While they have noticed a small drop in those available programs, most of those dips turned out to be temporary and focused at the city and county levels. However, at the state level, these programs have remained open and have not needed to pause business during the pandemic. This has been contributed to a great deal of uncertainty about the world’s condition. This uncertainty does not seem to have affected the homebuyer market, though. Housing finance agencies have reported that they are doing as much or more business than they were at this time last year. The report recorded that, starting this past August, less than 2% of the DPAs had temporarily paused their programs due to the pandemic.

When analyzing the forbearance trends this year, DPA is reporting that the small increase at the beginning was just caution from consumers. Since then, they have slowed down and reports from the summer are showing an increase for the 8th week straight. The only dissenting comments are coming from CoreLogic, who states that delinquency rates are starting to rise.

The HPI reports an increase in the share of down payment and closing cost assistance programs. Upon analysis, all the numbers appear in the majority. The down payment or closing cost assistants’ programs come in at 78%. The only decrease they have recorded is in the first-time mortgages and the programs for Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs).

Overall, things are looking up for the market, at least by the numbers. However, you’ll still probably be facing some concerns from your clients around the volatile nature of the pandemic. This changing world is a scary place, but optimism remains.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Don’t settle for mediocrity: How to be a better leader

(BROKERAGE NEWS) There tends to be two camps of leaders, those who lead from strength and those from weakness. But who says you can’t do both?

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Leader in a meeting

A lot of leadership literature has become “strength’s focused” – using inventories like StrengthsFinder (developed by Gallup). The logic in many ways, is sound. Capitalizing on your strengths as a leader and those of your team is significantly more effective than attempts to cover perceived flaws or weaknesses.

The business world has been cited for being too focused on weaknesses (and now parents are too). This a natural inclination for people. For leaders however, we should be bringing our strengths (and the strengths of our teams) to work and making “it” happen.

However, an over focus on strengths isn’t without its own challenges. Tony Schwartz writes for Harvard Business Review, a “well-rounded leader” has a greater opportunity to be more effective. As we seek to leverage our “strengths” let us not forget the complexity of our skill set and how those negatives we see about ourselves can become assets – resources – that we use to manage ourselves and our teams.

Metaphors are common in leadership articles, so I won’t break tradition.

Much like in physical exercise, poor form often causes the overuse of a muscle versus a group of muscles. Poor leadership form, while doing the lifting, leads to an overuse or over-reliance on what is good and comfortable for us.

A pragmatic leader may find themselves unable to make dynamic change move forward. Today’s leaders have to deal with a more complex environment in terms of technology, skills, and demographics. One style of leading will simply not be enough.

The big lesson here is to workout things you don’t think are your best strengths. What are ways you can take those weaknesses and utilize them? How do your rebranded weaknesses make you a good leader for a project or a team? Create opportunities to use your “positive opposites” – those weaknesses that you have rebranded.

PRO TIP: Find a mentor, find a coach, or keep reading about leadership.

You may never be able to develop those skills as strong as your primary, but you will have more leadership muscle to work with. You’ll be delivering a better leader to serve, build, and develop yourself or the organization.

Schwartz discusses the role of choices. We make a lot of choices as leaders – resources, people, what risks, what resources, what costs. When we make those choices working with clients or employees we are always using our mental tool kits.

It doesn’t hurt us to have more tools, most of the time, to allow us to handle situations.

SIDEBAR: It is important to recognize that we only have a limited amount of time. You’re still going to benefit more from developing your strengths – but don’t forget to work out those rebranded weaknesses (the triceps of leadership!). I love an 80/20 perspective – spend 80% of your learning time focused on building up those strengths, spend the other 20% on flexing those rebranded weakness.

A well-balanced leader is not a one-trick pony – they are leaders who can take an organization through many life cycles. If you seek to be some kind of leader, take some time to appreciate your own mix of strengths and weaknesses, and the unique qualities that you bring to a complex world of complex organizations.

Leadership is a whole person endeavor, and don’t skip those weaknesses (just like leg day!).

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Real Estate Brokerage

Brokerages rarely write an internal communication strategy, here’s why they should

(BUSINESS) Almost no real estate brokerages have an internal communication strategy, but they absolutely should.

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internal communication strategy

It’s still early enough in the year that you can start fresh, personally and professionally. Help your organization by taking into account what’s happened in recent history and where you want to go. From there, you will determine what steps are necessary to achieve your goals.

Writing an internal communication (IC) strategy can be the first step in mapping your goals and is virtually unused in the real estate industry. According to All Things IC, an “internal communication strategy is like a map, an outline of your organization’s journey. It’s the big picture of what you want to achieve.” This can be done by a brokerage, or an independent agent alike.

Great! So, where do you start? First, know what an IC strategy needs to address. This includes the where, how, what, and why.

Write down the current state of the company, then state where you’re heading, or where you’d like to be. Create a list of objectives to support this.

Then break into your “how.” Explain how you are going to get to where you want to be, as well as how long it will take and why.

You’ll then venture over to a “what” by outlining what is involved along the way to your goal. Then, throw in a little “why” by explaining why this approach is the best for the job.

Go back to “how” and tell how you’ll know when you’ve reached your destination. This part will require tangibles, measurements to support a change in reaching your goal.

Finally, give one more “what” and address what will happen if you don’t change the way you’re currently operating. If things are working for your organization, that’s great! But, there is always room for improvement.

For an internal communication strategy, it is important to include the following: a title, an issue/purpose, structure, executive summary, audience segmentation/stakeholder mapping, a timeline, channels, measurement, communication objective, approval process and responsibilities, key messages, and an appendix.

Now, what was missing from the initial inclusions was a “who.” So, who should be the one to write this document?

Well, it needs to be someone with a strong understanding and implementation for internal communications. This can be done internally by someone on staff who is an expert; or, it can be outsourced to an expert. Regardless of who writes it, make sure it is clear and concise for the audience at hand.

What is most important to remember is that writing an internal communication strategy is just half the battle. Your work is not done once this document is agreed upon by the leadership team. And finally, you must be willing to enforce what’s written on these pages and be ready to make the changes you’ve outlined.

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