Category: Resources


5 Ways to Stay Safe Financially During the COVID-19 Pandemic

woman animation planning her financesWe’re all experiencing an unprecedented time in our history; most of the country and large parts of the world are under some type of stay-at-home orders. While our team members at FAN are working hard to make sure your transaction closes on time, unfortunately, there is an army of unscrupulous people that are using this time to attack you financially.

As the world has turned to online services for financial transactions, 22% of Americans have been the target of fraud attempts in the past few weeks. They hope that you’re too preoccupied with the immediate need of social distancing to notice that the threats of fraud are still quite high.

With that in mind, here are 5 ways to stay safe financially during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic:

  1. DOUBLE CHECK YOUR CLICK – At least half of all COVID-19 related websites that have registered during this time are suspected of malicious activity. Be wary of ANY coronavirus specific website and pay attention to your clicks on social media or the internet. Before your click, check that the link is going to the expected website – preferably one you know already and trust.
  2. BE AWARE OF FAKE NEWS – Scammers are creating fake news stories on contaminated websites in hopes that you’ll not only read them, but share them online – all to get you and your friends to visit their malicious websites. While some of these websites may look legitimate, they can hide spyware or be phishing for your data. Check all news stories to ensure they are from mainstream media sources.
  3. VERIFY THE SENDER – The FBI warns of a significant threat of phishing emails relating to economic stimulus payments, charitable and relief contributions, fake cures, vaccines, and testing kits. If you’re not sure, click on the sender’s EMAIL ADDRESS (but not any links in the email) to see if the email matches the sender. If you’re not 100% sure who the sender is and that you were the intended recipient, do not open or forward the email.
  4. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS – While you should always be cautious about your passwords, it’s good practice to change them during times of accelerated fraud activity. Some experts recommend using pass phrases instead of complicated passwords, which may be easier to remember. Also, it’s not OK to share passwords among websites and other places to prevent your passwords being stolen from one website and used on another.
  5. DON’T TEXT BACK – Have you heard of SMISHING? It’s a new form of information phishing that hackers are using to send you text messages that include links or will appear to be from legitimate sources. Remember the same tips from your emails and don’t trust anything unless you’re SURE who the sender is. Delete anything you’re not sure about. Also, no one will ask for your password via text messages, so if you get a text asking for ANY passwords, it’s delete-worthy!

Those are just a few ways to help you stay safe while we all are trying to keep our distance from one another. Remember, while you should always use caution when banking, communicating or shopping online, now is the time to be EXTRA vigilant.

 


New Decade, New Decor – 5 Home Decor Trends to Try in 2020

As stay-at-home orders begin, #QuarantineLife can get mundane and make anyone stir-crazy. In honor of National Decorating Month, we thought it would be a good idea to help you dress up your home! We’ve put together a list of decorating trends to incorporate around the house, bring back joy, and start enjoying your time at home.

Check out 5 of our favorite 2020 decorating trend predictions:

#1 Vintage Accents

Maybe it’s time to throw a little “Granny Chic” into the decor mix? A new decorating style popular with “Grandmillennials” (it’s a thing), the Granny Chic trend mixes the nostalgia of vintage decor like chintzes, scallops, needlework, and everything your grandmother loved with today’s clean, contemporary designs.

Or, if you’d prefer to shy away from a vintage explosion, try mixing a few old pieces with the new. It can make your space feel less big-box-decorating and more customized.

#2 Bold Colors

monochromatic blue room

This decorating trend is not for the faint at heart. It takes a confident person to embrace Pantone’s 2020 color of the year as the driving force in a design concept. However, we love bold colors, and we encourage you to incorporate them into your decor!

Go for a monochromatic color scheme in your space, slap a bold color on your kitchen cabinets, or go crazy with bolder colors in your guest bathroom. These colors are the perfect way to let your personality shine.

#3 Rattan and Wicker Furniture

Rattan and wicker have a special place in our hearts and bring back memories of growing up. (Are you sensing a theme here?) When done correctly, wicker and rattan can bring natural color and texture into a room, making it warm and inviting.

#4 Non-Granite Countertops

While granite is always a beautiful option for your countertops, why not be unique and try something different like a faux marble or even butcher block? Both are stunning alternatives and have minimal upkeep.

