Proposed TREC Changes to Contract Require Earnest Money to Be Delivered in 3 Days

With a list of proposed TREC contract changes up for discussion, have you ever wondered how TREC decides when to change the promulgated forms? Typically, the forms are revised every other year following the Texas Legislative Session. TREC’s Broker Lawyer Committee meets first, and their proposed changes are discussed at the August TREC Commission meeting. If the commission approves the proposed changes, they are posted to the Texas Register and open for public comment – this is where we stand now.

If you are a Texas Realtor, now is your opportunity to have a voice in the process. The Broker-Lawyer Committee depends on your comments to assist them in their decisions regarding form additions and changes. This year there are several important changes to the contract forms and some new addendums for you to consider.

One of the most significant changes to the contract forms, including the One to Four Family Contract, is a requirement by TREC that the earnest money is deposited with the escrow agent within three days. Currently, the rule reads “The earnest money must be deposited by the close of business of the second working day after execution of the contract by the principals.” At the meeting on August 7th, one of TREC’s commissioners expressed concern that this change could be problematic since the new language refers to calendar days, not business days. Title companies are closed on weekends and national holidays. If you have a contract that is executed on a Thursday evening, the deadline for the earnest money deposit will be Sunday at midnight. That gives the Realtor one day on Friday to get the earnest money to the title company. This scenario is compounded when there’s a holiday adjacent to a weekend (e.g. Labor Day Monday) when title companies are likely to be closed for three calendar days in a row. This provision will likely require the most significant adjustments in day-to-day business practices of all the changes being considered.

Other notable changes under consideration include: creating separate receipt sections for the contract, earnest money and any additional earnest money; changes to the language regarding termination in paragraph 6D (One to Four Family); and changes to paragraph 20 (One to Four Family) regarding FIRPTA. The supporting documents for the August 7th TREC Commission meeting included marked-up versions of the contract forms, and they can be viewed HERE.

TREC is also considering adding two new addendums to its library of available forms. Realtors will probably be most excited about the Addendum Concerning the Right to Terminate due to Lender’s Appraisal. The other new addendum that may be added is the Addendum for Authorizing Hydrostatic Testing.

Independence Title offers a solution, should the 3-day rule earnest money deadline be approved. We are able to accept earnest money electronically through the Zoccam app using the camera on your or your buyer’s smart phone. If you need instructions on how to download and use Zoccam, you can find a step-by-step guide on our website. If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact your Independence Title business development representative.

The Broker Lawyer Committee would like your feedback about these or other changes and additions under consideration. You may submit your comments and/or concerns via email to general.counsel@trec.texas.gov on or before Monday, September 25, 2017.

New Statistics Tools for Austin!

Does the word “statistics” intimidate you? Not only is it a hard word to say, but statistics themselves can often be confusing. As you know, in the world of real estate it’s important to differentiate yourself from the competition, and market statistics could very well be the factor that separates you from the rest. That’s why we at Independence Title are very excited to offer you two new statistics tools!

Our first tool is a new class called Stats in a Flash. In this class, we’ll take the dread out of statistics and have you creating your own custom stats in no time. We’ll define common terminology and show you where to locate statistics, how to create your own, and when to use them in your business. If you want to take your marketing to the next level, or if you just need data to support your negotiations, this class is for you!

The next tool is our new MLS Statistics module, now available for members of the Austin MLS. Our new stats feature a wealth of information on specific zip codes and MLS areas for Central Texas to both increase your expertise in your market and help you and your clients make better home-buying and home-selling decisions. You can find average and median prices, appreciation over time, months of inventory, days on market, sales and new listings by price range, and much, much more. This is a password-protected site (a requirement of our data license agreement with the board). Agents will get an updated password monthly from their business development rep.

You can use the menu to search by individual months or specific zip codes and MLS areas, or just click on “Full Reports” to view and/or download full monthly reports by zip code or MLS area. At the bottom of each PDF, there are buttons to quickly email, print, or download. (Because we may only offer these statistics to members of the Austin MLS, we are unable to provide a link to share on social media.) The full report by MLS area features heat maps showing the hottest areas by growing numbers of sales, median price appreciation, and inventory.

We’re so thrilled to be able to offer these resources to you! If you are interested in our class, Stats in a Flash, contact your Independence Title Business Development Rep or check out our Upcoming Events. And watch your email for a link and password to our new online stats module!

The State of the Austin Luxury Market

The Austin real estate market has exploded in recent years, and the luxury market has been no exception. In times of economic trouble, home sales plummet and our industry takes a major hit. However, the luxury home market is usually the last sector of housing to feel the effects of a downturn and the first to recover when things start improving. Austin’s luxury market has been no exception. After years of booming population growth and rising home prices, how is the Austin luxury market doing now?

