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2019 IRS Audit Triggers for Real Estate Agents

IRS Audit Triggers for Real Estate Agents

While each new year is a good reason to look at finances, 2018 is an especially good year if your in the IRS Audit Trigger zone. While you may be celebrating, or hoping for better things to come the following year, your income (or profit) is almost always in an inverse relationship with your tax obligations. While it’s better to owe a lot in tax than owe none, you will want to make sure that you are “in the know” with regard to the new tax law. With that in mind, here are some audit triggers as well as some changes to the tax law to help get you off on the right track.

IRS and State Audit Triggers

1. Your numbers don’t match. Make sure your 1099’s and W-2’s match up to what’s being reported to the IRS. This is the fastest way to get a letter from the IRS because the matching is automated and is one of the first things they look at.

2. You made a lot of money this past year. This one is simple, and it is good. You want to make a lot of money. However, increasing your income also increases the amount of your income the IRS could stand to gain by auditing you, if they think you aren’t being honest with your deductions. If you are making a lot of money during the year, be very meticulous with your record keeping, and make sure you can prove everything that you are taking as a deduction.

3. You made a lot less money this past year. This is not as good. If you made a lot less money, you probably also have a lot less of it laying around to pay taxes with, so an audit could be extra devastating. If you are legitimately reporting all income, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, but if there’s a chance you might not have reported everything (even by accident), this won’t look good in an audit. It is best to keep meticulous records of all income so that you can show the accurate income amount in case the IRS comes knocking.

4. You are self-employed. If you are in real estate, this likely applies to you. Even if you’ve set up your business as a corporation or an LLC and pay yourself that way, you will still fall into a higher risk category than someone earning a paycheck from a large company. There’s nothing you can do about this, but you can be extra cautious about the deductions you take, as well as ensuring you pay all of your tax liability in a timely manner, with quarterly payments made if possible.

5. You deduct your home office and/or vehicle. You should! But you have to do this one right. You should get clear with your CPA on exactly how much is allowable for home office and vehicle deductions, as going over these thresholds can be a red flag that results in an audit, regardless of how much income you make. Be very careful to follow these guidelines.

6. You have a lot of “meal/entertainment” deductions. Which for 2017 are allowable deductions but not for 2018. Are you deducting the entire amount when you should only be deducting the portion that was for the client(s)? Are you spending amounts that would be considered “excessive” or “lavish”? Are you spending amounts that are too large in proportion to your gross income? All of these things can be red flags that trigger an audit, and you will find yourself in a difficult situation trying to justify these expenses. Meals and entertainment costs are deductible up to 50 percent if they are ordinary and necessary to your business in 2017.

7. Are Commission Advances deductible? Generally the fee incurred would be deductible, but check with your CPA to confirm. A commission Advance is usually considered a business expense but improper documentation of this may lead to an unnecessary audit.

8. You were particularly generous this year! The IRS is always on the lookout for people who inflate their charitable donations and use a range based off a percent of income that is reasonable.

9. Big Deductions? Is one or two of your deductions exceptionally large and outside of the norm for your industry, income bracket or year over year trend.

10. Suspicious Round Numbers? Suspiciously round numbers on your returns will raise and auditor’s eyebrow.

11. Tax Credits? Claiming Tax Credits that aren’t yours.

Bottom line if you have questions about a deduction that you can ask your CPA, it is better to ask them instead of going through an audit after the fact.

About Us: Express Cash Flow provides commission advances for real estate agents and brokers. Check us out at www.ExpressCashFlow.com or call us at 844-818-2274.

10 Best Real Estate Recruiting Tips for Brokers

10 Best Real Estate Recruiting Tips for Brokers

Best real estate recruiting tips for brokers and teams on a minimal budget!  Get some new ideas and grow your business.

