Real Estate Tip of the Week: How to Implement Voice Search

While we all know keywords are pivotal to help your real estate website track well on Google, it might be surprising to learn about voice searches.

With smartphones, any consumer can ask their phone a question by voice instead of typing it in. ComScore has predicted that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be via voice and 30% of searches will take place without a screen.

That’s some news.

So it’s important that you tweak your blog to work within these lines – because, after all, we don’t talk the same way as we type.

Example:

Voice search: How old is Tom Cruise?

Text search: Tom Cruise age

You’ll want to organize your website and blog posts to fit voice search as well as text search – but how?

Google’s Answer Featured Snippet

Incorporate question keyword phrases into your blog writing and website copy. Think mostly about common questions being asked in your field – “How to save for a down payment,” or “how to find a real estate agent” – and tailor your content to those questions using those specific keywords.

Putting this in place will greatly help with ranking for Google’s answer featured snippet. Voice assistants can easily pull from these to answer questions – but you’ll want to write answers that are concise and straight-to-the-point.

Your titles for these blog posts should also include keywords like “how,” “what,” and “where” so Google understands that you’re answering a question.

Get Local

With 39% of voice search queries about local business information, implementing more of your SEO voice search recognition will be key.

Make sure that your business page is current and has the correct address and contact information listed.

Stay Informed

Voice searches, while still very prevalent, are still in the works when it comes to SEO and Google rankings. As voice rankings continue to progress, monitor any new information published – Google Analytics is a great way to stay informed; it breaks down how your audience is using their mobile devices, which can show you how you need to invest when updating your SEO.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Become the Agent Expert of the Neighborhood

As a real estate agent, there are multiple avenues to honing your craft and becoming the best agent in your localized area.

Whether you’d like to focus on high-end luxuries, new listings, or unique homes, it’s all up to you. Becoming a neighborhood expert is incredibly beneficial for your brand – you’ll become the go-to agent of the area, and if you do it right, you’ll become the first agent homebuyers think of when they’re ready to list their homes.

So, how can you become a neighborhood expert?

Familiarize Yourself

After selecting the area you’d like to specialize in, it’s critical that you become familiar with the different types of homes in the community. Research the style of homes and the price ranges.

You’ll also want to become familiar with these areas:

  • Schools
  • Local parks / recreation centers
  • Local businesses – i.e., coffee shops, markets, diners, movie theatres, bookstores, etc.

Knowing the below listed items adds a personal touch as well:

  • Trash day
  • Town events
  • Clubs / associations / churches
  • Any public works issues
  • The local job market

It would be helpful to know any optional new construction that might be taking place in the area. Talk directly to the builders, know their products, and ask them about upcoming projects.

Network, Network, Network

Getting to know the HOA board and the local business owners should be your top priority! These groups of people will be the ones to remember your name and face – and hey, they might even give you a referral or two.

When you talk with the HOA, be sure to know what the average monthly fees are, what the fees cover, and any maintenance future tenants will need to be made aware of. 

Holding open houses in the area is another great way to network and get your name out there.

Use Social Media

Keep your followers and potential clients up-to-speed with what you’re doing around town. Post about market statistics in the area, upload a photo of the new coffee shop in town, or showcase a mortgage lender located in the area.

Volunteer

Agents are busy – but if you can find a little time in your day to make a difference in that specialized community of yours, it can really work some wonders. Think about sponsoring a local sports team, volunteering at the local food bank, or helping out during a run or an event through the local parks!

Mortgage Shopping 101: A How To

It looks like first-time homebuyers have been making better strides when it comes to comparing mortgage rates; 29% of first-time homebuyers shopped around for 2 or more mortgages, while 20% of repeat buyers did the same.

Just like when it comes to comparison-shopping for your coffee machine on Amazon, it’s important that you do the same for your mortgage.

A new study from Lending Tree found that comparing mortgage rates could equal a median lifetime savings of $40,959 in interest on a $300,000 loan. That’s a lot of cash.

But shopping around for mortgages can be intimidating – here’s how to do it:

Begin Shopping Early

Don’t wait until the last possible moment when you have deadlines coming up – this will cause you to jump on the first offer before you really have a chance to read through the fine print. Shop around with three to four different lenders before meeting with a real estate agent to have a better idea of what you can borrow.

