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Title Insurance & New Construction

Title insurance is a must-have if you’re buying a home that someone else has owned. But what if you’re paying for a brand new home to be constructed? Or one that has just been built? It may not seem necessary because no one is selling the house, because there is no house, or no one has lived in the house, so why would you need title insurance?

Although a brand new home has no previous owners, the unimproved land may have had prior owners. A title search reveals any existing liens on the land. Title insurance also protects against potential contractor liens from a builder who may have failed to pay his suppliers or subcontractors. To ensure a clear title, lenders require buyers to purchase a Loan Policy of Title Insurance. The Loan Policy only protects the lender’s interest. You can protect yourself from overlooked title threats by purchasing an Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance.

The Bottom Line: In the end, it is advisable to make sure that the title is clear. Anyone buying a new construction home should get title insurance. So much goes on with new construction which could affect the title: potential issues with new boundary lines, potential liens from subcontractors, outstanding construction loans, etc.

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Preparing to Sell Your Home

  • Prepare your home for maximum earnings. There are simple steps you can take to maximize your home’s appeal.
  • Enlist the help of a Realtor to market and sell your home. When selling your home, a Realtor can provide expertise in valuing and advertising your home, qualifying and screening potential buyers, and negotiating contracts. If you are not able to enlist help from a Realtor, Title First can provide you with assistance.
  • Negotiate a contract. When you receive an offer for the purchase of your home, it must be in writing, generally on a preprinted real estate purchase contract from your local bar association or board of Realtors. You may modify or alter the offer in any way you, your Realtor, or your attorney wish. Offers and counteroffers are made until the terms of the contract have been fully agreed to by all parties. When assessing offers and making counter-offers to the seller, don’t feel pressured to accept less than the value of your home.
  • Close on the property. Before your home is officially sold, you must sign all appropriate documentation at your closing. The closing will typically be held at a Title First office, the office of your realtor, lender or attorney, or sometimes on-location. Because your home represents one of the most significant investments you will make throughout your life, it is important that you feel comfortable with all the information being presented to you during the closing procedure. Title First is dedicated to walking you through this important process with care and attention. When it’s time to set up your closing, don’t hesitate to tell your realtor or lender to call Title First, or feel free to give us a call if you’re working by yourself.

Be prepared for these seller’s fees commonly seen at the closing.
Fees:
Current loan payoff
Conveyance fee
Title insurance examination
Title insurance commitment/premium for the owner policy
Documentation to provide your Realtor® with:
Tax receipts
Utility bills
Mortgage Payment
Information to provide to Title First:
Your mortgage company name, address and account number
Any existing title insurance policy

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Spring Ready to Buy a Home

Get Preapproved

Make an appointment to sit down with the best lender to get prequalified which will help determine how small or large of a loan you will get approved for. Getting prequalified is free and relatively painless, and can be used as just a starting point. A good lender will help you set clear financial goals, whether it be saving up for a down payment, paying down debts or improving your credit score so that you can ready yourself for homeownership sooner than later.

Prequalification means a lender determines your eligibility and an estimate for what you can afford. This is all based on your current financial budget and credit history. Your lender will also be able to determine if you qualify for any loan programs.

Preapproval is a more thorough process and will allow you to find out exactly how much a lender will give you. This information is determined by a few factors, including your income and debt-to-income ratio. Pre-approval will also take into consideration the money you will have for a down payment.

Find the Right Agent

To be honest the most important thing to do is to find the right agent to work with you. You want an agent who understands the process, knows the local market and is part of a firm with a reputation for results.

When looking for and interviewing potential agents, you also want to look for someone with strong interpersonal skills and who is able to meet your individual needs. When it comes to real estate, there is no one size fits all approach. Work with an agent who understands your individual needs and wants including your budget, the neighborhoods that you like, and knows when a home for sale is overpriced and what to offer.

Determine Location

When it comes to real estate, we always “say, “location, location, location.” Why? Because while you can change many aspects of a home, this is one you cannot. Figure out what is most important to you. Do you want a short commute to work? Are you looking to remain within a specific school district?

If you have a general idea of where you might like to live, do some neighborhood research. Drive through the neighborhood at different times of the day and during different days of the week; this will give you a good idea of what it might be like living there. Things like traffic, noise, and even lack of street lights may change your perception of a particular neighborhood.

