Communication is key in any business and in any relationship and especially in any business relationship. In order to communicate what your wants and needs are, you need to KNOW what your wants and needs are. Start by thinking about the elements of your business that you either don't want to do or would like to have someone else do. If your list involves any tasks like showing properties, social media, attending home inspections, Open House follow up, preparing purchase agreements, stop reading this because you need an assistant and not a TC.
If your list contains items like: submit file to broker, review documents for completion & compliance, process documents for signature, follow up on reports, invoices & disclosures, or coordinate with all parties to provide any requested paperwork, you're in luck. There's a TC for that ;)
Then, think about how you prefer to operate and run your business. Is your phone glued to your hand? Or do you only check email a few times a day? Do you prefer text messages over phone calls? Do you want to be the middle man between your clients and other parties of the transaction? How much access do you need to the file during the transaction? How do you want to access the file after the transaction?
All of this insight will come into play when selecting a Transaction Coordinator to work with. Remember, your TC will be a direct reflection of you and your business, so it's important to be on the same page.
Are you SURE you Need a TC?
Answer: YES! Every agent, new or experienced, should be working with a TC. Period. We hear a lot of excuses in the industry about why an agent doesn't use a TC. But in the end, that's all they are; excuses. So let's address the top objections right off the bat.
I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO DO THE FILES MYSELF
We get this from a handful of brand new agents. Some are brand new and some have experience in the working world already. I can understand the philosophy of wanting to know how each part of the machine works before you assign it away, but I don't see agents interning at escrow or following around their title reps to "see how it's done." Same goes for a Transaction Coordinator. Chances are, the transaction coordinator you end up working with has seen and processed more files than you will ever do in your career. The information you will learn from doing your own files, is:
You hate paperwork.
You would rather be doing ANYTHING else.
Learn to trust your TC and lean on them for their expertise and knowledge the way you use any of your other vendors.
IT COSTS TOO MUCH
A lot of agents, especially when they are just getting started have many upfront costs associated with each real estate deal (photos, flyers, open house snacks, etc) and hinge it all on getting paid at the very end. So to add on any additional costs can seem daunting or even a luxury. An escrow file typically takes an agent 15-20 hours to process, so think about this: What's your time worth? Why spend that time uploading documents to your broker system, dragging and dropping signature tabs, or drawing up addendums and missing disclosures? If you put those 15-20 hours to good use, you could bring in your next deal that would more than cover the cost of the Transaction Coordinator. Don't forget, most TCs are paid commission at closing, just like you. If you don't get paid, they don't either.
I'VE WORKED WITH A TC BEFORE & HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE
No two TCs are alike, just like no two agents are alike. What if you met a wealthy investor that said, "I used a Realtor once and had a bad experience so I decided to get licensed and just handle my real estate deals myself." You would explain to them that each real estate agent is different. You would show how your experience/knowledge/marketing plan, etc sets you apart from the others. You would tell them that the most important part of a working relationship is to understand the client's needs and set up reasonable expectations. There could have been many factors that contributed to your bad experience. An inexperienced TC, missed expectations, poor communication, or maybe you didn't know how to use your TC and get the most bang for your buck.
If any of these thoughts have crossed your mind, keep reading.
Find a Great TC!
Easier said than done! Right?
Most agents find their Transaction Coordinator one of two ways:
1. They ask their agent friends who they use
2. Their office provides a TC for them.
This is the reason that a lot of first time agent/TC relationships fail. Remember how we said that no two agents are alike? Well keep that in mind when taking referrals from your agent friends about their Transaction Coordinator. Maybe your agent friend loves their TC because they can just hand them a file and walk away, but you want to provide your clients with a more personal one-on-one experience. Or maybe your agent friend gets a great deal on their TC because they only stay in the background and just give them a heads up when a deadline is approaching or a signature is missing, but you are willing to pay a bit more for some guidance and a 2nd set of hands. What works for one agent, might not work best for you.
Other agents might start working with a TC because it's a service provided in-house by their brokerage. Don't assume that because the broker encourages their services, that they are the best in the biz. Keep in mind that many offices collect a fee from each file the TC closes and the position can be financially motivated. There are also some offices that will require all agents to use a TC & then hire their Transaction Coordinator on a salary for agents to use at little to no cost. This can also present a problem because the TC might not be as motivated to provide top customer service or expand their knowledge on all things disclosures when they know they get paid either way.
Now that's not true for every in-house TC or agent referral, but you can view our previous post Everything You Should Know About Real Estate Transaction Coordinators and see what kind of qualities you should be looking for in a great TC.
So where DO you look? ...to other vendors that work with TCs on a regular basis. Escrow officers, title reps, home warranty reps. These are great resources that work the same volume of transactions your TC would and has a better idea of their methods.
