Real Estate Tip of the Week: Fighting Cybercrime

Cybercrime is scary – and with one of the fastest growing cybercrimes in the U.S. being wire fraud in real estate, Alliance Title has stepped their game up to better protect your transactions.

According to FBI data, there were more than $221 million in losses back in 2019.Wire fraud is a serious thing, so it’s important that we take this cybercrime seriously.

To protect you and your assets, Alliance has partnered with CertifID – the nation’s leading wire fraud prevention solution.

CertifID adds an additional level of security to your transactions. Let’s show you how it works:

  • Your escrow agent will send you your wiring information through CertifID.
  • CertifID confirms your identity and receipt of wiring details with security questions and two-factor authentication.
  • Parties will receive confirmation that the transaction is guaranteed by CertifID.
Image from CertifID

This process helps protect all parties involved by insuring that closing funds are safely transferred and received. Every CertifID transaction is backed by a $1,000 guarantee, at no cost to you.

For more on CertifID, check out their introductory video.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Understanding Real Estate Commission

There can be some confusion when it comes to how a real estate agent is paid – and some buyers and sellers might not work with an agent, simply because they don’t know how the agent’s commission works!

This is where we jump in! Check out our guide below on how to better understand a real estate commission and your part in it.

How Much

Real estate agents only earn money when a real estate deal has been completed and finalized. Some agents charge a flat fee for their work, or some charge a percentage of the sales price of the home once the deal is finished. The percentage would vary, but the commission is typically 5-6% of the home’s final sales price.

For example, on a $300,000 home, a 6% commission would be $18,000.

Don’t panic – while that might seem like a huge number, it’s usually split up into different parties. That, and an agent won’t receive any sort of payment until the buyer and seller both agree and meet at the closing table.

Who Pays

Surprise! Usually, the seller pays the full commission for their listing (seller) agent and the buyer’s agent. Remember that $18,000 number above? The seller and buyer agents usually split that, with each receiving $9,000. This equal split in commission might vary, however, depending on the agents.

What Commission Covers

Basically, the commission covers all of the hard work the agent did to help sell or purchase your home. An agent helps you price homes, market on social media and the multiple listing service, negotiate with buyers, and help bring the home sale through to closing. And they should, most definitely, help take off some of the stress from your shoulders.

When You Sign the Contract

When you’ve decided on a real estate agent, you’ll receive a contract (usually referred to as a listing agreement) where you can read all the details about their specific commission rate. Be sure to read this contract in its entirety before signing – that way you have full confidence in the services you’re paying for.

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

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Speedy Tech Hacks

Technology is supposed to make things easier – but sometimes, does it feel a bit like a drag?

As a real estate agent, you’re used to working on the fly; but what about when you’re using social media, or emailing, or texting a client? Sometimes just the mundane tech stuff can bog you down.

But! We’ve got the tips for you. Check out our guide on how to be just a tad faster (and cooler!) when using your daily tech apps.

Facebook Lists

Facebook is a great tool for the real estate industry….but, you can also find yourself down the rabbit-hole hours later and wondering why you got on Facebook in the first place.

Facebook lists can organize your friends on FB – you can post updates for specific people, easily reach out to groups, and see recent activity. You could make these lists for: potential clients, past clients, and general friends.

Check out Facebook’s Help page to create your list.

Text Replacement

Sick of typing out the same “hello” messages or hashtags? Text replacement can seriously cut down on your typing and cut/paste time.

To set up a text replacement, you’ll need to create it under your “Keyboards” section in your general app in your phone. From there, you’ll tap on ‘text replacement.’ Type in your general sayings – or hashtags – and set up your text replacement! That way, whenever you go to send your email, text, or schedule your post, you can just type in your text replacement word, and your copy will automatically pull up!

Audio Messages

Audio messages might be a good option if you’re having a super busy day, but your client wants to know the latest of their transaction. Sending an audio message is more personal than a text, and is quicker than a phone call. It can be a good way to keep them in the loop, but also mentioning you’ll call them for more information at your next break in the day.

Tech is important – but keeping it quick and easy is the way to go. For more real estate tips and tricks, stop by Alliance Title’s blog.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Extra Costs

If you’re a real estate agent, it would be in your best interest to help and guide your clients to fully understand all of the fees that are associated with owning a home, so your clients feel prepared and ready for the transaction.

A recent report from LendEDU (an online marketplace for financial products and advice), found that 55% of homeowners regret taking out a mortgage during the pandemic. Of the homeowners who are experiencing regret, 30% wish they waited to purchase a home for financial reasons and another 7% of new homeowners said they were not prepared for homeownership.

While these fees will vary from person to person and state to state, it’s important to clarify the costs on the table so they don’t feel misled.

Inspection Fees

While these aren’t required, they are highly recommended in the industry. An average inspection may cost anywhere from $300 to $500. Inspections can help uncover any problems with the home and prevent more costly repairs in the future.  

