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One Vision. One Community. One Voice. Maren Brisson-Kuester 2020 NC REALTORS® President


Seller Deceased? How to Handle the Listing Impress Your Clients with Professional Designations The Power of Reviews

VOL 99 NO 1 | FEBRUARY 2020

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February 2020


Features 8 Creating Your Own Future

REALTORS® can and should be leading the way to make housing affordability a core value.

12 One Vision. One Community. One Voice.


Maren Brisson-Kuester is eager to unite the association and encourage more to join her at the table.

17 Impress Your Clients with Professional Designations Designations and certifications not only give REALTORS® knowledge in the industry, but they also make you stand out to potential clients.

22 The Power of Reviews

Building and managing your online reputation is essential to the growth and livelihood of your business.

2020 President

26 Secrets to Success

Maren Kuester-Brisson

Four brokers offer their best advice on how to make it in this business.

12 Professional Designations



5 INSIDE NC REALTORS® Association Executive Scholarships, NC REALTORS® William C. Bass Leadership Academy Class of 2020


22 TO S T E R C E S

What the listing agent should look out for when the most recent owner of the property is deceased




Have something to talk about? Sure you do — and we want to hear it! Send us your comments, ideas or success stories to mallen@ncrealtors.org and you could be featured in the next Insight. ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  3

Insight, Volume 99, Issue 1 President Maren Brisson-Kuester

Treasurer Laurie Knudsen, GRI

President-Elect Kelly Marks, ABR, CRS, GRI

Immediate Past President Asa Fleming, SFR, AHWD

Regional Vice Presidents Region 1: Kim Endre, Kitty Hawk Region 2: Tony Harrington, Wilmington Region 3: Connie Corey, Greenville Region 4: Julia Tucker, Chapel Hill Region 5: Kathy Haines, Greensboro Region 6: Penny Boyles, King Region 7: Dennis Bailey, Shelby Region 8: John Ogburn, Charlotte Region 8: Jennifer Frontera, Indian Trail Region 9: Renee Cooney, Franklin Region 10: Teresa Pitt, Fuquay Varina Region 10: Mark Parker, Raleigh At Large Representative: Brooke Rudd-Gaglie, Oak Island Chief Executive Officer Andrea Bushnell, Esq., CIPS, RCE Vice President of Communications & Marketing Mckenzie Allen Graphic Design Coordinator Raquel Stubblefield Content Marketing Coordinator Aliyah Ross Contributors Lee Nelson, Rick Poe, Mark Zimmerman Cover/Feature Photography Doug Klesch For advertising information, visit ncrealtors.org/advertise or contact Keri Epps-Rashad at (336) 217-1049. INSIGHT (ISSN 24714127) (USPS 17170) is published four times a year in February, May, August and November by NC REALTORS®, 4511 Weybridge Lane, Greensboro, NC 27407. Periodicals Postage Prices paid at Greensboro, N.C. and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to INSIGHT, 4511 Weybridge Lane, Greensboro, NC 27407-7877. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information regarding the subject matter covered. Articles which appear in Insight are an informational service to members and consumers. Their contents are the opinions of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent those of NC REALTORS®. Advertising of a product or service does not imply endorsement, unless specifically stated. To opt-out of paper copy mailings, email hello@ncrealtors.org with a subject line of “Insight opt-out.”

Back in the day, when I thought about 2020, I had visions of Back to the Future and flying cars like in The Jetsons. Now that we’re here, those images only live in GIFs and memes for the younger generations to make fun of and share on social media. In thinking back to how Hollywood missed the mark on predictions of the future, it made me quickly shift to thinking about the real estate industry— where we have been and where we still have yet to go. Do we have the potential to miss the mark on our own predictions of the future? No one has a crystal ball, but I think it is quite safe to say change is a-comin’! Our industry is evolving at a rapid pace, and we, as REALTORS®, have to prepare ourselves and start talking about it. It should be no surprise that I aspire to be AT the table versus ON the table. What does that mean exactly? If you don’t speak up, people will speak on your behalf. This year as president, I hope to inspire everyone to live by this mantra and apply it to all facets of our organization, our state, our communities and our lives. I know it grows old hearing me say this, but we matter. REALTORS® help build lives and communities. REALTORS® help people in times of need, sadness, happiness and joy. We don’t just sell real estate. We care and serve passionately. We fight homelessness and help those less fortunate when we participate in service projects and physically build homes with our own two hands. We protect our clients and their rights when we march through the General Assembly in North Carolina and on Capitol Hill in D.C. What makes us so effective in these efforts? The fact that we are a formidable, powerful force—together. We’ve got to be in this together. When there are more of us in the same room, we bring the power of the R. We become THE REALTORS®. That is powerful and important.  That’s my goal for this year. Let’s work together to continue building communities and lives. Let’s work together to show our power as REALTORS®. Let’s come together at the same table with one vision, one community and one voice.

4511 Weybridge Lane, Greensboro, NC 27407 Phone: (336) 294-1415 ncrealtors.org

Maren Brisson-Kuester, 2020 President



The following AEs received a $750 scholarship to the Regional AE Conference: Joe Lattimore, Rutherford County Board Megan Mace, McDowell Board Amanda Moore, Surry Regional Carla Rose, Salisbury Rowan Terry Stevens, Rocky Mount Area Bonnie White, Johnston County The following AEs received a $1,000 scholarship to NAR’s AE Institute: Elizabeth Hensley, Burke County Board Carol Hinson, Union County Amanda Moore, Surry Regional

NC REALTORS® WILLIAM C. BASS LEADERSHIP ACADEMY CLASS OF 2020 Olita Boone, Johnson County Sofia Crisp, Greensboro Regional Magda Esola, Canopy Stephanie Estrada, Land of the Sky Jim Logan, Winston-Salem Regional Kim Perkins, Jacksonville Board DeJane Perry Kerr, Raleigh Regional Nikki Pratt-Nunley, Canopy Cathy Robertson, Winston-Salem Regional Kurt Rogerson, Carteret County Charles Umstead, Raleigh Regional David Zeitz, Longleaf Pine REALTORS® For more information about the Leadership Academy, please visit ncrealtors.org/leadershipacademy.