Schedule a Consultation
An in-person interview probably isn't necessary (or possible since most TCs work remotely), but it's important to at least talk to your TC over the phone before starting a new file and discuss what to expect from each other before, during and after a transaction. Find out what your TC needs from you to work on a new file. Let your TC know how you prefer to communicate and receive updates on your file.
Here are a few questions to ask a potential TC:
Are you taking on any new clients? / Are you available for a new file?
What are your working hours?
How/May I contact you outside of your hours?
What information do you need from me to open a new file?
What is the average turn around time I can expect from you on emails/requests/calls?
Are their any specific tasks that fall outside of your scope of duty?
What do you expect from me?
How do you typically handle: Repair Requests, Disclosures, Contingency Removals, Inspections
Walk me through your ideal transaction.
Remember those characteristics we discussed in Step 1 about how you like to run your business? This is where those should be discussed. There is no shame in telling your TC the best way to communicate with you. It's better to set the expectations now instead of being frustrated with each other in the middle of a transaction.
Here are some things you should tell your TC about your business:
Who signs your commission instructions?
How do you turn in a broker file?
Does your Broker have any special forms or addendums they require?
If you're an independent broker, do you have a document checklist you go off of?
This step is SO critical! The more you set and understand the expectations of an ideal file, the better equipped you will be during an actual transaction.
Introduce Your TC
Your TC is of no use to you if no one in the transaction knows they exist. Of course, they should be sending out their own introductions when a new file is opened, but they can only do that after they get the information from YOU.
When a new transaction is open, let them know that you're working with a TC, give everyone your TC's contact info, tell them that they will handle the paperwork and signatures and to include your TC in all emails.
If you only rely on your TC to make their own introductions, chances are their emails will go unread or into spam and you will become the primary contact for all paperwork and requests. This wastes your time and makes your TC's job more difficult.
Remember to set those expectations!
At the end of the day, you are the one that is responsible for your file. It's your license, your client, your brokerage. So you need to take some responsibility for what goes on during a transaction. Think of your role as like a Project Manager. Your TC should be including you in all correspondence and you should be paying attention to the back and forth. You don't need to jump in and respond to every email, but at least peruse or glance over them.
We understand that you're busy, but nothing will drive your TC more crazy than asking them for things you already have. So before you send out a document request to your TC or respond to an email at 2am, maybe type your TC's email in the search bar and see if the information is already there. Don't be that agent that says, "I know you already sent it to me, but I get so many emails, I can't find it. Can you just resend it?"
That tells your TC that you haven't been paying attention to their work and that you don't have your s**t together. Yes, it would only take a quick second for your TC to pull the document or email from their fine tuned and structured system, but they also have to stop working on their current file to find and send you something that you probably already have.
Plus, we don't want to hear about all the emails you get. Trust me, we get more.
Follow the Golden Rule
The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would like to have done unto you.
This seems to be a concept that eludes most agents. They can be so focused on providing their own clients with excellent customer service, they forget how to be a good client themselves. It always amazes me when I come across an agent that behaves just like the clients they complain about.
I'm not going to use this section to vent about all of the bad agents I've come across. I just want you think about how you feel when you have a client do any of the following:
Contact you at all hours for an "emergency"
Say, "I know you're on vacation/at a family event/in a meeting, BUT..."
Ask you to show them home after home and then you find out on Facebook they put an offer in with the Listing Agent directly
Tell you, "We think you're great, but our nephew's girlfriend's cousin just got licensed, so we want to help them get started"
You: I hear you would like to list your home. Let's get together so I can go over all of the ways I'm the best choice to help you do that. Client: Okay, but first, what kind of a discount can you give me?
Communicate with the other agent/Seller/Buyer directly
Don't forget that your TC is in the service industry too. Their job is to service YOU. They should want to make you look like a professional with a top tier team and have your back when you forget a deadline or miss a checkbox that could make or break the sale. If you treat them like staff or constantly throw them under the bus, it's a lot harder to maintain that support. Your TC will fall on a lot of swords for you as the "messenger" or when people get fed up with technology and constant reminders.
A little consideration goes a long way.
Feedback is Priceless
One of the most common traits in successful business owners is that they never stop learning. They are always trying to be better and do better. The same should go for you AND your TC.
Providing feedback to your TC about issues you're having or elements of their process that you really like is priceless. And you should be open to the same. Don't hesitate to ask your TC at the end of a transaction if there was anything you could do different next time.
It will usually take a few transactions to get an idea of your systems and work out any kinks, especially if you skipped right over Step 4 and just tossed a file to a new TC that's already been open for a few days.
That should get you started!
We hope you're able to use this guide to form a successful and long lasting relationship with a valuable member of your team.