Hand in Hand: Technology & Real Estate Agents

Technology might be vastly improving how potential customers search for their future home, but it certainly isn’t replacing real estate agents.

A housing consumer study released by Harris Insights found that 90% of consumers use real estate agents to buy and sell their homes – this is up 5% from the last study in 2014. The study surveyed 1,000 people who had recently bought or sold a home within the past six months.

And although there have been fears of new technology and younger generations (ahem, Millennials) replacing real estate agents, it looks like 91% of purchasers aged 18 to 34 used real estate agents in their transaction. Gen Xers were at 94% in the study, with Baby Boomers falling at 81%.

It seems as though education also plays a role in whether a real estate agent is used. 94% with a college degree reported using a real estate agent, versus those with a high school diploma at 83%.

While real estate agents are still very much in the game, technology is still an important player. 92% of consumers looked at websites to research about real estate agents and homes. Technology seems to be playing the role of researcher and familiarizer, while the real estate agent comes out as the validation in choosing and finalizing their research.

If you’re looking to stay in touch with the latest real estate news, check out Alliance’s blog for more updates.

Claws and Effect: Home Showings with Pets

Realtors have to maneuver through many things – low inventory, tricky sales, and overflowing emails – one obstacle that is sometimes forgotten: pets.

Recently, Realtor® Magazine released an article showcasing Cassie Sonnentag, a real estate agent with Century 21, having to fight off a feisty cat while staging a showing.

So what are some quick tips to make sure you have happy sellers, potential buyers, and furry friends?

Fix up the yard

Make sure both the front and the back yards are clean and clear from any holes or pet droppings. If there are any brown or yellow spots in the yard, it might be a good idea to aerate or seed the bare spots – or even replace patches with new sod. Curb appeal is important, after all.

Organize pet supplies

Think about stowing pet beds, litter boxes, leashes, toys, and food bowls away from the showing. It will help declutter and allow potential buyers to visualize the home the way they want to see it.

Crate or pet sit

Consider whether your client has insurance that can cover possible accidents (a dog protecting his home and scratching or biting potential buyers, for instance). Pets are cute and can be distracting – it might be best to have a pet sitter or to crate.

 

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Introducing: Your Team During a Transaction

Buying a home can bring you some serious déjà vu – like an overwhelmed child being introduced and shuffled around to random people at family events.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, there will probably be some confusion as to who is who and what is what – but set aside your worries, because Alliance Title is here to help you sort out your transaction team (and keep you away from your pinching aunts and head-locking uncles).

Who you’ll be working with

Lender or Mortgage Broker – If you plan on receiving a mortgage loan, working with a lender or mortgage broker is your first step in buying a home. What’s the difference between the two, you ask? Well, a lender is a financial institution that makes loans directly to you. A mortgage broker does not lend money, but actually finds a lender for you.

REALTOR® or Real Estate Agent – A REALTOR® is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, which means that he or she must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics.

A Listing Agent is the one who ‘lists’ the property for sale. They represent the seller and aid in marketing the sale of the home.

The Selling Agent (or Buyer’s Agent) is the one who works with the buyer. They assist in locating a home to purchase.  

Title Officer – These officers complete thorough research of recorded documents to help eliminate any possible hidden risks that can terminate the validity of the title ownership. They will also issue the title insurance policy when the transaction closes.

Escrow Officer – This officer acts as a neutral third party during your sale, purchase, or refinance. They will monitor the transaction, prepare closing documents, coordinate the closing, disburse the funds, and more.

So gather round the new family dinner table – you’ll have a great team backing you up as you complete an exciting time in your life – purchasing a home.

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Housing Discrimination’s Trojan Horse: Social Media

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat – distracting you from work and going to bed since 2004.

Social Media can do more than just occupy your day – Facebook has been under fire for sustaining algorithms that conceivably keep certain demographics from seeing particular advertisements.

Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), spoke at the session “Fair Housing, Social Media, and Equality,” during the Relators® Conference & Expo in Boston on November 1st. Rice explained that “housing discrimination is playing out in the form of hidden online calculations that companies can use to exclude certain populations from viewing residential real estate ads online.”

The NFHA, along with other housing groups, filed a lawsuit earlier in the year against Facebook. While Facebook has, since August, removed more than 5,000 targeting options from its advertising platform, Rice believes that technology still can serve as a tool for discrimination against equal access to housing.

Social media, although offering various platforms for entertainment and enjoyment, can be used unfairly. The NFHA is still working with Facebook to ensure that its housing ad tool complies with the Fair Housing Act.

Tip of the Week: Spotting the Red Flags

Your seller or buyer is acting differently – you start to picture them bolting out the door and sprinting down the street, never to return to your office again.

Getting cold feet before a big financial decision isn’t a strange phenomenon, but it is your job as a real estate agent to rein in your client and help them see the big picture: that you’re there to help them and guide them away from making any “bad” decisions.

Here are a few instances that your client might be ready to head for the hills.

Financial Issues

If your client is selling, then it is incredibly important to ask for proof of funds for a down payment when accepting an offer from a buyer. If the buyer can’t prove funds initially, it could be an issue that derails the transaction. If your client is buying, have a clear picture of their available down payment and financing.

Mundane Emotion

Sometimes homeowners may be having a difficult time saying goodbye to their home, resulting in upsetting emotions. In this instance, offering reassurance should be your top priority – reminding them that they’ll be able to make new memories, and that a new family will be able to cherish their home – are good reminders.

Not Understanding Scheduling

As a real estate agent, you’ve seen everything; you understand what will be smoothed out, and you understand the possible issues that arise and how to fix them. Your buyer or seller, ultimately, doesn’t really understand the ins and outs of the business.

Sometimes buyers and sellers start to panic when – to them – it seems as though things are going “too quickly” or taking “too long.” It’s important to remind yourself that you are their gatekeeper – let your client know when things are going smoothly and that in all honesty, the scheduling for closing on a home is pretty normal. According to the August 2018 Realtors® Confidence Index Survey showed that 76% of contracts were settled on time, with only 20% being delayed or 5% being terminated.

As a real estate agent, you’re helping guide your client through an excitedly chaotic time in their lives – a huge purchase that they’ll rarely make. Keep them calm, excited, and of course, help them reach their real estate goals.

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Live in Color – But Not Too Boisterously

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint – it’s a relatively easy way to liven up your home, especially if you’re looking at putting it on the market. But if you’re trying to appeal to a specific homebuyer audience, it’s important to critically decide which colors you’d like to introduce to the space.

Behr’s 2019 color of the year can give you an engaging idea of the direction to go when giving your home a new personality; Behr describes their color of the year as “an honest, approachable color that conjures up the blueprints builders rely on to bring architectural designs to life” – so what will your color choices bring, and what colors should you avoid?

Eggshell

Most people believe shades of white would be a safe bet – white theoretically “goes” with anything. However, homes with off-white kitchens sold for $82 less than what Zillow estimated they would. If a space if smaller than most, white walls can make the room look “flat” and “unappealing.”

Dark Brown

Apparently dark brown is a color most people should avoid when painting their home – bedrooms painted in this color sold for $236 less than expected.

Slate Gray

Unfortunately, all grays are not created equal. Lighter grays help a home’s price point by $1,104 – but a darker gray will lose you money when it comes time to sell. If you’re wanting to pick the popular grays, think mauve, eggplant, or a shade of gray lavender.

Colors bring personality and life into a home – it’s important to seriously select the colors you want your home to portray.

Keep in touch with Alliance’s blog to stay in the loop with the latest real estate news.

It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus: Saving for a Down Payment

The Sanderson Sisters certainly didn’t have to worry about down payments – but a new study shows that aspiring homeowners undeniably have to.

In the past 30 years plenty has changed in terms of housing prices.

