5 Surefire Ways to Earn More Real Estate Referrals

Oct 9, 2019 by

By now, you’ve probably started thinking about the 2020 business plan and income goals you’d like to achieve. In order to start Q1 strong, you’ll need to generate a few high-quality real estate referrals now! When those transactions close early next year, you’ll be on track for a great 2020.

However, many of us know real estate referrals aren’t just given—they are earned! Invest in building relationships with your best people, so in return, they will refer you to their best people! This season, put in place these five surefire ways to earn more real estate referrals.

  1. Call Your Database With a Purpose

Stay in touch with current and past clients by checking in with a phone call. Maybe you’re assisting them with a transaction currently, or just checking in to see if they received a note you sent. Unlike a cold call—which has a very low probability of success—this is a call to someone who knows you and enjoys hearing from you! Your never know when someone has a referral to send you, so this is a great way to remind folks that you are there to help with all real estate needs.

  1. Get Face-to-Face With Your Clients

Make time in your day for client “pop-bys”—visits to your clients at their home. Bring a small gift with a message that says you are never too busy to help with their referrals. The holidays are a great time to get creative with these gifts—they could be anything from Halloween goodie bags to turkey basters to wrapping paper. This visit and pop-by gift reinforce an exceptional level of service that these clients will be eager to refer to others.

  1. Throw a Party

The best way to appreciate your top-referring clients is with a party! Invite your A+ people to a gathering with food, games, music and a fun activity. Around Thanksgiving time, a “pie party” is a great option. Your top clients RSVP by selecting a flavor of pie, and you distribute them at the party, while also providing additional refreshments and entertainment. The gesture shows that you care and appreciate the business of your clients—they’ll be inspired to send you more!

  1. Send a Handwritten Note

A personal note is a great means of connecting with clients in a more personalized manner. With snail mail on the decline, your handwritten note stands out even more. When you check in with a client or wish them a happy purchase anniversary with a notecard, you go the extra mile to show you care and value their business. That attention to detail is what keeps you top of mind when this client runs into a friend or family member seeking an excellent real estate pro. 

  1. Mail Monthly Items of Value

Demonstrate your competence and character by mailing your clients information that will add value to their lives. This may include best practices on maintaining great credit, protecting your identity or surviving the holidays. Send your database real estate market updates as well to show that you are on top of the latest trends. Whatever you do, keep it consistent and valuable. This establishes you as an expert in your field, and the first person clients will trust with referrals.

Implement these steps into your marketing routine, and you’ll be well on your way to more real estate referrals. Stay on track with this free business planning calendar—you can pencil in calls, client visits, parties, and more. Buffini & Company is here to make sure you never miss out on the opportunity to earn your next big referral!

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A Progress Report on Real Estate Data

Oct 8, 2019 by

(Above, L to R) Marc Gould, National Association of REALTORS®; Sam DeBord, Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO); Rebecca Jensen, Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED); Richard Haggerty, Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS® (HGAR); and Ken Baris, Jordan Baris Inc. REALTORS® Real Living, discuss “The State of Real Estate Data: Have We Moved the Ball Forward?” at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange. (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

How far has the industry come in the effort to standardize, control and streamline real estate data? Experts recently tackled that question and more during a panel session at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange, held in New York City September 18-19.

Marc Gould, senior vice president of Member Development at the National Association of REALTORS®, moderated the session, “The State of Real Estate Data: Have We Moved the Ball Forward?” Gould started off by asking Sam DeBord to explain why he made a “big leap” earlier this year from successful broker to CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO).

DeBord said it’s a “critical time for the brokerage industry and organized real estate, in general.” That’s due in no small part to technological changes and an “increase in consumer demands on the transaction process.” Today, people have grown to expect speed, simplicity and interoperability from technology.

“While most of the world is serving consumers with that kind of technology, in real estate, in a lot of ways, we’re not,” said DeBord. “We’re still giving a Palm Pilot experience to consumers who want a smartphone experience.”

According to DeBord, it’s incumbent on the industry to follow the lead of other sectors and collaborate on data standards for the betterment of everyone.

“The biggest technology companies in the world have adopted open standards to raise their foundation,” he noted. “Amazon, Google, Netflix—you name any of these companies, and they work together to build complicated standards so that the World Wide Web works well and their tools integrate to provide that consumer experience everybody expects. Then they compete, then they go after each other, building their businesses on top of this higher foundation.”

RESO works to spur similar cooperation and innovation among real estate stakeholders. Previously part of NAR, RESO was incorporated as an independent trade group in 2011 to develop, adopt and implement open data standards and processes for the industry.

