Title Insurers’ Crazy 2020 Year

It should come as no surprise to escrow and title officers – 2020 was an incredibly busy time for the title industry.

According to a recent report from the American Land Title Association, title insurers wrote $19.2 billion in premiums. That’s nearly a 22% increase from $15.8 billion in 2019. They do, however, predict that 2021 will slow down due to low inventory.

ALTA Chief Executive, Diane Tomb, explains, “Do not expect the same level of refinance activity this year, even though the residential purchase market appears to be holding steady as the calendar approaches to May. The true test of whether 2020 volume represents a unique event will be whether the historically low inventory of homes for sale continues into the summer.”

It seems, so far, that 2021 is still a bit hectic for buyers, sellers, agents, and lenders. The hope was that low inventory would work its way back to higher levels before the summer, but builders are still struggling to keep up with demand.

For more real estate and title news, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

Homeowner 101: How to Cut on Utility Costs

Want to be the best homeowner possible, but don’t know where to start?

Let’s take a look at your utility costs – how much are you spending? There’s always wiggle room to make adjustments in your day-to-day life to save money.

If you want to be a smart homeowner and cut down on utility costs, check out some of our tips below:

Thermostat

The tricky thermostat!
If you set your thermostat at a specific temperature and never touch it, you could be wasting a lot of money year over year.

Instead of leaving the thermostat alone for extended hours/days at a time, try to set your thermostat 5-8 degrees higher in the summer and 10-15 degrees lower in the winter, when your home will be empty for 8 hours or longer. When you get home, set the thermostat back to where you like it. This little maneuver could save you 5-15% on your yearly energy costs!

Also, it’s important to keep your heating and air conditioning unit running at its best by changing the filters regularly.

Appliances

Don’t run appliances (dishwasher, clothes dryer) during the day! If you can, run these appliances later in the evening, or before bedtime. Utility companies usually charge more for energy that’s being used during peak times – i.e., during the day.

When you run your clothes washer, be sure to use the cold water setting. Almost 90% of the energy your washing machine uses is for heating the water. Yikes!

For dishwasher tricks, try using the energy-saving cycle (if you have that option). You could also try the “air-dry/no-heat” feature, or prop the door open for air drying.

Lighting

Think about using LED lightbulbs to save money. These bulbs use less energy and last longer than other bulbs – about 80% less power and 42 times longer!

Being the best homeowner takes research, care, and experience! For more real estate tips and homeowner guides, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog!

Stop! When’s Closing Time?

Semisonic’s song, “Closing Time,” might come to mind when you are itching to close on your first-ever home and become an official homeowner:

“Closing time, open all the doors and let you out into the world”

Except – when exactly is “closing time” for the real estate world? How long can you expect your closing to take?

According to an origination report from ICE Mortgage Technology, the average time to close all transaction types averaged 58 days in December, which is an increase of 10 days when compared to the same month a year ago.

The average time to close a refinance held at 59 days month over month, and the average time to close purchase increased from 56 days in December to 57 days in January.

For more, stop by ALTA’s News Archive, here.

Check out Alliance’s Blog to further your current real estate knowledge. 

Title Technology in the Pandemic Age

COVID has increased the urgency of title companies needing digital tools to provide safe transactions for clients. As we’ve seen, technology doesn’t seem to be a problem, but rather – integration.

Volume on Notarizing platforms have increased 600% since April – but many real estate experts in the field believe there is still a long way for full digital adoption.

Tyler Thompson, Second Century Ventures and REACH Managing Partner, explains, “We need better integration from real estate, mortgage to title; remote online notarization is a huge part of that.”

For many in the title industry world, the need for highlighting and focusing on the consumer is something the industry should dedicate towards. Clients need a more streamlined process to secure their real estate goals.

The future is bright – and it looks like the push towards full integration is on everyone’s horizon.

For more real estate and title news, 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: Financial Planning

As a guru of the real estate world, clients will look to you for help and advice when it comes to financing a home.

