Reducing E&O Exposure with an eSignature

Ask the Expert: Reducing E&O Exposure with an eSignature

Today’s ‘Ask the Expert’ column features Glenn Shimkus, vice president of Real Estate Solutions for DocuSign.

Q: How can eSignature help when it comes to reducing E&O exposure?

A: Among service industry professionals, there is a saying: “It is not if you get an errors and omissions claim, it’s when.” Real estate transactions are becoming ever more complex and the threat of litigation is an even more present reality. To help protect against legal exposure, real estate agents and brokers purchase professional liability insurance (PLI), also commonly called errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. PLI insurance helps protect professional advice and service, preventing individuals and companies from bearing the full cost of defending against a negligence claim made by a client.

We recently came across a great example of where electronic signature solves a compliance problem and reduces E&O risk. On California Association of REALTORS® forms, REALTORS® are legally required to make the arbitration and liquidated damages clauses optional. With electronic signature, however, this field can be made “required” and the signer can “opt out” of the section by declining to sign. This ensures that the signer acknowledges the section and chooses to accept or reject it. It also means the envelope sender has a record of whether the signer chose to accept or reject the section. This reduces E&O risk and also reduces the chance of misunderstanding between agents and buyers. Because there is no missing information that could be overlooked or missed in a manual signing process, there is a reduced risk of E&O exposure.

Electronic signature solutions also save time that would have been spent reviewing contracts to make sure all the required information and signatures have been provided. With required fields, there is no need to double-check contracts to make sure all the fields are completed. If the envelope is complete, then all the information is there.

By using a trusted eSignature solution, you can sleep soundly at night knowing that all your contracts are secure and complete, and that you have taken a big step toward reducing your E&O exposure.

This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Life in Mobile: Google Sides with Mobile Users

By Seth Kaplan

There is no better place to be than at the top of Google’s search rankings; for marketers, it’s the Holy Grail. The key component in reaching that milestone is SEO (Search Engine Optimization), a process by which your site and content is ranked based on relevance. Now, with so much search traffic coming to Google from mobile devices, they are taking a firm stance on mobile SEO, and there is no question that they are standing on the side of the people.

Google first announced their Googlebot-Mobile for smartphones back in 2011; their engine that crawls and indexes sites as if it were a smartphone user. Since then, there have been a couple blog posts, but no firm lines had ever really been drawn in the sand on what will impact mobile SEO. That all changed recently when Google released a blog post announcing that it would begin demoting sites in mobile search results if they are not mobile friendly or misconfigured. The move highlights the importance Google is placing on mobile users as the future of search and sends a clear signal to marketers that either they implement a mobile solution, or alter a current solution that does not meet their guidelines.

The recent guidelines extend beyond just having a mobile optimized site and, for the first time, go into detail about implementation. The goal of the guidelines is pretty straightforward: Get mobile users to the piece of information they are looking for as quickly as possible.

Google highlighted one of the more common changes/recommendations they suggest in their recent post. The first is with regard to faulty redirects. This happens when a user is redirected from a desktop page to an irrelevant mobile page—we’ve all dealt with that frustration. The key here is to implement what we have referred to in the past as “deep linking,” which ensures all desktop pages redirect mobile users to the corresponding mobile page, thus getting the user to the exact piece of information they are looking for. In addition, they urge marketers to ensure that there are no page errors for mobile users and to test across multiple devices to ensure the highest level of usability.

If you’ve spent time, energy and a vast amount of resources on climbing to the top of the mountain with a good SEO strategy, it would be a shame to see your work come falling down by not preparing for mobile SEO. Now that Google has drawn their lines in the sand—and clearly sided with ensuring a quality user experience—there isn’t much time left to get this right. Contact your mobile specialist today and ensure that your mobile assets are following Google’s guidelines for usability.

To see how your site looks on a mobile device today, visit www.TestMySiteNow.com.

