TIme for a change

For the last 5 years, I’ve been an agent with JB Goodwin. Five wonderful years.

I began my career here, fresh out of real estate school, having just passed the Texas Real Estate Test, I was looking for a brokerage that would help me launch my new life as a Realtor.

My decision couldn’t have been a better one.

Often people underestimate the benefits that a great brokerage plays in a new agent’s life.  Not only do you need help learning all the ins and outs of the buisiess, but also you want to find a broker that doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg for trainings, or take a huge cut of your commission check.

However, over time, my needs changed.  What was once an important factor, didn’t seem so significant anymore.  And so it was time for a change.

I’m not ashamed to say that there was a little tear when I wrote my resignation letter.

Come back in a few days to learn where I now hang my license, and why I chose them.

Have you ever needed a change?  Share it with me in the comments below.

CRM for Real Estate

We are all on the go.

I know I am, especially as a busy real estate agent.   Often I don’t have time to sit down at a real computer (laptop or desktop).  When a client calls and wants to see a house, I don’t just jump, but leap!  In the Austin market, homes sell very quickly, and to be able to get the ones my clients want I have to act immediately.  I need all my information immediately, and everywhere I go.  And I don’t want to have to worry about it being outdated or backed up.

Real Estate ContactsWhen I started as a Realtor, I really didn’t know how important it was keeping track of everything.  Who is interested in which neighborhood?  Who is flying in from California next weekend?  Who needs to get a contract signed.   No longer is it just my phone that is ringing.  I get emails all day long, am constantly texting, and as you know I’m all over Facebook and Twitter.

How does one handle it all?

I rely on technology.  Around the office, I’m known at one of the most techie guys around.  Of course we have a full time computer specialist on staff, as well as a person handling all of the social media for our company.  But we are all independent business people here.  Even though we all work for a broker (or are a broker), we have to get and grow our own business.

It seems like everybody does something a little differently.  And it seems like there isn’t a single solution either.

What is a CRM

Day planner for Real EstateSimply put CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.  It’s a way to organize and communicate with all your leads, buyers, sellers, investors, and even renters.  It is a way to track their name, email, phone number, house address, and more – whatever you enter.  I usually start with basic business card information, and add stuff as I go.

In the last century everybody would run around with these little file-o-faxes, or day planners.  But now everything is digital.

Basically it’s my little black book, but all digital.  I store everything about my clients there, birthdays, favorite wines, kids names, you get the idea.

Why do I need a CRM?

I need a CRM because I sometimes have a hard time keeping track of everything.  I may be driving on my way to a listing appointment and thinking about that when my phone rings and it’s a different client about a different property.

If you are like me, when your phone rings the first thing you do is check your caller ID to see who is calling.  If it is just a number sometimes I have a hard time associating the name with the number.  One feature of the CRM is it associates the client’s name with their number so when they call I get that information right away.

Plus I need more.  I need access to my calendar.  I need directions.  I need everything.  Immediately.  And I’m on a budget.

Some CRM for Real Estate

I didn’t have time to  write real estate crm reviews for all these products, but I have tried a lot of them out

  • Daylight
  • Salesforce
  • Base
  • REA Real Estate Assistant
  • Clientlook
  • Apto
  • Insightly

A lot of these companies/programs have been around for a long time, and I’m sure they all have their benefits and drawbacks.  All I know is when I started selling houses, I needed something FAST.  I didn’t have a lot of money to invest, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time learning a system that I wasn’t sure was going to work for me in the long run.

One thing I kept running into with these out of the box CRM solutions was that they either had a bunch of features I didn’t need, or they didn’t have the features I really wanted.  I hated being forced to do things their way, instead of my way.

What is the best real estate CRM?

For me, the best CRM is platform independent I can use it on a Mac, PC, Tablet, or Phone.  It does automatic backups,  because I never remember to do that.  It has a calendar, contacts, notes, document storage, and a to do list.  It is easy to set-up, and has lots of documentation in case I run into a problem.  Plus it’s low cost, or even free.

In summary:

  • Platform independent
  • Automatic Backups
  • Lots of features
  • Easy to use
  • Low cost

Google for Real Estate

Enter Google, and their suite of business apps.

google_appsWhat?  I didn’t know google had programs I could use in my business.  Well, they do,  And they are easy to use, free, and work on both Macs and PCs (Plus tablets, and phones).

They have lots of support on-line that teaches me how to use the different programs when I get stuck and need help.

Since the apps live in the cloud, I never need to worry about backing everything up.

The best part is it is free, and since it is Google I don’t have to worry about them going out of business.

