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Avoiding Real Estate Email Scams

Real Estate Email Scam

As business owners, real estate agents have a lot of their professional information online. It’s easy to find, and unfortunately, that means it’s easy to abuse.

Sometimes you can’t stop someone from using your professional information in a wrong way, but you can help report the issue and avoid falling victim to scams using other Realtors’® professional information.

An Iowa Realtor®, Wendy Dietz, has been dealing with a nightmare email scam for over a year. A scammer created fake email addresses under her name and has been emailing other real estate agents claiming to have customers interested in their listings. Those who were responded were sent an attachment or Google Drive link that had a virus.

What to Do If You’re Used in a Scam

Unfortunately, for this type of email scam, there’s nothing that the user can do to prevent their name from being misused. However, there are steps you can take to keep your real email account secure and avoid having your legitimate contacts stolen.

Some steps that can help secure your email include:

  • Keep your eyes open. Make sure nothing in your email, including junk mail and your sent folder, looks unusual.
  • Use virus software and keylogging blockers all the time. Yes, occasionally they block something that isn’t a problem, but it’s well worth it for all the actual hacks that are also blocked.
  • Don’t send confidential information via email.
  • Use strong passwords and don’t do business on unsecured or public wi-fi.
  • Most of all, if your identity is stolen in this way, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), FBI, and local authorities.

When you take steps to keep your email and private information secure, you’re less likely to have someone break into your real email account. The other scam relies on fake email addresses, which others can be on the lookout for.

Avoid Being Taken By a Scam

On the other side, there’s a lot more a recipient can do to avoid being fooled by a scam. It’s also vital to report scam emails to your broker, your email provider, and the person who’s identity has been stolen.

To avoid being fooled by a scam email:

  • Pay attention to the from email address. In the case of Wendy Dietz, the from email address did not match any of her actual contact information. That’s a clear giveaway that the email is not from her.
  • Notice grammar mistakes. Often scammers are not native English speakers and the text of an email will give away that it’s not from the supposed sender. In Wendy’s case, the email being sent was one single run-on sentence, asking recipients for help in their “area of expert.” If it doesn’t sound like it’s from a professional, it’s probably not.
  • Never open links or attachments for information unless you know for sure it’s legitimate. If you have any doubt, call the sender to verify that the attachment is real and safe.
  • Report scam emails by clicking on your email providers “Report spam” or “Report phishing” button. Enough reports can get a scammers IP address blocked.

It’s hard to prevent scam emails from being sent, but it’s much easier to detect them and avoid falling for the trap. By taking these steps, you’re less likely to be victimized.

It’s an unfortunate reality that the internet gives us both opportunities and dangers. If someone can steal money or information using fake emails, they will try to do it. Do your best to secure your real email account, and as a recipient be careful what you open and respond to. Together, we can keep each other safe.

How to Be the Realtor® Others Want to Work With

Realtor Others Want to Work With

I ran across an article the other day describing what a home seller should look for in a Realtor®. There were a variety of criteria about how to find a Realtor® who will give you a good experience in selling your home.

It really made me think about how often we, as Realtors®, think about being the Realtor® our clients want to work with. Of course, we all know that most clients don’t interview very many real estate agents before they make a choice. But that doesn’t let us off the hook.

Are you someone a buyer or seller would want to work with? Here are some ways to be sure.

You Still Have Your Fire

Real estate is TOUGH. You lose time with your family, and it can be hard to have anything that resembles a work/life balance. The old saying, “I only work half-days, and I can pick whichever 12 hours I want” really applies.

In addition, there’s a lot of pressure to say “Everything is great!” about your business when it really isn’t. You want to be positive in front of everyone because you never know who might be planning to ask you about selling or buying a home. That false front takes a toll.

Finally, feeling like you have to justify your value every time you make a pitch can get very tiring. You care so much about the outcome, but you have so little control.

All of this makes it easy to lose your passion. However, a real estate agent that’s just going through the motions isn’t someone a buyer or seller wants to work with. Fortunately, there are ways to reignite your fire if it’s going out.

You’re an Expert

It’s much easier to become a real estate agent than it should be, really. By studying the laws and passing an exam, you can put out your shingle. Of course, it takes much more than that to be a quality real estate agent.

To be a Realtor® that stands out, make sure you’re an expert on your target neighborhoods. This doesn’t just mean knowing the market values, it means knowing the events, new stores, school systems, and more.

Find ways to be present in your target area, even if you don’t live there. Volunteer, shop in those areas, walk your dog in target neighborhoods, and join local associations. Be as connected as possible, and be a real expert. It will make you stand out from “book-knowledge” agents and clients will want to work with you.

