Real Estate Call Capture – Shifting Your Focus Back to Your Clients

The real estate business was designed to assist potential home buyers in purchasing their home. Whether they are first-time buyers or seasoned home owners, real estate agents are still the best option to help people find the property they need – but the business of real estate has changed dramatically over the years.

In the real estate industry’s infancy and beyond there was always a lot of leg work involved. Agents worked from offices but rarely spent much time there. A majority of the day was spent showing homes to buyers; often late in the evening or on weekends. Clients were obtained by walk in traffic, by the use of flyers and newspaper advertising, by cold calling and door knocking.  While some things have remained the same, there is much that has changed.

These days, the introduction of technology has advanced the industry and improved the marketing methods used by real estate agents. Real estate call capture technology is rapidly becoming the leading method of marketing and sales for real estate. Like most significant advances in business, call capture is a simple but highly effective technology that allows the agent to shift their focus to the most important things in their business – their clients.

A real estate call capture system gives the agent a unique toll free number which includes unlimited extensions that can be put on advertisements, signs, websites, and newspapers listings. Call capture technology is completely virtual and requires no installation of hardware or software. The concept is simple, yet the benefits are staggering.

The impact that real estate call capture technology has had on the industry is quickly becoming apparent. With its use, agents have increased their revenue and number of leads. Every lead is automatically tracked and followed up on, so potential buyers and sellers are never overlooked, no matter how busy the agent may be. Every time someone calls, the information is passed on to the agent regardless if the caller is calling from a land line, mobile or blocked number. This definitely benefits the agent as they don’t have to worry about people not leaving messages or leaving inadequate contact information. Hits on websites can easily be transferred into leads by directing them to the call capture system which then can be converted into sales.

With the call capture system generating, capturing and updating the agent on all leads that are coming in, they can spend more time nurturing the those leads and their clients that they are already working with.

There are many extras included with most real estate call capture systems as well. They provide the agent with access to a wide variety of sales and marketing tools, such as newsletter systems, marketing campaigns, and advertising systems. The various extensions that can be added can also be assigned to certain ad types. Agents know if the person is calling in regards to an ad they read in a newspaper, online advertising, a magazine, or on a sign rider. This assists in determining what type of advertising is working best, making it possible to allocate money and resources to the most effective ads.  By using the advertising tracking abilities of a call capture system, an agent can free up valuable time and resources that can be better spent on only the best advertising and on taking care of their clients and their needs.

There are benefits to the home buyer as well. Because of the fact that most real estate agents spend a majority of their time away from their office, it can be difficult to contact them. Messages can be left and calls missed. A hopeful buyer may miss out on the opportunity of purchasing a home because they couldn’t reach their agent, and the agent may miss out on a sale and commission. The call capture system can forward a client’s call to the office, home, cell phone, or any other phone number of the agent’s choosing. This ensures that the agent can be reached at any time. The result is that the clients feel as if they are receiving personal service and a client is more inclined to work with an agent who can offer them personal, quick, and efficient service.

Being able to service clients more efficiently is the key to obtaining more sales, establishing good customer relations and excellent word-of-mouth advertising. Agents can now spend more time listening to what their clients need rather than having to spend so much time trying to find ways to generate more leads and manage their advertising. Having to focus energy on creating flyers and ads is time consuming and can also be counter-productive to what the agent is trying to achieve.

This call capture technology is drawing more and more interest towards the real estate business. There is definitely huge potential to make money in the real estate industry, and by using up to date programs such as call capture, money can be made more quickly and with less initial cost. Real estate agents who use the call capture system report that it has changed their way of doing business significantly and that it makes them feel more comfortable and confident in their jobs.  It is expected that, like web sites and cell phones, call capture will soon be a standard tool of the real estate industry.

The 4 Types of Real Estate Investor Financing

Throughout my real estate investing career, I’ve spent many dozens of hours speaking with lenders and potential financiers of my deals. With all the different types of loans and equity financing products available to investors these days, it’s important to have a good understanding of the benefits and the drawbacks of each, so you can choose the most appropriate financing option for your particular need(s).

Of course, given today’s credit situation, options are not only more limited than they were a couple years ago, but the definition of a “good deal” from a lender has changed as well. When I first started looking at financing for single family houses, I passed on a couple potential options that in hindsight were pretty good given today’s tight credit market; so it’s important to not only understand the types of financing that’s out there, but also which types are most prevalent and most easy to come by.

The point of this article is to define the four most common types of financing available to real estate investors; while there are, of course, more than four ways of financing real estate investments, most are a derivative — or combination — of the four we will discuss here.

1. Traditional Financing

This type of loan is generally done through a mortgage broker or bank, and the lender may be a large banking institution or a quasi-government institution (Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, etc). The requirements to qualify for a loan are based strictly on the borrower’s current financial situation — credit score, income, assets, and debt. If you don’t have good credit, reasonable income, and a low debt-to-income ratio (i.e., you earn a lot compared to your monthly obligations), you likely won’t qualify for traditional financing.

