Tools and apps to help you stay connected with clients.

As technology continues to become more portable and easier to use, there are a lot of practical applications for a variety of new ways to communicate and keep your day organized. This is a huge benefit, especially for real estate professionals by allowing a much more effective way to stay in touch with their clients and keep track of and allow the scheduling of more appointments.

One – stop communication

One of the biggest communication tools out there right now is Slack, which many business and corporations have switched over to for team and internal communications; as it allows for users to communicate and keep all communication in one place, rather than spreading the information across several channels like email, texts, and phone calls. Agents may also want to communicate with clients through a tool like slack, as it ensures that all information communicated is in one, easy to access place.

Tracking appointments

While slack offers an amazing avenue to keep track off all communication, other tools are needed to keep track of meetings and appointments. For this a tool such as Evernote or OmniFocus, which allow users to set reminders and keep all appointments and meetings in one app/tool that is easy to use. Once in the habit of entering this information on a regular basis, these tools become indispensable for agents.

Many of these apps/tools, including Evernote, will allow agents to digitize documents they may encounter during the sale process. Others, like HelloSign even allows the ability to electronically sign documents and integrates with Evernote to provide synergy and an overall ease of use.

Automation

In every business automation can help achieve various business goals with more ease, if it is done correctly. According to Adwerx if automation is done correctly it can quickly pay off for agents very quickly. Automation could be in the form of workflows to ensure agents see emails and communication, or automated reminders and marketing emails, but either will allow agents to be more focused on their customers.

In general, it is always a great idea for agents to keep their eyes out for new apps and tools that may help streamline business and daily meetings/tasks. Fortunately, more apps, software, and tools continue to be developed all the time, so there is always a strong option to help automate and streamline appointments and communication with customers.

Changes to Facebook Ad Targeting: How does it affect Real Estate Agents

Changes to Facebook Ad Targeting

A larger number or real estate agents have utilized Facebook as part of their day to day marketing over the past several years. This has been due to the ability to reach a target audience very easily through their ad targeting.

However, a recent announcement about Facebook ad targeting being discriminatory has changed the way their ad targeting will work for housing, employment, and credit ads.

Why the change?

The first part of this which is important to understand is why this change is happening. For several years Facebook has been fighting accusations and lawsuits regarding discrimination being enabled through their ad targeting. The most recent of these was an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleging that Facebook allowed job ads to discriminate against women.

Due to this, Facebook has made an agreement to build a designated portal for advertisers to create housing, employment, and credit ads; which will not allow the ability to target users by age, gender, zip code, or other categories covered by anti-discrimination law. Additionally, they will also build a tool for anyone to view any housing ad anywhere in the US, regardless of who is targeted for or where they live. Other ad changes will include:

  • Anyone who wants to run housing, employment or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code.
  • Advertisers offering housing, employment and credit opportunities will have a much smaller set of targeting categories to use in their campaigns overall. …
  • We’re building a tool so you can search for and view all current housing ads in the US targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you.

How this affects Real Estate Agents

This means that agents will need to deal with broader targeting for ads. Instead of being able to target specific zip codes, an area with a radius of at least 15 miles from the center of a city or any address will need to be selected.

Facebook HEC ads will also no longer be able to specify targets based on the following discriminatory characteristics:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Family status
  • Disability
  • Multicultural affinity
  • Sexual orientation

Lookalike Audience Tool

The Lookalike Audience tool will also not allow you to consider any of the characteristics or targeting tactics that have been excluded. All of these changes will be reflected in the new portal Facebook is creating, which will ensure the new limits are applied to Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger ads.

What can you do?

The first thing that can be done is to increase your ads. If you are concerned about losing exposure with these changes, there are 3 ways you can increase your ads to draw more attention.

  • Use Video: Most marketing experts back video as the most compelling content out there. In fact, videos shared on social media get 1200% more views than the combined efforts of text and images.
  • Get Shared: Strong content that provides value or interest will help you get more shares and visibility. To make the most use of your ads/posts make sure they trigger emotion, offer valuable advice, and contain an engaging headline to attract attention.
  • Try New Tools: Use Local Expert to target in-market buyers with ads on realtor.com. You can then re-target the same buyers on their Facebook news feed.

Shopping for a New Home: Choosing the right kitchen

Choosing the best kitchen layout.

Modern Kitchen

While many don’t realize it, the importance of selecting a new home with the “right” kitchen could be the key to finding the perfect home. The kitchen is the heart of the home and is meant to inspire and encourage meal preparation. The right kitchen layout also influences what you eat, when you eat, and how often you prepare meals in your home rather than getting takeout.

