May 10, 2019

What Agents want from a Title Company

Title companies in Texas all offer the same basic services. And since title policy premiums are regulated by the state, there isn’t much difference in cost from one to the next. What makes one title company better than another? What keeps agents going back to their favorite escrow officers time after time?

I thought I’d survey a few Realtors. After all, they are the ones who usually choose which title company to send their real estate contracts.

After surveying dozens of agents and lenders, the No. 1 answer was great communication. To win their business, the title agency and closer must communicate quickly and frequently. This was at the top of the criteria for agents like Robin McCoy (Keller Williams), Chris Suwannetr (JP & Associates), Sheri Stout (Ebby Halliday), Erik Hargrave (PrimeLending), Kerry Slaughter (Keller Williams), Mary Anne Collins (eXp Realty), Vanessa Bamback (Haute City), Nichole Vilchis (Keller Williams), Kay Wood (Briggs Freeman Sothebys) and Phillip Walker (Keller Williams).

“They’re communicative with all parties and always one step ahead,” says Amy Timmerman (Local Resident Realty) about her favorite title company. “Updates, reminders, clear and prompt responses,” are what Lori Hudson (Ebby Halliday) appreciates about her preferred title agency. 

Customer Service was the second most frequent response. Along with communication, it was an essential requirement for earning agent loyalty. Beth Douglas (Ebby Halliday), Kurt Cisco (The Michael Group), Cathy Browne (Ebby Halliday), Suzanne Lunar (Ultima Real Estate), Bonnie Monroe (Keller Williams) and Lori Hudson (Ebby Halliday) all felt that great customer service was paramount.

Several agents noted that responsiveness and quickly addressing questions and issues was most important. Lisa Besserer (Briggs Freeman Sothebys) likes that her favorite title agent “always gets right back to me.”

This need for speedy responses includes availability outside of the normal business hours. Deborah Whitington (broker) likes that her title agent works “the same hours we do.” Shelle Carrig (Briggs Freeman Sothebys) and Ginger Gill (Ebby Halliday) agree that availability on nights and weekends is important.

Seasoned real estate professional Gene Taylor (Dave Perry-Miller) appreciates that his title agent “stays calm under pressure.” While Shirley Mangrum (Ebby Halliday) likes that hers is also fun while professional. Courier services for earnest money were mentioned by some agents and others like Robin Massey (eXp Realty) value the people that work there the most.

Attributes like knowledge, work ethic, and flexibility are appreciated by agents like Evan Stewart (Compass), Ashley Key (Berkshire Hathaway) and Terri Gum (Ebby Halliday). Both efficiency and anticipating potential roadblocks in a transaction are qualities that Keith Newman (Compass) looks for in his chosen title agencies.

It seems that many of the demands placed on Realtors by their clients are also what these agents expect from their title companies. Frequent communication, outstanding customer service, and rapid responses are all crucial to earning agent allegiance.

Leah Goldstein (Ebby Halliday) adds an extra appreciation for “a great team that makes closings fun celebrations.” That’s always something to cheer about. [where: 75230]

May 3, 2019

Top 5 Scams aimed at Realtors

Buyers and sellers aren’t the only victims of real estate scams and crimes. Realtors are also a favorite target of crooks, criminals, and other shady types. 

Due to the nature of the real estate business, agents naturally come in contact and work with strangers on a regular basis. Most real estate deals involve big ticket transactions and that adds to the risk of dealing with unfamiliar people.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve highlights a few scams aimed at buyers and sellers. Realtors often get caught in the web of these deceptions as well. They just add to crimes that focus on these professionals.