“I think RESO adoption is absolutely critical, not just through brokerages, but through MLSs,” said Rebecca Jensen, president and CEO of Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED).

She said industry interest in standard adoption is rising, noting that RESO conferences have grown significantly from “just a gathering of a few engineers working inside an office at NAR” to large events with sold-out hotels.

Gould asked DeBord how brokers can get involved in RESO and why it’s important.

“For the brokers in the room, you know that some of your tools and software companies are fantastic, but they don’t all talk to each other,” DeBord said. “They don’t transfer data between the MLS and the broker back-office tools and any of the tools you use with your agents. Ask those companies if they’re engaging in the process with RESO to adopt data standards.”

He added, “It’s not just an MLS’ job to adopt standards; it’s about brokerage technology and your vendors’ technology and being able to get all those organizations to say that not only are they members, but they’re actively working to implement those standards across tools.”

Gould said, “I think one of the biggest hooks here is that if there aren’t common standards and if we don’t have this basic platform that everyone can work off of, the brokers could find their differentiating technology, but if it can’t grab the information that’s already out there, it just falls flat.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about making business easier,” said DeBord. “Maybe your agents and some brokers don’t necessarily get data standards down to the core, but they care about results. They care about efficiency.”

On the MLS front, Jensen said, “All of this disorder and fragmentation really inhibits the adoption of technology in our industry. The easier we make it to work with MLS data, the more innovation and competition will be brought to bear.”

Jensen is a true believer in collaboration, as proven by MRED’s partnership with several other MLSs across the U.S. to create the MLS Grid, which offers a consolidated data platform based on RESO standards and standard license agreements designed to improve MLS services and benefit thousands of users.

Richard Haggerty, Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS® (HGAR), and Ken Baris, Jordan Baris Inc. REALTORS® Real Living, at the CEO Exchange (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

“We decided there’s definitely a need to have a friendly platform that is operated by MLSs and that can do exactly what we’ve been talking about,” said Jensen. “Consolidation is a great thing, but that’s not the only solution out there. MLSs can actually work together and collaborate to make the marketplace better.”

Richard Haggerty, CEO of the Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS®, is in the midst of launching a regional MLS in the New York metropolitan area.

“The journey started at an industry conference, where they were talking about consolidation,” he recounted. “A lot of the time, that’s all we hear about—consolidation—but this particular map had New York City with big circles. It really struck me that we had to do a better job of leveraging the real estate data in what I consider the greatest geography in the world to the benefit of our members, as opposed to letting outside entities do that.”

After that conference, Haggerty talked to an executive from the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island Inc., a subsidiary of the Long Island Board of REALTORS®, and the groups eventually decided to partner on creating a regional MLS.

“There is no MLS in Manhattan,” said Haggerty. “We are going to change that. Especially in the city, they suffer from data disorder.”

So far, Haggerty said, he’s received mixed reactions ranging from “Yes, we need that” to “Good luck with that.”

“Some people are very entrenched in doing business the way they’ve been doing it for a long time, but from my perspective, the status quo is not acceptable,” he said. “If we cannot drive change to the benefit of our members, then we need to get into another business. I do think there are a lot of visionaries in Manhattan that realize this is the future.”

Ken Baris, president of Jordan Baris Inc. REALTORS® Real Living, gave a broker’s perspective and discussed the importance of data science.

“Data is not just charts and graphs that you sort of glaze over. It’s not just a list of agents by sales volume and market area,” said Baris. “For us, data science is how we take the information available to us and structure it in a way that we get actual insights from it for driving our business forward. The problem is the data we have needs to be structured properly.”

He noted that brokers can use data to help with establishing pricing strategies, recruiting, determining who needs coaching and figuring out the best time and areas to do mailings, among other benefits.

Gould said acknowledging the difference between information and insight is “a really interesting differentiator.”

“Information doesn’t tell you what to do. It just gives you a little barometer,” explained Baris. “Insights tell you how to act on the information.”

He said data science “isn’t cheap,” but it’s worth it. Baris also suggested it’s best to outsource data science. “At the end of the day, we’re brokerages. I don’t want to be a data scientist.”

He joked, “The one thing I can do is calculate commissions very quickly, but other than that, math? Who needs it?”

Gould then asked what it takes to help ensure brokers and agents understand and use the technology and data available to them.

“You have to make it very easy,” said Baris. “No matter how complicated it is under the hood, what they see on their screen has to be simple, fast and something they can relate to.”

He added that training is important, and conducting case studies can determine what’s working and what isn’t.