Establish Your Needs and Wants List

Determining the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is an important factor, but it’s just the beginning. Do you need a fenced-in yard? Will the type of heat (gas, electric, oil) make or break a decision for you? Are there enough closets? If you know what is really important to you and you stick to that list, you’ll be much happier once you move in.

Stay in Your Price Range

Once you’ve been preapproved, you’ll have a good idea of how much home you can actually afford. Be realistic regarding your budget and stick to it. A good Realtor will make sure you aren’t overreaching. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with homes that you simply cannot afford. Besides the actual cost of the home, you also need to factor in a down payment, closing costs, and other potential fees. Your realtor and lender can give you better insight into the costs of purchasing.

The Bottom Line: The real estate market heats up in Spring. Sellers list and buyers start looking. Today’s real estate market is very competitive, however, and there are fewer listings than there are buyers. This means you have to be quick, qualified, ready to make an offer and competitive.


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Would You Buy A House “As-Is”?

Realtor

Sometimes we fall in love with a home that is being sold “as-is” which benefits sellers and can either be a great deal for buyers or a complete nightmare. Legally, “as-is” means that the seller doesn’t want to make repairs, of which there can be many. The buyer then gets the home but with no guarantee that something is not minutes away from completely breaking down and needing to be replaced. What the buyer sees is what the buyer gets and sometimes more because there is no telling what you can’t see.

However, “as-is” does not always mean there are issues broken beyond repair. Often there are simply minor and even no issues. It means you are buying the home in whatever condition it is currently in. You can have an inspection done but won’t be able to negotiate to get the repairs done

While the home that is being sold “as is” is most likely priced lower than it’s neighbors it does not mean you would be getting the home for a bargain. If there are repairs to be made, there will be a cost. It would be good to get an inspection so that you know what repairs need to be made and what it will cost to get them done before you call the home a “bargain”.

Getting a loan for a home sold “as-is” is not an easy one. Banks use homes as collateral and any home in poor condition can be grounds for a loan being rejected. Buyers would have to come up with the money on their own.

Other than getting an inspection, which is definitely recommended so that you know what you are getting yourself into, an experienced Realtor should be hired. A good agent will help to appraise the home based on comps and then based on the “after repair” value. Negotiating will be much easier with the seller when you have the help of a Realtor.

The Bottom Line: There are plenty of homes on the market listed “as-is” that discourage many buyers. Of course, you should be cautious, but “as-is” does not always mean that the house is a money pit. Sometimes the seller can’t vouch for any repair work that has been done – thus an inspection can help and a decision can be made accordingly. Or, the home could have been inherited and the seller is not aware of issues and does not want the responsibility of fixing any problems. Whatever the reason, it’s in the buyer’s best interest to get all the information about the house before an offer is made.

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Up Your Real Estate Marketing With Social Media

Optimize your profile

We’ve got some basic strategies for real estate marketing. First and foremost be sure that your profile is correct on the social media platforms you are using. This way, anyone looking to get in touch with you will be able to get all your information conveniently.

  • Contact details
  • Address
  • Profile photo
  • Website URL
  • Details about your company
  • List what services your company offers

Use short videos to market and showcase properties

Most of us know how to record, upload and promote a video on social media platforms, but they are also ever-changing and you’ll need to adapt—and test new video formats offered by each platform if you want success.

  • Instagram Stories to show the interior of a property you are selling. These expire after 24 hours unless you save them to the “highlights” section.
  • Facebook Stories are just like Instagram stories and Facebook wants you to use their new tools in return for eyes to view them.
  • A Facebook Live video at an open house.
  • A Snapchat Story much like Instagram stories
  • A YouTube video showcasing the home.

Make Posts About New Listings

  • Use Instagram and Facebook to post your latest listings. Use beautiful images and post about the features and amenities of them.
  • Post about events in the neighborhood. Use current and upcoming events going on around the homes you post pictures of. This will demonstrate your knowledge of the community and your participation in it. It can also give customers a glimpse and a feel of the neighborhood they’re considering buying in.
  • Showcase the schools, shopping, transportation. Make sure the little details are in the posts with the pictures.

Tips

  • Always respond. Make sure you have “notification” turned on so that you always know when someone comments. Answer questions or simply reply by “liking” the comment. This will ensure that you are committed to your customer service.
  • Use Hashtags. To get people to see your posts on Instagram and Twitter, learn what hashtags are trending for what you are posting. For instance, #NewListing or #PriceChange. Use the name of the town or neighborhood with a hashtag.
  • Use beautiful photographs. A picture is worth a thousand words! Over half the people that bought homes last year said they found it online. That means that your photos could cinch the deal before a buyer even sees the house.