Seth Kaplan is president of Mobile Real Estate. For more information, please visit 
www.mobilerealestateid.com.

This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2013. All rights reserved.

Handy Tax Deduction App: Milebug

Handy Tax Deduction App: Milebug

Spend much time in your car for business? That’s a rhetorical question for most real estate agents I know. Realtors are some of the most mobile people I know. The miles can really add up, and when it comes tax time it’s important to get that accurate deduction! If you’ve recently completed your own taxes and have vowed not to let mileage slip away next year, read on!

If you’re still tracking your data in a little spiral notebook, this year might be the right time to upgrade to a more mobile solution: Milebug.

Milebug lets you easily log mileage for tax purposes. Check out some of the features:

-Use the Mileage Tracker for multiple businesses and multiple vehicles with a simple choice
-Setup frequent destinations and purposes for easy use later
-Choose either kilometers or miles
-Define custom rates for business, charity, medical and other
-Watch your deductions add up with each addition to your tip log
-Email HTML and Excel-friendly reports to your home computer

MileBug mileage tracker for iPhone or Android OS makes it easy to keep records for those who are always on the go, or who just want a central, simple place to keep track of their expenses and mileage.

Learn more about Milebug and download the app.:

http://milebug.com/

I hope you find this helpful! I’d love to log a few miles right now showing you some of my newest listings. Why not drop me a line?

Branding Power: Can Brokers Compete with Portals?

By Reva Nelson

It’s no secret that the big real estate portals are on top of their branding game. With big advertising budgets, multichannel consumer branding campaigns, and ample, frequently updated content, you’d have to be living under a rock to be unfamiliar with players such as Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Homes.com and realtor.com®. Even amid complaints of poor data accuracy on some portals, the flow of traffic to these sites is considerable.

According to aggregate website visit metrics compiled by Experian Marketing Services, the top 10 real estate websites captured 42 percent of total visits in the space during January 2013; Zillow (9.17 percent market share) had the most visitors, followed by Trulia (7 percent) and realtor.com® (6.09 percent). Agent and broker sites, on the other hand, aren’t generating nearly as many pages views or unique visitors. Is the exposure REALTORS® can gain on these well-branded sites good for business? Moreover, are brokers and agents missing the boat on their own branding?

It depends who you ask.

Some, like Jim Abbott, owner and managing broker of San Diego’s ARG Realty Group, argue that portals are bad for brokers’ business. His firm made the decision in January 2012 to pull their listing data out of portals. Other firms, like Minnesota-based Edina Realty, came to the same conclusion in 2011.

“When we looked carefully at this after three years of metrics, we realized these weren’t good for our agents or our clients. These sites extract a very heavy cost for that exposure…your future business is the cost.” Even on portals that capture a lion’s share of home searchers, Abbott cautions that when REALTORS® outsource their marketing duties to portals, they are trading new listings and sales for hits on a website. “In no uncertain terms, hits on a portal’s website and an increase in my business could not be more unrelated,” says Abbott.

Others say all that branding attracts daydreamers – not real buyers. Saul Klein, industry principal at Point 2/Yardi, says that most consumers searching these portals are not actually interested in buying real estate. “The traffic counts of unique visitors continue to increase, but the sales numbers do not.”

Many see benefits of partnering with a portal to increase their exposure. “There are few brokers who can afford to conduct user behavior studies or run TV spots for brand awareness, so it’s useful to extend out your brand awareness by partnering with a trusted company,” says Wendy Froehlich, vice president of marketing for Homes.com.

Dan Forsman, president and CEO of Prudential Georgia Realty, describes his company’s partnerships with the big portals as “coopetition.” He describes a robust syndication strategy that includes partnerships and programs with the big players, as well as syndication to 40,000 websites worldwide. “We realize there’s a significant amount of traffic, and our agents value that.” At the same, Forsman notes, “We do extremely well with our company and agent websites, which have better and more relevant data than the portals.”

