Staying Safe as an Agent

realtor-safety

It’s always been important for agents to keep safety top of mind, especially when working alone. Unfortunate recent events, including last week’s kidnapping attempt in Elk Grove, have made it clear that being prepared and proactive about safety is more important than ever. Consider these tips from the International Self-Defense Institute in San Mateo to stay safe whether setting up an open house, meeting with a client, or giving a tour.

  • Meet at the office first. Get new clients on your territory before you visit any property with them so you can learn more about them and collect personal information about them for your files.
  • Ask for identification. The public is used to having their identification checked, so don’t be reluctant to ask because you’re scared you’ll offend someone. Tell clients it is policy that all clients’ driver’s licenses are photocopied.
  • Introduce them to a coworker. When you meet them at the office, introduce them to at least one other person in your office. Criminals won’t like that others have seen them for identification purposes. Make eye contact with them.
  • Use the buddy system. There’s always strength in numbers. Whether you bring a coworker, spouse, or even your German Shepard, avoid going alone. When would-be assailants see two people at the front door, they’ll be less likely to go in. If you must go alone, have 911/the local police station on speed dial on your cell phone and keep your phone on you at all times.
  • Don’t go into confined places. Avoid basements and attics- it’s too easy to become trapped. Instead, know the selling points of these rooms and remain in the foyer on the first floor with the front door open as the buyer tours these areas. If you must join them in each room, always stay by the door, leaving doors open so you can flee more easily if necessary.
  • Walk behind. Let potential buyers take the lead when exploring a home, with you always following behind.
  • Let others know where you are. Tell them were you are going, when you will be back, and who you are with. Better yet: share this information while the client is with you so they know someone else knows where you are.
  • Have an excuse. If you feel uncomfortable, tell the person your cell phone went off and you have to call the office or let them know that another agent with buyers is on his or her way.
  • Introduce yourself to neighbors. Let them know you’ll be showing the house so others know that you are there.
  • Watch for patterns. At an open house, note any patterns in arrivals, particularly near the end of the open house. One common scam: thieves come near the end of the open house, working as a team. They have “buyers” distract the agent as others steal valuables in the home. Trust your instincts if you feel uncomfortable with something.
  • Stow away your valuables. Never leave your purse, laptop or wallet unattended on the counter in plain view. Keep them in the trunk of your car. However, always keep your cell phone on so you can call for help if you need to. Also, before the open house, tell your clients to put away all of their valuables, prescription drugs, and mail.
  • Watch what you wear. Only wear shoes and clothing you can run in. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Protect your personal information. Use your cell number and office address in your marketing so it can’t be tracked back to your home address. Never use your home address or home phone number. Also, don’t reveal personal information about your children, where you live, and who you live with – you can still build a relationship with clients without revealing all of your personal information.
  • Drive separately. Have the client follow you from listing to listing. If you absolutely have to take one car, then you should drive.
  • Watch where you park. Make sure your car won’t be blocked in and that you park in a place where you’ll be able to get out quickly. Park on the street or the curb if possible. You’’ attract more attention if you run and scream when fleeing and it will be easier to escape than having to back out of a driveway.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t get distracted by your cell phone or anything else. Be sure you know who is coming through the house and where they are.
  • Know the house. Walk the perimeter of the home before entering alone.
  • Be assertive. Don’t worry about being polite if someone is making you uncomfortable- let them know.
  • Be prepared. Have a flashlight that you can use to blind an assailant or use as a weapon. Be prepared with pepper spray or a taser. Just remember to take note of the wind direction if you are using it outside so you don’t harm yourself. If you don’t have a weapon, think about what you can use around you as a weapon (pen, purse, keys). You can also bring drop cams that wirelessly attach to your smartphone to monitor an open house and record what is going on.
  • Protect yourself physically. Keep distance from people. Focus on the face and groin when attacking- remember, you just have to buy enough time to get away. Self- defense classes are helpful ways to learn how to protect yourself.

The Benefits of Paperless Transactions

Author: David Bellamy, Chief Financial Officer, Alain Pinel Realtors
This article ran in the Aug 8th, 2014 Palo Alto Daily News publication Premier Homes, pg 10.

Photo Credit: Christian Schnettelker via Flikr.

