CoreLogic’s digital mortgage solutions streamline the underwriting process

CoreLogic is digitizing the mortgage underwriting process
for lenders with its AutomatIQ suite of solutions. HousingWire recently sat
down with Jay Kingsley, executive for credit and borrower solutions at
CoreLogic, to discuss the company’s AutomatIQ offerings.

AutomatIQ Borrower, CoreLogic’s digital mortgage solution,
provides a comprehensive set of products, analytics and tools to help lenders
quality, understand and underwrite borrowers. With simple inputs and automated
processing, AutomatIQ Borrower helps lenders reduce the time, touch and cost
associated with underwriting loans.

CoreLogic’s offerings also include AutomatIQ Collateral,
which serves as a single point of access for crucial property underwriting
data, streamlining a lender’s workflow. The solution provides lenders with a
full suite of data and analytics on property ownership, value, condition and
hazards.

CoreLogic recently received Fannie Mae certification for its
Verification of Employment and Income offering. With this approval, CoreLogic
now has a full suite of verification products that are Day 1 Certainty
certified, providing users with efficiency, growth and certainty.

In addition, CoreLogic has also announced enhancements to
its Fact Check Income Calculation Tool, including a non-spreadsheet UI version
of an income calculation tool for underwriters, which is an industry first. The
income calculation tool, which includes a multi-investor capability, is also
visible to loan officers in an effort to facilitate communication and reduce
back-and-forth during the underwriting process.

To learn more about the AutomatIQ suite of products, visit https://www.corelogic.com/.

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COVID-19 will cause a record-setting recession, economists say

Economic forecasters are saying the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be record-setting, followed by a rebound in the final three months of 2020 that should result in the largest quarterly expansion in almost six years.

The rapid turn-around is because the economy was firing on all cylinders before America was hit with COVID-19, the most severe health crisis since the 1918 influenza pandemic. More than half of all Americans are in states with governors who ordered residents to stay at home, with the exception of essential workers such as nurses and necessary functions such as food shopping or pharmacy trips.

GDP probably will contract 15% in the second quarter, according to an estimate by Wells Fargo economists on Friday. That would be the biggest plunge ever recorded in more than 70 years of Bureau of Economic Analysis data. The third quarter probably will see a 6.3% contraction, meeting the classic definition of recession used by most economists: Two consecutive quarters of GDP decline.

That should be followed by a 4.1% expansion in the final three months of the year, according to the estimate.

“From full throttle to sudden stop,” is how the Wells Fargo economists explained it. “The economic carnage produced by the abrupt shutdown of economic activity across the country is readily apparent from the weekly unemployment claims.”

Initial claims for unemployment soared to 3.28 million people last week, an all-time high that was five times the peak during the financial crisis more than a decade ago, according to data released Thursday from the Labor Department.

“Across the world, governments are deliberately trying to lower GDP to deal with the coronavirus,” said Paul Donovan, global chief economist for UBS Wealth Management. Once people feel it’s safe to be in stores, there should be pent-up demand for goods that will lead to a rebound, he said.

The Federal Reserve’s pledge to buy unlimited amounts of bonds to support lending probably will drive the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate down to an all-time low of 2.9% in 2020’s second and third quarters, before rising to 2.95% in the final three months of the year, according to the Wells Fargo forecast.

Housing starts, measuring the number of homes contractors break ground on, probably will stay near last year’s level, the forecast said. For 2020, housing starts probably will total 1.25 million, compared with 1.29 million in 2019, the economists said. Construction activity in many states has been deemed “essential,” meaning those workers can show up on the job site.

The reason most consumers are staying home, as we should all know by now, is to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by sick patients, as happened in Italy. That European nation, with a population a sixth the size of the U.S., had to ration care when ICU ventilators ran out, meaning doctors were forced to decide who would live and who would die.

American health officials are hoping that “social distancing,” as staying at home is now called, will prevent a tragic surge of patients with COVID-19. It will also give scientists time to find treatments and, eventually, a vaccine to prevent people from getting sick.

One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with the highly contagious COVID-19 disease is people can be spreading it without showing any symptoms. Nations doing widespread testing that includes people who don’t report feeling sick, like Iceland, have found about half the people who test positive for the disease are asymptomatic, yet are still contagious.

While President Donald Trump is calling for “packed churches” on Easter, just over two weeks away, it’s unlikely he can override the emergency orders put in place by state governors, including some from his own political party.

