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As more people rely on photos instead of in-person showings when renting apartments during the COVID-19 pandemic, AG Healey and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB) have partnered to issue an advisory warning the public about an apartment leasing scam and offering guidance on how to avoid falling victim to it.

Both the AG’s Office and GBREB have received complaints from prospective tenants, property management companies, and real estate agents about a scam involving fake apartment listings being posted online. The scammers use photos from real listings of homes for rent or sale, and at times even use the contact information of an actual listing agent or management company, and then post them on Craigslist or other online platforms. The scammers solicit deposits through these ads to be sent to them directly from tenants, who end up not actually securing an apartment to lease because of the fraudulent nature of the ads.

“This scam is the rental market equivalent of catfishing, and while it’s not new, we want the public to be aware of the increased risks during the pandemic,” said AG Healey. “Access to safe and reliable housing is essential to the vitality of our communities and we’ll continue to partner with stakeholders to ensure our residents are not losing money or left without a place to live.”

“Heartless scams like these cannot be tolerated. They are career damaging to hard working real estate professionals, and unscrupulous to consumers,” said Greg Vasil, CEO of GBREB. “The mission of the Real Estate Board is to expose them and protect both its membership and consumers from threats like these. If you have any doubt about a real estate listing, do not send any money before you are sure you’re working with a Licensed Realtor. Please report false ads to the proper authorities.”

To avoid falling victim to this scam, AG Healey and GBREB offer the following advice:

• Thorough inspection: Whenever possible, inspect an apartment carefully before signing a lease or paying a deposit.

• Use a broker: If you must rent an apartment unseen, don’t trust online advertisements—online apartment listings are just too easy to fake. Instead, use a licensed real estate broker or salesperson. You can verify a broker’s license online here.

• Watch for red flags: Keep an eye out for red flags such as poorly written ads, deals that are too good to be true, and requests for payment using untraceable methods.

• Only make secure payments: Never send a wire transfer, cashier’s check, or funds transfer to someone you’ve only met online. If they turn out to be a scammer, you won’t be able to get your money back.

• Protect your personal information: Don’t disclose your SSN or PayPal information to someone you’ve only met online. Meet your landlord in person before agreeing to a background check or ask the landlord to have the background check performed by a licensed real estate broker or salesperson.

• File a complaint: If you are the victim of an online apartment listing scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center at

• Report fraudulent ads: If you’re the owner of a property, realtor or property manager and find that someone else has altered your listing or listed your property for rent, report the fraudulent ad to the website’s point of contact for abuse immediately.

AG Healey’s Office is committed to helping Massachusetts residents access safe and reliable housing, especially throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AG Healey’s Community Engagement Division has held virtual trainings on tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to do so. Those interested in participating in a training can find the schedule here.

Visit AG Healey’s COVID-19 resource page for information about how the AG’s Office can provide support during this crisis.



Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By Ryan Rodenbeck

A strong onboarding program will help agents feel truly welcome and recognize that you put your agents’ needs at the top of your priority list

When you’re experiencing growth, a welcoming onboarding process is a must. In fact, there are a number of statistics that prove that onboarding new team members is one of the most crucial processes a company can build.

This Business Wire article shows that companies with a strong onboarding experience increased new hire retainment by 82 percent and production by 70 percent.

In the past 12-14 months, our company has gone from 12 agents to 34, and all but four are seasoned and producing agents. Last September, we started to see that we were going to need to build an onboarding process to handle the influx of agents.
I once read that a good onboarding process can make the difference between a new hire’s thought process of “I’m going to be at this place for a while” as opposed to a negative onboarding experience where the new team member would think, “this is just a stepping stone.”  

Knowing this, we wanted to build out a very welcoming process for our new agent recruits. Here’s how we did that.

1. Create a welcome video

I started with a video, introducing myself to new team members and letting them know that my door is always open. In the past, agents were reluctant to call or reach out to me. So, to avoid making this mistake again, I created a video introduction because I wanted them to know that, first and foremost, they could always come to me with any questions and concerns.

2. Use videos to help get them acclimated

My office manager meets with the agent in person (or through Zoom, as it is right now) and goes through a very broad and short list of the systems we use. We also let them know that they will be going through a Trello checklist that outlines the systems we use with video tutorials that are housed in our Workplace by Facebook account. 

We lined out a Trello board with a series of checklists that outlined technologies, services, meetings and procedures.