What They Don’t Teach in Real Estate Class Broadcast Live on wkte1090.com Saturday 10am EST

The following AEs received a $500 scholarship to NAR’s Leadership Summit: Megan Mace, McDowell Board Carla Rose, Salisbury Rowan The following AEs received a $1,560 William D. North scholarship to the AE Institute through NAR: Mot Davis, Cleveland County Terry Stevens, Rocky Mount Area Bonnie White, Johnston County The following AE received a $570 Judith Lindenau REALTOR® Certified Executive (RCE) scholarship through NAR. Carla Rose, Salisbury Rowan Recipients were selected based on financial need, commitment to professional development and continuing education, time in present position and NAR/NC REALTORS® participation.

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ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  5



What the listing agent should look out for when the most recent owner of the property is deceased The following is a fictional (but very plausible) conversation between Betty Broker and Larry Lawyer: BETTY: Larry, I have a question for you on listing a property that belonged to John Johnson, who died a month ago. John’s daughter Annie, and her husband Bobby, came to my office to list the property BY RICHARD S. POE for sale. When I look up the PARTNER, LANCASTER, property in the tax records TROTTER AND POE, PLLC and the Register of Deeds, everything says the property is still owned by John Johnson and wife, Doris Johnson. I know Doris died three years ago, so I assume John fully owned the property at the time of his death. What do I need to look out for? I do have a copy of John’s will, which was filed with the Clerk of Court. LARRY: Well, I am glad you called before listing the property under the name of John Johnson or the Estate of John Johnson—a common mistake many agents make. North Carolina law makes it clear that upon the death of a property 6  INSIGHT • February 2020

owner, title to the property immediately vests in either the heirs of the decedent or the devisees named in the will of the decedent. It is never correct to list an owner as “Estate of _________.” Did you get a chance to see in the will how John Johnson left his property? BETTY: Yes, he left the property to Annie and her brother and sister in equal shares. Also, Annie said she was sworn in at the courthouse as Executor of the Estate. By the way, I feel so nosy reading the will. Should I feel that way? LARRY: Sounds like a lot of good progress is being made. As a prospective listing agent, you should absolutely ask to see and read the will to determine who owns the property. If you don’t understand the will or it makes a complicated devise, you will probably need to get some attorney help to determine who needs to sign the listing agreement and later the contract. BETTY: Just out of curiosity, what would have happened if John had not had a will? LARRY: Great question. As you remember from Real Estate School, when someone dies without a will, it is referred to

as dying “intestate.” North Carolina, and all states for that matter, have statutes with a detailed menu of how property is distributed when someone dies without a will. In this case, John was not survived by a spouse but was survived by his three children. Therefore, the children take the property in equal shares. If the property was in John’s name alone, and he had been survived by his spouse, the spouse would receive part of his property, and the children would receive the rest. If John died without being survived by a spouse or children, things really get complicated, and you would need the input of an attorney to help you navigate the distribution scheme set forth in the Intestate Succession Act. BETTY: Interesting!! Ok, what do we do next? LARRY: Since the will was submitted to the Clerk and Annie has qualified as Executor, we now need to work on getting all three siblings to sign the Listing Agreement. Also, don’t forget that the spouses of each child here must also sign the Offer to Purchase and Contract when you find a buyer since they have a marital interest in the property. Finally, since we are dealing with a not yet fullyadministered estate, Annie Smith will have to sign as an individual owner and as Executor of the Estate. Her signature lines on the Listing Agreement, Contract and the Deed conveying title will be “Annie Smith, individually and as Executor of the Estate of John Johnson.” BETTY: But Annie says that since she is the Executor, her siblings have told her that they want her to take care of everything. Do we really need to involve her brother and sister in this? LARRY: This is where it all gets dicey. It all depends on what the will says. Typically, wills are written to leave the property in equal shares to the surviving children. However, it is possible to have a will that directly devises the property to the Executor with specific instructions to sell the property and then distribute the proceeds in a certain way. Unless the

RESOLVE: NC REALTORS® have free, unlimited access to our Legal Hotline and lawyers with more than 30 years experience. Call 336-294-1415 or email legalhotline@ncrealtors.org with any questions regarding contracts, forms, fair housing, disclosure and more.

will specifically devised the property to the Executor with a directive to sell, all of the children need to be involved. Involvement by all children will be the rule the vast majority of the time. BETTY: So, I guess I’m stuck with dealing with all three siblings. Can the two out-of-town siblings give Annie a power of attorney to sign things for them? (Disclosures, contracts, etc.) LARRY: Absolutely, that would probably be the most efficient way to handle this. BETTY: This is a great property and will probably sell quickly. What else do I need to look out for? LARRY: Hopefully, Annie has an estates attorney helping her with the estate, since she already filed the will with the Clerk and qualified as John’s Executor. Now she needs to publish a Notice to Creditors in a local newspaper. The law requires at least one publication of a Notice to Creditors before the property can be transferred out of an open estate. Also, if John’s creditors have filed any claims in the estate file, these may need to be paid at the closing if not before. BETTY: Do any of these requirements make the closing more expensive for the sellers since the property is coming out of an estate? LARRY: In most cases, yes. The closing attorney has to report the status of the estate administration to the title insurance company and will be required by the title insurance company to obtain certain affidavits from the Executor that are not needed in a conventional closing. Because of this, the seller should expect the seller fees to be higher than normal. BETTY: Thanks, Larry. I have made a lot of notes about this, but I will probably call you a few more times to make sure I handle this correctly. LARRY: Glad to help and good luck with your new listing!

CATCH RICK POE ON MOBILE MONDAYS IN MARCH Want to hear more or ask your own questions? You’re in luck—it’s our Mobile Monday’s topic in March! Learn everything you need to know about listing and selling properties of recently deceased owners from Rick Poe on Monday, March 2. Catch the presentation live at 1 p.m., or watch the video recording later. Join the group at facebook.com/groups/ncrmobilemondays.

ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  7

Creating Our Own Future Keeping housing affordable is a core value. As REALTORS®, we can and should be leading the way.

