Real Estate Tip of the Week: What’s the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Broker?

Buying or selling a home generally means needing help at some point in your journey. But who does what?

Sometimes, consumers use job titles like real estate agent and real estate broker interchangeably. However, there are important differences between the two.

Here’s a quick rundown of real estate job titles:

Real Estate Agent vs. REALTOR®

A real estate agent has a professional license to help people buy, sell, or rent housing in the real estate market.

To become an agent, states require pre-licensing training and training hours that vary from state to state. Once the training is complete, aspiring agents will need to take the written licensing exam.

A REALTOR® is a license agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. As a member, agents subscribe to the standards of the association and its code of ethics and have access to real estate market data and transaction management services, among other benefits.

Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is a real estate agent who has gone further in education as required by state laws and passed a broker’s license exam.

Brokers continue their education on ethics, contracts, taxes, insurance, legal issues, how the law applies to operating a brokerage, real estate investments, construction, and property management. Usually, to obtain a broker’s license, they must have three years as a licensed real estate agent needs to occur prior.

There are three types of real estate brokers:

  • Principal Broker: also called a designated broker – each real estate office will have someone with this title. This person oversees all real estate agents in the firm to ensure agents are operating in compliance with state and national real estate law.
  • Managing Broker: This person works within the day-to-day mechanics of the office and usually hires and trains new agents, as well as manages administrative staff.
  • Associate Broker: Sometimes called a broker associate, broker-salesperson, or affiliate broker, works under a managing broker.

The titles of brokers vary from state to state and how they are accomplished. Brokers, essentially, are not looked at as novices in the industry, but as having a little more knowledge and experience than an agent.

If you’re looking for more information on who is best to serve you through the journey of buying or selling your home, check out Alliance’s Buyer-Seller Guide for more information.

And as always, Alliance’s Blog will further provide you with current events and happenings in all things real estate.

What Are the Components of a Home Mortgage Payment?

When you become a homeowner, it’s likely you’ll have to pay for a monthly mortgage – but do you know exactly what you’re paying for?

It’s important that you understand your outstanding balance as well as interest rate that you currently owe. A mortgage payment has four parts: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Here’s a quick rundown of each!

Principal

Essentially, the principal is the repayment of your loan amount. This is the portion of the payment that is used to reduce the balance you owe – your principal repayment will be the same throughout the life of your loan if you chose a fixed interest rate option. Usually, lenders will want to earn their interest back first before reducing principal – so payments will mostly go towards the interest of the loan in the beginning.

Interest

Interest is the profit that goes to the lender. This rate is expressed as a percentage of your total loan balance, and these rates are constantly changing. It’s best to choose a mortgage with a fixed interest rate, if you want a number locked in. A 5% mortgage rate means you will pay 5% of your total loan balance in interest each year. If you took a fixed rate, this percentage will never change during the life of your loan.

Taxes

While this is the area that might be the most overlooked on a loan, it’s one of the more important figures in your payment plan. Most lenders will require you to include an escrow account that will take care of your property taxes – if you have an escrow, your lender usually saves up those monthly payments into this separate account. At the end of the year, the escrow company will take the money from your account and pay your property taxes.

Insurance

Insurance usually falls within escrow as well. Lenders do this to ensure that you are always covered in the event of an emergency.

Don’t forget to shop around for your mortgage! We wrote about shopping for a mortgage here – check it out!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: What is a Tax Lien on a Home?

Legal jargon is intimidating – and for the average homeowner, some of the vocab goes in one ear and out the other.

With knowledge comes confidence (and power), so why not brush up on some of the legal homeowner jargon that might affect you?

In this case, we’ll be talking about tax liens.

The name itself sounds confusing – what is a tax lien? Here, we’ll break it down for you.

Essentially, if for whatever reason you can no longer (or haven’t been) paying your property taxes, the local government can place a tax lien on your home. This is a legal claim that ensures you won’t be able to refinance or sell your home without first paying off the lien.

If you’re a potential homebuyer, the title and escrow company working with you to close would find the lien on the property you’re trying to purchase.

How to Avoid a Property Tax Lien

A good idea might be placing your property taxes in escrow. This isn’t required in most cases, but it can still be an option to save yourself from stress in the future. By doing so, you’ll be paying your property tax bill every month, and your lender handles the actual payment.

