Category: Resources


A Changing Market Doesn’t Mean It’s Time to Panic

A Changing Market Doesn’t Mean It’s Time to Panic

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

In some ways, Charles Dickens opening salvo to his book A Tale of Two Cities feels just about right for 2022.

Fresh off two straight years of historic origination volume and waves of title profits, most title businesses knew that the refinance train was likely to slow this year. However, the promise of a strong purchase market meant (and still means) there would be plenty of opportunities for those prepared.

As we approach the end of the second quarter, we’ve had some unexpected economic variables enter the equation. But that doesn’t mean that it’s time to hunker down for title agents. Far from it. Instead, it’s time for the best to separate from the pack. That means leadership and planning.

Do Your Research

When you created your business plan for 2022, you probably researched what the economists were projecting for the year and plugged into the outlook for your specific geographic area.

Update your research at least once a quarter, taking into account updated economic factors, interest rate projections, and – with an ear to the ground – what your customers are telling you is happening on the front lines.

Follow the Numbers

An experienced executive of one of the top title insurance underwriters once pointed out in his presentation at an industry conference that it does you no good to track statistics if you don’t make decisions based on them.

Numbers don’t lie and business plans must be adjusted to account for fluctuations in the marketplace. This could mean having a defined strategy to add staff if the market gets hot or having a plan for getting all tasks accomplished if you are working with a lean staff.

The Backup Plan

Don’t wait for the crisis to hit. Always have a backup plan on paper. This is why you don’t want to “cross that bridge when you come to it.” Most of us have an immediate emotional reaction to a shift in circumstances. It’s difficult to make calm, thoughtful decisions when we are reeling from an unplanned event.

It is much easier to make decisions quickly if you have thought through potential scenarios to begin with. If A happens, I will immediately put plan B into action. If the projected numbers are X for Q2, I will immediately shift to plan C.

Communicate with your Staff

Be honest and upfront with your staff about what is happening, explain why you are heading in a new direction, and share the data upon which you are making those decisions.

Your staff knows what is happening in the marketplace. They know when they are buried under a mountain of work and desperately need help and they know when things are slowing down. Acknowledging the truth of the situation and enlisting their help and support builds trust and loyalty over time.

Customers First

No matter what challenges you are facing, always keep your customers’ experience at the forefront of any plan.  Although you may be scrambling behind the scenes, you always want to make sure your customers experience a calm, orderly and seamless process. Centralized processes, effective technology—both at the point of consumer contact as well as behind the scenes—and professional customer service will never hurt any title agency. In fact, they become critical competitive advantages in markets like this. Just because 2022 isn’t likely to look like 2021 on paper doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for success. It just means you’ll have to seize your opportunities.
 


How to Come Out on Top in 2022

Origination Predictions Got You Down? Here’s a Way to Come Out on Top in 2022.

Origination Predictions Got You Down? Here’s a Way to Come Out on Top in 2022.Facing a decline in refinance mortgages after two incredible boom years may be making some lenders a little uneasy. Yes, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) is also calling for perhaps a record purchase mortgage volume, but it won’t offset the decline in refinancing. It will also be competitive.

But for savvy lenders who can pivot and actively serve the borrowers who are out there, there is still plenty of opportunity. Let’s look at the numbers, and the opportunities that can be tapped for a strong origination year for your company. For those willing to invest in marketing, get creative with their product mix and increase efficiencies, 2022 could still be a very successful year.

Home Mortgage

The MBA reported a whopping $4.1 trillion in 2021 originations and has predicted a decline to $2.61 trillion for 2022. While this is a considerable drop in overall originations, thanks to plunging refinance originations, the anticipated $1.74 trillion in home purchase originations in 2022 represents yet another record.

Lenders actively and effectively marketing to their current mortgage holders who may be contemplating moving up to a new home or creating an active outreach to new homebuyers could do very well in this robust purchase market.

Home Refinance

“Therein lies the rub,” with credit to Shakespeare. Refinance activity is expected to drop by over 62% to $870 billion.