“Communication needs to be constant,” added Haggerty. “You can’t just roll out a shiny new toy, say it’s great and expect everyone to adopt it.”

Notably, Baris said, “We find the associates that are using our data tools are far excelling compared to the associates that aren’t.”

There’s an awful lot of data and technology out there for real estate professionals to take advantage of. Sorting through it all may be difficult, but by embracing standards, collaboration, innovation and education, the industry can harness the power of data to create a better experience for brokers, agents and, most importantly, homebuyers and sellers.

For CEO Exchange continuing coverage, visit

Joe Bebon is RISMedia’s associate editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at

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Making It Work—Together: Best Practices and Conflict Resolution for Real Estate Teams

Oct 7, 2019 by

For real estate agents just starting out, being part of a team can be a great way to launch and grow a new business. For experienced agents, putting together a team can add leverage and energy to an existing real estate business. For couples, friends or close colleagues, working together on a team can offer the opportunity to bring the strengths of each partner to bear on every transaction. So, what do you do when your team is struggling to work together?

Your ‘Better Teamwork’ Action Plan
Maybe your real estate team is suffering from internal conflict, frustrations from a slow market or unanticipated growing pains. Whatever the case, getting a handle on your issues and making a plan to get back on track involves honesty, communication and actionable strategies.

1. Get Real
For many people, the hardest part of handling problems is admitting that there’s a problem in the first place. All that simmering tension isn’t just going to go away. You have to address it and get everyone on board with working toward a solution.

Put together a workshop or retreat to give everyone a chance to fully address the issues and put together a plan for improvement.

2. Speak Your Truth
Conflict doesn’t magically go away if everyone isn’t making their opinions heard. You have to be willing to be honest with each other about things that are problematic or upsetting. This may mean some uncomfortable conversations with people you love and value, but in this case, honesty really is the best policy.

Emphasize the value of honest communication and keep the end result in mind.

3. Understand the Source of Conflict
Sometimes, personal conflict spills over into the workplace. It may be that the tension you’re feeling isn’t work-related, but personal. In that case, those relationships need to be mended to benefit the entire team.

Have an honest conversation with the people involved and offer support as they work out their differences.

4. Revisit Your Roots
Over time, you may find that you’ve forgotten the things that worked well when you were just starting out. Maybe you’ve begun to micro-manage or, alternatively, you’ve checked out and stopped taking an active role. Maybe your team used to socialize together, but that has fallen by the wayside.

Think back to the beginning when things were working well and see what has changed.

5. Take Steps and Check In
All this communication means little if you’re not taking actionable steps to improve the situation. Once you understand the problems, come up with a plan to address them. Maybe the solution involves a more equitable distribution of duties. Maybe it involves more facetime and better communication. Maybe you just need to bring in some support to take some of the operational burdens off your team members.

Put your plan into action and check back often to ensure that the steps you’ve identified are still being implemented.

A real estate team is built on relationships and needs to be nurtured like one. Show how much you care about your team by taking the time to address issues as they arise, be part of the solution and keep everyone operating at peak performance.

Yazir Phelps is the chief marketing officer at Real Estate Express, a national leader in online learning for pre-licensing, continuing education and professional development. Phelps has over 18 years of experience in marketing, fueling growth at Fortune 500 organizations, and over five years of experience working directly with real estate professionals. Her extensive background in generating demand for products and services encompasses crucial strategies for a successful career in the field. To learn more, visit

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An Inside Look at the State of Real Estate Tech

Oct 5, 2019 by

(Above, L to R) Dave Garland, Second Century Ventures; Matt Widdows, HomeSmart International; Joan Docktor, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®; Tom George, Constellation Real Estate Group; and York Baur, MoxiWorks, discuss “Technology That Means Business: How to Sort Through the Clutter” at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange. (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

There’s a lot of money going into real estate technology. According to Dave Garland, managing director of Second Century Ventures, there was $ 3 billion invested in the space in the first half of 2019 alone.

“It’s quite a profound figure,” he said. “Just to put that in context, 10 years ago, there wasn’t even a billion dollars invested in real estate technology, including all the previous years up until that point in time.”

However, with the rise of real estate technology comes complications, both for vendors and users. Garland recently joined other industry experts to discuss this conundrum during a panel session at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange, held in New York City September 18 – 19.

During the session “Technology That Means Business: How to Sort Through the Clutter,” Garland said thousands of tech companies from around the world have entered the industry and are coming up with “incredible ideas” to help real estate professionals. There’s a wide range of comparative market analysis tools, customer relationship management systems and many other technologies from which to choose.

