Student Debt & Home Buying Power

Boo – no shocker here, student debt causes many future homeowners to take a moment’s pause. When they think about the thousands of dollars in student debt they have, is homeownership the first goal on their minds?

According to a new study by realtor.com, total student debt in the U.S. has reached $1.5 trillion, a new all-time high. When broken down, the average student loan borrower owes about $34,500.

That’s $8,500 more than the typical down payment of $26,000.

To put it not so lightly – $1.5 trillion is enough to buy every single home on the market in the U.S. – twice.

Realtor.com’s Senior Economist, George Ratiu, explains, “The important implication of rising debt is that young generations are delaying major life decisions. Student debt is already impacting borrowers’ ability to buy a home and education debt is expected to hamper consumers’ financial decisions for many years down the road.”

The Federal Reserve believes that the increased student loan debts since 2005 have created a 20% decline in homeownership amount young adults.

For more real estate news, check out the rest of Alliance Title’s Blog here.

Home Buyer Checklist

Daydreaming about buying a home is one thing – preparing to purchase, however, is another.

Before you jump the gun and reach out to an agent, it’s important to know where you stand in terms of finances and what features of a house matter more to you than others.

Know Your Credit Score

It might be good to consider knowing your credit score before you start your home and loan search. You can request a free copy of your credit score from Annual Credit Score or Credit Karma.

But remember, keep inquires to a minimum, or talk to your lender beforehand.

Know Your Numbers

How much home can you afford? Before you make an offer, consider the cost of your mortgage payment as well as homeowners’ association dues, taxes, and insurance.

These user friendly calculators from Bankrate and Alliance Title will help you run the numbers and stay informed while you make important decisions about your home purchase.

You’ll want to be preapproved by a lender first, before you talk to an agent. This will help you and your agent know where you stand in terms of finances. Check out our mortgage shopping how-to article here.

If you want more real estate news, be sure to check out Alliance Title’s Blog!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Safety for Agents

As a real estate agent, you need to be diligent and attentive when it comes to safety in your line of work.

So, what are some safety tips you can apply to your daily routine? Check out our tips below.

Open Schedule

We don’t necessarily mean being available at all times of the day – rather, we suggest letting your coworkers and teammates know where you will be and who you will be with during the day. Let someone in your office know if you’re meeting a client at a coffee shop, or if you’re preparing for a showing. Think about sharing your calendar with your colleagues.

Set Boundaries

Make sure that when you set times for clients, you are taking into account of when you want to meet. If you feel uneasy meeting out after dark, be upfront and list your hours clearly in any marketing materials you have.

Meet in the Office First

If it’s possible, meet your clients in your office first. This way, you can make a copy of your client’s driver’s license and have them fill out a Prospect Identification Form. This little extra step of filing a name into the system might stop a potential criminal from committing to a form of action.

When they do meet you in the office, make sure you introduce them to someone. The more eyes on them, the less likely they are to make an attack.

Let Clients Lead

This works for a showing – let the clients direct themselves through a home. You can say things like, “the bonus room is to your right.” This allows you to keep an eye on them.

Be Prepared

Take your phone with you to all meetings and make sure it is fully charged. Think about installing a security app that allows you to easily call for help in a secretive manner.

These are just a few of the many safety tips available for real estate agents. The National Association of Realtors has an entire page dedicated to protecting agent’s safety.

Looking for more real estate tips and news? Check out the rest of Alliance Title’s Blog for more!

Psst…Homeowners and HOA Fines

Homeowners and HOA associations have quite the love-hate relationship.

HOAs are incredibly prominent – if you don’t live an apartment complex or neighborhood with an HOA, chances are you know someone who does. Those living with the association have grown over the last 50 years from 10,000 communities in the 70s, to more than 300,000 as of 2016.

And while HOAs can be beneficial, there are some rules and regulations homeowners would rather do without.

