Fidelity National Title Welcomes Lisa Whitaker to the Team!

Mary Lou Paulk, President/County Manager for the Maricopa County Operations for Fidelity National Title Agency, is pleased to announce the addition of Lisa Whitaker to the Fidelity team. With 25 years of experience in title and escrow sales, Ms. Whitaker understands the keys to coaching real estate agents to success.

Her dedication to the industry and outgoing, genuine personality have resulted in a network of relationships that she leverages to build market share. Lisa’s primary responsibility in her role as Sales Executive will be to help agents grow their business through training, creative marketing ideas, and tools that Fidelity offers. Lisa joins our Scottsdale Spectrum branch location.

“My favorite part of this position is watching my clients earn more money due to my help. I genuinely love seeing my clients succeed. Fidelity provides the financial strength, knowledge, tools, and network to put my clients a step ahead in this competitive industry.”

Contact Lisa today to start saving time, saving money, and closing more deals with the nation’s largest title insurer, Fidelity National Title Agency.

Fidelity National Title Welcomes Dallas Griffin to the Team!

Mary Lou Paulk, President/County Manager for the Maricopa County Operations for Fidelity National Title Agency, is pleased to announce the addition of Dallas Griffin to the Fidelity team. In her role as Sales Executive at Fidelity, Ms. Griffin will focus on growing business for Fidelity’s partners by connecting real estate agents with valuable resources and industry knowledge.

A graduate of Arizona State University, Ms. Griffin has been surrounded by real estate and marketing in her studies and in her family. Her outgoing and optimistic nature led her to a career path built on networking and connecting with others to achieve success. Dallas joins our Scottsdale Ridge branch location.

“Making someone’s day makes my day. It is really what I love to do and why I chose to join Fidelity.  Building mutually beneficial relationships is a cornerstone of both the real estate industry and my personal motto “Teamwork makes the dream work!” Here, I have the opportunity to spend every day working with real estate agents to grow their business and achieve greater success.”

Dallas also enjoys trying new restaurants, traveling, reading inspiring books, working out, finding dance floors to break a move on, and most importantly, spending time with friends and family.

Contact Dallas today to start saving time, saving money, and closing more deals with the nation’s largest title insurer, Fidelity National Title Agency.

Fidelity National Title Welcomes Tammy Gray to the Team!

Mary Lou Paulk, President/County Manager for the Maricopa County Operations for Fidelity National Title Agency, is pleased to announce the addition of Tammy Gray to the Fidelity team. With a background of 9 years in the real estate industry, Ms. Gray, Sales Executive, brings extensive training and marketing experience to create lasting partnerships.

Tammy’s primary role is to help real estate partners develop and expand their business through education and training on resources offered by Fidelity. Winner of the Berkshire Hathaway Rookie of the Year award in 2007, Ms. Gray passionately strives to provide exemplary customer service and to be approachable and sincere in all her interactions. She joins our Ocotillo branch.

“I truly enjoy helping agents with their business, and I treasure the successes that my knowledge and skills can create for them. My motto ‘Work smarter, not harder!’ drives me to maximize the value I bring to Fidelity’s partners. I ensure that the agents I work with obtain better results by leveraging their resources and their connection to the biggest title company in this country.”

Contact Tammy today to start saving time, saving money, and closing more deals with the nation’s largest title insurer, Fidelity National Title Agency.

Share With Your Buyers How the CFPB Changes Benefit Them

 

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With all the industry coverage regarding the upcoming CFPB changes, your clients may still not be aware of how those changes may benefit them. Here, in a nutshell is an explanation to pass along to your buyers and potential buyers regarding those benefits.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is an agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take control over their economic lives.

In November of 2013, the CFPB issued the Integrated Mortgage Disclosures Rule under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and the Truth in Lending Act, combining certain disclosures that consumers receive in connection with applying for and closing on a mortgage loan.  In October 2014, the Bureau proposed amendments that were finalized in the beginning of 2015 which yielded the amendments were to be in effect on August 1, 2015.  Recently, the CFPB has extended this effective date to October 3, 2015.

The amendments currently and will continue to have an effect on homeowners, buyers, sellers and other stakeholders in the real estate world. In addition, this new update will affect the home buying experience in several ways. As a result of this update, the mortgage, title and escrow industries have been putting new processes in place to ensure that purchases and acquisitions of homes adapt to the new ruling.

According to the CFPB, the new disclosures are easier to understand and use than the existing disclosures.  In addition, the Loan Estimate you get once you apply for a mortgage and the Closing Disclosure you get before you close are designed to work with each other.  To see the direct comparisons, click here.