As Garland pointed out, though, the options are also “hitting us from all angles.”

“Agents are overwhelmed with all the technology that’s coming at them, in addition to everything they have to do in their daily life,” said Joan Docktor, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®.

She suggested that’s why real estate companies should focus on adopting technology that’s “simpler, easier, faster” and truly beneficial for the user.

“You could have the best technology in the world, it could be really cool, but sometimes it’s just too cool for the agents,” Docktor said. “They’re not interested in it because it’s not necessary. So, I think it’s really important to go back to figure out what problems need to be solved.”

Matt Widdows, HomeSmart International, at the CEO Exchange (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

Matt Widdows, founder and CEO of HomeSmart International, agreed, stating, “Don’t buy it because it’s cool; buy it because it makes lives easier.”

Nonetheless, distinguishing between perceived wants and actual needs isn’t always simple.

HomeSmart has in-house, proprietary technology, and Widdows notes “there’s a lot of requests that are just stray, ambiguous things that our agents want, our brokerage wants, our own employees want.” He admits “oftentimes, we’re providing things because it’s something they think they want and need, but when we do provide it, they don’t use it. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

York Baur, CEO of MoxiWorks, emphasized that it’s important for real estate companies to identify the challenges they want to address.

“The technology should come in to support those business objectives,” he said. “Our work gets a lot easier as a partner of yours if that conversation is had early on.”

According to the panelists, agents benefit most from user-friendly technologies that spur efficiency and better communication. Desired features include automation, interoperability and one-click access, among others. Of course, online and mobile platforms are also key.

“Mobile is huge now,” said Widdows. “If it’s not on mobile, then it’s not happening.”

Essentially, agents need solutions that make their day-to-day activities easier.

“The best use of their time is to be in front of buyers and sellers, not playing with technology,” said Docktor. Docktor added that training and customer service are crucial, and, in fact, Baur said post-sale support plays a major role in MoxiWorks’ customer retention.

“It’s a very expensive, human-based job to do training support and account management,” Baur said. “In my mind, it’s the price of success.”

On the vendor side, competition is getting increasingly fierce. There has already been a lot of consolidation in the space, and more is expected over the next couple of years as smaller companies struggle to survive.

According to Baur, the flood of tech start-ups could lead to “somewhat brutal” times ahead for many firms.

“I think it’s easy to come into this market and dramatically underestimate the challenges of adoption and data,” he said, noting that scalability is a “big, big deal” for long-term success.

Widdows added, “You could have the best technology piece in the world, but if you don’t have scale for that tech, you’re not going to get there.”

Tom George, vice president of business development at Constellation Real Estate Group, said, “In the venture world, there is a big focus on certain freemium, self-serve products. You can only do so much on that model. You can get some adoption and upsells, but at the end of the day, the businesses that we buy and value are ones that have a good track record of getting agent adoption.”

With the vendor space slated for more consolidation, Docktor said, “I think the issue today is figuring out who’s going to buy whom.”

Baur offered some advice for brokers: “You should be asking vendors about their corporate structure, their backing and, frankly, their solvency. You don’t want to be basing your business on a company that’s underfunded.”

George acknowledged that real estate companies can’t get everything they need from one vendor. However, he made the case that having an anchor vendor and ancillary solutions from other providers is a “good mix.”

“In a situation where you’re managing 30 vendors yourself, that’s cat herding,” he said. “Nobody likes doing cat herding.”

George also urged brokers searching for vendors to employ a consultant.

“The reason homebuyers come to agents is that they don’t buy a home very often,” he said. “Most brokers don’t buy software very often. There are folks out there who do this all the time and can lead you through the process, and while you have to spend money on that, I think it’s money well spent.”

As for what brokers and agents can expect from vendors in the future, Docktor said, “Certainly, technology is getting better and better, and it’s happening faster and faster. I can’t even imagine what we’ll be able to do in a few years.”

Joe Bebon is RISMedia’s associate editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at

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Could Blockchain Revolutionize the Real Estate Industry?

Sep 28, 2019 by

(Above) John Heithaus, Heithaus Properties LLC, and Chao Cheng-Shorland, ShelterZoom, discuss “How Blockchain May Change the Future of Real Estate” at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange. (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

Blockchain has become a buzzword in recent years, and according to two real estate industry experts, the tech phenomenon is worthy of the buzz.

John L. Heithaus­, principal of Heithaus Properties, LLC, and Chao Cheng-Shorland, co-founder and CEO of ShelterZoom, discussed this innovative technology at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange in New York City last week.

