peaceofmind

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

 

Why Customer Service is Key

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

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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)

Continue reading

real estate transaction software
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.
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Browser Blog 5_3_16
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

person-woman-desk-laptopA little over 10 years ago, in January 2006, we were heading into a tumultuous housing market. But a few years before things got crazy, the Florida Realtors did something brilliant – it launched a new service for its members called Tech Helpline.

The concept for Tech Helpline was pretty straightforward. Technology tools for agents were coming to market at a rapid pace and many agents admitted to needing technology assistance. Just a year later, the first iPhone would be announced and that little computer-in-your-pocket ushered in a flurry of both opportunities and challenges for agents as it quickly became the smartphone of choice for most agents in our industry.

Florida Realtors saw the need to help provide a tech support service early on because it listened to its members. What was created with Tech Helpline was a kind of virtual “Genius Bar” for real estate agents, who could connect with a trained tech expert by dialing a toll-free number, opening up a chat window online, or simply shooting out an email if they had a less urgent question or need. The cost to the member: It was included as a member benefit, covered by their annual association dues. In other words, it didn’t cost them an extra dime. Continue reading

broker risk managementLast fall, Form Simplicity added Broker Transaction Management as a standard feature at no additional cost to customers.

The reason this is significant is that perhaps no task is more mundane – yet more important – than the compliance issues that brokerage management faces. Broker Transaction Management creates a single place for real estate broker-owners to manage, review, approve, track and store every agent’s transaction activity from beginning to end.

It was also the motivation behind deploying these features without any additional costs to Form Simplicity customers because this need is universal: Every brokerage must deal with compliance issues every day. Broker transaction management tools shouldn’t be something you have to pay for separately; it should be a standard feature within every transaction management system.

Risk management
Reducing risk through compliance is a key role for real estate management. These new broker tools reduce risk through a customizable, automated, paperless review process that helps safeguard brokerage transactions to remain compliant.

First, brokers can collaborate with their agents throughout the transaction review process to ensure accuracy across a streamlined workflow. Second, these tools also offer office transparency: brokers track email and text correspondence for every transaction. This not only gives brokers visibility into each agent’s transaction activity, it also allows brokers to evaluate, comment on and approve all forms digitally submitted by their agents. Continue reading

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The annual Florida Realtors Convention certainly was in full force this year, and included many speakers with valuable information. I was lucky enough to get to sit in on some of the classes being offered to agents at the convention, and I was impressed by not only the information provided in the classes but also the professionalism and sheer desire to learn from the attending agents. Since real estate is such a visually driven business, accompanied with a growth in transactions and listings moving electronically, I thought providing a top five list of the best apps real estate agents can utilize in their business would be beneficial. Continue reading

fl realtorsEvery great company has a unique story that outlines their beginnings, from a simple idea to a full-blown product serving people all over the world. Form Simplicity was developed and created by REALTORS®, with the intent to develop a software program that would eliminate paper transactions and be the optimal tool for specifically, real estate agents. Now, with the real estate transaction management market booming, and fiercely competitive, why should real estate agents continue to look to Form Simplicity? It’s simple, look at how our parent organization, Florida Realtors began.

Florida Relators is the largest trade association in the state of Florida, currently at more than 140,000 members. The association was created 100 years ago in 1915 and still remains one of the state’s strongest organizations today. The mission statement of Florida Realtors reads, “to advance Florida’s real estate industry by shaping public policy on real property issues; encouraging, promoting and teaching consistent standards for ethical practice and professionalism; and building on the efforts of local Boards/Associations to provide the information and tools members need to succeed.”

In 2010, Form Simplicity was in the process of being developed to give real estate agents a tool that not only catered to their business demands, but provided a user interface, and resources, to make the program easy to implement for members.  Using the innovative ideas of Florida Realtors’ members that embrace change, the development staff began executing those ideas. The hard work of the development team produced a product that was able to capture the attention of other associations, MLSs, and multiple brokerages nationwide and aid in hundreds of thousands of paperless real estate transactions.

When Form Simplicity first launched in January 2011, it provided, many appealing features for real estate agents with ever-changing contracts and sales occurring. Online tools to storage, auto populate contact information and a library of digital, up-to-date forms, were included in the impressive tools utilized by Form Simplicity users. While other software programs include similar features, it is important to note that Form Simplicity includes product design and user configurations designed specifically in mind for REALTORS® executing real estate contracts/sales.

Form Simplicity offers affordable plans to both brokerages and associations alike and keeps up on the latest technologies to continually improve user’s experience. Since 2010, Form Simplicity has launched many upgrades and resources to further help real estate agents learn the software, and make the process of utilizing it that much easier. Some additions include: email to transaction, broker compliance tools, SMS and KBA verification for eSign, a help center for agents to reference, a blog featuring the latest news in the industry/software updates, and eSign markup.

Florida Realtors offers a personal troubleshooting team to all Form Simplicity users at no extra expense, the Tech Helpline staff. A seasoned team of IT specialists, based at the Florida Realtors offices, with over twenty years in the business are at your service when you call with questions. The Tech Helpline offers solutions to Form Simplicity, user interface issues and troubleshoots for general computer questions. The mission is to allow REALTORS® to focus more time during their day on building and growing their business, not battling their computer.

In short, Form Simplicity provides a transaction solution service that has its’ fair share of competitors and market demand. What makes us different is our mission to provide tools to help REALTORS® succeed, our Tech Helpline support staff and our audience. We are an organization made of REALTORS® developing products to better serve the real estate industry. Form Simplicity is a technology that strives to utilize technology to better assist agents and brokers. Just like REALTORS® nationwide, our door is always open, to both changes and feedback from our most vital customer, the REALTOR®.