Defining Luxury

What do we mean when we say “luxury,” in terms of the real estate market? There’s no universal standard or checklist. If I could invent one, it would definitely require items like:
• 20-foot-high security wall with minor celebrities serving as armed guards
• Marble from the dismantled monuments of past monarchies
• Diamond-encrusted bidet (squirting Evian water only, of course)
• Enough square footage that you never have to see your own family

Unfortunately, I don’t get to invent the criteria for luxury real estate, so I’ll have to rely on the wisdom of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, founded in 2003 by one of my real estate heroes, Laurie Moore-Moore.  For the Institute’s members to be able to earn the prestigious Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist designation, they must show (among other things) that they sell in the top 10% pricing of their local market or above $500,000, whichever is greater. This makes a lot of sense—it “flattens” the country’s various markets by creating a standard threshold that allows us to compare them. A million-dollar home in Manhattan means something very different than a million-dollar home in Westlake, after all.

The Luxury Standard in Austin

Using the top 10% rule, here’s the minimum price a home in Austin would need to sell for over the last five years to be considered “luxury” by this standard.

Year Greater Austin* Austin Only**

*All areas covered by ABOR’s MLS

**Austin, Bee Cave, Lakeway, Rollingwood, The Hills, Volente, and West Lake Hills

How is the Luxury Market in Austin?

For this section, we’ll stick with Austin only in our figures since it’s hard to define a true luxury market using the entire greater Austin area.

The average days on market in 2012 for luxury homes was 83, which then fell to 71 in 2013 and 63 in 2014. Since then, however, they’ve taken significantly longer on average to sell. 2015 was 74 days on market (a 17% increase) and then up to 78 days in 2016 (a 5% increase). Here in 2017, things have gotten a little better and we’re down to 76 average days on market so far, but this statistic doesn’t carry a lot of weight. We haven’t had to go through the winter yet, which will probably drag the days on market back up. We won’t know for sure until next year, but for now, at least, it’s safe to say we’re no worse off than in 2016.

Why are luxury homes staying on the market longer in recent years? There are a variety of factors that may be playing into it. One obvious answer is the price increase—Austin has seen incredible increases in average and median sales prices year-over-year for the last five years. It’s often better to look at the median sales price increase in order to avoid the up-and-down swings that can come from averages, but even the median has increased at least 6% a year since 2012.

Year Median Price YOY Increase

Note: This summarizes for Austin Only as defined above, all price ranges.

As the upper 10% of the market moves higher and higher along with the rest of the market, fewer buyers are able to afford them and the homes sit on the market for longer. There has also been an increase in luxury inventory, which increases competition. 2016 saw on average about a 14% increase in luxury listings over 2015. Other factors can be theorized but not easily proven. Some possibilities include market saturation (the net migration of wealthy residents has slowed down somewhat), unrealistic expectations (sellers of luxury homes believe their homes will sell for more than they will or are willing to wait longer for a better offer), or buyers’ fear of an overvalued market (thinking that Austin may have topped out or is in a bubble and luxury buyers may not get a return on their investment). This list is by no means exhaustive.

We also have to account for the limitations of MLS data—many luxury homes are sold off-market (so-called “pocket listings”), often to protect the privacy of their sellers. My rough estimate is that somewhere around 5% of million-dollar homes sold since 2016 were sold outside of the MLS. That’s not an insignificant number, especially considering that pocket listings may be listed at above-average prices even by luxury standards.

The Million-Dollar Standard

Do you think the 10% standard is far too generous?  This section is for you.

Here I’ll compare nothing but million-dollar homes and we’ll widen the area to all of the greater Austin MLS. Though it makes apples-to-apples comparisons a bit more difficult (a million dollars today buys less home than it did in 2012), it does help show what’s happening at a certain level of luxury. By this standard, things are going very well for central Texas. Below is a chart showing how many $1,000,000+ homes have sold per year over the last five years. The redder column shows 2016’s total in the same range as 2017 so far (January – July) so you can see just how much these sales are up since last year.

That’s a 34% increase over 2016 so far this year, which is exceeded only by the incredible leap we had back in 2013 (a 51% increase in sales from 2012). For days on market, the story is the same as the top 10%–homes simply aren’t selling as quickly. 2014 was the fastest selling at an average of 87 days, then shot up to 100 days for 2015 and 2016, and is now at about 97 days for 2017 so far. However, this is still much better than the years 2008 – 2012 when the average days on market for million-dollar homes was almost always in the neighborhood of 135 days.

The average price of a million-dollar home has also increased since last year, meaning we’re seeing higher prices in general but also more $2,000,000 and above homes. We’ve already sold 108 2M+ homes just through July in 2017, compared to 116 of those sales in ALL of 2016, and we’re well on track to shatter the last record of 128 2M+ sales set in 2015. Move the threshold up to 3,000,000 and we’ve already had 37 sales, one ahead of the record of 36 3M+ sales set in 2015…and we’ve still got five months left to go.

Are luxury agents lowering their prices to get these homes to sell faster? The data says no, at least not very often. The close-to-list-price ratio for million-dollar homes has been hovering around 95% since 2013 and is currently up to 96% in 2017 so far, so most listings are getting close to what they asked for (always a sign of a robust market).

Conclusion

Austin’s luxury market is strong—prices keep going up, homes are selling for close to what they list for, and more mega-luxury homes are selling than ever before. The only caveat is homes are taking longer to sell, but for the patient luxury agent, the payday will still be just as good when their homes finally close.

