Monday, June 28, 2010

5 Ways to Build Your Brand Through LinkedIn

I've been on LinkedIn for a few years now. I'm not sure I use it to it's fullest extent, but I am working on it. It's a great way for people in any profession to network with other business professionals. It's also a great tool for job seekers. If you are not already on LinkedIn, you should consider joining!

5 Ways to Build Your Brand through LinkedIn
By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, June 25, 2010--The whole point of using social media as a professional business tool is to better help you grow and spread your professional brand. While this can and should be done with a variety of social networking platforms, LinkedIn has become the most effective and far-reaching professional application.

With over 43 million members in over 200 countries, LinkedIn represents 170 different industries and helps businesses accomplish their goals. Whether you’re a job seeker, entrepreneur, consultant, or a business looking to create buzz, LinkedIn gives you an advantage in your career, and can be one of your most valuable assets.

The key then, is knowing how to successfully use LinkedIn to create and market your professional brand. The major difference between other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter is that LinkedIn is not instantaneous. Your long-term upkeep is much less, but for it to be a valuable piece of the social media puzzle, your profile needs to be updated, error-free, and effective.

Using LinkedIn for your overall business strategy and building up your individual brand image is essentially the same. No matter your goals, LinkedIn is at its best when you build contacts, network and interact with other business professionals.

Most LinkedIn users are probably already doing many of the necessary things to strengthen their brand, but for those that are not, the experts at envisionit media offer the following ways to build your brand through LinkedIn:

1. Make Yourself Accessible—If you don’t have a visible presence on LinkedIn, then it’s really of no use to you. To really be a helpful social network, you want to make yourself accessible to others as an integral part of the overall network. There are a few easy ways to do this. The easiest way is to create a custom URL and then promote it by adding it to your signature in e-mails or including it on resumes, blogs, or other works. This way colleagues, friends and potential clients can easily access your profile.

2. Build and Market Your Brand—It’s great if you are able to drive traffic to your LinkedIn profile, but if it’s not attractive and doesn’t promote the individual or company, than most people will pass on by. For starters, leave your e-mail address at the end of summaries or experiences because people cannot add you without it. Try and build up a good amount of recommendations—this will make you more attractive to potential contacts and more valued. Make sure your summaries, experiences and headlines are reflective of your current business goals and will help you to accomplish them.

3. Be Participative in Discussions—If someone in a group proposes a question, don’t be afraid to answer. This only makes you look knowledgeable and up-to-date on the industry. If you have something valuable to offer, answering a question will position you as a contributor and a good source to network with.

4. Put Time into Your Profile—I guess you could say this is similar to marketing your brand, but if you’re going to use LinkedIn to network and connect with others, you have to spend time on it. Don’t have incomplete information or missing elements. Also, just because you make your profile visible and accessible doesn’t necessarily mean others will make the effort. You have to spend time networking with others and searching for valuable additions to your business network. Also, be open to new contacts or people—that is the whole point of networking.

5. Network with Yourself—LinkedIn is one of the most effective professional business networks when it comes to social media. With that said, it becomes that much stronger as part of your larger brand image. Connect your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook profiles together and present a unified representation of yourself. Updating all of your statuses through one spot or using one account to make the others visible can easily do this.

Rent vs. Buy

For Your Clients: Rent or Buy A Home?
RISMEDIA, June 26, 2010--First time home buyers have a lot to consider this summer when making the decision to rent or buy a home: interest rates are at all-time lows, there's still plenty of housing stock and prices are at or near their lowest in years.

Still, deciding whether to buy a home or rent an apartment can be a complicated decision. How do you know what's right for you? Potential buyers should ask themselves several key questions before making this important decision.

1. What will monthly costs be, and can I afford the payments?
Keeping mortgage payments under 30 percent of your monthly income is a good rule of thumb. If you can't keep mortgage payments below that, you may be better off renting for awhile.

2. What other debt do I have?
Total rent or mortgage payments plus credit obligations should not exceed 35 to 40 percent of monthly income.

3. What is my credit score? Can I qualify for a good interest rate?
A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness, and that qualifies you for better interest rates on a mortgage. Maxing out on your credit lines and paying bills late will lower your credit score. The impact of a credit score on interest rates can be significant. For instance, a borrower with a score of 760 could pay nearly two percentage points less in interest on a mortgage than someone with a score of 620. Lower interest rates also mean lower monthly payments. If your credit score is low, you may want to delay buying a home until you can improve your score.

4. How much will taxes, monthly maintenance, or other fees cost?
Owning a home means you'll have to pay real estate taxes and other costs like insurance and maintenance. On the other hand, owning a home brings big tax savings at the end of the year. As a renter, the owner pays those costs for you.