Expanding your office with a hands-on marketing and tracking approach can be extremely cost effective and efficient.  If you have some support behind you make it a team effort and delegate some of the ideas below.  Before you start on the 10 best real estate recruiting tips get a handle on your strategy:

  • Strategize on what type of agents will fit your culture the best; i.e.: new or established agents. Do you want self-starters or needy agents that ask you a lot of “How about this”, “What if this happens” questions?
  • Have a full media profile for yourself and your company. Actively use the account by posting about yourself, your brand, agents, properties, trends and other news.  Outsource this function to an admin/marketing person if needed.
  • The best real estate recruiting starts with…tracking every recruiting activity such as interested calls, phone interviews, in-person interview and offers made in an excel spreadsheet every week so you can see your activity and what your spending money on.
  • Go beyond compensation, make agents want to work for you and in your office. The highest commission split, biggest marketing budgets and lowest E&O insurance premiums are not all that matter. Make an exciting and welcoming environment for your new and existing agents.  Introduce them to your preferred title, escrow, and insurance reps.  Discuss tools and training that have worked in the past and open opportunities.
  • How much is this recruiting going to cost you in marketing, on-boarding, training and materials? If your escrows do get delayed consider a commission advance to help with expenses from Express Cash Flow at ExpressCashFlow.com.  They will provide up to 75% of your net commissions within 4 hours.

10 Best Real Estate Recruiting:

1.       Friends, Family and Associates

Post on social media that your looking to expand and grow your office.  Tell everyone! What are the benefits to working with you and in your office?

2.       Hold an office contest

Encourage your agents to setup appointments for you with potential prospects and reward them with $250 on each new hire.  Or maybe the prize is dinner with you or just recognition in front of the entire office.

3.       Targeted Mailings

Targeted mailings could increase your brand awareness but the list needs to be very focused so that the conversion rate is higher to offset the costs.

4.       Local Charities

Get involved in local charities and attempt to serve on a few non-related real estate boards in your community. Learn to tell success stories about past clients and how you worked in different situations.  Everyone wants to hear good stories so rehearse them for when you have a few minutes before a meeting starts, dinner conversation or just telling friends.

5.       Become Friends

Get to know agents from competitors in your area.  Comment on their posts.  Are they active producers? Work ethic?  Values?

6.       Open Houses

Open houses are a great way to meet other agents in a comfortable setting.  Introduce yourself, hand out business cards and tell them what’s unique about your company, marketing, and culture.   Always follow-up, it might take 2 months or 2 years but plant your seed!

7.       Recruiting Landing Page on Your Website

Have a landing page for prospective agents to learn more about your business and fill-out a small questionnaire.

8.       Ask your past Clients

Ask your past clients (buyers or sellers) if they know anyone looking for a new career?  Email, phone call, text message, etc. Maybe it’s a niece that is just graduating college, someone that is in retirement looking for part-time work, a teacher that has the summers off and looking for a pay raise?  You won’t know if you don’t ask.

9.       Community events – 4th of July, Open House, New Shopping Center, etc

Have a table with some free popcorn, give aways from the 99-cent store or kids toys with your contact information. This is especially important if its in your “farm” neighborhood.

10.   Senior Centers

The best real estate recruiting tip! You may think that once people are in a Senior Center they might not need a real estate agent but it is truly the office administrators that you might want to deal with.  What happens when a couple needs to move into senior center and they have to put up the deposit and sell their house?  The office administrators usually recommends a real estate agent or two in their area that can sell their house quickly for top dollar…THAT NEEDS TO BE YOU OR YOUR AGENTS!  Obviously, you might have to pay a referral fee but you should come out on top!

Hashtags: #RealEstate #Broker, #realtor #realtorlife #realtors #luxuryrealtor #topproducer #realestateagent #realtormarketing #recruiting

Qualified Opportunity Zones Tax Savings

Qualified Opportunity Zones Tax Savings

Did you know that there is now a better method of deferring capital gains tax on appreciated assets than a 1031 exchange?   Even better than that, did you know that it is possible to sell massively appreciated real estate free of any capital gains tax whatsoever? Answer Qualified Opportunity Zones!

