Unfortunate Ways Your Real Estate List Can Be Stolen Or Lost

And how to protect your most valuable resource.

As the real estate market continues to shift, you may look for ways to save money and reduce your overhead. 

You already know your database is crucial for driving new business. But, you may be hesitant to invest in a CRM if you aren’t confident in how you will find your next deal. A growing trend in the industry is agents sharing systems or using a broker-owned system without considering the impact on their business.

Before diving into a shared system with a group of colleagues, take a minute to consider how this cost-saving move could result in having your list stolen or lost. 

Here are the most common ways our team here at sGrow has seen other agents lose control of their databases:

System Sharing

A way to save money is to share a CRM system with others. There are three common system-sharing strategies: 

Piggyback on Another Agent’s CRM

When two or more Realtors who are not in business together decide to share a system, this is known as Piggybacking. One agent pays for the system, and the others pay the account owner a portion of the fee for access.

Naturally, when you pay for a license on another agent’s account, you think you are getting all the benefits for a fraction of the cost. 

Unfortunately, only after things start to go poorly that the risks become clear:

The first thing to know is that when you’re only a licensed user, your business information may be accessed by the owner or other users without your knowledge or permission. Your list can be sold or shared with a competitor to be farmed, or marketed to by agents using the account.

There’s also the problem of removing your data from the system when issues arise. You may be restricted from exporting or deleting records, and the owner can keep a copy of your database. If you can’t secure your list, how do you stop others from farming it to win business from your database?

And, of course, the agent who leased a license to you may have done so because their business is struggling, and they needed to recoup some cash. What if the agent’s funds run out and they stop paying for the CRM service? If the account is suspended or deactivated due to non-payment, even if you paid the owner, you have no recourse to save your data. Ouch!

At this point, you may think “if I share a CRM with other agents, I’ll make sure that I’m the account owner”, which has its own set of concerns:

Allow Others to Piggyback on Your CRM

As the owner of a CRM with unused licenses, you may look to reduce your overall expense by renting the licenses to other Realtors. But, being the account owner of a system doesn’t protect you from the pitfalls of piggybacking.

There are two major downfalls to leasing out unused licenses for your account to others:

Since account access settings aren’t always clear, you can put yourself in a position to have a user sell or farm your list without your knowledge. And, if you have several agents renting licenses, their lists could also be vulnerable. What liability falls on your shoulders if you allow another user’s list to be stolen?

Even if you have access settings locked down and are confident lists can’t be copied, there’s still the chance of losing your list as a result of another agent’s actions.

Most CRMs include the ability to send group and drip emails. When an agent renting a license uses the email tools (and how can you say no when they pay you for access?), you as the account owner are responsible if they violate the system’s acceptable use policy related to email or the Federal CAN-SPAM Act. 

When unsolicited emails are sent from your system, your CRM can be suspended for misuse, and your business can be labeled as a known spammer by email providers. When your online reputation is ruined, not only will messages from third-party senders be blocked but your domain can be black-listed or suspended for such activities. 

Is the possibility of having your list stolen or your digital reputation ruined worth the fee other agents will pay you to access your CRM?

License Sharing with Another Agent

And the easiest way to lose or have your list stolen is by sharing a single license.

License sharing is two or more agents paying for a single license and combining their records in one account. 

Typically, agents sharing an account will attempt to hack the system to identify their records, but this rarely works as planned. When you combine your list with another agent in a system, how do you separate your lists down the road if your business is growing and the sharing strategy is only making things more difficult for you? 

In this situation, the agent listed as the owner controls the system. Even if you figure out a process to identify your records, you still run into the same list cloning and lock-out situations as agents who piggyback on another Realtor’s system.

Use Your Brokerage’s CRM Without Asking the Right Questions

Tech fees are now standard with most brokerages. Often, this fee includes access to the company CRM. 

A brokerage system can seem attractive. However, it’s not uncommon for agents using a company CRM to experience similar issues as piggybacking – limited access, list farming, and lost data.

If you plan to use a company CRM because your tech fee includes access, make sure you ask the right questions to protect your brand and business before adding your database:

What is included in the CRM?

If you are already using a system effectively to generate new business, you likely invested a lot of time and money to create a system that works for you. 

If the CRM is missing features you rely on now, how will starting over in a new, less effective system impact your business?

Who can access my list, and why will they access it?

You should know who within the company will have access to the list you have worked your entire real estate career to curate. It’s also important to understand their roles and why they need to access your database.

Will the company market to my list?

If yes, what type of marketing will go to your list? If the content focuses on the company brand, how will this strategy help drive new business to you?

Can I export my list at any time?

Some companies restrict access to export data without submitting a request to a system administrator – if you can’t export the data on your own, how do you know you received all your records?

If we part ways in the future, will you keep a copy of my list?

It’s standard practice for companies to retain transaction records, but make sure your list remains yours.

If company policy is to retain a copy, what will you do with my list?

Understandably, the company needs to keep information related to transactions. However, it’s not unheard of for companies to farm lists of agents who have left the group. If your lead engages with the company’s marketing efforts, a current agent for the group will assist the lead you worked to generate.

If the company tells you that they won’t retain your list if you leave the group, be sure to ask:

Are data management and usage policies outlined in a contract agreement I can review and keep for my record?

When a company promises privacy of your list, make sure you have documentation proving you retain ownership if you are to leave the group. 

A free or included CRM may sound like a great deal, but if it puts you at risk of the company prospecting from your list, is the free price tag worth it?

Securing Your Database

To put it simply, sharing accounts or using a company-owned system is a lot like giving someone a key to your home. The person with the key can come and go as they please, possibly without you knowing when or if they are using your stuff without your permission.

If you are at risk of having your list stolen or lost from trying to save money, you should get to know sGrow. We offer both individual Realtors and teams of agents ways to secure their data affordably.