#5 Antique Art

antique art

Repurposing art (and any other home decor items) makes us feel less wasteful, and we’d like to think it helps the environment. Another selling point of antique art is the history and stories that come along with it. You can relish in the uniqueness of antique art.

As you can see, 2020 is about making your space feel customized and unique to you. Since you’ll spend much of your time at home, what better time than now to give it a facelift? It’s up to you whether you go all out with your decor choices or simply incorporate a few new ideas.

As always, we urge you to prioritize your safety when deciding what to use when redecorating your space. Shop online, select pick-up options when available, wash your hand often, and make wise choices. If you choose to get started on your new decor, feel free to tag us in your social posts. We’d love to see what new design trends you’re bringing to your home for 2020!


Tax time – How to Get Your Documents from Our FAN Portal!

tax season

A few things in life are certain, and taxes are one of the least enjoyable ones. For real estate agents that are guiding their customers through one of the most important financial decisions of their life, it’s vital to understand that they are likely to have tax implications when buying or selling a home and to know how to get them started on the right path to properly file.

Jake Alexander, President of Action Accounting in Clearwater, states that “it’s very important for real estate agents to advise their clients to know their dates and know their numbers, so they can file properly the first time and not have to deal with a surprise letter from the IRS years down the road.”

Luckily, Florida Agency Network is equipped with a secure portal that allows YOUR buyers and sellers to pull their documents in the privacy of their own home.

Both buyers and sellers can login to the same portal they used when purchasing or selling their home and navigate to the documents section to find their tax documents.

  • Buyers should pull their ALTA statement from the “SETTLEMENT STATEMENT” section of the portal. They should also keep track of purchase documents and improvements they make to their home to reduce their tax liability within the 24-month exemption of capital gains in case of the sale of the property.
  • Sellers will need to pull the 1099 forms provided on the portal and report those on their taxes. The issue of tax liability when selling their home will rely on many factors, and they should seek the advice of a tax professional to answer any questions.

Be sure to mention the availability of these documents to your buyers and sellers throughout the year and consider setting up a calendar reminder to touch base with all of them at tax time. They’ll appreciate the reminder!

As always, if you need any assistance with helping your customers locate their documents, please feel free to reach out to any of our locations. 

 

 


What Every REALTOR Should Know about Title Insurance

woman-wearing-white-top-holding-smartphone-and-tablet

Every real estate agent understands that buying a home is overwhelming for many clients. There’s a mountain of paperwork to sign and different fees associated with the closing process. All of these things can confuse even an experienced buyer.

Title insurance, or an owner’s title policy, is often misunderstood by home buyers at closing. Buyers, especially first-time home buyers, look to real estate professionals as experts in the industry. It’s important to be the advisor to your clients and help them understand the value of an owner’s title policy and the risks that can arise without it.

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance, or an owner’s title policy, is a policy that protects the home buyers’ property rights. For the same reasons that the bank requires a lender’s insurance policy, a home buyer obtains an owner’s title policy to protect their legal rights to the property.

How Does It Protect Your Client?

Here’s an example: Your client purchased a new home from a builder, but the builder failed to pay the roofing company. That roofing company wants to get paid, so it files a lien against the property. Without an owner’s title policy, your client is responsible for paying that debt. This is just one example of how an owner’s title policy protects a home buyer from a variety of significant risks, such as unknown heirs, illegal deeds, forged documents, and much more. With an owner’s title policy, a buyer’s property rights are protected while they own the property.

The Value of Title Insurance

The good news is that an owner’s title policy financially protects home buyers for as long as they own the home. For Florida buyers, the price of an owner’s title policy depends on the sales price of the home. Florida’s promulgated rate is $5.75 per thousand, up to $100,000, and $5.00 per thousand thereafter, up to $1 million.

The party that pays for the owner’s title insurance policy varies from state to state. In Florida, the seller typically picks and pays for the owner’s title policy. However, that can change depending on which county/area the property is located.

Fees can add up during the closing process, but this one-time fee gives home buyers peace of mind. After all, the home may be new to your buyer, but every property has a history.

How Title Insurance is Regulated

Each state regulates its title insurance costs, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulates closing and settlement services to protect consumers from unfair practices. Established in 2011, the CFPB educates consumers about making smart financial decisions and holds companies accountable for any abusive or discriminatory procedures.

