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.  

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.

Top 10 Google Chrome Extensions

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One of our favorite groups on Facebook is Tech Support for Real Estate.  This group allows you to post technical questions concerning the real estate industry letting others chime in on a solution or with their opinion.  Lately, a common question has been “What Chrome extensions can you not live without?”

ConfusedWhat is a Chrome extension you may ask?
Extensions are small software programs that
can modify and enhance the functionality
of the Chrome Browser and Gmail.

If you are a Chrome (& Gmail) user and haven’t surfed around on the Chrome Web Store, do it! Although… there are so many options, it can be a little overwhelming. Because of that, the Independence Title Education Team has decided to put together a list of our own Chrome extensions that we think you can’t live without.  Most of them have to do with real estate, others are just because it makes life easier.  Between open houses, following up with your client database and focusing on your marketing efforts (not to mention your personal life), it’s no surprise that your time is stretched thin.  Why not utilize a few of these?

  1.  DocuSign
    We love showing our Realtors this one!  No more saving the PDF to your computer, going to DocuSign and uploading the document.  You can send documents for signature directly from Gmail, Google Drive, and the Chrome browser.  (Download Here)
  2. Buffer
    No more copy/paste to social media!  Click the Buffer button on any website to quickly tweet or add as a Facebook or LinkedIn update. You can even schedule your future tweets and Facebook updates easier than ever before with Buffer. With each update posted, it will also give you analytics about clicks, retweets, mentions, shares, likes and more.  (Download Here)
  3. Wunderlist
    Love to-do lists or maybe you have sticky notes all over your desk? Whether you’re sharing a grocery list with a loved one, working on a project, or planning a vacation, Wunderlist makes it easy to share your lists and collaborate with everyone in your life. Wunderlist instantly syncs between your phone, tablet and computer, so you can access your lists from anywhere.  (Download Here)
  4. Grammarly
    Grammarly makes sure everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free. Adding Grammarly to Chrome means that your spelling and grammar will be vetted on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and nearly everywhere else you write on the web.  (Download Here)
  5. Folio
    Folio helps busy real estate agents organize and manage their transactions right from their email inbox. When you connect Folio to your email inbox, Folio analyzes your inbox for keywords and phrases that identify that an email thread is about a transaction. It then automatically categorizes the emails, files, and contacts related to each transaction.  (Download Here)
  6. Wisestamp
    Want your latest tweet or maybe your latest post to show on your email signature “live?”  WiseStamp enables you to share your social profiles and promote information you care about in every email you send.  (Download Here)
  7. MixMax
    Ever wanted to track an email to see if it gets opened?  Or maybe hit “snooze” on an email so you don’t forget to respond later?  This extension is a must in the real estate business!  It allows you to reach out more effectively to prospects, clients, and customers with these essential features:  track opens, clicks, and downloads, schedule meetings and plan events, write faster with templates, snooze and set reminders, send later, embed polls and surveys and much more!  (Download Here)
  8. Boomerang
    Maybe you don’t want all the bells and whistles of MixMax and just want to be able to schedule emails to send at a later time?  Boomerang allows you to schedule messages to be sent or returned at a later date. Write a message now, send it whenever, even if you’re not online. Track messages to make sure you hear back, and schedule reminders right inside Gmail.  (Download Here)
  9. Honey
    Alright, so this one isn’t exactly real estate related but we can’t help but share.  Have you ever shopped online and know you have a coupon somewhere but can’t find it?  Click on the Honey button during checkout and Honey will automatically apply known coupon codes to your shopping cart!  It’s basically free money!  (Download Here)
  10. Awesome Screenshot
    Want to send a screenshot but all of what you want to send isn’t shown on the screen?  Or maybe you want to send a screenshot but want to blur out certain things or add text or shapes?  Awesome Screenshot allows you to capture all or part of any web page, add annotations, comments, blur sensitive info, and share with one-click uploads.  (Download Here)

Are You Utilizing Zillow’s Video Walk-through Feature?

zillow-1Earlier this year, Zillow released a new feature allowing Realtors to post a “video walk-through” of their listings.  These video walkthroughs are soundless videos that are shot directly from the user’s smart phone via Zillow’s app.  They are capped at two minutes and no less than 10 seconds, so they are designed to be quick and best of all, this feature is offered to ALL agents at no cost.