5. How many years will I stay here? Generally, the longer you plan to live someplace, the more it makes sense to buy. You'll build equity in your house and its value is likely to increase over the years.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Second Credit Report May Delay Closings

This is a great article by The Mortgage Experts from Denver, Colorado. They make the loan process easy to understand!

Second Credit Report May Delay Closings
by Chris and Debbie Thomas

The new Fannie Mae rules for credit have officially taken effect. They WILL change the way you do business.

These new rules affect all conforming (non-government) loans that are sold to Fannie Mae.

Here's what you need to know:

-- Shortly before the closing, the borrower's credit report must be "refreshed". A refreshed credit report shows the borrower's accounts, the balances, the minimum monthly payments, and the number of credit inquiries (the number of times the borrower has applied for credit).
-- If the borrower's total minimum payments increase enough to make the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio 2% higher than it was using the original credit report, the loan must go back to underwriting!
-- If there are any new credit inquiries, the loan must go back to underwriting!
-- Example #1: The original credit report shows monthly payments of $1,000. New housing payments are $1,500. Total monthly payments are $2,500. If the monthly payments go up by $50.00 (2% of $2,500) or more on the "refreshed" credit report, the loan must be underwritten again.
-- Example #2: After the lender pulls the initial credit report, the borrower applies for a new account, or applies for an increase in the credit limit on an existing account. This will result in a new credit inquiry on the refreshed report and the loan must be underwritten again.

There is a very big chance that the loan will not close on time if it has to be underwritten again 3 days before the closing. The loan will still close (provided the borrower still qualifies), but the closing will probably be delayed.

If you are a real estate agent, here's what you need to do to minimize the impact of this new Fannie Mae rule:

-- Make sure you are using a lender who knows about the new credit rules, and make sure they are telling your buyers about it. No good lender will mind if you ask, so ask.
-- Write your contracts so the loan conditions deadline is as close to the closing date as possible - within a day or two. If the loan gets delayed because it has to go back to underwriting, your buyer is risking their earnest money. The loan conditions deadline does not have anything to do with the loan being approved. It is the last date that the buyer can get their earnest money back by objecting to the loan conditions. That means the buyer can get their money back if they say they don't like the interest rate or anything else about the loan. If you think the loan conditions deadline has something to do with the loan being approved, read the contract again to learn what it really means.
-- Repeatedly ask your buyers if they are using their credit cards or applying for new credit. If the answer is yes, you may have a problem.
-- Do not assume that these new rules will simply go away because they make life tough for lenders, real estate agents, buyers, and sellers. The intent of the new rules is to eliminate foreclosures, and they will go a long way towards doing that. These rules are probably here to stay for a very long time. Everyone needs to accept the new reality of the mortgage industry. The government is forcing us all to think strategically (long-term). Most of us only think about the short-term, and that way of thinking has resulted in the current economic mess, so they are forcing us to act differently.

The new rules are for all Fannie Mae loans. It does not matter which lender is used. If the loan is going to be sold to Fannie Mae, the lender must follow the rules. At the moment, the new rules do not apply to FHA or VA loans, but that doesn't mean FHA and VA will never adopt similar rules

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poison Oak/Ivy

I don't care for yard work. My my LOVES yard work. I think I obviously missed that gene!

My mom is a teacher and has her summers off, so she typically comes up to Kansas City (from St. Louis) to visit at least one time and spends some quality time "digging in my dirt". It's GREAT!! She loves it and my yard always looks great! She planted some orange lily's a few years ago that comes back year after year so I have some color until she can come plant more flowers. Over the years, we have torn out a few bushes from the front of my yard (even though I don't care for yard work, I DO help!).

Well, I felt ambitious the other day and decided to do a little yard work on my own. (crazy, I know!). Friday I decided to do a little trimming on a tree and pulled some weeds in front of my house. I got scratched by the tree but thought NOTHING of it. Sunday I stopped at Home Depot and picked up some dirt and flowers. I planted these around my light pole. They do look great! (AND I made sure to buy perennials so they'll come back year after year!) I also decided to trim more of the tree in front of the house (that I had started on Friday) b/c it was just too tall.

Fast forward to Monday...and my "scratch" from Friday is not blistered...and POISON OAK!! Thankfully it has not spread but it is the oozing stage. It's not contagious anymore which is GREAT but I heard it can last TWO weeks!!

I think I'll save the yard work for my mom...and hire someone to get ride of the trees that obviously have poison oak/ivy somewhere growing in them! My mom doesn't want to be stuck with it either!!

Great Waldo Starter Home...and other great homes coming soon!!

I almost can't believe it, but I've got THREE listings right now and will be adding another TWO in the next two weeks! Pretty exciting, I just need to get them all SOLD fast! Thankfully they are all GREAT properties in GREAT condition!!