During a session titled, “How Blockchain May Change the Future of Real Estate,” Heithaus noted blockchain is making “substantive changes” in many other industries, including financial services, healthcare and homeland security. Now, he said, it’s the real estate industry’s turn.

Heithaus­ suggested the home-buying and -selling process is still too complicated and slow, and it needs to evolve to accommodate today’s consumers, who are used to an increasingly fast-paced, technologically driven world.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of innovation in our business,” Heithaus acknowledged. “Zillow, Trulia, and others have done a great job of revolutionizing the searching experience. Yet when it comes to actually buying or selling property, the process needs improvement. We must do better.”

He said blockchain adoption could go a long way toward streamlining real estate transactions.

So, what is blockchain technology? If you search online, you’ll find a definition similar to this one from Harvard Business Review: “Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.” Depending on where you search, the explanation can get much more complex from there.

Fortunately, according to Heithaus, the beauty of blockchain is that you don’t necessarily need to understand how it works in order to benefit from it. For example, he said consumers don’t know the inner workings of an automated teller machine, yet they still know how to grab cash from an ATM on the go quickly and easily.

“You don’t need a user manual, you don’t have to sit in a training class—you just go up and push the buttons and the darn things work,” Heithaus said of ATMs. He emphasized that the key to blockchain adoption in the real estate industry is to ensure that blockchain-based solutions are as transparent and straightforward as possible for the user.

Cheng-Shorland agreed, adding that ShelterZoom, a developer of blockchain-based solutions for real estate professionals, aims to ensure that users don’t worry about “what’s underneath the surface.”

“You just need to understand the benefits it can give you,” she said.

John Heithaus, Heithaus Properties LLC, and Chao Cheng-Shorland, ShelterZoom, discuss “How Blockchain May Change the Future of Real Estate” at RISMedia’s 2019 Real Estate CEO Exchange. (Credit: Korin Krossber of PlanOmatic)

As for those potential benefits, Cheng-Shorland said blockchain enables interconnectivity, speed, trust and security throughout the entire real estate transaction process.

“One of the first things I observed about the real estate industry,” Cheng-Shorland said, “was that it is truly fragmented.” She suggested that the buying and selling of homes can take months, in large part, because “there’s no interconnectivity between all the contracts, the forms, the people.”

According to Cheng-Shorland, blockchain technology could provide the necessary interconnectivity and interoperability, enabling real estate transactions to be done digitally and allowing documents and data, all in one place, to “talk to each other.” It could help eliminate paperwork, manage offers and negotiations, and ultimately save a significant amount of time.

“Blockchain is very much built around agents to help them streamline their operations, cut down huge costs and speed up their process,” she said. “Speed is your friend. If you have the speed, you’ll have more listings, you’ll get more sales done and you’ll get more commission checks.”

Cheng-Shorland pointed out that the iBuyer business model is growing popular among industry stakeholders and consumers due to its expediency, but she claimed “in order to really enhance that model, you need the blockchain because it enables that speed, which other traditional technology does not have.”

Cheng-Shorland said blockchain could also help real estate professionals build trust with clients and colleagues because “everything is self-governed” and the technology enables instant communication. Furthermore, she said blockchain is a secure transaction platform that allows users to hold onto their own data.

“Even we, as a service provider, don’t see any data going through your system,” she added.

Cheng-Shorland said the fragmentation issue across the whole real estate transaction process is the “immediate problem we’re trying to solve. It is a big task to tackle.”

For its part, ShelterZoom has developed a suite of blockchain-based solutions to help spur interconnectivity in the industry. Most recently, the tech company announced its Contract of Things (CoT), designed to “transform forms, documents and contracts into fully digital and interoperable assets.”

Because it’s relatively new—and rather complicated—blockchain may be confusing or seem intimidating. But during the CEO Exchange session, Heithaus reminded the 300-plus attendees about another once-mysterious tech innovation people were wary of: the internet.

Heithaus showed a slide displaying Coldwell Banker’s very first website. He explained that the site was launched back in 1998. With its bland colors and clunky layout, it looked like a technological relic in 2019.

Heithaus told the crowd, “Part of my job was to go around the country and convince all the directors we worked with that this internet thing was a good thing.

“They chased me out of there with pitchforks,” he quipped. “Now fast-forward almost 25 years later, imagine an agent, a team, a brokerage without a website.”

Will blockchain change the future of real estate? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, Heithaus urged anyone interested in blockchain to reach out to Cheng-Shorland and ShelterZoom for more in-depth information.

For CEO Exchange continuing coverage, visit

Joe Bebon is RISMedia’s associate editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at

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