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Business Planning for the Year Ahead: Putting Growth Strategies in Place

Oct 13, 2019 by

This month’s National Association of REALTORS® Power Broker Roundtable discusses planning strategically for 2020.

Moderator

Jim Imhoff
, Chairman, First Weber Real Estate, Madison, Wis., Liaison for Large Firms & Industry Relations, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

Panelists

Drayton Saunders
, President, Michael Saunders & Company, Sarasota, Fla.

 

Diane Glass, COO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group, Chicago

 

Candace Adams, President & CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, Westchester Properties and New York Properties


Jim Imhoff:
Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” The Yankees superstar, whose quirky use of language was the butt of a thousand jokes, was right on the mark on this one. If you don’t map out your strategy for growth, you don’t stand much of a chance of getting anywhere, much less where you want to be. With 2020 right around the corner, the time is now for savvy brokers—and agents—to get business strategies in place. First question for the brokerage: Do we handle this internally, or do we pay an outside facilitator? Drayton?

Drayton Saunders: Brokers, like agents, are easily distracted by the next shiny penny—or, as some call it, by the next perceived “disruptor.” But if you’re going to grow, you need to stay focused—to keep your eye on the prize. It may be that an experienced outside facilitator can help identify the market trends and specific issues you need to address and map out workable strategies for dealing with them.

JI: I think some brokers are a little scared to bring in a facilitator. They think they can’t justify the cost, because it can run into thousands of dollars. But sometimes it takes a neutral, unbiased eye to see things as they are and identify what we need to do in order to grow. That can be critical for understanding not just the potential risk factors—the environmental scan, if you will—but what is commonly called “SWOT”: our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Surveying those factors is the first step to strategizing—and putting down in black and white—how we will navigate through them.

Diane Glass: In the definitive business planning guideline we’ve developed, goal setting is critical. We’re using the MoxiWorks platform to keep us on track to increase profitability, recruitment and retention and to provide our agents with a CRM that leverages their strengths and gives them a working way forward: What should I do more of? What should I do less of? How can I best nurture long-term leads?

Candace Adams:
I think timing is essential. Our company business-planning process begins in late summer and is finalized in October. It goes to managers in early November, and they are charged with making certain every agent has a plan in place before the end of the year. All plans are flexible and modifiable, but everyone—even our top producers—needs to measure their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and have a plan in place to aggressively address them.

JI: Who’s responsible for seeing these processes through? And what about accountability?

CA: Managers see that every agent has a formal plan in place, but we know that agents have different skill sets. We work in a very supportive environment, and results speak for themselves, of course—but we do schedule quarterly check-ups, and we adhere to that.

DS: Software like MoxiWorks helps agents stay on track, but accountability is key. Our managers are constantly monitoring. We don’t want to overwhelm our agents, but we do stay in touch. How are you doing? What do you need? What can we do to help?

DG: The value of a formal business plan is that it gives you a framework and a practical, hands-on process that helps you step back and look at what you’ve been doing, how you’ve been doing it, and how you can do it better—no matter the shiny pennies or disruptors.

JI: I think most brokers are diligent about helping agents plan and stay on track. But the path to growth starts with the brokerage. Who keeps us on track? In our company, we do an annual agent survey—a review by our agents to determine how we, as a company, are doing to support and inspire their success. We want them to rate our training programs, our information technology and our face-to-face support. We typically get a response from more than 70 percent of our agents, and they don’t pull any punches. It’s revealing—and it’s a good way to measure our accountability as a brokerage so we can strategize the best ways forward for the company and for the agent.

CA: We all want our agents to be thorough and professional—to go the extra mile and do it the right way, every time—and I agree, that starts with the brokerage.

DS: Which brings us back to the premise: A comprehensive business plan—for both the company and the agent—is the first step toward energizing growth.

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

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The Brokerage Business: Disintermediated, or Simply Undervalued?

Sep 25, 2019 by

(Above, L to R) John Featherston, RISMedia; Hoby Hanna, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services; Kuba Jewgieniew, Realty ONE Group; Rory Golod, Compass; and Frank Gay, JP & Associates REALTORS® Franchising, discuss “The Future of Real Estate: Which Models Will Win?” at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange. (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

If you ask Kuba Jewgieniew, the brokerage business caters to relationships, not transactions.

“In the past 15-20 years, the residential real estate business has been complacent; it’s been on auto mode,” explained Jewgieniew, founder and CEO of Realty ONE Group, during “The Future of Real Estate: Which Models Will Win?” at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange, held in New York City September 18-19. The event gathered more than 300 at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

“We understand our business better than [iBuyers] do,” Jewgieniew said. “This is our unique opportunity to get away from auto mode.”