The Importance of Online Reviews


What makes online reviews a powerful tool for lead generating?  They help consumers evaluate an agent’s honesty, reputation, and knowledge.  When choosing a real estate agent, consumers consider these four things:

  • The reputation of the agent

  • If the agent is honest and trustworthy

  • If the agent is a friend of family member

  • The agent’s knowledge of the neighborhood 

Now let’s look at your online presence, do you address these concerns?  Think about it, in this day and age, if a consumer is referred to you by someone else, even though they trust that referral source, more than likely, they will still “google” you.  If I searched for you online, what would I find?  Would I see your reputation from reviews of your past service?  Would I be able to see that you’re honest and trustworthy because a past client raved about you in a review?  What about your expertise?  Would I be able to tell that you are a well-informed agent from looking at you online?  Also, did you know you may already have reviews on Yelp and not know it??

If you answered any of those questions with a shrug or a question mark, you aren’t alone.  In fact, many agents are very hesitant to ask for reviews in fear of what people will say or how it will affect their online presence.  If this is how you feel, the Independence Title Education Team has a great class that will help get you comfortable, Boost Your Credibility with Online Reviews.  In this class, we not only go over the different platforms where you can receive reviews, we go over strategies on how to ask for reviews, responding to reviews and even how to handle any negative reviews.  Contact your local Business Development rep to attend an upcoming class.

Utilizing a CRM for Your Business

The top two sources of business for Realtors are referrals and past clients.  With that being said, our question to you:  How are you keeping up with your past clients??  Many real estate agents still use Excel spreadsheets or a simple contact manager (like the one in Outlook or Gmail) to manage their database of past clients, because they think of their database is just a list of names and numbers.  What they don’t realize is that they are missing out on the power of automating the processes and developing and maintaining relationships with the people in their database!  Having a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a way to keep up with your past contacts.  It’s an organized way to document activity with each client so you can easily follow up with them and build relationships.

In our class, CRM 101, we discuss the basics of a CRM, the types of information you should gather as well as the value a CRM process can add to your business.  A common question the Independence Title Education team gets is: “Which CRM is the best?”  While we can’t give a solid recommendation on just one because it truly does depend on the type of business you have, we have put together our “Top 8” below from our research.

A CRM is something that takes time.  Unfortunately, time is something a lot of us don’t have.  The good news is that selecting a CRM platform which suits your individual needs is probably the most time-consuming part of the process!

Still need help deciding?  Thanks to EasyAgentPro, we found this nifty little tool to help you decide.  Take this short quiz and it’ll point you in the right direction.  Also, Three Questions to Ask Before Selecting your CRM.

There are so many ways a CRM system can help you manage your database.  The key to getting the most out of a CRM is to be disciplined about using it.  Every time you speak with a contact, enter notes about what you discussed and schedule your next contact.  Every time you generate a lead, assign them to a follow-up plan.  Over time, you’ll find that your relationships are stronger, your pipeline is fuller, and your business is growing and changing.

(A lot of this research was taken from the Facebook group Lab Coat Agents, if you don’t follow, you should!  It’s a great place to get tips, tricks and insight from agents across the globe.)

What Is CodeNEXT?

Have you heard of CodeNEXT yet?  If not, this is a topic that could have an impact on the real estate market and you will want to gain knowledge on the topic.  CodeNEXT is the new City of Austin plan to update the current Land Development Code.  The land code consists of how a piece of land can be used, including what can be built, where it can be built and how improvements can or cannot be built in the city.  Mayor Steve Adler says “The CodeNEXT process will help us manage our explosive growth while preserving what makes Austin special. We have to act and need to begin now – and this map is where we start.”

The current Land Development Code was created in the 1980s and is somewhat difficult to decipher.  In 2009 Austinites began to rethink the current code and what works for our growing and ever changing city.   Since then the City of Austin has been working on proposing the new Land Development Code.  The CodeNEXT initial draft release happened on February 1, 2017.  The City is now in the process of several open house events and hopes to finalize CodeNEXT early 2018.

If you are interested in more information on CodeNEXT click here.

 

*Information for this post gathered from The City of Austin and The Austin Chronicle

[DFW] Spring into Education! New Classes Available.

The Independence Title Education Team has been working hard on developing new and improved classes for you!  See a list below of all the brand new classes we are offering this Spring.  Please also check out our menus for all classes offered by the Education Team.  To schedule one of these great classes in your office, contact your local business development representative.  You may also join us at any of our public classes.