My newest listing is in Waldo (South Kansas City). It's a great little starter home. 2 Bedrooms, 1 Bath, 1 car garage on a corner lot AND a finished basement!! Many of the homes in the area either don't have a basement or it's unfinished. SO that's a bonus for this property!

I'm getting a duplex in Overland Park next week and another home in South Kansas City the first week of July! Let's hope all my listings SELL FAST!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Home Prices Increase!

CoreLogic Home Price Index Shows April Year-Over-Year and Month-Over-Month Increase

RISMEDIA, June 22, 2010--CoreLogic (NYSE: CLGX), a leading provider of information, analytics and business services, today released its Home Price Index (HPI) which shows that annual home prices in the U.S. increased in April, the second consecutive monthly increase.

According to the CoreLogic HPI, national home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 2.6 percent in April 2010 compared to April 2009. This was an improvement over March's year-over-year price increase of 2.3 percent.* Excluding distressed sales, year-over-year prices increased in April 2010 by 2.2 percent; an improvement over the March non-distressed HPI which increased by 1.0 percent** year-over-year.

On a month-over-month basis, the national average home price index increased by 0.8 percent in April 2010 compared to March 2010, which was stronger than the previous one-month increase of 0.1 percent from February 2010 to March 2010.

"The monthly increase in the HPI shows the lingering effects of the homebuyer tax credit," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. "We expect that we will see home prices remain strong through early summer, but in the second half of the year we expect price growth to soften and possibly decline moderately."

The full April 2010 report, including national, state-level, and top metro-level data can be found at

Note: In order to provide HPI data to the media in the most timely fashion possible and to reflect the current evolving housing market, CoreLogic HPI forecast estimates will no longer be included in this report.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Senate votes to extend US Home tax credit deadline

Senate votes to extend US home tax credit deadline

WASHINGTON June 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to give homebuyers another three months to settle on their contracts and take advantage of a popular tax credit that sparked a rush of activity in the housing market.
The Senate, with a vote of 60-37, accepted an amendment by Democratic Leader Harry Reid that extends the closing deadline to Sept. 30 for buyers who met the April 30 deadline to have a signed contract.
The current deadline requires buyers to close by June 30 to get the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. Existing homeowners buying a new primary residence are eligible for a $6,500 credit.
Reid offered the measure as an amendment to a bill that would extend some popular business tax breaks and extend unemployment insurance benefits for jobless workers.
The proposal would not have a significant impact on future home sales as the extension would be only for home buyers who already had a contract in hand by April 30.
The popularity of the tax credit has caused some anxiety because settlement offices are inundated with buyers trying to close on transactions by the end of this month to get the tax break. (Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

Tricks to Keep Your House Cool this Summer

Tricks to Keep Your House Cool this Summer
By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, June 17, 2010--As the temperatures continue to rise this summer, so does the cost of keeping your home cool. While homeowners across the country come to depend on air conditioners to keep the temperature down during the warm summer months, there are other options that will keep you cool while keeping your energy bill low.

Fans and ceiling fans
-If you’re looking for ways to beat the heat, a ceiling fan can be a great investment for your home. This one appliance can make a room feel 6 or 7 degrees cooler, and even the most power-hungry fan costs less than $10 a month to use if you keep it on for 12 hours a day. Good fans make it possible for you to raise your thermostat setting and save on air-conditioning costs. Fans don’t use much energy, but when air is circulating, it feels much cooler. Ceiling fans are best, but a good portable fan can be very effective as well.

-You should remember that even mild air movement of 1 mph can make you feel three or four degrees cooler. Also, make sure your ceiling fan is turned for summer – you should feel the air blown downward.

Shades, drapes or blinds
-Install white window shades, drapes or blinds to reflect heat away from the house. Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon) to keep the sun’s heat out and help fans or air conditioners cool more efficiently. Always remember that the best way to keep your home cool is to keep the heat out.

Internal Heat
-The most common sources of internal heat gain are; appliances, electronic devices and lighting. Be aware of devices in your home that are generating heat and if you have air conditioning, use it wisely.

Don’t put lamps, televisions or other heat-generating appliances next to your air-conditioning thermostat, because the heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to run longer. The heat they produce will make the thermostat think your house is warmer than it really is, and your system will run harder than it needs to.

-Unless you absolutely need them, turn off incandescent lights and heat-generating appliances. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents; they produce the same light but use a fifth the energy and heat.

-You should also try to avoid heat-generating activities such as cooking on hot days or during the hottest part of the day. If you are cooking, use your range fan to vent the hot air out of your house. By reducing the amount of heat in your home, you will use less energy to cool it.

-Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units, but not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity. Deciduous trees planted on the south and west sides will keep your house cool in the summer and allow the sunlight to warm the house during the winter.

Roof and Walls
-Paint your roof white – If you’ve got a flat roof, paint it with a specially formulated reflective paint or just paint it white. The reflective effect will help to keep the rooms under the flat roof much cooler.