 

Title insurance can be confusing and seem like “just another expense” during the closing process. But, what’s the price of your buyer’s peace of mind? As a real estate professional, educating yourself and your clients on title insurance, the protections it provides, and the risks of going without it is vital.

 

 


What’s in a Name? When It Comes to Your Deed, Everything.

couple holding key to new home

We all remember the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. It was a story of love, tragedy, and (SPOILER ALERT) a SERIOUS lack of communication. While tragic in the end, it’s a great story to recall around Valentine’s Day, and it’s one that can be used to help your customer make sure their story has a better outcome.

Sometimes even a star-crossed couple will make the largest decision of their lives – the decision to purchase a home. While many couples will pool their assets, get a joint mortgage, and take title together, sometimes that’s not possible or one spouse already owns a home before marriage. In pre-marriage ownership scenarios, if one spouse solely owned the home before the marriage, their new, non-owner spouse will need to sign a deed and/or mortgage on the property for the owner spouse to sell it or mortgage it – unless they get a divorce prior to the sale. (Hey, Romeo & Juliet WAS a tragedy after all!)

So, in Florida, even if a spouse is not going to be on the title or a promissory note to repay a mortgage, they still need to sign the deed when selling the property or getting a loan. That’s because, unlike the Capulets and Montagues, today’s couples have something that Romeo and Juliet didn’t – the Florida Constitution.

Article X, section 4, of the Florida Constitution, also known as the Homestead Exemption, is a powerful law that offers many benefits to Florida citizens. You may already be aware of the tax benefits of declaring your “homestead” that are outlined in section 6, but section 4 has some other, lesser known, and noteworthy protections, including:

  1. Exemption of Forced Sales, Even at Death
  2. Restrictions on Wills & Estates
  3. Rules on Alienation or the Voluntary Act of Disposing of a Property

Section 4 helps guarantee that a Florida homeowner cannot be forced to sell their home to repay a debtor in most situations outside of mortgage repayment, mechanical liens, and outstanding property taxes. It also allows tax protection when the couple sells their home and intends to use the profits to buy another home.

To protect as many citizens as possible under these laws, married couples are required to sign the deed to the property when they sell the home. This means that if the Capulets had ever convinced Juliet to leave the Montague she married, she could not have sold their home without Romeo knowing about it. Also, neither she nor Romeo could leave the home to a minor child in their will, without the other party waving at least a portion of their rights.

So, while we are sure that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, make sure your customers understand why both spouses’ name should be on any deed once married and stay tuned for more tips to help your customers to come as we move further into the year.

Until then, parting is such sweet sorrow…..

 

 


7 Tips For Moving Into Your New Home

Child Moving Boxes into New Home

Congrats on your new home! Now, it’s time to get prepared for your move. While there are many details to prep leading up to the big day, we’ve compiled an essential list of moving tips and things to remember based on our experiences

 

Tips For Moving Into Your New Home

  1. Hire a Good Moving Company – or Enlist Your Friends!

Take it from people who have moved numerous times and hire good movers! If it fits into your budget, we highly recommend hiring a moving company. A professional moving company knows the best way to transport your items as well as how to pack up large items to protect them during the move. However, if a moving company isn’t in your budget, recruit some awesome friends to help.

With both options, make sure to communicate clearly and often about your moving plans. This will make it less stressful for everyone. Also, it doesn’t hurt to help those who are helping you. Everyone loves pizza, right?!

  1. Turn Your Utilities On BEFORE Your Move Date.

This is pretty straightforward. You don’t want to get into your new home and not have any power. Make sure to call the utility companies in advance to schedule every necessity to be turned on before you arrive.

  1. Pack Now – Don’t Procrastinate!

Packing can be daunting and overwhelming, but if you start as soon as you know you are moving, you can chip away at your moving tasks day by day. We’ve even created a checklist to help! We break it down by time intervals to your move date, with tips for 60-, 30-, 15- and 3-days out from your move date. Download our checklist now!

While you’re at the packing stage, we recommend decluttering. This is your opportunity to get rid of things you no longer need or use. You can give those items to friends or donate to people in need. Bonus? You’ve got less items to pack. It’s a win – win!