There are lots of different features, too. The parts of Google that I use for managing my real estate business:

  • Mail
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Drive

Over the next week I’ll be writing extensively how I use each of these features.  Mostly I just have the regular set-ups for each of them,  but the way I use them is a bit specific to real estate, and hopefully you will find that helpful.

Most likely you already have an account with Google, so the set-up is almost nil, and unless you have tons and tons of emails, the cost is free.  I know you get 15 Giga-bytes of storage for free, and the next level is 100 GB, for only $4.95/month.  That’s cheap!

Each of the different apps is linked to each other, too, so I can schedule a meeting right from my mail program, and then link it to the people who I’ll be meeting with on contacts.  I can also share and collaborate with documents using Google Drive,

It’s really easy!  I suggest you try it out!

I just got my Real Estate License

June 3rd, the Day before Independence day is now one of the most important days in my life.  It ranks up there with the birth of my son, my wedding anniversary, and the birthdays of all my family and friends.

You see, when I woke up that Tuesday morning, I followed my usual routine – let the dogs out, start the coffee, and start up the computer to check my emails overnight.

My inbox doesn’t stop at night, it just slows down a little.  Most nights I get a couple of dozen messages – a few personal notes from my friends across the country, and around the world, some advertisements from my favorite companies, a little bit of spam, and some messages from my clients who stay up way too late at night.

But that morning was different.  There was a message from TREC  – the Texas Real Estate Commission.  As soon as I saw that one, I immediately clicked into it, and began to read:

Attached is important information from the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC)

or Texas Appraiser Licensing & Certification Board (TALCB).

Please read this information carefully.  Failure to maintain or renew

your license could result in additional fees, penalties, or expiration of your

license.

And then, attached as a PDF was the information I had been waiting so long to hear.

I was now officially licensed as a Real Estate Agent in the State of Texas.

The journey had been a long one – you can read about here – so I won’t recount it all.  In fact, this post will be my last one in the Real Estate School series for a while.  I know I’ll have to take some continuing education, but for now I get to jump in, and start to help people like you!

For most new agents the next step is to pick out a Brokerage.  You see, in Texas, you can’t just be a lone Agent.  You need to be sponsored by an established brokerage, and for the last several months I’ve been interviewing different companies.  Some were small boutique agencies, others were groups that specialized in modern homes.  I even looked into some of the really big, national Real Estate Agencies.

In the end I found the perfect fit – JB Goodwin.   But that’s another story for another day – stay tuned, and come back tomorrow to read all about it!

 

The Texas Real Estate Test

After many months of preparation, weeks of arranging paperwork and waiting for the day to arrive, it finally did.  I sat for the Texas Real Estate exam.  I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous.  I’ve put a lot of time and preparation into this, and it’s all come down to 2 1/2 hours on a monday morning.  Spoiler alert – I passed.  It’s hard to think that all the work I’ve been doing for the last 6 months has led up to this moment.  But it has, and it’s all been worthwhile.

If you found this post you were probably searching the web for info about the Texas Real Estate Exam.  I’m going to describe my experience, as best I can, so you can be as prepared as possible.  If you find this page helpful, please like my Facebook Real Estate page as a thank you.  Karma baby!

There aren’t a whole lot of photos in this post, mostly because I couldn’t take any pics at the testing center.  But there are a lot of words, so grab a coffee, and sit down for a long read.

Registering to take the test was a little tricky, because the instructions from TREC aren’t super clear, and are sort of hard to find on the web.  Here’s how it worked for me.

As soon as I finished my final class at the Champion School of Real Estate, I jumped on the TREC website, and filled out the Texas Real Estate salesperson paperwork, digitally.  I’ve heard from a couple of people around town that doing it digitally was faster than printing out the forms and sending them in.  Since I wanted my license as fast as possible, this was my obvious route.

But, I did have one small problem when I submitted my supporting school documents (transcripts).  TREC requires not ust the basic Real Estate classes, but also that you have some other college coursework.  Naturally I keep copies of my college transcripts around (both official ones that are unopened, as well as an open copy for my use).  So  I scanned them in as PDFs and emailed them in as the instructions said to do.  But the file was too large for their system to handle, and it bounced back to me.  Of course it took a week for me to find this out, delaying my application in the process.  GRRRR!  Note to TREC – if you are going to accept PDFs why not use an email system that can handle large attachments.  It’s not like Real Estate contracts aren’t 20 pages, they are sometimes.

To solve the problem I could have created a bunch of PDFs that were smaller in size, but I didn’t want to risk this also not working, so I jumped in the car, headed to downtown Austin, and submitted my transcripts in person at the TREC office.  Low tech solution to the problem.  When I was there I asked a couple of questions, and found out that the next step was for someone in the office to review my paperwork, and if everything was OK, I’d get an email with more instructions.

