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!

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.

Closing the Hunger Gap 2019

Let the donations begin! Alliance Title’s 25 locations in Idaho, Montana, and Washington strive to make your closing process smooth and easy. Each branch is staffed with friendly and experienced professionals who pride themselves on providing you with a personalized transaction and doing their part to support the local community.

This October, Alliance Title is hosting the 8th annual ‘Closing the Hunger Gap’ food drive campaign and partnering with local food banks to collect nonperishable food and monetary donations to help end hunger in the communities we serve.

With our convenient locations, you’re never too far from exceptional service or a donation site!

Vote for your favorite canstructures here! Vote once a day throughout the month of October!

Check out the impact we’ve made through our Closing the Hunger Gap history page.

Contact us for your next transaction and stop by any Alliance Title location to donate food items or make a monetary donation to help us end hunger!

2018 Closing the Hunger Gap Treasure Valley Check Presentation to the Idaho Foodbank

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.

Common Fees Explained: Real Estate 101

Purchasing a home is an incredible milestone! But when it’s bogged down by all the mumbo jumbo of real estate jargon, it can get intimidating.

We’re here to help you sort through those confusing terms and help you feel confident in your decision! With knowledge, comes power – and also, just knowing what is what is a great feeling anyway.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the common fees you’ll see throughout your home buying process:

Origination: This fee will be charged to the borrower from the lender and any mortgage broker for making the mortgage loan. Origination services may include processing your loan application, underwriting and funding the loan, and other services.

Credit Report: The lender will pull a credit report to help decide whether or not to approve your loan and how much money to lend you.

Owner’s Title Insurance: This protects the homeowner’s investment for as long as they own the property.

Lender’s Title Insurance: If you are taking out a mortgage, this protects the lender’s investment in the property.

Closing or Settlement Fee: This is the fee for escrow services, which are provided by a neutral third party that monitors your transactions, prepares documents based on instructions, coordinates the closing and more.

Recording Fees:  This fee is charged by a government agency for registering or recording the purchase or sale so that it becomes a matter of public record. Either the buyer or seller can pay this fee, depending upon your agreement of sale with the seller.

Real Estate Commission: The seller usually pays this fee. This is the total dollar amount of the real estate broker’s sales commission, which is typically a percentage of the selling price of the home.

Want to read through a longer list of real estate vocab? Check out Home Closing 101 for more, and be sure to stop by our Alliance Blog for guides and tips on all things real estate.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Content Ideas for Your Blog

Being an agent, you juggle many things – catching up on leads, going to networking events, showing homes, preparing for open houses – adding to the list just seems exhausting.

One of the more important tasks you do as an agent, is being active on social media. You post on Instagram, Facebook, maybe Snapchat or Pinterest – and if you have a blog of your own, you’re also uploading articles.

Whew, draining, right?

But what can be even more draining, is when writers block occurs. Hey, it happens to everyone! Alliance Title has some tips and suggestions for you to use the next time you’re running on empty.

Locations

You’re the go-to expert of the area, so why not share the best places to visit? Either through a quick video, or an article to post, present and future clients will appreciate what you have to share.

Talk about:

  • Restaurants
  • Parks
  • Coffee Shops
  • Kid’s activities
  • Bars
  • Hiking spots

Updates for Sellers

If someone is preparing to sell their home, they might feel lost as to what they need to do to update their home before putting it on the market.

Give some quick tips on what you would consider the most crucial updates sellers should do to up their listing price.

Spotlight the Area

Highlight some key businesses and people in the neighborhood. Think about showcasing:

  • School districts
  • Fitness centers
  • Churches
  • Grocery stores
  • Community involvement

While these are only a few suggestions to get you out of writer’s block, these can help generate new leads and give your clients some much needed and valued information.

Think about utilizing our Buyer-Seller Guide available on our website! Be sure to check out Alliance’s Blog for more information on all things real estate.

Homebuyers Should Avoid These Painting Mistakes

Paint, paint, go away, come again when we’re feeling more motivated.

We know, we know – painting can be exhausting. But what’s even more tiresome, is committing a painting faux pas only to start over again.

If you’re getting ready to sell your home (or just wanting to give it a good update), a fresh coat of paint can do wonders on giving your home new life. While painting can give your home a great facelift, it can also ruin the “mood” of your room, if done incorrectly.

Here are some quick tips when it comes to whipping out the paintbrush:

Color Hues

Be very careful when selecting a particular shade. Baby hues – baby blue, pink, yellow – can make your home feel childish. Choosing, instead, a more saturated shade (colors that range from pure color to gray) for the space and then incorporating a baby hue into the room as an accent can diminish a toddler feel.

The Light in Your Home

Colors will change depending on how certain lights hit them. Experts suggest selecting a shade or two lighter than the paint chip, as it usually always goes on darker than it looks. If you can, test out the color on the walls with an actual paint sample to ensure it’s the color you want.

The Finish

After you’ve painted the room, you’re going to want to apply a finish before completing the task. Matte, gloss, and flat are some of your options for different finishes.

Ceilings Are Walls Too

Paint your ceiling with flat paint – light is reflected even more on ceilings, which could showcase shadows and uneven drywall. A low-luster sheen finish can help diminish any ceiling mistakes.

The Size of the Room

A cool accent wall can help make small rooms feel more open – a soft blue, gray, or green are great examples.

After you’re done, no need to sit around and watch paint dry.

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