The type or basic layout of the kitchen will also depend on the type of home that is being looked at. Some smaller homes may just have one-wall or galley style kitchen, while larger homes may feature an L-shape, U-shape, or peninsula kitchen. All of these have their own strengths, just depending on how often the kitchen is being utilized. (If you do have a smaller kitchen and need to maximize space, be sure to check out this wonderful article on Architectural Digest about optimizing space in a smaller kitchen.)

Determining which kitchen layout will work for you all depends on how often meals are prepared at home, how much storage room is needed, how much space is needed for appliances, and how much food is kept on hand on a regular basis.

In the process of choosing the “right” kitchen, one thing is certain; evaluating which kitchen style and layout will work best for your family is an incredibly important consideration. Selecting a layout that makes it easy to prepare more meals at home will protect the family budget, which can help build an emergency fund, or it could turn your dream vacation into a reality.

For a more in depth look at popular kitchen layouts, as well as some great advice on choosing the best kitchen layout for your needs be sure to check out this post from realtor.com.

The Importance of Avoiding Cyber Scams

Why it is important to Avoid Cyber Scams

The effects of a cyber scam can be far-reaching. If someone falls victim to a cyber scam, it can result in identity theft, loss of savings, and an increase in debt.

Phishing is one of the most common cyber scams. It occurs when someone receives an email containing malware. When the attachment is opened or the hyperlink clicked, malware is installed. Think twice before clicking on attachments and links.

Phishing can also be a gateway for a social engineering criminal to gain confidential information. In extreme cases, this has led to large sums of money being quickly transferred from the victim’s account into offshore accounts. Since real estate transactions involve large sums of money, the industry has been targeted by thieves, these scams are on the rise, and the Federal Trade Commission has taken notice.

The FTC says “If you’re buying a home and get an e-mail with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information, and your real estate professional or title company should know that.”

  • Never email your financial information. Email is not considered secure.
  • For any financial information you provide over the web, check that the site is secure. The URL would begin with “https”
  • Do not click on a link in an email to go to an organization’s site. Instead, look up the real URL and type into the address field yourself.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails.
  • Make sure your operating system, browser and security software are up to date.

If you have been the victim of a phishing scam, you can file a report with the FTC: www.ftc.gov/complaint

The importance of Title Insurance when buying a home

Title Insurance when buying a home

Buying a house is an exciting time and the more you know about the process, the more relaxed you’ll be going through it. The American Land Title Association (ALTA) partnered with the Designing Spaces television series on Lifetime to explain to home buyers the closing process and the importance of purchasing an owner’s title insurance policy.

The segment does a great job explaining how the work by title insurance professionals provides consumers peace of mind when purchasing a home.

 

About Arizona Property Taxes

Arizona Property taxes are levied twice a year for 1/2 year periods and paid in arrears.

1st Half Jan-Jun taxes: due October 1st of that same year
2nd Half Jul-Dec taxes: due March 1st of the following year.

Bills for the current year’s taxes are mailed in September and include 2 coupons for each half of the year. When there is a mortgage loan on the property the tax bill is mailed to the lender as these taxes make up part of the monthly payment.
Property taxes are prorated at closing for taxes accrued but not yet due and payable, based on the yearly tax amount and the closing date.

For cash transactions Escrow will pay the full year’s tax, if closing date occurs after tax bill information is available.

Informational PDF: AZ Property Tax Collection

 

About the new Loan Estimate form

The new Loan Estimate is one of two forms required by the CFPB and will be used for impacted loans originated on or after October 3rd 2015. This form is provided to consumers by the lender within three days in the loan application. It replaces early Truth In Lending statement and the Good Faith Estimate and provides a summary of key loan terms, an estimate of the loan costs, and closing costs. The intent of this form is to promote easy comparison shopping.

CFPB Overview #1

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act commonly known as RESPA governs the mortgage and residential real estate closing industry. It is intended to prevent kickbacks & unnecessary costs.  In addition it gives consumers buyers and sellers full disclosure of the costs for a transaction it was originally enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Truth in Lending Act known as TILA governs all types of credit and lending industries. It requires the disclosure of credit terms, costs of credit, calculations, and a projected payment schedule. It was originally enforced by the Federal Reserve Board.

Congress passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (commonly known as Dodd-Frank) which went into effect July 2010. The law created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB, and moved enforcement of RESPA to this new Bureau. The law also mandated that the two sets of disclosures be combined into one Integrated Disclosure.

TRID= TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures.

