How to handle a bad online review

It doesn’t matter how professional you are; it’s impossible to please everyone. If you get a negative review, here’s how to handle it.

Before you “set that person straight,” take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and get over the initial anger.

Respond to everyone
You could reply only to some bad reviewers—maybe those you can resolve or that aren’t written in all caps with exclamation points. But would you rather be seen as an agent who ignores criticism or always tries to help people? By responding to every review, you’re showing that you work to satisfy clients—and you may turn the reviewer into a fan.

Keep it professional
Some reviewers cross the line with personal attacks, but you cannot reply in kind. Always take the high road, and you’ll look like a true professional when paired with an immature criticism.

Find the problem
Some people use the review to vent frustration without specifics. Others cite exactly what they disliked. Focus on those specifics in your response.

Check the facts
If the reviewer does mention specifics, respond with objective information about the transaction.

Extend an invitation to talk further—offline
You want people seeing the negative review to recognize that you care. However, you don’t want to publicly debate anyone.

Know when to disengage
If instead of contacting you privately, the reviewer adds a combative public response, it may be time to move on.

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Texas international home sales top $18 billion

The sales dollar volume of international home purchases in Texas totaled $18.66 billion from April 2016 to March 2017, according to the Texas International Homebuyers Report released today by the Texas Association of REALTORS®. Sales dollar volume from foreign homebuyers nearly doubled compared to the previous period of April 2015 to March 2016.

Texas ranked second in the nation for international home sales volume, with 34,135 home purchases by foreign buyers (a 59% increase over the previous period). Texas accounted for 12% of the 284,455 international home sales nationwide.

“This surge in international home sales activity underscores the growing reputation Texas has as a global destination for owning a home or investment property,” says Vicki Fullerton, chairman of the Texas Association of REALTORS®. “The state’s low unemployment, diverse industry base, and world-class higher education institutions are just some of the reasons why international residents seek to attend college, raise a family, or do business in Texas.”

Texas was second only to Florida for international home sales, joining California, New Jersey, and Arizona as the nation’s most popular destinations for foreign buyers.

The ratio of Texas homebuyers from Latin America compared to the rest of the world continues to narrow, with Latin America (including Mexico) and Asia/Oceania (including China and India) each accounting for about 40% of international homebuying activity in Texas from April 2016 to March 2017. Nearly half (43%) of Mexican buyers who purchased a home in the U.S. during this time period did so in Texas. Of all U.S. homebuyers from China, 11% purchased in Texas.

“As our state’s population continues to grow and diversify, it’s increasingly important for our real estate industry practitioners to be knowledgeable about the unique needs and challenges facing international homebuyers,” Fullerton says. “Whether you’re an international buyer seeking to purchase a home in Texas or a Texan seeking to purchase a home abroad, a Texas REALTOR® with a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation can provide the expert knowledge, network, and tools needed for a successful transaction.”

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Who pays for repairs in a rental property?

Many tenants believe that landlords are responsible for paying the cost of all repairs, but tenants must foot the bill in some instances. Paragraph 18D(2) of the TAR Residential Lease specifies the circumstances where the tenant is responsible for the cost of repairs.

  • When the tenant causes the condition
    If a ceiling fan stops working under normal use, the landlord must pay to fix it. However, if the fan was spinning just fine until the tenant threw a football that knocked off a fan blade, the tenant must pay.
  • When a tenant’s guest causes the condition
    Suppose a tenant’s guest mistakenly shifts his vehicle into drive rather than reverse and plows into the front of the house. It doesn’t matter that the tenant wasn’t the person driving; the tenant still has to pay for the repair.
  • Damage to doors, windows, and screens (and damage caused by leaving them open)
    Whether a door, window, or screen is damaged by a tenant, the tenant’s guest, a tree, a bird, a criminal, or any other cause, the lease specifies that repairs are the responsibility of the tenant. Tenants must also pay for any damage caused by leaving doors or windows open.
  • Certain plumbing problems
    Tenants must pay for plumbing repairs due to blocked drains if the stoppage was caused by “foreign or improper objects in the lines that exclusively serve the property.”

Paragraph 18D(2)e also specifies that landlords are not required to pay for cosmetic repairs that do not affect the use of the item. Finally, the paragraph provides a blank to list additional items the landlord wants to specify as the responsibility of the tenant if those items require repairs.

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Commission dispute? Here’s what you need to figure out

If you and another REALTOR® disagree about who earned the commission in a sale, the decision of an arbitration panel will turn on which REALTOR® was the procuring cause for the sale. NAR defines procuring cause as “the uninterrupted series of causal events which results in the successful transaction.”

Although NAR provides an extensive list of specific factors to be considered in procuring-cause disputes, most cases will turn on the following factors:

  1. Who first introduced the buyer to the property, and how was the introduction made?
  2. Was the series of events starting with the original introduction of the buyer to the property and ending with the sale hindered or interrupted in any way?
  3. If there was an interruption or break in the original series of events, how was it caused and by whom?
  4. Did the action or inaction of the original broker cause the buyer to seek the services of the second broker? For example, if the original broker did not call the buyer for three weeks after a showing, the hearing panel might decide that he abandoned the buyer and paved the way for the entry of the second broker.
  5. Did the second broker unnecessarily intervene or intrude into an existing relationship between the buyer and the original broker? For example, if the buyer looked at a home with the original broker and the next day wrote an offer through his cousin, the second broker, then the hearing panel might decide that the second broker intervened unnecessarily in the transaction.

