How often do we turn on the TV and see horror stories of businesses ending up in court and a judge orders the company to pay a settlement, legal fees or other court costs? It can be a devastating financial blow to any business. Continue reading
All real estate professionals rely on referral business, just as so many other customer-oriented sales professionals. Realtors® rely on referrals from their customers and clients and they need them from their fellow agents. But did you know you have access to a very special feature called Referral Central as part of your membership to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors®?
It’s really easy to access Referral Central. All you need to do is take full advantage of what your Realtor® association has to offer! Let me tell you a story:
I took part in a committee meeting a while back and the topic of discussion was the value of membership and understanding why members join the association. One member of the group explained that the most emphatic moment for her to understanding the value of membership was watching her husband work as a volunteer leader in the association, travelling to different events and meetings across the state. It was a poignant moment because he came back from those meetings with one overwhelmingly huge benefit – referrals.
You can contact your local, state or national Realtor® Association, begin volunteering on a committee for 2018 by signing up here, and work your way from there as a boots-on-the-ground volunteer.
However, you can also act now and see immediate results (well, you’ll have to wait a couple of months). How? Instant networking is at your fingertips at the annual MAR Conference & Tradeshow happening September 25-26. It is the best-kept secret that the two-day conference provides not only great courses and events, but also two days of networking and referral building.
Just picture it. You are walking through the halls of the convention center—this year’s venue is the beautiful Sea Crest Hotel in Falmouth—and say you are from Newburyport, chatting with a fellow member from Shrewsbury. You attend the same class together and chat a bit more after the class only to find out that this member has a buyer looking for waterfront property on the North Shore. Of course, you have great properties as your listings! This type of exchange happens all the time at our conferences.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about grabbing the time in between classes to connect with fellow members because there are networking events built in to the conference. Get to know your fellow Realtors® at the welcome reception, the tradeshow networking reception or the annual after-hours party, Realtor® After Dark. This year we’re even offering a clambake to take advantage of all the Cape has to offer and celebrate our New England roots.
Association volunteering and attending the annual MAR Conference allows you to reap the benefits of “Referral Central.” Your access is yearlong through other association involvement but you can’t miss the greatest hub of activity that happens once a year. You won’t be sorry.
In today’s world, everyone is concerned about online security. This becomes even more significant when dealing with sensitive real estate transactions, client information and online signatures. There are many products that can help real estate agents be safe online, but one in particular is perfect for online transactions. It is the Community feature in the zipForm® Plus package, which is available for free to all Massachusetts brokers and agents.
The Community allows agents in single user accounts to collaborate directly with clients, giving the client the ability to log into a zipForm® portal and make changes in the zipForm® documents within their transaction. These edits are tracked under a history section within the transaction. Upon login to either the agent or client accounts, the end user will then see a notification alert making it easy to track all changes that are made by the other party.
The zipLogix® Community also allows brokers using broker accounts to collaborate with their agents on transactions and provide pre-approval on forms prior to client delivery. All partners in a transaction can communicate securely and confidently with each other, and can share things as sensitive as wire transfer instructions. Here is the zipLogix™ Community and its features at a glance:
Here are four reasons why you should try the zipLogix® Community today:
1. You stay in control. You choose who can views or edits forms, and they only have access to the forms you send them.
2. It’s free for participants. Recipients receive step-by-step instructions for creating their own free zipLogix® account when you send an invitation to collaborate.
3. Increased security. No need to send and receive forms as email attachments or share your login information.
4. There’s a paper trail. The history tab allows you to see a complete history of edits and documents views.
Filling out real estate forms can be a daunting task. They can be long, complicated and require lots of signatures. But forms have a purpose, of course. They also tend to make transactions run smoother, especially digital forms that can be signed electronically and eliminate the hassle of scheduling in-person meetings. When working with a seller, there is one form which comes to mind that can do just that.
The Seller’s Statement of Property Condition is a standard form, but the state of Massachusetts does not require this form to be filled out as a part of a real estate transaction. So, it’s up to the individual company to decide if they are going to use it or not.
This eight-page form can be a wealth of information for buyers. Quite simply, the form details everything a homeowner may know or doesn’t know about the property during the time they have owned it. In this form, members will find questions about special permits, water damage and structural components, including heating, plumbing etc.
Many of the sellers complete the form by checking the third box, “unknown.” However, if sellers take time to fully complete this form, they could save a buyer the trouble of making an offer. In addition, it’s very difficult for a buyer to come back after a home inspection and ask a seller to provide credit for a repair if they were aware of the issue prior to an offer. The more one discloses, the less they have to deal with after.
