All posts by Frances


Giving Thanks in a Digital World

Halloween is over, and Thanksgiving is around the corner. That means it’s a perfect time to tell the people you appreciate the most those two simple words – thank you.

Gratitude is a powerful message to send your customers, co-workers, and friends to show how much they mean to you. Not only is it the right thing to do, but studies show that recognition can lead to more customer retention!

Here are four effective ways to be thankful:

  1. Write a physical thank you note. This timeless, yet nearly forgotten, art form has the bonus of being 100% customized per person. You’ll be remembered in 2021 if you take this route.
  2. Shoot a quick video. Everyone has the technology in their pocket to take a quick video to send to your customer to show some well-earned gratitude.
  3. Write on their wall. Find their social media profiles and send them a quick public message that tells them how appreciated they are. This has the added benefit of being easy to share on social media.
  4. Give thanks in your head. This one may seem to have no effect on your future business prospects, but evidence exists that merely thanking someone in your mind can bring you some of the mental benefits of gratitude, like increased happiness.

At FAN, we also want to give gratitude to every customer of ours for all that you do to make the FAN community what it is and to all those who have given us invaluable feedback on our newest programs, such as Remote Online Notarization, our Fan Agent One App, and Alanna – your new virtual assistant.

And, since we’re in the thanking mood, we have a special thank you to everyone that reads our blogs, too, so if you’re reading this message, simply put – thank YOU.

We’ve created a downloadable PDF version of our list of ways to show your gratitude.

 

 


Still Not Sure What Alanna Can Do for You??

At Florida Agency Network, we are always looking to improve communication between all parties during the closing process. Traditionally, this has been via phone or email, which limits the response time of receiving information and updates.

As a member of the Florida Agency Network, we are proud to announce our virtual closing assistant Alanna, which allows you to text or web chat questions and receive updates during the closing process.

Alanna is available 24/7 to answer all your closing-related questions such as:

  • When is my closing?
  • How can I get my deposit to you?
  • What do I need to bring to closing?
  • What’s the status of my file?

In need of a little laughter? You can even ask Alanna to tell you a joke!

Not sure how to get started with Alanna? As soon as your transaction starts, Alanna will reach out via text to give you an update. From there, ask any questions, day or night, to get immediate answers. If you accidentally delete the text message, visit any of our title brands’ homepages and start a web chat at the bottom right-hand corner to contact Alanna. Or, you can text Alanna directly at 813-710-4126.

 

 


The Buyer’s Closing Process as Told By The Office GIFs

You’re doing it. You’re buying a house! Since the process can be overwhelming and confusing, we’ve simplified it in the best way possible. What better way to explain each step than to use GIFs from one of our favorite TV shows, The Office?

1. The Contract is Signed & Sent to the Title Insurance Agency

via GIPHY Congrats on finding “The One!” At this point, your real estate agent has drafted your official contract, and the title insurance agency is starting the closing process. You’re on your way to owning a new home!  

2. Sending Your Earnest Money Deposit

via GIPHY Think of your earnest money deposit, or EMD, as a “good faith” deposit. It shows the listing agent and seller how serious you are about the home and getting the transaction closed. The dollar amount of your EMD is stated in your contract when it’s signed. Be sure to discuss what you’re comfortable putting upfront with your real estate agent. Depending on how much you agree on, it can seem like an expensive upfront cost. Your real estate agent is an expert and can advise you on the amount of money they think you should send. Take comfort in knowing the EMD will be held in your escrow account and used towards closing costs or the down payment.  

3. Your Title Search is Ordered

via GIFER Your title insurance agent will order a title search to ensure the title to your property is clear of any liens, back taxes, or other claims. To get a thorough search completed, ask your agent to request the title insurance company conduct a municipal lien search, permit search, and code enforcement search. With Florida Agency Network’s offices, we offer this to each buyer via the buyer’s agent.  

4. Time to Schedule Your Home and Pest Inspection

via GIPHY Shortly after your offer is accepted and sent in, your agent will discuss scheduling a home inspection. You’ll need to complete the home inspection quickly. Doing so will allow as much additional time possible for any follow-up inspection.  

5. The Title Commitment is Completed

via GIPHY

You’re one step closer to closing on your home! The title commitment tells a buyer they’re able to obtain a title insurance policy with that agent. The commitment contains the terms, conditions, and exclusions that will be in the owner’s title insurance policy.  

6. Appraisal is Completed

via GIPHY The home appraisal should come back at or above the contract price. The appraisal protects a buyer from paying more than the home is worth. If your home appraisal is lower than the purchase price, don’t worry! Discuss your options with your real estate agent.  

