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Cybersecurity: Are You Safe or Suspect?

RISMedia_researchFrom breaches to wire fraud, cybersecurity is one of the foremost issues in real estate today. How are agents and brokers mitigating risk in transactions? What are the biggest threats? The most effective practices?

To find out, RISMedia Research is conducting a short survey. Take the survey now!

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Build Your Brand by Being a Better Person

Fields_MarkIn the following interview, Mark Fields, president of CENTURY 21 Mark Fields and Associates in Asheville, N.C., discusses branding, culture, luxury marketing, and more.

Region Served: Asheville, N.C., and surrounding areas
Years in Real Estate: 40+
Number of Offices: 1
Number of Agents: 10
Favorite Way to Communicate With Clients: Face-to-face. A lot of communication is nonverbal, so when you text, email or speak on the phone, a great deal of nuance can be lost. It’s the expression on someone’s face that can identify best how a person is feeling, and it could also lead to solutions to challenges and overcoming objections.

What is your top tip for real estate newbies?
Affiliate with a company that represents your values and provides the culture of learning and support you will need to get started—one that ensures its people provide the highest possible level of service to your buyers and sellers. Second, learn the real estate contract. Know all the legal ‘ins and outs,’ but remember that more than 50 percent of being a great real estate professional isn’t what you learn in real estate school. Third, learn how to be a good communicator, which starts with being a good listener.

How do you build yourself as a luxury brand?
Marketing. I have a background in marketing, not through formal education, but through experience. I’ve watched the best people market themselves, and so I learn from the best. Early on, I asked myself who was doing great luxury marketing. I take inspiration from the “greats.” I built my company reputation by becoming the best I could be.

Please describe your company culture.
We are a family. When I hire, I make sure the person’s heart is in the right place. They’re not going to be competing with our family or undercutting the people we work with, and for. We are here for each other. We support each other. No matter how big we become, we care about each other.

What sets your team apart from other brokerages?
When I bring people in, I make sure they’re committing to my company for the right reason—not just to make money, although that’s an important motivator, but to provide the very best service they can. I can’t have mediocrity. I need people who strive to be the best they can be—to provide the best service they can, no matter what. As high-end real estate professionals, we make a lot of money. If you’re going to play the game, you have to truly earn it. You have to offer equal value for what you’re earning. My goal is to never get to a closing table without feeling 100 percent sure that I earned that money.

How are you staying abreast of industry and market shifts?
We’re in it. We’re living it, so we feel it. Every time there’s even a small ripple here, we feel it.

For more information, please visit www.century21.com.

Eisenberg_Zoe_60x60Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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You’re Only as Good as Your Last Referral

It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling widgets or real estate; the sales game is all about relationships—and you’re only as good as your last referral.

Most agents get hung up on making calls to their clients because they think it’s dirty to ask for a referral. But what if the goal wasn’t to ask for a referral, but to deepen the existing relationship? Your end game should be a relationship with your Top 50 clients who wouldn’t do business with anyone but you. These are the same folks who wouldn’t let anyone they care about do business with anyone but you. Your Top 50 clients are customers who have bought or sold more than one home with you and/or have referred you to others. I also like to consider their reach. Who do they know that they could refer to me? If you’re new to real estate, your Top 50 might be people who would refer you, if they knew they should.

To have a successful referral-based relationship with 50 clients, you must stay in regular contact with them. And that requires a customer relationship management (CRM) system. There are plenty of options available for affordable CRM platforms—and even some that are free of charge—so don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis because you want to pick the best CRM. They’re all good, and the best one for you is the one you will use. If you don’t have one now, pick one and commit to using it.

What does communicating on a regular basis look like? Monthly contact in some form, whether it’s something in the mail, a phone call, a video text, lunch or even a visit to their home or office. In fact, your Top 50 clients must see or hear from you at least once a quarter. A good CRM will help you track vital details such as a birthday or anniversary and organize notes related to a specific client’s dream vacation or when their child is heading off to college. If you want to maximize your relationships, you need to pay attention to these details.

People have a deep need to feel connected, appreciated and understood—and people naturally tell us how we can do that. Look for opportunities to connect with your Top 50. It can be as simple as gifting them a book on how to plan a vacation in another country or how to gracefully become an empty nester. A good CRM will help you manage those details and keep you on track when it comes to staying in touch with the right people at the right time.