The Bottom Line: Realtors can do so much with technology. There is so much available to them. Learning to use them takes some time, but can improve your real estate marketing strategy by leaps and bounds. According to the National Association of Realtors, 95% of buyers searched for their next home on the internet and social media platforms.

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Renovations to Skip if You Plan to Move

1. Swimming Pools
Swimming pools are one of those things that may be nice to enjoy at your friend’s or neighbor’s house, but that can be a hassle to have at your own home. Many potential homebuyers view swimming pools as dangerous, expensive to maintain and a lawsuit waiting to happen. Families with young children, in particular, may turn down an otherwise perfect house because of the pool (and the fear of a child going in the pool unsupervised).

2. Out-Building the Neighborhood
Often homeowners try to increase the value of their home so they make improvements to the property that unintentionally make the home fall outside of the norm for the neighborhood. While a large, expensive remodel, such as adding a second story with two bedrooms and a full bath, might make the home more appealing, it will not add significantly to the resale value if the house is in the midst of a neighborhood of small, one-story homes.

3. Extensive Landscaping
Homebuyers may appreciate well-maintained or mature landscaping, but don’t expect the home’s value to increase because of it. A beautiful yard may encourage potential buyers to take a closer look at the property, but will probably not add to the selling price. If a buyer is unable or unwilling to put in the effort to maintain a garden, it will quickly become an eyesore, or the new homeowner might need to pay a qualified gardener to take charge. Either way, many buyers view elaborate landscaping as a burden, though attractive and, as a result, are not likely to consider it when placing value on the home.

4. High-End Upgrades
Putting stainless steel appliances in your kitchen or imported tiles in your entryway may do little to increase the value of your home if the bathrooms are still vinyl-floored and the shag carpeting in the bedrooms is leftover from the ’60s. Upgrades should be consistent to maintain a similar style and quality throughout the home. A home that has a beautifully remodeled and modern kitchen can be viewed as a work in process if the bathrooms remain old. Thus, a kitchen upgrade might not get as high a return if the rest of the house needs work. High-quality upgrades generally increase the value of high-end homes, but not necessarily mid-range houses where the upgrade may be inconsistent with the rest of the home.

5. Carpeting
While real estate listings may still boast “new carpeting throughout” as a selling point, potential homebuyers today may cringe at the idea of having wall-to-wall carpeting. Carpeting is expensive to purchase and install. In addition, there is growing concern over the healthfulness of carpeting due to the amount of chemicals used in its processing and the potential for allergens (a serious concern for families with children). Add to that the probability that the carpet style and color that you thought was absolutely perfect might not be what someone else had in mind.

Because of these hurdles, wall-to-wall carpet is something on which it’s difficult to recoup the costs. Removing carpeting and restoring wood floors is usually a more profitable investment.

6. Invisible Improvements
Invisible improvements are those costly projects that you know make your house a better place to live in, but that nobody else would notice – or likely care about. A new plumbing system or HVAC unit (heating, venting, and air conditioning) might be necessary, but don’t expect it to recover these costs when it comes time to sell. Many home buyers simply expect these systems to be in good working order and will not pay extra just because you recently installed a new heater. It may be better to think of these improvements in terms of regular maintenance, and not an investment in your home’s value.

The Bottom Line
It is difficult to imagine spending thousands of dollars on a home-improvement project that will not be reflected in the home’s value when it comes time to sell. There is no simple equation for determining which projects will garner the highest return or the most bang for your buck. Some of this depends on the local market and even the age and style of the house. Homeowners frequently must choose between an improvement that they would really love to have (the in-ground swimming pool) and one that would prove to be a better investment. A bit of research, or the advice of a qualified real estate professional, can help homeowners avoid costly projects that don’t really add value to a home.

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HTTPS vs. HTTP Tips from ALTA

typing

Many companies still use what’s commonly known as HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to communicate between different systems and allow for the transfer of data from a web server to a browser, allowing users to view web pages.

Prior to 2014, only companies with e-commerce pages bothered using HTTPS, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Then Google recommended websites switch to HTTPS. As an incentive, Google said it would give websites with HTTPS a bump in rankings, effectively punishing sites that did not make the switch.