Paperless transactions are becoming increasingly common in the real estate industry, and their advantages are many – making real estate agents more efficient, and ultimately benefiting their clients immensely.

Paperless transactions allow documents to be sent by an agent, and reviewed and signed by a client, any time of day, from anywhere in the world. Everything from contracts to disclosures to property reports are all able to be shared electronically, as well as signed digitally, making transactions faster, streamlined and more thorough.

In the competitive, swift-moving Bay Area real estate market, the need for efficient, fast transactions is paramount. With how common multiple offers and short transaction windows can be in our market, the ability to send, review, and sign documents electronically can put clients at a huge advantage. In fact, with many of our clients working in and around the technology industry in the Bay Area, it is frequently an expectation of buyers and sellers that their agent be able to conduct business via a digital rather than a paper-based process.

Additionally, with an influx of international buyers in the Bay Area, along with both buyers and sellers often travelling for work during a transaction, clients are often looking to do business in a more mobile way. In such cases, going paperless can help facilitate a more streamlined transaction, giving clients the ability to view and sign all forms wherever they are, even from their smart phone or tablet.

And of course, there is a significant environmental benefit, with this electronic shift removing the paper waste of a traditional transaction.

On the brokerage level, Alain Pinel Realtors has partnered with SkySlope, the industry leader in digital transaction management solutions. This tool gives APR agents access to completely paperless transaction processing. SkySlope allows agents to manage their transactions electronically, creates a platform for a more efficient review and feedback process between office managers and agents, and provides agents with a way to immediately share documents with their clients electronically. The tool also ensures that all necessary details have been taken care of from a contractual perspective, and that everything is in compliance with industry regulations.

When new tools such as this benefit clients, agents, brokerages, and the environment as a whole, it is hard to think of a downside. But going paperless still requires a shift in mentality from working with traditional hard copies of documents, and so, necessitates a different way of thinking among both clients and agents.

As a whole, while a period of adjustment is to be expected, the move to a more paperless world in real estate will help agents and clients on every level – from speed to mobility, the benefits are great.


About Author:

David Bellamy is the Chief Financial Officer at Alain Pinel Realtors where he oversees all accounting functions, budgeting processes, strategic planning, financial reporting, and human resources to support the organization. Prior to joining APR in 2007, Mr. Bellamy was in executive management with The Body Shop, most recently as its CFO, VP Finance, Real Estate & IT for the Americas Region.

Drones in Real Estate – When Technology Surpasses Policy

Author: Tom Flanagan, Vice President of Technology, Alain Pinel Realtors
This article ran in the July 11th, 2014 Palo Alto Daily News publication Premier Homes, pg 10.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Camera

When looking at some of the latest real estate tech trends, one that has the potential to have a significant impact in the industry is the use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Photographers typically use these small remote controlled drones with a camera to take stills and video of a property, and their use is becoming increasingly commonplace in the real estate industry.

The use of drones for real estate purposes gives consumers, buyers in particular, a unique view into, or over, a listing. They are able to tell a story about a property that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved with traditional photography, and are wonderful for displaying waterfront properties and listings with a lot of acreage. From their vantage point of about 100 feet above a property, they are able to capture images that an airplane or helicopter would not, offering a truly unique perspective.

However, as an emerging technology, there is a tremendous amount of inaccurate information and confusion regarding their usage. Grey area and misinformation surrounding the legal use of drones abounds, and they have become a polarizing topic that often conjures images of military use or spying.

In reality though, UAVs and drones have been used with good intentions, primarily by hobbyists, for decades. But when it comes to commercial use, drones are an example of technology surpassing policy. Technology is moving at such a fast clip, it is difficult for government bodies to introduce legislation around them.

To date, there has only been one UAV pilot fined by the FAA. While the FAA did lose that case, they appealed it, which negated the win for the pilot. Additionally, a New York real estate brokerage was just subpoenaed by the FAA for drone use. Legislation surrounding use remains nebulous though, and Congress has issued a deadline to the FAA, requiring the agency to issue regulations and guidelines by 2015.

While government issues and questions about privacy remain, this medium offers tremendous value to real estate consumers, offering a sneak peek into a property that wouldn’t otherwise be available. There are safety concerns as well, and ensuring each drone operator is licensed after being properly trained, as with a motor vehicle, would be a responsible course of action. Finding this fine balance between legislation and innovation though will definitely pay off for the real estate consumer in the long run.


