Real Estate Tip of the Week: Agent Safety Tips

September is real estate agent safety month!

The National Association of Realtor’s have created list of safety tips to help agents better prepare for unknown situations, while also raising their confidence when out in the field.

Safety is of the upmost importance at all times – these tips can help you, as an agent, throughout the year! Check out their first five tips explained below:

Show Properties During the Day

Try your very best to show homes to your clients during the day. If that is not possible, be sure to tell your coworkers and supervisor and give them your contact information. While you’re at the home, do not close any blinds or turn off the lights.

Prep New Clients

A new client should meet you in the office with their Prospect Identification Form completed. Have them also bring a photocopy of their driver’s license as well – discard their personal information after you no longer need it.

Be Weary of Sharing Information

When you advertise your services, be careful not to give out more information than you have to. Do not include your home address, and do not use your full name. If you must use an address, use your company’s address.

Let Clients Guide

Let your client lead the way around the home you’re showing – never don’t lead them, but direct them from a position behind. You can gesture and let them know about the next room they will be entering.

Check Your Surroundings

When you’ve arrived at your destination, make sure you’re checking your surroundings. Make sure you’re parked in a well-lit and visible location, and that you can exit easily.

For more of NAR’s tips on safety, check out their article.

Real Estate Agent Safety

September is Realtor Safety Month, and the National Association of Realtors have released their 2020 Member Safety Report!

In most cases, real estate agents are having to show homes by themselves and to strangers – the report finds that 31% of agents feel unsafe during open homes or showings, and 27% said they feel unsafe when meeting a new client for the first time at a scheduled location or property.

Female real estate agents are more likely than men to take NAR’s course on safety in the field, at 33%, while only 21% of men have taken it. Of those who have taken the course, 79% reported feeling better prepared in unknown situations.

It also looks like female agents are more readily prepared to protect themselves than last year – in 2020, 50% of women are carrying a self-defense item, while 46% of male agents are doing the same. In 2019, 49% of female agents and 45% of male agents had some sort of self-defense weapon or tool.

For more on real estate agent safety, check out the NAR’s page here. Be sure to stop by Alliance’s blog to keep in the loop with all news!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Win the Bidding War

The housing market is filled with competition!

If you’ve been out searching for a home, then you’ve probably been told (either by your agent or from other buyers) that you’ll probably be fighting for the home that you want.

So what do you do to make sure you win the bidding war?

Pre-Approved

One of the best things you can do to win a bidding war, is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This should be done regardless, before you enter the home-searching phase (however, some potential homebuyers might not take this first step). This pre-approval will show the seller that you’re ready to purchase.

All-Cash Offer

Cash offers erase the need for an appraisal and bank approval for a loan. This sort of offer signals to the seller that you are ready to purchase the home today.

Raise the Price

If you can make sure you keep your counteroffer within means for your budget, it might benefit you in the long run to offer more and beat out other potential buyers that way.

Moveable Closing Date

If you can, allow for a flexible closing date. Giving the seller more time to fix any repairs, etc. might sound really appealing.

Remove Contingences

If wiggle room allows, removing contingences can help elevate your offer. However, be weary with this – the more you remove, the more risk is taken off of the seller and put on to you.

Write a Personal Letter

Seeing pictures of your family, and/or why you love their house, can really motivate the seller to choose you over other buyers. It becomes more personal – especially if the seller has been in the home for some time.

Bidding wars aren’t necessarily fun – but they don’t have to be the end game for you as a buyer. Work with your real estate agent to make sure you receive the best deal.

For more real estate tips and tricks, stop by Alliance’s Blog!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Credit Pulls

Credit – don’t let it be a scary term for you while you’re trying to buy a home! Credit is important; it helps you (or hurts you) when it comes time to fill out applications for loans. So before you jump on the homeownership train, it’s critical that you understand your credit.

When you fill out applications for a home loan, the bank will do a credit pull. What’s a credit pull, you ask?

