Prevent Danger and Keep Yourself Safe!

Agent safety can be tough when your job requires you to perform independently. To avoid issues, agents should be proactive and take safety into their own hands. The first step to doing so is to understand that safety is your responsibility to yourself.

Recognize the Traits that Make You Vulnerable

Agents always want to look well put together and professional, however, there are a few safety issues that should be discussed. For example, do not wear expensive jewelry and if possible, leave your purse in the trunk of your vehicle. These small details can make all the difference when an attacker is deciding if you would make a good victim.

Respond, Don’t Ignore

Typically, agents are taught to be polite and accommodating, so they will often ignore signs that something is wrong.  Experts on agent safety emphasize the importance to listen to your instincts.  Many agents who have been assaulted, like the agent previously mentioned, ignored the client’s unusual behavior before the attack.

Reduce Your Chances of Becoming A Victim

Ask clients for identification. Establish a special form for clients that includes contact information and a copy of the ID or driver’s license. Meet clients in the office first. This will prevent clients from trying to harm you later, because they know someone else can identify them. When showing a client, a house, avoid walking ahead of them or getting into confined places, like basements, with them.

Take Responsibility—Learn Self Defense

Agents are exposed to danger on a regular basis when they’re doing their job, and even more so for those who are not professionally trained to defend themselves. We know it’s rarely possible to have another trusted person accompany you while driving clients to showings or with you during every open house. That is why we created an online course for you to learn about personal safety and self-defense. We will help you plan ahead and make yourself a less appealing target. You will learn about safety responsibility, safety threats and safety measures to name a few. Remember the key is to let others know where you are, when you will be back and have an excuse to leave if ever you don’t feel comfortable with your circumstances.

These are just a few of the many valuable skills you will learn when taking Certified Training Institute’s Personal Safety and Self Defense 4 Hour CE Course. Real Estate Professionals: learn valuable safety skills and meet your continuing education requirements at the same time. Be prepared for the unexpected, visit Real Estate Training Institute, choose your State and take this class today!

 


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Helping Home Buyers in a Seller’s Market

A seller’s market meant that current inventory is less than the number of buyers in the real estate market. For buyers, that means more than one person may be interested in a single listing. Unfortunately, this means your buyers may end up heart broken. Someone may out bid them and if they have already fallen in love with the home it will be even harder. It’s important to prepare your clients for reality versus expectations as they begin their hunt for the home of their dreams- or as close to their dreams as possible.

In a sellers’ market a buyer must change their home buying strategy to have success when many homes will have multiple offers. Time is of the essence. Multiple offers happen with more regularity in a sellers' market than a buyer's market. That's because by its very nature a seller's market is defined in part by low inventory and lots of home buyers. A beautiful home that is priced well can attract more than one offer. Remember, your client might not be the only buyer.

Preparing the Home Buying Offer in a Seller's Market

  • Price. Price is not always the most important factor. But do not offer less than list price. Realize you may need to offer more than the amount the seller is asking.
  • Earnest Money Deposit. A larger earnest money deposit might look very attractive to a seller. Your client is going to pay it anyway at closing.
  • Don't Request Favors. This is not the time to ask the seller to give you the refrigerator or washer and dryer, or part with fixtures, or paint the front door.
  • Delay Buyer PossessionIf it is customary for the seller to move at closing, give the seller a few extra days to move. Another buyer probably won't think of this maneuver, and the seller will look more kindly upon an offer that lets them move at leisure.
  • Submit Preapproval and Proof of Funds Documentation. If your preapproval letter is from an out-of-area broker or lender, get a local preapproval instead. Mortgage pre-approval goes further than prequalification because you submit all the required paperwork up front. The bank then verifies the amount you can afford to pay for your next home. It takes the guesswork out of your home search and shows sellers you can back your offer up with real money.

Be Upfront About All Expenses

In the world of real estate, referrals and repeat business drive an agent’s success over time. Make an effort to present a clear picture of all the expenses a home buyer has after purchasing a home. Go over how much property taxes and mortgage insurance are and how they’re added into the overall payment. Explain the average utilities on that home and the cost of maintenance. Having this information presented clearly allows buyers to choose a house they can truly afford, even when all the little extras are added in.

