September was officially REALTOR® Safety Month, and there was an abundance of news stories, blogs and social media posts filled with tips and tactics to help keep brokers and agents safe.
But let’s face it: agent safety is something that’s vital all 365 days a year. So here is a collection of the best resources we found to help keep you safe year-round.
Old habits are hard to break. If you’re an agent or broker that still favors paper and ink, then you might have some misconceptions about this modern time-saving technology that has been holding you back. Once you understand the advantages of eSigning – what it can mean to you, your business and especially your customer experience – you’ll not only become a user, but also maybe even an advocate.
Benefits of digital signatures for agents and clients
Real estate agents and brokers know that having a paperless transaction management program is a must-have to remain competitive, compliant and become more productive. But there’s another huge benefit to a paperless real estate transaction that is often overlooked: it’s remarkably Earth-friendly.
Being more eco-friendly remains important to a vast majority of Americans. In fact, 79% of Americans “agree that they consider themselves an environmentally conscious person,” while only 6 percent strongly disagree, according to a Harris Poll conducted last year.
The impact of paper
Consider for a moment, the amount of paper the average real estate agent handles during a single typical transaction, from the marketing materials and often hardcopy of a CMA at a listing presentation, to the contract, addendums, title, appraisal and documents at the closing table, the stack of paper would likely be as thick as an old telephone book for a major city!
Now think about the fact that there are typically 5-6 million new and existing homes sales each year, and the fact that the typical sales transaction still provides multiple sets of paper documents for all the parties involved, and we are talking a huge negative impact on our environment.
Now according to experts, it takes a little more than half a tree to make 10 reams of 100 percent, non-recycled 20-lb. copier paper. One ream of 500 sheets of paper uses about 6 percent of a tree. The bottom line is that if every real estate agent went paperless, we could potentially save millions of trees each year.
But the positive impact on our environment is even greater when an agent and broker use paperless transaction management. That’s because the amount of energy savings also is huge. To produce one ton of paper, or about 400 reams, it takes more than 11,000 kilowatts of energy: that’s about the same amount of energy the average household uses in 10 months! Continue reading
In Part Two of this two-part series that looks at how electronic signatures work inside a transaction management solution, Tricia Stamper of Florida Realtors shows what the signature experience looks like from a home buyer or seller’s point-of-view.
One of the most powerful ways to quickly engage a new client is to show them something that will “wow” them. Digital signing can have that “wow” factor, particularly with home buyers and sellers who are used to signing paper real estate documents. The fact is, the more experienced your client is with a standard, paper-filled real estate transaction, the more they are going to appreciate – and be delighted with – the digital signing process.
And that’s a big misnomer in real estate: that somehow, your clients have to be tech-savvy to want to sign documents digitally. The only real impediment is not technology. The real barrier is the resistance we all have to doing something that we have never done before: the fear of the unknown. But if you show your clients what the digital signing process is like, and explain the incredible benefits it provides for them, you will find that every one of your customers, no matter what age or level of experience with new technology. In fact, digital signing is no longer considered a nice feature to offer. It has become so pervasive that buyers and sellers are expecting their agents to make it available to them, and not just Millennials.
Let’s look at how digital signing works for the consumer using Form Simplicity, a leading transaction management program that is Realtor-created and supported. The move towards a paperless transaction with Form Simplicity helps unlock the chains that keep agents tied to their desktop computers by giving agents access to all their documents from anywhere with Internet connection, anytime. With eSign built-in, Form Simplicity demonstrably improves the customer signing experience. Digital signing reduces both the time to sign and the number of errors. It eliminates the 11th hour scramble to get a missing signature, an unpleasant experience that can frustrate you, your customer and be incredibly stressful. Continue reading
In Part One of this two-part series in looking at how electronic signatures work inside a transaction management solution, Tricia Stamper of Florida Realtors shows what the experience looks like from an agent’s point of view. In Part Two, Stamper will show what the signature experience looks like from a clients’ point-of-view.
Going paperless is the fastest way for agents and brokers to improve their businesses, increase their profitability and give clients a better experience. Real estate is a mobile industry and agents are always on the go: in their home office, in their car, or meeting with clients at their home.
Today, by using a transaction management program such as Realtor-created and supported Form Simplicity, agents and brokers have the mobile tools to put contracts together anywhere. Agents are no longer chained to their desk and with Form Simplicity’s integration with eSign, electronic signatures can save every agent literally hours per transaction. That translates into increased profitability and productivity for agents.
Let’s first take a look at how easy and fast it is for an agent to use eSign technology, as shown inside Form Simplicity:
First, an agent can create an eSign session and quickly auto-populate their client information from the transaction contacts already inside Form Simplicity: (If the contact is not already in Form Simplicity, the agent can manually add them later in the process.)
We rely on technology in real estate today more than ever. But it seems we often take it for granted. Until we read the headlines, that is, and are reminded that with powerful technology comes the need for caution, care and responsibility in order to protect our clients and our own livelihood.
Did you know that nearly 30,000 websites are infected with malware every day? Target got hacked, and 70 million customers were affected. Over the last five years, 27 million Americans have faced identity theft. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to the FBI, as Cyber Crime has become commonplace and it’s growing.
In fact, the FBI now has specially trained “cyber squads” at its headquarters and in each of its 56 field offices nationwide. They have even established new “Cyber Action Teams” that at a moment’s notice will travel to just about anywhere in the world to assist with computer intrusion cases.