During the panel session, Jewgieniew and brokerage executives Frank Gay, CEO of JP & Associates REALTORS® Franchising; Rory Golod, Compass’ New York regional president; and Hoby Hanna, president of Real Estate Brokerage at Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, dissected their individual operations, as well as their approaches to disruption, centered on the industry’s No. 1 question:

Which business model will win?

“We’ve got lawsuits out there questioning our business practice, we’ve got iBuyers coming in and people saying in the next 10 years they’ll be 20-30 percent of the market,” Gay said. “In our model, we’re looking for either that full-time agent or the producer—those are the people that are hopefully going to still be standing.”

“We are in a world where there’s far more money, technology and incredibly talented people that are trying to replace us than fight for us,” Golod said. “The scale is totally stacked against us. I’m agnostic to the model—there’s room for 100-percent splits, there’s room for iBuyers, there’s room for more traditional brokerage models.”

(L to R) John Featherston, RISMedia; Hoby Hanna, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services; and Kuba Jewgieniew, Realty ONE Group, at the CEO Exchange (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

According to Golod, the best bet for brokers is supply—creating it, and creatively marketing it.

“What I would encourage everyone to do is find a way to make your inventory unique to you,” he urged. “The only way we’re going to get our agents and consumers working on our companies’ platforms, and not the companies’ that are trying to replace us, is via inventory.”

Compass is accomplishing that through Compass Coming Soon listings, along with Compass Bridge Loans and Compass Concierge, which enhance the firm’s overall value, Golod said.

In a similar vein, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services is differentiating inventory with “Find It First,” a coming-soon feature on its website.

“The MLS doesn’t love it,” Hanna joked.

For the Hanna family—in the brokerage business, in the conventional sense, since 1957—an agent-centric focus has helped keep the organization thriving. Today, Howard Hanna is the No. 5 Power Broker in the U.S.

“We all started out as real estate agents or loan officers in the business, so we understand what our salespeople think about and what challenges are there,” Hanna said. “We get to know our people. People need to be rewarded and recognized by the ownership and the leadership. It can’t all just be about, ‘How can we eke out a little bit more margin out of the commission?’”

According to Jewgieniew, as commission dollars get pinched, attractive compensation structures, along with best-of-the-best culture, marketing and technology, are going to matter more and more.

“The pressure on GCI continues, and the trend going forward is that the GCI will suffer, so agents will continue to look for value,” Jewgieniew said.

To deliver on value, Howard Hanna has heavily invested in technology, including MoxiWorks and RealScout, to build efficiencies for its sales team.

“We believe that the agent has to be treated well, cared for and given the support they need,” Hanna said. “Technology will not replace the transaction or the agent, but we made big investments through MoxiWorks and RealScout [in terms of] how we create data and bring more data to our agents, and use that data to make the transaction easier or simpler.”

To define their organization’s value, JP & Associates REALTORS® decided to implement a six-transaction productivity standard, coupled with robust technology and training.

“Productivity is a big differentiator that separates ourselves from the other 100-percent transaction fee companies,” Gay said. “Our goal is very simple: to be the most productive company in the country. We do over 100 trainings a month, [and have] end-to-end, stitched-together technology.”

Additionally, the brokerage caps fees at 25 transactions, which helps improve retention, especially for the highest-performing REALTORS®.

“We realize our operation and our program attracts a lot of top producers, and we don’t want to continue to charge them transaction fees,” Gay said.

At Compass, agents come first, as well—but what of the company’s compensation packages, which have been criticized as excessive?

“If you could actually just go buy agents, our job would be a lot easier,” Golod said. “We’re in a people business, and there are some agents who’ll be moved by [money], but, ultimately, once that is no longer available, they’ll move to the next company that has another offer.

“We believe the most underserved consumer is the agent,” he stated. “We want to build the platform that helps power them in a way where they can do 10 times as much business as possible. It’s not just technology—it’s in terms of providing programs and resources and tools and human support.”

Another crucial differentiator? The ability to scale. Competing domestically is one thing, but at Realty ONE Group—approaching marketshare in 50 states—the focus is moving outside the U.S.

“We have a very good footprint, we’ve got great people, and we’re going to scale and disrupt and get marketshare,” Jewgieniew said. “We’re in the people and relationship business, and are really passionate about who we are and our brand and what we’re willing to achieve, and killing it together across the globe.”

Who’s Coming Out on Top?
As consumers demand more from their REALTOR®, the brokerage business is transforming, from clearinghouse and facilitator to full-on service and support. According to the panelists, it all comes down to value. What are you offering? Is it in need of retooling? How are you communicating your value? Is it effective?