You can also apply for a homestead exemption – if you qualify, it can help cut down on your annual property tax bill.

The National Tax Lien Association (NTLA) also lists government and nonprofit resources to help homeowners through tax-related issues.

To stay up-to-date with all things real estate, check out the rest of Alliance Title’s Blog!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: What Do Clients Want from an Agent?

As an agent, you’re always thinking of ways to stand out and get the clients – with all the competition out there, it can be daunting. But with some simple tips, you’ll be able to showcase just how great of a real estate agent you  are.

Be Relatable

Buyers and sellers want to work with someone who relates to them– someone genuine and easy to talk to. Your bio should portray just that!

Think about what you post on social media as well – don’t solely post about real estate! Make sure to include posts about you and your life. Maybe a photo of you and your dog, or a photo of you and your coworkers grabbing a bite to eat. It’s important to show clients the “other side” to you.

Have the Knowledge

This is a no-brainer – clients want someone who is knowledgeable and is an expert in their area. Be sure you’re staying up-to-date on any new business developments around the area, as well as current housing market trends.

Reviews & Recommendations

Feedback matters – and buyers and sellers will be looking at reviews on your skills and experience. Make sure you have a presence online and encourage past clients to leave reviews for you on platforms like Facebook and Google, as well as your own personal website.

Make sure it’s easy for people to find you and your business.

Keep Clients Updated

When you have successfully landed a lead, it’s important that you don’t keep them in the dark. Clients want to be included in the process of buying or selling a home. In the beginning, create a plan to outline the relationship. This should incorporate their input on how much they want to know and be involved as well as expectations regarding how they’d like to be reached (i.e., phone call, text message, email, etc.)

What other features do you think are important for agents to showcase?

Be a Smart Shopper: What to Look for When Purchasing a Home

Before you head out on a blind date, you’ve already created a list of “red flags” in your mind that you know to walk away from – why not do that for house shopping?

When you’re in the market to shop for a home, it’s important to have a list of features you need to keep an eye on. This way, you’ll be forced to take the love blinders off and focus on exactly what the home has to offer – and what needs to be fixed.

Purchasing a home is a big financial commitment – you’ll want to make sure to make the best decision for your investment – and avoiding major problems that need costly repairs will help.

Before making any decisions, talk with your agent about your financial situation and what repairs you’d be willing to make before signing on a home.

Here’s what to look for:

Foundation

Search for signs of cracking near the foundation and pay attention to the grade of the floors for signs of unevenness. These could be signs of a sinking foundation – something you definitely don’t want to be stuck with.

Roof Condition

Before inspecting the inside of the home, make sure to look at what’s happening up top. The condition of the roof could end up costing you $8,000 or more if in need of a desperate repair. Ask about its age and when it was last repaired.  

Mold and Water Damage

When you’ve entered the kitchen and bathrooms, take a peek inside the cabinets for signs of mold around the pipes. This could indicate a leaky plumbing system or previous flooding and improper ventilation. Musty odors or peeling paint are other signs of water damage.

Energy Efficiency

How are the AC and Heater units doing? Have new windows been added to the home? Ask about the condition of the insulation of the home, and when the furnace or air conditioning was last serviced. All of these items can help lower your utility costs.

Complete a Home Inspection

Although you’ve looked at things first-hand and have your own checklist, it’s recommended that you have a home inspection performed. A professional can help you ensure the foundation is solid and everything is up to code. Home inspectors can also check for things that might be harder to spot – like whether there is lead paint or any foundational pests.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: There’s an App for That

The real estate industry is constantly transforming and changing in lieu of technological advancements – which means as an agent, you need to stay informed on all of the new updates.

Luckily, there are apps that can help separate you from the pack.

Here are some of the best apps you can use as a real estate agent:

Realtor.com®’s Street Peek & Sign Snap Feature

Street Peek allows users to point their phone at homes to have instantaneous property details surface about the home’s you’re currently facing. This allows users to see the information they need to know about homes on any street.

The Sign Snap feature allows users to snap a photo of a For-Sale sign to immediately receive more listing details of a home.

LionDesk

If you have a buyer that is looking to purchase remotely, then LionDesk might be the app to use to showcase potential homes.

This app lets you seamlessly add videos to your emails and text messages – you can upload your own videos or record directly from the app.

LionDesk also offers power dialing and contact management, among other features!