Don’t Let Impatience Wreck Their Budget

Patience can be hard to come by when you feel pressure to beat buyers to the punch. But try not to get so carried away you forget the financial goals you’re working toward. Remember, it is recommended keeping your clients mortgage payment to no more than 25% of their monthly take-home pay on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage.

Stress the Value of Improvements

While a turnkey home is attractive to homebuyers because they can move in and not worry about doing a single thing, it isn’t always realistic for buyers on a budget. If their budget doesn’t align with their wants and needs, stress the value of buying lower and making some improvements on their own. Buyers can expect a 70 percent return on investment from improvements to the exterior of the home, such as new siding. This not only gives them something to take pride in but can also help them financially down the road.

Jump on That Seller's Market Showing

Don't let your buyer wait until the weekend to view a home in a seller's market. By the weekend, that home could be sold. Try to be one of the first showings. Sellers usually don't enjoy having buyers come through their homes at all hours of the day, so most would like to see their home sold quickly. If you write a good offer, a fast offer and a clean offer, your client’s chances of acceptance are far better than those of a buyer who is unprepared.

It’s hard to leave emotions out of the home-buying process. After all, your clients purchase a place where they’ll live out their days, raise families and have gatherings of friends and those they love. It’s an emotional decision in many ways. However, if your buyers approach purchasing a home from the emotional side of things, they won’t be as likely to make smart business decisions. Do your best to guide them toward smart choices that will protect them financially, but at the end of the day, remember that you also must deliver a house they’ll love. When you balance those two competing needs, you’ll win both as a real estate agent and as a person.

 


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Agents Subpoenaed in New York

The New York State Senate issued 25 subpoenas to real estate agents and companies as part of a probe into housing discrimination. The housing issues were brought to light in Newsday's 'Long Island Divided' series. The Newsday investigation tested 93 real estate agents and 5,763 listings over the course of three years. They uncovered evidence of widespread unequal treatment by the agents.

In the study a black tester and a white tester separately solicit an agent for assistance buying a home. They present similar financials and request identical terms for houses in the same area. The agents actions are then reviewed for differences in service. They conducted 39 tests comparing black and white testers, 31 tests with Hispanic and white testers, and 16 tests with Asian and white testers. They found housing discrimination 19% of the time against Asians, 39% of the time against Hispanics, and 49% of the time against Blacks.

The New York State Legislature rarely uses subpoenas but the move was necessary after 67 of 68 industry representatives did not appear at a hearing on discrimination in December. The subpoenas will force industry representatives to discuss racist and biased housing practices in New York State on April 17th.

 


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Takeaways From ICNY 2020

Inman Connect 2020 is an event for residential real estate professionals to discuss the present and future of the industry. New York City's The Close attended the Inman Connect 2020 conference and shared their key takeaways from the event. Below is a short list of their findings, to learn more view the full article.

  1. Online Real Estate Lead Quality Has Dropped Since 2012
    In the past 8 years the number of online leads has grown by 510% while the number of new home sales has grown by 10%. Meanwhile, the cost of internet leads is steadily increasing, even as the quality declines. We all know you can't run a successful real estate company without leads so rather than ditching your leads as expensive and unproductive, take the time to really nurture your leads and change your expectations.
  2. Relationships are King but Content is Queen
    Relationships and content need to work hand in hand to represent your business. According to real estate marketing expert Katie Lance, "Every listing, every photo, every single letter of every single word of every single sentence is a representation of your brand. What sort of content are you making to create opportunities for incredible client experiences?” In other words, you need to create great content to engage your audience and make building relationships easier.
  3. Traditional Mortgages Are Being Disrupted
    Companies like Divvy, Flyhomes, and Orchard are providing buyers a new way to buy real estate.  Companies like Divvy will purchase a home for a buyer that doesn't have a down payment and lease it back to them.  A portion of lease goes towards your down payment - once you've saved enough Divvy sells the home to you. Learning about these companies and the growing number of financing options will enable you to market to totally new clients.