As they said, after a few days, I got an email from TREC stating that all my documents were in order and that I was approved to take the Texas real estate exam.   The email also instructed me to visit the PSI website and download the candidate information brochure (C.I.B.).  Alternatively I could call a number or visit the TREC website for more info.

But when I visited the PSI website, there was no C.I.B. to be found.

As a side note, one thing I’ve found with technology is making things super easy for everyone to use.  When sending out an email, even though you have spent hours crafting the perfect words, to express exactly what needs to be said, make sure that what you are saying actually gets some kind of action.  Sure, as the writer of a note, you may be super familiar with what needs to be done, but the reader might not be.  Make it easy for them using photos, hyperlinks, or bulleted instructions.  That’s the beauty of the web – you can easily format things to make what you need to get done, DONE!

After poking around the PSI website for a while, It turns out, I needed to create an account, wait for it to be approved, and then log in before I could get the  C.I.B with the much needed instructions.  I needed my TREC number (the one that starts with 9999), and once I discovered that, everything worked well.  Of course I didn’t figure that out on my own, I had to call PSI and talk with someone who carefully explained it to me.  It would have been much easier if the original email from TREC just said “Crate an account on the PSI website using this link, to be able to register for the test”.  Instead, I had to spend over an hour trying to figure it out on my own.

The Candidate Information brochure has a TON of information in it:  Sample test questions, what kind of things you can bring in to the test center (pretty much nothing), what kinds of ID are accepted, how to use the computer at the testing center, and more.  But what it doesn’t have is how to register for the test.  That’s done on the PSI website.  It would be helpful to add a paragraph there, too, just in case someone was looking (like me).

Real Estate Exam Prep Book
Click the book to see it on Amazon.com

So I went through the different menus and signed up for the Salesperson exam at one of the two Austin PSI testing centers.   I had to wait 2 weeks for the next available appointment.  There was nothing I could do about that,  So I waited and waited (and spent some time studying from this book), and finally the day arrived.

One thing the C.I.B. says to do is arrive 30 minutes early to the test.  Even with Austin traffic, I was able to manage to arrive early.  I wasn’t the first one there, as a bunch of others were waiting outside the door of PSI, which was of course locked.  It’s no fun to wait outside in Texas during the summer, so I found a nearby tree, and hung out for 10 minutes playing on my iPhone, until the door was unlocked.  After a short while, the door opened, and I stashed my phone in the car and headed inside.

Once inside the PSI testing center, it wasn’t very exciting.  There was a table a bunch of chairs lined up against the wall, a door to a bathroom, and not much else.  One by one, the proctor called us up to the front desk where we handed over our ID, had our photo taken, and then were asked what test we were taking.  Very official.  After the short check in, I was told to go through the door, and enter the testing area  a room with a bunch of old cubicles against the wall.  Each one with a computer.

How hard is the texas real estate exam?

There isn’t much you need to take the test.  Just yourself and 2 forms of identification.  I used my Driver’s license, and my passport.  They supply scratch paper, pencils and even a simple calculator (anything more is forbidden).  Obviously no phones are allowed, nor notes, or anything else that could be used for cheating.  Ladies are asked to leave their purses in the car.  You can’t even bring in a Starbucks, so if you can’t go for more than 90 minutes without a latte, start preparing now.

I was instructed to sit at station #5, where there was an older PC, a keyboard with some funny keys on it, and a mouse.  There was also a set of disposable earplugs if I wanted to use them.  There are lots of cameras inside the testing room, watching for funnybusiness, too.  So don’t try anything ’cause you will get caught.

The test taking experience wasn’t anything spectacular.  First there is a little tutorial on how to take the test using the keyboard or mouse.  You can mark questions for review, go back and forward through the questions, and even change your answers.  Then there are 10 or so “practice questions” based on common US trivia (what do the stars on the flag represent).  Then the test starts.  It’s super quiet in there.  But every now and then I heard a cricket chirping.

Is the Texas Real Estate License Exam difficult?

The test itself is broken into two parts – The National Section, and the Texas specific section.  Really,  you have two separate tests at one time.  This wasn’t really explained during any of my prep classes or even in the C.I.B.  You have to take one immediately after the other, and once you finish the first, there is no going back to change or correct any answers.  For me, I was given the Texas portion first.

In the Texas specific section of the real estate exam, I didn’t have any math questions.  I did have a lot of ethics questions, and a ton of contracts questions, especially questions about amendments to the standard TREC forms.  Lots of questions about short sales, and foreclosure stuff, and even some stuff on water and sewer lines on unimproved property.