  • Power of Personality – Every buyer, seller, and Realtor have a different and distinct personality. In this class, we will walk you through how to determine a person’s personality style. You will discover how to assess different personality types and ultimately learn to communicate with and market to all types of people effectively.
  • Facebook for Real Estate – New to Facebook or struggling with managing it? Join us to learn the difference between a personal profile and business page; learn tips and tricks on managing the two separately or just utilizing your personal profile. We will talk about controlling privacy settings, sharing engaging content, empowering your brand, and truly connecting with current and prospective clients.
  • Facebook: Beyond the Basics – What is your main goal for Facebook? Get leads? Market your listings? Engage with clients? If you answered yes to those questions and already know the basics of Facebook, then this class is for you! In this hour, you will learn how to set up Facebook Ads, understand the importance of a landing page, use Facebook live to increase exposure on certain topics, and learn tips and tricks that will help you engage with your Facebook community.
  • Instagram: Beyond the Basics – Due to Instagram’s visual nature, more and more Realtors are using it to build and promote their real estate brand. In this advanced class, we will discuss recent updates and new tools such as Instagram Live. We will identify a target audience and unveil clever ways to engage with them. We will also go over hashtags and real estate branding tips. Lastly, we will look at ways to connect with your followers and promote your listings via Instagram Ads.
  • Principles of a Smart Transaction – This class highlights the major benchmarks in a real estate transaction. Starting with helpful things to collect at a listing appointment, to reviewing commonly overlooked sections of the contract, breaking down the basics of understanding a title commitment, and concluding with other contract to close tips. This course is just what any agent needs to execute a smart transaction.
  • Real Estate in a Snap – Most Realtors have heard of Snapchat; however, many aren’t aware that it has higher engagement than any social network on the planet! Snapchat’s instant, visual nature allows Realtors to send content to potential clients and customers in a fast, fun, and creative way. In this class, we’ll start with the basics of Snapchat, then teach you how to engage and interact with your followers in an authentic way
  • Translating Transaction Desk – Do you ever feel like implementing new technology into your business is like learning a foreign language? Well, leave it to us to translate Transaction Desk for you. This class will cover all the dierent aspects of Instanet Transaction Desk. You will learn how to use the platform as a one-stop-shop for managing documents and transactions.

[SAN ANTONIO] Spring into Education! New Classes Available.

The Independence Title Education Team has been working hard on developing new and improved classes for you!  See a list below of all the brand new classes we are offering this Spring.  Please also check out our menus for all classes offered by the Education Team.  To schedule one of these great classes in your office, contact your local business development representative.  You may also join us at any of our public classes.

  • Power of Personality – Every buyer, seller, and Realtor have a different and distinct personality. In this class, we will walk you through how to determine a person’s personality style. You will discover how to assess different personality types and ultimately learn to communicate with and market to all types of people effectively.
  • Facebook for Real Estate – New to Facebook or struggling with managing it? Join us to learn the difference between a personal profile and business page; learn tips and tricks on managing the two separately or just utilizing your personal profile. We will talk about controlling privacy settings, sharing engaging content, empowering your brand, and truly connecting with current and prospective clients.
  • Facebook: Beyond the Basics – What is your main goal for Facebook? Get leads? Market your listings? Engage with clients? If you answered yes to those questions and already know the basics of Facebook, then this class is for you! In this hour, you will learn how to set up Facebook Ads, understand the importance of a landing page, use Facebook live to increase exposure on certain topics, and learn tips and tricks that will help you engage with your Facebook community.
  • Instagram: Beyond the Basics – Due to Instagram’s visual nature, more and more Realtors are using it to build and promote their real estate brand. In this advanced class, we will discuss recent updates and new tools such as Instagram Live. We will identify a target audience and unveil clever ways to engage with them. We will also go over hashtags and real estate branding tips. Lastly, we will look at ways to connect with your followers and promote your listings via Instagram Ads.
  • Principles of a Smart Transaction – This class highlights the major benchmarks in a real estate transaction. Starting with helpful things to collect at a listing appointment, to reviewing commonly overlooked sections of the contract, breaking down the basics of understanding a title commitment, and concluding with other contract to close tips. This course is just what any agent needs to execute a smart transaction.
  • Real Estate in a Snap – Most Realtors have heard of Snapchat; however, many aren’t aware that it has higher engagement than any social network on the planet! Snapchat’s instant, visual nature allows Realtors to send content to potential clients and customers in a fast, fun, and creative way. In this class, we’ll start with the basics of Snapchat, then teach you how to engage and interact with your followers in an authentic way.

[AUSTIN] Spring into Education! New Classes Available.

The Independence Title Education Team has been working hard on developing new and improved classes for you!  See a list below of all the brand new classes we are offering this Spring.  Please also check out our menus for all classes offered by the Education Team.  To schedule one of these great classes in your office, contact your local business development representative.  You may also join us at any of our public classes.