Those “Stay at Home” orders mean most people aren’t shopping for big-screen TVs, or the newest cell phone, or clothes. Some online retailers, like Amazon, are seeing a surge in business, though delivery times are slower than normal.

Still, not everything can come in a cardboard box. Some auto manufacturers, such as Ford, are running commercials urging Americans to shop online for a car and it will be delivered to their homes. But in times of economic uncertainty, people tend to hold off on big-ticket purchases, even if it can be delivered to their front doors.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the U.S. economy. That’s why President George W. Bush famously said after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, once it was clearly safe for people to leave their homes, “Go out and shop.”

Barring a vaccine, or the ability for widespread testing and tracing of the contacts of infected people, as was done in South Korea, it’s not clear when Americans will feel it’s safe to hit the shopping malls again.

Stay-at-home orders “create a demand drop,” said UBS’ Donovan. But, once the pandemic is under control, “we will have an economic bounce back,” he said.

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An agent’s guide to marketing during a pandemic

As our world continues to change at a rapid pace, where each week feels like a month, rest assured that new opportunities are also emerging every single day. 

One huge opportunity that any agent can take advantage of is marketing even more during this period of time where most of our colleagues and competitors are playing defense. They’re playing it safe, sitting on the sidelines until there’s less uncertainty.

Dustin-Brohm
Dustin Brohm,
Columnist

While I certainly understand that, I also want to win. I want to play offense,  I want to take big leaps forward and grow while others are falling behind, and I know most of you do too. 

The only questions becomes: how do you double down on your marketing during a global pandemic so that you don’t end up doing damage to your brand and reputation (uhh, same thing!)? The same old marketing and advertising messages just won’t cut it.

In fact, some of the ads you were running over the last year or so may actually come across as tone-deaf and insensitive. And just so we’re clear, marketing doesn’t always mean “running an ad.” Marketing can also mean being visible in your community.

So here are some guidelines for marketing during this time of global uncertainty and fear.

Be sensitive to heightened emotions

Right now is not the time to be overly self-promotional, pushy or in your face. We’re all on edge right now, on so many levels, as we battle through each day to the best of our abilities.

Any advertising that could be construed as “taking advantage of a pandemic for personal gain” will be called out and chastised on social media. And rightfully so.

I’ve seen some awful stuff from agents lately, usually just getting a bit too cute with making light of a virus that is killing loved ones and causing livelihoods to be lost, seemingly overnight. A sense of humor is good, people need some laughs right now.

Just be careful not to push it too far or you could wind up with a PR nightmare on top of everything else. 

Focus on your neighborhood

The smaller the area you can focus on, the better. Now is not the time to try to market to the whole damn city. Rather, stand up and be a leader in your neighborhood, subdivision, or town. Be the lighthouse in storm for your neighbors, and do as much good as you can for them.

Utilizing NextDoor and/or a Facebook Group, organize a group of neighbors who will go pick up prescriptions and groceries for those who can’t, or shouldn’t leave their homes. Offer to deliver some extra pasta, bread, or toilet paper to neighbors who may be unable to restock themselves.

Make a video to get the word out, and share in relevant local groups. Ask others locally to help you share the message. You can make a major positive impact in a neighborhood, but it’s much harder when those efforts are spread across a whole city. 

Listen first

What does your community need? Before you just start blasting “The Interwebs” with crap that you want them to hear, first try finding out what they want/need to hear. Listen, watch, read.

Are neighbors asking for updates on specific things? You’ll likely see many conversations about which stores have which items in stock, what kinds of local ordinances have been put in place to encourage (or enforce) social distancing, and where the drive-thru virus testing centers are.

Why don’t you just gather that info that people are already looking for, and provide it all in one place? Turn your Facebook Page or Group into a central resource for everything people want. Don’t make it about real estate, at all. There will be plenty of time for that. Just help. If you do, people will remember. 

Video is powerful

Video is extremely powerful, for many reasons, but for this conversation, it’s powerful in that you can concisely deliver a bunch of community updates all within a 60-second video.

Video performs great on social media anyway, so it’s the perfect tool to quickly reach as many community members as possible. The personal connection that the community will then make with you is a great bonus.

Make content easy to share

If you want to do the most good, have the biggest impact, and help the most people, your content needs to be easy to share with others. Videos are certainly easy to share, but so are lists.

Do a post listing some of the local restaurants that are still open and offering takeout. Share a list of stores that have toilet paper in stock. Make a list of companies in the area that are hiring or need some extra help. Lists are concise and easy to share. And when you make something easier to share, it will get shared more.