This is where a lender needs to get creative. Yes, there’s a smaller pool, but making sure you are getting a share of that pool is critical this year.

Across the country, in every city, the tide of regentrification is pouring money into old neighborhoods. And “what the Joneses got, I want,” is inspiring homeowners to invest in their own home to make it worth the same as other properties in their area. This is a niche market well worth mining for new refinance opportunities.

Home Equity Line of Credit

Black Knight is reporting that homeowners have more than $9 trillion of untapped equity in their homes, above and beyond the protected 20% equity. In 2021 Q4, lenders were already seeing an uptick in HELOC borrowing.

The aim of that borrowing, usually, is to pour money back into the home, as noted above in the case of regentrification. As interest rates rise, homeowners are far more likely to finance a smaller loan through a HELOC, than to sacrifice a 3% interest rate by refinancing their entire mortgage at 4.5%.

However, lenders should be wary of borrowers who are tapping equity for credit card consolidation, vacations, cars, and speculative real estate investments. Make sure you are assessing your borrowers’ motivation appropriately.

Commercial Lending

And finally, make sure you are tapping into the commercial lending market, especially multi-family opportunities. While WFH may have set some segments of the commercial lending market back, multi-family has carried the day as home prices have continued to soar. National Mortgage News is reporting that the commercial lending is expected to top $1 trillion in 2022. So this might be a great year to strengthen your commercial lending department.

Hire Efficient Service Providers

Let’s state the obvious. When borrowers are tripping over each other to get in your door, you pay a little less attention to ensuring your processes are at peak productivity or that your service providers are giving you the most efficient and cost-effective service for your clients.

In a purchase market, it’s important to make sure you are using providers, like title agents who are members of the Florida Agency Network, who have access to a host of shared services, closing options and technology resources ensuring the most efficient title and closing services for your clients. Remember, your title and settlement partners are among the last to interact with your borrowers at the end of the transaction. A quality closing and smooth process don’t just help the margins. They can also pave the way for that refinancing or home equity loan down the road!


When It Comes to M&A in the Title Industry, Does Your Strategy Add Up?

M&A in the Title IndustryOur friends at Housing Wire recently did our own Aaron Davis the honor of publishing his thoughts on M&A in the title industry. As you likely know, the market remains hot, both for agents seeking to retire or “cash out” after a long, successful run, as well as for agents that believe the slight decline in volume will make an opportune time to grow their own footprints via acquisition.

We urge you to check out the entire piece. However, among the highlights of Aaron’s recommendations for those considering buying or selling are the following.

  • Make a plan. Sounds basic enough, right? However, you’d be amazed at how many bright, knowledgeable agents, after years of solid decision-making, decide to “wing it” on their planning. The results, more often than not, include leaving money on the table, and sometimes, lots of it.
  • Know thyself (and your market). Another simple concept and also, another common mistake. It’s important for sellers especially to keep in mind that private equity will evaluate your agency very differently than, say, a national underwriter. Knowing what they value can make all the difference in your planning.
  • Finally, don’t go it alone. Even owners and agents with experience in M&A can stand to have a second set of eyes (and set of experiences) to help with planning, evaluation and due diligence. There are qualified consultants out there, including, quite naturally, Aaron and the team at AMD Enterprises’ Closing Suite!

To connect with Aaron Davis, visit https://amd-1.com/.


Business Email Compromise: The Biggest Cyber Target on a Realtor’s Back

 

How a Realtor Lost $257,000 of Their Clients’ Money

Realtor Kevin got an email from a prospective buyer who was ready to make an offer with their loan pre-approval attached. Kevin clicked the attachment to view the buyer’s documents, but there wasn’t anything there. “That’s strange,” thought Kevin, and he closed his email. What Kevin didn’t know is that spyware was just installed on his device, and now, hackers had access to everything! The hackers were able to intercept a different deal Kevin was working and re-route a $257,000 wire from a REAL buyer working with Kevin, losing his client’s hard-earned money and their home purchase.