7. You Get the Clear to Close

via GIPHY You’ll begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel once you and your agent receive the clear to close. “Clear to Close” means the underwriter has signed-off on all documents and issued final approval on your closing.  

8. Your Closing Date is Scheduled

via GIPHY Once your closing date is scheduled, don’t forget to double-check for the required documents, identification, and time deadlines. The last thing you want is to forget to bring an item or sign an eDoc and have to reschedule your closing.  

9. It’s Time for a Final Walkthrough

via GIPHY The final walkthrough is your opportunity to do one last visual inspection to make sure everything is in order. At this point, your closing starts moving much faster, and the finish line is right ahead!  

10. Signing Your Closing Docs

via GIPHY We hope you’re ready to sign, sign, and sign some more! While it may be exhausting and overwhelming, don’t be afraid to pause and ask questions. At the closing table, your title closer and real estate agent are available to answer any questions you may have. Don’t forget, this is your moment, and you can go as quickly or slowly as you prefer. You’re allowed to get ice cream afterward, too!  

11. Receive Your Keys

via GIPHY You may or may not receive the keys to your new home at the closing table. In order to get those, the funds have to be wired to the seller. However, once they are received and confirmed, you have a new home!   You’re officially the owner of a new home, and we think that is Perfectenschlag!


Why You Need a Comprehensive Lien Search


 

You’ve just bought a house. You and your spouse are enjoying your new home, your new neighborhood, and your new back yard. In fact, you’re out back sipping coffee one morning when you open a letter from your city and find that you now owe $34,000 in code violations. The previous owner let the lawn grow too tall and didn’t fix it for months.

This sounds like a horror story, and it is! But, it’s also a true story! This is one of the many dangers in not getting a municipal lien search – an additional search that must be requested.

That’s why Florida Agency Network offers a wide variety of additional comprehensive searches that go above and beyond the typical lien and title searches required by law.

Here are some of our additional searches and the value they hold:

MUNICIPAL SEARCHES

This search allows us to find liens from the local city or town that may be placed for various reasons, such as unpaid taxes, water, or sewer charges. These can come back to the new owners, as the lien is on the property not the person who owned the property.

MERS

This is a national database that tracks mortgage servicers to ensure interests in loans for residential real estate. This ensures that the mortgages have been moved properly and your current servicer is the correct one.

PERMIT SEARCHES

When an owner has open or expired permits left on the home, they can cause trouble for the new owners – especially if they want to do some work that requires a permit. It’s important to get these items resolved before closing.

CODE & CODE ENFORCEMENT SEARCHES

Code violations are the responsibility of the homeowner, regardless of when the violation happened. This means tall grass, pest extermination, or other code violations can come back to cost the new owner.

These are just some of the ways that not doing a comprehensive search for your customers can come back and cost them. Your Florida Agency Network agency is ready to help! To share this information with others, we have a downloadable PDF.

 


Why Do You Need a Survey When Purchasing a Home?

Surveys, also called boundary or land surveys, map out your real estate property, show its boundary lines, improvements made to the property, and all access to the property.

FIVE GREAT REASONS TO PURCHASE A SURVEY

1.  UNDISCLOSED RIGHTS AND EASEMENTS
You may own your new home and its surrounding land, but someone else might have a right to use a portion of your property. A survey will show physical evidence of the rights of others to use your property for access, parking, utilities, and other situations.

2.  UNDISCOVERED ENCROACHMENTS
A survey may be the only way to tell if a third party holds a claim to part of your property because their improvements, such as a garage, fence, or swimming pool, are on your land.

3.  IS THE PROPERTY BUILT ON THE CORRECT LOT
It may seem impossible, but sometimes a house is built on the wrong lot. A survey provides peace of mind by showing the exact location of the house you are buying.

4.  KNOWING THE SIZE OF YOUR PROPERTY
A survey shows the exact dimensions of the property’s boundary lines and how much land is included within those lines.

5.  FUTURE ADDITIONS
Many residential plotted lots can have building restrictions, which could prohibit you from building close to the boundary lines. If you are thinking of building future additions on your property, a survey can help determine if the lot is right for both your current and future plans.

These are a few reasons why you should purchase a survey when making one of the largest investments in your life. We’ve created a downloadable PDF of this information for you to keep or share.

At Tampa Bay Title, we are always available to answer questions about your survey or your closing. Feel free to contact any of our offices with any further questions you may have.

