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Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Linnette Edwards and Cameron Platt

Don't make the major mistake of not communicating with your clients and prospects during this time of uncertainty. It could define the rest of your career. Here's how to do it right.

As the novel coronavirus spreads and business-as-usual slows or screeches to a halt in many areas, communication between real estate agents and clients is more crucial than ever.

The biggest mistake agents and brokers can make right now? Not using this time to shine as trusted real estate advisers by crafting responsible, thoughtful, factual and compassionate messaging.

Our responses as individuals and brokerages will define us for the rest of our working lives. It’s going to be brutal, but if we continue to point to the true north that is our unwavering commitment to our clients, we will emerge better than we were before.

“The last thing you want to do in a crisis is put blinders on and ignore the big purple polka-dotted elephant in the room,” Theresa Maloney, president of Silicon Valley-based Cogenta Communications, recently said.

“Not hearing anything from you is worse. Then people start making up their own narratives,” added Maloney, who has more than 25 years of experience with crisis communications during several market swings.

Some agents might assume their audience, exhausted by our 24/7 news cycle, doesn’t want or need to hear from them.

But they’d be wrong.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where we’ve been under shelter-in-place orders since March 16, our brokerage’s first email, blog post and social media messages related to the effects of COVID-19 on our market logged our highest click-through rate ever — over 50 percent.

People are feeling isolated, anxious and hungry for communications as the pandemic shakes up our economy.

Like everything in life, there’s a right way and a wrong way

Whether you connect with your sphere of influence via emails, social media posts, videos, print — or all of the above — you are obligated to share assurances and information in the most thoughtful way possible.

“This has to be a priority,” said Abio Properties Associate Broker Elisabeth Watson, who took the lead on preparing our communications.

For us, ensuring that our first messages included the best information and tone — personal yet authoritative — wasn’t easy, especially when news about interest rates, financial markets, and the wisdom of holding open houses changed at least three times on the day we planned to push out our communication.

We started by forming a leadership council of experienced agents and brokers to strategize, check and double-check our messaging.

And then we followed these guidelines:

1. Utilize the 3 Cs of crisis communications

• Compassion: Acknowledge that we’re all in this together and experiencing the same impacts, uncertainty and new reality that’s changing by the day.
• Confidence: Communicate in a voice that conveys your personality as well as confidence that you are doing everything in your power to provide accurate information.
• Competency: Along with providing assurances, give facts you can back up. Don’t over-reach and pretend you have all the answers if you don’t (and you probably don’t).

Brokerages and agents who communicate quickly and often, even if they don’t have all the answers right away, will make a lasting impression on their clients, advised Mary Tindall, a Florida-based brand strategist experienced in crisis communications.

“Make it about your clients, not about you,” Tindall said. “Focus less on ‘our official response to this circumstance’ and more on meeting their needs with clarity and empathy.”

2. Don’t assume you have nothing to add to the conversation

Some agents assume their SOI has “email fatigue” after being flooded with communications about the virus. You know it’s overload when you receive COVID-19 messages from every single business you ever set foot in. Even Lululemon.

But from our recent experience with high open rates and clicks, we know clients are eager for specific real estate information.

3. Get your facts straight

It’s your job is to stay up-to-date with your market’s MLS statistics, interest rates, and financial market trends so you can answer your clients’ most pressing questions.

To keep informed as broker-owners, we are sitting in on Zoom conferences with industry leaders discussing the real estate market, bond market and interest rates and then sharing that info with our agents.

We are also constantly in touch with agents so we know which mortgage brokers, title, permitting offices, etc., remain in operation. We are asking agents to share what they know — everything from virtual tools that work to mortgage loan and refinancing delays.

Stay tight with your brokerage community; this isn’t the time for shady competition that flouts shelter-in-place orders and endangers public safety in pursuit of a commission.
 
We, for example, joined with many Bay Area brokerages to set clear guidelines, including no in-person showings and not letting appraisers, inspectors, photographers, etc.,

 into a property in person, even if the property is vacant.

When you share this pertinent info with your SOI, include links to reputable websites so readers can take a deeper dive if they want.