BY MARK ZIMMERMAN SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS As we embark on a new decade, this is an excellent time to reflect on what we want our communities to look like over the next ten years. Do we want them to have an inclusive, diverse population? Do we want them to be welcoming to all who want to live there? Do we want them to have housing options that are affordable so people of varying income levels can live there? The decisions that we make locally will affect the answers to those questions. To a large extent, we decide what kind of communities we live in. We need to plan appropriately now to realize the future we want to have. If you happen to live and work in one of North Carolina’s growing urban and suburban areas, communities are 8  INSIGHT • February 2020

changing at a rapid pace. This is certainly true of Charlotte and the Triangle, which are among the fastest-growing areas in the country. But the same can be said for other sections of the state that are experiencing economic vitality. With low unemployment in these areas, job growth requires population growth, and all those new people need to live somewhere. The question is, are we building enough new homes to accommodate them or not? So far, the answer is no. New construction, while picking up recently, has not kept pace for over a decade with the demand for housing. You, as REALTORS®, have experienced this firsthand. You’ve seen the post-recession buyer’s market shift dramatically to a seller’s market over the last several years. In short, supply hasn’t kept up with demand, and we all know what that means. Prices increase well above the inflation rate as too many buyers bid on too few properties. Unless that imbalance is addressed, over time more and more people at higher and higher income levels will no longer be able to afford the cost of housing. The result? The day will come when middle-class families will be locked out of the market because housing options

won’t be available to them. Our communities will transition from economically diverse to increasingly wealthy enclaves. If you don’t think that will happen in North Carolina, all you need to do is look at other areas around the country that have experienced high growth for a while. In Portland, Seattle, Boulder and, of course—the worst area for affordability—San Francisco, average home prices now extend into millions. Those cities have a new housing crisis, very different from the one in the past. This housing affordability crisis has consequences that ripple through towns. The fabric of the community is changed as people are forced to live further and further from where they work. That creates transportation challenges, road congestion, other infrastructure costs and a diminished quality of life for the commuters. Some are tempted to respond to this trend as a fait accompli: that’s the cost of growth. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We just need to find room to house more people where we are and make it easier for builders to provide that housing. One area in our control is local land-use regulations, which often exacerbate the supply imbalance. Many communities

use a host of exclusionary zoning ordinances to prevent change. Their answer to growth is to push it away rather than find a way to accommodate it. It’s no coincidence that the cities which are experiencing the worst housing crisis have placed some of the most restrictions on new construction. If we don’t want to end up like those areas, the time to act is before we get to the crisis stage. The time to act is now. Starting this year, NC REALTORS® will begin discussions on how we can engage communities in reassessing their land use regulations to smartly allow for more infill and density so that the supply of housing can begin to meet the demand for it. We’ll also explore how we can keep regulatory costs down so as not to artificially increase the price of a new home in the approval process. Forward-thinking conversations are already taking place in Charlotte and in Raleigh, with its new City Council. Durham has been active in passing innovative measures to address these issues. We want to share best practices and help move reform forward. As REALTORS®, we can and should be leading the way. Keeping housing affordable is a core value. But first, we need to decide: do we care? If we do, we must use this decade to change our future. ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  9

2019 MAJOR INVESTORS NC REALTORS® PAC continues to be one of the largest PACs in the state. In 2019, we raised $904,181 reaching 105% of our $865,000 goal. More than 12,000 NC REALTORS® members invested in the PAC, bringing our statewide participation to 27%. We also ended the year with 279 major investors, 39 President’s Circle members and 38 local associations met or exceeded goal this year. Your voice, time and investments are greatly appreciated and helped us promote homeownership, protect property owners' rights and keep over-regulation away. Thank you! Hall of Fame $50,000 Level Danny Brock Leigh Brown Andrea Bushnell Bradley Cohen Tony Smith

$25,000 Level Hadi Atri Lou Baldwin Margaret Bishop Douglas Brindley Maren Brisson-Kuester Ray Burton Robert Carter Cindy Chandler Connie Corey Michael Davenport Asa Fleming Bill Gallagher Swayn Hamlet Wendy Harris 10  INSIGHT • February 2020

J. Alan Holden Tommy Lawing Tomp Litchfield Valerie Mitchener Sandra O’Connor Jerry Panz Scott Rooth Buddy Rudd Cady Thomas Ronnie Thompson Linda Trevor Stephanie Walker Patrice Willetts Mary Edna Williams Allen Tate Myra Zollinger

Platinum R’s Maren Brisson-Kuester* Leigh Brown* Bradley Cohen* Asa Fleming* Wendy Harris* Valerie Mitchener

Golden R’s Hadi Atri Randall Blankenship* Douglas Brindley* Andrea Bushnell* Brett Bushnell Brenda Carroll* Cindy Chandler* Kim Dawson* David Deal Crystal Franklin-Copas* Bill Gallagher* Bruce Gates* Jason Gentry Tony Harrington* Amy Hedgecock Phillip Johnson* Tommy Lawing* John McPherson* Steven Norris* Sandra O’Connor* Buddy Rudd Tony Smith Renee Smith Cady Thomas*

Leland Thomas* Linda Trevor* Joshua Tucker Stephanie Walker* Patrice Willetts* Shaleen Young Myra Zollinger*

Crystal R’s Lee Allen Marvette Artis* Lou Baldwin* Margaret Bishop Diana Braun Shannon Brien Rosemary Buerger Robert Carter* Brooke Cashion* Clifton Cheek* Michael Davenport Anne Marie DeCatsye David Fialk Anne Gardner Lewis Grubbs Christi Hill*

Dan Kingsbury Marcus Larose Victoria Mitchener Jon McBride Eric Norman Joe Padilla Elijah Pitman Teresa Pitt Robert Rabon Thomas Rempson Brooke Rudd-Gaglie Kourosh Sharifi Wilson Sherrill Andrew Sims James Townsend Cynthia Walsh Leslie Williams

Sterling R’s Bill Aceto* Kellie Adams Charles Alexander Ray Alexander Eddie Alie Jim Allen Mary Burt Allen William Steven Allen Terri Alphin Smith Kimberly Anderson Barbara Andrews Kriston Ashley Samuel Aubrey Dennis Bailey Mike Barr Chester Bartlett Mary Basnight Bob Bates Kelly Benton Virginia Black Andrew Blackburn Eddie Blanton Beth Blevins Colleen Blondell Kirk Booth Deana Bowen Carol Bradley Bo Bromhal Phyllis Brookshire Scott Browder Jeb Brown Tanya Brown Steven Bryant Mike Butrum Janice Carlisle Kathy Carpenter Robert Carroll Jacob Cashion