One of the lesser discussed and lesser known aspects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was the formation of Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) and Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOF).  It’s on page 130, and doesn’t directly affect you unless you have large quantities of capital gains on which you’d rather not be taxed, so I’ll forgive you if you haven’t heard of it until now.

If that situation applies to you though, it is worth looking into.   But how do you know if the situation applies to you, what is a QOF and what is a QOZ?  Glad you asked- that’s what I’m here to answer.

There are two sides to this legislation that can benefit different folks in different ways.  Let’s first start with people who have recently sold an appreciated asset and are going to have a capital gain.  That might already be some of you, and that may be others of you in the future.

In the past, if you’ve sold this appreciated asset (let’s assume it is real estate), your only option to defer capital gains via a 1031 Exchange, in which you must relinquish your appreciated asset and purchase a replacement asset within both a finite period of time and a stringent set of guidelines.  The problem inherent in doing that, though, is that if you are picking a particularly good time to realize your gains (seller’s market!), guess what you’re going to need to do in order to defer your capital gains?  You guessed it, buy into that same market.

Now there are ways around this, you can sell in an “A” market and buy in a “C” market, or you can sell a particular type of property (residential) and buy a different type of property (Industrial?) via which you will be able to achieve a higher yield.  Or you could turn one multi-family property in CA into 85 single family rentals in Ohio, which I’ve helped facilitate and absolutely do not recommend for everyone.

But let’s say you don’t want to do any of that.  Let’s say you just want to not pay your capital gains tax at all.  Do these opportunity zones let you do that?

Well… kind of.

Here is exactly what the IRS has to say about Qualified Opportunity Zones:

Q. How do Qualified Opportunity Zones spur economic development?

A. Opportunity Zones are designed to spur economic development by providing tax benefits to investors. First, investors can defer tax on any prior gains until the earlier of the date on which an investment is sold or exchanged, or December 31, 2026, so long as the gain is reinvested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund. Second, if the investor holds the investment in the Opportunity Fund for at least ten years, the investor would be eligible for an increase in basis equal to the fair market value of the investment on the date that the investment is sold or exchanged.

Ok, so that’s a lot to unpack, and you can read more about what the IRS thinks are the important questions here, but essentially what the benefits actually are:

  • You can defer your gain until 12/31/2026
  • If you hold the reinvested funds via the QOF into QOZ assets for a minimum of 5 years, your basis in the original transaction increases by 10%, and if you hold for 7 years, you get an additional 5%, for a total of a 15% decrease in your initial liability (not bad!)
  • If you hold the investment for a minimum of 10 years, your basis upon sale is equal to your sales price.

I’ll go ahead and comment on those- 1 and 2 are cool if you’re talking about large dollars, but only really moves the needle if you are talking about very large numbers.  3 is a different story- 3 says that if you a buy a property through a QOF, don’t sell it for 10 years (or more), you pay no tax on the appreciation in that period.  This is an astounding bit of legislation, especially for those of us familiar with development and entitlements- things that generally take a while to accomplish, and see substantial amounts of profit (much of which is typically eaten up by capital gains tax).

If you’re like me, it might take a minute to fully appreciate the impact of that.  That means that if you buy a property in a QOZ via the captive capital gain in your QOF and hold it for 10 years, or more, your gain upon sale is entirely tax fee.  No two ways about it.  Just to make sure though- let’s walk through an example.

Let’s say that you sell your appreciated asset and that creates a capital gain of $2 Million.  You then invest that gain in a QOF, and that QOF buys property in a QOZ (also for $2 Million).

You then wait the requisite ten years (and remember, after year 8, the amount you are taxed on decreases to $1.7 M), and your property is now worth $5M.  The additional $3M gain is now not going to have any capital gains at all.  Zero.  $3M of tax-free gain… the holy grail of real estate investment (or any investment).

Ok, so these sound pretty cool?  Where are they?

Well, here.  And while the zones are certainly in places that you might expect them, they are also in a number of places you might not expect.  Huntington Beach?  Costa Mesa?  San Clemente?  These aren’t exactly areas that are screaming for outside capital to renovate a forgotten about and forlorn metropolis.  But, through the miracles of bipartisan legislation, they were included.