  1. Prepare a New Home Survival Kit.

Unless you plan on unpacking everything the same day you move, we highly recommend creating a survival kit (or bag). Moving day is exhausting, and the last thing you want to do is search through your boxes to have your essentials handy.

Instead, you can pack an overnight bag like you would if you were traveling. Also, if you want to include some food items and entertainment, you can make sure those are all in one box. What are the things you need to survive in your new home for the next 48-72 hours (or however long you plan on taking to unpack)? Those items are what you need in your survival bag.

  1. Change the Locks to Your New Home Immediately.

Safety comes first all the time. Even if your home is a new build, you should change the locks. You don’t know who or how many people have had access to the keys you were given.

  1. Utilize Your Linens as Packing Supplies

It’s very GREEN and budget friendly to use what you already have as packing materials. You can wrap fragile items in sheets or use them to fill empty space in boxes. Plus, once you’re unpacked, you’ll have less trash to throw away. Just be sure to pack your daily, must-have linens in your survival kit before using them as packing supplies.

And, while we’re utilizing items we already have, how about using your luggage and other similar items as packing receptacles? You’re already taking it with you. This is your time to work smarter, not harder.

  1. Label Everything.

Your movers can’t read your mind and don’t have x-ray vision. Labeling each box, either with color codes or text, can help your movers know where to put your items. This is where communication comes in handy, as well. If yellow notates kitchen items, and your movers know you need all kitchen items in, you guessed it, your kitchen, they’ll know to grab all those boxes and put them together.

 

While your upcoming move might be overwhelming, these 7 tips will help you prepare for the big day! If you need a more in-depth checklist and guide for your move, download our moving guide today. It’s filled with checklists and tips for your moving day.


What’s an iBuyer?

The real estate agent’s quick guide to everything iBuyer. And, no. iBuyers won’t be taking your job.

blue Home graphic surrounded by tech graphics

If you’ve been living under a rock, you probably haven’t heard the latest buzzword in the real estate industry: iBuyer. Even if you have heard about it, you may still have some questions or concerns.

What is an iBuyer? Is it the right choice for sellers? Are iBuyers taking over real estate agents’ jobs? I-Buy who?

No fear! We’ve gathered all the information you and other real estate agents need to know about iBuyers.

 

WHAT IS AN IBUYER, & HOW DOES IT WORK?

iBuyer services take a modern, technology-based approach to the real estate market and those looking to buy or sell homes. iBuyers use a strategy similar to companies like “We Buy Ugly Houses” by giving you the option to sell your home quickly for cash. However, unlike the “We Buy Ugly Houses” approach, iBuyers focus on homes in good condition. Typically, an iBuyer isn’t looking to flip a property or take on anything that needs extensive repairs.

To get started with iBuyer, a seller visits the website, plugs in the address of the home to be sold, and fills out a questionnaire about the property. Within 24 -48 hours, the seller receives an offer on the home. iBuyers base these offers on technology like the automated valuation model (AVM) to get the quickest “comps” for the property. From there, a seller can decide to move forward with the iBuyer and set a closing date.

 

PROS TO USING AN IBUYER

  1. Speed & Convenience

According to realtor.com data, the median home spends 58 days on the market. However, selling to an iBuyer can take only a handful of days (or longer if the seller prefers). This arrangement would be ideal for an out-of-state property inheritance or a sudden job change resulting in a quick change of living arrangements. It’s also perfect for sellers who just wish to have the control of the time frame. Let’s face it. Selling a home can be somewhat of an inconvenience. Between keeping your home tidy, having the listing agent come in to stage, and leaving at a moment’s notice for a showing, selling your home can become a hassle, and iBuyers can help decrease the time a seller has to deal with these stressors.

  1. Low Risk

When selling with an agent, there’s a certain level of uncertainty. Potential buyers could back out for different reasons, at which point the seller and listing agent are back at square one. When selling with an iBuyer, though, transactions almost never fall through. The only problem a seller may run into is getting a lower appraisal than expected, which may result in a lower offer from the iBuyer.