Donna Chase Cheryle Cheek Dorothy Ciarrocchi Justin Ckezepis Tom Colley Jamie Cooper Renee Cooney Wade Corbett Connie Corey David Costner Cirila Cothran* Daniel Cottingham Linda Craft Jamie Lynn Crist Diana Davis Heather Dodson Harriette Doggett Rosemarie Doshier Lynda Edwards Anita Emery Kimberly Endre Timothy Ertzberger Bonzie Everson Treasure Faircloth Kristie Ferguson Regina Fie Margaret Fisher Danica Fletcher Jordan Forrest Peter Frandano Susan Franks Robert Frellick Jennifer Frontera Peter Gallo Melanie Gates Bonnie Gilbert Steve Gillooly Thomas Gongaware James Goodman Heather Gool Gloria Green Kevin Green Christina Grifaldo Cristina Grossu Lynn Gulledge Sharon Gupton Kathy Haines Mary Halter Neal Hanks Donald Harris Chanel Hart D’Aprix Hope Harvey Leasa Haselden Cindi Hastings Brenda Hayden Debra Hays Angie Hedgepeth Stacy Hiers

Laura Howell Bruce Hubbard Ruth Hudspeth Jessica Hughes Brandy Huffman Sandra Hurst Tony Jarrett Brenda Jarvis Regina Jenkins Charles Jetton Tiffany Johannes Larry Johnson Cindy Johnson Brown Angela Kalamaras Willo Kelly David Kennedy Deborah Key Adam Kiefer John Kindbom Terri King Dolores Knudsen Julie Kohlenberg Tache Melissa Kolodziej Scott Korbin Laurie Linder* James Lipscomb James Logan Stephen Long Todd Long Lolita Malave Kelly Marks Amanda Martin* Pamelia Matthews Sandra McAlpine Tim McBrayer James McCook Paul McGill Miriam McKinney LeNoir Medlock Ann Milton Timothy Mock Patrick Morgan Michelle Morris Jennifer Morton Jamie Moss-Godfrey* Elizabeth Motsinger Gabby Murillo Kristin Nash Erin Nixon Chet Oehme John Ogburn Mollie Owen Seth Palmer Mark Parker Katherine Pierce Wallace Peiffer Daryl Pendry Robert Percesepe

Kimberly Perkins Jean-Paul Peron April Pike Erika Pitman Melissa Polce Joan Posey-Neumann Samara Presley Sherri Pridgen Ward Ricke Linda Rike Cathy Robertson Ginger Robles Raymond Ruais Ea Ruth* Belinda Sanders Joe Schabot Densay Sengsoulavong James Sherrill William Shugart Allen Smith Tom Smith Cassandra Snyder Kristi Snyder Margaret Sophie Jennifer Spencer April Stephens Jeffrey Stewart Sandra Stewart Glenn Strickland Ben Styers Ida Terbet Lawrence Terry Monica Thibodeau Caitlin Thompson Heather Thompson Stephanie Thompson Henry Troscianiec Julia Tucker Kathleen Turner Norma Wagaman Derek Waller Donald Walston Tricia Watson David West Kevin Wester Kristina White* Bruce Williams Leslie Williams Mary Edna Williams Tiffany Williamson Michael Wong John Wood Scott Wurtzbacher David Zeitz Mark Zimmerman *Indicates President’s Circle As of November 2019. ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  11

12  INSIGHT • February 2020

2020 President Maren Brisson-Kuester is eager to unite the association and encourage more to join her at the table. Late last year, Insight caught up with Maren Brisson-Kuester after a day of meetings at the NC REALTORS® headquarters office in Greensboro. This is just one of the many “hats” she wears in her daily life. Not only is she heading up the 48,000-member state association as president this year, she’s busy leading operations at HM Properties in Charlotte and on top of all that, she’s raising two sons as a single mom. To most, this would seem impossible. To Maren, multi-tasking is just her way of life. It’s even how she got into the real estate business to begin with. At the age of 23, while working for an internet marketing company during the day, she started taking real estate classes at night. She received her real estate license in 2003 and jumped right into the business and into top-producer status. “This career was a natural fit for me,

but I’ve always thought bigger than just brokering. It’s ultimately what led me to my leadership roles.” Thanks to a suggestion from a friend, Maren first stepped into the REALTOR® association world through Canopy REALTOR® Association’s Leadership Academy. From there, she became the youngest person to serve as the association’s president. And, she did it twice, in 2015 and 2016. “It’s all manageable. That’s the story I tell to people about why they should get involved in leadership and not be afraid of the time commitment. If I could build a family, build an extremely successful brokerage business and get involved in leadership roles at my association and community, anyone can do it.” And for Maren, it’s essential to her career and the future of the real estate industry. If you haven’t heard her say it yet, you will this year: “I want a seat at ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  13

Getting to Know Maren “I want a seat at the table, not on the table. If you don’t speak up, then someone else will do it for you.” What’s #1 on your bucket list? I don’t have some big dream bucket list. I just want to grab the little moments with the ones I love and appreciate them in the simplest ways.

Go-to apps on your phone: Waze, Postmates and Instacart.

What do you believe is the future of the MLS?

the table, not on the table. If you don’t speak up, then someone else will do it for you.” It is that leadership philosophy that influenced her theme for her year as president: One Vision. One Community. One Voice. “We all have the same basic needs. We all want what’s good for our state, for our urban centers and our rural areas. We all want each other to be successful and we can do it collectively much better than we can apart.” Maren is looking forward to unifying the association across borders. She’s ready to tackle the tough conversations about the future of the industry. She’s eager to communicate the value of the association, especially the power of advocacy and the power of REALTORS® as a unit. And, she’s leaving many seats at her table for more diverse voices to join in. “I’m not in it for the glory. I’m certainly not in it for the money. I’m in it to help leave a footprint where someone else might want to follow behind.”

14  INSIGHT • February 2020

I think we might not have an MLS, at least how we know it, in the next decade. It will change and evolve. We may have a big regional one or a national one. I don’t know, but there will definitely be change.