After quizzing a few Realtors, here are just some of the scams going around lately:
  1. Email hijacking and cyberfraud. Like everyone else with an email address, Realtors get phishing emails, fraudulent notices, and hacking attacks. But these are laced with real estate references and are designed to get data for identity theft or for financial information. They contribute to the cost of Errors & Omissions insurance premiums for agents. Often the scams appear to come from a mortgage company, title company, professional organization, etc.
  2. Fake buyers. These devious phonies pretend to be in the market for a luxury home. They enjoy the charade of being fussed over and catered to. Dressing the part and asking detailed questions about the property, their deception can be quite believable – for a while. Fortunately, all they will likely rob you of is time – and maybe a couple of meals.
  3. Open house thieves. These criminals target home sellers and Realtors. They pose as prospective buyers and may operate alone or in pairs. While they can be nicely dressed and well spoken. Plenty of agents have been robbed of money, jewelry, etc. while holding an open house.
  4. The Friday night date. Another unrepresented ‘buyer’ works this con. He schedules an appointment during the week to see an expensive house and loves it. Now he wants to come back on Friday or Saturday in the early evening and bring his girlfriend or boyfriend. He confides that he could be the one and he wants his/her opinion on the house. He and his companion are warmly greeted by the agent, who shows them around. The ruse is simply to feed his ego, impress his date, and help him get laid.
  5. Theft of furnishings and d├ęcor. Agents sometimes assist with selling a home by having it staged with model furniture and accessories. The crook views the home and manages to leave a door or window unlocked. The house is later cleaned out either by the crook or the person who bought the furnishings, not knowing they were duped as well.

Of course, the worst crimes aimed at Realtors have involved violence. Plenty of agents fear for their safety. Sadly, they may have good reason. Agents have been robbed, raped, and murdered all over the country. The National Association of Realtors 2018 Member Safety Report stated that 33% of Realtors said that in the previous year they had experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information. 
Knowledge is power and Realtor associations across North Texas hold regular classes on Realtor safety and fighting cybercrime. If you’re an agent, take a class or a refresher to remain vigilant.

[where: 75230]

Apr 26, 2019

6 Popular Scams aimed at Homesellers

The internet can be both an ally and an adversary to today’s home seller. When it comes to scams and cons, homeowners are easy prey for professional criminals. 
Let’s face it. When selling real estate, you are inviting strangers into your home. Figuratively with online photos, maps, and more. And literally when they come to view your property. You and your home are exposed for the world to see.
Being aware of the scams aimed at sellers is the first step to stopping them in their tracks. These are some of the most popular swindles I’ve heard about in the past year:
1.       Hijacking your property and listing it for lease. This con has been around for years (because these conmen are so good). The scammer lists your property for lease on sites like Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist, etc. for an enticingly low monthly rent. They copy photos, description, etc. from legitimate real estate sites and often create an email address that includes the owner’s name (like JohnDoe1234@….com). They communicate with their victims via email and get them to pay an application fee or deposit to hold the property for them. They keep collecting until someone shuts them down – usually after one of the victims comes knocking at your door. It’s an ugly scene for everyone.
2.       Open house thieves. These crooks make their living stealing medications, jewelry, credit cards, and other valuables. Typically, they operate at open house events and pose as prospective buyers. They may operate alone or in pairs. While they can be nicely dressed and well spoken, they’ll take anything that can fit in a pocket or purse. Lock away everything you can, including all prescriptions.
3.       The amazing offer from the fake buyer. This guy doesn’t have an agent representing him and claims to be moving here from out of state. While his story may vary, it’s usually a good one. He needs a ‘long close’ because he’s going through a divorce, or waiting on an inheritance, or payment for his movie script, or some scenario. He’s willing to pay your asking price or more and close in a few months. He may want to lease the property for a huge monthly sum until he can close. Because he’s never going to close. His checks are going to bounce. He may even move into the property by the time you realize it. But essentially, he is going to tie up your property so that you can’t sell it to anyone else until you pay him to go away. 
4.       “I’ll buy it if I can’t sell it” ploy. This gimmick from smarmy agents comes with stipulations that most logical owners wouldn’t want. Usually, the agent will set the asking price and the offer to buy is way below market value.
5.       Knocking on your door. Yes, some of these criminals will actually knock on your door either trying to sell you something or to convince you they have reason to come inside. Just say no. They should have an appointment to view your home with an agent present and you should never buy anything from someone selling door to door (unless they’re school aged). Contact your agent to verify them before letting anyone in or giving them anything.
6.       For sale by owner targets. These cons are an entire category unto themselves. When there is no agent involved to monitor who sees the property, it’s anyone’s guess as to who they really are. Most sellers are hesitant to ask a prospective buyer for their identification. And they certainly don’t want to leave a stranger alone in their home. These ‘prospects’ could be thieves or just casing the house to come back and rob it later.
Licensed Realtors benefit from an appointment and key box system managed by the MLS. The system records every entry and identifies all agents that have entered a property. It is the agent’s job to screen potential buyers both before they enter your home and before you enter into a contract with them. 
The opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain advice for any particular issue or problem. [where: 75230]