Thursday, July 2, 2015

Experience IT in Detroit!

Experience IT, launched in 2011, is a new way to bring entry-level information technology professionals to Detroit. It’s a game-changing partnership among leading tech companies, like Title Source, Fathead, Quicken Loans, DTE Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and more.

 Facilitating the growth of an information technology workforce, this non-profit collaboration works together to teach, train and prepare the next generation of IT professionals over several weeks. The program is led by Title Source’s chief information officer Jeff Hu, who will teach soft skills like involvement and engagement.

 “It’s the culture fit that’s missing – not technology skills. Culture is a mix of people who have the same behavior and work together to achieve the same goals,” said Hu. “Students really build their IT execution knowledge while in college, but some don’t think about their future career until it’s time to graduate. We’ve built this program to activate their social engagement in the workforce.”

 Experience IT attendees are college students who must prequalify for the program. Only 50 candidates from the typical 300 who apply for the program each year will be chosen. And last year, after completing the Experience IT program, 26 candidates were hired at Title Source. This year, Title Source hopes to grant even more candidates full-time positions.

 “We’re giving students the option to actively engage in IT in the real world and help them figure out if they like it or not. It’s not a one hour interview; it’s a two month process,” said Hu.
 
For more information on Experience IT, visit www.experienceitdetroit.com
 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How to Handle a Bidding War

We'd all like our homebuying experience to be as simple as possible. However, things don't always go according to plan. For Americans living in one of the nation's hottest real estate markets, home buying complexities are likely to include a bidding war.
Bidding wars happen when two or more potential buyers want a property and are willing to pay more than the asking price for it. A bidding war situation requires quick thinking both from the potential buyers as well as the seller. Still, there's an opportunity for both parties to come out ahead — if they're prepared.

For Buyers                                                                                                                               

As a buyer looking for a new home this summer, be aware that the competition is stiff. Inventory across the country is low yet more buyers are entering the market. Now is not the time to make a lowball offer and see if a seller will take it. Should you find yourself in a bidding war for a property, follow these five steps to maximize your chances of winning the battle.
Look at homes priced slightly below your budget
If you know homes in your desired neighborhood are likely to receive multiple offers, choose properties that leave you room to negotiate. Real estate agent Suzy Thomas told Chicago Magazine that a good rule of thumb is five to eight percent below the price you'd feel comfortable paying.
This also goes for pre-approval. You won't be able to compete with other offers if the home is listed at the top of what you'll be able to pay.
Be organized and follow directions
If the seller has asked for a "best and final" offer from a group of interested buyers, make note of the deadline and follow any offer submission directions. If the seller asks for an offer in a specific format, follow suit. It will make it easier to compare the offers received.
Submit an offer that's easy to understand and that doesn't leave room for misinterpretation. Also, offer up your pre-approval documentation.
Ask the right questions
You can also sometimes gain an advantage by asking the right questions. Does the seller want a speedy closing? Would they be interested in a rent-back agreement while they look for their new home? An offer that makes selling their home and moving less of a burden may well be worth more to the buyer than the few thousand extra dollars offered by another buyer.
Offer appealing terms
When you are competing with several other buyers, it can help to offer better terms. Cash can have a winning edge over financing.
Cash offers can be very appealing to buyers who want a quick sale and less risk of financing falling through. Beyond even full-cash offers, making a larger down payment reduces the chance that loan approval problems surface later in the buying process. A robust earnest money offer in excess of one percent can also add to an offer's appeal.
Buyers can also rise to the top of the pile by offering few or no contingencies, or agreeing to pay closing costs.
Stay engaged in the process
Sharon Voss, an Orlando-area Realtor, told Realtor Magazine it's important a seller stay by their phone during a bidding war, because the situation can develop at any moment. "Be prepared to make decisions very quickly and respond very quickly to questions about your offer," Voss noted. Otherwise, you may lose your chance at taking the lead.

For Sellers

Experts give similar advice to sellers engaged in a bidding war. As sellers need to make quick decisions about their available offers, they should also keep in close contact with their agent during a multiple-offer situation. Being clear and direct about requirements or submission directions is also a must. Two other bidding war considerations apply specifically to sellers.






