Real Estate Cyber Security: Update Your Password

Cyber security is incredibly important within the real estate industry.

But we get it – updating your passwords can be a downer! Especially if you currently utilize the myth of believing random character passwords are the best way to prevent hackers.

Today’s cyber security advice definitely takes a more user-friendly turn.

Cyber Security Experts are now recommending easy-to-remember phrases as passwords, rather than ones filled with random characters. The old advice of using complicated passwords came from a time when people just had fewer passwords to remember.

In reality, those types of passwords aren’t making you any less vulnerable to security breaches, and they’re ultimately frustrating you.

So, how can you make a strong – but easy – password? Check out our tips below:

Different Passwords for Different Accounts

We all have dozens of online accounts that are protected by passwords – this should also mean that each account has a different password.

Repeating passwords is a BIG no-no. If one password is compromised, then your other accounts will be exposed to hackers.

Think of Phrases

Instead of a simple word as your password, think about using phrases instead. Use your favorite book, TV show, or even an inside-joke you have with a friend or family member.

This simple switch will make it easier for you to remember AND will be unique enough to prevent cyber-attacks.

Keep Your Passwords Organized

Okay, so you have a different password for each of your accounts – how do you remember all of them?

We know that writing down passwords is a bad idea, and unfortunately, this is still relevant today. Luckily, there are an array of apps that can help organize all of your passwords. Check out this list of Password Managers to help you decide which best fits your needs.

Enable Two-Step Verification

After you’ve confirmed your password for your account, enable two-step verification (if the account has it available).

With two-step verification, you’ll have to confirm your identity before accessing the account. This is usually done by texting a code to your phone.

We know, we know – passwords can be annoying to deal with. But, if you take a moment to properly protect your account, it can save you a great deal of trouble in the future.

For more real estate tips, follow Alliance Title’s Blog here.

Homeowner Strength in Equity Grows

Do you have that homeownership strength?

According to a new report from CoreLogic, homeowners in almost every state have seen their equity grow from Q2 in 2018 to Q2 in 2019 – with the West seeing the largest growth.

Idaho homeowners saw the most growth, with a gained average of $22,000 per borrower.

Connecticut, Delaware, and North Dakota were the only states to see a decrease in borrow equity over the past year.

Another major milestone – the report also shows the lowest negative equity share since CoreLogic began tracking specific data in 2009 – only 3.8% of all homes with a mortgage were underwater. In 2009, that percentage was at 26%.

CoreLogic predicts that with low interest rates and home equity rising, there will be better support for increasing home improvements and improvement of households who take out home equity loans to consolidate their debt.

Want more real estate news? Follow Alliance Title’s Blog here.

Home Buying Power: Where Are We Currently?

Sometimes it’s in the buyer’s hands, and sometimes it’s in the seller’s hands – but where is the real estate market now?

With low mortgage rates – buying power has increased by 6%. This helped boost contract signings by 1.5% in September, with contract signings up overall 3.9% year over year.

Experts aren’t expecting interest rates to make any sizeable changes, so they believe the median price of homes will have to be the key to changing housing affordability in the future. The median price of homes is also greatly affected by the shortage of homes available.

Lawrence Yun, the National Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist, believes that other ideas will need to be pushed to help increase inventory – such as “a greater use of modular, factory-constructed homes, converting old shopping malls or vacant office space into condos, and permitting more accessory dwelling units.”

Check out the NAR’s Infographic on home sales below:

From the National Association of REALTORS®

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

The Latest Project to Help the Low Housing Inventory Dilemma

With low housing inventory affecting much of the real estate communities in America, it’s safe to say that new ideas are worth considering.

That’s where accessory dwelling units – or ADUs – come in.

Many communities nationwide are discussing lifting zoning requirements to allow more ADUs in neighborhoods in efforts to help battle low housing inventory.

Spaces like an empty free-standing garage, a backyard cottage, or an in-law apartment / granny flat could be added onto an existing home.

California is one of the many states seriously considering this option. One project underway, United Dwelling, will work with a homeowner to pay for a garage conversion – once it has been completed, they’ll manage the rental of the apartment to a tenant and split the rent with the homeowner.

These extra units not only provide extra income for homeowners, but it also helps supply extra housing.

Want more real estate news? Check out Alliance Title’s Blog here.

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.

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!

Homebuyers and Mortgage Rates: Where Do We Currently Stand?

Whether you’re renting or on the hunt for owning, paying monthly for a roof over your head isn’t the easiest of tasks.

But as of late, with slower home price growth and lower mortgage rates, potential homebuyers are paying less on their monthly mortgage payment than a year ago and building equity, something you can’t necessarily do when you rent a home.

The U.S. median sales price this past June was $235,433 – up 3.3% year over year. While this can be concerning, mortgage payments have dropped 6.1%.

Why the decline?

The fall is mostly due to decreases in mortgage rates. The typical mortgage payment in June was roughly 32% lower than the all-time high of $1,287 set in June 2006.

According to CoreLogic’s reports, forecasters predict annual gains in home prices to average around 4.5% on a monthly basis through June 2020. They also predict that a rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage during that time will be about 0.7% lower than a year earlier.

Freddie Mac reported the average on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.56% last week.

We’ll have to wait and see just how close the forecasts are to reality, but the reports are looking to favor the side of homebuyers.

Be sure to check out Alliance’s Blog for more real estate news and updates.