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Family with real estate agentTwo times per year, at NAR’s major meetings, the idea exchange council for brokers comes together to share broker challenges, ideas and solutions.

And the goal is always the same: to raise the caliber of the industry by sharing good ideas. Earlier this month, during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans, La., brokers from companies of all sizes and geographic locations took advantage of the think tank to bounce ideas off one another. Topics covered included agent retention, risk management, multiple offer situations, liability in a digital world and assistants/teams.

Agent Retention
When it comes to retaining agents, it’s clear to see that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, broker attendees pointed to a wide range of best practices that have been instrumental in keeping productive agents on board, noting that a lot can be accomplished when brokers don’t have to spend time replacing agents. Whether it’s paying attention to small details (birthdays, names of children, etc.) and letting your agents know you value them as people to bringing in Gen X/Gen Y to do administrative work for successful agents so that they generate income before they come on full time, creating a positive culture—one full of loyalty—is crucial. Other popular ideas included:

– Offering $500 on their first three deals if they bring another agent in

– Talking about culture (to those on staff, and those you want to bring on)

– Teaching brokers how to recruit agents

– Having fun with your agents, rather than being so driven by your bottom line (offering an assignment to help them learn a new skill)

– Hiring business-minded people rather than salespeople (business-minded people create ways to make things happen)

– Partnering with military retirees/veterans who are not only disciplined, but looking for new ways to serve

– Creating a company soundtrack with songs that match the brokerage’s values

Risk Management
Carrying on from suggestions that came up from the idea exchange council’s last meeting, brokers and consumers alike are concerned about medical marijuana issues and how they relate to property sales. A broker attendee from Steamboat Springs, Colo., noted that the pot market has not only brought in additional revenue, it’s also increased the commercial brokerage in the area. While the medical marijuana business has been a boon in bringing people into the resort community, it’s also led to the substance being illegally grown, leading to the presence of mold within a home’s walls as properties aren’t properly ventilated. To further complicate the issue, banks won’t take money from these pot shops.

While this is a brand new issue, one committee member noted that there are certain things we know to be true, such as the fact that marijuana use is still prohibited under federal law. Therefore, from a real estate perspective, there’s no reason why it should be permitted if it’s adverse to the interest of the property or adjacent tenants, just because it’s legal under state law. In addition, medical marijuana users aren’t a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, so real estate professionals aren’t required to accommodate their desire to use these things—at least not yet. However, the law is still evolving, but reasonable safeguards can be taken to protect the property, other tenants and yourself.

Multiple Offer Situations
A hot topic at November’s gathering, broker attendees all agreed on one key point: when it comes to multiple offer situations, the important thing is to make sure the seller knows what’s going on. While there’s a fundamental difference between coming soon and pocket listings, one broker attendee noted that it’s the job of the real estate professional to create the wave for the property. By counseling clients on how to get them the best offer and explaining the pros and cons of marketing their property in that fashion, in the end, the client needs to make the decision.

Another broker attendee explained the importance of knowing about any multiple offer situations that are going on within the office. By reviewing each offer, real estate brokers can make sure they are in the right spot with agency and on the right track with the agent. And speaking to the seller provides the opportunity to fully understand where they want to go with multiple offers. If they don’t want an offer, they simply write rejected and sign it so it’s not on the broker or his agents. This way everyone is on the same page, but it’s the seller’s action.

Another idea that was brought to light had to do with giving listing agents the right to expose that there are multiple offers. Not only does this create a level of transparency as to how the process works, it also keeps sellers from being able to come back later and say they were adversely affected because they didn’t know what was going to happen.

Liability in a Digital World
When it comes to conducting business in today’s digital world, it was noted that electronic signatures are legal, and one good idea that was brought up had to do with adding a line in the listing contract that says that digital signatures will be accepted. While this practice will help with transparency throughout the transaction, it’s also important to check the document and make sure it is what it says it is (the digital signature matches the name printed on the document).

As far as background checks, one broker attendee noted that it’s a law in Florida for background check documents to be locked up. In fact, offices that deal with background checks undergo inspections once every few years to make sure documents are being handled properly. Sites like mysmartmove.com and landlordstation.com were touted as good alternatives as they send the applicant an invitation to apply for their own background and credit checks, negating the need to house any personally identifiable information on the premises. As a real estate professional, it’s important to keep in mind that you have an obligation to dispose of personally identifiable information in a particular way. Therefore, brokers must know their state’s requirements when it comes to keeping this information safe.

Assistants and Teams
As we continue to see a rise in assistants and teams—both licensed and unlicensed—one broker attendee noted that if you have an assistant (and they are licensed), they need to sign an agency agreement with the client. And the same holds true for teams. Taking this one step further, it’s best to have a written agreement in place when it comes to the terms of a team affiliation so that the team leader isn’t treating their assistants like employees. It’s also important for brokers to have detailed discussions with team leaders about how to treat buyer’s agents. Also brought to the table was the idea of NAR putting together team agreements that can be made available to those looking to form a team—or for anyone who is already part of a team.

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