Compare Fees

Interest rates are important, but a lot of consumers forget about the fees. You’ll want to figure out the monthly payment you’ll be comfortable making; while a lender offering a 4.2% interest rate seems better than the other offering 4.5%, the lower lender might have higher overall fees.

Origination fees – also called an underwriter fee or processing fee – is another cost that will vary from lender to lender. Once you have the loan estimate, you should be able to view the breakdown of these fees. You can also ask each lender for an official written loan estimate of rates and fees.

Lock your Rate

After you have your home under contract, you’ll want to double check with the lenders you’ve previously talked with to see if any of their terms have changed (remember, mortgage rates change frequently). Once you have decided on the lender you want to go through, ask them to lock the best interest rate that works for you, so you’ll avoid any changes that might happen while the loan is being underwritten.

Understand Your Finances

Lenders will look at your credit score history – understand where you fall in this range. The higher the credit score, the more buying and bargaining power you will have.

Check out Alliance Title’s Buyer-Seller Guide for all the tips and advice you’ll need when searching for your dream home!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Hosting a Successful Open House

With spring in full swing, open houses have been popping up around the neighborhood – and you’ve probably seen one or two as you’ve driven along your commute.

While open houses can be time consuming, they are a great way to garner potential clients and showcase your brand.

Here are some quick tips on how to throw a rewarding open house – for both you and your client!

Scheduling

Many open houses are scheduled on Sundays. While this time slot works perfectly, don’t be afraid to think outside the box to attract more attention on your listing.

Maybe your listing would fare better if it were held on a weekday during lunch hours or after work. You might have potential clients stopping by along their way home.

Marketing

How can you gather attention for the open house?

One of the best options is to use social media. Post on Instagram and Facebook about your upcoming open house – include the date, time, and location. Think about creating a Facebook Live Stream during the event; this way, viewers and those that follow your page are notified about your live stream and could stop by the open house after seeing your update.

Many real estate agents also suggest door knocking. Hold a special private open house for the neighbors of your listing – they can provide feedback on living in the area, which can help you sell the home. You can also create door hangers of your event, and hang them on the neighbor’s front door. Neighbors might also be able to get you referrals, if they know of anyone looking for a home.

Staging

Either the home is completely empty, or the sellers are still currently living within the home.

If the home is empty, you have some options. You could either hire a staging company, or you could create a virtual staging of the home. If you create a virtual staging, include the links on your social media pages, and bring your tablet to the open house to show potential buyers.

If the sellers are living in the home, give them some quick tips on tidying up and removing personal items– i.e., photographs, mail, pets, etc.

It’s also important that you set the mood for the event! Think about making cookies or warming up appetizers in the kitchen. Scents that are genuine will be seen as an extension of the home and create a warmer open house experience.

Providing Essentials

Don’t forget about that sign-in sheet! That will be vital to your potential lead list. Open Home Pro allows agents to have viewers of the open house sign in on a tablet and even asks custom questions. Their contact data can be transferred to your CRM for follow up after the event!

Reflect

After your event, it’s important that you discuss how it went with your client. Let them know of potential interest, but also be realistic. While an open house is a great way to showcase the listing and get more eyes on the home, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a sale within the day or even week.

Don’t forget to congratulate yourself after hosting a successful open house! You’re one step closer to gaining more leads and sitting at the closing table.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Upping Your Social Media Engagement

Question, tell me how you feel about using social media?

Social media engagement is important when it comes to creating a successful brand.

This should come as no surprise – social media is essential to your real estate business, and if you’re not utilizing what it has to offer, then you’re missing out on prime prospecting opportunities.

Through social media, you can meet potential clients, expand your listings, and showcase the services you have to offer. If 87% of marketers rank exposure for their business as the main benefit of their social media efforts, then you should download those apps and hop to it.

For the most part, social media can seem simple enough – post a picture, write a caption, submit – it has more to offer than meets the eye. That, and some of social media’s lingo can be a bit confusing to some.

Two of the most important vocabulary words to social media’s jargon: engagement and impressions.

What are they? Why do you need them? Check out our simple guide below.

Impressions

To make this clearer – this is digital impressions. This number includes how many times you post, upload, tweet, etc. to your social media world. However, impressions don’t consider how many “clicks” you get.

Engagement

No, not a wedding ring. Engagement is all about how many shares, comments, clicks, retweets, etc. you receive from what you’ve been posting.

