Should I buy a Home or Keep Renting?

The American Dream. Owning your own home. Is it your time to have a piece of that dream? Are you ready? Because if you aren’t there can be some big financial consequences. Here are some pros and cons to owning a home:

PRO: Build Equity. Home equity is the difference in the market value of your home and how much you owe. So let’s say you’ve taken the mortgage and the market value of your house went up. You still pay out a fixed mortgage sum, so there is a difference between those two numbers and that difference can be put to good use, that’s your valuable asset.

PRO: Tax Benefits. Owning a home is a huge investment. Even if you’re not pulling your equity loan, there is always a chance to sell your house later for a better price. Today, as a homeowner you’ll also be entitled to tax benefits.

PRO: A Monthly Mortgage Payment Can Be Lower Than Rent. You should understand that it works only for some cities and states, but sometimes the monthly mortgage payment is lower than the rental payment or, at least, equal. This is a pretty good reason to prepare the down payment and take the mortgage.

PRO: Improve Your Home The Way You Want. Owning a home gives you home improvement freedom. There is no landlord who says what you can and cannot do while decorating and improving your house. Renovate your property or completely redesign your bath, you can do whatever you want with your own place. This is something worth paying for.

CON: You’re In That Same Home It Until You Sell It. While you have the freedom to make the home exactly the way you want it, you don’t have the freedom to leave your mortgage. the freedom mentioned above, when you take a mortgage for a house, you’re stuck with this particular place for a long time. When you are renting, it’s as simple as finding a new rental and off you go.

CON: Property Taxes. As a homeowner, there are plenty of tax benefits, but you are also obligated to pay property taxes which is usually collected by the municipal government. The value of the property tax is determined by multiplying the property tax rate by the market value of the particular property. Market changes a lot and it means that municipalities may recalculate the property tax.

CON: Home Repairs and Maintenance. The house is fully yours and it means that all the repairs and the whole maintenance process are on you. It’s always fun to call a landlord and ask him to fix a sink, but now you’re on your own and, of course, you pay for all the materials, work process and spend money on keeping your house well-suited for living in it.

The Bottom Line: For many people, owning a home makes more sense financially and from a lifestyle perspective than renting a home. Owning and renting each has its advantages, but what’s best for you depends on your circumstances. Crunch all the numbers.

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The Visual Marketing of Instagram and Real Estate

Realtors: Instagram should be a part of your social media business marketing plan. While you may not land your biggest home buyer or seller, using this platform to market your business, the culture of your business and the value can absolutely improve your reputation and help you to reach people others can’t. Set up a business account separate from your personal profile and use the analytics you will have access to.

Learn exactly who likes your posts. You will have the ability to reach out to potential leads just by seeing who “liked” your post. Expect 10x more engagement on Instagram than Facebook. Don’t be afraid to be personal.

One billion people use Instagram every month. And, 500 million users login and use the Instagram platform every day.

Instagram is a free form of advertising and almost everyone knows about it. Right now anyone with a smartphone, from kids to a retired relative is on the platform. However, for almost nothing, another option for advertising your real estate listings on Instagram is to promote individual posts. When you have a business account, Instagram gives you the option to reach more people by promoting posts.

It shows off real estate listings. Post stunning photos, video walkthroughs and anything else that might sell the home. Beyond the photos, show your personality. The homes may be fantastic, but sell them YOU so they not only come to see your listing on your page, but your personality and let them learn if you might be someone they want to work with.

Hashtags are the new SEO. As a Realtor, you can rank higher in an Instagram search with the perfect hashtag than you may be ranking with your traditional SEO approach to search results pages. Do the research and find other Realtors that cater to the same audience you want to find. Learn the hashtags they use, the calls to action they include, the captions they write and the content they share.

Make your post beautiful and post often and enjoy the rewards of more engagement and traffic. Posts with a lot of likes will be at the top of the users’ feeds, thanks to the Instagram algorithms. Be sure to use video in your social media marketing strategy. Right now it is the most powerful way to connect with anyone who follows you and their friends. Right now, Instagram allows you to post 15-second videos to your Stories and 60-second videos to your feed.  Use it.

The Bottom Line: Like it or not, the internet has become the go-to resource for would-be homeowners as they prepare to purchase a home and all real estate agents need to be using Instagram to market to potential clients. Using Instagram for real estate takes time and effort, but the process of creating posts and engaging with others online can be rewarding. Have an Instagram presence that you work on daily, even if briefly, and get users engaged in what you have to offer. While running ads on Instagram can be a useful step when starting off, the momentum comes from continued social engagement.

