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,, 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)


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!
  • 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 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!)
  • – 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!! 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?


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


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


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.


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!!


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.


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.

My Assistant Can’t Do What?


The quarterly TREC meeting was held on August 15, 2016 and there was no discussion about changes to the current advertising rules as suspected.  Instead the commission focused on changes that could affect your assistant’s job description.  The proposed changes to TREC Rule 535.4 would impact the showing of properties by assistants who are unlicensed, and would eliminate the ability for an unlicensed assistant to hold an open house.

In order to create rules around unlicensed assistants showing properties, the committee proposed to include the following language in the definition of a “showing.” “Causing or permitting property to be seen by a prospective buyer or tenant, unlocking or providing access onto or into the property or hosting an open house at the property.” -TREC.  According to the proposed changes all of the actions in the definition of “showing” must be performed by a licensed broker or agent.  Of course like most rules there are exceptions.  Unlicensed assistants can show vacant property.  Vacant property being defined as the only thing left behind will convey with the sale.   If the property meets the definition of vacant and an unlicensed assistant is going to show the property, you must obtain written consent from the owner as well as the buyer/tenant prior to the showing.  You may also allow an unlicensed person to have unescorted access to a vacant property if the owner has given written consent.  Click Here to find out what language to include in these documents and to read the full version of the potential changes.

The final change that could affect unlicensed assistants’ job duties is to TREC Rule 535.5, License Not Required.  This change would remove the language that allows unlicensed individuals to hold an open house.  This would mean that only people with an active Real Estate license can hold open houses. Click Here to learn more.

The next meeting of the commission will be held on November 14th at 10:00am.  It is unclear if the proposed changes to TREC Rule 535.4 and the addition of TREC Rule 535.5 will be brought to a vote, and when they will become effective if passed, but updates will be posted as soon as they become available.  Staying on top of changing TREC Rules is always important for your business, and we encourage you to read more on the TREC website to determine how these changes will affect your business.  If you would like to make any comments to TREC on this or any of the proposed rule changes  email

The Education Team at Independence Title has a mission to stay current on everything Real Estate.  We hope by bringing you information via our blog, you can stay on top of your fast paced and ever changing industry.

Article from Austin American-Statesman about a possible national downturn in the housing market

Recently, the Austin-American Statesman ran a story about a speech from Gary Keller, the co-founder of Keller Williams. Keller warned his agents across the country to prepare for a coming downturn in the national housing market. You can review the story here.

I and several other local housing experts were asked to comment for the story. I’ve written a few more things to help you interpret this information in the context of our local market.

  • The Austin market is still robust, but correct pricing (within 95% to 100% of median value) is the key to selling property within the first 30 to 45 days. The exception presently is luxury ($1.5+ million), because of inventory surplus (making a buyers’ market)
  • Luxury slowdown has been a precursor to overall market slowdowns the last downturns, 1977, 1988, 1999, 2005.
  • Gary Keller is commenting on national and international statistics. Because he is headquartered in Austin we tend to take his comments on a local and regional scale. He is looking at a bigger picture than that. I would compare it to Bill Gates making a comment and the effect it would have on the tech world, whether they were associated with Microsoft or not.
  • The ratio of median Austin home cost to median Austin household income is ell within acceptable housing finance parameters Austin household median income $63,603./Austin median priced home $263,900.


Meet Our New Outside Instructor!


The education team at Independence Title is thrilled to announce Pat Patton as a new outside instructor! Pat has been a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Texas since 1975. He holds Pat-4929_72dpiundergraduate degrees in Marketing and Management from The University of Texas and a Master’s degree with distinction in International Marketing from the University of Greenwich in London. He has expertise in account creation, design, development, and management. Pat also has a passion for education and even teaches Graduate Level courses in his spare time. Pat’s background as a REALTOR and educator are great assets the education team and enables him to train from his first-hand experience.

Pat will be teaching Broker Responsibility and Legal Update I and II for Independence Title. If you are interested in booking a class with Pat please contact your Business Development Representative.

Legal Update I (4 HRS CE | Course #29622)  This mandatory TREC certified course covers the legal aspects of conducting real estate business.

Legal Update II (4 HRS CE | Course #29623)  This mandatory TREC certified course covers the legislative changes that affect the Real Estate community from the 2015 state legislature.