The biggest fines HOAs seem to hand out to homeowners usually fall within improper landscaping and trash being taken out too late or too early.

52% of homeowners say that have not paid an HOA fine and 29% say they have knowingly broken an HOA rule.

Even though a majority of homeowners don’t agree with many of the association’s rules, 57% of HOA residents said they would want their next home to still be in an HOA community. Reasons like increased safety, preserving their home’s property value, and recreational amenities might be what keeps homeowners coming back.

Check out The Porch’s Infographic concerning HOA’s here:

Where Are Home Mortgage Rates Headed?

Oh where oh where could mortgage rates go?

Potential homeowners hold their breath each time a new mortgage rate report has been released – what about this one?

Next year, according to Fannie Mae, rates could drop as low as 3.4%!

Forecasters also foresee home price growth to moderate. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the MBA are all predicting the same – that home price growth will slow to 2.2% appreciation by 2021.

A spokesperson from Fannie Mae explains, “Rates fell for most of this year, and lower rates have translated into a stronger housing market. Both home sales and housing construction are firming. We expect a significant increase in mortgage refinance originations in the coming quarters.”

Last week, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 3.56%, down 1.06 percentage points from a year ago.

How Much Equity have Homeowners Seen?

Homeowners, rejoice!

Those who have purchased homes in 2012 (the year prices reached their lowest point following the Great Recession) have earned a total of $203 billion in home equity!

That’s a big chunk of change.

On average, the typical homeowner earned $141,000 in home equity individually.

This Redfin analysis shows that an average home that sold in 2012 has increased $110,000 in value – with Tacoma, Washington and Virginia Beach, Virginia having the biggest percent increases in home equity.

Looks like homebuyers are able to eat their cake and have it too! Experts will be studying the housing market closely as we enter into the winter season.

If you’re wanting more real estate updates, check out Alliance Title’s Blog to stay in the loop!

What Exactly is Escrow?

Are you new to the real estate market? A few terms may be unfamiliar to you – and it’s true; why would you ever use “underwriter” and “liens” in your day-to-day conversations?

But that’s why Alliance Title is here to help break down the steps to owning your first home.

So, you’ve found the home, agreed on the price, and are now seeing all the “scary” documents come your way. You’ll be hearing “escrow” quite a lot – so, what is it?

In the real estate world, escrow refers to funds and documents that are held by an impartial third party (like AmeriTitle) on behalf of the buyer and seller and / or lender during the completion of the transaction.

Written instructions will be created and given to all parties involved, and it is only then that funds will be distributed and documents recorded in accordance to what the written instructions stated.

But why have an escrow, you might ask?

Not only is having an escrow convenient, but it act as protection for the buyers and sellers. All parties rely on the escrow holder to faithfully carry out their mutually agreed upon instructions – or, advise the parties if any of the instructions are contradictory or cannot be completed.

Once everything has been fulfilled within the terms and conditions of the written instructions, and all closing conditions are competed, the escrow is closed and the transfer of property and money is completed.

Escrow for the Seller

The seller is assured and feels confident that the transaction will properly close, and that the title will not pass to the buyer until the purchase price is fully paid.

Escrow for the Buyer

The buyer is able to review the condition of the title to property by receiving a copy of the Preliminary Title Report prior to closing, and of course, that the transaction will be properly completed and the title cleared.

So, there you have it! Escrows help protect both buyer and seller – so don’t eschew from them!

Check out Alliance Title’s Blog for more on all things real estate.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: How to Better Use Instagram Stories

We all know social media is king – but have you been using all of the resources available for you to up your real estate leads?

Instagram stories is a great way to elevate your social media game, all while engaging followers and future clients!

In January 2019, Instagram reported 500 million daily active Stories users worldwide500 million. This stat alone should get you into using Instagram Stories.

How can you use this platform to better your brand and reach more viewers?

Behind the Scenes

Off-the-cuff and candid Stories help make you and your brand more relatable and creates a more genuine feel. You are more than a “real estate agent” – you are someone they can trust, understand, and even have fun with!