Sideline

If you don’t have the option (or simply don’t want to) to have a separate business phone, the Sideline app might be a good fit for you. This app allows you to connect one phone with multiple phone numbers that can even offer a different ringtone depending on the type of phone call you’ve categorized it as.

Spacio

Don’t you just hate having to deal with all of the paperwork when it comes to open houses? With Spacio, you can create digital forms to accurately collect visitor information and even set up follow-up emails after the open house ends.

 DocuSign

With DocuSign, you won’t have to worry about all being in the same room at the same time – because let’s face it: we’re all busy. This app allows users to sign electronic signatures on disclosures, forms, and closing paperwork without even having to be in the office.

Research which apps might benefit you as a real estate agent!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Pricing a Home

You’ve got the client – success!

Now, you’ve got to list the home.

If you’re a new real estate agent, this can seem incredibly intimidating. You don’t want to price too high, and you don’t want to price too low – so, how can you list your client’s home right, the first time?

It’s important that you understand your client’s needs before diving into the listing. You should know why they want to move and what their timeline is for moving. Once you understand your client’s motives and wishes, you’ll be able to better serve them.

Before you sit down with your client to go over your listing price, you’ll need to do some research.

Days

You’ll want to do a search of comparable homes in terms of square footage, bedrooms, views, upgrades, amenities, condition of the house, and any other special features. When researching, look at homes currently for sale or that have sold within the last six months in your client’s neighborhood.

Competition

Take a glance at some of the other homes listed in the area. How many homes are going up for sale, what are their price points, and what features do they have to offer?

List-Price Ratio

This ratio portrays the difference between the original listing price and the closing sale price of the home. Again, research the comparable homes in the seller’s neighborhood.

New Construction or Developments

It’s important that you stay current with house trends. You should learn about any new construction financing and/or incentives that might take potential buyers away from your listing.

Ideally, researching should take no longer than three to five days. Be thorough and precise – and make sure you clearly explain to your client your reasons for the listing price.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Marketing with Emojis

Emojis have essentially become their very own language – whether they’re used through texts, emails, social media posts, or marketing campaigns, emojis are not only fun to use, but can also help get your message across.

With World Emoji Day approaching this Wednesday, July 17th, it might be a good time to brush up on your emoji skills.

Yes, emojis are generally easy to work with, but it’s important that you are still able to connect with your audience the right way.

And there are definitely right and wrong times to send an emoji.

Emojis are entertaining! Not only are they a creative way to connect with your client, but emojis can also portray how much you truly care about their transaction and closing.

A University of Missouri-St. Louis study tested how the “smiley face” emoji was perceived in an email between colleagues versus a social email. They discovered that in both cases, the emoji made the recipient like the sender more and feel as though the sender liked them more.

When to Avoid:

If the appraisal came lower than expected, it probably isn’t a good idea to send an emoji their way. Emojis aren’t necessarily appropriate when there might be a negative moment in the transaction.

It’s also best to not assume all clients will understand or even like your emoji usage. Not all young people use emojis, and not all older generations hate them. Understand their preferred method of communication in the beginning of your relationship. If they prefer texts to emails, that might be a good indicator on whether or not emojis would be safe to use.

Understanding your emojis is also critical to maintaining a good relationship between you and your client. Check out Emojipedia to get the full lowdown on all emojis and their meanings – even if the emoji was created with a specific connotation, audiences might correlate the emoji with their own interpretation. I.e., the “whistling” emoji is mostly depicted as a “kiss”.

When to Use:

After you’ve established that emojis are something your client would possibly like, think about how you’d like to use them.

Emoji’s can act as punctuation. Use an emoji to lead your audience or client to a hyperlink at the end of your text or post.

Think about utilizing emojis as a way to emphasize a statistic or a hyperlink that you want your client to see.

Essentially, emojis are an exciting way to add a little more fun and emotion to your message – but that doesn’t mean you should overdo it. You still want your message to be clear and concise to your audience!

Real Estate Tip of the Week: How to Schedule Your Social Media Posts

Not so newsflash – posting to your real estate social media pages is important!

Why?

Because it helps create a band of followers who get to know who you are, what you do, and how you can help them achieve their goals within real estate. Social media helps with attracting leads, following up with past clients, and showing your true authentic self.

But sometimes, your hectic schedule can get in the way of your social media time.

