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It’s no secret that great documentation is the linchpin of stellar customer service; just ask any seasoned agent whose careful documentation has saved the day on more than one occasion.

While many agents are worried about what to say or what not to say this summer, perhaps the one practical skill they need to focus on is how to document what is said in case they need to verify or validate the conversation.

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Let’s take a look at four tips for making documentation clear, concise and, above all, easy so that you don’t panic at the disco, and can keep dancing all summer long.

1. Identify what needs to be documented

There are a few areas that need to be captured to make sure that you have a clear picture of what was said, what was received and what happened when you met with clients. While it’s easy to believe that your email (probably) has everything, there is a clear difference between hoping it’s in your inbox and knowing it’s there to back you up.

Here are a few things I track when working with clients to keep us all on the same page.

  1. In person and conference call appointments (with the topic in the calendar for easy search reference)
  2. Email receipts: Confirmation that information or documents were received
  3. Text messages: Confirming appointments and important calls to action for clients and other agents
  4. Phone calls and voicemails

2. Where do I keep all of this?

I use a combo of analog and digital tools to keep track of everything so that I can easily search it if I need to recreate what happened.

CRM: Any CRM will work as long as you put work into it. What you essentially need is a calendar function, notes section, and a place to store contact information. I advise my coaching clients to use a CRM that they own, so if they change brokerages, they can take their data with them. I call it my roll-and-go plan: if you need to go, you can roll up your database and leave neatly with no loose ends.

Hubspot‘s customer platform will get you started for free, and it’s incredibly easy to use.

Work diary: This is a journal in which I can quickly write down significant events or phone calls and then transcribe them into the notes section later. This helps me move quickly, but if you like taking voice notes on your phone, ChatGPT can help document as well.

Docusign: All disclosures are collected and signed in a starter client package. What’s in a starter client package? That’s up to you, but I like to provide environmental education (radon, well and septic, mold, lead-based paint, projected additional inspection/closing costs, estimated utilities, plat, survey, property disclosures, HOA restrictions and agency disclosures) – essentially all the “rules” you should know before you start to play the game of real estate.

Even if you just want confirmed receipt, building your packages in Docusign to send to agents and clients will give you a trackable record of the documents and who saw what.

Screenshot everything: From text messages to social media activity, you can create an album of what I call “red file” events — events that happen in the transaction that might turn the file “red hot” with trouble. Make sure that read receipts are in place whenever possible. Don’t forget chats that happen on social media platforms as well.

3. Daily documentation, monthly collection

The key to making this work for you is being realistic with your time. You have to train yourself to recognize what’s important to document, and what’s not necessary. Don’t worry if you do not know; as you grow in your career, each transaction will teach you a lesson on what NOT to do in the future.

You cannot trust that your clients are getting the message in a conversation; they may be distracted or they may not have the perspective you need them to have. Everyone learns differently. Try to keep your daily notes handy, and then at month’s end, round everything up into your CRM. If you can, adopt the popular “don’t put it down, put it away method,” if you have time to document in the moment.

This is a hard habit to build; it will take practice and it’s not perfect, but if you learn to keep things short and concise you can save yourself a ton of heartache and data entry later on. Essentially, get to the point and you will have less to document — and your clients and co-workers will love you for it.

4. Set expectations with a timeline

The goal of documentation is to set an expectation of who is responsible for what, and what to expect in the transaction. Keep yourself and your clients organized with a weekly email that summarizes important milestones, who is in charge of specific action items, and what steps are still left to go.

If items are missing or delayed, this is where you document it. This should be a quick, bulleted checklist that all involved parties can follow easily.

Here is an example:

Hi Alex,

    • Last week we toured properties A, B and C.
    • We made an offer on C, and your lender sent me your pre-qualification letter.
    • Your offer was not accepted, so we need to void your escrow check and all documents associated with that offer. I called you Tuesday night, and we discussed why your offer was not accepted.
    • On Wednesday morning, I let the listing agent know that if the accepted offer falls through, you would like to be reconsidered for property C and to call me.
    • This week I have set up showings for you for properties D and E for Thursday at 3 p.m. I sent you a calendar invite with directions.

Thanks for your patience and I look forward to seeing you Thursday afternoon. I will text you an appointment reminder on Thursday morning.

One tool I use often in this step is SalesMail or BombBomb. Video, in combination with a simple checklist, is very powerful in setting expectations and explaining milestones in transactions.

Plus, my clients love them, and often they watch and share them several times to remind themselves of things they want to know. I receive a log of how often they watch and when. This is a great way to build more accessibility into your communication with clients and even other agents.

Final thoughts

Making time to document and add notes into your CRM is not a fun activity. In fact, it feels like the kind of work you get into real estate to avoid.

While documentation is still a few steps better than a dental cleaning, you will appreciate your notes coming in clutch if a deal goes sideways, and your broker will praise you from the rooftops. In a world where so much is said, but no one is really listening, your career can be made or broken by the notes you document.

Lawsuits seem to be a now-permanent fixture in the landscape of real estate, and becoming an expert in legal documentation may be the best thing you do for yourself all summer — aside from sneaking away for a few breaks by the pool for self-care. When in doubt, write it down; your future self will thank you.

Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram.

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