There are two kinds of credit pulls: a hard and a soft pull.

A hard pull (also known as a hard inquiry) takes place when a lender or a financial institution checks your credit score once you apply for a loan, mortgage, or any other additional line of credit.

They use the credit report as information on deciding whether to accept the borrower’s request. This pull will stay on your credit report for two years (but it will only affect your credit score for one year) and can only happen if you authorize the lender to pull your credit.

One thing to keep in mind: applying for multiple applications at once might not look so good for your credit score. Lenders see multiple hard inquires as red flags when it’s done in a short amount of time. They view it as more opportunity for you to miss or make late payments – if you have too many credit lines.

What about if you’re shipping for the best mortgage rate?

If you’re comparing rates (something you should definitely do when shopping for a mortgage – and hey! We have an article about mortgage shopping), most credit scoring models do take this into consideration. If similar lenders look at your credit report to offer you rates within a 45-day window, it’ll more than likely count as a single inquiry, rather than multiple. This way, your score won’t drop each time you get a quote.

Don’t fret – hard pulls won’t usually make a big change to your credit score. This all depends on how long your credit history is, and how disciplined you are when you make payments (among other things).

Hard pulls happen when you apply for a:

  • Mortgage
  • Car loan
  • New credit card
  • Student loan
  • Personal loan
  • Apartment for rent

A soft pull doesn’t affect your credit and usually happens without you even knowing it. While that sounds concerning, it isn’t something for you to necessarily worry over.

These pulls are cursory reviews of your credit report. Soft pulls happen when:

  • Your new employer checks your credit
  • You check your own credit
  • Lenders send you mail saying you’ve been “pre-approved”

While your credit score is an important part of applying for loans, your payment history is of the upmost importance.

Be sure to check out Alliance’s Blog for more tips and news on all things real estate.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Final Walk-Through Checklist

Congratulations! You’ve done the hurdles of purchasing a home – and now the only thing left is the final walk-through! But what do you need to know before you complete one of your last steps?

What is a Final Walk-Through?

Just as it sounds – you and your real estate agent will walk through the house one last time before you purchase. This is the time for you to spend a few hours looking over every part of the house to check that everything works as it should. You’ll make sure that all requested repairs have been completed and no new repair or maintenance issues have come up since the inspection, among other things.

The final walk-through should take place as close to the closing on the home as possible, and the house should be empty (seller has completely moved out at this point).

This will not be another home inspection – this is only a “check-in” to ensure the house is in the condition you made the offer in.

What to Bring?

Prepare to bring:

  • The original offer that shows what both parties have agreed to in the sale terms.
  • The inspection report that includes any repairs requested.
  • Paper and pen to take any notes.
  • A phone to document any damage or concerns.
  • A power cord (or any item that has a plug-in) to double check the outlets.

Questions to ask and actions to take:

  • Are the requested repairs complete?
  • Has anything been left behind by the seller?
  • Are any appliances missing that should have stayed in the home?
  • Double check water, electricity, gas, and heating/cooling systems.
  • Run hot and cold water from all the faucets.
  • Flush all the toilets and check for leaks.
  • Test all ceiling fans and light switches.
  • Open and close all doors and windows & double check that they lock correctly.

Discuss with your Real Estate Agent

Most times, a final walk-through doesn’t end with an array of problems – but if one or two things pop up on your checklist that concern you, be sure to discuss these with your real estate agent. Your agent is there to represent you and will communicate with the seller’s agent if anything does arise.

After the walk-through, you’ll complete your closing and move into your new home! Congratulations!

Want more real estate tips and tricks? Stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

What’s the Deal? Here’s the Path of Your Title & Escrow Transaction

Title and escrow jargon isn’t the easiest thing in the world to understand – we get it! But let us help.

When you’re in the final stages of purchasing your home, you’ll get down to the nitty gritty aspects of your title and escrow process. Not only is your real estate agent there to help guide you, but our Alliance Title Buyer-Seller Guide (and your local branch) is here to assist you too!