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Thinking of Buying a Home But Have Bad Credit? Here’s What You Can Do

The financial path to homeownership can be difficult—especially if you’re building your credit score from scratch or rebuilding it after a financial disaster. Lending companies can be fussy, and if your credit scores are low, the chances of you finding a lender willing to provide a home loan with favorable terms isn’t always likely. But it’s not impossible! If this sounds like the position you’re in, consider these four tips to help you buy a house even if you have bad credit.

Tip 1: Find Out What Your Credit Score Is
The first order of business when determining your home financing options is to get your most recent credit score. Contrary to popular belief, checking your own credit won’t actually lower it. That’s because doing so is considered to be a “soft inquiry,” or a case where your inquiry does not appear on your credit report or impacts your credit scores. It’s also important to keep in mind that you have numerous credit scores lenders might use to qualify you, but you’ll minimally want to find out what your scores are from each of the major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can request a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from any of the agencies above.

Tip 2: Look for Errors on Your Credit Report
While assessing your credit report, you may want to be on the lookout for errors that can harm your credit scores. Delinquencies and derogatory marks alone can make up 35 percent of your FICO score. Check to make sure all personal information (name, address, employer, etc.), public records (bankruptcies, repossessions, foreclosures, etc.), credit accounts (payment history and open accounts), and inquiries (applications for credit) are accurate. If you spot an error, file a dispute with the credit-reporting agency with which you identified the error online, by phone, or by mail for a chance to correct the issue and improve your credit.

Tip 3: Assess Your Options
Once you know your credit scores, you can begin to understand what types of loans and rates you qualify for. Although the scores a lender chooses to use when reviewing your credit can vary, most use FICO® scores, which range from 300 to 850 and 250 to 900 for specific industries. To obtain a loan with the most favorable interest rates, you’ll generally need to have scores in the mid-700s or higher. If your scores fall between the mid-600s or lower, you may find it difficult to find a lender willing to provide you with a loan. There are, in fact, some lenders who make use of FHA-backed loans, which require no minimum credit score or a down payment; however, this option can be a slippery slope, as each lender is allowed to set their own requirements, which might call for a substantial amount of money up front. Whatever the case, weigh your options carefully and choose whichever won’t put you under undue financial duress.

Tip 4: Rebuild Your Credit
If, after weighing your options, you don’t find a loan with favorable enough conditions, it might be a good idea to put a hold on buying a house and increase your credit scores. Ideally, you should start this process over a year or two in advance to allow enough time for your efforts to take effect. For instance, you’ll have more time to pay off existing debt and for delinquencies to age off of your report. Throughout this process, it may be beneficial to switch from a traditional bank that may deny you access to your checking account in lieu of poor credit and switch to a second chance banking option that won’t penalize you for credit mistakes and will work with you to enhance your financial livelihood. By simply making nominal increases to your credit scores, you might open up new doors that can help you purchase the home you’ve always wanted.

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Questions You Need Answers To Before You Buy A Home

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Buying a home is about the largest single investment you’ll ever make, and you should spend a lot of time and investigate for the perfect house for your family. You must get answers to questions that will give you peace of mind in your purchase. Hopefully, you have found the best Realtor who will help you get to the bottom of these questions:

Why is the house for sale: You may not get the real reason why. There are many reasons why people move, including job relocation, desire to get into a smaller/larger house, life events (marriage, the birth of a child, death of a spouse, or other reason) and retirement. But, if you can get an answer it might help in the negotiation of price.

How long has the home for sale been on the market? If it’s been more than 60 days, chances are you will have more room to negotiate.

How old is the roof?  A roof generally lasts between 15 and 50 years, depending on its materials. If you know how old the roof is, and what type is, you will better be able to determine how long it will last and calculate that into your offer price.

What was the previous selling price? If you know how much the seller paid for the home you will be able to see the value of the local market that the home is in – has it gone up or down. If they paid a lower price, they may be willing to negotiate. If they bought it close to what they are asking for, they most likely won’t budge.

Is there radon in the home? Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that’s found in about 1 every 15 homes.  Most Realtors will tell buyers to get a test done. If the home is found to have it, it will be safe to live in once the radon remediation occurs.

How is the school system? This really matters even if you don’t have children. The quality and rating of the school system affect the value of your home. The next buyers may have kids.