While it’s easy to forget about posting here and there, it’s critical that you keep a consistent posting schedule for your brand.

Here’s how to do it:

Scheduling Tool

Facebook – Facebook has it’s very own scheduling tool that is free to use. You’ll act like you’re scheduling a normal post, but instead of clicking “Publish,” you’ll click the drop down arrow to select “Schedule.” This will bring you to a window that’ll allow you to select a date and time you want your post to publish.

LinkedIn / Instagram / Twitter – Unfortunately, these platforms do not have their own scheduling tool within the app. There are, however, free scheduling tools that you can use! Hootsuite, Buffer, and Later are all great scheduling tools that are free to use. Check out more social media scheduling tools here.

Whip Out Your Calendar

We know we just mentioned how busy you are – but it’s important that you block out time in your day to work on your social media game.

Give yourself 30 minutes a day in the morning and 30 minutes a day in the afternoon.

Plan out what you want to post and when – are you going to post about an open house event you’re putting together? What about discussing housing market statistics for first-time homebuyers? Think about what you plan to post, and how you’d like to execute it.

Best Days and Times to Post

According to Coschedule, the best times to post on each social media site it displayed for you below:

Social Media Platform Days and Times to Post
Facebook 9-10am, 12-1pm; 4-5pm; Thursday-Sunday
Instagram 8am, 1pm, 9pm; Friday
LinkedIn 12pm; Wednesday
Twitter 8-10am, 12pm, 7-9pm; Monday-Friday

Now, this doesn’t mean these are the only days and times you can post – rather, if you have a post that you really want your audience to see and engage in, think about posting within these time frames.

Social media is the key to accessing more followers and more leads! It’s a great space to showcase how special you are and what you can bring to the table for your buyers and sellers. Now get out there and post!

Understanding Your Home Owner’s Title Policy

So, you’ve bought a home – congratulations! You’ve worked hard to get to this point; a celebration is definitely a must do!

While there should be plenty of rejoicing after you’ve found the home of your dreams, it’s also incredibly important that you protect your property rights and understand what is included in your owner’s policy.

These documents might look intimidating, but these policies are put in place to protect you – so it’s beneficial to know what you’re signing.

For a one-time fee paid at closing, an owner’s policy will help protect your property rights for as long as you or your heirs own the property.

Here’s what the owner’s title policy will look like and what it all means:

The owner’s policy has five sections: covered risks, the exclusions from coverage, Schedule A, Schedule B, and the Conditions.

Covered Risks

This section details the kinds of risks the policy will help insure against. Some of the most important covered risks include:

  • Someone else owning your property
  • A defect or encumbrance on your title caused by fraud
  • Any liens for real estate taxes or assessments that have not been paid
  • The right of access to and from your land

Be sure to discuss the covered risks that are included in your policy with your title agent – ask which are subjected to other exceptions or exclusions.

Exclusions

This portion of the document lists the exclusions that are limited to the coverage of the policy – these are issues that the title company has nothing to do with.

  • Governmental regulations on the land and eminent domain
  • Title defects known to the insured but not disclosed in writing to the title company prior to the date of the policy
  • Effects of bankruptcy law on the transaction

Schedule A

Schedule A is important – it essentially allows your policy to be valid. It will include the date of the policy, the amount of insurance, the insured the legal description of the land insured by the policy, and the estate insured.

Schedule B

This form will list the various exceptions to the title that the title company found when it performed the title search.This list shows you (the insured) which items will not be covered by the title policy, and that the title company will not pay a claim or defend against a claim based on this list. This list could include:

  • Unreleased mortgages on the property
  • Easements
  • Taxes
  • Restrictions on the use of the property
  • Homestead rights or survey issues (if no survey has been performed)

Conditions

When you’ve reached this section, you’ve come to the outlines of the relationship between the insured (you) and the title company.

The first section will define certain terms used in the policy, like: “Insured Claimant, “Entity,” and “Land,” to name a few.

The second portion will show how a claim under the policy is handled, including how to provide notice of a claim what is required to prove loss, and the requirement that the insured (you) must cooperate with the title company when handling a claim.

With the right title and escrow company, all of your questins can be easily answered. You shouldn’t feel left in the dark! Call your local Alliance Title branch with any questions or concerns you may have.

And check out Home Closing 101 for a deeper look at how title works.