These are just a few of the major points from the Inman Connect 2020 conference. View the full article for more.

 


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High Tech Housing Discrimination

The landmark 1968 Fair Housing law that sought to ban housing discrimination has uncovered a modern threat: the rapid adoption of new technologies for selling and renting homes. Despite decades of progress, there is still much work to be done. As the NFHA noted in its 2019 Fair Housing Trends Report, new ways of advertising homes and apartments using AI and advertising that uses demographic microtargeting to zero in on a certain audience, threaten to continue discrimination of the past by modern means.

The home ownership rate for black Americans stood at 42.3 percent last year, just marginally better than 1970, when it was 41.6! Clearly there is a problem in the system. A report by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) last month found that housing discrimination cases were on the rise across the nation. Algorithms aren’t just impartial, unbiased systems that fairly sort through data. Rather, they tend to manifest the biases of their creators, and of that society at large.

For instance, when looking at tenant applications, an automated system may reject applicants based on unintended connections between data sets; living in a low-income neighborhood may be correlated with an inability to pay rent, for instance. And since modern algorithms compile and sort among myriad data sets, it can be hard for designers and programmers to understand exactly which data point may have caused the system to reject an applicant. Research from a team of Berkeley researchers released last month found that lenders using algorithms to generate decisions on loan pricing have discriminated against borrowers of color, resulting in a collective overcharge of $765 million each year for home and refinance loans. The analysis of roughly 7 million 30-year mortgages also found that both in-person and online lenders rejected a total of 1.3 million creditworthy applicants of color between 2008 and 2015.

Employing new methods like machine learning and artificial intelligence can make processes such as sorting through tenant applications faster, more efficient, and cheaper. The problem is that when you try to build an automated system that solves social problems, you end up creating something that looks at the data of the past and learns the sins of the past.

Targeting some, excluding others

One of the more high-profile examples of technology creating new types of housing discrimination arose from online advertising. Facebook has been cited numerous times by the ACLU and other advocacy groups for its microtargeting feature, which lets advertisers send ads to specific groups via a drop-down menu of categories, including age, race, marital status, and disability status. Real Estate professionals could purchase and publish ads on Facebook that discriminated against different racial groups and other categories protected by the Fair Housing Act. Facebook has since apologized and restricted targeting capabilities for housing ads. Earlier this month, as part of a settlement with the ACLU and other groups who had filed a lawsuit, Facebook said that housing, employment, and credit card ads can no longer be targeted based on age, gender, ZIP code, or multicultural affinity. The social network will also maintain a searchable ad library so civil rights groups and journalists could keep tabs on future housing advertisements.

Other tech giants, including Google and Twitter, have been investigated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for similar issues. The nature of these social network ads can also lead to unintentional targeting. For example, many of these systems allow for lookalike audience targeting, a feature that can for example, help a clothing company target consumers similar to those who already like or follow a brand. Carry that over to the housing world, and it could help a high-end apartment developer target potential renters who are similar to existing tenants—in effect concentrating on the same kinds of renters who already live in the building, and potentially excluding others.

Making Changes

Many advocates believe the answer to this unconscious bias is to change the way these new systems are designed in the first place. One step toward changing how these algorithms work could be by changing who designs them. Advocates within fair housing and technology need to educate programmers and others about how bias manifests itself in these systems, while also designing technology that includes discriminatory flares or bias signals: built-in checks that can evaluate how systems are performing and whether or not they may be creating biased outcomes.

Larger legal remedies may also be afoot. The House Financial Services committee has been looking into the issue and held a hearing in July, and some advocates have raised the idea of revamping the Communications Decency Act, which governs the behavior of tech firms and social networks, to create more specific rules around this type of bias and discrimination.

A big part of the solution should be keeping humans within the system. Housing can be so foundational to achievement, household wealth, and equality that some things shouldn’t be left to machines. The idea that math is better than humans may be true in some instances but not all. There’s a difference between mathematical fairness and social fairness. We should design for justice instead.