Seize the opportunity to become a leader in your community at a time when you’re needed most. Don’t worry about making everything you do about real estate. It’s not all about real estate, especially right now. But if you can make an impact and do good, you’ll be remembered for it. At some point down the road, all the help you’ve been providing will catch up to you, and your business will surely grow as a result. 

Stay safe, stay home, stay positive. We will get through this, and when we do, we’ll be much stronger and better for it. 

 Connect with Dustin on LinkedIn

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Are MLOs considered an essential service?

The short answer to the question: Are mortgage loan officers an essential service, in most states, is no. However, state and local governments clearly understand the importance of allowing MLOs to remain active.

While loan originators aren’t being named as essential service workers, companies are going to great lengths to allow them to work remotely.

On a call with HousingWire, Quicken Loans Mortgage Banker Steve Diamond said that within just one day, the company told its 18,000 Detroit-based employees they would be working remotely, assigned them a time to pick up their supplies and, at the appointed time, loaded up employees’ cars with extra monitors and other supplies they would need for a home office.

“I thought it was going to take hours, but it didn’t. I pulled right up and they put everything in my car,” Diamond said. “Now I have everything at home that I had at the office.”

But Quicken isn’t the only company exercising its remote capabilities. Other companies are also sending employees remote including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, United Wholesale Mortgage, Guaranteed Rate, Caliber Home Loans, Flagstar Bank, Fairway Mortgage, Radian, Black Knight and many others.

Some of the greatest potential obstacles to a smoothly functioning loan process while originators are remote are the strict laws surrounding remote online notarization. eClosings are still rare, which is mostly due to state restrictions surrounding eNotaries. However, that is slowly beginning to change. And coronavirus has brought even more focus to the issue.

The Mortgage Bankers Association and the American Land Title Association collaborated to prepare model legislation that would provide the framework for any state to adopt a remote online notarization process.

There’s also now a bipartisan movement in Congress, a bill introduced
by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), that would allow remote
online notarizations nationwide.

It is also worth noting that according to the National Notary Association, notaries do provide an essential service. 

Most states are also taking steps to ensure loan officers are
licensed to operate from home. Take California’s stay-at-home order, for example:

“The Department will not take enforcement action against licensees for operating unlicensed branches to the extent that, during the state of emergency, employees conduct activities from home that normally would require a branch license, provided that appropriate measures are taken to protect consumers and their data,” the Department of Business Oversight stated.

For more information on your state, click here to see a list of resources compiled by the MBA.

Loan officers are not considered essential service workers who can remain working at an office, but it is clear authorities recognize they are essential to the U.S. economy, as evidenced by the unprecedented measures being taken to ensure they can continue working through the quarantine.

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Keller Offers has no plans to slow down business during pandemic

Despite other major iBuyers halting business for the time being due to coronavirus, Keller Williams‘ iBuyer product, Keller Offers, is pushing through and said it won’t be stopping anytime soon.

In an email sent out to Keller Offers agents on Monday, the company said it would be prioritizing the safety and well-being of its clients, partners and employees.

“We have no immediate intention of suspending home offers,” the email said. “Keller Offers will continue to make offers on homes through various offering sources. We are making modifications to processes in order to prioritize safety while remaining committed to doing our best to provide much-needed certainty to our Certified KW Agents and their clients.”

On a phone call with HousingWire, Chief Operating Officer of Keller Offers Gayln Zeigler said that Keller Williams agents are staying in contact with clients in a creative way, with safety in mind.

As COVID-19 is evolving and changes by the minute, Zeigler said communication is key.

“We are letting sellers know that if they wish to pause, or to terminate [the contract] and come back later we are completely fine with that,” Zeigler said. “Safety is the biggest component for us. We will never force something to close, we will never force an inspection. We are just trying to remain as consistent as possible because we feel that our agents need for us to do that. Their sellers need for us to do that, and we rely upon our agents to give us information about how their sellers are feeling, and we respond in a positive way to whatever that guidance may be.”

The company, which is offering only 3D virtual tours and scheduling live virtual houses, for the time being, has already initiated working remotely and doubling down on training and technology.

Despite the spread of COVID-19, Zeigler said there has been a rise in offer requests, and it’s business as usual.

“We’ve also seen people who want to hold, and maybe not have an inspection right now so we’ve allowed them to push that out,” Zeigler said. “We’ve seen people who don’t want to close yet because they aren’t able to view home, and in a particular time in the manner they want to.”