 

CONS TO USING AN IBUYER

  1. Lower Profits

While convenience is nice, a seller will pay for it. Typically, iBuyers charge a service or convenience fee that can range from 6-9.5% or more. In fact, one MarketWatch study of 26 home sales to iBuyers found that these sellers average around 11% less than owners who sell to a traditional buyer. Granted, traditional home sales have the 5-6% commission fee, but a recent study from Collateral Analytics found that home sellers will pay an average of between 13% and 15% more in fees to an iBuyer than they would to a traditional listing agent.

  1. Limited Availability

Currently, iBuyers are in select major markets only. And while iBuyers are expected to expand, they’re not something available to every home seller. There are some iBuyers that are even more selective than others about buying homes and the condition of each home.

 

HOW TO STAND OUT TO POTENTIAL SELLERS

  1. Show Your Value

For the home seller who’s on the fence about whether to use an iBuyer, you must show them the value of using a listing agent. If a potential seller wants to get as much value as they can for their property, remind them part of that value is the expertise you bring to the process. An iBuyer can’t put a price on the beautiful ocean view or the impeccable 19th-century hardwood floors of a home, but a listing agent can and knows how to use those unique and sometimes intangible selling points.

A great agent knows the amount of work that goes in to preparing comps, creating a marketing strategy, staging the home perfectly, communicating and negotiating with potential buyers, and so much more.  Communicating this value is key to putting yourself above an iBuyer.

  1. Educate the Seller

There is something about a listing agent who’s transparent and helpful to a seller that ensures agent security. Educating your seller and consumers will help them understand the value of each option and give them the opportunity to choose what is right for them. Not every seller will want to use an iBuyer and some won’t want to use a listing agent. Every seller is unique. However, giving consumers their options builds trust with them, and it’s another point on your scoreboard.

  1. Have the Right Tools

What good is all this information if you can’t physically show a real-world example based on their own situation. Our free FANAgent ONE app gives agents the opportunity to compare a potential seller’s net profits with a click of a button. With the iBuyer Comparison Calculator, agents can plug in the information and calculate an instant comparison to show their seller.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

New technology and processes will always shake up any industry. iBuyers are simply one of these “shake ups.” As time passes, consumers will become more educated on the differences between iBuyers and traditional selling techniques, and not every seller will want to use an iBuyer.

Remember these words: DON’T PANIC.

iBuyers, such as Opendoor, Offerpad, Zillow Offers, and others, are expanding into major markets rather quickly. However, iBuyer transactions make up for a small percentage of real estate transactions. In 2018, 620k homes were sold to iBuyers, compared to 5.5 million homes sold without iBuyers. In fact, Rob Barber, CEO at ATTOM Data Solutions, a nationwide property database, predicts iBuyers will only account for about 15% of the real estate transactions in the long run.

 

So, don’t panic! There is still value and will always be value in a seller hiring a listing agent.

 

What’s one way you can communicate the value of using a listing agent today?


Florida Agency Network Partners with Notarize as the First Title Company to Utilize the Notarize Platform to conduct its own closings

Florida Agency Network (FAN), a conglomerate of independent title agencies, settlement service providers, and innovative technology companies within the State of Florida, announces a new partnership with Notarize to perform remote online notarization within the FAN title insurance offices. This partnership marks a historic shift in the title industry and how it handles the ever-changing needs of the consumer. FAN is the first title insurance operation in the nation that will leverage the Notarize platform to perform their own remote online notarized closings, using its own title agents and notary closers.

The partnership was announced on stage in front of 300 attendees representing 200 companies at Notarize’s conference, REWIRED, in Miami this week.

“Today, we couldn’t be more excited to announce that Florida Agency Network will be the first company to leverage what we’ve built at Notarize and perform their own closings on our platform,” said Notarize Founder and CEO Pat Kinsel. “The real estate industry is ultimately local, and we’ve heard from title companies and closing agents that they want to be able to use this technology to deliver a better closing experience. What the industry has been asking for over the last four years, today, is becoming a reality.”

Since meeting Pat Kinsel, CEO and Adam Pase, COO of Notarize, in June of 2017, Aaron M. Davis, CEO of Florida Agency Network, knew working together would evolve into a broader partnership over time. What started with achieving Florida’s first fully digital closing, expanded to a much larger-scale goal of overhauling Florida’s title insurance landscape for the better.