Our guide breaks down all of the people and steps that will take place during your closing – but as a quick reference, the path that your title and escrow transaction will take is shown for you below!

These steps are incredibly important – they help guarantee the ownership of your new home!

For more real estate guides and tips, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Choosing your Real Estate Agent

Yay! You’re in the market to purchase a house – or maybe sell! One of the first steps to take is to find a real estate agent to help guide you through the process. A real estate agent can show you listings that you might not be able to find on your own, can help you get the best deal for your budget, and can explain any part of the journey that might seem a little confusing to you.

89% of all buyers purchased their home through an agent in 2020, but how do you go about picking the right one for you?

Here are some questions you can ask an agent you might hire:

  • How long have you been working as a real estate agent?
    • Agents might have higher transactions than others – not that a lower transaction number should deter you. Understand their process of closing a deal!
  • Do you specialize as a buyer’s or seller’s agent?
    • You want to be sure you hire the agent that fits your needs. A buyer’s agent will help you search for a home; a seller’s agent will sell your home.
  • What is your work schedule?
    • Does this agent work full time in the field? When are they available to answer a phone call, text, or email? Are they going on vacation any time soon?
  • What markets do you target?
    • If you have an area in mind where you’d like to live, it would be good to know whether or not the agent is well-versed in that location.

Purchasing and/or selling a home is exciting – and possibly stressful, if you don’t have the right real estate agent to guide you. Follow your intuition!

For more real estate tips, check out Alliance Title’s Blog.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Vigilant Against Wire Fraud

With COVID bringing many agents, buyers, sellers, and the likes towards more and more digital features, it’s important that we still are just as vigilant as we’ve ever been before against real estate’s greatest enemy: wire fraud.

Alliance has partnered with CertifID – the nation’s leading wire-fraud prevention solution to implement an additional level of security to your transactions. Check out our CertifID article here.

First, What is Wire Fraud?

One of the final stages of a home purchase includes the homebuyer wiring money for their closing – the homebuyer would receive a legitimate email from their attorney, title company, or mortgage company with details on how and where to wire the money.

Unfortunately, wire fraud involves a cybercriminal hacking into the email system with fraudulent wire-transfer instructions. Usually, it is only after the wire transfer has been completed, that anyone fully realizes a crime has taken place.

Here’s What You Can Do

By closing with Alliance Title, your transaction (with utilizing CertifID) is backed by a $1,000,000 guarantee at no cost to you, or your clients. Check out CertifID’s infographic below:

Safety Tips

  • Be sure to confirm wire instructions verbally, or in person. This might mean calling up your attorney, title company, or real estate agent.
  • When calling to confirm, be sure to use the numbers you received and verified at the beginning of the loan process. Do not try and call the number listed on this new email, text, or letter with an updated wire instruction change.
  • Do not click on any link within the email that you find suspicious.
  • Ask your bank to confirm the name on the receiving account before sending a wire.
  • After confirming your wire instructions are legitimate, verify with your title company that they’ve received your wire four (4) hours after the transfer.

For more information on how you can prevent wire fraud, check out the NAR’s tips here.

Alliance Title believes in preventing wire fraud – call your local office to find out more on what we’re doing to combat wire fraud.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Tips for a Smooth Transaction

New to buying or selling a home? – 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.

COVID has changed some of our signing procedures, so please also read our blog detailing our safety measures.

Outside of COVID’s safety measures, please 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.
  • All commission verification forms.
  • 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:
    • Shop 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.

Alliance Title’s Client-Resource Guide will help get everything organized before the closing date!

Checklist for the Home Buyer

As a potential home buyer, it’s critical to understand where you are in terms of finances and what features of a house matter more to you than others. You never want to go blind into house shopping – the more prepared you are, the better!

Credit Score

Knowing your credit score is a major first step in the home-buying process. This will help you in 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.

Number Game

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 the 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!