Simple Accounting For Real Estate Agents


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Keeping up with records and expenses can be a time-consuming task and takes away from valuable time that could be better spent working with clients or attracting potential clients. Your time is extremely valuable and if you lose clients, it can cost you money. Of course you can outsource your accounting, but then you don't have as much control over what gets entered, what mistakes are made, etc. 


Some of the most common income and expenses are:
  • Commissions
  • Office expense
  • Real estate fees/dues
  • Vehicle Miles
  • Marketing/advertising
  • Real estate education
There can be more or less than these, and there may even be subcategories depending on how organized you like to keep your records. But even with these few categories, it can be a headache to deal with it every day. And if you don't deal with it every day, you end up getting slammed with a week or more of expenses and income that you will have to analyze and determine where it came from, how much you spent, how much you made for each specific transaction. This can easily turn into an all-day chore.

But I recently found a system that can help you keep track of your records daily by using less than 10 minutes per day, and allows you to keep efficient and organized records. 


The system

First, you must create a free account with Xpenser.com. Open an account and you will use their feature called "Reports." Make a name for your reports to coincide with your expenses and income listed above.

Now you make an account through Jott.com. This is an inexpensive service that allows you to choose the method that fits you best- minutes or a monthly cost. Now you simply go to the "Links" feature in Jott, and choose the Xpenser link. Xpenser will approve the link and now you can start sending messages to Jott from wherever you are.

For instance, you may send it a message stating "$5,000 commission - Fitzgerald transaction." This will be saved in your "Expenses" tab. Now the only thing you have to do is assign it to the appropriate category. Now you can remain up-to-date on all your daily records, stress-free knowing you have a great plan in place, and you can spend your time doing what you need to be doing.



 

Agentfolio: Zillow's New Collaborative Tool


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When Zillow bought Buyfolio last October, we knew they had big plans to improve it. Zillow has recently introduced Agentfolio, which claims to streamline the entire home-buying process. Agentfolio offers services to both agents and homebuyers and maintains its focus on workflow, search, relationships, data, and ease-of-use. It allows homebuyers and agents to collaborate on various properties while simplifying the entire process. Agentfolio will "Easily manage communications between co-workers, husbands, wives and anyone else who is collaborating on a home search."


Social interaction and collaboration

While social networking has been essential for many real estate agents in their selling process, this is the most extensive integration of social media and home sales that is currently on the market. And it's not expensive. For Zillow Premier agents, the service is free. For all non-premier users, the service is available at $24.95 per month. This includes many amenities including

  • IDX listing data accessible to you and your buyers                    
  • Mobile apps for iPhone and Android                
  • Your branding in your buyers' folios and mobile apps                
  • Unlimited folios            
  • An advertising-free experience for you and your buyers            
  • A personal engagement page (you.agentfolio.com) for lead capture                   
  • Real-time alerts via email and mobile push notifications
As technology continues to increase, we can expect to see more social tools such as Agentfolio to help bring agent and homebuyer closer together from the very start. The remote and mobile capabilities mean that agents can operate from wherever they may be. There is no need for an office anymore; mobile agents are quickly becoming the standard in real estate sales. With Agentfolio, agents can shop, collaborate and close deals all from their computer or mobile device. Brokers can take advantage of agent branding and Agentfolio’s lead assignment and management tools.



 

Evernote's Amazing To-Do Lists


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Evernote has been used to perform a variety of tasks within the real estate business including document creation, editing, sharing and signing. But one of Evernote's greatest features is the simple to-do list feature. You may not give much thought to your to-do list when you're using it and you may take it for granted. It's just a tool that helps keep you organized and up-to-date on everything that's happening. But whether you realize it or not, it is an important tool.


Evernote has improved to-do lists

Evernote recently added reminders to its to-do list which greatly improved the feature. Now your to-do lists are outfitted with in-app and email alarms, quick notes which are based in the to-do lists and the ability to pin notes to the top of your to-do list.

During a real estate transaction, to-do lists are a necessity to keep you organized. To-do lists ensure that you don't miss important aspects of the transaction, they ensure that you don't miss any appointments and they ensure that all steps of the transaction are completed in an orderly way. To-do list reminders are a great way to receive alerts when a necessary function must be performed. If you have an appointment to meet with a photographer to take photos of a home, you can receive a reminder. The same for inspections, document signings and more.

The ability to pin important notes to the top of your to-do list allows you to quickly see the most urgent actions that need to be performed.

Evernote can already handle practically all aspects of a transaction. With the improved to-do lists feature, it is a must-have for any successful real estate agent.