You Use a Mix of Marketing

Some clients will simply not hire you if you don’t have a website. In fact, without an online presence, a significant portion of your possible customers won’t even find you!

At the same time, don’t overlook the importance of great print marketing, especially Just Listed and Just Sold postcards. There’s less competition in the mailbox than anywhere else right now, and that makes Realtors® who use print marketing really shine!

When you can point to a clear mix of marketing techniques, a potential client will have much more confidence in you as an agent. It will help them understand your value as well as helping them realize that you’re well-prepared to sell their home for top dollar or help them find the home they’ve always dreamed of.

You Have Great References, Online Reviews, and Testimonials

Referrals can be a huge source of business for successful real estate agents, but references, reviews, and testimonials are just as important. If someone hasn’t heard of you before, or has only met you once, why should they believe you’re a quality Realtor®?

Someone who is looking to hire you is likely to research you online before they call. When you have great online reviews and testimonials, they’ll be much more likely to want to work with you. One great idea is to have a happy client do a quick video testimonial right after a deal closes. Their enthusiasm will be contagious!

One thing that’s important is making sure that your reviews and testimonials are recent. If your last great review is a client from three years ago, prospects will wonder if you’ve been in business since! If you make asking for a review part of your process, you’ll make sure that you’ll always have recent testimonies.

You’re Easy to Get Along With

There’s good news and bad news on this one. The good news is that you don’t need to change your personality type in order to be a successful Realtor®. Different types of clients need different types of real estate agents, and no matter what your personality, there are clients who will click with you.

The bad news is that everyone has bad habits that need work in order for them to be truly easy to get along with in a professional transaction. Here are some traits you want to develop to make others more likely to choose you as an agent:

  • Empathy. You don’t have to be emotional or mushy, and you don’t have to ask for a list of your client’s woes. However, you do need to be able to respond empathetically to others even while you move the conversation back to business.
  • Perspective. Think about the transaction from your customer’s point of view. You may buy and sell houses for a living, but if it’s their first home, they’re probably scared. Combine this with empathy, above, and help them feel understood and comfortable.
  • Listening. Are you constantly trying to multi-task, checking your phone while your client is talking to you? Do you feel the need to have an answer for everything, and plan your response while someone is talking? Active listening is a skill few people have. If you develop it, you’ll be great as an agent.
  • Communication. Agents get frustrated about a lack of communication from clients, but it goes the other way too. No matter how busy you are, don’t “ghost” on someone – that is, don’t stop answering messages in a timely manner. Be a great communicator and make sure the client knows what to expect every step of the way.

Being a great agent isn’t easy. However, these five traits help make you the Realtor® others will want to work with. If you can develop them all, you’ll stand head-and-shoulders above your competition!!

If you’re ready to set up your marketing mix with some great print marketing, Printerbees is your go-to source. We have dozens of templates and professional designers who can help you customize anything you need. Contact us today!

Properly using “REALTOR®” in Your Marketing

Using Realtor® Correctly

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has registered a trademark on REALTOR®, and they’re very serious about protecting that trademark. Properly using “REALTOR®” in your marketing can save you from a lot of headaches, problems, and financial liability.

If you do misuse the term REALTOR® in any of your print marketing, social media or website name or materials, or email communication, NAR can take action against you. These actions range from a simple letter asking you to correct the problem, to actually having your social media account or website shut down.

Keep in mind that NAR’s goal is to stop the misuse of the term REALTOR®, and they consider legal action a last resort. With this in mind, let’s look out how you can correctly use the term and avoid any problems.

REALTOR® is Preferred by NAR, But…

There is a bit of leeway there. Which is good, because having the same word appear in all caps throughout an article or page is distracting for the reader, and can ruin written/printed copy you’ve worked so hard on. So a more modest “Realtor®” usage is acceptable.

“The National Association of Realtors, recognizing that putting registered symbols or all-caps REALTORs throughout text can easily dilute the message of the text for the general public, allows the third preferred use of Realtor, with just an initial capital letter,” wrote Jim Frimmer, Real Estate Agent with HomeSmart Realty West.

If you read NAR’s blogs and news releases, they often go with “Realtors®”, clearly seeing that it’s the least intrusive version to a story’s copy.

In fact, to take it step further, Realty Times is one of the most respected real estate news sites on the entire web, and they feel that simply using Realtors, without the ® is more than acceptable. In fact, when a reader tried to call them out on their simple use of the term, they responded with:

“It is common media practice to use the term “Realtor” with a capital “R” and nothing more — otherwise newspapers and magazines would be filled with copyright marks and content would be difficult to read.”

NAR considers this far less than ideal, but generally allows the media to do this.