While the average person knows 200 people well, they also know five people who will make a move in the next 12 months.

I believe that if you have a strong connection with your Top 50, you don’t have to beg for business; however, you’re only as good as your last referral, and in order to grow a referral-based business, you must commit to the time it takes to develop relationships while caring about the details and having a good CRM.

Bliss_Sarah_MichelleSarah Michelle Bliss is a coach with Workman Success Systems. She has been in the real estate industry since 1995 and is an original founder at RE/MAX Professionals, where she has been a part of the Nate Martinez Team since 1997. Over the past 20 years, she has taught locally and nationally, coached and influenced her peers through team management, agent development and training. She is currently the director of Agent Development for RE/MAX Professionals in Glendale, Ariz. Contact her at SarahB@workmansuccesssystems.com. For more information, please visit www.workmansuccesssystems.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Case Study: App Makes Open House Profitable

This REALTOR®’s proven system of working open houses to her advantage has paid off. Last year, leads captured at her open houses bankrolled 50 percent of her business. See if you can spot what works in this anecdote about her recent open house that turned a brief interaction into four separate transactions totaling $5.3 million in sales.

Twenty minutes before Nicole Nicolay heads to her open house, she logs onto RPR®, prints one Mini Property Report and one Neighborhood Report, puts them into her bag and hits the road.

Pro Tip: Learn why a REALTOR® would only bring one handout to her open house.

“It may seem as if I didn’t put a lot of effort into my open house, but rest assured, I’m backed by a powerful and seamless system that does all of the work for me,” says the veteran real estate pro working out of Pleasanton, Calif. That—and anyone who knows her will tell you, her cheery disposition and shrewd business acumen—are the trifecta of successful open house strategies.

“A woman with two kids in tow appeared in the doorway, and, within seconds, exclaimed she loved the house but wasn’t ready to buy,” says Nicolay. “She said she’d have to sell her house first and find temporary accommodations while searching for her next home so that she could make a firm offer. The market is that competitive here.

“The woman also admitted that she was feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of uprooting her family twice, as anyone would be,” Nicolay says. “I knew at that moment I could ease her fears and set her on the right path, ensuring her that the process can be streamlined by an agent with the right tools at her disposal—and, secretly, I knew I was that agent.

“So I made a simple suggestion: ‘Let’s check out what your house is worth. Give me your address and while you look around, I’ll see what I can come up with.’ She looked at me with a quizzical expression but decided to play along.

“My soon-to-be new client said she thought her house could sell for about $500,000, so as she turned the corner toward the dining room, I jumped into RPR, entered her address, created a property report complete with RPR’s Realtor Valuation Model® (RVM®), and texted it to her before she finished touring the second floor.

“Ding! I heard her phone’s notification system go off. She came down the stairs, phone in hand, smiling. ‘Wow, I just got a report from you!’ she exclaimed. ‘It says my house is worth $525,000. Is that true?’ she asked. ‘Well, we can find out,’ I said. ‘Let’s get together at your place to talk more. I’ll get an idea of what you’ve done to the property and we’ll rerun the numbers to confirm.’

“Days later, I listed her beautiful home for the RVM valuation of $550,000. From there, we found her new house without having to move her and her family into a temporary place. And she was so impressed by my spot-on analysis and responsiveness that she referred me to a family relative, who also bought and sold through me.”

Sure, Nicolay recognizes that this, in all, was an incredible experience. Yet, what’s important is that she had the wherewithal to listen to an open house visitor who thought she wasn’t ready to buy and took the bull by the horns to bring forth a deal. And the common thread? Realtors Property Resource®.

Learn more about what RPR can do for your next open house.

Laurie M. Brown is marketing and communications manager for Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®).

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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NAR Broker Tips: Essential Field Guides and Toolkits

Field Guides From NAR Provide One-Stop Resource Packages
Looking for information on real estate office mergers, partnerships and teams, or recruiting and retaining salespeople? The National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR) Library has already done the research for you. NAR’s Field Guides feature a compilation of resources on dozens of topics of interest to brokers and their agents. In each Guide, you’ll find links to articles, books, websites, statistics, and other material on your topic of choice. Check them out today.