  • Power of Personality – Every buyer, seller, and Realtor have a different and distinct personality. In this class, we will walk you through how to determine a person’s personality style. You will discover how to assess different personality types and ultimately learn to communicate with and market to all types of people effectively.
  • Facebook for Real Estate – New to Facebook or struggling with managing it? Join us to learn the difference between a personal profile and business page; learn tips and tricks on managing the two separately or just utilizing your personal profile. We will talk about controlling privacy settings, sharing engaging content, empowering your brand, and truly connecting with current and prospective clients.
  • Facebook: Beyond the Basics – What is your main goal for Facebook? Get leads? Market your listings? Engage with clients? If you answered yes to those questions and already know the basics of Facebook, then this class is for you! In this hour, you will learn how to set up Facebook Ads, understand the importance of a landing page, use Facebook live to increase exposure on certain topics, and learn tips and tricks that will help you engage with your Facebook community.
  • Instagram: Beyond the Basics – Due to Instagram’s visual nature, more and more Realtors are using it to build and promote their real estate brand. In this advanced class, we will discuss recent updates and new tools such as Instagram Live. We will identify a target audience and unveil clever ways to engage with them. We will also go over hashtags and real estate branding tips. Lastly, we will look at ways to connect with your followers and promote your listings via Instagram Ads.
  • ITC University – ITC University is designed to provide essential knowledge to a brand new assistant, closing coordinator, or newly licensed agent. The group will meet on Wednesdays from 10-3 for 4 weeks. We will define basic real estate terminology and lingo, learn those perplexing acronyms everyone uses, and study commonly used TAR forms. We will touch on all the major software platforms including, Zipform Plus, DocuSign, Matrix, Realist, and Supra. We will also explain and examine the Title Commitment, Closing forms, and a Contract to Close Checklist. Our University will have you or your team proficient by the end of the 4-week course.
  • Principles of a Smart Transaction – This class highlights the major benchmarks in a real estate transaction. Starting with helpful things to collect at a listing appointment, to reviewing commonly overlooked sections of the contract, breaking down the basics of understanding a title commitment, and concluding with other contract to close tips. This course is just what any agent needs to execute a smart transaction.
  • Real Estate in a Snap – Most Realtors have heard of Snapchat; however, many aren’t aware that it has higher engagement than any social network on the planet! Snapchat’s instant, visual nature allows Realtors to send content to potential clients and customers in a fast, fun, and creative way. In this class, we’ll start with the basics of Snapchat, then teach you how to engage and interact with your followers in an authentic way
  • Time-Saving Tips for Realtors Do you wish your days could be more productive? Do you feel overwhelmed when trying to complete daily tasks? In this class, we will look at a day in the life of a Realtor and give you some “life hacks for real estate”. You will also learn ways to make your business more productive, more effi’cient, and hopefully more fun!
  • Translating Transaction Desk – Do you ever feel like implementing new technology into your business is like learning a foreign language? Well, leave it to us to translate Transaction Desk for you. This class will cover all the dierent aspects of Instanet Transaction Desk. You will learn how to use the platform as a one-stop-shop for managing documents and transactions.
  • Matrix on the Go with goMLS – The goMLS Austin mobile application not only lets you search the MLS and access showing instructions on the go, it allows ABOR members and their customers to work together and remotely share information throughout the home buying and selling process. In this class, you will learn different features of the app such as automatic agent branding, accessing MLS data, and sharing information on listings with clients via your cell phone!

Protect Your Money, and Your Dreams!

Are you dreaming of buying your first home? Or maybe you are dreaming of selling your current house so you can move to your dream home, or realize some other life goal? Look out, because there are well-organized criminals intent on making that dream impossible for you. They insinuate themselves into your real estate transaction and turn it upside down, often by means of a simple email. These people are cybercriminals committing wire fraud, a virtual mugging when you move your money in a real estate transaction by wire transfer.

Cybercriminals hack into email accounts and send false wiring instructions, and before you know it, your money is headed to the wrong bank, many times out of state and even in another country.

In an article from the Chicago Tribune, several scenarios of wire fraud are mentioned involving hundreds of thousands of consumer dollars. This article was written in March of 2016, and since then the attempts of wire fraud have increased exponentially. The perpetrators are becoming craftier and more sophisticated each day, able to mimic the tone and content of a legitimate communication between you and your Realtor, bank, or title company.

You may be asking yourself, “How do I protect my dream?” At Independence Title, we have initiated several procedures to protect against wire fraud. Our closing teams have been thoroughly trained on what to look for and how to guard against these egregious attempts to hijack real estate transactions. Here are some things that you can do to protect yourself:

Buyers Should Verify Wiring Instructions Via Phone: To ensure you have the correct wiring instructions when you are sending money to Independence Title, please call our branch office using the phone numbers found on our website: www.independencetitle.com. Do this every time you wire funds, even if emailed instructions seem to come from a well-known and trusted source.
Sellers Should Bring Wiring Instructions to The Closing: When we are sending money to you, please bring your wiring instructions to our office in person. If you decide to change your instructions from what you have first provided, expect us to request that you appear in person at our office to sign off on the change.
Buyers & Sellers Should Change Your Email Passwords Frequently: Increasing your email security is a great way to help prevent wire fraud. Please change your email passwords frequently and if your platform offers two-step authentication, be sure and take advantage of this security feature.

Again, when working with Independence Title on a real estate transaction, you’re protected by encrypted email systems and well-trained employees, but your best protection is to verify information about money transfers strictly by telephone, using a confirmed phone number, or in person. We look forward to working together with you to protect your money, your investment goals, and your dreams!