 

The Ultimate Cloud Real Estate Scenario


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As a real estate agent, you may have contemplated moving to the cloud. But uncertainties may have stopped you. Perhaps you are unsure of what to expect and you're just not sure how it will benefit you and your business. If you're unsure where and how to start your journey to the cloud, here is a little scenario of how it could happen.


Moving documents to the cloud

The first problem: storage space. You have several options here. You can reclaim the file cabinet space by scanning all of your existing paper documents (or hire someone to do it for you), or you can keep your existing paper files and just don't add anymore. All of your documents can be stored in the cloud. If you need a paper copy of a document, it can be printed instantly, so there's no reason for big, bulky file cabinets to take up all of your office space.

The cloud helps you save space, time and money

Office space costs so much. Again, there are several options. You can move your office to a smaller venue since you no longer need all that storage space, or you can eliminate your office altogether and work from home and wherever you happen to be. The cloud is like having your office with you at all times. If you have a decent smartphone, tablet or laptop, you can work on the go. With Google Drive, you have access to the entire Google Docs suite so you can create, store and manage documents, spreadsheets and presentations even if you don't use Microsoft Office.

Once you create a document, it can be shared from Google Drive, Dropbox or whatever cloud service you are managing the document in. Let's say that you meet the client at the property they are considering buying or even at their home. With a tablet or smartphone, you can use an app like Docusign to legally sign documents right from the mobile device. So there is no reason for extra trips to an office (that you may not even have since you don't need one) and all the paperwork can be completed right on the spot. You don't even have to have the client physically there as documents can be emailed or shared with the client through cloud services, they can sign the document and send it back.

Keep your data secure with cloud backup

As with any confidential and important documents, security is a concern. The best option is to use a cloud backup service like cloudHQ. The cloudHQ service replicates all of your data to a backup account in case something happens to any of your files or documents in your main cloud account. The replication is instantaneous so any changes you make to documents are updated in your backup account immediately. Data loss can be devastating but with a good, secure backup plan using a service like cloudHQ, you can rest assured that your data is safe.



 

How To Build A Completely Paperless Real Estate Brokerage In The Cloud


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Cloud computing is being used by many top real estate brokers as its uses in the brokerage far outweigh the negatives. Whether it's for a small brokerage with a few agents or a large brokerage with many agents, the cloud can be used to manage all aspects of listings and transactions while cutting costs on many ends.


Benefits of migrating to the cloud

  • Utilize the latest technology in order to more efficiently serve clients
  • Cost reduction by using Bring Your own Device (BYOD) for agents to remotely operate
  • Marketing enhancement, increase in leads and increased profitability
  • Less dependence on an on-premise office staff

How to setup the paperless real estate office

The migration to the cloud can seem like an extremely complicated and time-consuming task, but it's really only as complicated as you make it. Basically, all information that flows through the real estate brokerage will be sent to the cloud and must be directed to various locations. Access permissions must be set as some data may be fine for all agents and staff to access while other data may only need to be seen by certain workers or agents.

Faxes will be sent as emails or online PDF files. Online access for clients to access their documents should be available as well. Digital signatures can be obtained through a service such as Docusign. Communication with clients, realtors, vendors and other sources can be securely set up online along with the ability to collaborate with multiple users.

Agents and other office staff will need to be trained on the best ways to operate remotely. By utilizing BYOD, agents can operate from wherever they are without the need for a physical office or physical storage space for files.

Google Apps is a great place to start. Google offers an entire suite of useful apps that can be used for the brokerage to run more efficiently in the cloud. Some of the apps include Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive. Google Drive includes the entire Google Docs suite which is similar to Microsoft Office with powerful document creation and editing tools, spreadsheets, presentations, word processing and more. There is also a complete business suite called Google Apps for Business which is more aimed at businesses and corporations.

Online storage and backup solutions

Once you setup an intranet and complete online office through Google Apps or another similar program, you can decide what other apps will be needed. Dropbox or Box can be used for additional online storage, collaboration and sharing while Basecamp can be used to cover all aspects of project management. Evernote is perfect for creating notes and documents, snagging web articles and photos, and creating audio files.

As much of the data that is used in the brokerage is important and sometimes confidential, it is imperative that a secure backup plan is in place to protect data from accidental deletion or other mishaps. The best solution is to use one of the top cloud backup services such as cloudHQ. CloudHQ offers a continuous replication of all data to a backup cloud account which provides a secondary copy of all data. In case an agent or other staff member accidentally deletes or misplaces a file, it can be instantly restored from the backup account. The best part about cloudHQ is that it syncs data between a wide variety of cloud services including Google Apps, Dropbox, Evernote, SkyDrive, SugarSync, Box and more. Any changes to data is instantaneous so if a realtor working remotely edits a file, the changes are instantly replicated to all other devices that have that cloud account installed.