If you would like to know more about Qualified Opportunity Zones and how to best take advantage of this new and unique opportunity, feel free to reach out and we can connect on the topic.

Express Cash Flow – www.ExpressCashFlow.com

recruiting agents

Real Estate Agent Recruiting Tactics

We all know that agent recruiting is the life blood of any successful real estate office, and it should be the goal to recruit the most, best agents.  But how does a real estate brokerage actually go about doing this?  Here are some of the tactics used by the most successful recruiters from around the world.

  • Some of the best agent recruiting is done by your current agents! Ask your agents whom they’ve enjoyed working with on past transactions, and whom they look up to at other offices.  Then provide incentives (trips, meals, a boost in their split) for the agents that provide you with the best referrals.
  • Get involved with charities and your local community. Sometimes the best way to find good real estate talent is in the most unlikely of places, and being involved in communities outside of your industry will help you grow your network immensely.
  • Get involved in communities in your industry, too! Hold a new agent training for your local board, and make sure to follow up with any qualified candidates.  Have your agents support you in this endeavor, and encourage them to follow up as well.
  • Email all of your top recruiting targets with their end of year sales and what they could have made working for you- NOTE: make sure you are confident of their current splits and that this would compare favorably before sending.
  • Organize an outing or mixer for some of your top agents to mingle and socialize with your top recruits, so the recruits can get a feel for what will allow them to continue to grow and succeed.
  • Everyone wants to grow their network, make sure you not only connect with your potential recruits on social media, but ensure that you impact your relationship with them positively.

Once you’ve had a chance to implement all of these tips, recruiting will no longer be about hunting whatever agents you are able to convince they should switch to you, but rather farming your various networks for the most, best agents around.

Happy recruiting!

how to recruit agents

Attracting the Best Realtors (and Keep Them from Leaving)

Attracting the best realtors is an interesting thing, in that its very premise requires changing your prospect’s mindset so drastically that they make a major life change, and once successful, ensuring that they never have their mindset changed in a similar fashion in the future.  This presents a challenge, because you are dealing with precisely the population of people whose minds were once changed in the first place.  So how do you go about winning both of these competitions?  It is all about creating the belief that you as a real estate brokerage offer a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and that working anywhere else would leave them at a disadvantage.

That’s wonderful as a strategy, but how do you actually go about creating that belief?

  • Attracting the best realtors requires training not only on the mechanics of the business (writing contracts, negotiating offers, etc), but focus also on how to gain more business. While almost all offices will offer floor time and open houses to hungry new agents, these methods are outdated when it comes to optimizing your presence among today’s web-savvy buyers.  Having a committed, proven, and effective strategy for agents to boost their business with online marketing will help you differentiate your brand from the competition.
  • Be a leader in technology. In an ever increasing technology based marketplace, not only are buyers and sellers starting their searches online, but agents looking for a place to hang their license are as well.  Taking advantage of premium placement on agent recruitment sites like AgentBranch.com are a great way to stand out as a leader in technology.
  • Give agents the right incentives to stay. This might be the most important of all.  Recruiting new agents is only half the battle, as your new recruits are just as likely to leave you as they were their last employer.  There is no one catch all solution to retaining agents though, it is more about understanding what motivates each individual    Will your newly recruited top producer be more motivated if he is given an equity stake in the company if he meets certain thresholds of production, or would he respond better to having a higher split on each transaction?  Will your new licensees perform better if given freedom to market how they see fit on a higher split, or provided with lead generation on a lower split?  Answering these questions correctly for each agent is key.  At the end of the day, successful brokerages will make all of their agents as successful as possible, and in so doing, will help preserve the highest possible retention rate.
Real Estate Listing Marketing Idea

Real Estate Listing Marketing Ideas

We all think we know how to market our listing but sometimes a refresher of a few items will help, and it can also be an opportunity to try new things.  Don’t know how…learn it on YouTube.  Here are the top real estate listing marketing ideas and how to get the best price for the least amount of days on the market.