“We’ve allowed [clients] to push closing dates out, we’re trying to be as flexible as possible, knowing that these are very uncertain times,” Zeigler continued. “Tomorrow we can have a completely different mandate that we all need to be able to shift our businesses on, and still provide some sort of certainty or understanding to the consumer who is also experiencing a great deal of stress right now.”

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Is the coronavirus about to wipe out FHA lending?

It looks like borrowers who don’t fit neatly into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s lending criteria could soon be running out of options if they want to buy a house.

Over the last week, many (if not all) of the biggest lenders specializing in lending to borrowers outside the Qualified Mortgage lending box paused their activities due to uncertainty in the market.

And now it appears that Federal Housing Administration lending
as we know it is disappearing from the market too.

That’s not to say that the government itself is making any
changes or limiting borrowers’ ability to get an FHA loan. The FHA’s loan requirements
are still the same: minimum credit score of 580 for a minimum down payment of 3.5%.

But the current economic environment is forcing lenders to make
changes to their FHA lending programs. And those changes are likely to make FHA
lending unavailable for a number of borrowers who could have gotten an FHA loan
just a few weeks ago.

Scuttlebutt in the mortgage industry over the last few days pointed
to lenders raising their FHA requirements, and that’s just what appears to be
happening.

In fact, it seems that many lenders are raising their minimum FICO scores for FHA loans to as high as 660, which would prevent a large section of borrowers from accessing an FHA loan.

A HousingWire investigation found more than a dozen rate
sheets from various lenders scattered across the country that showed that some
lenders have indeed raised their minimum FICO scores for FHA loans.

And while not every lender has raised its minimum FICO score
for an FHA loan, many of the lenders have set their loan pricing for lower scores
to such a level that no borrower would possibly agree to the loan.

In fact, one lender is currently stipulating that a borrower
with a 580 FICO score would need to pay an additional 10% above the market interest
rate for an FHA loan.

Other lenders have pricing adjustments for lower FICO score borrowers
that aren’t nearly as dramatic, but the economics of even the smaller interest rate
adjustments may still price some borrowers out of the market entirely.

And even for the borrowers who could qualify for an FHA loan in this environment, a number of those borrowers would be much better off financially going with a conventional loan (one backed by Fannie or Freddie).

Combine all these factors together and you have an environment
where FHA lending as we know it is quickly slowing down.

So how did this happen? It’s all about the economic conditions
in the U.S. right now. And the view of the borrowers in question.

Borrowers who get an FHA loan are generally thought of as
riskier than “traditional” borrowers. That’s why those loans typically cost the
borrowers more. Put simply, the riskier the borrower is, the more expensive their
loan is going to be.

For lenders and the secondary market, it’s all about pricing the risk. They don’t want to lend to super-risky borrowers because those borrowers are far more likely to default on their loans and the lenders and investors would end up losing a lot of money per loan.

So, they protect themselves by lending only to borrowers who are more of a sure thing. But the FHA borrowers are also likely the ones who are at the most financial risk given the economic conditions in the country right now.

Case in point: There are millions of people who just lost their jobs as the coronavirus shuts down the country. And many more people are expected to hit unemployment in the coming weeks. Many of those people don’t have massive amounts of money in savings and that’s going to be an issue for them and for everyone they owe money to.

That will likely lead to massive mortgage delinquencies.

Now, the government is preparing for that and reportedly plans to offer some borrowers as much as six months of forbearance on their mortgage, but servicers are still required to advance the mortgage payments to investors even if the borrower isn’t paying. And servicers don’t have the cash on hand to supplement months of missed payments for millions of borrowers.

Here’s how the mortgage industry laid out that problem in a letter sent to federal decision-makers earlier this week: “To give one a sense of scale, if 25% of the nation receives forbearance for only 3 months, servicers will have to cover payments of roughly $36 billion. If they received it for 9 months, then the cost would exceed $100 billion.”

Those economic conditions are making FHA loans undesirable both
on the front end and on the secondary market. FHA loans are securitized by Ginnie
Mae
along with Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of
Agriculture
loans. And those securities and the mortgage servicing rights
that go with them are viewed as too risky for all parties involved right now.

Now, things could change quickly. Servicers are supposedly eligible for funding from the Federal Reserve as part of the coronavirus relief effort. That money could float the months of missed mortgage payments that are about to start hitting.

But in the meantime, there’s a lot of uncertainty. And because of it, FHA lending is slowing down considerably. How long that slowdown lasts is a question that no one can really answer yet.

The post Is the coronavirus about to wipe out FHA lending? appeared first on HousingWire.

