Karmen Schwake says she couldn’t do her job without the help of her company’s transaction coordinator, Brenda Miller.
“The position is all about being able to multitask,” says Schwake, broker and vice president of Century 21 LSB Real Estate in Cedar Falls, Iowa. “Things aren’t going to be lost in the mix with her. Everyone knows that Brenda is the one taking care of it.”
Transaction coordinators aren’t anything new in the real estate world. But the position has become more essential as brokerages get larger, agents and brokers get busier, and the number of documents and regulations grows.
So, how do you find the right help?
Some agencies, like Schwake’s, hire their own in-house coordinators through job boards or local colleges or within their own real estate company. Brokers look for someone who already has experience in the real estate world or who has worked with complex paperwork, documents, and scheduling for other industries. That means having exceptional attention to detail and organization skills. Sometimes former real estate agents decide they like the paperwork side of the business better and become coordinators.
There are also companies that offer such services online for a lump-sum payment per closing.
As owner of Cornerstone Transaction Management in Denver, Jessica Im and her staff provide processing, organizing, and communication assistance virtually for real estate agents and brokers. They provide an alternative to brokerages hiring a full-time transaction coordinator for their office.
“I used to sell real estate, and I became a broker, too. But I moved out of Colorado for a while, and I didn’t want to rebuild my real estate business. So, I worked as an assistant, and I saw a real need for this kind of business,” she says.
She opened her company four years ago and works with multiple real estate agents and agencies. There are more than 20,000 licensed real estate agents in the Denver area.
“We focus fully on the transaction. Real estate agents used to hire assistants to do this job. They would have to pay them whether they were busy or not. That’s why, contractually, we charge for each transaction rather than hiring and paying by the hour,” Im says.
The fee is $350 paid at closing for transaction management, but there’s no fee if the contract fails. A new-construction transaction management fee costs $150.
There are a lot of players in a real estate transaction. So being calm and getting people what they need is part of the job, Im says.
“The interaction is the part I love the best about this job,” she says. “It’s not a difficult job, but the most difficult part is when people’s emotions come into play.”
The need for a transaction coordinator
“It’s a good thing when one person is in charge of a file instead of five people handling one file,” says Brenda Miller, transaction coordinator at Century 21 LSB Real Estate, which has two offices with 28 agents. “With this job, you have to be patient and learn how to [deal with interruptions] while doing a task.”
If something is missing in the files, it’s Miller’s job to get it from the agents. She cuts all the checks for the closings and helps make flyers for the homes in between her regular duties.
“She also answers the phone, too,” says Schwake. “When Brenda is out, it’s not fun.”
Sunny Lake, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain Seal in Bellingham, Wash., says her office flows better with a transaction coordinator. When her independent Coldwell Banker franchise joined Bain Seal nearly five year ago, the demand finally caught up with them.
“It was like moving from a third-world country to a first-world country,” she says.
Kelly Pickard moved into the transaction coordinator position at Lake’s office of 60 agents.
“If the Department of Licensing knocked on our doors and pulled any of the files, I know those files would be complete,” Lake says.
And now Pickard’s role is even more vital to Lake’s office. As of Jan. 1, the state of Washington requires that all correspondence, including text messages and e-mails, concerning a real estate transaction must be saved.
“It’s a nightmare,” Lake says. “It’s a learning curve for the agents. Pickard and I have to remind them of the changes and how to stay in compliance. They can’t delete any of those text messages. They have to export them as an e-mail, and then put them in separate accounts.”
Luckily, Pickard has a skill for working with many different types of people and personalities.
“Getting the paperwork from everyone is the hardest part of the job,” she says. “They call it nagging; I call it following through.”