Things to Avoid When Using the Term Realtor®

You have to be very specific, so there are a number of common mistakes you can make:

  • “Realtor™” is incorrect, the term is registered, not trademarked.
  • “Realtor©” is incorrect, the term is registered, not copywritten.
  • “realtor” is incorrect. The term in all lower case is never correct.

And there are a few no-no’s for the word Realtor® itself:

  • The term REALTOR® must refer to a member or a member’s firm.
  • The term REALTOR® may not be used with descriptive words or phrases. For example, Number1realtor.com.
  • The term REALTOR® should never be used to denote an occupation or business. Do not combine words like “your,” “my,” “our” or any descriptive words or phrases between your name and the membership mark. Like JaneDoeMyRealtor.com.

And there are even more rules for how you can properly use “the big R” in your logo. There is an entire style guide you need to be aware of when creating your brand. For example, you cannot use the R to begin any other words, like you see here:

Bad R Use

How to Create The ® Symbol on Your Keyboard

A lot of people don’t put the registered mark next to the word, because, well, they don’t know how. It’s actually quite simple:

On a PC:

  • Make sure that Num Lock is on.
  • Hold down the Alt key.
  • Type 0174 on the numeric keypad.

On Mac:

  • Hold down alt and r at the same time

Now that you know the rules, you can easily stay out of trouble. Remember that REALTOR® is the official version. Realtors® is perfectly acceptable, and so is Realtor®. Just don’t use an all lowercase “realtor”.

Do you need to update your print materials to use “Realtor®” correctly? We can help. Click here to select your design and your layout.

7 Can’t Miss Tax Tips for Realtors®

Tax Tips for Realtors

It’s that time of year again – tax season is upon us. Instead of the usual rush to the finish line on the night before April 15th, why not get a jump start on your taxes this year? That way you’ll be done and able to focus on business during the busy spring season. A good place to start is getting your deductions in order.

That’s right – deductions. As a Realtor®, there are numerous deductions you should be taking that will save you money on your taxes in the long run. As long as an expense is necessary, not out of the ordinary, and deemed appropriate for your business, there’s a pretty solid chance that you’ll be able to write it off as a deduction.

To help you prepare for tax season, we came up with a list of tax tips and commonly missed deductions, specifically for Realtors®. Take a look and give them a try…

  1. Mileage and Auto Expenses

You probably know by now that you can deduct gas and mileage used for business purposes, but did you also know that this deduction applies to things like parking fees and tolls as well? These small fees may not seem like a lot, but over time, they definitely add up so be sure to keep track.

As far as mileage goes, don’t slack on your record keeping! If you’re looking for a great way to keep track of your miles, give Mile IQ a try. An Apple app, it’s easily downloadable and once set up, automatically tracks the miles you drive so you don’t even have to think about it.

  1. Office Space and Supplies

This is a great one, especially if you work out of your home. Any portion of your home or apartment that is regularly used for business can be written off as a tax deduction. And don’t forget about utilities – you can write a percentage of those off too!

Plus, any office supplies you use throughout the year can also be written off. Whether it’s pencils, staples computer paper, or the actual computer, you can write it off as a business expense.

  1. Advertising Expenses

Did you know that you can deduct and money spent on advertising and/or marketing throughout the year? This deduction is lesser known that some of the others out there, but is effective in saving you tax dollars.

And don’t forget that advertising expenses extend to print advertising costs as well, including things such as business cards and postcards. If you used them to promote your business, don’t forget to include them in your deductions.

  1. Education and Training for You and Employees

Investing in learning and development for you and your employees is critical to the growth and success of your real estate company. Plus, all things related to training and education are also – you guessed it – tax deductible! If you sent your employees to a training seminar or educational conference, you can definitely write that off – double bonus.

  1. Tax Forms and Documents

Don’t forget to fill out the proper tax documents for any contractors and employees you have. This can be a time-consuming process, especially if you haven’t kept up with it throughout the year, but don’t let that get in your way. Take the time to properly complete tax documents – it will save you a lot of time and a large headache in the long run.

  1. Gifts for Clients

Did you purchase thank-you gifts for your clients this year? Don’t forget to include them in your deductions. This is an often forgotten deduction, so be sure not to overlook it!

  1. Stay Organized with Evernote

Even if your 2015 tax receipts and forms are a mess, it’s not too late to start planning for 2016. Staying organized and keeping good records throughout the year is much easier than having to go back and double check everything at the last minute. Do yourself a favor and download the Evernote app. This little app is a serious life saver, and can be used to keep track of everything from appointments to expenses. The initial version is free, so give it a try today!

With these 7 tax tips in your arsenal, you’re ready to conquer tax season like a pro. Don’t wait until it’s too late – start working on your taxes and deductions today. You’ll thank yourself in the spring when you’re listing homes and other Realtors® are stressing about taxes!