4. Be personal

Social distancing does not apply to virtual communications! Your tone should be warm. Bring your personality. Readers will gloss over dry copy.

We love how agents and brokerage are letting their personalities shine through by ending their messages with an uplifting or funny (but not irreverent) “We’re all in this together” quote, meme or video.

Now more than ever, people need to know they are in your thoughts.

5. Be brief

You don’t need a preamble that explains everything that’s happening in the world. Get to the point. In fact, get to the bullet points, which are easier to digest than long paragraphs. The question-and-answer format also works well, too.

6. Write a relevant email subject line

How many emails have you received recently with the subject line “COVID-19 update” or “A letter from (fill-in-the-blank company name)”? And how many of those did you open?

Want more engagement? Be specific with your subject lines and headlines. Make it clear you have important information or can fulfill a need.

We like subject lines that ask a question, like this: “Buy, Sell or Wait? COVID-19 and Bay Area Real Estate.”

7. Include next steps

All good crisis communications include a “What’s next?” section. (A great example is this update from North Berkeley Wealth Management.) Share your next steps and calls-to-action (CTAs):
How often you will send updates. (We are planning weekly emails and blog updates, plus daily social media messages that vary between informative and light-hearted entertainment about our shelter-in-place, work-from-home lifestyles and BINGO.)
Assurances that you can move fast as circumstances change.
Assurances that this situation won’t last forever, and when normal everyday living resumes, you are ready to move swiftly on behalf of clients.
If you’ve worked through market swings in the past, such as the 2008 housing crisis, invite readers to chat with you about how you helped clients weather a storm.
Suggestions about what clients can do in the meantime: home improvement projects, DIY projects, decluttering, getting financial documents in order, etc. Repurpose your content.

 The difference between crafting a good communication and a bad one is like the difference between hiring a good home stager (and scoring above-asking bids) and not staging at all (and watching a property languish on the market).

Your legacy when this is over could sustain your business for decades and drive your survival.

 Linnette Edwards and Cameron Platt are co-founders of Abio Properties, a boutique real estate brokerage launched in 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are passionate about building an indie agency that embraces a culture of transparency, collaboration, innovation, fun, and family. Linnette is a top 1% producer and broker associate with nearly 20 years in the industry. Cameron is a “recovering” attorney and broker with more than 17 years of experience managing agents and running a top-producing team.

7 Essential Tips for Communicating With Your Sphere During Crisis

Article Courtesy of: National Association of REALTORS® HUB
By: Austin Perez

FEMA is extending the grace period to renew flood insurance policies from 30 to 120 days in order to help NFIP policyholders experiencing financial hardships.

FEMA continues to take proactive steps to address the COVID-19 pandemic and to help serve its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) customers who may be experiencing financial hardships, the agency is extending the grace period to renew flood insurance policies from 30 to 120 days.

To avoid a lapse in coverage, there is typically a 30-day grace period to renew National Flood Insurance Program policies. However, due to the widespread economic disruption arising from this pandemic, FEMA recognizes that policyholders may not meet the standard deadline.

This extension will allow additional time for policyholders who may be struggling financially to pay insurance premiums and ensure their policies are not cancelled for nonpayment of premium due to circumstances beyond their control.

If a policy has an expiration date between February 13, 2020 and June 15, 2020, then the NFIP insurer must receive the appropriate renewal premium within 120 days of the expiration date to avoid a lapse in coverage. Likewise, if a policyholder receives an underpayment notice dated between February 13, 2020, and June 15, 2020, then the NFIP insurer must receive the additional premium amount requested within 120 days of the date of the notice.

Policyholders who need additional time to pay their premiums, beyond the 120-day extension, should contact their agent or insurer to inquire about other options the insurer may offer for premium payment.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of External Affairs, Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Division at (202) 646-3444 or at FEMA-IGA@fema.dhs.gov

FEMA Extends Flood Insurance Renewal Period
GBREB NEWS

MEMBER RESOURCES

Information is rapidly changing.  GBREB will update this post as new information becomes available. There's a lot of information about government's response to COVID-19, however we have narrowed the focus of this page to issues impacting the real estate industry to serve as a resource for our members. 

Additional information, including legal advisories are available to members here .