 

 


Facebook Messenger Rooms Help You SELL Homes

screenshot of facebook messenger rooms

Facebook has introduced its newest feature, Messenger Rooms, to help people get together digitally while social distancing. While this feature is a great option to connect with friends and family during the COVID-19 pandemic, it also has the potential to help real estate professionals’ businesses – during and even after a pandemic.

How Do Facebook Messenger Rooms Work?

To get started on Messenger Rooms, create a room in the Messenger App or on your Facebook feed. You’re given a link to share with anyone you wish to invite into the room – even if they don’t have a Facebook account! Since Facebook is always improving its features, Rooms will soon be able to hold up to 50 people with no time limit. Each Room can be shared on your feed, in events, or with Facebook groups.

How Can Messenger Rooms Help SELL Homes

Showcasing a House to Potential Buyers

Creating a Messenger Room for showings cuts down the number of people going in and out of a home. Not only is this useful in preventing the spread of germs during a pandemic, but it also helps ease the concerns of sellers who are careful to prevent damage to their homes. Also, this is an excellent option for out-of-state buyers looking to see a home soon.

Hosting Virtual Meetings with Current and Potential Clients

We’ve learned connecting with people can be easier than we imagined. If you have clients out of your area or with a busy schedule, set up a Messenger Room and connect virtually!

Meeting With Other Real Estate Professionals

Beyond having virtual happy hours, you can utilize Messenger Rooms to meet one-on-one with other real estate professionals. Take your monthly conference calls and virtual meetings up a notch by creating a Room for your team. Then, invite everyone to your Facebook Room and network any time – day or night.

Conducting Exclusive Training

Want to hold an exclusive online training event? First, create a private Facebook event. Next, create a Messenger Room in that event. Those who have been invited to the group will be able to access your Room, and ta-da! You have your very own exclusive event in a matter of minutes!

 

With an estimated 2.6 billion users, Facebook is the largest social media network in the world. There’s a high probability that your current and potential clients, colleagues, friends, and family are Facebook users. As a real estate professional, take advantage of Facebook’s size and features for your business.

 

 


7 Ways to Utilize Video in Your Real Estate Marketing

As a real estate professional, you are the brand. Your top priority as an agent is to help customers buy and sell houses. However, you can’t do that if buyers and sellers don’t know who you are, what you do, or the value you bring to them. One of the best ways to build your brand and showcase your value is by utilizing videos in your marketing strategy.

Photo of a woman using a video camera

According to NAR’s Real Estate in a Digital Age 2019 Report, social media was the tool cited as the best source for generating high-quality leads among REALTORS ®. There are many ways to share content on social media, but social video generates 12 times more shares than text and images combined. As a real estate professional, creating videos beyond social media, such as adding videos to your listings, website, and, yes, a YouTube channel, can help build your brand and generate more leads.

Creating videos may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t know where to start, we’ve put together a list of video ideas to get you started.

#1 Tell Your Story

A great way to start with video content is by telling people your story. You can use the information that’s already in the about section of your website and turn it into a video. If you don’t have an about section to base your video on, here are topics to get you started:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How did you get started in real estate?
  3. What special certificates or designations have you earned?
  4. What’s your sales history like? Or, what are your specialties?
  5. Is there any professional information you can share?
  6. What type of hobbies or interests would you like others to know about you?

# 2 Show Off Your Listing

If you thought making videos for listings is something every listing agent must be doing, you’re wrong. According to NAR’s Generational Report, sellers reported that only 10% of their agents used video to market their property. By creating videos for your listings, you’re putting yourself ahead of the game.

You can create a walk-through video with full production teams or on your own! Grab your smartphone (or your real estate photographer), take some short videos and pictures of your listing, and then drop those into an Animoto project. With Animoto, you don’t need any video editing skills. All you need is your imagination and the listing information.

For other content ideas to showcase a listing, visit our blog on the different ways to market your listing.

#3 Introduce Your Team

Consumers want to work with people. You can create videos to share on multiple platforms that introduce your team. Your staff can introduce themselves, speak about the history of your brand, or make a video of fun facts about each team member.

#4 Talk About Industry Updates & News

A great way to give value to your clients and colleagues is by sharing videos with short industry updates. Is there a new trend in real estate? Have mortgage rates dropped? By creating this information, you bring helpful insights to your audience and position yourself as an insider and expert. Plus, because you are giving information to people and saving them time (from having to read lengthy articles or search for information), they’ll begin turning to you for future information.