Dallas Builders Association unites construction industry to donate N95 masks

The Dallas Builders Association urged the construction industry to band together to join in the fight against COVID-19 by donating their respirator equipment, masks and protective wear to help medical professionals on the front lines.

The construction industry sits in a unique position since it shares some supplies with the medical industry, most notably its use of N95 respirator masks. N95 respirator masks are extremely important since they are designed to achieve a very close facial fit and block at least 95% of very small test particles. This means that they not only help protect against the coronavirus but they also help block concrete dust for construction workers. 

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence asked construction companies to donate their stocks of N95 respirator masks to local hospitals and stop ordering more for the time being. There’s currently a major shortage of N95 masks due to the influx of hospitalized coronavirus patients and panicked people rushing to buy masks. 

The Dallas Builders Association partnered with the Greater Fort Worth Builders Association and TEXO, along with the local North Texas County Medical Societies to host an ongoing industry drive. The association claimed that since this drive involves the collection of necessary supplies and delivery to others, it is exempted from the Dallas County “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

The list of equipment being accepted is below, and all donations must be new and unopened. For more information on the drive and drop-off locations, go here. 

  • Mask, N95 Particulate Respirator/Surgical
  • Gloves (non-sterile, powder-free)
  • Shoe Covers
  • Impermeable coverall without integrated hood
  • Mask, Standard Procedure, Yellow, Pleat style w/Ear Loops – one size fits all
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • NIOSH & FDA certified (3M 1860)
  • NIOSH & FDA certified, fluid-resistant (Gerson 1730)NIOSH certified (3M 8000)
  • NIOSH certified (3M 8210)
  • Duck bill NIOSH & FDA certified fluid shield (Kimberly Clark 46767)
  • Duck bill NIOSH & FDA certified fluid shield (Kimberly Clark 46767)
  • Duck bill NIOSH & FDA certified fluid shield (Kimberly Clark 46767)

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[PULSE] How to work and lead from home

It’s sinking in that I take working from home for granted.

Scott Petronis,
Guest Author

Having worked remotely for the better part of 15 years, it’s become just part of who I am.

Now I’m putting myself in the shoes of so many others for whom it is a very new territory. I went through this transition a long while ago, so I’d like to share what I hope is some tangible advice. I hope most find it helpful and others find it reminiscent of their work-from-home experience. 

With that in mind, I’m going to provide three perspectives on the following three topics: Working from home, leading from home and collaborating from home

Working from home

I have five crucial pieces of advice, especially for those that are brand new to this. These are things that will ensure that you can actually not just succeed, but excel, at this. 

Routine

Do not get out of your normal routine, with the exception of driving into the office! Set your alarm. Get up. Shower. Get ready. Get Dressed. And get it into your head that you are going to work.

If you would normally have coffee, eat breakfast, read the news and so on, continue to do that. Just don’t let it consume all of your time. Your new routine might include others (kids, spouses, significant others, pets, etc.) that require focus and attention as well. Make sure to factor that into your new routine.

Schedule 

Create a schedule of your time each day. You’ll probably have standing meetings or other obligations. But besides those, block time on your calendar to get things done. Hold yourself accountable to your schedule.

One thing I’m terrible at is actually scheduling lunch and exercise. Make that part of your schedule like anything else. Especially if you’re used to walking each day or grabbing lunch with colleagues.

Space

If you don’t already have an office, you live in cramped quarters, or your house is simply packed with everyone else who has to be home, you need to set up a dedicated space. Make sure wherever you set up is comfortable, but not too comfortable. Take heed of all of the recommendations you’ve heard about ergonomics and screen height and posture as well.

You need to set up a space you can “go to.” Treat as if you’re away. It’s your office. I tell my family when they’re home that “I’m at work.” You need to treat wherever you set up your workspace as if it’s your office.  

Distractions

Avoid distractions! (He says as he pleads with you to read this). It’s easy to get sucked into the news, the thousands of articles about COVID-19, and the billions of Facebook posts about toilet paper. Keep yourself focused and don’t fall victim to the insane volume of distractions that will be all around you. 

That’s not to say that there won’t be legitimate ones. Your kids may need your help. Your spouse may need to discuss real-world challenges you’re both facing. But ask yourself if you’d be getting distracted by this if you were in the workplace. Urgent matters, especially under the current circumstances, are always urgent. 