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Best piece of advice you’ve received: “Never change who you are.”

Greatest life accomplishment? Seeing my children succeed.

The moment you get the

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16  INSIGHT • February 2020

Most people on the street don’t know what GRI, ABR®, or SRS mean or stand for. Here’s how you can change that and why it’s important to.

When Cristina Grossu earned her GRI designation, she created a post on Instagram and Facebook with gold balloons that spelled out GRI. “It was one of my most interactive posts, yet,” says Grossu, REALTOR®/broker at Realty One Group Select in Mooresville. People asked about it, wanted to know how she got it and on and on. NC REALTORS® encourages its members to take designation and certification classes because BY LEE NELSON it gives them better credentials and knowledge in the industry. But translating that to the public can be a bigger feat to accomplish. Most people on the street and potential clients don’t know what GRI, ABR®, SRS or CRS mean or stand for. “REALTORS® don’t seem as interested in designations anymore, too,” says Savanna Reagin, professional designations manager for NC REALTORS®. “They say ‘My clients don’t understand.’” Taking the classes can also be a financial burden to some, along with time constraints. But many times, she believes REALTORS® don’t understand how to use those designations to promote themselves to future clients. Plus, the money spent on classes could easily be recouped once they use their new knowledge to help a client sell or buy. “It’s not all about the letters at the end of someone’s name. It’s more about being able to do the best job you can for the most people you can,” she adds.

ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  17

Understanding Designations and Certifications NAR Designations & Certifications REALTORS® can choose from a myriad of National Association of REALTORS® affiliated designations and certifications. These touch all kinds of niches such as negotiations, first-time homebuyers, distressed properties, smart homes, commercial investments, and vacation and luxury homes. They can cost from $99 for an online course to over $1,000 for a more complicated, lengthy course. Some of the certification classes run just a few hours. Some designations involve a two-day commitment.

NC REALTORS® GRI Program The GRI (Graduate, REALTOR® Institute) entails a more financial and time-consuming commitment. Students get up to five years to finish it. Of the 48,000 NC REALTORS® members, less than 7 percent currently hold it, Reagin says. This state-run course offers 60 hours of involvement learning how to be a manager, in-depth explorations of the sales process, contract law, business planning, technology and so much more, she adds. It’s one of the only designations that you do not have to pay a fee each year to reinstate it. It’s for a lifetime.

The commitment to get designations Sherrie Osborne and her husband, Henry Hilgartner, wanted to start their own brokerage last year. So, they both decided to fast track the GRI designation to get all the knowledge they could. It took them only five months. They also took as many online and in-person classes as they could. “We threw ourselves into all of it. I loved it,” says Osborne, broker-in-charge at Heart of Carolina Homes in Burlington. While she does say that not once in her real estate career has anyone ever asked her what all the acronyms are next to her name, it’s still important. “If someone is going to a doctor or counselor and notices a bunch of initials, you expect they have additional training,” she says. “That’s how I look at it. Consumers may not ask about them, but they are checking it out. It gives us credibility.” With certain designations, REALTORS® can target a niche market, and it opens up options for the clients, too. For 18  INSIGHT • February 2020

instance, Osborne has her Senior Real Estate Specialist® (SRES) designation and can now tell seniors she can be their eyes and ears in looking for the right home to stay in through their aging years. She also can help them find the best reverse mortgage lenders. “It’s all about the conversation,” she adds. “It’s your opportunity to make a connection and build trust. If you can share how your credentials fit them and their situation, then that’s what it’s all about.” Osborne and her husband also created vCards, also known as VCF (Virtual Contact File) or an electronic business card. When a lead is generated from a website, an email goes out to the potential client showing their names and designations. The designations are hyperlinked to an explanation of what it is all about and the agents’ qualifications. “If I’m a consumer and looking for an agent, an agent with all those designations beside their name looks more important and knowledgeable,” she says.

Suggested designations by those in the business GRI – Graduate, REALTOR® Institute “They say people with a GRI Realtor® designation make on average 30 Institute percent more than other REALTORS®,” says Joe Cannon, broker and property manager with T.E. Johnson & Sons Professional Property Management in Winston-Salem. That extra 30 percent salary hasn’t happened to him yet, but the future could change that, he says. “If Joe Cannon someone is looking for a broker, and it’s between me and someone else without a GRI, I could get the job, pushing my salary higher.” People do ask him what those letters are after his name. “I tell them I went to school. I put in the time to enhance my abilities as a broker. Appearing more informed is always adding value.” Graduate,

Craft a blueprint to divulge your designations Mark Given, an instructor for the GRI program and other designations and certifications in North Carolina and across the country, actually helps his students create an action plan to promote themselves with new designations. Sometimes they take his advice, but sometimes they don’t. “I find they walk out with a list of good intentions, but then life and reality hit them right back in the face,” he explains. “They don’t take action on the many things they need to do. They don’t get the big impressive results they could have once they get back in their comfort zone.” Given, who also is an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and founder of the Trust Based Philosophy, worked as a real estate agent for six years before deciding he’d rather teach in the industry. “Real estate acronyms don’t have the same impact such as an MBA or M.D. I try to get the students to

ABR® – Accredited Buyer’s Representative SRS – Seller Representative Specialist Willetts suggests new agents go for their Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation first. Then, she recommends getting the Seller Representative Specialist (SRS) designation. These courses Patrice Willetts teach about negotiations and working with other REALTORS®. “Working together is so very important. We should not be adversaries. Each party is part of the team for the transaction,” she says. “Knowing what your clients want and understanding the other side makes for a win-win outcome.” Based on personal choices Grossu believes that REALTORS® need to examine which designations and certifications speak to them personally before selecting. If you are very health-conscious, Cristina Grossu believe in green energy and want to know how to find properties that offer green features, she suggests the Green designation. But, if that’s not for you, that’s OK. “Some of the designations will never apply to your business. So, make sure you choose ones wisely and make an investment in ones that can help your business as a whole,” she adds.

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Different ways to market your credentials 1. Marketing Materials Send out a marketing piece explaining how you benefit the client by having these new knowledge skills, Given says. Explain when you see the GRI behind your name that there are certain things you learned to help serve your clients better.