 


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What the USMCA Trade Agreement Means to Real Estate

Real Estate professionals across the U.S. are excited to finally see progress with the House approval of the USMCA. The USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement) will replace the current trade policy NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). The House of Representatives passed the revised trade agreement after last month when for the first time, the Canadian, Mexican and U.S Realtor Associations expressed joint, public support for specific policy. The associations represent more than 1.5 million Realtors throughout North America.

Canada and Mexico are our two largest trading partners, millions of American jobs rely on goods and services that go back and forth between the three countries. President Trump said that this will be the most important trade deal ever made by the U.S.A. This deal will re-enforce cross-border investment opportunities for each of the respective real estate industries. It may not get mentioned often, but the trade that happens between these three countries has a large impact on the commercial real estate sector. The construction industry in Texas alone generates more than 400,000 jobs and $62.2 billion to the state's economy.

Expanding jobs means a growing need for more space—particularly, more industrial spaces. Industrial space in Mexico and Canada is growing exponentially. To put it simply, the USMCA eliminates unfair trade practices and is very good for our country’s workforce, which will lead to more consumer spending, including purchase of real estate with new home buyers. The updated USMCA will boost trade on everything from cars to dairy products. Tariff agreements make Mexico an ideal place for manufacturers and auto parts makers to set up shop. It will also offer worker protections and labor fairness and lead to bigger paychecks. These tariffs, combined with other factors like the labor and materials cost and close location, make Mexico a less expensive option than anywhere else in the world.

The U.S. housing market is struggling with an inventory shortage that has depressed sales in nearly all 50 states. The so-called “months supply” number that measures how long it would take to sell off the existing stock of homes fell to 3.7 in November, according to the National Association of Realtors. Most economists consider a six-month supply to be a balanced market. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement will help to ease the nation’s housing shortage by stabilizing the prices of materials used in construction, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

 


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Top 5 Real Estate Markets for 2020

Surprisingly, the cities expected to have the most growth in 2020 are nowhere near the large coastal cities you may expect. Instead, home buyers are flocking to areas where they can get more for less. Growing cities in the midwest and southwest dominate growth. Here are the cities that are expected to show continued growth throughout the year.

Boise Idaho

Boise, Idaho 
Median Sale Price $295,000
Home Price Change: +8.1%
Sales Change: +0.3%

Idaho currently has one of the highest rates of job growth in the nation, many of which are in technology which can only mean one thing. Housing is flying off the market and the prices are increasing. Buyers who can spend between $300,000 and $400,000 have the most options.


McAllen, Texas
Median Sale Price $152,000
Home price change: +4%
Sales change: +4.4%

McAllen is the retail center of South Texas and Northern Mexico with 27% of the city's workforce employed in the retail sector. Edinburg is a separate city within metro McAllen that is also seeing a housing boom. A four bedroom house runs under $200,000 so it is popular among many residents that work in McAllen.


Tucson, Arizona
Median Sale Price $230,000
Home price change: +3.3%
Sales change: +3.4%

Luxury home sales are slowing or stagnat across the country - except in Tucson. Homes priced from $800,000 to several million dollars are moving as soon as they hit market. Large companies such as Caterpillar recently moved downtown, bringing jobs to the area. The military base also generates about $2.5 billion dollars annually for the Tucson economy.

This growth in economic activity coupled with the climate are bringing people in from all over the country - 45.2% of listings are viewed by people who live out of state.


Chattanooga, Tennessee
Median Sale Price $189,000
Home price change: +3.6%
Sales change: +2%

Chattanooga is conveniently located between Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia but cheaper than both. The city recently completed a $120 million redevelopment of its riverfront. The area now has apartment buildings, family-friendly restaurants, museums, an amphitheater, and parks. As a result, prices are going up. A two-bedroom condo with river views will run about $300,000, on the other hand, a single family home in the suburbs is going for $200,000.