 

Online Marketing Tips For Real Estate Agents


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The real estate industry has changed over the years and the majority of transactions are completed because people find what they are looking for online. Here are some of the best tips we could find to help you create eye-catching listings and how to market them to the right people.


Top 4 Online marketing tips for real estate agents

Photography: This tip is the first because it is one of the most important. If a potential buyer can't see photos of the house when he is checking out your listing, there is a high probability that he will move on to the next listing. Plain photos can have the same effect. Photos should clearly show all interior rooms of the house, the exterior of the house and the yard. Photos of basements and attics can be skipped unless they appear to be aesthetically pleasing to potential buyers. Photos need to be of the highest quality possible and there are programs such as Adobe Photoshop that can really bring out vibrant colors and detail to help make your listing the standout listing you need.

Websites and Forums: there are many forums and websites where you can submit your listings. The more you submit your listings to, the better chance they will have of being seen. Make sure you use tags if possible, so potential buyers searching for homes in the area where the home is located will have a better chance of finding your listing.

USPS Every Door Direct Mail: Okay so this one doesn't pertain to online marketing, but I feel the need to throw it in here. By utilizing this service, listings can be mailed to every home within a specific area or zip code. This is a good way to get your listing out to everyone local to the area where the home is located.

Social Media: Facebook and Twitter are two of the premier social media marketing services. By building an online Facebook group, keeping up with real estate groups through Twitter, and sending your listing out to hundreds or thousands of potential buyers, social media can be one of the most powerful marketing tools in the world.



 

Top 10 Apps For Real Estate Agents


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Real estate agents are constantly looking for new apps or tools that can help increase their productivity and sales. We have compiled a list of the top 10 apps for real estate agents. Some of these tools can be used by themselves to handle specific tasks while others can be used in conjunction with other apps in order to best achieve the needed efficiency. From document creation, signing and storage, these apps will help real estate agents in their bid to be able to handle their work without unnecessary trips back and forth from the office, unnecessary hardware, software and storage costs and much more.


Top 10 real estate apps

  • Evernote and Dropbox: Evernote is one of the best friends a real estate agent can have. It works best when used with Dropbox as Dropbox provides storage and easy file sharing while Evernote provides document creation and editing. Snapshots can be attached to documents, audio clips as well. The Evernote web clipper easily allows articles or web pages to be saved to Evernote. The tagging feature allows documents and photographs to be tagged with keywords for simple searching. Pretty much all aspects of a transaction can be handled within Evernote and Dropbox

  • Trulia: Trulia is a well-known real estate website and the free mobile app is just as great. It allows real estate agents to search by area, check out detailed listings and monitor the property history. 

  • Docusign: This app can be used to legally sign documents which can help immensely in situations where the real estate agent or client are mobile and can't travel to a specific location to sign documents.

  • NearBuy: This free app allows real estate agents to search listings by area, bookmark listings and even color code listings for easy access at a later time.

  • Dragon Dictation: This app can help when speech is needed and typing is not an option- for instance, when driving in a car. Ideas can be forgotten if not jotted down immediately and this free app provides an option for real estate agents to be able to take notes anytime, anywhere. 

  • Zillow: This free app allows real estate agents to search by location, price information estimates, price changes, sales, tax- all kinds of information is provided by this useful app. 

  • PowerOne Financial Calculator: This app is not free but it provides a valuable service. It allows real estate agents to determine mortgage payments, investment income, mathematical equations and compound interest. 

  • Around Me: This free app provides a wealth of information about local areas. For real estate agents that are creating a listing, this app provides much needed information such as banks, restaurants, coffee shops, schools, etc.

  • Social media apps: Social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to help spread information to multiple people simultaneously. Listings and information about homes for sale can be sent out among many potential clients.



 

Top 10 Reasons To Move Your Real Estate Brokerage To The Cloud


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Everyone has questions and concerns when contemplating moving their business to the cloud. This especially holds true for real estate agents because a lot of the documents and files are sensitive and must be protected by the best security measures possible. 


Here is a list of the top 10 reasons to move your real estate brokerage to the cloud.