The most important difference between the two protocols is the SSL certificate. HTTPS is basically an HTTP protocol with additional security. This additional security can be extremely important, especially for websites that take sensitive data from its users, such as credit card information and passwords.

When someone connects to a website with regular HTTP, the browser looks up the IP address that corresponds to the website, connects to that IP address and assumes it’s connected to the correct web server. Data is sent over the connection in clear text. An eavesdropper on a Wi-Fi network, your internet service provider or government intelligence agencies like the NSA can see the web pages that are being visited and the data that’s being transferred.

With HTTPS, the SSL certificate encrypts the information that users supply to the site, which basically translates the data into a code. If someone manages to steal the data being communicated between the sender and the recipient, they would not be able to understand it due to this encryption. In addition to adding that extra layer of security, HTTPS is also secured via Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. TLS helps provide data integrity, which helps prevent the transfer of data from being modified or corrupted, and authentication.

While HTTPS is commonly used for secure communication of information over the Internet, it does not mean the information and any NPI within the information is secure. If the NPI itself isn’t secured (encrypted, password protected, etc.), then it doesn’t matter if it’s transmitted via HTTPS or HTTP.  A company should make sure NPI is protected for any forms of transmission, transfer or storage.

The third pillar recommends companies adopt and maintain a written privacy and information security program to protect non-public personal information (NPI) as required by local, state and federal law.

Specifically, the procedures for network security of NPI suggest companies:

  • Maintain and secure access to company information technology
  • Develop guidelines for the appropriate use of company information technology.
  • Ensure secure collection and transmission of NPI.

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Should You Use a Realtor or Not When Selling Your Home

Obviously, when you put your home on the market to sell, you want to make the most money you can. The thought may run through your mind that you can sell it on your own, without a Realtor and that is understandable and can be the truth. But, there are some cons to trying to sell your home on your own. Know the obstacles as well as the benefits to the for sale by owner process before you make the decision.

PRO: You may make more money from the sale. Selling your home on your own, you might make more money than with a Realtor. You won’t have to pay the percentage fee based on the sale price. The biggest reason people try to sell their homes on their own is to save the commission.

CON: The financial benefit might not be as much as you think. A Realtor is experienced with correctly pricing the home – one of the hardest parts of selling. Without the guidance of a Realtor, sellers often rely on websites that incorrectly evaluate homes. They use algorithms that are too broad in scope and not specific to your home’s exact locale. They even admit to this in the fine print. Many FSBO homes are incorrectly priced. Nationwide statistics show that the average home sold by a Realtor sells for 13% more than the same type of home, same neighborhood as an FSBO. Overpricing a home is the top reason a home does not sell.

PRO: You have control over the sale of your home. Selling your home on your own means you have complete control of the entire process. No opinions from outsiders. You can price it, market it, negotiate all on your own.

CON: Your home will be a target for buyers looking for a bargain. Often buyers think they are going to get the best deal with an FSBO. They assume the seller is willing to sell for less because they do not have to pay a real estate agent, so be ready for such buyers.

PRO: You can devote all your attention to your home. Hiring a Realtor means that they probably have other clients selling homes. He or she won’t have all their time focused on your home.

CON: You will have to market your home without a network. FSBO home’s exposure to potential buyers is limited. Your choices for advertising are confined to yard signs, newspaper ads, FSBO classifieds, websites, open houses and word of mouth. This is often not enough to find the buyers. Most buyers choose Realtors to help them find their next home and if your home isn’t on the MLS, a Realtor won’t know to bring the buyer by.

CON: Time Consuming. You will have to devote a considerable amount of time to the sale. Your home needs to be inspected, repaired as necessary, photographed, filmed, listed, shown and more. If there are interested buyers, you will need to be available to answer their phone calls, to show the home when they are available and you will need to negotiate a good price. Plenty of people sell their own homes. Few of them do it well, so you need to be prepared to put in the work.

The Bottom Line: As much as you think you will have the time and energy to sell your own home, you won’t be able to do many of the things that an experienced Realtor can do. They are well trained in the laws pertaining to the sale of a property. They will be able to qualify a buyer. They will be able to take care of the pages and pages of paperwork. They will market and present your home with photos, and more for the most and best exposure. And, your home will be on the MLS, which is responsible for over 70% of home sales. You will need the exposure.

