1. Meep! Meep! Lead Speed Is Key “Regardless of the source of a new lead (a sign call, an online lead, etc.), speed is the name of the game,” Today’s Buyer’s Rep (TBR) reminds us in a recent article. “This is partly because surveys show that buyers are most likely to work with the first agent they meet. It’s also because today’s buyers are more likely to expect ‘instant’ access to information they desire.” Bottom line: DO Respond as soon as possible. DON’T Keep new leads waiting. Look for more tips from TBR in future issues.
2. TN Job Demand Outpacing Worker Supply Tennessee’s high-tech, high-paying manufacturing jobs are growing fast—too fast, it seems, to attract enough qualified workers.
In this informative article in the Ledger, author Linda Bryant points out: “Finding people to fill the promising new jobs, many of which start at $50,000 and increase as workers gain experience, is an uphill battle.”
*Note: TREC just adjusted the date of its May session in Jackson to ONLY THURSDAY, MAY 5. To view the full TREC calendar, click here.
3. TREC Stars: Austin McMullen This week our series of profiles on the Tennessee Real Estate Commission (TREC) continues with one of two public members, Austin McMullen of Nashville.
In one of his best-known routines, the late comedian George Carlin comparedfootball to baseball. Believe it or not, it’s almost as much fun to compare football to real estate regulation—at least when it comes to Austin McMullen, one of two public members of theTennessee Real Estate Commission(TREC).
By day, McMullen (who was appointed to TREC by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2013) is a partner with Nashville law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLC. But for the past 15 years, he has moonlighted as a zebra-striped football official for the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA), including calling the Maryville-Oakland 6A state semifinal game last November.
Down! Set! TREC! The gridiron justice McMullen dispenses bears striking similarities to his responsibilities as a TREC commissioner. Consider:
— High-school football officiating crews have eight members; TREC has nine members (along with the Commission’s staff).
— Football officials’ primarily role is to protect the players and ensure a fair game outcome; TREC’s primary role is to protect consumers and ensure fair real estate outcomes.
— Football officials must know the TSSAA rulebook inside and out; TREC commissioners must know Tennessee’s real estate laws and rules just as thoroughly.
— Football officials assess complex situations and make weighty decisions under pressure; TREC commissioners assess complex regulatory situations and render weighty decisions with far-reaching implications.
— Football officiating often involves intense onlookers, booing, screaming and name-calling from all sides; TREC service sometimes involves intense moments watched closely by onlookers from all sides.
“I like being part of making the hard decisions,” McMullen says, referring to officiating and TREC, “and I don’t mind people yelling at me now and then. I can mix it up if necessary. You have to have thick skin in life.”
Inside the Huddle McMullen, who holds business and economics degrees from Millsaps College and a law degree from Vanderbilt, says TREC’s main role boils down to “ensuring that we protect the public.”
“That is really important, because buying a home is the largest transaction most people will ever be involved in,” he says. “REALTORS® perform a tremendous service to the public, so we want to be sure the highest professional standards are met. Enforcing the rules also helps our licensees to have the best possible reputation with the public.”
As an attorney working outside the real estate industry—he was listed in The Best Lawyers in America® and named to the Nashville Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list—McMullen brings a unique perspective to TREC.
“I’m not in a real estate office very day, and that is good and bad,” he says. “I don’t necessarily have the level of involvement or detailed knowledge that the other seven [non-public] members have”—McMullen’s fellow public member is Johnny Horne of Chattanooga—“but I can be the person who sort of asks the dumb questions in the meetings. And those sometimes turn out to be really good questions!”
McMullen has “learned a lot about this complex industry by being on TREC,” he adds. “It’s a tremendous profession with a lot of great, hard-working people who do a lot to help others. I really enjoy being part of that.”
Downfield Breakaway Football and TREC are similar in another way for McMullen. As a law partner, he is immersed in legal cases, focusing primarily on bankruptcy law, government relations, and commercial litigation.
“Being a referee is a good way to be with people who are not lawyers for a while,” he says. “It’s fun to be around the kids and the sport, and to get a little exercise. That’s not unlike serving on a board like TREC, where we deal with a lot of different kinds of issues than I would in a typical day.”
As if those pursuits weren’t enough to keep him busy, McMullen has served for eight years on the Board of Commissioners for the City of Oak Hill, four years as Mayor and two as Vice Mayor; he is an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville; and he and his wife, Kelly, are the parents of a 10-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.