Benefits: The benefits of traditional financing are low-interest rates (generally), low loan costs (or points), and long loan durations (generally at least 30 years). If you can qualify for traditional financing, it’s a great choice.

Drawbacks: There are a few drawbacks to traditional financing for investors, some major:

  • The biggest drawback to tradition financing is what I stated above — it’s difficult to qualify these days. Just a year or two ago, you could have qualified under a “sub-prime” variation of traditional lending, where income and credit were less of an issue; but given the sub-prime meltdown (many of these borrowers defaulting on their loans), these sub-prime options have gone away. So, unless you have good credit, income, and small debt, you’re better off not even bothering with trying to get traditional financing these days.
  • Traditional lenders generally require that at least 20% be put down as a down payment. While this isn’t always true, investor loans with less than 20% down can be tough to find via traditional lending these days.
  • As an investor, it can be difficult to deal with traditional lenders who don’t necessarily understand your business. For example, a house I closed on last week with traditional financing almost fell-through because the lender wouldn’t provide the funds until the hot water heater in the investment property was working. As an investor, it’s common that I’ll buy houses with broken hot water heaters (among other things), and I can’t generally expect the seller to fix this for me, especially when my seller’s are usually banks. In this case, I had to fix the hot water heater before I even owned the house, which is not something I want to do on a regular basis.
  • Traditional lenders take their time when it comes to appraisals and pushing loans through their process. It’s best to allow for at least 21 days between contract acceptance and close. As an investor, you often want to incent the seller to accept your offer by offering to close quickly; with traditional lending, that can often be impossible.
  • If the lender will be financing through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (and most will), there will be a limit to the number of loans you can have at one time. Currently, that limit is either 4 or 10 loans (depending on whether it’s Freddie or Fannie), so if you plan to be an active investor going after more than 5 or 10 properties simultaneously, you’ll run into this problem with traditional lending at some point.
  • There are no traditional loans that will cover the cost of rehab in the loan. If you plan to buy a $100K property and spend $30K in rehab costs, that $30K will have to come out of your pocket; the lender won’t put that money into the loan.

2. Portfolio/Investor Lending

Some smaller banks will lend their own money (as opposed to getting the money from Freddie, Fannie, or some other large institution). These banks generally have the ability to make their own lending criteria, and don’t necessarily have to go just on the borrower’s financial situation. For example, a couple of the portfolio lenders I’ve spoken with will use a combination of the borrower’s financial situation and the actual investment being pursued.

Because some portfolio lenders (also called “investment lenders”) have the expertise to actually evaluate investment deals, if they are confident that the investment is solid, they will be a bit less concerned about the borrower defaulting on the loan, because they have already verified that the property value will cover the balance of the loan. That said, portfolio lenders aren’t in the business of investing in real estate, so they aren’t hoping for the borrower to default; given that, they do care that the borrower has at least decent credit, good income and/or cash reserves. While I haven’t been able to qualify for traditional financing on my own due to my lack of income, portfolio lenders tend to be very excited about working with me because of my good credit and cash reserves.

Benefits: As mentioned, the major benefit of portfolio lending is that (sometimes) the financial requirements on the borrower can be relaxed a bit, allowing borrowers with less than stellar credit or low income to qualify for loans. Here are some other benefits:

  • Some portfolio lenders will offer “rehab loans” that will roll the rehab costs into the loan, essentially allowing the investor to cover the entire cost of the rehab through the loan (with a down-payment based on the full amount).
  • Portfolio loans often require less than 20% down payment, and 90% LTV is not uncommon.
  • Portfolio lenders will verify that the investment the borrower wants to make is a sound one. This provides an extra layer of checks and balances to the investor about whether the deal they are pursuing is a good one. For new investors, this can be a very good thing!
  • Portfolio lenders are often used to dealing with investors, and can many times close loans in 7-10 days, especially with investors who they are familiar with and trust.

Drawbacks: Of course, there are drawbacks to portfolio loans as well:

  • Some portfolio loans are short-term — even as low as 6-12 months. If you get short-term financing, you need to either be confident that you can turn around and sell the property in that amount of time, or you need to be confident that you can refinance to get out of the loan prior to its expiration.
  • Portfolio loans generally have higher interest rates and “points” (loan costs) associated with them. It’s not uncommon for portfolio loans to run from 9-14% interest and 2-5% of the total loan in up-front fees (2-5 points).
  • Portfolio lenders may seriously scrutinize your deals, and if you are trying to make a deal where the value is obvious to you but not your lender, you may find yourself in a situation where they won’t give you the money.
  • Because portfolio lenders often care about the deal as much as the borrower, they often want to see that the borrower has real estate experience. If you go to a lender with no experience, you might find yourself paying higher rates, more points, or having to provide additional personal guarantees. That said, once you prove yourself to the lender by selling a couple houses and repaying a couple loans, things will get a lot easier.