2. Referral Database Some designations have databases for referral networks across the United States, Grossu says. “That is a huge talking point when vying for a new listing or working with a new buyer,” she says. “You can explain that you have your designation, and you are part of a group of other REALTORS® across the U.S. who may be able to share their property with their clients and vice versa.

3. Social Media Remain very active on social media and use the free platforms to get the word out when you obtain a new certification or designation. Grossu, a 2019 REALTOR® Magazine 30 Under 30 honoree, also puts all her designations’ acronyms after her email signature,

on her website and business cards. Many of her clients ask her what they all mean. Her recently earned At Home With Diversity (AHWD) certification helps her work with millennials and younger buyers who are super diverse and hold diversity and inclusion as core values in a lot of decision making. “They are always interested to learn more about them and ask me which ones were harder to obtain than others,” she adds.

4. Make it About the Consumer Given encourages his students to explain how the consumer benefits by them holding those designations and certifications. “They have to make it about the consumer always. I always recommend my students identify five things they do or offer that their competition doesn’t. If the REALTOR® can’t identify them, then how can the consumer?” he says. For instance, tell them how you are empathetic, a good marketer or a good negotiator. That’s how these courses make the difference, he adds.

understand that if they don’t show the client the benefits of their designations, then it means nothing,” he says. Don’t be a secret agent, and don’t assume people will figure it out on their own, Given advises. Brokerages should market their agents’ designations As each REALTOR® works, their sphere of influence, professionalism and skills need to be acknowledged and spread, states Patrice Willetts, broker at The Property Shop International in Wilmington, and instructor. She also served as president of NC REALTORS® in 2013. “We can do this by letting our clients and the public know when we attend education classes or seminars, when we participate in the community and when we go above and beyond the basic steps for our clients,” she adds. By understanding every aspect of an issue and including 20  INSIGHT • February 2020

5. Take It to the Streets Be out and about in coffee shops and neighborhood events. “My business is building personal relationships,” Cannon says. He makes rounds on a daily basis and listens. “If they don’t have a house or rental property, they need someone to talk to about it. I listen without any push.

6. Send out a Press Release Many local newspapers and business journals print press releases for free or a small fee to add your new information. “You can also send a card to your sphere of influence announcing that you are adding to your professionalism with new courses and designations,” Willetts says.

the public in the dialogue, you demonstrate you’re an advocate and a trusting partner. “We have a saying here at our firm—Professional, Connected, Educated,” Willetts says. “We encourage our agents to stay up on trends, get designations and to market themselves with these words.” As people walk into The Property Shop office, they immediately see a banner with the brokerage’s saying. “And, as our agents achieve education, designations and certifications, we market that achievement,” she adds. Lee Nelson is a freelance journalist from the Chicago area. She has written for Yahoo! Homes, TravelNursing.org, MyMortgageInsider.com and REALTOR® Magazine. She also writes a bi-monthly blog on Unigo.com.

The Power of Build your online reputation the right way


CONTENT MARKETING COORDINATOR As a REALTOR®, managing your online reputation is essential to the growth and livelihood of your business. Your name is being shared through the grapevine, and new prospects are on the hunt to learn all about why they should choose you to help with their big home purchase. What will they find?


For years, real estate has been a business by word of mouth. Happy clients refer your services to other prospects, and the cycle continues. However, in today’s technologicallyadvancing world, the digital word of mouth is a bigger deal than ever before and can be the main funnel for leads. This starts with online reviews. Research shows that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.


With the constant hustle and grind of your day-to-day duties as an agent, you’re probably thinking, “How do I

22  INSIGHT • February 2020

find the time to manage my online reputation?” Although it will take some additional work, it’s not as hard as it seems. You just need to ask. Statistics show that 70 percent of people leave a review when asked. So, set aside time in your schedule to connect with recent clients who were satisfied with your service. Ask them to spend just a couple of minutes to leave some thoughts about their experience. Another good time to ask for a review is at closing. Your clients are most likely in a good mood at this stage of the process, which increases your chance of getting a positive review. Data is also on your side. According to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2019 Homebuyers and Sellers Generational Report, 90 percent of buyers use their real estate agent again in the future or refer them to others. But remember, your chances of getting a review at all decreases the more you let time pass.


Responding to reviews is a must to maintain a good reputation with potential clients. In fact, 30 percent of consumers say they positively judge a business that publicly responds to online reviews. This means responding to the good, the bad and the ugly. How to Handle Positive Reviews When someone leaves a negative review, you’re usually quick to respond. That’s because your brand’s reputation is in question, so you want to sort things out in the best way possible. However, when you leave a positive review alone,


ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  23

88% of consumers trust

online reviews as much as personal recommendations you’re missing out on an excellent opportunity to highlight what you do best. Here’s are a few easy ways to boost your brand through positive reviews: 1. Say “thank you”­– The mere fact that your client took the time to share their positive experience deserves a thank you on your part. Simply responding with a word of thanks lets your clients and future clients know that you are grateful for the opportunity to play a role in the purchase of their new home. 2. Boost your marketing with stories – Sharing your positive reviews on your website and social media channels puts your excellent customer service front and center and adds a breath of fresh air to your marketing. Think about using those positive reviews to tell a story. When you’re trying to convince people that you’re the right agent for them to choose, your approach shouldn’t be based on mere claims and promises. Fit in a real story inspired by a testimonial, which will show the audience how you handle real situations. How to Respond to Negative Reviews So you received a negative review, what now? It doesn’t matter how professional you are; it’s impossible to please everyone. But, how you respond could earn or lose major points for your business’ online reputation. 1. Keep it classy – We’ve all heard the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” However, when it comes to responding to negative reviews, words can hurt your business. When dealing with a client who may not have the nicest things to say about their experience, be sure to maintain a professional manner, and avoid verbally attacking. 2. Be a problem solver – A negative review may not always get to the specifics of a reviewer’s frustrations. Ask questions on how you can better understand and resolve the issue. Even offering an invitation to discuss the matter offline shows those browsing your reviews that you are committed to your clients. 24  INSIGHT • February 2020

3. Walk away – Some things are better left unsaid. If things get too heated, know when to step away from a situation rather than jeopardizing your online reputation.