REALTOR Webcast about the coming Integrated Disclosure changes

“REALTOR® Magazine presented a live webcast on July 16, 2015, to help real estate professionals understand the changes to the closing process that are scheduled to go into effect later this year. The program featured attorney Phil Schulman, a partner with K&L Gates and former official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development who specializes in federal closing rules, and NAR Senior Counsel Finley Maxson.

As part of the changes, which stem from the merger of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), two new forms—the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure—will replace the HUD-1 settlement form and the Good Faith Estimate. Samples of the new forms are available from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

 

 

 

Why Do I Need Title Insurance?

Title insurance protects against problems affecting the title to a home, which is likely a families most valuable asset. Homebuyers are protected from ownership issues by purchasing an Owner’s Policy of title insurance (for a full list of policies and comparisons- click here), which ensures that the title to their property is clear of liens or encumbrances, such as unpaid mortgages, property taxes or child support liens, to name just a few.

The American Land Title Association created this short video to explain the importance of title insurance.

https://youtu.be/t36BZG1VXRg

Changes Coming August 1st 2015!

You may have heard about the Final Integrated Mortgage Disclosures Rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was tasked with combining the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) disclosures. Below is a short video describing some of the impact these changes will have on your real estate transactions beginning August 1st 2015.

Email Encryption Guide

The FTC’s Safeguards Rule, enacted under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, requires financial institutions to implement reasonable policies and procedures to ensure the security and confidentiality of sensitive non-public customer information (NPI). In addition we must encrypt certain documents containing NPI in accordance with CFPB compliance requirements and ALTA Best Practices requirements.

When you receive an encrypted email, you will need to create an account in order to open the email. No matter which email you use; be it web based like Gmail/Yahoo or POP3 like Outlook, the procedure for setting up the account is the same once you have received the initial email. (For this example I set
up a sample Gmail account to show the steps). You will initially receive 2 emails, the notification to create an account and a notification of the encrypted message.If you have not registered yet, you will be prompted to create an account and choose a password with McAfee. A guide to assist you is posted below.
(Email Encryption Guide and FAQ)

What Every Realtor Should Know About Title Insurance

Make sure your clients are protected!

The process of buying a home is complicated. Consumers can become confused and frustrated with the mounds of paperwork and documents to sign. Fees show up at closing that can sometimes surprise the buyer.

Title insurance is one of those charges little understood by home buyers, who often see it as just another fee they have to pay to buy a home. As an important advisor to your clients, you can help them understand the value that title insurance provides, and the dangers that can be incurred without it.

Title insurance protects against problems affecting the title to a home, which is likely your client’s most valuable asset. Home buyers are protected from ownership issues by purchasing an Owner’s Policy of title insurance (for a full list of policies and comparisons- click here), which ensures that the title to their property is clear of liens or encumbrances, such as unpaid mortgages, property taxes or child support liens, to name a few. Additionally, title professionals will look for anything that could limit the use of the property such as utility easements. When a title professional finds an issue, they work to resolve it– typically without you even knowing about it.

The majority of the one-time fee paid for an Owner’s Policy covers the cost for professionals with local expertise to discover, identify and repair issues caused by title issues that occurred in the past. Because of these preventive measures, title insurance is fundamentally different from other forms of insurance, which charge annual premiums to provide insurance protection for future events. This also means that title insurance has lower loss rates than other forms of insurance. In title insurance, a claim is serious, and a loss means your client’s home ownership is threatened. Low loss rates are good for consumers. The curative work performed by title agents (to contact your TSA title department click here) minimizes the fear, disruption and distress that title claims have on homeowners. An Owner’s Policy provides protection for as long as they or their heirs own the property. Having an Owner’s Policy means that the cost of defense and legal fees are paid by the title insurer for the homeowner.

Here’s an example of how an Owner’s Policy can protect a homeowner. Say your client recently purchased a new home from a builder. Unfortunately, the builder failed to pay the roofer. Wanting to be paid, the roofer filed a lien against the property. Without a title search alerting your client to this lien, and an Owner’s Policy protecting them, your client would become responsible for paying this debt—meaning they’d be paying the roofer instead of purchasing new living room furniture.

When purchasing real estate, consumers are free to select their own title professional or company. You can also make a recommendation or encourage consumers to ask friends and neighbors if they were happy with the title company they worked with and get a referral. Also suggest to your clients that they utilize a company that is part of its state’s title association or the American Land Title Association. If they are members, they are likely keeping abreast of state and federal trends and requirements.

Title insurance rates are regulated by state insurance departments. In addition, title insurance companies are regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Keep in mind that title insurance industry practices vary due to differences in state laws and local real estate customs. Who pays for the Owner’s Policy varies from state to state and sometimes even within a state.

Together, Realtors, land title insurance professionals and other stakeholders involved in the real estate transaction can protect consumers and provide them with a better experience to the real estate closing process.