Broker Toolkits Help Address Issues
NAR’s REALTOR® Magazine offers a variety of broker toolkits designed to provide step-by-step help on challenging brokerage issues. Toolkit topics including Risk Management, Marketing, Leadership, Recruitment and Retention and more. Topics are added and updated regularly, so check back often here.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Transacting Business in the Age of Wire Fraud

This month’s National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable discusses fraud and security strategies.


Pappas_Christina_60x60Christina Pappas, District Sales Manager, The Keyes Company, Miami, Fla.; Liaison for Large Firms & Industry Relations, NAR


Volin_Mike_60x60Michael Volin, Vice President-Legal, Title Resource Group (TRG), a Realogy Company, Camden, N.J.

Docktor_Joan_60x60Joan Docktor, President, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach REALTORS®, Devon, Pa.

Pappas_Mike_60x60Mike Pappas, President/CEO, The Keyes Company/Illustrated Properties, Miami, Fla.


Stark_Mark_60x60Mark Stark, CEO Broker/Owner, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties, Las Vegas, Nev.

Christina Pappas: The FBI cites wire fraud—and specifically business email compromise (BEC) scams—as the fastest-growing crime in the world, with losses to large and small companies and individuals soaring into the billions and complaints flooding law enforcement with increasing frequency from all 50 states and at least 79 countries. Cyber criminals are constantly on the lookout for new victims who they hope will wire them funds, and real estate transactions—for obvious reasons—are among the most vulnerable. With brokers looking for better ways to protect their clients and their companies, we’ve invited to our panel today a few savvy and experienced industry executives, as well as a guest from the legal team at Title Resource Group (TRG), a leader in title and settlement services. Michael, how do we begin to defend ourselves?

Michael Volin: One of the first things we need to understand, Christina, is that, in spite of all the precautions we take, cyber criminals are pervasive and persistent, and anyone can become a victim. That said, our best protections come, A, from shoring up our personal and corporate security; and, B, from educating consumers early and often during every single transaction.

Joan Docktor: As a full-service company, with title and mortgage, we know we’re vulnerable, and so we’re very strict in terms of security. We drill the basics into our agents and employees. We enforce password policies, are strict with policy breakers, and use two-factor verification. Our agents sign a pledge of understanding regarding policies, in fact, and we send out fake emails ourselves now and again just to see if anyone clicks on them. But we also know that customers can get confused, so we try to cover all the points at which they could be susceptible. No sensitive information is ever sent to a customer via email, for example. We’ll either use a secure portal or, better yet, FedEx it.

Mike Pappas: Ah, yes, back to the future. Hand-delivered instructions. Seriously though, in our offices, associates are never responsible for telling a customer where to send money; it’s also in our contract. That’s done only by our title company or closing agent, verbally or through secured emails, and we drum that into every associate and communicate with every customer.

Mark Stark: In our firm, I’m the only one who can send sensitive wires—and even then, the bank will call and I need to enter a code. In addition, our customers are told over and over do not respond to any last-minute email or phone call requesting a change in wiring instructions. If you do, you’d best be prepared to wave goodbye to your money.

MP: The sad fact is that hackers these days create authentic-looking signature blocks that can replicate yours almost exactly, and customers can get confused—or forget. When it comes to wiring funds, there’s no such thing as too much education about fraud.

MV: Instructions to the customer should clearly say, “Call us at the number you know is accurate—because you’ve called it before—before wiring any funds. Never use a number you receive in an email, even if it looks like it’s from us, and after talking to us, call again to be sure the funds were received.”

CP: That’s one reason why our general policy is “Don’t close on Friday afternoon.” There may be nobody there to verify after 5 p.m. or on a weekend.

MV: So let’s assume for a minute that a customer does get taken, and funds are wired to a criminal. Now, we can’t emphasize enough that time is absolutely of the essence. An immediate call to your bank and law enforcement is your best hope of ever seeing that money again.

CP: And how often does that work out?

MV: Maybe more often than you think. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center—known as the IC3 center—has personnel taking complaints all over the country. Working with banks and local law enforcement, they have the best shot at recovering mis-sent funds. But again, time is not your friend in these cases. There’s information online worth taking a look at. Type IC3 into your browser. They also operate a Financial Fraud Kill Chain that’s been fairly effective in recovering international wire transfers. Again, the info is worth a look.

JD: A working relationship with the FBI is a good idea in any case.

MS: And if you don’t already have it, think cyber insurance. It’s a must-have in today’s world.

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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