  1. Cost-efficient: Yes, the cloud will save money- a lot of it! No need to worry about buying, upgrading and maintaining local storage options, the cloud storage provider will take care of everything for a small monthly fee. If you need to upgrade your storage space, just upgrade your plan and voila! You will instantly be granted more space. No need to buy and install new hardware. Switching to the cloud usually saves between 30-50% on IT costs.
  2. Storage: By moving all of your files to the cloud, you are reducing the need for paper files. You can cut back on office space and eliminate the need for large, bulky file cabinets. No need to worry about buying and installing local servers and hard drives, the cloud is all you need.
  3. Collaboration: The cloud makes it easy for you to collaborate on files and documents with other realtors, clients, lawyers and any other sources you may need input from.
  4. Project management: The cloud has many services that make managing your transactions a breeze. Basecamp is the ultimate organizational project management tool, but there are other such as Evernote, Google Drive and Dropbox that can help your real estate brokerage make the move to the cloud.
  5. Mobile: The cloud allows you to work from anywhere that you have access to the internet, and even offline when you don't have internet access.
  6. Time management: Since agents can perform all of their work in the field without constant trips back and forth from the office, this means a lot more time can be concentrated towards more important work- like showing houses and selling them. Wasted time can potentially slow your sales down, but working in the cloud can make much more efficient use of your time.
  7. Document management: With a variety of cloud tools such as Evernote, Google Drive and Docusign, documents can be accessed, created, edited, shared and legally signed from virtually anywhere.
  8. Flexibility: The cloud has many services and tools available that can help a real estate agent in the workplace. The best part- most of these services and apps have full integration with many of the most popular tools and services.
  9. Security: Cloud security has always been a strong subject of concern, but it doesn't have to be. By implementing strong security measures such as very strong passwords and two-factor authentication, the cloud can be more secure than any local storage you have in the office.
  10. Backup: Manual backup of all your files and data is a pain but if you don't do it you risk the possibility of data loss which can be critical when dealing with sensitive documents and files. Storing files in the office or on local hard drives is not the best solution as they are still susceptible to fire, floods or other disasters. When you move to the cloud your data stays on the cloud so no fire or flood will harm your data. However, it is still important to have a good backup plan in case your account gets hacked or you accidentally delete important files or data. There are many cloud solutions to handle this and you should pick one of the top cloud backup providers such as cloudHQ. The cloudHQ service runs in the background, transparent to you, providing continuous replication of all changes- if you add a file or make changes to a file, this is replicated to the backup immediately. A solid, secure backup plan is critical when dealing with documents of such a sensitive nature as real estate documents and files.



 

Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Going Paperless


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Going paperless holds many benefits for real estate agents on the go. Paperwork, files and important documents take up a lot of time, it's much better when they can be accessed, created, edited and shared from virtually anywhere. The move to the cloud is full of benefits and is very cost-effective but mistakes can be made.


Here are the top 5 mistakes to avoid when going paperless

Here are the top 5 mistakes to avoid when going paperless

1.      Disorganization: Stay organized no matter what cloud service you are using. Dropbox has great file/folder organization much the same as Windows folder and file system. Evernote has incredible organization for documents and small files and the best search features. Basecamp is the best project management tool available. Google Drive has a complete set of tools and services to meet any of your organizational needs.

2.      Permissions: Different cloud services have different options for setting permissions. Be sure to set permissions and monitor which users and apps can access your documents and files.

3.      Poor security: Make sure you create strong passwords, guard your passwords securely and enable any additional security features that your cloud service provider allows such as two-step authentication.

4.      Improper training: Don't allow untrained employees to access your files stored in the cloud. If the files get accidentally deleted, misplaced or corrupted, this can have serious consequences for your brokerage.

5.      Backup plan: A secure backup plan is the best service you can get when going paperless. A prominent cloud data backup service such as cloudHQ will keep your data safe by backing it up to a separate cloud storage account. This way, in case data loss were to occur (from accidental or malicious deletion, server corruption, or even if a server just goes offline for awhile) you will still have access to your data exactly as it was before the loss occurred. This can be a huge lifesaver in the real estate business as most documents are sensitive and extremely important.



 

Using Dropbox And Docusign To Quickly Sign Documents


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Docusign is an easy and efficient way to sign documents including legal documents from anywhere. For the real estate agent on the go this can make life much easier as it eliminates costly, time-consuming trips back and forth from the office to do paperwork. You can even save your signature in your account so you can sign even faster. No need to fax, print, scan or perform any other inefficient methods of getting paperwork signed.

Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud storage providers and its drag-and-drop file feature makes it perfect to integrate with Docusign as it is designed to be efficient for quick access. 


Using Dropbox and Docusign in real estate

As a real estate agent, it seems there is never enough time during the day to get everything done anyways. By integrating Dropbox and Docusign together you can at least stop worrying about how documents will get signed as it can be done in seconds from anywhere.

When a contract needs to be signed, it can be sent to them through Docusign. All transactions are encrypted so security is not an issue either. Documents can be stored in Dropbox and signed through Docusign. The process is pretty simple, you just have to import your Dropbox (or Evernote, Google Drive, or Box) account into Docusign and follow the on-screen prompts. Here is a detailed page that explains the process.

Real estate agents can take advantage of this great combination of apps that can make life easier; just one less thing to worry about during the hectic work day.