Determine how you will manage multiple offers
Sellers have a few options when it comes to working through multiple offers. The first option is to simply choose the best initial offer received and negotiate the final sale. This can be an easy route, but may leave money on the table from other buyers.
Often sellers will choose to go back to a group of buyers to ask for their "best and final" offer. This lets the buyers know they're in competition and can often yield a better deal for the seller.
Evaluate offer terms, not just price
When a seller does receive multiple offers, he should take care to look at the whole offer package, not just the final number. After all, a higher number that comes with no pre-approval guarantee, average earnest money deposit, or low down payment, is much more likely to fall through during financing than a lower cash offer.
Consider what contingencies, closing cost arrangements, or rent-back agreements would make a deal stand out for you. Every seller's situation is different and some extra perks thrown in may be worth a slightly lower offer price. You might even get an offer of pizza for life, which would certainly be hard to refuse.

Conclusion


With the right preparation, both buyers and sellers can handle a bidding war. Be aware of your local market and ask your real estate agent if you can expect heavy competition and prepare accordingly. Both buyers and sellers have the opportunity to win in such situations. Well-prepared buyers can come away with the home of their dreams while sellers can choose the most favorable terms and price to suit their selling and moving needs.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Title Source's Brian Hughes to Speak at the 2015 National Notary Association Conference


Title Source’s Chief Operating Officer Brian Hughes will speak at the 2015 National Notary Association (NNA) Conference in Orlando, Florida on June 1st at 5:10 p.m. Hughes is one of four panelists who will be discussing how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new closing disclosure rules will affect loan signings.

 Effective August 1st, the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule, which has been dubbed the “Know Before You Owe” rule, will aim to streamline the mortgage application process by combining elements of various forms provided to applicants. Under the new rules, applicants must be provided with a loan estimate form that combines the initial Truth in Lending Act (TILA) disclosure and the Good Faith Estimate (GFE), within three business days of their application. Loan originators will also be required to provide a Closing Disclosure form, which combines the final TILA disclosure and the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, at least three business days prior to the loan consummation.

 The new rule goes into effect nearly two years after having been finalized in November of 2013. While the CFPB expects it will improve the closing process by shortening the length of a typical closing appointment and limiting last minute changes, it also presents the industry with new challenges.

 “The mortgage industry has taught us that it’s dynamic and ever-evolving,” said Hughes. “As we prepare for upcoming CFPB changes, I welcome the opportunity to help our lender clients meet these new regulations with our interactive technology solutions.”

Hughes has 25 years of experience in the national settlement services industry, is a licensed title agent in multiple states, and has been COO of Title Source for nearly 15 years. Hughes holds a degree in finance, has earned Lean Six Sigma Champion and Green Belt certificates, and has completed the Everest leadership program.

 Also participating in the panel discussion will be Ray Callahan, Chief Compliance Officer of Prospect Mortgage, and Sally Freudenberg, Vice President of Business Systems Consultant at Wells Fargo. The three panelists will be giving their first-hand perspectives on the new regulations, and discussing what will change at the signing table on August 1st.

 The NNA is a nonprofit organization that provides educational resources and tools to signing agents. Their annual conference is being held this year in Orlando, Florida at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Hotel from May 31st to June 3rd. To learn more about the NNA Conference, click here!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How much is too much? Planning for housing expenses

Summer is a popular time to go looking for a new home, whether it’s a starter house, a bigger condo or an apartment closer to work. As you begin looking at your options, one of the first questions you’ll tackle is how much house or apartment you can afford. You may be surprised to find that when it comes to housing, your paycheck doesn’t go as far as it used to.

How Much Is Too Much to Spend?
Many Americans would agree the household budget can feel uncomfortably tight at times. However, a startling number of Americans are experiencing what experts call a severe burden when it comes to housing expenses.
In recent years, rental costs have increased around three percent per year, outpacing overall inflation of 1.5 percent. Some metro areas, such as San Francisco, have seen economic growth accompanied by skyrocketing rents and home prices.
A new report confirms that nearly one in four renters spend more than half their income on housing. That’s more than 11 million Americans. The problem extends beyond renters, too. More than six million homeowners are estimated to spend more than half their monthly income on mortgage payments and other necessary housing expenses.
How Do You Crunch the Numbers?