Utilizing the Stats Tab in Matrix

Do you love the monthly statistics Independence Title sends out but are constantly wishing you could have more narrow, specific statistics to use in your personal marketing?  Maybe you want to show a Seller the average list price compared to the average sales price specifically in his subdivision?  Or maybe you want to go even further and narrow down that statistic to his subdivision AND homes with a pool?!

A popular question the Independence Title Education Team gets is about generating customized statistics.  The most common thought is that agents don’t have access and they must get it from us.  Did you know you can run a very specific, targeted statistic right in your very own Matrix account?

Below, we’ve put together a quick video walking you through how to pull targeted stats in Matrix.  We’ve also listed out step by step instructions as well.  This is a great tool to utilize for listing appointments, newsletters, farming, etc.  Go ahead, get creative!  Want some help brainstorming?  Call your local business development rep, we love that kind of stuff!

Here are the step by step instructions on how to pull customized stats in Matrix:

  • Click the STATS tab at the top of your Matrix homepage
  • Select the CUSTOMIZE tab on the left
  • Select the time frame you want to view
  • Select the first statistic you would like
  • Optional:  Click on Advanced Options at the bottom
  • Select the optional secondary statistic you would like
  • Select how you want the statistics grouped (See screen shot below for example.)
  • In the middle of the page enter the criteria you are searching.  (You can add additional fields at the bottom to find anything (similar to a search on Matrix — OR you can do a map search and draw a polygon.  You would click on the bolded MAP SEARCH at the top of the search page. )
  • Hit GENERATE on the left once you’ve put in all your criteria
  • You can view by chart or data (tabs at the top right of the chart)
  • VOILA!

Introducing A New Member to the Education Team!

Spring is in full bloom here in Texas, as is the real estate market!  Our Education Team is busy educating Realtors on the most important information and topics in the industry.  The demand for our classes has prompted the expansion of our team.  We are excited to announce our new trainer, Kaitlyn Mandry, who be training in the DFW market.

Kaitlyn Mandry has a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Development. Her expertise in adult learning and curriculum development will help our education team continually improve their creation of engaging content for our clients. Kaitlyn is passionate about people and training facilitation, so her transition into the world of real estate was a natural fit.

New Document Upload in Matrix

lifetime (1)Do you have questions about the new Document Upload in Matrix??  You’re not alone! The good news is, the Education Team at Independence Title is here to help you with the New Transaction Desk System. The document upload portion of the program is the only piece that you are required to use so we want to make sure you are an expert on uploading your documents. We put together this short demonstration video below that should help answer your questions.  Keep in mind, we also have a 1hr. CE course titled Translating Transaction Desk if you want to go beyond the simple document upload.

 

Tax Deduction Cheat Sheet for Real Estate Agents


&It’s that dreaded time of year….  Tax Season.  As a real estate agent, it can get a little confusing as to what you can and can’t write off as a deduction.  We found this list posted on one of our favorite websites,  lightersideofrealestate.com, and wanted to share.  (If you are ever having a bad day or just need some humor in your life, this is your site!)  Remember, we aren’t tax accountants and you should call your accountant with any questions to this list.  Just think of this as a cheat sheet to at least get you started…

Realtor Tax Tips (2016 Tax Year)

RealtorTaxTips2016_Page_2

Other Helpful Links:
Tax Topics – Itemized Deductions
Internal Revenue Service

*NOTE, as stated by accountant Fred Podris in the original document: “Please note that there are certain rules that need to be taken into account in order to legally write off some of these expenses.”  Please contact your tax accountant for more information.

Translating Transaction Desk

Transaction desk (1)If you’ve tried to upload documents to your listings in MLS in the past week, you’ve probably noticed a big change.  If you haven’t tried yet, get ready – it is now a completely different process.  The Austin Board of Realtors recently announced the release of an all-inclusive transaction management system called Transaction Desk available for all members.  Realtors in the DFW area have had access to Transaction Desk (labeled Instanet) through NTREIS system since October.

You’re probably thinking:  What exactly is it??  This system not only replaces the way you upload documents to your listings in the MLS, it also allows you to write up contracts and send out for signatures inside the program as well.  Essentially, this could replace the use of ZipForms and Docusign if you desire.

Screenshot 2017-02-08 14.36.25TransactionDesk by Instanet Solutions, is now live in ABOR’s Matrix and NTREIS Matrix for you to use and best of all? It’s FREE.  (If you pay your dues, of course.)

Our education department knows learning a new program can seem like learning a foreign language.  Therefore, our instructors have put together an informative hands-on class that is now available for scheduling in your office.  All you need to do is reach out to your local business development rep or shoot us an email and we’ll get you scheduled!

Also, we’ve put together a few YouTube videos on the most frequently used functions of the program.  Check out our YouTube page here.

3 Key Elements to the Over 65 Property Tax Exemption

Over 65 Property Tax Exemption (6)One of our favorite classes to present is Property Tax Chat. It’s not the most exhilarating topic on the Independence Title class menu. However, agents end up enjoying it and walk away with the valuable knowledge to add to their arsenal of information. In our class, the exemption that gets the most attention is the over 65 exemption.