How They Work

Essentially, the higher your impressions (the more your uploading, posting, etc.), the greater chance your content has to come across multitudes of consumer’s news feeds – which should hopefully lead to higher engagements.

What You Can Do

  1. For starters, use more video. Video is incredibly important on social media and can easily shift viewers into consumers.
  2. Images receive more comments than posts without images – so break out your camera. Think about posting sold properties, current listings, events you participate in that concern the industry, etc.
  3. Work on showcasing yourself! When a client is out “shopping” for a real estate agent, they want to know who you are. Share stories about yourself so you become approachable and relatable.
  4. Rule of Thirds from Hootsuite – when sharing content, a third should be about your business, a third for sharing ideas within the industry, and a third on your personal stuff / interactions.
  5. RESPOND. After you upload your content, don’t ignore any responses you might receive! Interact with comments and shares to prove you care about who you reach and who you can help in the real estate world.

Now get on out there and make those impressions!

It’s Home Improvement Season – Do You Know Where Your Permit Is?

If you build it, they will come.

And by they – we mean consequences….if you don’t have a permit for those remodeling projects you’ve completed for your home. 

When you’ve decided to remodel or make improvements to your home, it’s important to take a step back and research whether or not a permit from the city government is needed.

If your remodel requires a permit, it’s crucial that you get one – not only will these changes go on record with the city, but permits will also help sell or refinance your home; buyers and lenders want to make sure all projects comply with building codes, so if you’ve got the proof, you’ll be good to go.

But how do you know which projects require a permit? Luckily, not all of them do.

Projects that Require Permits

  • Fencing installation or repairs: check with your city to see if there are any height restrictions.
  • Window installation: if you’re installing bigger windows, a permit is required to cut holes for them. This also includes skylights and new doors with windows.
  • Plumbing and electrical work: installing or replacing pluming or electrical wiring (whether that’s an outlet, switch, etc.) 100% requires a permit. However, if you’re completing smaller projects, like a repair or a light fixture installation, a permit isn’t usually needed.
  • Structural changes: this includes changes to load-bearing walls, balconies, decks, porches, roofs, or foundation flooring.
  • Heating maintenance: replacing your water heater, ventilation system, gas and wood fireplaces, and ducts all require permits.
  • Additions: new construction, replacements, upgrades, and additions to the home all require permits. Detached garages or sheds are examples of what an addition might look like.

Projects that Don’t Require Permits

  • Paint or wallpaper projects.
  • Installing new countertops.
  • Landscape work.
  • Installing flooring – hardwood, carpet, etc.
  • Installing or replacing a faucet.

If you’re still unsure of whether or not you might need a permit, you can call your local city office, or you can hire a professional contractor!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Open House Safety Measures

Be ready…open houses are in full swing! Open houses are a great way to get eyes on your listing – and they sell for $9,046 more than homes that don’t.

If you and your client are planning to present an open house, it’s crucial that you also go over any safety concerns prior to having strangers enter their home. It’s not only for their safety, but for yours as well.

As you’re walking through their home with your client, look for these items and prep for not only a successful open house, but a safe one too!

Photographs

Kindly suggest your client remove any family photos from their home. Storing away family photos for an open house not only serves as a way for potential buyers to envision their own family within the home, but this process can also serve as a double purpose. Unfortunately, because we don’t know who will be walking through the open house, it’s important not to show who is currently living in the home.

Valuable Items

Definitely remind clients that you can’t be responsible for any thefts that take place! Instruct them to stow away valuables – these could be anything from documents that include personal information (bills and mail) to electronics, jewelry, etc.

Prescriptions

Something you may not have considered hiding or moving: prescription drugs. Nearly half of 164 estate professionals surveyed at the Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS® Expo reported knowledge of prescription drug theft taking place during open houses.

Tell your client to remove or lock up any prescriptions they have within the home.

Weapons and Lighting

If your client has any weapons – knives, guns, etc., have them removed from the home.

Instruct your client to leave lights on prior to showings, regardless of the time. This way, agents (you) don’t have to walk into a dark home. After the showing, you should also leave lights on for your client’s return.

This is only a brief list of examples to keep things running safe and smoothly; before scheduling an open house, sit down with your client and go over their expectations on how they’d like the home to be treated and go through this list of safety measures with them.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Setting up 3D Home Tours

As a real estate agent, it’s essential for you to stay relevant and at the top of your game at all times. The real estate market has fared well with staying up-to-date with technology, but Zillow has helped push access into real estate agents’ hands now more than ever.