Has there ever been a pipe burst? A good inspector usually can tell if water damage has occurred, and any damage should be disclosed by the previous owner at the time of sale.  The big problem from water damage is moisture problems we are unable to see, behind drywall and trim which leads to mold. A mold remediation professional can tell you if mold is present and how to remove it.

Any signs of pests? Another disclosure that should be made by the owners at the time of the sale. Even if they had a past infestation and dealt with it and can offer proof, such as a receipt for pest control it doesn’t mean the pests are gone for good. Whatever conditions made the home ripe for infestation- a slow leak under the house, rotting wood, or even a total neighborhood situation, get the answers with help from your Realtor.

There are many more investigative questions to ask and hopefully, you have the perfect Realtor that will do a search for all the answers to any questions you may have. Nothing is off limits – this is your investment.

  • Are there sex offenders in the neighborhood?
  • What is the slope of the driveway?
  • How old are the appliances?
  • How many offers has the seller gotten?
  • What type of foundation?
  • What is included in the sale?
  • Are there any neighborhood nuisances?
  • Any lead paint?

The Bottom Line: A conversation with the seller and their Realtor and a review of public records can fill in any blanks to help you make the best decision. Also, you can contact city hall and the county’s property appraiser.

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What Not To Do Before Listing Your Home For Sale

Don’t Spend A Lot of Money on Improvements: It’s tempting to make expensive changes to your home allure prospective buyers. Too many times, sellers put a lot of money into fixing up their homes before listing it. Make an appointment with a skilled Realtor who knows your neighborhood well and can give you advice on what improvements are the most important to tackle. The Realtor will help you to weigh the cost of the proposed upgrades against the market value of your home after the improvements are made. Sometimes, it isn’t applicable to do anything if you won’t get a return on your money.

Don’t Ignore the Outside of Your Home: It’s always a good idea to spend a little extra money on landscaping, and you honestly don’t even have to spend a huge amount to improve the outside of your home. Mulch, bush trimming, plant flowers, tree branch removal, and a fresh cut lawn can speak volumes and set your home apart from the competition. The first impression can make or break your chance to sell your home with a profit. Prospective buyers do drive-bys and often don’t bother putting a home on their list to see the inside if the outside isn’t attractive. Or, they will use an unkempt yard excuse to lowball an offer.

Don’t Overprice Your Home: Prospective buyers are not going to overpay for a home. This is quite possibly the worst home listing mistake. You should choose a Realtor who will have all the neighborhood comparables printed out and ready for you. Remember, there is so much information out there on the internet and the average buyer is pretty real estate savvy. They are able to drum up any information they can find to show your home is overpriced. Then, there is the “typical time frame” that a home should sell in every market and if your home has surpassed that, buyers will know your home is probably overpriced.

Don’t Overlook the Small Details: Are the appliances working? Lights? Hardware on cabinets and doors all tightened and clean? Closets decluttered? Odors from pets need to be tackled. Are the carpets and air ducts clean? Scratches off the wall? All of these are easy fixes and you may not notice any of them, but buyers will.

The Bottom Line: Homes that need repair often deliver lower prices in any market. Buyers won’t even bother with homes that need the slightest work. Do the work in researching the best Realtor in your area who will be able to give you straight answers and guide you in what you must do and what you can pass on before listing your home.

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Finding The Best Neighborhood

Location. Location. Location. The best neighborhood will sell a home, Most Realtors will tell you. It also helps your home hold its value and makes it easy to sell when the time comes. If you have found the home of your dreams but don’t know much about the area it is in – how do you make the decision that the neighborhood that the home is the “right” neighborhood?

  • Research the Neighborhood Values Online: Because of the world wide web, anyone can find out any detail about anything and anyone. Become a private investigator! Discover all the information about a neighborhood using your internet skills. Use the MLS, Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia to name just a few to research the sales and rentals over the last few years. Learn the turnaround time of homes that have sold. Have your Realtor get the comparables. Fast home sales indicate a desirable neighborhood.
  • Research Crime Rates Online: Find the crime map that many cities use to display the types of crimes and the density in different areas.
  • Meet the Neighbors: If there is an area of town that you love, become its expert. Go to the local shops, restaurants, open houses, coffee shops and introduce yourself to people. People love to talk about where they live and the people who work in these establishments can give you all sorts of information.
  • Grab a Fancy Coffee: When you see coffee shops and upscale retail chains, it’s a sure sign that the neighborhood is on the up and up, if not already arrived. These establishments have done the research and open where the investment is worth.
  • Research the School District: Find the test scores of the neighborhood’s school system online or stop into the local high school. Home prices are usually higher where the test scores are hearty.
  • Home Values Hold: Again, hit the world wide web and find the historical sale prices in the county’s property tax records. If the neighborhood you love isn’t online, ask your Realtor for the sales trends.
  • Watch for the Red Flags: It’s not as hard as you think to discover a neighborhood on the decline. Look online for the number of short sales, foreclosures and drive around to see the number of vacant properties. Is there a highway being built too close to the neighborhood? A sure sign of decline.