1.    Price

Let’s face it, price is one of the biggest factors to getting your listing sold quickly.  Price it in the correct range for the quality of the house.  If you’re going to price it above all other comparable listings make sure it will appraise for that price.

2.    Set the Stage by Staging it!

If it’s empty, then stage it, if the seller is still living in the home then ask to help clean-up the clutter.  Professional stagers can work wonders with even the least appealing of houses.  Possibly refresh the house with new paint and carpet?

3.    Start with a Strong MLS Listing Description

Use a lot of keywords that other agents would use to find this home.  Key words or groups of key words (Long tail keywords) help with search engine optimization and will boost the exposure for your listing.

4.    Lots of Quality Photos

Photos say a thousand words.   Professional pictures of the front, back and every room, yards, scenic views in the neighborhood; anything at all to make the home more appealing.  If the price is a little higher than the competition the pictures should show why.

5.    Create Address Specific Landing Pages to Capture Leads

Getting a prospective buyer/lead is the first goal.  An address specific website for a high-end home really shows what you’re doing and improves your search engine optimization for marketing your listing.

6.    Posting on Facebook

The popularity of Facebook almost requires you to Post on Facebook because of the reach, don’t forget to boost your post before an open house by spending $10-$20 a day. Real estate listing marketing idea: Use hash tags to hit a larger audience. Consider changing your Profile Image to the image of the house with Open House information, that way people are notified of your change.  Suggest your friends to “Like” your marketing listing. For Top Ten Realtor Facebook Tip click here.

7.    Posting Real Estate on Instagram

Post pictures and a video on Instagram to your friends in the best location of the house.  Use a very a short description.

8.    Posting Real Estate on LinkedIn

This should be most of your business connections so get a few thousand connections that really count and market yourself as the go-to Agent and market all your properties.  Update your company profile with a professional description to make you and your listing stand out. For more information on LinkedIn Profile Optimizing Tricks click here.

9.    Open House

Consider a sign-in sheet and invite the neighbors. Do an evening open house with wine and cheese; everyone is in a better mood when the environment is festive.  Stay open later just don’t do the minimal Sunday from 1-4, maybe to 6pm.

10. Marketing in Magazines and Newspapers

One of the top marketing listing idea is the old-fashioned email marketing is the most cost-effective marketing to reach your audience.  You must dedicate an hour or two a month to update your contacts and maintain your Customer Relationship Management (CRM).  Send out at least one email a month about yourself, the local market, your brokerage and your listings.  Master the “Subject Line” it like the cover of the book, if its not interesting it won’t be opened.

11. Master your Elevator Pitch

What’s your 30 second pitch? Literally, if you were in an elevator going to the 20th floor, what would you say to the other person that just said they were moving to your marketing territory?

12. Email Marketing

One of the top real estate listing marketing idea is the old-fashioned email marketing is the most cost-effective marketing to reach your audience.  You must dedicate an hour or two a month to update your contacts and maintain your Customer Relationship Management (CRM).  Send out at least one email a month about yourself, the local market, your brokerage and your listings.  Master the “Subject Line” it like the cover of the book, if its not interesting it won’t be opened.

13. Send out Mailers

The same email marketing database (CRM) solution your using should also include mailing addresses to mail out postcards or flyers.

14. Brand yourself and the Property Profile across all Marketing Channels

If you have a team add their full profile to yours, and make sure to add the properties they sell to your page to boost your portfolio even further.  Review Building the Best Referral Base article click here.

15. Google Adwords for Real Estate Listing Marketing Ideas

If there are certain key words and long tail key works that buyers use in your area you can buy them on Google Adwords so your name is the first to show-up.  Real estate listing marketing idea examples:

  • “Vacation Beach House” – These key words can be purchase for a city or county.
  • “Napa Real Estate Agents” – Great for high end clients looking for an agent
  • “Beach houses in Newport Beach” – Great example of a long tail key word with a city

You can upload your contacts in Google as an Audience and market targeted ads to them.  The audience needs to be 5,000+ or more and Google will suggest similar lists that you can add.  The ads can be placed in Gmail accounts at the top of prospects emails and other locations.