Closing Costs

Financial experts recommend setting aside 2-5% of the purchase price for closing costs, and they must be available on closing day. This fee covers a variety of things, like notary services, title company search fees, attorney expenses, real estate transfer taxes, insurance premiums, and more. These will vary by state and property.

Maintenance Costs

It is recommended to put aside 1% of a home’s value per year for any unexpected maintenance expenses. For example, a $300,000 home would mean budgeting $3,000.

Moving Costs

While this might be the last thing on your client’s mind, moving adds up too. If they’re planning to hire a moving company or renting a truck, they’ll want to allocate this into their upcoming expenses.

As a real estate agent, you’ll need to remind them to speak with their lender and bank to fully understand their financial planning. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t help guide them on some of the upcoming fees associated with purchasing a home.

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

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Starting a Real Estate Podcast

Looking to add something new to your real estate marketing? Something different, fun, and exciting?

You’ve worked on your social media accounts, but what about – podcasting?

More than half of listeners are at least somewhat likely to consider buying from a brand after hearing its advertisement on a podcast AND more than half of all US consumers listen to podcasts.* There’s a lot to be reached in this area of marketing!

But, what can you talk about? Three out of every four listeners* say they tune in to learn new things – so a great way to pull in new prospects and reach new audiences is to talk about the real estate market and giving as much information as possible!

Here are some real estate podcast tips:

Topic

  • Share real estate market statistics, reports, and any updates that buyers and sellers need to be aware of.
  • Focus locally – what does your town/city look like for real estate?
  • Help buyers and sellers understand the real estate terminology they’ll be surrounded by when they jump into the process. Aid in their knowledge of how the title and escrow industry works!

Overview

  • You’ll need to consider how you’d like your podcast to look. Are you the sole host, or will you have a cohost?
  • Think about who you’d like to have as a guest star – lenders? Other agents? Previous buyers or sellers?

Plan

  • You’ll want to plan at 6-months of episodes so your audience has plenty to listen and get hooked to.
  • If you’re thinking of how often you should release an episode, once a week is the perfect sweet spot!

Set Up

Apps

  • Post your podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher – the list goes on!

You don’t need to be a famous celebrity to start a podcast; you are a real estate agent, and you have plenty of information and material that buyers and sellers would be eager to listen to!

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

*Podcast Statistics

Home Inspections – The Biggest Red Flags

Purchasing a home is a bit like a marathon; it takes longer than you expect it to, but once you cross the finish line, you find that it was all worth it.

One of the steps that is very much worth it, is the home inspection.

According to Porch.com, 86% of home inspections find something that needs to be fixed – and it could save the buyer an average of $14,000.

However, with how hot the real estate market is right now (particularly, for sellers), many buyers are trying their best to make their offer stand out – in June of 2020, 20% of buyers were waiving their inspection contingency.*

But what do home inspectors look for? What are the biggest, most common issues that they find in a home? Let’s check it out!

Home inspectors will evaluate the:

  • Roof
  • Ceilings
  • Walls
  • Floors
  • Windows
  • Major appliances
  • Heating & air conditioning systems
  • Plumbing & electrical systems
  • Home foundation
  • Attic
  • Basement
  • Other structural components
  • And more

The most common issues are:

  • Roofing – these can be leaks, venting, material condition, proper installation, or other visible issues with the roof.
  • Electrical wiring – these can be reversed polarity, frayed insulation, DIY wiring, over-fusing, and mismatched wiring.
  • Windows – these usually have to do with energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
  • Gutters – clogged gutters can cause water to back up and lead to other damage.
  • Plumbing – issues can be leaky faucets, clogged drains, and outdated pipes.

Home inspections can really give a buyer a better understanding of a home and its past history. Jumping through this hoop in the home purchasing experience will be worth it once you have your keys in hand!

*Home inspections are incredibly important, but that doesn’t mean it is a “must do.” Please talk with your real estate agent to see what the best option for you and your purchasing experience might be.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Digital Doesn’t Mean Impersonal

Real estate is having to keep up with technology and it becoming a barrier in relationships.

Digital closings rose significantly amid COVID19; remote closings kept the real estate world ticking, but its left real estate agents wondering how they can continue fostering their networks and connections, if there’s no face-to-face interactions.

Regardless of COVID, digital closings were bound to happen – it’s just happened at an exponential rate that many agents were not prepared for.

Here are some tips to keep your digital closings personal:

Video & Live Chat

If possible, include video and/or live chat features for interacting and closing sales with customers. These can help increase engagement with potential and current clients while handling the process remotely.

Explain, Explain, Explain

Clients are more likely to ask questions to clarify things in person rather than over a video chat. Be sure to carefully explain each document and signature needed. Open the floor for them to ask questions and be sure to allow for plenty of time for interaction while closing.

Offer a Pre-Closing/Post-Closing Video Chat

Prior to the closing date, a title or escrow agent will send the signer the digital closing package. Let your clients know that you are available to go over a virtual consultation video to ease any anxiety or confusion your clients may have before the eclosing.