We start by saying, “We don’t expect these videos to teach you everything you need to know to operate our software, but it does give you familiarity with the programs so that when we meet with you after the onboarding list is complete, you will be more familiar with the programs.”

Then, we launch a series of videos for each technology piece. For example, one Trello board item might be a checklist of several short videos showing the CRM. And because these videos are housed in our Workplace by Facebook account (I believe Slack does much of the same), they can be referenced again and again by simply searching for them. 

3. Ask newbies to introduce themselves to the team

We are big proponents of video here at Spyglass Realty. So, as one of the final steps in the onboarding process, we ask the agent to complete a live video on Workplace introducing themselves to the rest of the brokerage. It sets the stage that video will be used and engages the rest of the team to send a welcome message. 

4. Ask for feedback

We ask agents to send us feedback about the onboarding process, which we take very seriously. 

5. Set up an agent development meeting

Our last step is setting up our first agent development meeting. This is where we look at the goals they want to accomplish. We let them know what weekly activities they need to complete to accomplish these goals and what systems, training and services are available from our firm to help them. This is like the cherry on top.

The result of all of this is that our agents feel truly welcomed. They recognize that we are a professional and organized team that puts agents’ needs at the top of our list of priorities. If you have not outlined an onboarding process, I would recommend you take the time to think about your processes and implement one.

Ryan Rodenbeck is the broker-owner of Spyglass Realty and Investments in Austin. Connect with him on Instagram. 
How to Build an Onboarding Process That’ll Grow With Your Team


Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Jennie Norris

Staging adds value to the sale — but it should not break your bank. As an agent, use these seven tips to protect your income when incorporating home staging into your listing process

Real estate agents are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. Some agents invest their own dollars to prepare and market properties, paying for services on behalf of their seller to ensure the house is ready for buyers to see prior to hitting the market.

One of the key value-added services is home staging. According to NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Staging, “83 percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.”

Sellers need to make sure their houses are show-ready, and throughout the years, home-staging industry members have seen a steady increase in the number of agents providing this as part of the marketing services to prepare and successfully sell a property. 

Real estate agents hire a professional home stager to provide a staging consultation for the sellers where they receive detailed information on what to do room by room to prepare their house for sale. A consultation costs somewhere between $250-$500 around the country, and agents consider it part of their marketing strategy and pay for it on behalf of the seller. 

But what happens if the property needs more than a consultation? Many houses need the addition of furniture and decor brought into empty rooms in a house or added to supplement homeowner’s items to fill the gaps and provide a more updated look for buyers.

Sellers may not have the available cash flow to pay for professional staging, so agents are offering to pay for the hands-on staging and inventory fees because they know the staging will help the house sell faster and at a better price. It is a win-win for the agent-seller team.

The challenge is that the market can be unpredictable. Agents are not in charge of the market and can’t guarantee a house will sell in a certain time frame, although they approach every listing with the strategy of getting the house under contract quickly.

There are external factors that impact the market including interest rates, the economy and other properties that are for sale. When agents offer to pay for staging services, they need to make sure to protect their commission and provide creative solutions to their sellers.

So, here are seven tips to keep in mind when incorporating home staging into your listing process.

1. Get an estimate for the staging before you establish your commission

The staging should be an add-on service that’s covered by the commission. If you don’t get a price for the staging first and then agree to adjust your commission in order to secure a listing, you are now receiving less money for the sale.

Most agents who incorporate this strategy of paying for staging use staging as a way to validate being paid more than another agent who isn’t bringing staging to the table. Depending on what pricing you received from the stager, you would increase your commission percentage by 0.25 or 0.5 percent to pay for the initial staging. You could increase it by 1 percent or more if the house is luxury property.

In most markets, this small increase in commission earned will cover the initial staging investment. Contact your stager to get a price for staging the main rooms of the house, and use that as a guideline when negotiating your commission.

2. Do not pressure your stager for ‘the price’ to stage when they haven’t seen the property yet

You want to know what the costs will be so you can determine how you will structure your commission. However, a professional home stager usually needs to see the house to provide you with accurate pricing. This is ideally done in person, but it can also be done using photos.

Experienced stagers can give a price “range,” but it could still be inaccurate if they haven’t really seen the house. Some stagers provide pricing based on list price, square footage or number of rooms being staged. With this type of pricing, you need to ensure you’re getting the appropriate style, volume of furnishings and quality that’s in line with the type of property you’re listing.