There are three key elements to this exemption:
1. A reduction in value before the various rates are applied
2. Quarterly tax payments accepted
3. The Independent School District (ISD) tax amount is frozen

With the first element, the reduction in value will not affect the market value, only the taxable value. Also, keep in mind not all taxing entities will use the reduced value to calculate the taxes owed.

The second element is an option for the homeowner to make partial payments throughout the year. The flexibility of a payment plan can be helpful for seniors on a fixed budget.

The third element is where it gets a bit sticky but hang with me. The dollar figure you pay for the ISD portion of the tax bill at the time you turn 65, will be the annual amount due for the remainder of the time you own and occupy the property. That’s pretty straightforward, and it’s an incredible savings!

It gets tricky when the homeowner wants to transfer the exemption to another property. Let’s walk through a scenario. Let’s say your client is in their 70’s with the over 65 exemption in place on their current home. Now they want to live life to the fullest and buy their dream home. Once they purchase the new home and request a transfer of the exemption, the tax office will look at the percentage they’ve been saving on the school taxes to apply to the new home. Ok, are you saying to yourself, um what?! Let’s break down the math. The property that they sold had an ISD tax amount of $5000 without any exemptions, but when they turned 65 and placed the exemption on the property, the ISD taxes were only $2500 and froze at that amount. They’ve been saving 50 percent. Now let’s look at how that savings will affect the new home. The new homes ISD taxes are $8000 without any exemptions. Once the over 65 percentage gets transferred, they will only pay $4000, for the ISD portion of the taxes. Only the percentage is transferred not the dollar amount. Clear as mud? For more information on exemption and the tax cycle, talk with your business development representative about attending our Property Tax Chat class.

O65 graphic

Tech Tips For the New Year

Tech TipsAs a continuation of our previous blog, New Year, New Goals – now is the time to reflect on 2016.  While looking back, do you see a lot of things that took your valuable time that shouldn’t have!?  We like to call those time bandits.  To help with these so-called time bandits, we’ve scoured the internet to find out the best technology tips for real estate agents that can save time, effort, and resources to make your lives easier and more efficient.

Maybe you spent a lot of time looking for a template for a listing presentation or creating your own?  Maybe you got pictures taken in the morning and realized it would have looked so much better at twilight?  Ever see a social media post from another realtor and think to yourself, “Wow, they must have paid a graphic designer to make their posts.”  They may have, or they may have used one of our tips below.

Here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks of the trade that you may or may not know about:

  • BoxBrownie – This company could be a total game changer.  Have you ever wanted to stage a home but don’t have the budget or resources?  Or maybe you want to edit something out of a picture but photoshop isn’t your thing.  This company will virtually stage a home for you – it’s amazing AND inexpensive!
  • Slide.ly Promo – Do you want to create a 15-second attention-grabbing marketing video but don’t want to mess with finding a film crew, actors, licensing music, etc?  Yeah, doesn’t sound fun.  Check out Slide.ly Promo – you can search thousands of licensed videos (with actors!), tons of licensed music and create the video yourself – all for less than $100!  They even have monthly plans for less than $50 to make a different video each month.
  • Breakthrough Broker  – A common question we get from our agents is a recommendation on a company that provides templates of all kinds.  Check out this site for templates on letters, listing presentations, buyer presentations, brochures, newsletters, etc.  Best of all?  It’s FREE!
  • Canva – Want to add “Just Listed” to a photograph for social media, or make a custom header for your Facebook page?  You don’t have to pay money to a graphic designer for things like that.  You can do it for FREE with Canva.  You can create anything from social media posts, to event invitations, to brochures, to presentations!  Go check it out, we love it!
  • YouTube Director App – This app makes shooting a personalized video so easy!!  YouTube Director provides shot-by-shot guidance so you can create a high-quality video ad and upload it directly to YouTube from the app.  It really does give you step by step so there is no video editing experience required.  (We offer a great class where we demo this app live – Reality TV – Video Basics for Realtors – Contact your Business Development Rep or look at our Education Calendar to see if we are already offering this class near you and register!)
  • Unroll.me – Is your inbox a mess or filled with thousands of junk emails?  Managing your inbox is crucial to organizing your business.  We are loving this new tool we found and can’t even explain how liberating it feels to have ZERO emails in our inbox!!  Unroll.me lets you instantly see a list of all your subscription emails and lets you unsubscribe easily from whatever you don’t want.
  • Live Voice / Riley – Do you have a lead capturing system and struggling to keep up with follow-up with all of them?  (That’s a GREAT problem, by the way!) Check out these two options.  Live Voice and Riley are both automated systems to respond to your leads in real time.  With technology these days, if you don’t respond immediately, that lead is on to the next – am I right?

New Year, New Goals

new-year-new-goalsIt’s the beginning of January and you are probably reflecting on 2016 analyzing what worked, what didn’t work and how you want to change in this brand-new year. This is the time of year when it traditionally makes sense to set new goals. You feel as if you have a clean slate, you are refreshed from some down time, and the future is looking bright. If you were ever able to get motivated to make some changes, it would be at the beginning of the year.