Learning

Devote time to learning. Over the years, I’ve organized my time so that first thing in the morning and the last hour of every day, I try to set aside for learning. That can be reading a book, article, research report or series of articles. It can be watching videos that will expand your knowledge. It can be taking online courses. 

Think of it as an investment in yourself during the times that you’d normally be commuting. Don’t squander an opportunity to improve yourself.

Leading from home

When you’re working from home and are leading a team of people who are also working from home, you have a new set of challenges and opportunities to contend with. Not the least of which is, you certainly can’t “manage by walking around.” Regardless of what your functional role is or how your team is structured, there are a few things you need to excel at.

Leadership

It’s one thing to “manage people” and it’s another thing entirely to be a leader. Over the years I’ve fielded many questions related to having people work remotely such as: “How would I know people are actually working?” “What if people don’t do what they’re told?” “How can I trust that they’re doing what they say they’re doing?”

I have some responses to all of these questions and usually, they’re not G or even PG-rated. So let me just pose my own question…

Do you trust that you’ve hired qualified and competent people?

If the answer is “yes,” then the questions above should be the farthest thing from your mind. If it’s no, I’d do some introspective soul searching to find out why. For now, let’s assume you have been smart and surrounded yourself with great people.

Now, as a leader, especially under current circumstances, your job is this:

  1. Set the tone – Let everyone know that you’re there for them, that you’re all going through this transition together, that you know everyone (including you) has been disrupted, and that you’re all going to continue to work to accomplish what needs to get done as best you can. Your team needs to know that you’re human, compassionate and understanding. And that there’s still a job to be done. 
  2. Inspire your team –  A major part of keeping people inspired and motivated is keeping in touch. I don’t mean lurking, sidling and peering over people’s shoulders or even the digital equivalent. What I mean is maintaining a tempo of checking in with your team as a whole and with individuals. And it’s not just about what they’re doing, it’s about what you can do for them. 
  3. Inform often – Your openness and willingness to keep people informed is not just a great way to give people comfort, it’s also a great way to build trust. Trust is a magical ingredient for high performing teams.

Check-ins

Your schedule may be more full than usual. Set regular check-ins with your entire team as well as individual team members. Find a time that works for everyone or make a time. Having worked in technology for so long, another thing I take for granted is stand-ups. But these work wonderfully no matter what line of work you’re in.

Get in the habit of quick, 15-minute stand-ups where you can all catch up on three important things.

  1. What did you work on yesterday?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. What’s blocking you that you need help on?

Stand-ups are even more effective when everyone posts their items in advance so you don’t have to re-hash everything you could have just read. These should be about “what do I need to know about and what impediments are there to success?”

Over-communication

Yes, sometimes over-communication can be overbearing and downright annoying. But at times like this, communication is imperative. Keep in mind, I don’t recommend this style all of the time, but with what everyone’s dealing with right now, these things are top of mind:

  1. Don’t assume everyone knows what you know when you know it.
  2. People need frequent and consistent reassurance.
  3. Timeliness is more important than completeness: As a manager, there’s a tendency to want to have all the facts before communicating. But right now, it’s more important to get out what you know, when you know it. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’. Don’t go dark.
  4. Everyone could use a little levity: No, you don’t need to practice your stand-up routine. But it’s okay to throw a little fun into communication.
  5. Use a consistent communication channel.

There’s a fascinating post on the Doist blog all about the communication pyramid, synchronous and asynchronous communication, what tools to use when and loads more. I can’t do this topic justice in the confines of this article.

Collaborating from home

A lot of articles have focused almost fully on the technology you can use to work from home.

Of course, many have focused on things like Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting and other video conferencing apps. Unsurprisingly, that’s led to a run on many of these applications and also a dramatic slowdown in everyone’s services.

Leverage what you have

Starting with what systems you may already be using. I find that this generally falls into two camps: Microsoft or Google. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t other choices, but these are the two “platforms” that many businesses run on today. 

I’ll start with Google and specifically GSuite. There are also nonprofit, public sector and school versions of these. GSuite comes with a powerful set of capabilities for document sharing and collaboration. Email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, file organization and sharing. You’re hard-pressed to find something missing here. But in addition to all of this, you get some things that I find people don’t take great advantage of:

  • Chat – GSuite provides an integrated chat feature based on A Hangouts that you may or may not be familiar with from your personal account.
  • Meet – Also based on Hangouts but way more robust is the Meet product. Essentially, it’s integrated video, voice and chat for handling internal and external meetings.
  • Groups – Another handy product is Groups which lets you create discussion in groups so you can get people communicating with each other in a shared environment.
  • Sites – Google has essentially given you a content management system, integrated with your files and docs, to create websites and pages for collaboration. It’s pretty feature-rich, ridiculously easy to use and may offer you one of the best ways to keep people informed on a shoestring. 
  • Forms – This product gives you the ability to create forms to capture information and then actually do stuff with the data. Now think about how you can use this to send out surveys to your employees, customers, vendors, etc., to quickly get a read on anything. 