The Bottom Line: Do you think you might move again within five to seven years? If you believe you may, you want to make sure your home will be marketable then. A good Realtor coupled with your private investigator online skills will be able to help you feel confident in the future of the area. Before even looking at homes, narrow down the neighborhoods. Find the community that meets all your needs AND will have homes that will hold their value.

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The Relationship Between a Title Agency and a Realtor

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Title First Agency works hard to ensure a seamless experience for Realtors and their clients. From contract to closing, Title First handles all the details to help your transactions run smoothly and close on time.

Access to Property Information:

Title First Agency can help Realtors by getting the names, addresses and phone numbers for properties that their client are interested in buying. Maybe the buyer wants to find a home of a certain age or in a particular area – whatever it may be, a Title First Agent has the ability to access a lot of data and can find the information needed. Buyers often drive around neighborhoods that they want to live in and see the perfect home for their family. A Title First Agent can look up the information of who owns the home and how long they have been there at the exact address. This will enable the Realtor and the buyer to put together a homebuyers letter to owner.

Advertising and Marketing:

Title First can assist Realtors in promoting their business with our full line of marketing solutions. For your next listing, make a good first impression on potential clients and prospective buyers with a bound presentation of property information. We have the ability to help you design, print and mail your full-color glossy, postcards. Use our Net-to-Seller tool that will help estimate a client’s profit and present it in a professional format to be shared. Or, give our Title First Agent App a try to provide a higher level of service to your clients. This app will enable you to give quick and easy estimates to any real estate financial question. The app features net sheets, quick estimates, closing,costs, prorated taxes and much more. Finally, email us your MLS link, logo and personal photo and let us create a professional full-color info sheet for your listing.

Legal Expertise:

Title First Agency has experienced real estate lawyers who have worked many years through settlements and closings. It’s an invaluable asset to always have legal experts on hand with a good title company. The buyer, seller and you, the Realtor, can have peace of mind that purchases and end-to-end processes of closing on a property are performed seamlessly and on time.

The Bottom Line: At Title First Agency, we measure our success by your success. That’s why we offer a variety of services to help you grow your real estate business. Beyond the above listed services, the issuing of insurance, and performing title searches, we can manage the escrow account for the home sale. We safeguard all money and documents related to the transaction for the parties involved, such as the deed to the home, closing costs, earnest money deposit and the down payment.

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What Is the Difference Between a Deed And a Title?

When buying a new home, you’ll quickly hear all sorts of terms tossed into conversations. Most people tend to assume that Property Deeds and titles are the same, but in reality refer to two separate legal concepts. When you own a property entirely, you will possess both the Deed and title. But a title is distinct from a Deed. Mixing the two up can cause problems if you don’t know what you’re using.

Deeds are simply the legal documents that transfer title from one entity to another, not titles themselves. They must be written documents, according to the Statute of Frauds. Another term for “deed” is “vehicle of the property interest transfer.” In most states, deeds are required to be recorded in a courthouse or an assessor’s office to make them fully binding, but a failure to file them does not change the transfer of title. It just means that the deed is not “perfected.” An imperfect deed does not mean that there is a problem with the title. It’s just a problem with the way that the paperwork surrounding the deed was handled.

A Title is a legal way of saying you own a right to something. When buying a home, the title refers to ownership of the property, and you have the rights to use that property. It may be a partial interest in the property or it may be full. However, because you have a title, you can access the land and potentially modify it as you see fit. A Title also means that you can transfer that interest or portion that you own to others.

The Bottom Line: Deeds and certificates of title have one function in common: both provide proof of ownership of property. The certificate of title must contain enough information to identify the piece of property and any encumbrances, such as mortgages. The deed to a piece of property may also include conditions of ownership and more extensive information about the property. The deed itself is also an integral part of a real estate transfer.