Certainly, the big portals have mastered branding. What can agents and brokers learn from these sites about promoting their own brands?

Master the local market. Real estate is local, and brokers have a distinct advantage over the portals when it comes to local data. “Over time, we will continue to fare better because our data is better and more relevant than the portals’ data. What it comes back to is we simply have better insight and knowledge locally. If we’re smart in the way we design our websites and our local apps, we can take advantage of that,” says Forsman.

To win in the local space, Forsman notes that first you have to be found. “We’ve done a lot to our own websites to make sure they’re found prominently by search engines. And, you have to provide more relevant information than the others. For example, our websites and mobile apps can do accurate school searches, whereas national databases lack accuracy. Our information is more accurate because it comes directly from the MLS and listing agents. The portals can’t keep up with our high degree of local knowledge.”

Ramp up your social media strategy. Froehlich recommends that branding efforts among REALTORS® need to be focused on social and mobile platforms, or they risk talking to an empty room. In particular, she urges REALTORS® to keep their agent profiles up to date and complete on sites such as GooglePlaces/GooglePlus, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. GooglePlaces is particularly useful, she notes. “It’s important to be getting recommendations there. That’s where their brand is getting built.” In addition, encourage satisfied clients to post reviews of your business on social media.

Master the basics. The simple details still matter in how you present your real estate business. For example, own your own domain, since this is your brand online. “Be consistent online and offline,” says Klein. “Don’t use a Gmail or Yahoo email address for your business. Instead, use your domain for both your web address and your email address. Put them both on all of your marketing materials, signs, cards, riders, flyers, and everywhere you advertise. Don’t overlook using signatures on your mobile devices that includes your brand and contact information.”

Control your data in a way that leads new business to you. It’s important to be very aware of where your data is going, and what’s happening with it. If you “set it and forget it” with portals, you are not controlling your data in a way that leads new business to you. “You’ve decided you don’t want to answer those calls,” says Abbott. “Other brokers can gather those leads and then sell them back to you for exorbitant referral fees.”

Manage your online reputation. If someone is talking about you positively or negatively online, you need to comment on it or address it, says Froehlich. “Keep that conversation going online with consumers.” Some portals, including Homes.com, offer specific tools to help brokers increase their online presence and manage their online reputations.

At the end of the day, it’s not about competing with the behemoth brands of the portals. It’s about attracting buyers and sellers by fostering credibility, trust and relationships in your local community, via traditional as well as mobile and social media channels.

Reva Nelson is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Chicago. She has been writing about real estate and professional services for more than 15 years. Reva lives with her husband, their two sons, and a Russian tortoise.

This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2013. All rights reserved.

Internet Lead Conversion: Improving Results with Better Response Time

Improving Lead Conversion with Better Response Time and Consistent Follow up

When it comes to Internet lead conversion arguably the biggest challenge is follow up. If you are at all serious about leveraging the Web to increase business, you must continually follow up with prospective buyers who take the time to sign up at your site.

It is a no brainer when a lead provides a valid phone number (that’s maybe 10% of inbound leads) to call that prospect. If only an email address is provided then a reply is in order. If you are doing your job both types of leads go into a drip email campaign. Your CRM may even prompt you or the buyer to create a listing alert.

Many agents go no further than that, relying on the drip email or listing alerts to keep them top of mind. The result is often an unsubscribe because they found a home through Zillow, Trulia, or another agent’s Website.

A great example of an errant lead recently occurred within my own team when one of my buyer agents’ leads called me to see a house. When I checked the history, there was but one “welcome” email, even though this contact had been viewing leads for months. He found me on Zillow and had no recollection of the agent he was assigned to (another caveat: buyers are looking everywhere).

Only by following a regimen of consistent follow up can you ensure success working Internet leads. Check out this Infographic to see how lead response time effects lead conversion:

How Lead Response Time Effects Lead Conversion

How Lead Response Time Effects Lead Conversion