MASSACHUSETTS EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND ADVISORIES
Mortgage Loan Borrowing , Division of Banks 3/25/20
Constuction Letter With Guidance  3/25/20
COVID-19 ESSENTIAL SERVICES  Order of  the Governor Assuring Continued Operation Of Essential Services  
Essential Services FAQ
SMOKE ORDER Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Inspections for One and Two-Family Dwellings and Three to Five-family Apartment Buildings
Standing Order Housing Court
DHCD Resources For Renters and Homeowners

BOSTON EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND ADVISORIES
Guidelines For Open House and Apartment Showing Policy
Construction Notice 3/25/20
Construction Permitting 3/16/20

DIVISION AND AFFILIATE RESOURCE PAGES

Building Owners and Managers, BOMA Boston, BOMA International
Multifamily Apartments, Massachusetts Apartment Association, National Apartment Association   
REALTORS, Greater Boston Association of REALTORS, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS, National Association of REALTORS
Commercial Brokers Association
Real Estate Finance Association






COVID-19
With recent escalation of the coronavirus health crisis, GBAR & GBREB have begun compiling information and materials that may be of assistance to REALTORS®. 

Additionally, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® COVID-19 website features useful resources and guidance for REALTORS® on business practices, licensing, employment and government assistance, and more in the COVID-19 environment, and NAR has issued general guidance , including this Transactional Guidance FAQ, on the issue which we encourage you to review. Upon review of these documents, should you have additional questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to GBAR Counsel Bill Mullen via our Brokerage Counselling Hotline at 617-399-7842.

Importantly, as of March 31, the Baker Administration has issued new guidance for REALTORS® during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.  Residential and commercial real estate has been deemed an essential business, which means real estate brokerage brick and mortar offices can be open to the public. However, it is strongly recommended that offices remain closed to protect the health and safety of agents and brokers, employees, and the public. Additionally, the following guidance is intended to help clarify which real estate activities may continue virtually or under parameters set forth below.
 
Showings and open houses are permitted, but are subject to Governor Baker’s order limiting gatherings to ten or fewer people. If open houses are held, they must be limited to ten people at a time and social distancing must be enforced. Additionally, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® recommends the use of hand sanitizer and thorough and frequent cleanings.  Notably, although allowed, REALTORS® are strongly encouraged NOT to host open houses in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
 
Real estate closings may continue, with social distancing for any in-person transactions.
 
Meetings with clients and prospective clients cannot take place at a real estate brokerages’ physical offices, but may take place with social distancing or remotely by phone or video.

MA Registry of Deeds Office Status

Open House & Apartment Showing Policies and Guidelines

Sample Extension Language for Contracts

For agents and brokers seeking guidance to address timing of a closing and extensions that may occur as a result the COVID-19 pandemic, GBAR shares the following useful language which you may consider incorporating into Offer and P&S contracts following consultation with and approval from your attorney.   
 
SAMPLE CONTRACT LANGUAGE: The parties agree and acknowledge that in the event either the Buyer, Buyer’s lender, Seller, any of their respective attorneys, or the Registry of Deeds becomes the subject of a mandatory COVID-19 virus quarantine or closure order from any governmental agency, prior to or at the time for performance hereunder, or the Buyer’s financial institution is shut down for any reason related to the global COVID-19 pandemic or unable to send Buyer’s funds for the closing, the closing shall be automatically extended for a reasonable period of time after such quarantine or closure order is lifted or after such time as Buyer’s financial institution confirms that it can send Buyer’s funds for the closing.

Mortgage Requirement Revisions, Foreclosure/Eviction Relief and Small Business Assistance


 Significantly, in early March, the FHFA & FHA reiterated mortgage forbearance options and payment assistance available to those not only sick from the virus, but also owners who may be facing a temporary hardship from it, such as a borrower who is quarantined and unable to work:  Mortgage Forbearance Options Available to Owners Affected by Coronavirus

COVID-19 Update & Preventative Safety Measures and Resources

REALTORS® Guide to Coronavirus Concerns
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Erica Ramus
 
Here's how to manage when a top agent leaves your brokerage

At least once a month, a broker hits me up with an urgent request for a one-on-one call: “My top producer quit! Now what?”