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NATIONAL REACH. LOCAL TOUCH

Title companies offer one of the most important types of insurance that one can buy. For most people, a residence or commercial property may be the most expensive asset they own. Title insurance in a real estate transaction has great value to the average consumer.

Think about it this way, what is the first thing you do when you go buy a car? You probably (hopefully!) pick up the phone and call your insurance agent to insure the vehicle. So naturally, insuring your real estate would be more pressing, since the value of it can be quite substantial.

So what should a good title company offer? Since the Ohio Department of Insurance regulates title insurance in the state of Ohio, and the Ohio Title Insurance Rating Bureau dictates all premiums, a title company can set itself apart by the customer service they offer along with the partner networks they share. Working with a large title company that does business on a national level has many advantages.

Title companies with the ability to write on multiple underwriter paper have the ability to provide more options and flexibility to their clients. For instance, Title First Agency is licensed in 33 states and can conduct business in all 50 states through its partner network and affiliations. Title First utilizes five of the leading title insurance underwriters in the business to issue title insurance policies to end consumers. (Check them out at https://titlefirst.com/underwriters/) This benefits the consumer in many ways, especially when a potential title issue arises and one underwriter is willing to take the risk while another may not be so willing.

Another benefit of a national title company is the increased level of protection of private information of both clients and consumers. There is a vast amount of private information necessary in conducting a real estate transaction. Some title companies have specific protocols as well as various checks and balances in place to ensure consumer privacy, which is paramount in today’s world. At Title First, we pride ourselves on achieving the highest certification for cyber security audits, without exception, known as SSAE 18. In addition, Title First is Best Practices Certified by the American Land Title Association. In order to obtain these certifications, Title First has participated in rigorous, outside, third party audits that test our systems and ensures the company maintains privacy at every level. What does this mean for you and your clients? It means that you can rest easy knowing your client’s information and financials are safe within our company.

Larger, national title companies, such as Title First, have a strong network of contacts in the real estate industry. Whether it be lenders, national vendors, realtors, or private attorneys – national title companies have access to all of these partners and more, which provides consumers and clients with access to any resources they may need during their transaction. This access creates the best overall experience at the closing table for the consumer and their realtors! Some lenders will only work with certain title companies – some have a “preferred vendors” list. Title First has built these affiliations and relationships over more than 60 years in the business. A trusted partner can provide you with peace of mind so you can make it to your next listing appointment or showing, on time and without a worry.

Why not use a company with a proven history, and a large network of providers to ensure you get the most for your client? Title First does just that – “National Reach, Local Touch” – at every step of the way.


By: Angie W. Sherry, Esq.

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Do I Need Title Insurance?

Title insurance. What would happen if you didn’t have it? What if you decided it’s not worth it? For starters, you would have bought a home that you can’t prove you bought legally. The title is the your right to possess and use the property .

What can happen without it? Problems arise when there are parties who want to be repaid loans and bills collateralized by the same property. There is the lender that made the first mortgage; the lender that opened the home equity line of credit; contractors whose unpaid bills resulted in liens on the property; taxing districts; and even homeowners’ associations waiting to be repaid from the proceeds of the house. Who will get paid and when? Without a title to the home? You are on the hook for the bills.

Title First will do a title search so that you don’t end up buying all those problems with the house. Being the new owner doesn’t mean that the problems go away. If you don’t have title insurance, you might have to sell the house just to repay the outstanding bills which have become yours.

A title search is usually required by all lenders. They want to make sure that title problems are cleared up before you buy the house. If the lender makes a mortgage with the home as collateral and it already has claims against it, the lender will lose money.

During the process of buying a home, Title First will check the property’s ownership history. Ideally, there is a “clear title”, meaning the current owner, who is selling to you, has a complete ownership stake in the property, without any legal claims against it. 

If Title First does not find any outstanding claims or title defects, know that there could be a “yet to be discovered” issue that could arise and sully the ownership of the property years after the purchase. Maybe there was a mistake in the ownership history, an oversight committed by the title researcher, even a previously unknown heir. There could be a possible pending lawsuit or legal judgment.

A title defect that arises after a loan closing could, at the very least, mean a variety of legal costs — and, in a worst-case event, the loss of your property and the money you’ve put in it.

The Bottom Line: Title First works hard to ensure a seamless experience for you and your clients. From contract to closing, Title First handles all the details to help your transactions run smoothly and close on time.

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