“Disintermediation of the broker is the big white elephant in the room,” Gay said. “How do we make money in different places in the transaction, and for the consumer side, how do we provide value, whether it’s data and technology, experience or service? We all have to get smarter.”

“The agent will stay at the middle of the transaction,” Hanna said. “There will be tremendous consolidation in the industry, and we’ll start to get it right with data and information, and hopefully make this infrequent, expensive, confusing transaction maybe just a little bit easier.

“We believe our model and business plan makes sense,” he said. “At the end of the day, buyers and sellers want to achieve one thing: purchase a home or sell their home, and we give the agents the resources and tools they need to create customers for life.”


(L to R) John Featherston, RISMedia; Kuba Jewgieniew, Realty ONE Group; Hoby Hanna, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services; Rory Golod, Compass; and Frank Gay, JP & Associates REALTORS® Franchising, at the CEO Exchange (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

For CEO Exchange continuing coverage, visit RISMedia.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Industry Influencers: Letting Others Experience Your Business

Sep 1, 2019 by

Editor’s Note: The Industry Influencers series analyzes the industry’s most effective marketing efforts and shares experts’ actionable insights.

Record. Review. Repurpose.

That’s the ideology Michael Hellickson—CEO and founder of Club Wealth®, a real estate coaching and consulting company—follows. His company’s YouTube page has nearly 2,000 subscribers and his Facebook business page has nearly 10,000 followers. Hellickson typically speaks to a broker audience, presenting video resources to help them grow their business.

“We use video in ads and posts on social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, as well as our blog and in training videos,” says Hellickson. “Once recorded, our production team analyzes, edits and repurposes the videos in numerous ways. Video is at the core of our marketing.”

Leveraging Immediacy With Live Broadcasts
Hellickson’s presence is particularly strong on Facebook, where he’s been able to use the Live functionality to host webinars with multiple panelists. These events span myriad topics, such as agent onboarding, building an army of inside sales agents and tricks to boost business.

Typically, they range from 30 minutes to an hour, and viewers can ask questions and have them answered in real time.

On Instagram, Hellickson creates a more personalized experience, speaking directly to the camera about quick takeaways for ensuring business success. Additionally, he blends personal posts with business tidbits, allowing viewers to experience the coaching side of the company, along with the personality.

“When someone engages with enough of your videos, they begin to know and trust you, and often feel like they know you before they’ve ever met you,” says Hellickson. “This leads to increased opt-in and conversion of leads. Traditional marketing fails to offer consumers the opportunity to experience you and get to know you.”

According to Hellickson, video performs much better than other types of posts on social media.

“Most social platforms rank videos higher in their algorithms and serve video up to far more people than images or text,” says Hellickson. “Additionally, motion creations emotion, so your posts get noticed.”

Hellickson shares the following tips for agents wanting to incorporate video into their marketing:

  1. “Use what you have, even if it’s just a smartphone camera. You don’t need expensive equipment.”
  2. “Caption everything. Over 80 percent of all video views are done without audio.”
  3. “Despite No. 2, audio quality is very important. Consumers expect clear, clean audio, and will leave quickly without it.”
  4. “Don’t overthink it. No one cares about your hair, makeup, etc. Just be your authentic self and learn to get comfortable on camera no matter what you’re wearing.”
  5. “Post regularly (ideally daily) and in multiple places.”
  6. Watch the video below to see how Hellickson approaches live broadcasts:

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. RISMedia is the residential real estate industry’s definitive source for news and information. Email Liz your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.  

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Avoiding Risky Business With Helpful Resources From NAR’s Legal Team

Aug 3, 2019 by

 

Legal issues permeate all aspects of the real estate industry, and the business of brokerages is no exception. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is committed to helping brokers negotiate the complex and ever-evolving legal landscape.

Our Legal Affairs Team produces an abundance of resources designed to keep you informed, current and compliant with your legal obligations. You can protect your business and reduce your risk of costly litigation with a proactive approach and an educated, engaged team. Visit NAR.realtor/Legal for information, advice and best practices on dozens of topics, plus hundreds of case summaries, videos and articles.

Here are several common legal challenges that brokers face, along with some of the many resources NAR offers to guide them:

Wire Fraud
Costly wire fraud scams impacting real estate transactions across the U.S. are on the rise. A hacker sends a fake, but authentic-looking, email to homebuyers at closing with “new” instructions for sending funds. The buyers then unwittingly wire the funds directly into the hacker’s account. According to the FBI, real estate scams have climbed more than 1,000 percent since 2015, and in 2017, $ 969 million was “diverted or attempted to be diverted” from a real estate transaction to criminally controlled accounts.