For some, falling into these circumstances may have been unavoidable. However, if you’re shopping for a new home or apartment this summer, there are some steps you can take to prepare yourself, which could help you avoid overspending.Renters and buyers should take into account the total cost of housing, not just an apartment or home’s sticker price. To avoid being stretched too thin, your housing budget should include more than just rent or mortgage payments. Take note of these other regular housing expenses that can add up.
Homebuyers should factor the following into their budgets:
     Mortgage payments
     Property taxes
     Homeowners insurance
     Mortgage insurance
     HOA fees
     Utility charges
     Routine maintenance

Buyers should also set aside a little money each month to prepare for future major repairs. At the outset of buying a home, you may need cash upfront for initial repairs or remodeling, depending on the condition of the home. Lastly, don’t forget you may be asked by the seller to pay the closing costs.
For renters, regular expenses can include:
     Rent payments
     Renters insurance
     Pet rent
     Utility charges
     Parking fees
Additional costs could include laundry expenses, gym fees or other incidentals. Renters should also ask upfront about the lease deposit, which may require a nonrefundable fee plus first and last month’s rent. In some metro areas, renters may also have to factor in a rental broker’s fee to their budget, but that is most often a cost shouldered by your prospective landlord.

How Much Should You Spend?
Conventional wisdom says that no more than 28 percent of income should go toward housing. With housing costs confined to this percentage of your income, you’ll have enough income left to cover other necessary expenses, as well as entertainment costs and savings and investments.

However, this figure may be too small for renters in many high-priced metro areas. Apartment Therapy recommends doing some calculations to see how much you can afford. For example:
Say you wish to spend 35 percent of a $60,000 salary on housing. That’s $21,000. Divide by 12 months, and you’ll find you could afford to spend up to $1,750 on rental expenses.
For this example, it’s important to keep other costs in mind that could limit your rental budget. Taxes, student loans and credit card debt all could mean you have less to devote to housing. Remember that some expenses, such as entertainment spending, can be cut back, while others like loan payments cannot.
Homebuyers should also crunch the numbers before jumping into the market. A tool like one of these mortgage calculators can help. In this case, factors such as the size of your down payment, interest rate and the property taxes in your area could have a huge effect on what you’re able to afford. 
What Should You Do First?
If you’re thinking of looking for a new home this summer, there are several steps you can take to make sure you set yourself up for success. Planning ahead can help buyers secure better terms, which will reduce costs in the long run. Renters can avoid a financial crunch by getting their affairs in order.  
Review Your Credit
A free copy of your credit report these days is just a simple Google search away. Review your credit score and check the report for errors. Get those errors fixed to improve your score. Many lenders have lowered requirements to scores of 620 or more, but a better score will get you a much better interest rate. Landlords also take your credit score and rental history into consideration and may require a higher deposit for lower credit scores.
Start Saving
Homebuyers should plan far enough ahead to save for a sizeable down payment. Five to 20 percent of the purchase price is standard, with higher down payments reducing your monthly mortgage costs for your future home. Renters also should start saving. Application fees, non-refundable deposits, first and last month’s rent and moving or storage costs can all add up.
Consider All Your Options
Buyers should also be aware of the variety of financing options available. From GSE and FHA loans to commercial lenders, buyers have a lot of choices when considering who they decide to do business with. Forbes recommends taking special care when choosing between 15-year or 30-year mortgage terms, as both can be advantageous, depending on the needs and plans of the buyer.
A Few Final Thoughts
If you are going to buy a new home or rent a new apartment this summer, be careful not to overextend yourself. Be on the lookout for hidden costs which could stretch your housing budget too thin. Crunch the numbers before you start looking and stick within your budget as much as possible. If you do have to stretch, plan ahead and know what you can and can’t do without. Lastly, enjoy the hunt. The search for a new home can bring new opportunities and adventures and give you a completely new environment to explore.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Boomerang Kids: Multigenerational Living on the Rise

In a growing trend, a number of young Americans, aged 25-34, are now spending part of their post-college years back home living with mom and dad. These “boomerang kids,” as they’re called, are living at home due to a variety of reasons, including student loan debts, high rents, and other economic factors.

Data from the Pew Research Center reports that the number of boomerang kids living at home has been increasing for some time. Roughly one in four young adults (23.6 percent) lived in multigenerational households in 2012, up from 11 percent in 1980.