A recent study found that 2 in 5 people described buying their first home as the “most stressful event” of their lives – help ease this stress!

As a real estate agent, it’s your job to help your client through the entire process of a home purchase or sale – and with the swift change in digital closings, your guidance is even more important!

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

Fight Business Email Compromise

Computer crimes never stop – and cyber criminals have taken advantage with all of us working from home.

So, what is Business Email Compromise (BEC)?

BEC is an email scam that targets specific people in an organization with the goal to either steal money, data, or other confidential employee information.

The FBI reported losses of $1.7 billion in 2019 due to BEC. Yikes.

What do these emails look like?

Cyber criminals will send an email message that mostly likely will appear to come from a known source making (what you think) is a legitimate request. Real examples of BEC include:

  • Homebuyer receives an email from their title company with instructions on how to wire their down payment.
  • A vendor your company works with sends an invoice with an updated mailing address

What are some of the signs of a BEC?

The email address might look slightly different – so it’s important that you remain vigilant. It could be something as little as a moved period in an email address or an added letter.

There’s usually a link within the email asking the receiver to click it to send them information (what you think is a legitimate request).

What can you do to fight BEC?

  • Do not click on anything in an unsolicited email asking you to either update or verify account information. Call the company (with a number you already have – not with the number provided in the potentially fake email that was sent to you) and verify with them that way.
  • Be vigilant and investigate the email address, URL, and spelling used in the email. Like mentioned before, they’ll only be slight differences.
  • Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know and be wary of attachments forwarded to you.
  • If you can, set up multi-factor authentication in your accounts for an extra layer of protection.

It’s important to always be aware of what is being sent to you through your emails. Remain vigilant and keep up the fight against BEC!

*Alliance Title uses CertifID as an extra layer of protection for wires.

Fall In Love with Your New Neighborhood

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about showing affection and appreciation towards your significant other – it’s also about making sure you choose the right neighborhood for you!

Okay, we might be reaching here, but roll with us.

When you’re ready to move, or purchase your first home, making sure you choose the right location is a top priority. You’ll want to make sure to check out the neighborhood – because, hey, neighborhoods can have some red flags too.

Test out the Commute

One major regret homeowner’s face: not running through daily errands or their commute to and from work. Nothing hurts like having to sit in the car for longer than you were expecting to.

Test out your commute on busy days and times (rush hour) and see how it feels. How long does it take you to get to the closest grocery store, etc.? What public transportation options are available in your area?

Make a Weekend Date of it

Explore the area during the weekend – explore the neighborhood during the morning, afternoon, and evening. Are there huge house parties taking place? Are people out and about on walks, jogs, etc.? Can you picture yourself there?

It’s a good idea to also sample any of the local coffee shops or restaurants nearby.

Look up School Districts

Whether or not you have kids, the quality of schools in a neighborhood is critical. A better school district usually means a higher home value – and if you’re a parent, you’ll want to make sure the school district is a reputable one, and that it is a good fit for your child.

Download an App

Apps such as CrimeReports can help provide information about crime within the location or address. Your friend becomes an FBI agent and searches for your date on the internet – why wouldn’t you do the same for your neighborhood?

Buying a home is an incredible accomplishment and a commitment, just like love. Be sure to do your thorough research on the home and neighborhood before you sign!

Want more real estate guides? Check out Alliance Title’s Blog!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Why Aren’t You Texting?

Buyers and Sellers – they’re just like us: they don’t want to talk on the phone. No one really does.

What do they prefer, then?

Simple! Texting. Text, text, text.

As a real estate agent, how can you communicate through text without coming off as too aggressive?

Check out our tips on how you can establish a relationship with leads, buyers, and sellers through text messaging:

Be the First to Respond

A client has found you through your social media pages or your blog – they reach out to you through your phone number listed, but you’re currently busy! What do you do?

Create an auto-responder for online leads! You can set up a text message to send after a lead clicks “submit” on an online form of yours, or when they text you (if you have your phone number listed). Don’t know how to set up an auto-responder? Check out how to create one, here.

Send Reminders/Updates

You don’t want your client to miss an important piece of information! Sometimes emails can be overlooked – so shoot a friendly reminder or update text!

Remind them of important dates and times; send updated information about a nearby neighborhood; let them know when the appraisals gone through!

Keep in Touch

As an agent, you know how important it is to stay in touch with previous clients – through email drip campaigns, through postcards, and now, through texting!

After a client has closed on a home, check up on them in about 2 weeks and ask how things are going. When it’s been a year since their home has closed, send a happy anniversary text! Little messages like this go a long way – and keep you in the front of their mind the next time they look at a new home!

A quick reminder: texting is supposed to be quick and straight-to-the-point (hey, that’s why we love texting more than talking on the phone, right?) – so don’t think too hard about sending out a text. Be friendly, be yourself, and don’t send long essays.

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