While you aren’t a financial advisor, you can certainly guide them through the home buying process, and showcase different options that are available to them. You might even be able to refer them to a lender or brokerage.

Here are some of the things you can do to help:

Ask Questions

You’ll want to get a good idea of where your clients want to be in the future. Getting to know why they want to purchase a home, the type of home they’re looking for, and what they’ve done financially to prepare for this next step can be beneficial in your guidance.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What areas have you looked at to purchase a home?
    • Different locations can mean different options for loans.
  • How long do you see yourself staying in this home?
    • Depending on how long they see themselves living there, can greatly affect the type of loan they choose. A 15-year mortgage might make more sense than a 30-year mortgage.

Preparation

After you get a better idea of where your clients stand, you’ll want to connect them with a lender or mortgage broker.

Let them know they’ll need to prepare documents ahead of a meeting with a lender:

  • Clear idea of how much money they can put down for the down payment
  • No surprises on any existing debt – the more upfront they are, the better
  • Most recent pay stub
  • W-2s from the past two years
  • Mortgage statements for any other properties they own

Once your client has decided to go with a specific lender, it’ll be the lender’s duty to guide your clients financially.

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

Employee Spotlight – Tiffini Woolley

Let’s give a round of applause for our newest employee spotlight, Tiffini Woolley!

Tiffini is an Escrow Officer for our Emmett, Idaho office. Tiffini is responsible for open orders, to funding and recording, and everything in between. Having been with us for the past two years, Tiffini is a wonderful asset to have on our team and on your transaction! For the past two years, Tiffini has enjoyed how much she’s learned and the relationships she’s had the opportunity to create with customers and clients.

When she thinks of someone she admires, she thinks of Emmett’s Vice President and General Manager, Marilyn Knighton. Tiffini explains, “I admire Marilyn for her wealth of knowledge in this industry and her dedication and work ethic that is always above and beyond. To learn from her has been a true blessing.”

Of the Alliance Core Values, “Integrity” is Tiffini’s favorite. She explains, “This core value is such a driving factor not only in my work life, but in my personal life as well. Honesty, accountability, reliability, and respect are the driving attributes to integrity, and I believe that with those come unconditional trust that generates genuine and consistent relationships inside and outside of work.”

When she’s not working in the office, Tiffini loves to adventure in the outdoors with family – whether that’s swimming, fishing, riding dirt bikes, paddle boarding, camping, gardening, or bike riding.

Tiffini’s favorite quote, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals,” is her daily mantra. She illustrates further, “Because achievement, even without an award, drives self-growth. I believe that self-growth is very important in making life-changing steps to a positive and successful life.”

Now that you’ve gotten to know Tiffini a little more, give a shout out to Alliance Title’s Emmett branch and write them in on your next transaction! Tiffini looks forward to helping make your home closing a simple and smooth experience.

Tiffini Woolley – Escrow Officer for Alliance Title’s Emmett Branch
1312 S Washington Ave., Ste. F, 84617
208.365.4486
tiffini.woolley@alliancetitle.com

Alliance Title COVID 19 Signing Procedures

*update 7.21.2020*
Ada County has been moved back to Phase 3 due to COVID-19. Our signing procedures are current and listed below.

We remain committed to providing a consistent level of service while supporting the health and safety of our customers and employees. 

For our clients:

If you answer “yes” to any of the 3 questions below, then the signing appointment will need to be postponed until appropriate quarantine timeframes have been met, or another means of signing is established.

  1. Have you or household family members returned from international travel within the last 14 days or from an area identified as a “hot spot” within the USA? Check out the hot spots here.
  2. Have you or household family members had close contact with or cared for someone diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days?
  3. Have you or household family members experienced any cold or flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days (fever, cough, sore throat, respiratory illness, difficulty breathing)?

If you answer “no” to all 3 questions, then we can proceed with a signing appointment. To comply with safety recommendations, along with any state requirements relating to the COVID-19 virus pandemic, we must enforce social distancing policies for all signing appointments, until further notice.