With Zillow’s newest app – Zillow 3D Home – real estate agents can capture virtual tours of listings with their iPhone.

And guess what? It’s free.

Agents can capture their entire house within 15-20 minutes. The app captures 360-degree panoramic images and on-screen instructions provide guidance for replicating the best images. After the real estate agent has followed the directions, the app will create the video and have it immediately accessible in the “My 3D Home” dashboard to edit, share, or add to a listing on Zillow.

Zillow’s Senior Director of Product Development, 3D and Computer Vision, Josh Weisberg, comments: “Previously, 3D tours were only found on high-end or expensive homes, due to the high cost and time-intensive capture process. Now with 3D Home, adding an immersive experience to a home listing is fast, easy, and free, which benefits buyers and sellers at all price points.”

For now, the app seems to only be available to iPhone users.

If you’re a real estate agent, then you know how important and life-changing this app can be! 3D tours can get more eyes on your listing and can offer a new way for potential buyers to visualize themselves in the home.

So, get to downloading and get to 3D”ing”! The Zillow app is described more here.

Ready, Set, Title & Escrow! Tips for a Smooth Transaction.

If you’re new to the title and escrow game, then you’ve come to the right place.

Here at Alliance Title, we take pride in providing the best closing experience for everyone involved – that means agents, lenders, and their customers. In order to help throughout this transaction, we thought it would be best to outline some quick tips and tricks that can ensure a smooth and easy transaction.

Provide the following to your escrow team:

  • The completed and signed Earnest Money Agreement (EMA). Be sure the EMA is legible.
  • All addendums to the EMA.
  • A commission verification form.
  • Phone numbers, email addresses, and/or fax numbers for your clients and/or the lender they are using.
  • Any additional insight or information regarding your customer(s) that may help make the process go without a hitch the day of closing – such as:
    • The need for a translator;
    • If they are visually, audibly, or physically impaired;  
    • If they require separate signings (i.e., divorce)
  • Homeowner’s association contact information

Other quick tidbits:

  • Carefully review the title commitment – if any questions arise, contact your escrow team ASAP!
  • Encourage the seller to:
    • Provide payoff authorizations promptly.
    • Review their state withholding requirements with their account (if applicable).
  • Encourage the buyer to:
    • Show for the best homeowner’s insurance rates and options promptly.
    • Notify your escrow team immediately should an issue or problem arise before the closing date.

Check out Alliance Title’s full Client-Resource Guide to get everything you need before the closing date!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Ready to Go Live?

As many of you probably already know, advertisements for your brand on social media platforms are incredibly important. Because, let’s remember: millennials (the biggest group purchasing homes at the moment) are spending an average of 5 hours per day on their smartphones.

That’s a lot of opportunity for you to show up somewhere on their newsfeed.

And what better way to announce your presence than through going live? Use Facebook and Instagram as a tool to showcase and strut your stuff as a real estate agent.

Let’s get started with some quick tips:

Set a Plan

Having a consistent pattern with your postings will go a long way. You don’t want to share a video or an article, and then disappear for a few weeks!

Devise a plan for what you post and share. Maybe one video can be a discussion on your thoughts involving the current state of the market? Or the new restaurant that popped into the neighborhood? Sharing your location for an open house you have coming up? The possibilities are endless!

Be Concise

Let’s face it: people want to be entertained, and you only have a few minutes to keep them watching. The average viewer will only engage with a YouTube video that is two minutes or less – so you have to be short, sweet, and to the point.

But if you’re going to post live to Facebook, their algorithm works better for videos lasting anywhere from 10-15minutes. With live video, you need to be entertaining upfront to keep them watching until the end.

If you can keep your video to 2-5 minutes, then all the power to you! But don’t be afraid to share a little more of the love. Be genuine and show your excitement for whatever you’re introducing in your video. Run through the key points you’d like to discuss in your live video a couple of times before turning that live button on. People will see if you’re feeling nervous– so be you and be friendly!

Don’t Just Entertain

Yes, social media is all about grabbing people’s attention. But can’t education be a part of that?

As a real estate agent, you’ll want to show off more than just knowing how to put together an open house. Make sure you’re offering something to the client that they feel as though they couldn’t get anywhere else! Give quick tidbits of information to your audience that they can use in the future.

And hey – they might just reach out to you based on the information you shared!