Think about sharing:

  • A delicious meal you’re enjoying at fun local restaurant.
  • Last-minute open house prep? Showcase a little bit about what you do to prepare!
  • A hike near town that you love.
  • Quick tips on the current real estate market.

Have Fun with It

Use the features Stories has within posting to give your Story a little more “umph.”

You can use:

  • The Poll button to create questions and answers – or, you can allow viewers to write their own questions!
  • Create a countdown to an event.
  • Share quotes.
  • Create a “before” and “after” of a staging. 

Highlight Stories

Definitely use the “Highlights” tool! This allows your Stories to be viewable for longer than 24 hours, and they will be featured directly on your profile. You can categorize your Highlights by:

  • Open Houses
  • Housing Stats
  • Local Restaurants
  • Etc.

Final Touches

Instagram doesn’t directly show posts by chronological order – they have their own algorithm that shows each user posts from the people they follow.

If you want to make sure your new post has been seen, upload the photo to Stories and cover it up with the sticker, “New Post” – that way, users know you have a new post, and have to go to your profile to see it.

There is an infinite amount of ways to utilize and play with Instagram Stories – make it engaging and make it fun!

Time to Get Cozy: Fall Home Maintenance Tips

With Fall officially in the air, it’s time to break out your cozy blankets and apple cider recipes!

And if you’re a homeowner, you’ll also want to complete a quick maintenance check on your property. But what aspects of your home should you be looking after?

  • Rake leaves and aerate the lawn
  • Remove leaves and debris from gutters
  • Clean fireplace flues and check fireplace for damage or hazards
  • Power-wash windows and siding
  • Cover the inside and outside of your windows and doors to prevent drafts
  • Replace batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors & if you haven’t already, make sure a smoke detector is installed on every floor of your home
  • Drain and store hoses, and drain in-ground sprinkler systems
  • Protect outdoor faucets and pipes in unheated garages by using insulation
  • Inspect roof for missing, lose, or damaged shingles and leaks
  • Check water heater for any signs of distress

While these can all be checked by you, the homeowner, it doesn’t hurt to have a professional take a quick peak too. Getting your furnace and ductwork serviced can help your home become not only more safe, but also more energy efficient. Think about having a specialist inspect and clean your dryer vent as well!

For more homeowner tips, stop by Alliance’s Blog!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: SEO Tips for Your Blog

Let’s face it – your clients are using the internet to research homes before they come to you for additional help. With the internet at your fingertips, it’s easy to do a quick Google search and find information you’re needing.

This is where you come in: having a reliable website that is easy to use and has a simple layout is key! Future leads and consumers want quick access to the information they’re searching for.

So if you’re wanting your website and blog to be the first thing audiences see when they Google for information on real estate, you’re going to need to use SEO.

SEO is all about search engine algorithms, and Google is constantly changing them to block bots from achieving rankings. Because of how frequently these are changing, it’s good to stay up-to-date, so your website doesn’t get penalized for sticking with the old rules. You can find Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide here.

Here are some quick Do’s and Don’ts within the SEO world:

Do

  • Research which keywords are more popular than others in your market
  • Think of secondary keywords that aren’t as popular but are still relative to your brand
  • Link to related businesses and services that relate to your market. Write about the best restaurants in your area, and link to a highly trafficked blog that discusses fun places to eat in the neighborhood

Don’t

  • Write your keyword multiple times where it doesn’t make sense (known as keyword stuffing). This will not gain your site favor in Google’s standards – Google and consumers alike are looking for websites that are useful to readers
  • Link to suspect content or unnatural links anywhere on your site. Don’t buy or sell links – as this will receive a harsh penalty from Google. Never include a link directory on your site, as your page can be completely removed from Google’s search results

For more, check out our SEO Strategy article, and be sure to stop by Alliance’s Blog to stay in the loop with all tings real estate.