It is now an online world, and there are just some things you cannot control. When you post a listing, it is going to end up on many syndicated sites that may not be updated regularly. The MLS has the most accurate information, but people looking for homes may not always see that version. You can still manage your online reputation with these tips: Monitor Social Media – Your social media accounts should be monitored for new reviews daily. As soon as you see a negative review, respond as fast as you can in a positive way. An example of an appropriate response is, “Thanks for your feedback! I am sorry that you feel this way…” Google Yourself – Do a Google search of yourself periodically to see what is out there on the internet about you. Why? “I have often come across houses that have been sold or closed but are still listed as active properties. This can result in a negative review if a client believes they are receiving outdated information,” says an NC REALTOR®.


The review experience is crucial to your brand and online reputation. According to NAR’s most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 44 percent of buyers looked online at properties as the first step in their home buying process. When potential clients are out there searching for homes, they are inevitably going to discover businesses like yours and reviews of your services. A complete lack of reviews or a wide array of negative reviews with no follow up can hurt your business’ profitability. Find the time to ask for feedback, be thankful for the good experiences and prepare yourself for the negative reviews that will come your way. Soon, you’ll find that your business will start to reap some excellent rewards.

SPARE SOME CHANGE? REALTORS® Coins For Caring Collection January 1 – April 30, 2020 Donate your loose change to support the statewide NC REALTORS® Gives Back Day service initiative on June 24, 2020. Learn more at ncrealtorshf.org.


Info for NC REALTORS® The Region 4 REALTORS® Conference is replacing our annual Convention this year.


We will ONLY hold the following meetings at the Region 4 REALTORS® Conference: • Executive Committee Meeting • General Membership Meeting • Region Caucus Meetings • Board of Directors Meeting The NC REALTORS® Housing Foundation will host a Murder Mystery River Cruise fundraising event on Tuesday, October 13. Tickets are required. Register at ncrealtors.org/NCRHFcruise. ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  25


S S E C C SU vice d a t s e b their r e ff o ess n s i r s e u k b o r s i b Four it in th e k a m to on how SON L E N E E BY L

The good, bad and ugly happen throughout a REALTORS®’ time on the job. You learn about yourself, your clients and the real estate industry itself. The stories here reveal the careers of four successful NC REALTORS®. They offer their best advice to others who might be starting or struggling in such a fast-paced business. They share some of their adventures, mishaps and triumphs along with secrets for sustaining success.

26  INSIGHT • February 2020

RENEE SMITH Vice President and Sales Manager Fonville Morisey Realty, a Long & Foster Co., Lochmere Office, Cary

“You are a REALTOR®. Stay hungry every day and work like you mean it.” Focus on Learning First When Renee Smith entered into real estate in 2006, things looked bright to a young and newly licensed agent. “I was ready to go and sell, sell, sell.” Then the learning began. “There is so much learning to do and experiences to go through to have the true confidence to say I made it, and I am succeeding.” Don’t Forget Your Sphere of Influence According to Smith, marketing can be professional, flashy and next-level awesome, but above all, it needs to be consistent. “I learned this as one of my friends in my abundant sphere of influence told me, ‘Oh, I forgot you were an agent, and I just bought a new home with the onsite agent. I would have loved your help.’“ She realized she needed to stay connected on a variety of levels with her friends, family and acquaintances. Building and strengthening relationships should be a priority. “We are so lucky to work in an industry that encourages and works best when we live a high social life. Take time to get involved in the PTA, church groups, your HOA, the Rotary club or your neighborhood. Maybe start up a Girls Night Out and watch your business build,” she adds.

Get Involved in your Association Getting involved at Raleigh Regional Association of REALTORS® has helped Smith achieve her goal of growing her business. She’s just coming off her year as president of the local association. “I now encourage others to get involved and have a bigger stake in the real estate game and go beyond the transaction.” Smith is a graduate of both the Raleigh Regional and NC REALTORS® Leadership Academies. “There is so much to learn. [The Association] helps you establish goals beyond the work of real estate. It truly can make you a better person in society. Plus, you get to meet and network with peers all over the area, state and even nationally.” Find a Firm that Fits You Smith encourages agents to think about the professional service they offer. Don’t get caught up in the next highest split offering or the constant recruitment calls. The money will take care of itself. Find the real estate office home that inspires you, motivates you, helps you excel and pushes your business forward. “You are a REALTOR®. Stay hungry every day and work like you mean it,” she says. “This is not a hobby industry. We sell houses. It’s a very big deal.”


Broker/Owner of West & Woodall, Durham and Hyco Lake

“When you do the right thing for your clients, the money comes.” Practice What You Preach Balancing his life with his job keeps Kirk West on solid ground. “My first broker, who was just a little older than I was but had lots of real estate experience, always remained levelheaded. He put things into perspective and advised me to

invest in real estate—to practice what I preach,” West says. Listen Closely West learned that it’s important to listen to your clients. For instance, one of his first clients wanted an older house close to downtown.

ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  27

“I walked her through the whole process and explored additional options outside of older homes. She ended up buying a brand new townhome—the opposite of what she said she wanted.” Love What You Do “I love what I do. That’s my secret to success. I love helping people find the right properties,” West says. “When you do the right thing for your clients, the money comes. You have to respond to people quickly and be there for them.” Maintain Good Relationships with Other REALTORS® Competition remains tight in the Triangle area of North Carolina, with more than 12,000 real estate agents. “We’re shooting for the same goal—to take care of our clients. It shouldn’t be us versus them. We can make it work for everybody. Getting along with other REALTORS® is a crucial part of this process.” he says.

Be Patient­—It Takes Time West’s best advice for young or new REALTORS® is to be patient. “It will take a little time to really get into the business. Be consistent and get your systems in place. Don’t let the business take you over all the time. It can consume you. If you let it, it will. You still have to make time for yourself, your family and friends.” Set Your Priorities Up Front West takes time each day to exercise and to start his day spending time with his three children and getting them off to school. He also coaches their soccer teams and he never misses their sporting or school events. “You must have your priorities set,” West states. He’s also figured out a way to squeeze in time to check emails and texts while waiting at the doctor’s office or on the soccer field. Responding to messages from clients is also a priority. “I respond quickly and try to respond the same day.”