You’ve heard it before, but we’re going to tell you again! Your email and cyber security are paramount to your business – and your clients’ money.

From wire fraud and malware to personal information loss, there are several ways cyber crooks can succeed in a heist at your loss. There was OVER $213 million reported loss from real estate fraud, just last year!

Here are just a few tips to ensure you’re not a sitting duck for scammers and hackers:

  1. Email Security! This is a BIG one! Use spam filters put in place by your organization and report any potential phishing. If using a personal email, be weary of phishing scams. Do not click or open anything from an unknown sender!
  2. Protect your connection! Use a VPN to protect your connection. Public WIFI allows hackers on the same networks you’re using and gives them full view of what is transmitted. Cellular devices are encrypted and can help protect your transmissions.
  3. UPDATE your devices! Security patches come through updates, so ensure you’re taking a few minutes to run those pesky updates and restart.
  4. Password Managers! Utilizing a password manager can help you make each password strong and different for all sites and programs you’re using.
  5. Multi-Factor Authentication! When available, ALWAYS choose two-factor authentication utilizing a code texted to you or a program like Google Authenticator.

By protecting yourself and your devices with layered security, you are decreasing your chances of a cyber-attack. At Florida Agency Network, cyber security is our top priority to ensure you and your clients have a secure transaction from start to finish.


Have You Updated Your Disaster Recovery Plan Lately? (Do You Even Have One?)

Our own Aaron Davis was approached recently by National Mortgage News for his thoughts about business disruption plans—a very timely topic. (Subscription required). It’s a great read, and you should check it out if you can. It’s a great reminder that business disasters can come in many forms. Cybersecurity is only half of the battle. Sometimes, even the most secure systems get breached by persistent and sophisticated criminals determined to get in. If you don’t have a flexible, updated, and robust business continuity/disaster plan, your cybersecurity plan could go for naught.

You may recall that, just a few years ago, our industry had a fairly robust conversation about cyber-security and business continuity planning when ALTA unveiled its Best Practices. For the title industry, SOC 2 and/or Best Practices certification became not only a security need, but a way of differentiating to lenders. Of course, not everyone went the distance with their planning, and the Best Practices, while welcome, did not get extremely specific. At the time, hacking, hurricanes, fires, and the like were considered the primary threats. Over the next few years, wire fraud became the dominant topic—something that, while definitely a threat that requires cybersecurity planning, really doesn’t dovetail with disaster planning or business continuity. And so, it’s quite possible that some of those who put together great plans then, but haven’t regularly reviewed and updated them since, have some weaknesses in their system today.

If you jump ahead of that original conversation five or six years to 2021, one pandemic and one massive ransomware attack now behind us, things have changed. Ransomware is now a widespread threat. Cybercriminals have evolved along with the systems designed to thwart them. Clearly, it’s time to revisit, dust off or, if you didn’t have one already, build a solid disaster recovery and cybersecurity plan.

You may not know this, but FAN had one of our offices damaged in a fire not long ago. You wouldn’t know it unless you were there or told by someone. That’s because we had a business continuity plan—updated regularly—in place. And our data was securely cloud based. So we followed our plan: leveraging alternate technology from an alternate location and resumed the work week seamlessly. Now, a cyberattack is a very different thing than a fire. But remember this as well: the most successful cybercriminals go for the easiest targets most of the time. Odds are, if you’re up to date with a professional security system and effective business continuity plan, you’ll be in good shape.


Good News Updates with ALANNA

We all could use a little good news now and then, and for everyone closing with a Florida Agency Network we have some… good news!

Using Alanna AI, our state-of-the-art virtual closing assistant, realtors and their customers are automatically signed up for a series of “good news updates” during the process of their closing. Below are some of the notifications you can expect, as we do our part to give you good news!