Broker Responsibility (6 HRS CE | Course #27767)  This mandatory TREC certified course covers the regulatory aspects of the management, operation and supervision of a real estate brokerage firm in Texas. Brokers as well as Sales Agents are welcome to attend!

Contact your business development rep today to schedule one of these classes!

Provider #0403

Top Three Reasons to Complete Paragraph 21


Paragraph 21. NOTICES is often not completed upon execution of the final contract. We’ve heard many different reasons for leaving it blank over the years. A strong contender is the agent simply doesn’t readily have the information at the time of the offer. Some agents choose to list their own address, email, and phone number. Other agents even fear listing their client’s information. The One to Four Family Residential Contract states that all communication from one party to the other must be in writing and are effective when emailed, mailed, hand delivered, or faxed to the contact info listed in the blanks of paragraph 21.

Here are the top 3 reasons you should complete this very important paragraph of the contract.

1. In today’s real estate world we must adhere to the regulations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) . Due to this, lenders will require an address for the buyer(s) and seller(s) on every Closing Disclosure (CD). The completion of this information allows lenders to remain compliant with TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) guidelines. It can delay lender approval and delivery of the document if this information is not completed timely.

2. As stated in the contract, Paragraph 21 is where notices are sent to the parties during the contract to close timeline. Here at Independence Title Company we offer to forward many items on behalf of the agents and/or the seller, per the contract. We cannot do that without the contact information. Some examples may include the survey, HOA resale package, restrictions, title commitment, and ordering the Home Warranty .

3. Time sensitive action is required in most provisions of the contract. Listing yourself as the point of contact can cause a delay in the delivery of items and/or increase your liability to your client.

If you are hesitant to put buyers’ and sellers’ contact information in Paragraph 21, as long as you’re using the contact information to provide notice to the other party you’re not soliciting another agent’s client. However, we do offer an alternative if not listing contact info is important to you or your company. We provide a Buyers/Sellers Information sheet with the receipted contract. This information sheet is not shared and is kept in our secure file. The completed form can be mailed, emailed or faxed back to us. For further information, please reach out to your Escrow Team or your Business Development Representative.

Have You Updated IndependenceTitleAgent?

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 1.23.12 PM

Have you ever tried to explain a Seller’s Net Sheet to someone and their native language is Vietnamese? Or have you ever had trouble comparing multiple offers IndependenceTitleAgent can help! IndependenceTitleAgent is a closing cost app that will help you calculate closing costs, run Seller Net Sheets and Buyer Quick Estimates, and so much more!

IndependenceTitleAgent has added new features in its most recent update! Below are the features you can start using today:

Languages: IndependenceTitleAgent has added 6 new languages to the app: Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, and Arabic. The new languages can be applied to all printouts and marketing pieces. To change the language, simply select the language icon at the top of the preview screen.
Picture1             Picture2

Multiple Offer Comparison Enhancements: Comparing multiple offers can be confusing and time consuming. Instead of creating a spreadsheet, have the app do the comparing for you! Before the update, you could compare up to 3 offers but now you can compare up to 12 offers!


New Printout Styles: Every client that you work with is different. Some may be visual learners while others may just want a list of data. There are many new printout styles to choose from when sending customized reports to your clients. After generating a report, simply swipe left to see the different styles.

Picture4 Picture5 Picture6

Closing Date Default: Instead of choosing a closing date every time you run a quick estimate or seller’s net sheet, simply choose a default of 30, 60, or 90 days out and it will automatically default to that every time.

Picture7 Picture8

Contact your ITC Business Development Representative for more information about IndependenceTitleAgent!

To Download click below!

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.09.52 AM Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.11.31 AM

Deposit Earnest Money with your Smartphone!


Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could save valuable time by depositing Earnest Money via your smart phone?  And what if you could attach the contract to be sent along with the check?!  Guess what – YOU CAN!  You can now deliver Earnest Money along with the contract electronically to Independence Title using an app on your smart phone.  We introduce to you the mobile app, ZOCCAM, made specifically for real estate agents.