When an agent guesses the cost or doesn’t get an accurate estimate, they risk their commission. Since they don’t own the staging business and don’t know how stagers price their services, they may misquote the price.

When the stager provides the estimate, the listing agent then ends up saying, “I’m paying for this, and I did not budget enough for the staging.” Getting the estimate up front before negotiating commission ensures agents don’t end up getting less than they deserve for selling the house.

3. Make sure to cap the amount you’re contributing toward the staging

If furniture and decor are provided, there can be an ongoing fee paid for inventory supply or rental. The items ideally need to stay in place until the house is under contract and they can be safely removed. This could be in a month — or several months after the initial staging.

When agents don’t cap the amount they’re contributing, the ongoing inventory use fee is added to the amount paid by the agent, which means you are making less and less commission.

At this point, since you’re not able to renegotiate your commission, the ongoing fees will come out of your earnings. This could add up to thousands of dollars, and when the seller is benefiting the most from the sale, they need to be the ones paying for the ongoing staging investment.

4. Share what (if anything) you’re willing to pay toward the staging, and put it in writing

What we recommend you share with the seller is, “I will contribute up to [insert dollar amount] toward the staging, and then any fees beyond that will be your responsibility.” If the seller is not able to pay up front, you can say, “I will cover the costs associated with the initial staging and will be reimbursed at the successful close.”

There is a risk involved as the client could decide to cancel the listing. Make sure to protect your money in the agreement sharing, “If for any reason the house is removed from active listing or other changes occur [you] will be paid in full for the staging investment paid on behalf of [client]”

When you are willing to pay a portion of the staging, ideally, have the seller pay up front and reimburse them at the successful close for what you want to contribute. “I will pay [dollar amount] towards the staging cost, and it will be paid to you at the successful close of the sale.”

That’s the ideal scenario, as you are not paying out of pocket for any of the staging services, and if anything happens to the client or sale, you are not risking leaving money behind.

If you just want to provide a consultation, you would share, “I will pay for the services of a professional staging consultation where you will receive detailed recommendations on what to do to prepare your house for sale. Any additional staging services would be paid by you.” Always make sure the terms are in writing in your contract and are clearly understood by the homeowners.

5. Do not quote pricing for the staging unless you received it from your stager

Your clients may ask you what the staging will cost. If you haven’t received proposals and pricing for staging, please don’t guess what you think it should be. You may end up setting false expectations for the sellers, and the pricing could be way off — either too low or too high.

There are other factors to consider with the staging, and it’s best to put the emphasis on the results they want versus the price. Lastly, let the stager negotiate any price adjustments, and be the one to explain the services and how they work.

One key point to share is that “the investment in staging is always less than a price reduction or a lower starting price.” And staging is a tax deduction (IRS Publication 523), whereas a price reduction or lower starting price is just a loss of equity.

6. Always quantify the value of any services you’re paying for on behalf of the seller

This helps them understand your commitment and contribution in helping them sell their property. When a person gets things for free, it’s human nature to not really assign any value to the service or item, and a nonchalant attitude seems to prevail.

Let sellers know you’re investing in the sale of their house. Give them the value, and reinforce your quality reputation and standards. This applies for staging and any other preparation services such as cleaning, carpet cleaning, window washing, landscape touch-up, photography and virtual tours. When there is no value, there is no appreciation or understanding of the benefits you’re providing versus what other agents are offering. 

7. Be creative with options for staging and needed home improvements, and connect with companies that provide this service

There are companies that partner with IAHSP (International Association of Home Staging Professionals) members and will pay for any improvements needed for a property and require the house to be staged. They pay for all the services up front and get reimbursed with an added fee for loaning the funds.

They evaluate the property, make sure there’s enough equity or margin in the sale to cover all the closing costs, agent commissions and their fees, and provide all the financial resources for whatever work needs to be done prior to listing.

A professional stager who is a part of this program is vetted by them in advance and can share the names and contacts for the company. This option helps protect and preserve your and your sellers’ money as you are not having to put out anything up front for the prep and staging of the property.

If you decide to contribute a portion toward the staging, you can put that in your contract and have it paid at closing. One of the great aspects of this program is the companies providing the services to repair, remodel, improve and stage the house are paid when they do the work and do not have to wait for the house to close. You won’t have to ask anyone to wait to be paid, which can be a hardship for these affiliate companies. 