#5 Educate Your Audience

After Google, Youtube is the second most visited website with more than 15% of its visits coming directly from a search engine. Many individuals are searching for how-to’s videos, DIY tutorials, or guides to help them solve a problem. Create videos to answer commonly asked questions or inform clients and colleagues of important information. You can create videos with information like “How to Save for Your First Home” or “How to Prepare for Moving Day.” Also, you can create a series of videos, for example, “Title Tips” or “Real Estate Reminders”, and release these videos daily, weekly, or at whichever interval works for you.

Another idea is sharing advice for fellow real estate agents. Maybe you’ve experienced situations other agents are experiencing (or will eventually) and can advise them on how you handled those circumstances.

#6 Collaborations

Collaborating with other industry professionals can help you grow professionally. By partnering with other professionals, creating the content doesn’t fall to just one person – both parties will bring ideas and value to the table. You’ll get a different perspective out to your clients while bringing them valuable information.

For example, is there an inspector you can team up to discuss their role in the closing process? How about a title agent who can explain the importance of a title search? These are just some of the ways you can create content, bring value to your audience, and grow within the real estate community.

#7 Testimonials

Sharing reviews from previous clients can prove to future clients you’re as good as you say. Reuse the reviews you have on your website already and create videos from those. Why not ask past and present clients to share a quick video of their experience?

When it comes to creating videos for your brand, you must start somewhere – then grow from there. Although having a production company is nice when creating videos, you don’t necessarily need one. Look at all the different video examples other real estate professionals or brands are creating.

 


4 Content Ideas for Marketing Your Real Estate Listing

As a listing agent, sellers depend on your knowledge and expertise to sell their homes as quickly as possible. Since some listings are easier than others to market, we’ve put together 4 ideas every real estate professional can use when selling a house.

1. Lights, Camera, Action!

If you aren’t using video in your listing marketing strategy, you’re missing out. According to Biteable, real estate listings with video receive 403% more inquiries than those without video. Including a walk-through video gives potential buyers a better idea of the home’s layout and helps them imagine living in that home.

Utilizing videos on different platforms, not just in your listing or on your website, can help expand your listing’s marketing strategy.

female-blogger-recording-video-outdoors

 Creating video content for social media attracts even more potential buyers to your listings. There are many different ways to utilize video. One of those ways is by showing off the home’s community. Is there a park? Did a new restaurant open nearby? Is there a festival or farmer’s market in the vicinity? Think of the different features potential buyers might want to see near the property. Does the home offer a beautiful sunrise/sunset view? Are there customized features in the house? You can show potential buyers all of these special differentiators through videos.

Creating videos doesn’t have to be complicated. We highly encourage hiring a videographer to help create an impressive walk-through video for your listings. However, hiring a professional isn’t always in the budget. There are multiple apps you can use to help create videos. For example, Animoto and Powtoons offer video templates, stock videos/photos, and animations for users to utilize in making customized videos.

2. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Poor listing photos reduces the chances of selling a listing quickly. The longer a home sits on the market, the more likely you’ll have an unhappy seller and lose out on future business.

Again, we suggest hiring a professional to take listing photos. Professional photographers have a large collection of equipment and know the best ways to capture a home’s beauty. However, if you don’t have photography expenses in the budget or would prefer to master listing photography yourself, you have options. With a few keywords in a Google search, anyone can find all sorts of information on real estate photography tips and tricks. And, if you’re in a time crunch or don’t feel like learning Photoshop, you can find apps on your phone like Snapseed or Pixlr to edit all your photos.

3. Show the Data

Create infographics, videos, or pictures with market data and neighborhood statistics that correlate with your listing(s). Sharing this information helps educate potential buyers and make you the neighborhood expert. Sharing market data brings valuable insights to both sellers and buyers and empowers them to make wise investment decisions.

neighborhood pic example4. Discover the Neighborhood!

Another great way to boost traffic to your listing is by showcasing the neighborhood! Is your listing in a dog-friendly area? Does it have a high walkability score? Share that information with a video or picture of the surrounding as you’re walking through the area or visiting the dog-friendly establishments. Do you have a listing perfect for a foodie? Or, in the perfect school district? Create content promoting that information.

You can take it one step further by writing blogs about these property benefits to feature on your website. Doing so helps boost credibility with clients and fellow real estate professionals.

 

 

 


New Decade, New Decor – 5 Home Decor Trends to Try in 2020

As stay-at-home orders begin, #QuarantineLife can get mundane and make anyone stir-crazy. In honor of National Decorating Month, we thought it would be a good idea to help you dress up your home! We’ve put together a list of decorating trends to incorporate around the house, bring back joy, and start enjoying your time at home.