His bottom-line commitment to TREC, McMullen says, is “to help make the profession as strong as possible, to serve the public well, and to ensure the public’s utmost trust in our licensees.”
For more about the Tennessee Real Estate Commission, visit here.
4. **Use the Most Current Forms**
It is very important to use the most current form available to avoid any issues that might arise from using an outdated version. How can you be sure? As noted on the illustration below, look for the date in the upper right corner. If it doesn’t say the current year, it is outdated. In addition, on the last page of every form you’ll see: “This form is subject to periodic revision, and it is the responsibility of the member to use the most recent available form.” If you’ve received an OLD version of a form from another REALTOR®, kindly remind them to use the most current version or counter/provide them the most current form. Content changes may occur because of legislative mandate, rules, regulations, policies, Code of Ethics, and even market conditions. TAR’s Forms Committees—Residential and Commercial—work hard to keep your best interests in mind.
5.ERMA: Find a Specific Course Our real-life ERMA is back. In thethird installmentof her video series, she shows you how to find a specific course on the new mobile app. (Note: ERMA is still in the early stages of development, so we welcome any feedback after you’ve downloaded it.) Check it out atthis link.
6. Nominate a Good Neighbor It’s time to nominate a community all-star for REALTOR® magazine’s annual Good Neighbor Awards. Deadline: Friday, May 13. The award recognizes “REALTORS® who have made an extraordinary impact on their community, or on the national or world stage, through volunteer work.” Five winners will be announced in the fall, honored at NAR’s conference in Orlando, and granted $10,000 for their charities. Visit this pageto learn more, this pageto read about past Good Neighbor winners, orthis pageto jump to the online Nomination form.
7. Thurs. 4/21: TransactionDesk CE Reserve your spot now for TransactionDesk training—basic, advanced, or both—at TAR on Thursday, April 21. Visit here to register for BASIC(9 a.m. to Noon), andhere to register for ADVANCED(1-4 p.m.). Hone your transaction-management skills while earning up to 6 hours of CE credit (3 for each course).
For an Overview of Professional Development through TAR and TREEF, visit here.
8. Broker Manage Two Companies?
QUESTION: Can a principle broker manage two separate companies located in two separate locations (i.e. be the principle broker at ABC Realty while also being the managing broker at XYZ Realty)?
ANSWER: No. TAR’s forms committee reviewed the Independent Contractor Agreement (ICA) and determined that this was an issue dealing with employment issues rather than real estate issues. In addition, it is difficult to construct a one-size-fits-all ICA. The committee determined that this matter would involve numerous areas of law, including employment and tax, which is known to change frequently. As such, it was felt that this form is best left to each individual company to have their own legal counsel draft an ICA, taking into account each office and its needs.
9. Compare Your Rank to Others?
QUESTION: Is it legal or ethical to compare one real estate company’s sales to another’s? Can we advertise our rank (#1, #2, #3, etc.) in relation to other real-estate companies in the area?
ANSWER: The key is that you cannot be misleading in your advertising. You also cannot make unsubstantiated claims about yourself or about other agencies. Therefore, TAR recommends that if you do this, make certain the information is correct. You should also disclose the time frame and how the figures were gathered. For example: “According to the XYZ Association of REALTORS®” or “XYZ MLS.”
10. W-2 vs. Independent Contractor?
QUESTION: Is it legal for a licensed REALTOR® to receive a salary and a W-2, as opposed to working off commissions?
ANSWER: There is nothing that states that an agent must be an independent contractor. If a firm wishes to pay its agents a salary and provide a W-2, that is legally their choice. There are some things you need to know before doing so. Most firms choose to have their agents be independent contractors, because this lessens the liability of the firm in the event of a lawsuit. If the agent does something wrong, the firm can be held liable for the agent’s actions if he or she is an employee rather than an independent contractor. You would also need to get firm E&O insurance to protect the firm. This extra liability could also cover auto accidents in which the agent was involved. In addition, if you have a specific number of employees, you then have to provide worker’s compensation on those employees. There could also be tax ramifications for your company, which you would need to discuss with your accountant and/or tax advisor. You should speak with your firm’s attorney to ensure that you have all of your bases covered and the proper insurance in place to deal with any potential lawsuits.