Make sure to add “Negative Key Words” so that you are not marketing to everyone and wasting your budget.  Google support is available anytime and it’s a free resource so click on the large (?) at the top right-hand corner and call them with questions.

For a full ad on Google Adwords add the extensions for free to link to different tabs of your website.  Useful extensions would be to Listings, About Us, Resources, Contact Us, etc.

16. Yelp Account

Create a Yelp account and maintain it so it shows your current address, phone number, website and pictures.  Request past customers, associates and business partners to give you 5 stars along with some useful commentary.  This will help in your search engine marketing (SEO), not many real estate agents are focused on SEO but when you have the right profiles on social media accounts it really takes off.

17. Commission Advances for Real Estate Listing Marketing Ideas

If you have some listing marketing expenses that you need covered you may want to consider a commission advance.  An advance for a transaction that is in escrow is the most cost effective.  This is a quick and easy way to get part of your commissions early and get a portion of your commissions upfront.  Commission advances can be done for residential and commercial properties.  For more information on Commission Advance Tips click here.

18. Google your Name

When you google your name or company name and you don’t show up on the top then you need to work on your internet profile.  Make sure your social media profiles are all consistent with the same profile picture, phone number, website links and branding message.

19. Link it to Zillow

The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) states that 92 percent of buyers house hunt online. As the largest real estate website with more than 160 million visitors per month, Zillow is the first place you need to be.

Real Estate Listing Marketing Idea: Once its listed in interesting statistic is the “Competition for this Home” which will show you the number of views in the last 30 days and the “Shoppers Saved” which means the number of individuals saved this home as a favorite in the last 30 days.

For more Zillow Tips & Tricks click here and here.

Conclusion

If you’re not technically savvy then hire an assistant or a marketing consultant because being a professional also means showing you’re a professional on-line.  If you’re not in front of your prospects then another realtor will be!  Having available cash flow to market your listing in the most professional and aggressive manner may require to have part of your commission early via a commission advance.  For more information about commission advances please check out Express Cash Flow.

commission advance

What is a Commission Advance?

Why should you have to wait for your commission until the closing day to get paid when you could use a commission advance instead?

  1. No Credit Checks–Look for real estate commission advance companies that don’t require a credit check. Advance companies provide you with funding based on a contract of sale and a pending commission, which you sell to them.  Your Purchase and Sales Agreement is the collateral for your advance.
  1. Same-Day Approval– The approval and underwriting process should be quick with any advance company.   The longer process is usually gathering DocuSign signatures and getting confirmation from brokers and escrow companies.
  1. Simple Application– Advance companies usually have an online application. The advance company you choose to work with should offer a quick application and a very concise and clear list of documents that can be uploaded.

What Do You Need?

The documents for a commission advance are simple:

A. Purchase and Sales Agreement
B. Driver’s License
C. Bank Account Information
D. Broker and Escrow contact information
E. Summary of Closed Transactions

  1. Multiple Commission Advances – Every advance company is different but usually you can have up to 2 or 3 advances at one time. Some commission advance companies tranche or fund in 2 payments because the agent requests a large advance amount. 
  1. Listing Advance vs. Commission Advance – some companies offer Listing Advances, which is when there is no identified buyer but only a listing agreement with the seller. Traditionally at least 2 or 3 listings in order to qualify for a Listing Advance.  A commission advance is when a broker or agent receives a portion of their commission prior to closing.

Find a commission advance company that fits your needs and works with you.  Some regional franchises may have different underwriting procedures due to state rules, but most nationwide advance companies like Express Cash Flow provide excellent service.  Check them out at ExpressCashFlow.com.

#CommissionAdvance, #Real Estate, #Realtor, #businessCredit, #BusinessCash, #BusinessCashAdvance