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Dream Team

Despite (or maybe due to) the solitary nature of real estate, it’s one of those industries that runs best when the lines of communication are open. That’s why you see so many mentor-mentee arrangements and cross-professional relationships. But what if you’re new to the business, or if you don’t know which broker, real estate attorney, or home inspector you can trust in your local area?

Image: Rawpixel.com, via Unsplash

Image: Rawpixel.com, via Unsplash

Allow me to recommend Dear Real Estate Agent, There Are Answers: Six Industry Professionals Share Their Knowledge as a start. It’s an e-book featuring straightforward chapters on what agents need to know from a broker, real estate lawyer, business attorney, home inspector, mortgage advisor, and insurance professional.

Each chapter is different because they’re written by different people. The book (smartly) begins with Katherine Scarim, broker-owner of Island Bridge Realty. It’s a meaty chapter, filled with scripts, sample disclaimers, and checklists of what to do before you start working with clients. Scarim goes beyond the typical pipeline filling advice to lay out the basics not everyone thinks of immediately, but that will bite agents in the you-know-where if they don’t get it down (ensuring they understand every document they ask their clients to sign, red flags to watch for when writing an offer, how to set a marketing budget). She even covers rarer circumstances such as how to represent renters and buyers looking at new construction.

I particularly like how she lays out her brand of common sense in a way with which you just can’t argue, as in this choice quote: “Early on, I kept a cleaning caddy in my car so I could tackle anything too horrible before showings. By doing this, I avoided having to have an uncomfortable conversation, but I also devalued my time by becoming a cleaning lady instead of an agent.”

In chapter two, real estate lawyer Gregory Cohen spends a fair amount of time working to convince real estate professionals that his colleagues aren’t just there to be deal-killers. However, he does include helpful anecdotes and specific examples of deals gone awry that could really only be put back on track by attorneys. He also includes red flags to look for to ensure the lawyers in your transactions are drafting contracts that are accurate and fair to your clients. Much of his advice could be helpful to folks who have been in the business for awhile, such as this gem: “Preprinted language in contracts is a bit like background music. At a certain point you don’t hear it anymore.”

He’s also a straight shooter. I love his reply to clients who say they don’t want to pay for title insurance: “I reply I would have to charge them far more for my time to prepare a disclosure document explaining how ridiculously stupid the idea of forgoing title insurance is, than it would cost them to obtain the actual title insurance.”

Gerald Pumphrey, senior mortgage advisor for Waterstone Mortgage Corporation, tends to overuse italics, bold type, and punctuation, but he also offers concrete questions to help real estate agents qualify a prequalification (“You should never just accept a pre-approval letter and assume the loan officer did their job… A pre-approval is only as good as the loan officer issuing the letter.”) He walks readers through basic loan types and explains each step clients will typically have to follow to get from the pre-approval process all the way to closing time.

In chapter four Guy Hartman, owner of Your Inspector Guy, goes through all the elements that are typically examined in a home inspection. He offers insider tips that both buyer’s agents and listing agents can pass on to their clients to make the inspection go more smoothly. He also includes a multitude of case studies that will be helpful to read no matter where you are in the transaction. His comprehensive checklist of traits to look for in a home inspector could prove quite helpful for any real estate pro looking to create a list of recommended providers, but in general, he advises readers to “look for an inspector who can help put the inspection and inspection process in context, who can confidently explain what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how to interpret the results.”

Mark Shanz, broker-owner of Seegott Shanz Insurance, leads readers through the many types of insurance homeowners might choose, explains ways they can save on their insurance, and details possible deal killers in the binder period before the deal closes. He goes into what may very well be more detail than a real estate professional will require in day-to-day work. But just as readers might be tempted to skip forward to the last section, he addresses the considerations agents and brokers should keep in mind when shopping for E&O, auto, general liability, and umbrella insurance.

Finally, business attorney Kelly Sturmthal talks through the common the legal structures for real estate businesses and outlines the questions that should be resolved if you’re looking at creating a real estate team, for example.

While the group does its best to generalize, this book will be more useful to real estate pros working in Florida, as all of the writers work in that state. It’s not that they exclusively talk about the laws and regulations governing Florida, but that many examples the writers cite originate there. However, Shanz betrays some serious geographical blind spots when he writes that “a home 30 years or older will be a tougher sell to insurance carriers… Finding affordable coverage for an older home is one example when having an experienced, local agent that represents multiple carriers will prove crucial.” As the owner of a home that is more than 100 years old, I can tell you that when shopping for home insurance no one blinked once when I told them the age of my home (likely because I bought in the practically geriatric city of Chicago).

Aside from being your built-in business advisors, this self-published book boasts another helpful feature in that it’s easily updated to reflect the ever-changing world of real estate. Scarim noted when she sent a copy my way that since they initially published, the FHA’s national conforming loan limit rose, meaning they needed to update the text. “A publishing house would never allow for biannual changes, as it would be far too costly for them. It would be silly to be preaching to agents that they have to keep up-to-date with the industry in a stagnant book,” she wrote. “Once revised, I have the ability to have Amazon push the update to the customers who already purchased the e-book, so their version will be replaced with the new one. You have to love technology!”

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

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