In-Branch Signing Procedures (by appointment only):

Please take a moment to review our COVID-19 ‘by appointment only’ In-Branch Signing Procedures, which will allow us to continue to provide closings in a safe manner for our staff and clients while being in compliance with current social distancing requirements. 

Preparing for your appointment:

  1. Bring a photocopy or email photo of the front and back of your identification card
  2. A new pen will be provided for you.
  3. Have a cell phone with you and make sure your Escrow Officer knows the number.
  4. Only those individuals required to sign documents will be allowed at the appointment.

Signing-appointment procedure:

  1. When you arrive, remain in your vehicle and call us to check in.  The check in phone number will be provided prior to arrival.
  2. When your signing area is sanitized and available, we will call or text you and meet you at the door to verify your identity

You will be directed to a signing area where you will find the following:
Documents to be signed,
Flash drive/envelope containing copies of documents for your records,
An unused pen.

Someone from our Escrow staff will be available to answer questions about the documents while maintaining CDC-recommended social distancing procedures.

Other Potential Options for Signing Appointments:

If you answer “no” to all 3 questions related to COVID-19 listed above and are in a position to proceed with a signing appointment but are not comfortable coming into our branch to sign, please reach out to the branch to discuss other potential signing options.  Please note: options will vary based on location.

Remote Online Notary (RON)

We are able to offer Remote Online Notary for certain types of transactions.  Inquire with your branch to see if using a Remote Online Notary is an option available for your signing. 

Mobile Notary

Please talk with your escrow officer to check availability and options for mobile notaries in your area.

We value your business and endeavor to provide exceptional customer service.  During this time we will be balancing service with efficiency and limited contact.  We appreciate your grace as we navigate through this difficult time.  Thank you for placing your trust in us.

Looking Ahead: Digital Closings

  • While 80% of consumers would still prefer to close in person, 70% of consumers would like a more updated digital process when it comes to closing on a home. * Solidifi

Below is a snap shot of states that have Remote Online Notary legislation (as of October 2019)

*Map provided by ALTA

For more information on digital closings and remote online notarization visit: ALTA Digital Closings.

Alliance Title & Escrow Corp. will keep you informed as more updates become available.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Social Media Guide

Blogs and experts throw it at you all the time: social media is king!  As an example, take a look at all of the articles we’ve posted for you on the subject!

But, social media only helps you so much – if you’re not engaging with your audience, then it is almost like your social media doesn’t even exist. While it’s important to receive likes, comments, and shares, it’s also important that you reciprocate and do the same.

For 2020, set a goal to create and sustain better social media engagement! Here are some quick tips to help plan you year:

Schedule the Time

To boost your business on social media, you’ll have to treat the time you spend on apps as though you’re on the clock. Set and schedule time each day to craft and post genuine responses.

If someone has left a comment on your post, respond! If someone has messaged you with a question or a comment, respond! If you see something you like that a fellow real estate agent has posted, reply or even share it to your own page!

Get Creative

Social media allows you to have fun and be creative – so why not use those filters, gifs, or stickers?

Instagram is a great social media platform to inspire creativity! They have “poll” features that can allow your followers to ask questions (i.e., “how are mortgage rates looking these days?”), you can go live when at an open house, or you can post a countdown to your Stories!

Don’t Always Promote Your Brand

Audiences will grow tired if you’re constantly advertising yourself to be their next real estate agent. You have to show them the why – and the best way to do that, is to show them who you are.

How can you do this?

Think about posting:

  • Behind-the-scenes (i.e., setting up an open house, grabbing lunch at a new restaurant, networking events)
  • A hobby you enjoy participating in (hiking, painting, cooking, etc.)
  • Your family, friends, or your cute doggy!

Engage, Engage, Engage

Don’t forget – the best way to improve your business social media game is to ENGAGE.

  • Comment on posts
  • Reply to comments / questions
  • Participate in conversations
  • Share articles / posts that are relevant to your market

Another tidbit to not forget: social media is FUN, so don’t forget to enjoy it too.

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