Owner/Broker at Charlotte and the Lake Real Estate

“You get more respect if you say you don’t know something, but you’ll research and get back to them." Admit When You’re Wrong When Louise Norton started in the real estate world, someone told her not to be afraid to admit what you don’t know. “When a client asks you, ‘Do you know that neighborhood?’ You get more respect if you say you don’t know something, but you’ll research and get back to them,” she says. “I apply that to so many aspects of what I do. You can’t know everything.” Form Relationships with Vendors Her background as a lettings manager in England and a property manager in Charlotte gave Norton the insight to understand that building great relationships with other vendors can truly help you build your business. Getting to know and trust mortgage lenders, inspectors, attorneys and others allows you to provide valuable resources to clients. “Pick those that do a good job and have a similar ethical approach to what they do as you do,” she adds. Be Humble and Patient When you start out in this business, remember to have 28  INSIGHT • February 2020

a lot of understanding, be ready for the hard work and also stay humble. “I had to survive because I had a terrible alimony arrangement when I got divorced. I was very driven to be successful. Real estate has been very, very good to me. I have wonderful clients and met some wonderful human beings. I’ve never had a wasted meeting. You learn something in everything you do.” After working as an agent for other real estate companies for five years, she opened her own brokerage in January 2016. “That has been my biggest highlight. I do 22 deals a year, and I’ve impressed myself for that. It’s a small agency, but I’ve done it myself.” Maintain Work-Life Balance Norton also goes to the gym every day except when a client needs to see her during her gym time. “The exercise is what I do for myself. Plus, working at home is a huge positive for me. I can’t give that up." Her two grown sons root for her every day. “My kids have been my inspiration. They are my biggest cheerleaders.”


Broker/Owner of EXIT Realty Vistas, Asheville and Weaverville

“If you have an inclination that what you are doing is wrong, or you have to think twice about doing it, don’t do it.” Think Beyond The Sale The first REALTOR® Susan Duncan used to buy a house won her over with his attitude and personality. “He didn’t try to sell me a house. He sat back. He wasn’t trying to take us through the homes. He answered the questions and observed us. It’s not about sales but about information and education,” Duncan says. Take a Leap of Faith “I had always been told real estate was a back-biting market and very cutthroat. I always hesitated to get into it.” But in 2006, right before the housing crisis, Duncan thought she’d try her hand as an agent. Three years later, she bought the EXIT franchise in Asheville. “I just went for it and jumped with a leap of faith,” she says. The business grew to over 100 agents, and now Duncan manages those agents. She quit selling homes two years ago to focus on helping her agents be the best they can be. When she began the firm, she had every intention to hire someone to run it. But she didn’t have the money to hire anyone, and this was her reputation. She knew she had to do it herself in the beginning. “I was also pushed into training the agents, but it has been the most rewarding. To see their confidence level grow is amazing. They come to me right out of real estate school with no confidence. Two years later, they are doing so great and can quit the other job they hate.” Build and Maintain Your Database Duncan does wish she built up a better database of clients

when she started in the business. Staying in touch with your database should be a priority to sustain your career. A lot of the agents don’t have the discipline to work in the business world. But time blocking is critical for real estate, Duncan adds. Block your time to work on income-producing and not just busywork like designing your next business card. Put the Mobile Device Down Duncan’s biggest hurdle has been working with millennials who only want to text. “You cannot earn a strong business or trust if you do not talk to clients and other agents faceto-face or over the phone at first,” she says. “Once you earn their trust, then it’s OK to text a little.” Duncan won’t do business with someone that she can’t talk to on the phone or in person. “Running your life by texting is not smart.” Take Vacations Duncan encourages her agents to take a weekend to set up their goals and block out vacations. Vacations won’t just happen on their own, and everyone needs a break in this business. “There’s never a free time for a vacation because your calendar will fill up and be controlled by others. That’s why you need to schedule it yourself.” Go with Your Gut A closing attorney once told Duncan to “go with your gut. If you have an inclination that what you are doing is wrong, or you have to think twice about doing it, don’t do it.”

MEET THE WRITER | LEE NELSON Lee Nelson is a freelance journalist from the Chicago area. She has written for Yahoo! Homes, TravelNursing. org, MyMortgageInsider.com and REALTOR® Magazine. She also writes a bi-monthly blog on Unigo.com.

ncrealtors.org • INSIGHT  29

Stay “top-of-mind” all year long and secure repeat business and referrals with the Magazine Gift Program. Learn more at ncar.magazinegiftprogram.com.


Technology is great, but success can be found with old-fashioned marketing Real estate is an up close and personal business. A REALTOR’S® business is built upon client relationships and trust. While there are many technological tools available to assist in the buying and selling of properties, technology can only do so much. “I don’t use technology to replace personal contact. I use it to enhance it,” says Kristina Farrell, a broker with Keller Williams Realty in Kernersville. “I think follow up with our clients is the key to business success.” It is well recognized that a referral is one of the major determinants of an agent’s success. According to KRISTINA FARRELL the 2018 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 69 percent of recent buyers and sellers of all generations said the number one thing they relied upon in choosing a real estate

agent was a referral from a trusted source. How are you going to get referrals if a previous client doesn’t have your name and valuable service top-of-mind when the subject of buying or selling a home comes up? Luckily for Farrell, she maintains contact with clients in a quick and affordable way—through The Magazine Gift Program, one of NC REALTORS® Partners Program benefits. The Magazine Gift Program allows you to send a popular brand magazine as a closing gift to your clients. The magazines are mailed with a Loyalty Label on the front cover of every issue displaying your contact information, logo and a personal message. “It takes me about five minutes to set it up. Plus, we get a good deal through the REALTOR® Partners Program, so it saves me money, and my clients enjoy it. It’s a gift that lasts the whole year!” The Magazine Gift Program also meets three of the pillars of marketing success: • Relevance (magazines relative to the client’s interest) • Impact (your personalized label on the cover of each issue) • Frequency (up to 13 contacts per year) In addition to closing gifts, Farrell has used the Magazine Gift Program to reward referrals from clients and other agents. She has also gotten referrals from public placement of magazines in places like her stylist’s waiting room.




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CONTACT Maurice Brown mbrown@ncrealtors.org 336.808.4231



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Profile for NC REALTORS®

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