From a user perspective, the technology is as easy as taking a picture of the earnest money check, and functions similarly to mobile depositing of checks with your bank.  From check image capture to escrow delivery, the message is fully encrypted and doesn’t save your clients personal information anywhere on your device.  The agent is kept informed with email notification of completion.  You simply start with opening the contract within ZOCCAM and follow the onscreen instructions.  What would have taken up half of your day in the car just took you minutes!

Of  course, our Business Development reps are always available to aide in the delivery of Earnest Money.  But, in the event it’s outside of business hours, there is now ZOCCAM to the rescue!  We know it’s not ideal for an agent to race across town to get that check in the right hands, especially on a Friday afternoon in the middle of a traffic nightmare.  Contact your local business development rep to see if it’s available in your area and to receive detailed step by step instructions on using the app.

Top Five Tech Tips for Real Estate Agents



The Education Team of Independence Title frequently attends conferences and webinars to stay up with the latest and greatest in technology in the real estate industry. Using that information, we created a list of “tech tips” that we think are worth your while. Here’s the first 5 for you to check out:

1)  LinkedIn Export

Did you know you can export the email address and job title/company of all of your LinkedIn connections into an excel file for an easy upload into say… your CRM?!  YES!  We were just as shocked and it’s easy to do.  You can simply follow this LINK (you must be logged into LinkedIn) or click on “connections” on your home page in LinkedIn, click on the settings wheel, and then export your connections.  VOILA!


Have you ever tried to book a meeting with someone and end up 15 emails later with no agreement on time/date?  So frustrating, right?  Wouldn’t you love to eliminate the back and forth and just send one email with all of your availability and then they can select the time slot that works for them?  AND wouldn’t it be cool if it auto adds to both of your calendars as soon as they select the time slot?!  CLICK HERE to see this life saver you won’t be able to live without.  Note** This is only available for Gmail users through a google extension for our google calendar.  (We see they are working on compatibility with outlook so stay tuned!)  We can’t help but love the quote on their site:  THE TROUBLE WITH BEING PUNCTUAL IS THAT NOBODY’S THERE TO APPRECIATE IT ” — Franklin P. Jones  🙂

3)  RE Clarity App

Out of town clients?  Use the REclarity App to send specific, personalized zoom and point video messages that communicate as if you were there in person.  You can showcase key features of a home that is tailored to a particular client’s needs such as providing specific instructions or requests to contractors for repairs, property management or staging, follow up with clients and answer questions, share visual status on repair work or construction or report/describe property damage or areas in need of attention.  Click HERE for a video demo.  We think this will definitely make you look like a ROCK STAR to your clients!

4)  Google Alerts

Did you know you can get an email as soon as something hits the internet?  Want to stay on top of anything that is on the web about you?  Or maybe a client?  Maybe you want instant updates about a product you like or to keep up with news stories…  By creating a Google Alert, you can get email notifications any time Google finds new results on a topic that interests you.  No need to keep hitting refresh…  CLICK HERE to get started.

5)  GBoard for iPhone

Last but not least, we all got really excited about this one.  It’s a keyboard add on for your iPhone (we hear it’s coming to Android sooner rather than later so stay tuned!)  Basically its main functionality is to eliminate the frustrating back and forth we all go through when bouncing between apps; no more Google searching, copying the link, jumping back into messages, and then pasting the results.  Watch this quick little video… We’re pretty sure you’ll be racing to download it like we did!


Luxury homes trending towards buyers’ market

Welcome back to the Independence Voice! This week, we will take a look at the state of the national economy, and how it is influencing our local and regional real estate markets.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its most recent job report showing that the U.S. economy added only 38,000 jobs in May, far below expectations. That’s much lower than the 150,000 new jobs the economy was expecting. A low jobs report number is a sign of a sluggish economy. The headline number was reduced by 35,100 due to striking workers at Verizon Communications. Without the strike, payrolls would have increased by 73,000. Either way, the jobs growth in May was much slower than it was earlier in the year.

Chart 1

Construction lost 15,000 jobs. That signals a slowdown in the housing market. U.S. manufacturing lost 10,000 jobs due to a strong dollar that hurt exports. Durable goods lost 18,000 jobs, with 500 from auto manufacturing. Pay close attention to how many manufacturing jobs are added or lost each month, since it is a future indicator of economic health. That’s because factories are less likely to add workers until they have orders for more goods in hand. Manufacturing employment provides a better leading indicator of future economic performance than does service employment, which stays more consistent through thick and thin.