That’s why, when dealing with one of the most important financial decisions someone will make in a lifetime – buying a home – every piece of software that touches confidential information must be truly secure. It’s why we built superior-level security into Form Simplicity, one of the most popular Transaction Management tools for real estate agents and brokers, created by Realtors and for Realtors and owned by Florida Realtors®.
Going paperless and reducing risk
Agents need a key go-to technology to help digitize their workflow, and that is what Form Simplicity does. Transaction management software, for the novice, simply takes parts of an agent or broker’s job that are seen as time-consuming and often repetitive, and makes them much easier. Continue reading
When you think of exceptional customer service companies, brands such as Apple, Amazon and Nordstrom immediately come to mind for most people. It’s interesting that companies that are the best in their category are often known for having the best customer service. They also typically have the best products, processes or services, but it is the customer service component that resonates with most of their remarkably loyal fans and followers. Their customers often rave about their experiences, becoming unpaid company evangelists.
For Form Simplicity, Brenda Ghibaudi is one of its biggest champions. When you ask the Florida 1st Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, located in South Florida, about the support she receives, she will tell you that Form Simplicity ranks beyond triple-A: “I would rate them, compared to any other customer service or tech support, a quadruple A,” she says.
It is the little things that add up to big benefits for Brenda, she explains. “They are welcoming when you call — and they call me by my first name when they answer the phone. And they treat you great, regardless if you are tech savvy or not real techie at all; they are like chameleons in which they adjust to the level of the person who is calling in,” she adds. Brenda also loves the fact that she can spend a Sunday at home, and if she’s catching up on work and has a problem with a form, auto populating for example, she knows help is only a phone call away. “Being available seven days a week saves me a lot of time,” she adds. Continue reading
Face it. It can be frustrating dealing with a gigantic pdf file, especially if you are trying to quickly close a real estate transaction deal. It can take forever to download, upload….and emailing it, well, forget it. If you find yourself in this situation, limited due to your massively-sized pdf, then read on so that you never find yourself in this discouraging situation again. Compressing a pdf file is easy to do and will make the file much more manageable for both you and your real estate client.
First, let’s review pdf file sizes. Generally, unless you want to use the file for a high quality print job (think fancy 4-color brochure or glossy trade show booth graphic), or if contains several graphics, such as a PowerPoint deck containing captivating graphics, pdf files should be 1 MB or less. Any pdf file above 1 MB, which is considered a large file, that is mostly text should be compressed to a smaller size. Compressing the file will make it easier to send back and forth via email as well as save on storage space. Therefore, most pdf real estate transactions files should be 1 MB or less.
When viewing documents on a PC in Microsoft Windows, the “Details” view selection shows how Windows categorizes document sizes. Simply select the small arrow next to “Size” to see:
- Small (10 – 100 KB)
- Medium (100 KB – 1 MB)
- Large (1 MB – 16 MB)
- Huge (16 MB – 128 MB)
Brokerages have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a Transaction Management solution, but for the most part, what they often end up with is something that is identical to what their competitors have down the street. It’s as if brokerages are trapped in a Henry Ford world: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black,” Ford used to tease his sales team.
Trouble is, we live in a world where you can go online and customize your car, from the color of your bumpers, to the look of your taillights. So why can’t you customize your Transaction Management software so that the look and feel of the software is your brand and not the same one your competition uses?
Well, with Form Simplicity, you can, because that’s what brokerages tell us they want.
Importance of Brand
A survey of top real estate executives nationwide said that among “competitive differentiators,” brand was ranked in the top 3 items along with marketing tools and technology and agent productivity. The Thought Leader Survey from marketing firm Imprev also found that brand outranks the leads a brokerage generates for their agents and the company’s culture as a competitive differentiator.
That’s why Form Simplicity offers a level of customization that we believe is unique among leading real estate transaction and forms management choices. Brokers want the look and feel of the tools that they provide agents to reflect their brand. Brand consistency is paramount at leading brokerages and Form Simplicity does not believe that just consumer-facing products should reflect a brokerage’s brand. That’s because a brokerage has two audiences to serve: consumers and their agents. Providing a brand experience to one’s agents is arguably just as important as providing one to consumers. Brand consistency should be for all, not just some.
The real estate industry today is Internet dependent. Agent and company websites, company intranets, MLS access, and back office systems all require agents and brokers to go online to manage these resources. So must the American homebuyer too, as more than 90% of all real estate home searches begin online.
Perhaps the most important software tool that enables the Internet is the one that’s also taken for granted: your Internet browser. For years, real estate agents’ favorite browser has been Internet Explorer from Microsoft. Unless you were a Mac user, when you bought your PC, Internet Explorer was automatically your browser and the vast majority of agents simply never switched. Additionally, many MLSs were only compatible with Internet Explorer, adding to many agents’ reliance on IE.
Even with the sun setting of support for Internet Explorer’s older versions and IE 11 being replaced by Edge as the Windows 10 default browser, agents have been tentative to switch to a different browser. According to the NAR REALTOR Technology Survey, while the use of Internet Explorer dropped from 50 percent to 38 in the most recent survey, it was still the number one browser for agents, with Google’s Chrome coming in at 32 percent, Firefox at 16 and Apple’s Safari at 9 percent. However, among the American public, Chrome is the most popular browser, according to a 2015 Federal Government report.
But the Internet is changing so fast that if you are still using Internet Explorer, especially an older version, you should ask yourself, “is it time to switch?”
What might be wrong with an outdated browser? Continue reading