In addition, the CFPB published some clear benefits in their 11/13 publication titled What the New Simplified Mortgage Disclosures Mean for Consumers.  Here are a few benefits that consumers can expect to experience:

  • Combining several forms and additional statutory disclosure requirements into two forms will reduce paperwork and consumer confusion.
  • Using clearer language and design will help consumers understand complicated mortgage loan and real estate transactions.
  • Highlighting the information that has proven to be most important to consumers. On the new forms, the interest rate, monthly payments, and the total closing costs will be clearly presented on the first page. This makes it easier for consumers to compare mortgage loans and choose the one that is right for them.
  • Providing more information about the costs of taxes and insurance and how the interest rate and payments may change in the future. This information will help consumers decide whether they can afford the mortgage loan and the home, now and in the future.
  • Warning consumers about features they may want to avoid, like penalties for paying off the loan early or increases to the mortgage loan balance even if payments are made on time.
  • Making the cost estimates consumers receive for services required to close a mortgage loan more reliable, for example, appraisal or pest inspection fees. The rule prohibits increases in charges from lenders, their affiliates, and for services for which the lender does not permit the consumer to shop unless a specific exception applies. Examples of the specific exceptions include when information provided by a consumer at application was inaccurate or becomes inaccurate, or when the consumer asks for a change in the services.
  • Requiring that consumers receive the Closing Disclosure at least three business days before closing on the mortgage loan. Currently, consumers often receive this information at closing or shortly before closing. This additional time will allow consumers to compare the final terms and costs to the terms and costs they received in the estimate. That will better equip them to raise any questions before they go to the closing table.

It is worth noting that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau seeks to strike a balance between the interests of lenders and that of borrowers. The primary rule that will shape the market is that lenders will now be required to ensure that the borrowers have the capacity to repay the mortgage that has been extended to them. Consequently, the lenders will be offered a protection against the borrower’s lawsuits provided they follow the guidelines that have been adopted. Lenders will have also have to document that they have taken reasonable measures to ensure the credibility of the borrowers.

As the new rules take effective October 3, 2015, it is important for consumers to ask questions and talk through the entire mortgage process with their realtors and financial partners.  Educating yourself on the process and knowing your responsibilities from start to finish will ensure a smooth transaction and home buying experience.

Are You Keeping Tabs of Your Online Reputation?

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Maintaining a stellar online reputation as a real estate agent is as equally important as building that reputation. Here’s some simple actions that you can do to keep a good online reputation intact.

Manage Brand Searches

People run an internet search on everyone nowadays, so agents should expect that people are going to conduct a search before deciding to work with them. Agents should be aware of what people find when searching their name and set up a great website and social media persona to make sure there are favorable posts and information on the first page or two of their search results.

Encourage Customer Reviews

One of the simplest things ways to positively market yourself is to have positive customer reviews. Agents should ask both buyers and sellers for reviews, and ask explicitly for permission to include reviews on their website. Reputation management agency iSocialReviews collected statistics from several studies showing:

  • 87% of people trust online reviews
  • 77% read less than six reviews to form an opinion
  • Customers do believe a rating system matters, and each star increases sales

Interact With Social Media Followers

Agents need to be thoughtful about how they interact with followers on social media and their blog. Here are the basic rules:

  • Interact directly with followers and commenters and respond to direct interactions.
  • Share positive reviews and thank the people who originally posted them.
  • Offer useful information and ask questions to elicit conversation.
  • Use reputable information and credit sources used in your posts
  • Be knowledgeable to be able to answer questions about the information they post.

Responding To Negative Feedback

One of the potential drawbacks of social media is the negative attention. Word-of-mouth can shred a real estate agent’s reputation quickly and most people won’t dig deep to find out if accusations are true. The best way to avoid most of this is to respond swiftly to anyone who expresses they’ve had a negative experience. Agents must learn to know the difference between authentic and false claims. When it comes to legitimate critique, agents should listen and respond in a way that can resolve the issue, not just make it go away.

Maintaining Professionalism

Striking the balance between being personable and fun versus being unprofessional can be tricky. Agents should remember their professional reputation affects their business. They cannot interact with clients the way they might with friends after-hours. At the same time, they should be approachable as experts in their field. They must be thoughtful that emotions, facial expressions and body language are removed from online interaction so humor may not translate and excessive formality can be off-putting. Try striking a good balance of remaining personable and  conversational while remaining professional with all interactions.