 


Columbia, South Carolina
Median Sale Price $178,000
Home price change: -0.2%
Sales change: +5.5%

Columbia is known for its ultra-affordable homes - making it attractive to buyers from all over the country. The Fort Jackson Army Base, Amazon fulfillment center, and University of South Carolina also draw home buyers from all over the country. The city is so popular, bidding wars often drive up low list prices.

Neighborhoods near the University have homes from $100,000-$200,000, while areas closer to downtown are generally higher priced.

 


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Get Ready for a New Year and New Career!

How exciting! You’ve decided to take the leap and you are ready to start your new career in 2020. There are a million questions you must have. There are a few things you need to know to get started on the licensing process and start your journey to becoming a stellar real estate salesperson. The time it takes to go from nothing to fully licensed will depend largely on the state you’re trying to get licensed in. Although that may seem daunting imagine working for yourself in a flexible career where you can set your own schedule with annual earning potential of $100,000 or more. There are so many reasons to choose real estate as your career.

1. Know your Application Requirements

There are some legal requirements that all applicants must fulfill. These requirements will change slightly depending on the state you’re in, so make sure to double-check with your state’s licensing commission to make sure you know every requirement.

Generally, the legal requirements for real estate licensure are as follows:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be legally allowed to work in the United States
  • No pending criminal indictments against you
  • No criminal convictions for violent or home invasion-related offenses

The last two criteria, related to an applicant’s criminal background, are determined in most states on a case-by-case basis. A conviction doesn’t necessarily disqualify an applicant but trying to hide something in the application process almost certainly will.

2. Take a Pre-licensure Course

Nearly every state requires at least 30 hours of pre-licensure study before an applicant is eligible to sit for the state real estate licensing exam. There are two major reasons for this. First, real estate is a relatively complex business and in order to get started in the business, there’s a minimum knowledge base you’ll need to properly operate. As a real estate agent, you’ll be tasked with caring for the needs of your clients, a task that would be reckless to take on if you didn’t know the best ways to help them.

3. Pass Your State’s Real Estate Exam

Once you’ve completed your real estate pre-licensing course, you’re free to take the actual exam whenever you’d like, but we suggest you spend some time taking some practice exams. As many as you can find. Really. As MANY as you can find. Once you’ve completed your state’s pre-licensure requirements and prepped with some practice tests, it’s time to take your licensing exam. So what’s on the Real Estate License Exam?

Each state administers multiple versions of the test, and each state is different, it’s impossible to say exactly what you’ll see, but there are a few topics that real estate agents consistently see on the test.

  • Fair housing law: This topic is one that you’ll spend a good chunk of time on in your pre-licensing class, so pay attention. Knowing these facts is important if you want to adhere to state and federal guidelines on discrimination and equal housing opportunities, so the test will hammer them.
  • Basic contracts: Contracts are a critical component to using a real estate license, so the basic rules for contracts and negotiations appear regularly.
  • Real estate math: You won’t be asked to do anything more than arithmetic, but you’ll definitely be asked to do a lot of it. Understanding interest rates, percentages, and prorations will be put to the test in a number of questions.

4. Choose Your Brokerage

Once you’ve completed your pre-licensure requirements and passed your state exam, it’s time to start thinking about where you want to work. Even though you’ve demonstrated to the state that you have the knowledge required to practice real estate, you still need a brokerage to sponsor you. In order to buy and sell real estate, every real estate agent requires a broker to sponsor them. A broker is a real estate agent who has demonstrated that they not only have advanced knowledge of the industry, but that they also have a track record of success.

5. Register with the State You’re Practicing In

Once you’ve made a decision on a brokerage, the next step is to formalize your licensure with the state you’ll be operating in. It will involve submitting your personal and brokerage information and, in many states, completing forms for a basic background check. Real estate is a field that requires constant learning in order to maintain success. Find a mentor or a set of mentors who you can ask questions of, bounce ideas off of, and get advice from.