There were also a lot of questions about Agency.  Specifically are the differences in powers between an agent and a broker, and what happens during some dual agency type agreements.  There was also a few questions about real estate assistants, and what they can and can’t legally do.

The national part was much longer.  This section had a lot of questions that I expected, but it was still pretty hard.  I had spent a lot of time taking sample questions I found online, as well as going back and reviewing all the real estate questions at the end of the chapters of all my textbooks.  I think that really helped.

On the national exam, there are a lot more questions about the agency relationship between salespeople and clients, Principals, fiduciary agreements, and stuff.  Plus there are some questions about national regulations like 1978 lead based paint (say it out loud, it sort of rhymes).  Also in this test, there were some math questions   a few about calculating finances stuff, and a few regarding land area (so be sure to know those calculations).  I’m really good at math, so I know I got those answers right.

I didn’t need all the time required to finish both parts.  So I went back, carefully checked each answer, and clicked the finish button.  Actually I had to confirm 3 times that I wanted to end the test, just in case I did it accidentally, I guess.

Before I got my instant results, there was a short, mandatory survey about my experience.  They asked a bunch of questions about how easy it was to take the test, how nice the testing center was, and how helpful the staff is.  I answered them honestly, and hope someone from PSI finds this post for more details.

Finally, after completing the post test survey, I got my results.

I passed!

I was super excited!  And couldn’t rush out of there fast enough.  I collected my ID, and a couple of printouts confirming my success!  Then I got back to my car and grabbed my phone so I could call my wife.

As for the next steps, the page I got from the PSI testing center in Austin says that TREC will notify me within 10 days, and since I’ve had my fingerprints done, passed all my classes and had them approved, paid my fees, and completed all my paperwork, I don’t expect there to be anything else preventing me from beginning to buy and sell houses in Austin.

If you are about to take the test, or already did, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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The Three Bears of Real Estate Brokerages

I’ve just made one of the biggest decisions as a new real estate agent.

It was a whole lot easier than I thought it would be.  But I still took my time and interviewed several brokerages before making my decision.

You see, looking for a job isn’t just about a company hiring you to do work for them.  As an employee, you should also spend some time researching the company, coming up with a list of questions to ask, and actually evaluating the people you talk with to see if you like them

So often we are so desperate to just get a job and a paycheck we don’t really focus on if it is a good job or not.  If it is something that we actually want to do, with people we want to work with, and in a place that will be fun.

No, instead we take the first job we are offered, and then we feel stuck, in a place that isn’t quite right.

I learned this lesson a long time ago.  It’s one of the reasons I’m now now in Real Estate, and not doing something else.

So for me, it was super important to find a Real Estate Brokerage in Austin that had not only the resources I need as a new agent, but is a great, fun, and interesting place to work.

Its sort of like the children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but instead of being scared off and running away at the end, I have found a new home!

I’m sure you remember the story – but just in case:  Goldilocks comes upon a house in the woods.  Seeing it empty she walks in to find some porridge on the table.

 

She samples the first and says this one is too hot

She trys the 2nd and syas this one is too cold

When she tries the third one she says this is just right

 

Then she moves over to the beds and sits in the first one – This one is too hard

Upon trying the second, this is too soft

And the third is just right, of course.

 

So she falls asleep.  Soon the bears come home and see her.  She wakes up, and runs away.

 

It was the same with me.

I also tried three brokerages, and my story is very similar.

 

The first one, was just a little too modern for me.  They had a different business model than I was used to.  The interview process was a little too different – and some red flags went up for me during the process so I politely bowed out.

I’m sure they are a great agency.  I see them all over the web, and in the industry news, but for me, it wasn’t a good fit.

The second brokerage I interviewed was just a little too small.  I know I would have gotten a lot of great work through them, but I wasn’t convinced that I would get the help and resources I need as a new agent.  Perhaps when I am a little more experienced, and have a couple of dozen transactions under my belt, I’ll return to them.

Finally I settled upon JB Goodwin.  They are an agency that’s been around a very long time in Austin.  I really wanted to work with an established agency with a proven track record.

  • I want the ability to work areas that I choose
  • I need the flexibility to do marketing my way, but still be able to man the phones and volunteer to hold open houses when I want.
  • I want a nice office to take clients to, without having to pay expensive desk fees.
  • I want great training, from experienced agents who don’t seem put out when I ask a question.

JB Goodwin offers all these things and so much more.

I’m super excited to have my sponsoring broker in place, as I finish up my classes and take the TREC real estate exam.

I encourage you to subscribe to my blog, and follow me as I take this new journey.