NAR has several resources available to help you prevent your buyer clients from becoming part of these statistics, including videos like “How to Avoid Wire Fraud in Transactions” and “Wire Fraud Alert for Buyers”; a downloadable handout, “Protecting Your Business and Your Clients from Cyberfraud”; the downloadable “Data Security and Privacy Toolkit”; and a “Wire Fraud Email Notice Template” to alert customers as part of your standard email signature.

TCPA–Telephone Consumer Protection Act
If you or your agents use texting or cold-calling for marketing purposes, you need to comply with the TCPA. Recently, texting has been targeted by plaintiff’s lawyers in class-action lawsuits alleging that real estate companies are violating the TCPA by sending text messages without the recipient’s consent.

Prior consent is required for most texts and calls, and our team offers guidance on how to legally use these tools. Refer to NAR’s Window to the Law monthly video series for the “TCPA and Texting,” and the brand-new “Do Not Call Compliance” videos, as well as a variety of legal case summaries addressing this issue. Another video, “Hot Topics in Broker Risk Reduction,” released this May, also provides specific tips to reduce your risk of violation.

Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is a serious offense that can interfere with productivity, create an intimidating workplace, and result in significant legal liability.

For advice on navigating this issue, watch “Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment” and “NAR’s Code of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Policy.” Also, read “Time to Update Your Sexual Harassment Policy” and “Best Practices for Conducting Internal Harassment Investigations.” Plus, take the Sexual Harassment Awareness Quiz to build your understanding.

Resources at NAR.realtor/Legal
And that’s not all. Take advantage of these important broker resources to help you manage risk, safeguard your business, and avoid legal pitfalls:

  • The Window to the Law monthly video series covers timely legal topics like social media issues and cybersecurity.
  • The Legal Pulse quarterly newsletter analyzes recent trends and emerging issues that impact real estate professionals.
  • NAR’s legal team has compiled hundreds of legal case summaries to give brokers perspective on potential legal problems and insights into courts’ findings.
  • Plus, you’ll find many additional resources on dozens of legal topics.

A Must-Have for Brokers
“Real Estate Brokerage Essentials®: Navigating Legal Risks and Managing a Successful Brokerage, Fourth Edition” is a comprehensive guide to key legal issues. Order through the REALTOR® Store at Store.realtor/REBE.

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Strengthen Your Real Estate Business With Facebook Groups

Jul 18, 2019 by

As an agent, you have to be able to keep up with the latest trends in social media. It can be difficult, but it is a vital part of your job. Recently, Facebook announced some changes for how their content would be prioritized and shared, favoring the content and building engagement in Groups. 

Managing Facebook Groups can be fun, but you have to get members in the group and get the content rolling in. Now is the time to tackle Facebook Groups and begin to incorporate them into your strategy as a real estate agent.

Why You Should Use Facebook Groups
With the recent changes announced by Facebook, Groups will be featured more prominently in users’ news feeds. This means that the content from users’ Groups will be prioritized over content from regular pages they follow. As an agent, you have a great opportunity to create a Group that focuses on your local area and helps you interact with your Facebook followers, establishing yourself as the local expert for real estate.

What Is a Facebook Group?
A Facebook Group is just what its name implies: a group that is found on Facebook. In a Facebook Group, you can create content that is geared towards a specific audience. Depending on your goals, that audience could be a Group of local residents, fellow real estate agents or DIY enthusiasts. There are endless possibilities for what you can do in your Facebook Group.

Different Groups to Create
Facebook Groups can be great for many different reasons. Before you create a Group, try to think about what your goal is so you can target the audience you are trying to include in the Group. To start, we have some suggestions of groups that you can create:

Specific Neighborhoods: A Group focused on a neighborhood could be a great place for you to start. As mentioned before, think about the audience that you wish to target. Invite past clients who live in the neighborhood to join the Group and have them share that Group with their neighbors. Then, get the conversation started by asking members to recommend their favorite spots around town.

Buy, Sell, Trade: You can also make a Group that is targeted to buying, selling or trading goods, otherwise known as a BST Group. A Group like this can help create a sense of community, especially if members regularly engage in the Group. You also have an opportunity for Group members to organize a group or neighborhood sale.

There are endless opportunities for engagement and exposure for you when you create a Facebook Group. Even though Facebook is still a great way for you to reach new clients, it can take a lot of time to nurture social media and to create Groups with a targeted audience. Social media can be a difficult part of your real estate business to manage, but Homes.com can help with that! We have a team of social media experts that can help you find and engage with your audience. Learn more about Homes.com Social Fuel at Marketing.Homes.com.

Patty McNease is vice president of Brand Marketing for Homes.com. For more information, please visit marketing.homes.com.

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