Use these seven tips to help you protect your income while being seen as a Realtor who does more for your sellers than the average agent. Staging adds value to the sale — but it should not break your bank.

Jennie Norris is the chairwoman of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.
7 Tips For Protecting Your Commission When Staging

Tax-Reduction Strategies for the Real Estate Professional

Don’t let the NEW 2020 Tax DEDUCTIONS pass you by!

Tuesday, October 6
10:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
Free to attend

Register Here

In this 75-minute interactive remote seminar you will learn:

  • WHY your accountant can’t "just take" your New Tax Deductions for you.
  • WHY you may want to buy a new or pre-owned car sooner than you think…the great 2020 “makeover” of the CAR DEDUCTION rules you will want to take advantage of!
  • HOW to safely qualify your home office for big tax deductions, even if you spend most of your office time at a branch office.
  • THE New…and Improved… food and beverage deductions for real estate professionals that you probably don’t know about

And much more…

After this seminar, you’ll have what you need to bring to your tax accountant, so you qualify for thousands of dollars more in deductions.

Busy? The short time you invest in this seminar will translate immediately to money, your money!

About your Instructor:

Charles Davis is a tax professional and financial advisor. Charlie's thorough understanding of tax planning and tax reduction strategies stems from his successful tax practice which is focused on helping real estate professionals and the self-employed reduce their taxes and preserve their assets. Having been personally selected and trained by W. Murray Bradford, he has worked with Bradford and Company, Inc., since 2000. With a proven record as a speaker, Charlie is a recognized professional with hundreds of nationally taught sessions on tax strategies for the self-employed professional. Charlie's mix of financial expertise and self-employed know-how make his live programs exciting and relevant for any self-employed professional.

Keep More of Your Money in 2020: Free Remote Seminar 10/6!


Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Erica Ramus

This July, Inman’s editorial theme is Teams — what it takes to build and join one, how to optimize your team for summer 2020, and even when to consider leaving one. And if you’re not already a subscriber to our Teams Beat email newsletter, sent every Thursday, sign up now.

Last month, I wrote about energizing your agents without breaking the bank, focusing on how to keep them motivated and engaged even in difficult times. But what do you do when they’re struggling — really fighting — just to pay their bills and stay in this business?

In times when real estate is easy and houses fly off the market, our Realtor ranks swell. Then the cycle turns, we hit financial bumps (or full-out raging recession) and membership drops.

This is a polarizing time. I see agents closing deals as if we’re still in 2019. (Case in point: One member of my office closed seven transactions while I was away for the holiday weekend.)

And I’m seeing others who barely poke their head into the office to check in. As the broker or team leader, how do you keep those in the office to check in. As the broker or team leader, how do you keep those in the second category from checking out completely? Here are a few tips.

1. Check their pulse

During the first COVID-19 shutdown, we were caught off guard. I shut the doors and ordered everyone to stay home. But I didn’t stop communicating.

Our private Facebook page became our chat board, and I noticed who was posting and commenting, and who went silent. Everyone copes differently with stress. You need to know how they’re truly doing.

In my planner, I kept a log of every agent in our office, and I’d check off the names of whoever I spoke with. Every day, I called two or three agents just to chat. If you have less than 10 or 15 agents in your office, you can make it a daily routine to call three a day to cover the whole group once a week.

Of course, they still called me when they had questions or problems, but by reaching out deliberately just to check in when nothing was wrong, I was able to hear who was in good spirits. I knew the agents who were making their client calls, and those who were probably curled up in a ball on the couch.

2. Make it personal

In my calls, I usually started out with “What’s up?” Then, I let them take it from there. I asked about their family and how they were handling personal things. On Zoom calls and FaceTime, I got to see a bit more of their home lives — the inside of their houses, their kids and pets.

Some brokers don’t want to get too personal with their agents (it’s just business). After doing this for 20 years, I honestly feel I cannot and do not want to be super tight BFFs with agents in my office. I need some personal space and boundaries.
But I do want to know them and like them, and I want to hear about their struggles. You can’t do that if you never ask and — more importantly — listen (and I mean, truly listen) to what they have to say.

3. Watch your dashboards

Even when someone says they are fine, you’ll know they’re struggling by watching your brokerage metrics. I can see when an agent is not logging into the company CRM for days at a time, or even weeks.

I check our transaction management platform for activity. Who is creating transaction rooms and starting to fill out paperwork, and who has not started a new file in weeks? Maybe they aren’t out there listing or showing homes. Are they making prospecting calls? Are they checking in with past clients?