The US hasn’t seen such low positive jobs gains since December 2010 — or, in other words, since the aftermath of the Great Recession.

What effect does this have?

  • The US dollar is getting slammed in world currency markets. When there is not confidence in the American labor market, the dollar loses value against other currencies. If the American dollar loses value, you lose buying power. As most of us know wages have not kept up with inflation.
  • With less confidence in the strength of the labor market, stock values drop historically.
  • Consumers are running for the safety of US Treasuries.

Another worrying sign is that the weakness in job creation appears to be spreading across industries.

Chart 2

Earlier this year, only mining and logging, durable goods manufacturing, and transportation were posting job losses. This was easily explained by shrinking domestic oil production as a result of a sharp decline in crude oil prices. Employment in oil extraction (part of the mining and logging sector) was shrinking, as was production of heavy equipment used in the oil sector, leading to job losses in durable goods manufacturing. Transportation of domestic crude oil (much of which is done by rail) was falling as well. There was a possibility that the weakness and the job losses would be contained in the industries affected by crude oil production.

But in April and May, it seems that the job losses spread to other industries. Now, in addition to mining, durable goods manufacturing and transportation, job losses have appeared in construction, wholesale trade, utilities, retail sales, and information services (although the last one is mostly due to a strike). Other industries continue to add jobs, but at a much slower pace than before. This is a worrying sign.

And yet, the unemployment rate still fell in May to 4.7 percent, from 5 percent in April. How can this be? The answer is not encouraging – the drop in the unemployment rate is mostly driven by people dropping out of the labor force. In May, 458,000 people left the labor force, after 362,000 did so in April. Such a substantial decrease in the labor force for two months is a row is unusual (see below) and is yet another worrying sign.

Chart 3

This was a very disappointing employment report with several worrying signs for the economy long term. It makes it nearly certain that the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates when it meets in June. We will be watching other data carefully to see if the worrying signs seen here are confirmed by other information.

Local impacts

Austin and the other Texas metros continue to be sellers’ markets, with not enough commercial or residential inventory. However there are concerns in certain portions of the residential market, namely in luxury sales in Austin above $1 million.

The charts below show Austin luxury sales are still robust compared to the recession, but slower than 2013 or the highs of 2015.

Chart 4

So what happened? Take a look at the Austin $1+ million inventory report below. It clearly shows that in 2016, luxury above a million sales slowed and the amount of inventory picked up. Inventory doubled since 2015 to 20 months, reflecting a buyers’ market.

Chart 5

Consumer confidence in the Texas region has dropped 35 points in the last year. Consumers are not feeling as flush as they have previously. Luxury is showing it first. Historically the top portion of the market begins to show a slowing of the market first. It is not just a regional thing, we are seeing national GDP and inflation slow dramatically this last quarter. Declines in oil, rumors of another tech bubble, and confusing election hyperbole are causing many to be much more conservative in their selection process.

What would I tell your clients that are buying or selling in the over $1 million price category? It is still a good market if your listing is priced correctly. Those homes that are within 95 to 100% of the median price per square feet are still selling quickly. Be aware of what is in the neighborhood and what is in that price range. Not all houses are created equal. Values cannot be based just on square footage. Sellers will have difficulty moving their properties if they ‘ego price’.

On the demand side of the equation, some have asked if there are fewer companies and executives moving to Austin or other Texas metros. Those at the Chamber of Commerce are still seeing quality companies and executives moving here. However many in the equity business feel that technology is overvalued like 1999, and that there should be a correction. Therefore executives are much more conservative in spending, because of what they are hearing from markets. Trophy properties are taking almost three times as long to sell in Austin as what the rest of the market is doing.  As an analyst, I will tell you if priced correctly it should still sell.

Otherwise it is very much a sellers’ market. Austin is still creating jobs, the rental market continues to be tight, and most homes if properly priced have multiple offers. Real estate appreciation is apparent in all markets, channels, and Texas metros. At most price points there is not enough rentals or homes for sale. Foreclosures and short sells are a non-factor at less than 1% of the market. The Texas real estate market is still strong in all channels, but there is some softening in luxury homes. So yes, the market is changing, and yes we should continue to watch.