Similarly, Microsoft has an impressive suite that’s all part of Office 365. I won’t go into all of the details here but this handy matrix will tell you everything you get in their various versions. If you’re on any one of these, you already have an arsenal at your fingertips and, again, chances are you’re not fully leveraging it. 

I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve worked with that don’t even know that they’re paying sometimes two or three times for redundant services. Great collaboration tools are essential for keeping teams motivated, productive and informed, but you don’t have to go out and spend an additional fortune to get them when many of you have these offerings already.

Ways to augment

While I’m a huge proponent of leveraging what you’re already paying for, there are some great point solutions out there that absolutely make collaboration that much better. I’m just going to highlight a few that I personally use and like, and give a few reasons why.

First, collaboration is not one-way or even two-way, collaboration is about getting everyone within a team department or company working together toward common goals. So the tools you choose have to facilitate that or they’re working against you.

Slack  

One awesome thing about Slack is that you can create channels to control the flow of information. I’ve seen some companies create way too many channels so you have to be careful. But used properly, Slack channels can create amazing collaboration, boost community and provide incredible efficiency. There’s also the ability to call, direct message, connect to loads of other apps, search through conversations. If you’re looking for a fast, affordable way to help your team collaborate, this is a good place to start.

Zoho

Zoho is a bit of a curveball in here because they’re way more than collaboration. They’ve not only built out an impressive suite of solutions, but they’ve also managed to help loads of companies cost-effectively scale with capabilities that were once reserved for the largest enterprises. Today they have an offering called Remotely which combines what they feel are all of the capabilities you need to effectively work remotely. Productivity, communication, collaboration and a host of other goodies that facilitate integration and automation. 

Workplace 

Specifically targeted at collaboration is a newer application called Workplace by Facebook. I’ll be the first to admit that I was extremely skeptical when I was first introduced to this. But over the past two and a half years, it’s grown on me and it’s also matured immensely. Based on the core Facebook platform, but tailored to the needs of businesses (security, administrative controls, branding, integration, etc.), they’ve created an environment that allows people, teams, departments, divisions and entire organizations to work together in ways that most couldn’t have imagined. 

Ready to get things done?

If you remember, I said avoid distractions in the first section of this and I just distracted you for at least 15 minutes. But I hope I also gave you some things to think about and learn from.

These are the things that have helped me effectively work, lead and, most of all, collaborate with team members all over the world. No, this is by no means an exhaustive list of how to be successful at it, but if you follow even a little bit of this advice, I think you’ll find it will help you.

The post [PULSE] How to work and lead from home appeared first on HousingWire.

OpenHouse Editor’s Note on Zillow reneging on iBuying

On Thursday evening, we broke Real Estate Reporter Julia Falcon’s story about Zillow reneging on home purchase agreements because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of your reactions:

  • “There is little honor amongst thieves. Zillow is making use of this to exit a bad business that only works in booming markets.” – Realtor in Salem, Massachusetts
  • “As a Realtor, I say ‘Yippee!’ We’ll take good care of the people Zillow and others kick to the curb. The sellers will likely be better off for it.” – Realtor in Westminster, Colorado
  • “I’m not the victim of an iBuyer canceling a contract…I’m the iBuyer’s competition! If you hear from any homeowners in need of a cash offer on their home, I may be able to help.” – Real estate investor in San Diego
  • “They are going to mess up this market! It is not sustainable, none are making money and they are going to collapse with a correction in the market.” – Realtor in Atlanta
  • “Great article on Zillow. Shows the lack of their value position. No one says they should overpay, but to not buy when there will be more opportunity for iBuyers than ever shows they don’t know what they are doing. Bye-bye…” – Real estate broker in Beverly Hills, California
  • “I really appreciate your newsletter and hopefully from a professional perspective you will keep the profanity out.” – Loan originator in Foothill Ranch, California (Pardon any French, dear readers.)

We’ve heard rumors of other iBuyers reneging on purchase agreements like Zillow. If you and/or your client have been on the raw end of Zillow, OpenDoor, Offerpad, or any other iBuyer canceling a contract due to coronavirus, please let me (dsanchez@housingwire.com) or Julia Falcon (jfalcon@housingwire.com) know.