These are red flags that someone is disengaging with either your company or with real estate in general. It also could be a sign that someone has gotten another job (to pay the bills) or is leaving your firm for another one.

Don’t just ignore these signs. Try to have a face-to-face (even if it’s just Zoom or FaceTime) chat with this person so you can see their body language and not just hear their voice. Ask if the agent truly is alright and if there is anything you can help them with right now. You won’t know if you never ask.

4. Be prepared to help

Once someone opens up, give them your full attention. Listen with intention. Small, consistent acts of kindness and attention build strong relationships — not just with clients, but also your team.

In some cases, you may be able to offer guidance and assistance. Are their leads down? Can you divert some company leads into their funnel? If they are struggling with focus, can you coach them back to a good place where they are making their prospecting calls and working on their business? Can you connect the agent to someone who can give them help in whatever their struggle is right now?

5. Stay in your lane

In other cases, the situation may be out of your control. I’m seeing agents struggle with financial pressures right now, which will probably lead them to drop out of the business. Pushing them to stay when they need to feed their families and get a reliable paycheck may not be the best answer to their problems.

I know a broker who made the mistake of getting extremely close to one of her agents who was in a bad marriage. The agent would come into the office and vent to the broker about her issues, and the broker took to advising her on her relationship (which she felt was abusive). Each time, the agent went back to the husband and seemed to then resent the broker’s well-intended advice. It eventually caused a rift between the broker and agent.

Relationship issues, health problems, money — all of these are out of your wheelhouse. You can guide the agent to a place where they can get help, but you can’t fix all of their problems.

Finally, not all agents will make it. Our drop-out rate is notoriously high as an industry. Some people may love real estate but are just not cut out to make it during the rough times. There is no shame in calling it quits and finding a path that brings you a steady source of income or other perks your family may need.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate.
5 Ways to Support Struggling Team Members
Dear Greater Boston REALTORS® and Friends,
The death of George Floyd and the subsequent acts of violence and civil disobedience that have taken place across our country during these past two weeks are upsetting and difficult to watch. They point to the anger, frustration and pain being felt by so many who have witnessed or been the victim of discrimination and injustice. Unfortunately, these experiences are all too common and have persisted for far too long across our nation.
As REALTORS® we pledge ourselves to uphold the fair housing laws and to provide equal treatment to all persons in the housing search and sale processes. And, as an association we are committed to a culture of inclusion and respect, fostering a welcoming environment for all types of business models, and advancing public policies that ensure diverse, cohesive, and safe communities for everyone.
It is in this spirit that we support the rights of the courageous protesters speaking out against inequality in our society and the many voices demanding change. No one should ever be made to feel excluded, treated unfairly, or be in fear for their life because of their race, skin color, or any other demographic factor. 
However, there also is no justification for those persons who have used recent public demonstrations to destroy public and private property. These actions have been disheartening and they should not be a distraction from the message of the protesters.
REALTORS® have long been known for being good neighbors, whether it be through their investment in civic and charitable causes, support of community improvement and revitalization projects, or volunteerism serving in elected and appointed roles in local government. The adversity we’re facing today offers an opportunity for all of us to do our part to change the course of history through positive action and leadership in our communities. 
Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® 
A Statement on Equality from GBAR

Education & Events

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YPN: The Leveraged Agent; How To Let Go?
Sep 22, 2020
Brunch & Learn: Selling The Sun (Live Webinar)
Sep 24, 2020
Live Webinar Course
REALTOR® Party Comedy Night Via Webinar
Sep 24, 2020
Live Webinar Event
Rentals The Right Way! (Live Webinar)
Sep 28, 2020 - Sep 29, 2020
Live Webinar Course
CE Webinar: Buyer Agency
Oct 05, 2020
CE Webinar: Real Estate Professional Ethics
Oct 16, 2020
Live Webinar Course
Brunch & Learn: Residential Mortgage Loan & Credit Webinar
Oct 23, 2020
Live Webinar Course
CE Webinar: Disclosures..Disclosures..Disclosures
Nov 09, 2020
CE Webinar: Real Estate Professional Ethics
Dec 03, 2020
Live Webinar Course


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YPN: The Leveraged Agent; How To Let Go?
Brunch & Learn: Selling The Sun (Live Webinar)
Live Webinar Course
REALTOR® Party Comedy Night Via Webinar
Live Webinar Event


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