Real Estate Tip of the Week: Stand Out from Other Agents

In 2019, membership in the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reached an all-time high of 1.4 million. So – how do you set yourself apart? 

To be a successful agent, you have to think about what your clients are looking for. While going the extra mile to impress a client never hurts, a potential homebuyer or seller is ultimately looking for a few key elements in an agent.

Market Materials

Your buyer or seller has probably done prior research of the market before finding you, but that doesn’t mean they ultimately know every little aspect of what’s taking place, especially with targeted neighborhoods.

Before parting ways with a potential client, compile materials that you can send home with them to review for themselves. That way, they don’t feel pressure, and they have more education of the process under their belts.

Alliance Title has a few marketing materials you can use – our Client Resource Guide, our Buyer-Seller Guide, and our Buyer Checklist all provide great information that your client can use to better understand the process of a real estate transaction. Key words, calendars, and calculating closing fees are all included.

Remember Their Checklist

Usually, a buyer and seller already has an idea in mind in how they want their transaction to take place. They have a price point, they have a checklist of the size, location, and added features they’d like, and they know their time tables. While sometimes a client’s needs can’t always be met (especially if their checklist is unrealistic in the current market), it’s important that you stick close with their desires.

Communicate

Before you’ve been officially hired as an agent, a buyer or seller might be curious as to how you can steer them in the direction they’d like to take. Know whether to pursue or leave a lead – and how to not bother a potential client. Remember, everyone is busy with work and life in general! Sending an email or a text is completely acceptable (if they’ve agreed to giving you contact information), but be respectful with time frames.

Once you have been officially hired, don’t leave your client in the dark. Keep them updated with the process (has their offer been reviewed? Has a home they’ve been keeping an eye on just popped up on the market? Did the appraisal come in?) and let them know they can come to you with any questions or concerns.

Overall, being an agent that is knowledgeable, patient, understanding, and approachable is essentially what any buyer or seller wants. Set yourself apart from the 1.4 million today!

Check out Alliance Title’s Blog for more real estate tips and guides.

Real Estate Guide: How to Find Your Listing Agent

Are you in the process of wanting to sell your home? One of the first things you’ll need to do is find your listing agent.

Your listing agent will help you get the most out of your transaction – so, how can you find the right agent for you?

It’s all about asking key questions – follow our tips below when you meet up with a potential listing agent for the first time:

What Are Your Credentials?

You’ll want an agent that has a stat license and belongs to a local real estate trade association – which means they have access to the multiple listing service (MLS), to list and get more eyes on your home.

Are You Familiar With This Neighborhood?

Working with a local agent is a huge advantage for sellers. Agents who specialize in certain areas are aware of any upcoming developments in the area – which can affect the value of your property. They also are more likely to know how quickly your home will sell, and the price you’re likely to get.

Do You Know the Local Market?

Nothing is worse than a home that is priced too high, or too low – so knowing how your agent arrived at the listing price is important. The listing agent should be knowledgeable about the local market and what other similar homes have recently sold for.

How Do We Communicate?

This should (hopefully) be something the listing agent asks you, as the seller, but be prepared to list off ways of communicating that works best for you. If you prefer texting, calling, or emailing – let your listing agent know the best way to reach you. Be sure to also explain how often you’d like to be reached in each step of the home selling process.

Can I look at Your Listing Agreement?

The listing agreement will have fees and costs displayed, so know how to properly plan for the end of the transaction. You should discuss possible payments like commission and closing fees.

Go with your gut – your listing agent should be knowledgeable and approachable. They should be able to openly communicate with you on the process, as well as help you feel at ease with the transaction.

Want more real estate guides? Stop by Alliance’s Blog here.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: What is Private Mortgage Insurance?

Purchasing a home is an accomplishment – but it also means prepping yourself before you sign on the dotted line. There are a lot of things you need to learn and check off before being handed the keys, but that shouldn’t weigh you down in your homeownership future.

One of the real estate terms you might hear flying around: mortgage insurance. Not only that, but private mortgage insurance.

Home loans will require a down payment in order to qualify for a loan – the more you’re able to put down, the more money you’ll save in interest over the life of the loan.

To avoid paying for private mortgage insurance (PMI), you’ll need to put down 20% of the purchase price of a home. However, that isn’t always possible – and a 20% down purchase isn’t required to buy a home.

FHA loans require the smallest amount down – around 3.5%. Instead of paying $40,000 on a down payment for a $200,000 home, 3.5% down is a $7,000 down payment.

Quite the difference.

This does mean, however, that you’ll need to pay PMI. This helps protect the lender in case you were to default on your loan.

PMI premiums vary from loan to loan – a FHA loan, VA loan, Conventional loan, and a USDA loan will all have different premiums and an annual fee you’ll have to pay if you put less than 20% down.

Check out LendingTree’s full analysis of the comparison of loans here.

And for more real estate tips, stop by Alliance’s Blog.

How to Choose the Best Real Estate Agent for You

Homeownership means having to make decisions – and one of the first ones you’ll have to make is finding a real estate agent that will help you throughout your home-purchasing journey!