In other news, several real estate companies are reporting a spike in demand for virtual home showings, which begs the question: Do real estate agents provide an essential service?

Finally, Associate Magazine Editor Kelsey Ramirez explores how one sector of the housing economy is mostly carrying on with business as usual. This article is premium content, and can be accessed by subscribing to HW+. Readers of OpenHouse can get 50% off by using coupon code “diegointrodiscount”.

You can sign up for HousingWire’s OpenHouse newsletter at https://www.housingwire.com/newsletter/.

The post OpenHouse Editor’s Note on Zillow reneging on iBuying appeared first on HousingWire.

Do real estate agents provide an essential service?

The real estate industry not only helps provide homes for millions of Americans, but it also creates millions of job opportunities, making the industry a massive driver of the U.S. economy. But with more state and local governments implementing stay-at-home orders, real estate agents are having to redefine how they do business, as they find ways to meet with clients and also maintain the health and safety of all parties involved. 

The latest reports show that at least 212 million people in 22 states, 64 counties, 16 cities and one territory are being urged to stay home. The challenges that arise from all these orders is that each place has a different list of requirements for what a stay-in-place order entails, leaving real estate agents, along with many others (go here for information on notaries, homebuilders and appraisers), to figure out which rules apply to them. 

At the time of publishing, the National Association of Realtors, which is America’s largest trade association representing 1.4 million members, said that the following states have deemed “real estate” to be an essential service, business or operation pursuant to the state’s executive orders: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

“Everyone’s goal is the same right now – to protect the health and wellbeing of our citizens. We must also preserve and defend the fabric of our communities and the critical infrastructure that supports us all,” NAR President Vince Malta said. “NAR is working with state Realtor associations to ensure certain real estate services are deemed ‘essential’ in emergency declarations in order to protect property owners and ensure future economic recovery can occur.” 

“It is important that all services involved in facilitating a real estate transaction remain functional during these unprecedented times; including mortgage, title, insurance, appraisal and government recorder services,” he added. 

According to the association, there are 9.5 million jobs in the real estate, rental and leasing industry, and every two home sales generate one job in this country. 

With this much influence on the U.S. economy, NAR emphasized that housing has been and will continue to be a critical component of the American economy and will be a critical driver of our national recovery.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 coincided with the spring home-buying season, which arrived earlier than its traditional post-Super Bowl debut this year. Now that it’s officially spring, the forecast for what should be the hottest part of home-buying season looks drastically different. 

In the Mortgage Bankers Association’s most recent mortgage applications report, Joel Kan, MBA’s vice president of economic and industry forecasting, warned that potential homebuyers might hold off on purchasing homes until there is a slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus and more clarity on the economic outlook.

There will still be people looking to buy homes this spring even with the growing concerns around the coronavirus, as job and life changes require people to relocate. 

“Each March, around 400,000 to 460,000 homes across the U.S. would be in pending status,” Malta said. “Without designating real estate services as an essential service, Americans currently caught in the middle of a transaction would have no clear path on what happens with their pending legal contracts, financial commitments or – most importantly – where they will be sheltering.”

For the real estate agents who do have to show houses, NAR created a guide to help address some of the common transactional issues they are hearing about. The association strongly encourages all real estate agents to take necessary precautions to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them. 

Many in the industry are also looking at alternative ways to conduct business, with real estate agents switching to electronic forms of marketing properties and communicating with clients. 

According to a recent report from Redfin, they witnessed a 494% increase in requests for agent-led video home tours last week alone. As of Sunday, 18.9% of tour requests from Redfin.com were video-chat tour requests, which was up from 0.2% at the beginning of March, a 94-fold increase, the company said.

While the industry is facing a lot of challenges right now, Dustin Brohm, a HousingWire columnist, national speaker and real estate marketing and lead generation coach, offered some encouragement to real estate agents, urging them to use this time to focus on how they can improve. 

“I can’t think of a better time in the last decade for agents to really put their foot on the gas with the marketing. Take a second to make sure you’re spending money on things that are actually worthwhile, and cut any expenses that aren’t so you can focus those dollars on really making an impact,” Brohm said. “This is such an opportunity to grow your online presence while so many competitors are pushing pause, playing defense, or stopping altogether. It’s also a perfect time to learn a new skill or marketing strategy, finally launch that podcast or YouTube channel, and reconnect with past clients from a position of helpfulness and caring.”

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