Get more useful information like this from the August 2017 issue of Texas REALTOR® magazine.

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TREC proposes a new advertising rule, adopts revisions to existing rule

The Texas Real Estate Commission met on Monday and adopted amendments to existing rules and proposed several more. View the meeting materials packet, which provides more details about all the changes, on TREC’s website. Here’s a breakdown of the adoption and proposals that relate to advertising.

A change to your advertising rules …

You’re no longer required to include the terms broker, agent, or a similar designation or term in your advertisements. This change is effective September 1 as a result of a law passed during this year’s legislative session. This law passed thanks to legislative efforts from the Texas Association of REALTORS®. TREC made an emergency adoption of this rule during the meeting to comply with the law.

You can’t publish an advertisement that implies a sales agent is responsible for the operation of a brokerage or that fails to include the name of the broker for whom the license holder acts, which can be the licensed name, assumed name, or trade name of the broker as authorized by law and registered with TREC.

… and a new advertising rule proposal

TREC proposed repealing and replacing Section 535.154, Advertising, to align with statutory changes adopted by the 85th Legislature and splits the current rule into two separate rules.

Here are some highlights of the proposed rules:

Registration of alternate, team, and assumed business names with TREC. Before using an alternate, team, or assumed name in advertising, the license holder, broker sponsoring a team, or broker using an assumed business name must first register the name with TREC on a TREC-approved form. Registration is not a change from the current rule, but the new rules define and distinguish between these names.

New provisions about team names. The proposed rules define team names and explain how they can be used in advertising. The proposed rules mention the following:

  • A team name may not include any terms that could mislead consumers into thinking the team is offering brokerage services independent of the sponsoring broker. Team names can’t use certain terms, such as realty, brokerage, company, and associates.
  • A team name must end with the word “team” or “group”.
  • An ad needs to include the broker’s name—which is not a change from the current rule—but a team name is not considered a broker’s name.

Social media and texting clarification. Proposed Section 535.155(c) states, “For an advertisement on social media or by text, the information required by this section may be located on a separate page or on the account user profile page of the license holder, if the separate page or account user profile is:

  • readily accessible by a direct link from the social media or text; and
  • readily noticeable on the separate page or in the account user profile.”

The “information required by this section” means the name of the license holder placing the ad and the broker’s name.

Addition to what is considered deceptive or misleading. The proposed rules add that sales agents’ advertisements that use titles such as owner, president, CEO, COO, or other similar titles would be considered a deceptive or misleading ad.

These are just a few items in the proposed new rules. See Agenda Item 26b-c starting on page 315 of the TREC Meeting Materials packet for all proposed changes.

When would new advertising rules go into effect?

The earliest these proposed rules could be adopted is during the next TREC meeting, scheduled for November 13. If adopted, TREC has recommended that the effective date be six months after the rules’ adoption date, so license holders have time to comply.

Share your feedback on proposed rule changes with TREC

You can provide comments about these proposed rule changes for at least 30 days after they are published in the Texas Register by emailing Enter “Texas Real Estate Commission” in the Agency Name field on this page to find TREC rules published in the Texas Register.

Comments made on this blog post will not be read by TREC and do not count as official feedback on proposed rule changes.

But wait … there’s more

TREC covered a lot of topics during its August 7 meeting. Stay tuned for more blog posts in the coming days that will detail additional takeaways from the meeting by signing up to receive Advice for Texas REALTOR® blog emails to get notified when new posts are available.

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Get answers to your termination option questions

The termination option in Paragraph 23 of the One to Four Family Residential Contract (Resale) can be a useful safety net for you clients. It’s also a source of potential confusion and generates a number of calls to the TAR Legal Hotline.

For example, do you know if a buyer has to pay an additional fee to extend an option period? You can find the answer and explanation in the August Texas REALTOR® Magazine Minute.

Read the August issue of Texas REALTOR® magazine for the answers to 10 more common questions related to the termination option.

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How to evaluate an offer from a brokerage

If you’re in the process of taking on a new role or switching brokerages, convincing a broker that you’d be an asset to her business is just the first step. Once that offer comes, it’s time to do your due diligence on the terms of the offer, the brokerage, and what you’re worth.

Whether your negotiation skills are what secured the offer in the first place or not, go into the process with an upbeat attitude and an eye toward what you need from the deal. Remember, the broker sees an opportunity in you—this might be your best chance in the next couple years to make the job fit your goals.

Create a detailed picture of the full offer. For a sales agent, this might be taking into account commission splits, fees, lead costs, and services offered by the broker. Broker associates or leadership positions may need to evaluate responsibilities in the job description or other compensation details. But don’t stop at there. How will cultural fit, company policies or perks, or flexibility in a role factor into your decision?

Go into negotiations with a plan. Know what you want out of the role and use that to determine what aspects of the offer you’d most like improved and where you can make concessions. Be cheerful but firm, making sure you’re conveying your interest in the role. Decide beforehand what you’ll do if your terms can’t be met. Are you willing to walk away or would you still be happy in the role? Practice declining in a respectful manner and be willing to do it if red flags arise in negotiations.


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