Finally, remember that this business is all about servicing our clients, not ourselves. When you accept your Realtor designation from the National Association of Realtors, you agree to always place your client’s fiduciary best interests over all others, including your own. If you are ever faced with a tough decision in a transaction, stop and ask yourself if your choices are in the best interest of your clients.

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How to Handle Bad Reviews

What is the first thing a potential client does when looking for a real estate agent? If you answered "look for reviews" you're correct. So what do you do if you have bad reviews?

  1. Avoid being defensive. It's natural to have hurt feelings or want to retaliate when someone speaks poorly of your business. Avoid this reaction. Instead, do a little research.
  2. Google your name to see if there are any additional negative reviews about your practice. If you find a pattern, for example, multiple clients saying your staff is rude and unhelpful, you know where to start. If you only have one bad review, that's great news!
  3. Talk to anyone at your company who may have interacted with the unhappy client. It's possible a misunderstanding occurred or you have an unreasonable customer on your hands. Either way, it's best to know what you're up against before you respond.
  4. Now that you understand the problem, you're ready to respond. Make sure you respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a positive manner. When responding to bad reviews start by thanking the reviewer for their time and valuable input. Apologize for their poor experience without making excuses (yes, even if their complaint is unreasonable. This shows future customers you are dedicated to keeping your customers happy). Let them know how you plan to address the problem. The response below not only addresses client concerns, but also encourages the client to take the conversation off of a public platform, and shows potential customers your dedication to customer care.

Example: "Thank you for taking the time to provide us with feedback. We are very sorry you had a bad experience with our company. We are working with our staff to ensure we are able to provide top-quality customer service in the future. We would appreciate the opportunity to make things right with you, please call our office between 8am-5pm to discuss possible solutions."


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A Home for the Holidays

Nothing says holidays like having your family gathered in your home while you celebrate what’s important. Around this time each year, many homeowners decide to wait until after the holidays to list their houses. Similarly, others who already have their homes on the market remove their listings until the spring. Many sellers believe spring is the best time to put their home on the market because buyer demand traditionally increases at that time of year. What they don’t know is if every homeowner believes the same thing, everyone will list and buy at the same time and therefore encounter far more competition. According to NAR, the sweet spot for selling is November through January. Here are the top reasons why listing your clients house now (or keeping it on the market) may be the best choice they can make.

5 great reasons to tell your clients not to wait:

  1. Buyers at this time of year are serious. Purchasers who are looking for homes during the holidays are serious buyers and are ready to buy now. At this time of year, purchasers who are serious about buying a home will be in the marketplace. Your client and their family will not be bothered and inconvenienced by mere lookers. The lookers are at the mall or online doing their holiday shopping.
  2. The stage is set. Homes show better when decorated for the holidays. There is something about lights, bulbs and ornaments that make you want to cozy up and stay awhile.
  3. Prices are at a sweet spot. Over the past few months we’ve seen the supply of homes for sale decreasing year-over-year. Prices are projected to appreciate by 4.8% over the next year according to Corelogic. If your clients are moving to a higher priced home, it will wind up costing them more in both down payment and mortgage payment if they wait.
  4. The desire to own a home doesn’t stop during the holidays. Buyers who were unable to find their dream homes during the busy spring and summer months are still searching, and your client's home may be the answer. According to NAR, the median days on the market for a listing was only 33 days last month!
  5. Competition is low. The supply of listings increases substantially after the holidays. Also, in many parts of the country, new construction will continue to surge and reach new heights in 2020, which will lessen the demand for their house next year. Temperatures aren’t the only thing that heats up in the spring – so do listings! In 2018, listings increased from December to May. Don’t wait for these listings and the competition that comes with them to come to the market before your clients decide to list their house.

Freddie MacFannie Mae, and the Mortgage Bankers Association all believe homes sales will increase steadily over the next year. Real estate is impacted by the economy (and the consumer’s belief in the strength of the economy). The fact that most economic experts are calling for the recovery to continue through 2020 means the housing market will also remain strong for the foreseeable future. If you have a homeowner who has considered selling their house recently, let them know that now may be the best time to put it on the market.

 


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