Check out 5 of our favorite 2020 decorating trend predictions:

#1 Vintage Accents

Maybe it’s time to throw a little “Granny Chic” into the decor mix? A new decorating style popular with “Grandmillennials” (it’s a thing), the Granny Chic trend mixes the nostalgia of vintage decor like chintzes, scallops, needlework, and everything your grandmother loved with today’s clean, contemporary designs.

Or, if you’d prefer to shy away from a vintage explosion, try mixing a few old pieces with the new. It can make your space feel less big-box-decorating and more customized.

#2 Bold Colors

monochromatic blue room

This decorating trend is not for the faint at heart. It takes a confident person to embrace Pantone’s 2020 color of the year as the driving force in a design concept. However, we love bold colors, and we encourage you to incorporate them into your decor!

Go for a monochromatic color scheme in your space, slap a bold color on your kitchen cabinets, or go crazy with bolder colors in your guest bathroom. These colors are the perfect way to let your personality shine.

#3 Rattan and Wicker Furniture

Rattan and wicker have a special place in our hearts and bring back memories of growing up. (Are you sensing a theme here?) When done correctly, wicker and rattan can bring natural color and texture into a room, making it warm and inviting.

#4 Non-Granite Countertops

While granite is always a beautiful option for your countertops, why not be unique and try something different like a faux marble or even butcher block? Both are stunning alternatives and have minimal upkeep.

#5 Antique Art

antique art

Repurposing art (and any other home decor items) makes us feel less wasteful, and we’d like to think it helps the environment. Another selling point of antique art is the history and stories that come along with it. You can relish in the uniqueness of antique art.

As you can see, 2020 is about making your space feel customized and unique to you. Since you’ll spend much of your time at home, what better time than now to give it a facelift? It’s up to you whether you go all out with your decor choices or simply incorporate a few new ideas.

As always, we urge you to prioritize your safety when deciding what to use when redecorating your space. Shop online, select pick-up options when available, wash your hand often, and make wise choices. If you choose to get started on your new decor, feel free to tag us in your social posts. We’d love to see what new design trends you’re bringing to your home for 2020!


What Every REALTOR Should Know about Title Insurance

woman-wearing-white-top-holding-smartphone-and-tablet-864994

Every real estate agent understands that buying a home is overwhelming for many clients. There’s a mountain of paperwork to sign and different fees associated with the closing process. All of these things can confuse even an experienced buyer.

Title insurance, or an owner’s title policy, is often misunderstood by home buyers at closing. Buyers, especially first-time home buyers, look to real estate professionals as experts in the industry. It’s important to be the advisor to your clients and help them understand the value of an owner’s title policy and the risks that can arise without it.

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance, or an owner’s title policy, is a policy that protects the home buyers’ property rights. For the same reasons that the bank requires a lender’s insurance policy, a home buyer obtains an owner’s title policy to protect their legal rights to the property.

How Does It Protect Your Client?

Here’s an example: Your client purchased a new home from a builder, but the builder failed to pay the roofing company. That roofing company wants to get paid, so it files a lien against the property. Without an owner’s title policy, your client is responsible for paying that debt. This is just one example of how an owner’s title policy protects a home buyer from a variety of significant risks, such as unknown heirs, illegal deeds, forged documents, and much more. With an owner’s title policy, a buyer’s property rights are protected while they own the property.

The Value of Title Insurance

The good news is that an owner’s title policy financially protects home buyers for as long as they own the home. For Florida buyers, the price of an owner’s title policy depends on the sales price of the home. Florida’s promulgated rate is $5.75 per thousand, up to $100,000, and $5.00 per thousand thereafter, up to $1 million.

The party that pays for the owner’s title insurance policy varies from state to state. In Florida, the seller typically picks and pays for the owner’s title policy. However, that can change depending on which county/area the property is located.

Fees can add up during the closing process, but this one-time fee gives home buyers peace of mind. After all, the home may be new to your buyer, but every property has a history.

How Title Insurance is Regulated

Each state regulates its title insurance costs, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulates closing and settlement services to protect consumers from unfair practices. Established in 2011, the CFPB educates consumers about making smart financial decisions and holds companies accountable for any abusive or discriminatory procedures.

 

Title insurance can be confusing and seem like “just another expense” during the closing process. But, what’s the price of your buyer’s peace of mind? As a real estate professional, educating yourself and your clients on title insurance, the protections it provides, and the risks of going without it is vital.