Before you break down in tears — take a step back. It’s happened to me personally, and if you’ve been in business for a decent period of time, it’ll probably happen to you eventually. It’s part of running a brokerage (unless you’re a one-man office).

Breathe

Breathe. Agents leave. Sometimes it’s because the grass is greener (with more money being offered). Sometimes they are running toward a new office — a new business model or broker with magnetic culture. Sometimes they are running away from something they don’t like at your office. No matter why they left, you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself or analyze the agent’s motivations right now. This isn’t necessarily a crisis situation, though it may feel like it in the heat of the moment.

Assuming the agent has packed up her desk and is gone, take inventory of the situation. Make sure passwords to company software are changed (if they had access) and that files are locked down. Change the office locks if necessary. Here’s a list of steps to take when any agent (not just one of your top producers) leaves the firm.

Take stock

Take a look at that agent’s participation in the office. What was their gross commission income (GCI) and the company dollar you kept from that? Analyze their sources of business.

What percentage of GCI came directly from that agent personally and his or her book of business? What percentage of their sales came from office-generated leads? If they were generating their own leads and they were a large chunk of your GCI, yes you may have a problem this year. But if they were closing mostly company-generated leads, that’s a different story.

One broker called me at the turn of the year, upset that her No. 1 agent announced she was going to the broker’s main competitor, a 100-percent company. When we looked at the numbers, it was clear to see that, yes, this agent closed the most sides of the company in 2019, but 60 percent of their business was directly given to them by broker-sourced leads. Twenty percent came from their sphere and repeat business, and another 20 percent was referral income coming again from broker-sourced relationships.

Suddenly the loss of this agent didn’t seem so catastrophic, as 80 percent of her closings originated from broker-generated leads that would simply be redirected to other agents.

Know your numbers. Once you know agent statistics and source of business, you can see the big picture of where your business is coming from, and where you need to concentrate. When someone leaves who is bringing in their own business, they take it with them. But when someone leaves who is living off of broker leads, the impact will be less. This is another important reason to source every closing and track all vendors.

Look inward

After you know the impact of the agent’s leaving on the numbers, step back and take a look at why he or she left. Many times they will quote “bigger split” or money as the reason. Sometimes this is true, but often, it is only an excuse.

Plenty of good agents stay with a broker who they admire and respect for a lower split than a competing brokerage offers. Money is only a piece of the puzzle.

Was the agent offered better tools or technology (another enticing carrot to lure agents away?)

Does the new brokerage offer a specific culture that attracted your agent away? Did they think they were a better fit over there, for some reason?

This one will hurt — but perhaps it wasn’t really the money or magnetic culture that drew your agent away. Was it you or your office culture that instead drove them into the arms of another broker?

This is the time to take a good long look at how things progressed the past six or even 12 months with this agent.

Were they asking for help, and you were too busy to give it to them? Did the agent ask for time or training with you, and you weren’t there? Was there a clique of “mean girl” agents in the office who made her feel less than welcome? I’ve seen all of these situations in the offices I’ve visited.

Maybe you as the broker don’t see the problem, so you may need your agents to help you analyze the situation.

Regroup

Take a look at the agents who you have left. If you’re not careful right now, that ex-agent may recruit more of them away to join the new company. Frequently your old agent’s new broker will urge him or her to recruit friends while the seeds of discontent are sown.

Your old agent may be texting and calling her co-workers and asking them to meet her for lunch or drinks, where she’ll talk about how great the new company is and how they should join her here. Before that happens, you need to cut it off at the knees.

Be transparent and alert the agents when someone has left. The worst thing you can do is ignore it and try to quietly push it under the rug. That becomes embarrassing when one of your agents marches into your office and says “I tried to send a referral up to Amy in the northern territory, and she told me she left two weeks ago! Why didn’t I know this?”

It should go without saying, but don’t gossip or tell stories about the agent. I announce it on our private Facebook page and in the next office meeting, in a factual way that Suzy has decided she’s a better fit over at Brokerage X, and we wish her best of luck.