Zillow released research that reveals prospective homeowners trying to reach a 20% down payment will need to save on average for about 7.2 years – an extra year and a half than it was back in 1988. Even if a buyer’s saving rate matched that of a buyer decades ago, they still wouldn’t be in the ball park of placing that high of a down payment.

Looking specifically at millennials, one can begin to understand why they’ve had a harder time entering the housing market. Zillow’s report shows that 46% of first-time homebuyers use their savings to put down on a home – compared to 35% of repeat buyers. Millennials are spending more on student loans and rent prices than past generations, and their opportunities to save for a home consequently dwindle.

While it is taking longer for millennials to reach their down payment goal, millennials in their thirties with a college degree and student debt account for 33% of homeowners – so, there is still potential – just slower potential.

Maybe we can blame the Sanderson Sisters for putting a spell on the housing market?

Don’t Get Ghosted: How to Elevate Your Social Media Game

With Halloween approaching, it’s important to triple check how your social media accounts are doing – you don’t want them left to dust up in the cobwebs.

Social media is no longer solely a photo album; with YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, most consumers expect videos from businesses in order to learn more about their product. A survey from REALTORS® showed that 86% of consumers used video to understand the community more, while 70% used video to see a tour of the home.

So videos within social media sort of act as the first introduction to either you, or the home(s) you’re trying to sell. Here are some quick tips to up your video taking skills:

  • Video length is incredibly important. You don’t want to overwhelm them with information within a short time frame, but you also don’t want to lose their interest. An ideal video length for Instagram is around 30 seconds, whereas an ideal limit for YouTube falls under the 5 minute mark.
  • Upload your videos directly to the platform you’re using. Native videos (videos uploaded directly, instead of through YouTube to be reposted) have a 477% higher share rate on Facebook. Usually this is because of various social media platforms having an auto play feature.
  • Utilize SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Think about the title for your video – who do you want it to reach? Use those keywords wisely.
  • Be clear and direct in your message – practice, practice, practice.

If you embrace social media and all of its attributes, it will reward you with new opportunities, sales, and clients!

Don’t Judge a Home by Its Cover

Living in an age of social media means we live in an age of constant advertisements that include photos, videos, and Snapchat stories.

It’s easy to fly past postings of homes that don’t include pictures – because (duh) you’d like to be able to view the home before actually deciding to go and see it.

But sometimes, you might be missing out on a great opportunity.

Listings that don’t include photos of the property aren’t necessarily scams – in most cases, the current homeowner believes their home needs some work, or the homeowner just simply doesn’t know how to include the photos within their post.

The owner might not know the importance of photos in the first place!

A former real estate professional in New York, Billy Domineau, wrote in Realtor Magazine that “pictureless listings tend to come from owners who accept below-market-rate prices because they either don’t know any better or they want to get the unit sold or rented quickly with little hassle.”

Read the description of the home, research the location, and understand the listing price – don’t write off a posting just because a photo isn’t included, because you might just be missing out on a hidden gem.

Understanding all the ins and outs of real estate is important – check out Alliance’s previous articles to be kept in the loop.

It’s Alive, It’s Alive! – Digital Mortgages Awaken a New Real Estate Market

We are living in a new digital era – and mortgage applications are morphing into new creations.

This past Tuesday at the Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Meeting in Washington D.C., representatives from Wells Fargo and Bank of America spoke about their new digital mortgage application process that began in January.

They stated that already more than a quarter of mortgage applications are coming through the digital channel; According to Wells Fargo, 28% of the bank’s mortgage applications came through digitally just this past September, while Bank of America expects 50% of its applications to be digital by this coming year.

Both representatives claim that loan officers will act as more of an advisor – customers seem to be enjoying the accessibility of the process and being able to decide how much of the application they are wanting to do online before reaching for help – if they choose to.

Bank of America is also looking at implementing the artificial intelligence-driven virtual assistant, Erica, into the mortgage process going forward.

With the awakening of new digital platforms, the real estate market will have to transform into what clients want.