Whether your company requires sellers to complete the Seller’s Statement of Property Condition or not, you should know that there is an easy way to access it through MAR’s website as a member benefit. One of the recent upgrades allows you to email the Seller’s Statement of Property Condition to a client and have it completed electronically. It works like electronic signature. Once the seller completes the form, the agent gets a notification that the form has been completed.
It’s nice to know that in today’s fast-paced world, even lengthy real estate forms can be completed quickly and painlessly.
For more information on your free access to zipLogix, the official forms software of the National Association of REALTORS®, as a member of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors® please visit the MAR forms page.
Agents, brokers, and other real estate professionals aren’t alone in facing the threat of lawsuits. However, as a member of the real estate industry, you do face unique risks that require comprehensive insurance coverage. Errors & Omissions (E&O) insurance policies are designed to protect you from lawsuits that relate to the following mistakes and violations, among others:
- Allegations of Breach of Contract
- Failure to disclose property defects
Of course, it is important to make sure your agents and employees do everything within their power to prevent these claims in the first place. However, lawsuits can happen to any firm. It is your responsibility to secure insurance coverage to protect your firm from financial ruin. As you shop for coverage and debate the benefits of different policies, remember that the following four factors will ultimately affect the price of your premiums.
The Size of Your Firm
How many people work for your real estate firm? How much gross revenue does it generate? How many transactions do you process? These questions are crucial in determining the final cost of coverage, because your exposure depends your firm’s number of transactions. Your insurance policy must cover each individual who works for you, as well as the transactions that make up your firm’s revenues. The more transactions your firm completes, the more chances there are for errors to take place.
Of course, the size of any business will directly affect its risks and insurance needs, but it’s especially influential in the real estate industry because your transactions are larger and your contracts are more comprehensive. The more detailed a real estate transaction is, the more possibility there is for an error or omission to occur. Firms that buy and sell high-value homes should also expect that they would have to contend with higher dollar claims more than firms that do not deal with luxury home real estate transactions.
The same is true if you have more employees, because each additional employee will need E&O coverage. However, your firm will also be able to make more sales, handle more clients, and pursue more leads than a competitor with fewer agents. If this is the case for your agency, you will need a higher standard of protection, including E&O coverage.
The Type of Business Your Firm Handles
The type of real estate transactions your firm performs will influence how much your E&O insurance costs. If your agency handles any other type of real estate business beyond residential, your premiums will be higher than a firm that solely works with residential clients. Premiums are higher for firms that handle commercial properties and the magnitude will depend on how much of your business is with commercial clients. The mix of your firm’s commercial and residential transactions will impact the premium to varying degrees.
The Location of Your Firm
Where does your firm operate and where are the properties that you sell? Location, as the saying goes, is everything in the real estate industry. It dictates your business costs and strategies for a variety of different reasons. Your client’s location is related to property taxes, building codes, and other special considerations. Many of the specific legal obligations often depend on city or county laws as well as state laws.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, each state determines its own insurance requirements and litigation laws. If you sell properties in a state where judges have more legal freedom to award substantial damages, your insurance company must be prepared to help you pay these higher costs. Your premiums will reflect the likelihood of large E&O claims, as well as the requirements that prevent or enable these lawsuits in the first place.
The Claims History of Your Firm
Your firm’s claims history is going to play a role in how much you have to pay for your current coverage. Insurance premiums are influenced by how much of a risk your business is, and if you have a history of high value claims or a history of frequent claims, you are a greater risk. This means that your insurance premiums are going to be higher. On the other hand, if you do not have an extensive claims history, your premiums will be lower than a firm that does, because you are a lower risk client.
Protect Your Real Estate Business with E&O Insurance
Insurance prices obviously are not the only – or even the biggest – reason to minimize risks and prevent common real estate mistakes at your firm. Your reputation depends on your competence and integrity. However, if you want to offset future costs and make sure lawsuits cannot destroy your company irreparably, make sure you purchase E&O insurance that accommodates every possible risk.
Webinar Wednesday: Condo Insurance
Many REALTORS® have questions and concerns about condo insurance. It is one of the most confusing topics in our industry because of the shared ownership that condo association entails. As a result, an insurance policy in the name of the association or trust needs to be written to cover the structure at large. Additionally, the bylaws of the association dictate how much coverage the unit owner should obtain on their personal HO6 policy, which impacts the loan requirements and the internal workings of the buyer’s insurance policy. Learn all you need to know and join Zack Gould, Partner at G&N Insurance, live at 10 am on Wednesday August 5th for free. Click here to register.