You don’t have to go into details or discuss it at length, but questions may come up. Handle those in private and not in a group meeting if at all possible.

Circle the wagons

Although you might not be talking smack about the agent who left, know that the same courtesy may be be extended on the other side of the table. If the agent leaves and badmouths the broker or the office, hold your head high and don’t lower yourself to play their games. If your agents are kept close and in the loop, you might be surprised how they come to the office’s defense.

In one situation, I watched the ex-agent try to tear down her old broker with lies and snide remarks. She told his agents that he was stealing from them and fabricating fees so he made more money from them than they knew (which is a silly accusation for anyone who knows how to read the commission disbursement sheet). She tried to recruit the broker’s agents away with promises of higher splits and lower fees, to no avail.

Not one followed her to the new company — specifically because the others watched how she badmouthed the broker and firm. To a person, they ignored her recruitment efforts as a group. They became more tight-knit and protective of their office after she left.

Start afresh

You might be surprised what happens after the initial surprise when a top producer leaves. In another broker situation, two solid mid-level agents came to the broker privately and said they were glad that this person left. Afterward, both bloomed in the office.

Somehow the top agent’s diva-like presence had stifled their growth. Unknowingly, the broker had let this develop because she was such a heavy hitter. With her gone, the others felt free to express their true feelings.

As a final takeaway, think about that last paragraph. Do you have divas, heavy hitters in the office would could be intimidating or holding back others? If so, is their production and presence in your office worth the turmoil that might be bubbling underneath the surface?

In hindsight, what could have been a devastating blow — losing a top agent — was the best thing that could have happened to that particular office. The office has doubled in agent count, GCI and market share since that defining moment three years ago.

You might as well prepare for worst-case scenarios. Take a moment to reread this article, and run your numbers. Who are your top agents? Run the numbers, examine their sources of business, and then close your eyes. If it happens next month, how good or how bad will that be for you?

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
6 Steps to Take When Your Top Producer Quits
The Massachusetts State Senate recently adopted three energy bills, S.2477, S.2476 and S. 2478. Among the 124 amendments offered to S.2477 was an amendment offered by Senators Lessor and Pacheco to require a home energy audit prior to the time of sale. The seller or agent acting on behalf of the seller would then be required to disclose to the buyer the energy assessment and energy performance label prior to the signing of a contract to purchase. The Greater Boston Real Estate Board and Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® opposed the amendment which was ultimately withdrawn. Similar legislation filed by Senator Eric Lesser, S.1983 still remains before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications Utilities and Energy. The final outcome of the issue will not be known until the legislature adjourns at the end of July.
 
Senate Adopts Three Energy Bills, Home Energy Scoring Not Included
 

Education & Events

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Real Estate Investing
May 05, 2020
GBAR Member Service And Training Center
68 Main Street
Reading, MA
Lunch & Learn: 1031 Tax Exchange
May 14, 2020
GBAR Member Service And Training Center
68 Main Street
Reading, MA
Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA Certification)
May 19, 2020
Crowne Plaza Boston-Natick
1360 Worcester St.
Natick, MA
RealTour Member Meeting- Southern Norfolk Region
May 27, 2020
Hampton Inn
2 Foxborough Blvd,
Foxborough, MA
YPN Kick-Off
May 28, 2020
The Row Hotel
360 Foley St
Somerville, MA
RealTour Member Meeting- Metro Boston
May 28, 2020
Hilton Boston/Dedham
25 Allied Dr.
Dedham, MA
RealTour Member Meeting- Eastern Middlesex Region
Jun 01, 2020
Four Points Sheraton Wakefiield
One Audubon Rd
Wakefield, MA
RealTour Member Meeting- Metro West Region
Jun 02, 2020
The Verve Hotel
1360 Worcester St.
Natick, MA
Rentals The Right Way
Jun 08, 2020
Greater Boston Real Estate Board
3 Center Plaza, Mezzanine Suite
Boston, MA
 

Calendar

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Real Estate Investing
GBAR Member Service And Training Center
8:30am
 
Lunch & Learn: 1031 Tax Exchange
GBAR Member Service And Training Center
 
Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA Certification)
Crowne Plaza Boston-Natick
8:30am
 

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