Boomerang Kids and Housing Decisions

A new report released last month by the National Association of Realtors suggests that all these boomerang kids are influencing home buying trends, as well. In 2014, 13 percent of homebuyers surveyed reported being part of a multigenerational household and 23 percent cited “children over the age of 18 moving back home” as a primary reason for their home purchase.

When broken down further by the age of the homebuyer, it was the younger baby boomers, aged 50-59, who most often cited boomerang kids as the reason for their purchase — at a rate of 37 percent. Older boomers cited boomerang kids 30 percent of the time as a reason for their home purchase. These percentages are significantly higher than some other reasons given for maintaining a multigenerational household, including taking care of or spending time with aging parents.

For current homebuyers, it’s far more likely a boomerang kid will be the one living in the mother-in-law suite, an additional living quarters on the property usually intended for guests or elderly family members.

Furthermore, research from Pew confirms that the number of multigenerational households is on the rise. The Pew study says the number has doubled since 1980 to a record 57 million Americans. That’s more than 18 percent of the U.S. population.

Boomerang Kids and Retirement

Out of the 47 million baby boomer households, eight million are supporting adult children according to Hearts and Wallets, a research organization monitoring retirement trends who spoke to the Huffington Post. A recent story by CNBC even claimed that boomerang kids were ruining their parents’ retirement.

There’s a stark contrast between the financial situation of baby boomers who are providing support to their children and those who aren’t. According to the Huffington Post, 52 percent of baby boomers whose adult children are self-sufficient are now retired. For boomers who are supporting adult children, that number is 21 percent.

Having boomerang kids to support also causes many parents to feel more anxiety about money matters and less secure in their retirement plans. Chris Brown, co-founder of Hearts and Wallets, told CNBC these boomers are “more concerned about saving for retirement than outliving their assets.”

How to Survive Boomerang Kids Moving Back Home

If you have an adult child at home, sitting down to hash out a plan and set some goals can reduce anxiety and make for a better outcome. For nearly all families, it’s a temporary situation. Families can make the most of it by focusing on how to help propel the boomerang kid back out into the world as a self-sufficient adult. Bankrate offers a series of practical tips for living with a boomerang kid, including: 

     Have a talk, make a plan. Discuss ground rules for living together. Make a plan as a family for how your boomerang kid will use this time to learn new marketable skills, save for the future, or get hired at a job that pays a living wage.
     Share household expenses and chores. Most millennials aren’t unemployed or unemployable, their problem is repeated underemployment. Collect a modest rent from your new tenant. Use it to reduce your overall housing costs, put it towards your retirement fund or set it aside to lend back to your child, if the need arises. If your boomerang kid is out of work, they can take a more active role in day-to-day chores.
     Set time limits. Without a timeframe for getting a plan off the ground, your boomerang kid could lose direction. Whether the plan is learning skills, job hunting or saving up, a time limit for how long you’ll help out can push your child to work harder for results.
     Make loans, not handouts. For some parents, lending money now could pay off in the future. Most adult children don’t want to be a burden to their families. Having a loan to pay back can add a sense of purpose. A loan can also be an investment in your family. Help your boomerang kid start a successful business or land a high paying job, and they may be in a stronger position to return the favor in your later years.

In a photo essay and story last summer, the New York Times painted a picture of ambitious young adults who remain optimistic about the future despite challenges and setbacks, so baby boomers may not have their kids living at home for long.

For parents with adult children living at home, it’s about striking a healthy balance. The key is to provide some support and coaching to boomerang kids without damaging your own prospects for a rewarding and financially healthy retirement.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Title Source's Books for Breakfast

 
In schools across the country, March is a month of celebration. Not only is it Dr. Seuss’ birthday month, but it’s also considered National Reading Month. Title Source wanted to join in on the festivities in each office, so we hosted several children’s book drives last month, which we have dubbed “Books for Breakfast.”

Team members didn’t waste any time collecting. In return for a brand new book, they were treated to a free breakfast. These fresh, tasty meals were served up by none other than our own Title Source team leaders!

Texas was the first office to participate, and they started off strong! The line was out the door in the Denton office, which has just under 60 team members. They were able to wrangle up 98 books to be donated to the Wheeler House Library.

Detroit followed up with an assortment of 460 books that were given to some very excited students at Nichols Elementary School as well as the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. A group of team members were able to spend an hour reading with students every Thursday during the entire month.