How do you find an agent?

Referrals are all a part of the process – ask friends and family members if they can recommend an agent (if they’ve had a great experience with them, of course).

You can also easily Google “real estate agent [city] to find other reviews from Yelp, Zillow, and Realtor.com.

How do you choose?

After you’ve found the one you might want to work with, start going through their online presence – do they have a website, or any social media accounts? Are there any reviews online?

It’s important to choose an agent you feel comfortable working with – one who is competent and prepared to be with you throughout each step of the home-buying process.

Keep in mind:

  • Differences between a Realtor® and a Real Estate Agent: All Realtors® and Real Estate Agents are required to be licensed by the state to represent buyers and sellers in property transfers. However, a Realtor® is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors® – which means that he or she must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics.
  • Find an agent who is familiar with the community you want to live in. Here are some questions to ask your potential real estate agent:
    • Do you deal mostly with home buyers or with home sellers?
    • Do you stay in touch via text, phone call, email, etc.?
    • Are you a member of the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?
    • Are you able to provide local real estate market trends, values, and statistics?

For more real estate guides, check out Alliance Title’s Blog and the Buyer and Seller information on our website.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: How to Raise Your Agent Game

Whether you’re a new agent, or an expert in the field, it’s always a great idea to reflect on areas of improvement.

What are your goals for the 2020 year? Do you want to reach more clients? Sell “x” amount of homes, or make more genuine connections?

Being and becoming a great agent doesn’t mean you have to jump through hoops. It’s actually pretty simple. We have the tips you need below to start the year off right:

Customer Service

Ah – the scary world of customer service. Whether you’ve realized it or not, being a real estate agent means working in that exact field. But, it doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Being an agent means knowing how to communicate, listen, provide suggestions, and decipher information clients are providing. Consumers know when you’re being pushy or inauthentic – so make sure you place yourself in your client’s shoes. Buying a home will likely be the biggest purchase of their life; they’re nervous, and they want you to guide them through it.

Prequalify

If you haven’t before, you’ve probably learned this the hard way. Prequalifying your clients before you show them homes will save you time and energy. Usually prequalifying shows how serious the buyer or seller is, and how much they’re willing to work with you – that, and you’ll know what financial ballpark they’re in as well.

Guru

There are plenty of real estate agents out there – but how can you stand out from the crowd?

Instead of claiming you know it all, show them how much you know in a specific area. Become the real estate guru for a specialized neighborhood, town, or city. Be the person clients know to reach out to when they wonder what new development is being built across town. A new coffee shop? – you’ve already got the details on when it will open.

Networking

You might have wondered how you’re supposed to know when the coffee shop opens, huh? Well, that’s where our next piece of advice comes in – networking.

You’ll work with many different people in your field – investors, vendors, inspectors, contractors, you name it. Keep their information handy, because you’ll never know when you might need them for a referral or to check in on what’s new in the market.

While these are only a few tips to strengthen your real estate game, they’ll set you apart from the pack – and help gain the confidence you need to close deals.

Looking for more real estate tips? Stop by Alliance’s Blog for more!

Title & Escrow Guide: Plat Maps, Plat Maps, Know All About ‘Em!

Buying a home can be confusing – i.e., words you’ve never heard of (uh…liens??), so it makes sense how the whole home-buying process can be a bit intimidating.

But that’s where we come in to help!

One of the many things you’ll hear pop up, are plat maps. Your real estate agent will be giving you lots of documents – one you might receive from your title company (ahem, us), could be a plat map.

So, what exactly is this type of map?

A plat shows you how a tract of land in your county is divided into lots. It’ll be drawn to scale and will display the land’s size, boundary locations, nearby streets, flood zones, etc.

Plat maps show the land area. This is usually presented on the scale of a neighborhood or county township. A plot is a piece of land used for a single purpose (a home or a park). So essentially, a plat map records the collection of plots that make up a neighborhood.

On a platted map, you’ll find a “parcel number” that’s been assigned by the county assessor’s office – this number will be in the middle of each property and will appear in large, bold, underlined type. The “builder’s lot number” is assigned to the property by the original developer – and the numbers along the property lines indicate the lot dimensions.

But, not every property is platted!

If your deed uses geographical references (like metes and bounds) then your property is not platted. Platted properties will use subdivision lot numbers as a description.

It is a good idea for potential buyers to check out the lot dimensions and make sure they match with the lot size listed by the real estate website or agent.

Want more real estate tips and guides? Check out Alliance Title’s Blog here.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Set a Marketing Plan

With 2020 in full swing, it’s important that you lay down a real estate marketing plan that will help drive future leads and put you ahead of the game.

While it may sounds daunting, we’ve got the tips to help you out.

Content marketing is all about providing real-time information that buyers and sellers are looking for – this doesn’t always have to be statistics on the real estate market, but rather, could also be any new developments taking place in your local area, open houses your hosting in a new neighborhood, or even networking events that you’re attending!