 “We completed the first online closing in the state of Florida in 2018 and have done hundreds with Notarize since,” said Davis. “By being the first partner to work with Notarize on a platform to help our title agents use this technology to perform their own closings, we’re changing the title industry and the way that our agents serve customers. We’ve seen first-hand the impact Notarize has had on the real estate industry, and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the next chapter.”

Backed by Notarize training, support, and technology, Florida Agency Network will work closely with Notarize on the development of a platform that both empowers its agents to close completely digitally, while still leveraging Notarize’s staff and notaries during off-hours, weekends, and for added assistance during heavier volume closing days.


Common Ways to Take Title When Purchasing a Home in Florida

certificate of title

Closing on your new home can be both exciting and confusing. There are many factors to consider throughout the process. One item to consider is how you’ll hold the title of your new Florida home. Buyers can easily overlook this detail during the closing process, which can be detrimental if you decide to sell your home.

Your title agent can answer general questions or direct you to their real estate attorney to provide more information and answer questions.  Here are the ways for you to hold title to real estate in Florida:

  1. SOLE OWNERSHIP

For a single, unmarried home buyer, this option is the most popular way to hold the title to their home. It’s simple and straight forward. It just means the title will be held solely under their name. Married individuals can hold title as sole ownership as well. For example, with an investment property, one individual may not want any ownership in the property. In this case, that spouse will have the Deed drafted for the property showing only one person holding the title. With this option, you may not receive any special tax breaks or other advantages of holding title in sole ownership. If the sole owner dies, any property held this way may be subject to probate court proceedings, which cost money and takes time.

  1. MARRIED COUPLE

With this option, each spouse owns an equal portion of the property for as long as they are both alive and legally married. Each spouse’s interest passes to the other upon death. This option also has some level of protection, in that a judgement against one spouse may not attach to the property.

  1. JOINT TENANCY WITH RIGHTS OF SURVIVORSHIP

Each tenant owns an undivided pro rata share of the property and must take ownership at the same time. Also, each tenant will have a right of survivorship, so if one of them passes away, their share will transfer to the surviving tenant (or tenants). The will of the tenant who passed away has no impact on the joint tenancy property. Joint tenancy also allows the surviving tenants to avoid probate expenses and delays when one of the tenants dies. The surviving tenants need to record an affidavit and provide a death certificate to clear the title

  1. TENANCY IN COMMON

If there are two or more buyers, the individuals can opt to hold title as tenants in common. Tenancy in common is a popular option for individuals who aren’t married or are investors, friends, or family. As tenants in common, each tenant (individual) owns a certain percentage of the property, typically equal shares among the owners.  In the event any owner should pass, their interest will vest in their estate or heirs at law. Their interest will not pass to survivors.  The property will be subject to probate court expenses and delays.

 

Choosing the most beneficial way to take title is often overlooked by buyers. However, this step is critical to your closing transaction and situations later down the road.

It’s crucial to speak with a real estate attorney when deciding how to hold title on your Florida real estate property. We have in-house attorneys with years of experience in Florida real estate. By choosing to close with any of Florida Agency Network’s title agencies, you and your agent have access to those attorneys, and many more resources throughout your closing transaction.

 

Contacts us today to start your closing journey at one of our local offices.


Channel 10 Interviews CEO Aaron M. Davis on Zillow’s New SELL NOW Feature – Zillow Offers

Channel 10’s Courtney Robinson discusses the pros and cons of Zillow Offers and other iBuyer programs with Florida Agency Network’s CEO, Aaron M. Davis.

While iBuyer programs may offer convenience, it doesn’t equate to more money in your pocket. Consumers must be AWARE.

On Monday, October 21, Zillow launched “Zillow Offers” as a new way for consumers to sell their homes. The technology allows a consumer to go onto the APP, answer some questions about their home, and receive an instant cash offer.

But is it really the best way to sell a house?

10Investigates’ Courtney Robinson spoke to Joe Locicero, owner of 54 Realty and the Zillow agent for the Tampa Bay area. Robinson also had our very own Aaron Davis weigh in on what’s to come of future iBuyer technology.

“While it takes away stress and offers sellers convenience, there is a cost. On average, sellers pay a 7 percent fee. Traditional real estate agents charge between 5-6 percent,” Robinson advises.

To read the full story and learn the pros and cons, click HERE.