So why are you telling us about this, you may ask?!  Well, after posting a video, these listings will be promoted at the TOP of search results (for free!)  According to Zillow:  “Listings with video are prominently displayed and receive preferred placement in search results. Buyers with saved searches are notified when a new video is added.”  If you don’t believe it, head over to Zillow and do a search on your favorite zip code.  The top results will have “video walk-through” on them.  Remember this is a new feature, so your zip code may not have any agents doing it yet.

With all of this being said, if you are thinking what we were thinking….  yikes is right!  Holding a shaky phone and walking through a home without the proper lighting, etc. can be a really bad thing!  (That’s why you pay to have a professional take the photos, right?!)  Our suggestion on a quick fix?  As mentioned above, the video has a MINIMUM of 10 seconds.  Order yourself a simple smartphone tripod from Amazon like this one, find out when the sun is in the right spot (whether you are going to showcase an inside shot or just simply a quick pan of the front) and get out there and shoot a 10 second video.  Don’t overthink the two minute video they tell you to do and try to film a bunch of different shots.  Again, that’s why you paid for the professional photos!  Get the 10 second video shot, post the video from the app and your listing will get boosted to the top of the search results!  Don’t fret – your beautiful, professional photos will still be there and the consumer will still be able to click through them to see more of the home.

So we ask you:  Why are you not doing this with your listings?!  Click here to get started.

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Shoot the video directly from the app on your smartphone!

*UPDATE 11/3/2016 – Zillow just announced you can now add videos that aren’t shot within the app for a fee.  According to the latest Inman article, for $149, you can upload an outside video, i.e. a professionally done video.  Does that fee sound a little steep?!  Don’t throw in the flag, you can still follow our tips above for FREE!!

 

New Classes for Abby Vasek!

abby-header-4Over the past year we at Independence Title have had the pleasure of working with Abby Vasek as an outside instructor. She is a delightful trainer that brings enthusiasm and joy into every class that she teaches. Recently Abby has been busy creating new classes to help teach Realtors more about the world of design. She has three brand new classes that are all worth 1 hour CE credit.

Effective Advertising Language for Listings | 1 HR CE | Course #31113
In this class you will learn to expand your knowledge, creativity and vocabulary real estate agents use to advertise their property listings. This interactive writing class will help you to not only hone in on marketing language but explore a communication style that allows each listing to get maximum exposure.

Styles of Architecture for Real Estate Agents | 1 HR CE | Course #31114
How fluent are you in architecture language? In this class you will learn about the many types and styles of architecture. There will be a major emphasis on architecture vocabulary so you can better describe the qualities of the homes you list. You will also gain the knowledge and confidence to speak with authority about building techniques, features and styles.

Styles of Design & Current Building Materials | 1 HR CE | Course #31112
The objective of this class is to help you improve your knowledge and vocabulary about current interior design styles and trends in building materials. This class will allow you to better showcase the homes you list and infuse value in areas of these listings by bringing attention to special design treatments or unique building materials. In this class you will gain the potential to elevate the level of language and service an agent can provide!

Contact your ITC Business Development Representative to book any of these classes with Abby!

Buyer Capture is Here!!

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Have you ever driven across town to pick up an earnest money check from your buyer?  If so, put down your car keys… buyer capture is here!!  We are excited to announce that the buyer capture feature with the ZOCCAM mobile app is now available!

You may recall an earlier blog post about the ZOCCAM mobile app which allows the Realtor to send the contract and earnest money to Independence Title via their smart phone?  Just recently released, Realtors now have the ability to invite their Buyers to send earnest money via ZOCCAM! This allows for a safe and compliant delivery option for your buyer. Won’t this be great for your out of town Buyers?!

The Buyer Capture feature allows the Realtor to attach the contract and send a request to the buyer to utilize the ZOCCAM app to capture the check. Once the request is initiated by the Realtor, ZOCCAM sends the buyer a “Z-Code” that is tied to that specific transaction, ensuring secure delivery of the earnest money.

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Your buyer’s may ask, “Is this secure?”  The answer:  Yes, it is.  If they’ve ever deposited a check to their bank via a mobile app, they will recognize the software which is completely encrypted.  Contact your local Independence Title business development rep for step by step instructions.