Why is market planning important?

  1. You become the local area / neighborhood / real estate guru – people recognize your brand, your name, and know to reach out to you.
  2. You show potential buyers and sellers how knowledgeable you are on the market, and how you will go above and beyond to secure their transaction.
  3. You create a flow of business where repeat buyers and sellers come back to you – or refer you to others.

Here’s how you get started:

Create Goals

It helps to have a clear idea of where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Do you want to increase traffic to your listings? Do you want to increase the amount of clicks on your blog? Do you want to reach more people through a specific social media platform?

Be sure that you are setting realistic and attainable goals. You don’t want to feel defeated!

Plan Content

You’ll want to schedule how often and when you’re developing and posting content. Stick to a routine schedule, so consumers can expect when to see a post from you.

Here’s a link that shows the best days and times to post to social media.

What do you post?

Be sure to make it fun – get eyes on your page or your profile! Whether it’s posting a Boomarang on Instagram, uploading a video discussing the latest stats on Facebook, or sharing a thought-provoking article on LinkedIn – make it engaging and make it fun.

Here are some content ideas:

  • A home preview (video, Instagram live, photos on your FB album)
  • Q & A Sessions (this would be best through a “live” feature – through Instagram where consumers can type in questions)
  • Setting up for your open house
  • Discuss the process of purchasing or selling a home
  • Show any new developments that are happening within the community (a new coffee shop, restaurant, bar, business building, etc.)

Once you have your marketing plan set and scheduled, stick with it! It’s important to be consistent, and of course, to engage.

Want more real estate tips? Check out Alliance Title’s Blog here.

The Cold Bothers Homeowners: Easy Winter Home Maintenance Tips

Hear us out – even though it’s (possibly) freezing outside, your home still needs the time and care it receives over the summer months.

But that doesn’t mean we’re suggesting insane home maintenance projects! Below, you’ll find a list of easy-to-manage home projects that just happen to take place during the winter months. These projects can help you save money on the electric bill and help prevent any expensive repairs.

Take a quick peak at what we’ve got for you below:

Trim Branches

You’ll want to avoid potential property damage if any unforeseen winter winds take up! You can have the trees on your property inspected and treated. You don’t want branches breaking through a window, your roof, or even damaging cars.

Weatherproof Windows

Most windows develop an air gap over a period of time – this can cause an energy loss in your bill for heating and cooling!

To update, remove any old caulking and use a caulk gun to apply a newer, smoother level. Check out this article for more information.

Schedule a Roof Inspection

Yes, this isn’t as simple of a DIY, but it can help in the long run. Checking for missing shingles, roof tiles, and damage to your roof can help prevent any possible leaks or other expensive repairs down the road.

While these are only three suggestions – they are important to maintain the health of your home. For more winter home maintenance suggestions, check out HouseBeautiful’s article here.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Holiday Gift Guide for Clients

Struggling with holiday gifts to send your clients? We’ve got you covered!

To inspire repeat clients and encourage referrals, it’s important that you continue building relationships with your past leads. What better way to inspire and encourage a continuing relationship, than to send out a little holiday gift?

*It’s important to note, however, that each state has its own regulations with what can be purchased as gifts for clients. Be sure to check with your state regulations.

You’ll want to make sure your gifts are thoughtful and personal – your previous (or current) clients will be able to tell the difference!

Holiday Card

Pick out a set of holiday cards and personally write your warm wishes inside for each of them. A handwritten note is a special touch, and really does go a long way!

Food / Drinks

Homemade cookies, a bottle of wine, or a sweet candy treat are all great options to send! Keep your client in mind, though – not everyone has the same tastes!

If you need more of a direction, local hits are always a great gift. If your state specializes in jam, wrap up the jar in a cute bow!

Plants / Décor Items

A lovely poinsettia (what better holiday plant?) or a unique vase / planters are great ways to spruce up your holiday gift giving. Another option – a holiday wreath to hang on their front door!

“Home for the Holidays” doormat or sign, or a cozy holiday candle are perfect staples as well.

The holidays are a perfect excuse to show your clients you care! A small gift can be a great reminder to use you again in the future, or to refer someone to you.

Check out more real estate tips and tricks – stop by Alliance Title’s Blog here.

Deck the Halls and Test Your DIY Homeowner Skills

Being a homeowner, you might already know the frustration of attempting a DIY home project yourself, rather than hiring a professional.

But – you’re not alone!

A new survey released from HireAHelper found that many homeowners would tackle a renovation first before hiring someone.

Which projects are homeowner most comfortable with, you ask?

86% of homeowners would rather assemble furniture themselves than hire a professional. The project homeowners are least comfortable with – installing a ceiling fan.

The second project homeowners feel confident tackling: unclogging a toilet. When it comes to generational groups, however, 1 in 4 Gen Zers would rather hire someone to unclog a toilet, than complete the task themselves.

Check out HireAHelper’s infographic below:

Infographic from HireAHelper

Want more real estate stats? Check out Alliance’s Blog here.