Managing an online reputation is not all that different from managing your reputation in real life. All it takes is personality, integrity and transparency.

 

A Stronger 2015 for the Phoenix Housing Market

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The housing market in the Phoenix metro area has been getting stronger in the first half of 2015.  According to recent statistics, the housing market continues to show improvement and positive growth.

The median sales price in the second quarter was $187,000, which is an increase of 6.9% from the first quarter median sales price of $175,000. Furthermore, the median sales price has increased by 10% from the same time last year. Today the median sales price is 71% higher than it was five years ago during the aftermath of the housing crisis. These statistics show definite signs of recovery in the Phoenix housing market.

The median sale price per square foot has remained right around $123 per square foot so far this year. Price per square foot has been more volatile in homes with 4 or more bedrooms. Homes with four bedrooms have sold for between $116 per square foot and $105 per square foot this year. In a 3,000 square foot home, that could equal a $33,000 difference in sales price. Price volatility has been more extreme in homes with more bedrooms. In homes with five or more bedrooms, the sales price per square foot has varied between $124 and $106 per square foot. In a 3,000 square foot home that would equal a $54,000 price difference. Pricing in the markets for condo and 2-3 bedroom single family homes has remained stable in the first two quarters of 2015.

The median list price per square foot has been increasing slightly from about $130 per square foot to $132 per square foot. Zillow reported that about 16.6% of homes listed for sale had price cuts in the first quarter of 2015. The percentage of sellers lowering their list price has been dropping over the past year.

Home prices in the Phoenix area have remained depressed in recent years due to the impact of the foreclosure market. There were 5,089 foreclosure properties in some stage of foreclosure as of April 2015, which represents a 12% improvement over the previous year. The average price discount for a foreclosure in April was 28.6%. While this is a modest improvement of 3.8% over the March discount, the average foreclosure discount has been fairly steady around 30% since January. Both Arizona as well as the entire United States have a higher average number of foreclosures than the Phoenix metro area.

2015 is projected to show continued growth and improvements across the country and in the Phoenix area.   Savvy sellers and buyers should continue to keep themselves informed in their local markets and talk with real estate professionals when looking to buy or sell their homes.

Home Appraisals and the Sale of Your Home

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When a seller gets an appraisal, they are getting an objective and unbiased opinion of their home’s value from a certified and licensed expert.  Due to the fact that the housing market has only recently rebounded, sellers are experiencing situations where appraisals are coming in lower than the agreed upon price.  Sellers need to educate themselves on what can happen in today’s market and how to prepare for this possible roadblock in the sale of their home.

The Benefits of An Appraisal

An appraisal is the estimation of a home’s market value by a licensed appraiser based on comparable recent sales of homes in the neighborhood. Appraisals operate to protect the lender from being stuck with a property that is valued at a considerably less amount than what is invested into the property.  Additionally, an appraisal also protects buyers from overpaying for a home or property as compared to similar homes in the same neighborhood or area.

Timing is Everything

Statistics indicate that foreclosures in and around Phoenix have leveled off or are at below normal levels since 2013.  What remains a concern for sellers today is whether current appraisals are considering this favorable trend.  There appears to be a lag time in today’s market when it comes to appraisal figures and market value.  Because appraisals are based on the past sales prices of comparable properties, those comps might be coming from stale and outdated market data that isn’t sufficient to support the last year of strong activity. Should an appraisal come in too low, buyers could be forced to either come up with a larger down payment or walk away from the deal altogether. If this situation happens, sellers may want to consider the following options.

Reconsideration of Value

If the sellers and the buyers of a property are on the same page regarding a home’s value, the sellers can obtain the buyer’s’ permission to contact the lender and ask for a reconsideration of value. Both the seller and buyer can draw the lender’s attention to any errors or omissions in the original appraisal. It is also possible to ask the lender for a second appraisal from another company.  Who pays for this second appraisal must be agreed upon between the buyers and sellers.  The only true risk to this action is that the sellers may find the second appraisal could be consistent with the first appraisal.

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Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

If the second appraisal figure is unchanged, the price of the home might have to be renegotiated, or the buyers could walk away from the deal. Depending on the local housing market and the appeal of the home, this situation could place more pressure on the buyer to fill the gap between the appraised value and contract price.  Whatever the situation, be ready to negotiate and possibly renegotiate the deal to keep the pending sale intact.

As the real estate market continues to show improvements, sellers are encouraged to keep up with the latest trends and statistics.  As home inventories decrease and demand increase, more accurate appraisals should be on the horizon in the near future.