3. Hard Money

Hard money is so-called because the loan is provided more against the hard asset (in this case Real Estate) than it is against the borrower. Hard money lenders are often wealthy business people (either investors themselves, or professionals such as doctors and lawyers who are looking for a good return on their saved cash).

Hard money lenders often don’t care about the financial situation of the borrower, as long as they are confident that the loan is being used to finance a great deal. If the deal is great — and the borrower has the experience to execute — hard money lenders will often lend to those with poor credit, no income, and even high debt. That said, the worse the financial situation of the borrower, the better the deal needs to be.

Benefits: The obvious benefit of hard money is that even if you have a very poor financial situation, you may be able to a loan. Again, the loan is more against the deal than it is against the deal-maker. And, hard money lenders can often make quick lending decisions, providing turn-around times of just a couple days on loans when necessary. Also, hard money lenders — because they are lending their own money — have the option to finance up to 100% of the deal, if they think it makes sense.

Drawbacks: As you can imagine, hard money isn’t always the magic bullet for investors with bad finances. Because hard money is often a last resort for borrowers who can’t qualify for other types of loans, hard money lenders will often impose very high costs on their loans. Interest rates upwards of 15% are not uncommon, and the upfront fees can often total 7-10% of the entire loan amount (7-10 points). This makes hard money very expensive, and unless the deal is fantastic, hard money can easily eat much of your profit before the deal is even made.

4. Equity Investments

Equity Investment is just a fancy name for “partner.” An equity investor will lend you money in return for some fixed percentage of the investment and profit. A common scenario is that an equity investor will front all the money for a deal, but do none of the work. The borrower will do 100% of the work, and then at the end, the lender and the borrower will split the profit 50/50. Sometimes the equity investor will be involved in the actual deal, and oftentimes the split isn’t 50/50, but the gist of the equity investment is the same — a partner injects money to get a portion of the profits.

Benefits: The biggest benefit to an equity partner is that there are no “requirements” that the borrower needs to fulfill to get the loan. If the partner chooses to invest and take (generally) equal or greater risk than the borrower, they can do so. Oftentimes, the equity investor is a friend or family member, and the deal is more a partnership in the eyes of both parties, as opposed to a lender/borrower relationship.

Drawbacks: There are two drawbacks to equity partnership:

  • Equity partners are generally entitled to a piece of the profits, maybe even 50% or more. While the investor doesn’t generally need to pay anything upfront (or even any interest on the money), they will have to fork over a large percentage of the profits to the partner. This can mean even smaller profit than if the investor went with hard money or some other type of high-interest loan.
  • Equity partners may want to play an active role in the investment. While this can be a good thing if the partner is experienced and has the same vision as the investor, when that’s not the case, this can be a recipe for disaster.

5 Ways Business Value Statements Impact Business

DEFINE THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUES BY WHICH YOU WILL RUN YOUR BUSINESS

Okay – so now that you are here, you know that:

  • Your Business Mission Statement provides a path to understand the business vision in line with its values; defining your business’ purpose and primary objectives
  • Your Business Vision Statement defines both the purpose and values of your business and can encourage you to achieve defined objectives, even if they are objectives that stretch you, knowing that the vision is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound).
  • Your Vision Statement also defines your business’ reason, in terms of your business’ values.
  • These statements have a direct influence on your business’ bottom-line and success.

Business Values are guiding beliefs about how YOU want things done.

Value Statements: You demonstrate and represent your values in action in your personal and work behaviors, decision-making, and interpersonal interaction.

Here are a few value statements:

  • Marketing is a constant, learning process.
  • Maintaining outstanding customer relationships is key.
  • Operate with integrity and accountability.
  • Give back and support participation in the community activities that empower others.
  • Provide quality and thoughtful services
  • Showing improvement, innovative actions, credibility, and honesty.
  • Enjoy your business, achieve your vision!

Consolidate the common values by which your business will be operated.

Example of value statement: In conducting our business, we will realize our vision by performing our affairs so that our actions provide confirmation of the high value we place on:

INTEGRITY: by dealing honestly with our clients, staff, vendors and community.

RESPONSIBILITY: by considering the environment in which we do business, community views and the common good.

PROFITABILITY: by being aware that an appropriate level of profit is necessary to maintain our business and allow our values to continue to be observed.

VALUE: by providing quality products/services that deliver value for money.

Once your Business Value Statement has been defined, these values will impact every piece of your business.

How can the values you identify have an impact on your business?

1. Value Statements provide boundaries on how your business successes will be achieved. Business objectives and goals are grounded in the established values.

2. You and your staff demonstrate and model the values in action in personal work behaviors, decision-making, contribution, and interpersonal communication, to ensure a value-based, shared culture.

3. Your Business Values will help establish priorities in your daily work life.

4. Values will guide decisions that are made.

5. When hiring and promoting others – their outlook and actions will need to be congruent with these values.

The work and art of a successful business includes planning – And, that is where a business coach comes in to help you put this together. Because success is a piece of art.