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You Can Sell Your Home in the Dark and Cold Month of January

Putting your home on the market to sell during an off-peak season is not the most optimal but if you hire a Realtor that knows your market well, even in January, you still can sell your home at a competitive price. If you are living in the Northeast, Midwest or other cold areas, the following are some ways that can help to sell your home faster and at a fair price during the darker months of January.

There are fewer homes being sold in January (and all Winter), which makes people nervous about putting their homes on the market. More home buyers are house-hunting in the Spring months when the weather is warmer, and the days are longer. But, you might be surprised to find out that Winter could actually be a great time to put your home on the market. The new year is a time when most people are back at work after the holidays and will often search the web for their next big move. If you are serious about selling your home, it should be online and marketed early to ensure they don’t miss this audience.

In most markets, because January isn’t a high selling month, you will need a very experienced Realtor to help price your home as it can be complex. You don’t want to scare off buyers by pricing too high or even too low, causing buyers to wonder what’s wrong with your house. When your home is put on the market in the winter, buyers often assume you are desperate to sell your home and may lowball you thinking you’ll sell for any price. Buyers house hunting during the traditional off-season of January, usually means they are eager to buy and more willing to negotiate the price.

One way you can spur some interest during cold January is to price your home slightly under comparable homes in order to draw in multiple offers. More offers tend to drive up the value of your home prompting more competitive bids from buyers who often will end up paying more than the initial asking price.

The real challenge might be to help dress up your home in dreary January weather. To help make your home feel more welcoming, shovel the walks, add outdoor illumination along paths, light candles indoors, add cozy throw blankets, have holiday-type smells such as cinnamon or cookies, but take down any holiday decorations.

Furthermore, during the cold, any problems you may have in your home can become more prominent including drafts and leaks. To help lessen these potential problems, crank up the heat so buyers feel toasty warm and will be less likely to notice any issues.

While it may be difficult to sell your home in January, it’s not impossible especially if you hire an experienced Realtor who knows your neighborhood well and can guide you to list your home at the best possible price. Sometimes, waiting to list your home during the beautiful Spring months when the sun is out and the trees are blooming and flowering can mean that you could miss out on potential buyers. Many Realtors will tell you, some of their best sales happened in the new year.

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7 REASONS WHY EVERY HOMEBUYER NEEDS OWNER’S TITLE INSURANCE

Buyers and Sellers

Buying a home is an exciting and emotional time for many people. To help you buy your home with more confidence, make sure you get owner’s title insurance. Here’s why it’s so important for you.

Protects Your Largest Investment: A home is probably the single largest investment you’ll make in your life. You insure everything else that’s valuable to you – your life, car, personal property, healthy, pets, jewelry, etc. – so why not your largest investment? For a one-time fee, owner’s title insurance protects your property rights for as long as you or your heirs own the home.

Reduces Your Risk: If you’re buying a home, there are many many hidden issues that may pop up after purchasing it. Getting an owner’s title insurance policy protects you from legal title discrepancies. Don’t think it will happen to you? Think again. Here are just some of the many situations that you’ll be protected from if you have owner’s title insurance.

Unforeseeable title claims, such as:

  • Forgery: making a false document. For example, the seller misrepresents the identity of the person selling the property.
  • Fraud: deception to achieve unfair gain. For example, someone steals your identity and either sells your house without your knowledge or consent or takes out a second mortgage on the property and walks away with the money.
  • Clerical error: inconsistent paperwork and historical records. For example, an unforeseeable discrepancy in the property or fence line causes confusion in ownership rights.

Unexpected title claims, such as:

  • Outstanding mortgages and judgments, or liens against the property because the seller didn’t pay required taxes.
  • Pending legal action against the property that could affect your ownership.
  • An unknown heir of a previous owner who is claiming ownership of property.

You Can’t Beat the Value: Owner’s title insurance is a one-time fee that’s very low relative to the value it provides. It typically costs around 0.5% of a home’s purchase price.

Covers Your Heirs: As long as your or your heirs own your home, owner’s title insurance protects your property rights.

Nothing Compares: Home insurance and warranties protect only the inside of the home. Getting owner’s title insurance ensures your family’s property rights stay protected.

8 in 10 Homebuyers Agree: Each year, more than 80% of America’s homebuyers choose to get owner’s title insurance.

Peace of Mind: If you’re buying a home, owner’s title insurance lets you rest assured, with the knowledge that you won’t be stuck with certain existing debts or legal problems once you’ve closed on your new home.

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