For more information about title insurance your clients can go to our website at www.titlesecurity.com or www.homeclosing101.org.

The Cost of Title Insurance Is Worth the Investment!

The Cost of Title Insurance IS Worth the Investment ~ Food for Thought

Fewer claims do not equate with a policy’s value

Whenever there’s an article in the news about title insurance, all too frequently there is criticism about the cost. This perception occurs because there are fewer claims with title insurance compared to other forms of insurance. The higher percentage of claims an insurance company pays should not be equated with the value and cost of the policy. This is especially true with title insurance.

Most types of insurance cover incidents that may occur in the future, which is the case with health, life, auto and homeowner’s insurance. The cost of these policies is based on the insurers’ estimation of how much they will likely pay out in claims over a given period, plus administrative costs and a reasonable profit. The volume of claims is typically high with these types of insurance.
Free Photos I love my home
Title insurance, on the other hand, is based on loss prevention, which means that a much larger percentage of the premium dollar is spent preventing title problems from occurring. These upfront costs cover searching, identifying and eliminating risks that could result in a future claim.

A typical title search involves searching the public records, including visits to the offices of recorders or registers of deeds, clerks of courts and other officials, and the company’s own title plant. Title professionals look for such things as second or third mortgages, judgments, liens, street and sewer system assessments, special taxes and levies, and numerous other matters. No other line of insurance does this level of due diligence before issuing a policy.

Over the long term, title insurers pay fewer claims than other insurers, but their operating expenses are much higher because of these upfront costs. To compare, operating expenses for property and casualty companies, which issue auto and homeowners insurance, is less than 30 percent of revenues. The expense ratio for title insurers averages 90 percent.

Another reason some mistakenly believe that title insurance costs are high is because they don’t fully understand its value. Title insurance protects the single largest financial investment most people make. One out of every four residential real estate transactions has an issue with the title, which is usually resolved by title professionals before the buyer closes.

When there is a claim, it is often due to a title defect that was undetected during the title search. The most common problems resulting in title claims are the result of fraud and forgery. And, when there is a loss, it is usually significant—sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance, which can be obtained in addition to a Loan Policy, remains in effect for as long as the policyholder (or their heirs) owns the property that is insured. A claim could actually be filed 50 or 100 years after the policy was issued. And, an Owner’s Policy covers legal expenses involved in defending the title on behalf of the homeowner.

The cost for title insurance is a one-time fee, as opposed to other lines of insurance that charge a monthly, quarterly or annual premium over the life of the policy. When you consider the size of the asset being protected, title insurance is probably the best value among the majority of costs associated with closing on a new home.

The American Land Title Association helps educate consumers about title insurance so that they can better understand their choices and make informed decisions. Homebuyers, regulators and legislators are encouraged to check out the website, www.homeclosing101.org, to learn more about title insurance and the closing process.

Escrow Tip: Transaction Dates and Terms

When it comes to dates and terms of an escrow transaction, it is common to misunderstand the terms used when discussing the steps in an escrow. The escrow closing occurs between the time a seller accepts the purchase agreement and the buyer gets the keys to the new home. Such terms as the date of signing, funding, closing of escrow, recording, and disbursement are often used throughout the process of an escrow transaction. Below are the terms and their intended meanings.

Signing is the date all parties sign all of the documents. Generally, the Sellers and Buyers sign at different times, so more than one signing date may apply.

Funding is the date the lender sends loan proceeds to escrow or when the Buyers deliver good funds if they are paying cash for the transaction.

Closing of escrow (often abbreviated as COE) is the date agreed to in the written contract between the Seller and Buyer or any extension or amendments made thereafter.

Recording is the date a transaction is recorded with the county to transfer the real property from the Sellers to the Buyers. The deed is recorded along with any deed of trust or lien placed on the property, for the benefit of the lender which has loaned money to the Buyer for the purchase of the property.

Disbursement of funds occurs once all necessary documents have been recorded.

Many times several of the dates occur in quick succession of each other. If the Buyers are being financed by a lender, escrow will receive the loan documents, arrange for the parties to come in and sign all closing and loan documents, submit the signed documents to the lender for approval, receive the funds, obtain funding approval from the lender to record, and disburse the funds to the Seller and any other parties to be paid. The ultimate goal is for the closing to occur within the time period set and agreed to by the contract entered into by the Buyer and Seller. Contact your Escrow Officer at Title Security Agency for assistance in determining the process for your particular transaction. You can find a list and their contact information by clicking the following link: Escrow Directory

Escrow Tip: Opening Escrow – Upfront Information

Opening Escrow – Upfront Information

Good customer service is the lifeblood of our industry. Good customer service is reflected in the number of repeat customers a company has. The essence of all good customer service is to form relationships with customers and to be effective in communicating and receiving information to and from everyone involved. Here at Title Security Agency we strive to have great relationships with our customers, both new and repeating!