  1. Upon receiving your contract, you will receive a welcome text message with a link to the welcome package where we collect your contact data and any additional information for }the lifetime of your transaction. It can all be signed and submitted right from your phone.
  2. Once the necessary title work has been completed – from lien searches to surveys – you will be updated to let you know that your title processor is reviewing all documents. Once all of the requirements have been cleared you will be update again.
  3. At this point your tile work has been cleared and your title professionals are now working up closing figures and any remaining details you will need on closing day. You will receive more information very soon regarding your final figures and a closing date and time.
  4. Your closing figures are out for your review! You will receive your preliminary figure breakdown, details on what to expect at closing, and if any remaining information needed to finalize your transaction. The link to your documents is included in this text message for your convenience.
  5. You’ve reached closing day! With this update, you know your transaction has been closed and documents are being filed. You will receive a brief survey link to share your experience with us so we can continue to improve our processes. We aim to keep your experience personal, professional, and streamlined for all of our customers.
  6. Your official documents have been filed in the appropriate county clerk’s office and we have received confirmation of recording! You will now receive a copy of your title policy.

Our goal is to keep you informed automatically about the process of your closing. This way you are ready to take the steps for you and your customer while preparing and finalizing their transaction.

Of course, this also means we get to be the bearer of GOOD NEWS!

Be sure to download the PDF chart of automated good news updates and start chatting with Alanna AI today via text at 813-710-4126, by using the chat feature on our website, or by scanning the QR code below!


Busting RON eClosing Myths

Florida Agency Network boasts its very own network of eNotaries that are all title professionals to handle your RON eClosing. With our network on your side, let’s dispel some of the common myths surrounding eClosings:

With FAN’s title professionals ensuring you have a smooth and thorough closing, you can’t beat the convenience and safety of a RON eClosing, especially when FAN agents are available to communicate and troubleshoot your closing at every step of the way.

Be sure to download the PDF dispelling the RON eClosing Myths and share them with your clients.

For questions about eClosings and requirements, please contact your title professional or visit FANeClose.com.


How to File for Florida Homestead Exemption

house graphic on green background

It’s that time of year again – homestead exemptions are due! If your clients took possession of their homes before December 31st, they are eligible for homestead exemption for this tax year.

We’ve put together a homestead guide so you can help your clients understand what homestead is, who qualifies for it, what’s required to file, and how they can file for homestead exemption.

What is Homestead Exemption?

The Florida Homestead Exemption is an exemption that reduces the taxable value of your home by as much as $50,000, within certain value limits.

Who Qualifies for Homestead Exemption?

  • The property you want to claim the exemption for must be your permanent residence OR the permanent residence of someone you can claim as a dependent on your taxes.
  • You must have lived at the property on or before a specified date of the tax year in question. To claim the homestead exemption on your 2020 taxes, you must have lived at the property in question by 12/31/2020.
  • You cannot have rented the property for more than 30 days in a given calendar year. Renting the property for more than 30 days for two consecutive years or for more than six months is considered an abandonment of the Florida homestead exemption.

What is Required When Filing for Homestead Exemption?

Each county has different required documents, but it’s safe to have the following readily available when filing for homestead exemption.

  • FL Drivers license or State issued I.D. Card
  • Vehicle Registration – at least one of your vehicles must be registered in the state of Florida at the property address in an application.
  • If registered to vote, your voter registration with Voter ID# and issue date.
  • Permanent Resident Alien Cards (if applicable)

Where Do My Clients Go to File for Homestead?