So why do most fail to change their results? Because they don’t understand that unless you change your thoughts, then the results will never change.

Thoughts lead to choices, choices lead to actions, and actions lead to results.

Unless you change your thoughts, the actions will remain the same, therefore creating the same results. Focus on changing your thoughts and watch how the results show up. Focus on your internal vocabulary, do you use “try” a lot? (i.e. “I’m going to try to follow up more with my SOI this year.” or “I’m going to try to squeeze in more educational classes this year to better my understanding of X.”)  How about implementing more positive ways of thinking?  “I will do those things, I will time block to better myself, etc.” Write down your goals instead of just thinking them. Write them on sticky notes around your computer screen, on your bulletin board or wherever your workspace may be.  Remember, the 3% of people who write down their goals are more likely to reach those goals than the 97% who don’t.

Our Education Team offers a great class, Strategies for Growing Your Business.  In this class, we reflect on what you did last year that did or did not work, we collaborate on new ideas to implement, we discuss things that took away your time that may not have been necessary and most important, we talk about committing to time blocking for activities that you intend to do but never seem to get to.  We also go over setting up or changing your business plan and budgeting options.  Contact your Business Development Rep if you are interested in booking this class or look at our Education Calendar to see if we are already offering this class near you and register!  If you are working on your goals and just need an organized way of jotting them down –  CLICK HERE

It seems very fitting to end with one of the ITC Education team’s favorite quotes:

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Cheers to a very prosperous 2017 and as always, Independence Title is here to help in any way we can.

 

 

Closing Costs….Who’s Responsible?

closing-costs

Every agent knows the excitement of clients purchasing a new home or clients finally selling their house. Then your clients ask you “What am I responsible for paying for at my closing?”  It can be difficult to explain everything that goes into closing costs so we created a new marketing piece called “Closing Costs…Who’s Responsible?”  This piece helps show clients which party is responsible for the different closing costs.  Click here to view the piece and if you would like copies contact your Independence Title Business Development Representative.

What to Know When Selling a Smart Home

selling-a-smart-home-1

Smart home technology is becoming more and more popular among homeowners.  In fact, per a recent survey by HGTV, forty-six percent of consumers want their current or next home to have smart home technology.  These gadgets are beginning to reshape how homes operate, and they are influencing our industry such as staging homes, holding open houses, setting sales prices, etc.  With products, such as locks, light bulbs, security systems, appliances and thermostats able to be controlled via smartphone or tablet, an estimated 100 million households worldwide had some type of smart home device by the end of 2015.  Per a German telecommunications company, that number is expected to grow to 300 million over the next decade!

You may ask, what exactly IS a smart home??  “Smart Home” is the term commonly used to define a residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or internet. 1

Now more than ever, real estate agents need to be up to speed with the latest products and trends to stay ahead of the curve.  As we mention in our CE class, Selling to Millennials, the Gen Y generation seeks out smart home technology specifically when buying a home.  Representing a millennial Buyer?  Education on this technology is key.  Listing a home with smart home technology?  It is a good idea to label these gadgets with a short blurb on what they do to educate a potential Buyer that may not realize they are there.  Make sure you sit with the Seller and have extensive knowledge of the smart home features so you can show them off in open houses and showings!  (Remember, over 46% of homebuyers are looking to have smart technology in their next home.)

Here are a few of the most common smart home gadgets you may see:

Amazon Echo or Google Home – These devices are smart speakers that respond to your voice commands to play music and control your smart home gadgets.  With all the different gadgets out there, it can be a lot to manage.  These systems let you connect everything to one hub for control.

Nest Thermostat –  This thermostat not only lets you control your central heat & air via an app on your smartphone, it’s a learning thermostat as well.  It “learns” your behavior with your heat and air and creates a schedule for you.  **On a side note for our Austin, Texas readers, in case you missed it, check out this article detailing a new city regulation requiring smart thermostats in all NEW houses and apartments built in Austin.

Skybell Doorbell – Skybell is a smart video doorbell that allows you to see, hear, and speak to the visitor at your door whether you’re at home, at work, or on the go via an app on your smartphone.

Serena Remote Control Shades – This is just one of many brands of remote control shades letting you control your shades to add convenience and help save on energy via an app on your smartphone.

Nest Protect Smoke Alarm – From features like self-testing, night lighting and voice alerts, the Nest Protect smoke alarm is a very advance smoke alarm system.  You are able to “hush” it directly from your phone and it also tells you what’s wrong as a pop up on your smartphone.

With all this being said, typically one of the biggest concerns regarding any type of technology to any consumer is privacy & security, which is completely understandable.  If you come across a Seller that is concerned about privacy when selling their home equipped with smart home technology, refer to this nifty checklist the Online Trust Alliance and the National Association of REALTORS® recently teamed up to create.  It’s a “smart home checklist,” providing consumers with information to increase the security and privacy of their smart home at resale.


FYI:  The Center for REALTOR® Technology has set up a lab at NAR headquarters in Chicago to explore the latest in smart home technology innovations. Read more at CRT’s Bits and Bytes blog.