We have found that we are able to offer exceptional customer service more readily if we have as much information about the customer up front upon opening of a transaction. The more information we get up front, all the better! In our business we are often dealing with people and entities, some of whom may have the same last names. Having our customers supply us with the full legal name and marital status of the parties is very helpful. When dealing with a seller that is an entity, the full legal name of the entity along with the type of entity and where it may be filed or incorporated is a great deal of help. When researching a property our company uses the parties information to conduct the most thorough search and to both eliminate and incorporate requirements in our title commitments. The more information we have relative to the entities or persons, the greater accuracy there will be in the title commitments that are issued and the subsequent documents that all parties prepare for the closing of the transaction.

Including the email addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers for all parties to the transaction affords everyone involved in the transaction the benefit of prompt communication. Prompt communication during a real estate transaction is essential, one can never have too many means by which to reach the parties.

Any time you execute a contract check it over and see if your contract contains:

  1. Full names of parties/entities – including marital status or entity information;
  2. Email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses of all parties to the contract;
  3. Legible information – whenever possible please print or if available use a computer and type in all information.

Escrow Tip: International Funds

International Funds

When dealing with an international customer, they should consult with their Title Security Agency escrow officer as to the acceptance of funds via personal check or outgoing wire procedures due to our NEW company policy.

Incoming wires are always accepted, this NEW Title Security Agency policy is only involving outgoing wires, and incoming personal checks, cashier’s checks & money orders – that are subject to clearing by the international bank and can take up to 8 weeks for clearing

Escrow Tip: Why does my refinance need Title Insurance

Why does my refinance need Title Insurance?

When you refinance, you still keep your Owner’s Policy from your purchase, but Lenders will require a new title search and Loan Policy to protect their lien holder position in the property.

Even if your home was recently purchased, there are still issues that could arise with the title due to mechanics liens, unpaid judgments, or tax liens. Perhaps easements have recently been created. All of these items may affect the use of the property, or otherwise “encumber” the title.

Whether you are purchasing a new or existing home, or refinancing, title insurance provides an underwriting service to mortgage lenders to ensure the borrower has clear ownership rights to the property, free and clear of any other claims to ownership. Strong underwriting protects consumers, and title insurance fulfills a key part of this due diligence.

Title Security Agency of Arizona is here to assist you and your lender whenever title insurance is needed.

Escrow Tip: What information is found in the Title Commitment?

What information is found in the Title Commitment?

Upon opening escrow and the completion of the title search, you will receive a Commitment for Title Insurance, and copies of those matters as disclosed in Schedule B Section 2-Exceptions
(NOTE: If you do not receive these documents with the Commitment for Title Insurance, request them from your Escrow Officer).

The Commitment for Title Insurance has three schedules: Schedule A and Schedule B Section 1-Requirements and Schedule B Section 2-Exceptions. Below is a brief description of some of the matters reflected in the referenced schedules.

Schedule A

  • Effective Date of Commitment. (The date through which the records of the County Recorder have been searched.)
  • Proposed Owners Policy to be issued, the amount of coverage (sales price) and the proposed insured (Buyer).
  •  Proposed Loan Policy (if applicable) to be issued, the amount of coverage (loan amount) and the proposed insured (Lender).
  •  Type of Interest to be insured in subject property (In most cases this will be Fee).
  •  Legal Description of the property to be insured.

 

Schedule B Section 1-Requirements

  •  Payment of delinquent real and personal property taxes, if any.
  •  Payment of Homeowners Association transfer fees and charges.
  •  Payoff and recordation of a release of any loans, judgments and/or liens affecting title to the subject property.
  •  Recordation of a release of any previously paid liens that have not yet been released of record.
  •  Recordation of corrective documents as may be determined through the examination of the title.
  •  Request for authority documents of a legal entity that may be involved in the transaction (i.e corporate resolution, LLC operating agreement, trust agreement).
  •  Recordation of document(s) transferring title to buyer. (Deed)
  •  Recordation of lenders security document. (Deed of Trust)

Schedule B Section 2-Exceptions
The matters reflected in this section affect the title to the real property. You will take title “Subject To”  these matters of record (i.e. easements, right of ways, covenants, conditions and restrictions, homeowners association, taxing districts, well agreements, road maintenance agreements).

You should review these documents with your real estate agent and/or legal advisor.