Alachua County: 352-374-5230

https://www.acpafl.org/forms/

 

Citrus County: 352-341-6600

https://www.citruspa.org/_dnn/Exemptions/Homestead-Application

 

Hardee County: 863-773-2196

https://hardeepa.com/general-info/exemptions/#general 

 

Hernando County: 352-754-4190

https://www.hernandopa-fl.us/PAHXApp/(S(noy34wieuv3qryzexzfh05b0))/default.aspx

 

Hillsborough County: 813-272-5519

https://homestead.hcpafl.org/ApplyOnline/WebForm1.aspx

 

Lee County: 239-533-6100

http://leepa.org/Exemption/hxinfo.aspx

 

Manatee County: 941-748-8208

https://ofa.manateepao.com/ApplyOnline/WebForm1.aspx

 

Marion County: 352-368-8300

http://www.pa.marion.fl.us/HXeFile.aspx

 

Pasco County: 352-521-4433

https://www.pascopa.com/exemptions/homestead/

 

Pinellas County: 727-464-3207

https://www.pcpao.org/clik.html?pg=https://www.pcpao.org/searchForHX.php

 

Polk County: 863-534-4777

https://www.polkpa.org/ 

These are the requirements: https://www.polkpa.org/Downloads/Files/HX%20Requirements.pdf

 

Sarasota County: 941-861-8200

https://www.sc-pa.com/applyonline/WebForm1.aspx

 

Sumter County: 352-569-6800

http://www.sumterpa.com/forms/SumterPA_DR-501_2017.pdf


FAN Now Offers An Electronic EMD Delivery Option

Did you know…?

All of your Florida Agency Network brands and locations now offer electronic EMD delivery services! It’s as easy as click-and-send; No downloads, no logins, no account creation.

Have you ever found yourself in the 11th hour with a client needing to deliver their earnest money deposit? We want to provide you and your client with an easy, after-hours, open 24/7/365 solution that will prevent you from running all over town, missing wire cutoffs at the bank, or – worst case scenario – having a contract fall through.

Check out our latest information on the new feature!


Florida Agency Network Introduces Electronic EMD Delivery

Florida Agency Network (FAN), announces the release of a new Electronic Earnest Money Deposit (“EMD”) program. This program is part of FAN’s continued effort to keep everyone safe and secure, streamline the closing process, and move that much closer to a true paperless closing.

Customers buying homes are now able to send their EMD electronically, allowing for a fully-digital transfer of funds, and eliminating the need to visit any of FAN’s multiple office locations throughout the state. In addition, it allows for the added benefits of protecting sensitive information, enabling out-of-town closings, and it allows customers to receive a verified and automated receipt for their records.  The service does NOT require the client to create an account, or download an app, to send the EMD electronically.  It simply requires the click of a button from any of FAN’s websites where homebuyers are directed to Keybox, Payload’s platform for secure electronic real estate payments.  “We’re excited to partner with FAN to enhance the home buying experience across the state of Florida,” said Ryan Rybolt, CEO of Payload.

“One of the items that is a consistent burden to our clients is the handling of EMDs. We live in a world of technological innovation, digital movement of funds, and less dependency on checks and paper currency. This new service offers convenience to our clients, and a more efficient solution for receiving funds. The days of racing to the title office within 72 hours of signing a contract, mailing or overnighting funds, or waiting hours for wiring instructions are history,” said Aaron M. Davis, CEO of Florida Agency Network.

 

About Florida Agency Network

The Florida Agency Network (FAN) is a statewide alliance of title agencies that share services, resources, and technology. FAN has formed a strategic alliance amongst members and vendors, in addition to creating proprietary technologies, to better serve its clients, allowing it to provide customized solutions to protect and streamline the closing experience. Members share back-office services, pooled resources, access to industry-leading technology, improved efficiencies, and the ability to offer their clients greater geographic coverage throughout Florida with SOC 1 Type 2 and SOC 2 Type 2 security compliance solutions available.

For more information, please visit www.FLAgency.net

About Payload

Payload is a powerfully simple, yet robust, financial technology (fintech) platform to securely process credit card and ACH payments. The platform was built for developers, software platforms, and merchants who want to accept secure payments without the burdens often associated with card acquiring.

Keybox is Payload’s solution for processing secure, electronic real estate payment transactions.  Keybox replaces manual check payments or costly wire transfers associated with Earnest Money, Agent Fees, Commissions, and other Real Estate transactions.

For more information, please visit www.payload.co  or https://keybox.payload.co/?