California didn’t disappoint. The office that has nearly 30 team members was able to donate 86 books to Nuffer Elementary School! That’s almost a whopping three books donated per team member. Way to go Cerritos!

Pennsylvania finished out National Reading Month by donating 134 books to Highland Elementary School. The enthusiastic students even got to spend some time listening to team members who stopped by to read to the class.

This first-time event received a positive response from team members and the recipients of our donated books. By helping support our local libraries and schools, we’ve written another chapter in the story of our community involvement – and this one’s got a very happy ending!
 
 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to stage your home for a faster sale

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

This well-known saying applies to not only meeting someone for the first time, but when someone is meeting your home for the first time as well. When selling a home, staging it can make a big difference. A Zillow survey of real estate agents indicates that homes sell faster and for more money. The survey indicates that only 10 percent of homebuyers can actually visualize the potential of a home. As a home seller, you need to encourage buyers to see the potential and see the home in the best light.

Jennifer Riner from Zillow offers five home staging tips that can help you sell your home faster -- and get a better price. Here they are from first to last.
 
 
 

1.       Clean Thoroughly

“Deep cleaning your home can help your best assets sparkle,” says Riner. A little elbow grease can go a long way toward presenting your home in the best light. Don’t forget to clean the outside of your home as well. Curb appeal factor matters! When potential buyers approach the house, they should see a clean and welcoming home. While you might need to hire someone to clean the outside of your home, and to wash the windows, you can deep clean the inside on your own. “No purchase is required as long as you have soap, a mop, and a vacuum on hand,” says Riner.

2.       Keep it Neutral

“Crazy colors tend to deter potential buyers because they struggle to imagine themselves in the space,” Riner says. “It just doesn’t feel like home to them when there are clearly other personalities being showcased.”

Neutral colors are compatible with almost everything. If you have colors that stand out a lot, or personality-based themes in your home, consider repainting your home so that it looks more generic. Potential buyers should be able to walk in and see themselves in the house. “Try to keep the decor as basic as possible,” Riner suggests. “A blank slate is much more appealing to house hunters imagining their future abodes.”

 
3.        Declutter

“Clutter makes spaces look smaller and it is distracting,” says Riner. Clear up as much of the clutter as possible. It might even be worth it to rent a small storage unit for your things. Spending $100 or $200 to store your clutter for a month or two might be worth it if you can sell your home for more by removing the clutter.

As you stage your home, try to remove items that are personal as well. Remove family pictures, and consider removing especially unique artwork or decor. You don’t want to strip your home bare, but you do want to remove the items that crowd your home and make it seem more like your house than the potential buyer’s house.

 
4.        Brighten

Now that your home is clean and decluttered, the next step is to brighten things up. “Open the blinds and change the lightbulbs prior to showing,” says Riner. “Buyers are usually looking for spaces with ample natural light. Even if your home lacks direct sunlight, you can imitate sunlight using recessed LED bulbs and well-appointed track lighting.”


Good lighting, combined with a lack of clutter and neutral colors, can show your spaces at their best, including helping your rooms look bigger and more inviting. An appealing home is far more likely to sell quickly (and at a better price) than a home that doesn’t make a house hunter feel comfortable.

 
5.        Furnish

“Don’t let the house sit empty,” says Riner. “It appears cold and uninviting.” She recommends keeping the furniture simple and well-suited to the space. Stay away from items that are ornate and large. “Don’t try to squeeze a king-sized bed into a small office space and claim it as an extra bedroom,” says Riner.

Remove furniture that doesn’t fit the home. In some cases, it can make sense to hire a professional home stager to come in and arrange furniture in an attractive manner. If none of your furnishings will work, many home stagers will bring in their own pieces to create an attractive space.

“Design each room according to its intended purpose,” continues Riner. “There should be a dining table in the dining room, and a full or queen bed in the guest bedroom.” She points out that, even if your family uses rooms for different purposes, staging the home should be about looking conventional. “If you’re using your guest bedroom as a yoga studio,” Riner says, “remove the mats and incorporate a small bed or futon.”

There is no way to completely guarantee that you will sell your home quickly and for the price you want. However, if you want to increase your chances of a quick sale and a good offer (or even multiple offers), staging your home can be a relatively easy way to encourage buyers to see your house as their new home.