About Author:

Tom Flanagan is Vice President of Technology at Alain Pinel Realtors and is responsible for overall technology strategy and implementation throughout the company. With over a decade of experience in the technology industry, he brings a wide range of knowledge in technology, online platforms and new media, with an emphasis on design and usability. Tom is also a syndicated columnist for Inman News, the leading source of independent real estate news and information.

Are You Missing Potential Leads?

Author: Jolene Quinn, eBusiness Manager of Alain Pinel Realtors

Are you receiving calls on your listing and your listing is pending? What are you saying to these clients? “Thank you for calling but the property has an accepted offer”. Click

These are prospective clients that you can represent as buyers!  Your response should be “The property has an accepted offer but I know of a similar home in the area. Would you be interested in seeing it?”

  • If they are not working with an agent, offer to show them another home. This is a client who called you who needs assistance finding a home! This is a great lead!
  • Sometimes they already have an agent. Always be kind. You can answer a few questions then refer them back to their agent. If their agent drops the ball then they will think of you if they want to work with a different agent.

Not interested in representing buyers?

  • Refer them to a buyer’s agent in your office. Not only can you get a referral fee from the agent but you’re also building rapport with your peers.  Not to mention, helping the client!
  • When you speak to the client, tell them you work with a great buyer’s agent that you would be happy to refer them too. Make sure to let them know the name of the agent and give a nice introduction.  This makes it more comfortable for both the client and the agent.

Asking these questions before you pass them off to your buyer’s agent helps the agent:

  • What area are you looking in?
  • What price range would you like to stay under?
  • Are you pre-approved for your home loan should you need one?
  • How many beds and baths do you need?
  • Do you prefer a condo or single family home?
    • Do you have pets? (if interested in condo)

Above all, make sure you respond to client inquiries quickly!  In today’s world, clients expect a response within minutes and will quickly move on to another company if they don’t hear from you.  Have a process in place with your referring buyer’s agent so the agent understands a quick response is mandatory if you are to continue referring clients to them.


About Author:

Jolene Quinn is the eBusiness Manager at Alain Pinel Realtors. She has almost 20 years in real estate and over 13 years working directly with internet leads. Prior to working with APR she managed the eBusiness department of a large real estate company that spanned 3 states. She was responsible for taking the department from ground level to one of the most successful eBusiness departments in the nation. 

Where Do Buyers and Sellers Find Agents?

According to data in the 2013 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)’s annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, home buyers and sellers consistently report that they truly rely on referrals from friends and family to find an agent or they use an agent they have worked with before.

Take a look at these stats:

  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of buyers and sixty-four percent (64%) of sellers found their agent through a personal referral from neighbors, friends or relatives or they used an agent they had previously worked with.
  • The next closest way a buyer or seller found their agent was through an online website; however, this was merely nine percent (9%) of buyers and four percent (4%) of sellers.

With these statistics, it’s more clear than ever that an integral part of your business’s success relies on good relationship with your past clients. How are you staying in contact with your past clients to build your relationships with them? Here are some ways:

  • Connect on Social Networks. Are you connected with your past clients on social network? Did you just add them but never interact? Social media opens a wealth of opportunities to interact with your clients in ways that was previously impossible. Learn about their interests, connect on a different level, and at your convenience. Dropping a comment, sending a gift, or even “liking” something they post – keeps you on their radar.
  • Monthly Newsletter. Are you regularly sending out information that is beneficial for your past clients? Are you keeping them up-to-date about their community and market?
  • Drip-Email Marketing. Staying in contact and making yourself a resource is crucial. Putting together a strong homeowners drip email campaign can be useful and establish yourself as an expert.
  • Be personal-able. While newsletters, email campaigns, direct marketing does reach consumers – often your clients want more from you – especially if they’re going to refer you to their friends. When’s the last time you reached out on an individual-level? Do you ask them about their families? Do you remember their hobbies? Did the birthday card you sent them include more than a generic message? No one likes to feel like they’re getting cookie-cutter service – so prove to them you’re not.

There’s many ways to reach out to past clients, but there’s no denying how important it is! Finding new ways to connect will ensure your business continues to grow.

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