Other things to remember
-Humidity makes room air feel warmer, so reduce indoor humidity. Minimize mid-day washing and drying clothes, showering and cooking. When you must do these things, turn on ventilating fans to help extract warm, moist air.

-Avoid landscaping with lots of unshaded rock, cement, or asphalt on the south or west sides of your home because it increases the temperature around the house and radiates heat to the house after the sun has set.

-If the attic isn’t already insulated or is under-insulated, insulate it now. Upgrading from 3 inches to 12 inches can cut cooling costs by 10%

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dog N' Jog

I can add another first to my list of things I've done in Kansas City - The Humane Society's Annual Dog N' Jog.

The event was this past Sunday at the Country Club Plaza. You could run (of course this wasn't our option) or walk 1 or 2 miles. We decided to do the 2 mile walk. It was actually a great route - you do laps around the plaza. Two laps = 1 mile and four laps = 2 miles. Jen & little Henry walked Abby, I walked Maddie & Terri walked her dog Murphy. It was a pretty muggy day and Gary Lezak (MC and Chief Metorologist) told us we had ONE hour to get the walk done before the rain started. He was RIGHT ON!! We had finished the walk and were visiting booths when the rain started pouring down!! I was so proud of the girls and their little legs for finishing the entire 2 miles. Maddie did get tired. And I was surprised (and a little upset) that they didn't have water throughout for the dogs - only at the finish line.

It was a great event and I think we'll do it again!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tips for Successful Blogging

I enjoy blogging and enjoy reading other people's blogs. As always, RISMEDIA had not failed me with some good information. This time on Blogging!

10 Tips for Successful Blogging

By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, June 5, 2010--Most successful bloggers can offer some tips for successful blogging. While some people develop methods based on experience, others simply offer what they've been told-like post often, link often, and be yourself. Andy MacDonald from offers the following tips for achieving a popular and successful blog within the real estate industry.

Be Real
Knowing yourself and your audience are extremely important aspects of successful blogging. Identify who you are as a blogger, what you'll be blogging about, and who your audience will be.

Be Passionate
Passion breeds passion. If you aren't enjoying what you're blogging about, it's difficult to be passionate, so blog about things you truly enjoy. Find a voice that you enjoy writing in and stick with it.

Write Often
Writing often isn't just good for the blog, it's an absolute requirement for success. Updating your blog is often rooted in two major facets of blogging: search engine "juice" and the fact that readers love new and fresh content. Search engines love fresh content and will revisit your site more often the more it's updated.

Link Lots
Links are called the "currency of the blogosphere." Most bloggers link for one of two reasons: either they are interested in the subject matter or they respect the blogger to whom they are linking. Links carry an inherent value, so providing links shows your readers and users what interests you..

Leave Comments on Other Blogs
Creating a community of interest is key to blogging successfully at the business or personal level. For most businesses, the community will be a mixture of existing bloggers, news sources, and influential people in the industry, combined with employees, partners, suppliers, and customers.

Have Fun
Blogging is meant to be fun. Yes, it's serious business that will radically change the way your business is presented online while also changing the way your clients view and relate to you, but it's also about having fun.

Push the Envelope
One of the challenges with blogging is that it's relatively new. Any new communications tool that remains stagnant ultimately dies, so don't be afraid to make changes and ask questions. Entirely new types of cutting-edge communication, such as podcasting and video blogging, were created when someone asked, "Why does blogging have to be just text?" Ask your own "why" questions and see if you can come up with exciting ways to use blogs.

Pinging is something your blog software does to tell several services that you've posted something new. This quick note, or ping, is used to produce lists of the most recently updated blogs to let Technorati and PubSub know to come by and see what you've posted and generally to make sure the blogosphere stays connected.

Use Feeds
Whether you choose to use full-text feeds or provide some of the text, make sure you are providing feeds. Feeds make it easy for people to read your content on their own schedules-while traveling on an airplane, via audio as they're driving home, or generally however and whenever they want to hear what you have to say.

Create Meaningful Titles
Titles are absolutely essential to blogging successfully: good titles mean search engines find you and send you more traffic; attractive and useful titles entice readers to read your stuff, and this translates into more links. Every blog post title should give readers a reason to want to read the entire post.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Put Good Faith in New RESPA Rules for Clients

Business Building: Put Good Faith in New RESPA Rules for Clients
RISMEDIA, June 2, 2010--There has been some debate and confusion across the industry over the new RESPA rules from HUD that took effect Jan. 1 for lenders. While the key players iron out the wrinkles, you can focus on supporting the intent of the guidelines by bringing more clarity and transparency to your clients’ closings.

In November 2008, the Department of Housing and Urban Development added the new regulations to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, including new Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 forms, along with rules and timelines for their use. You may have noticed that some lenders implemented them last year. As of the first of this year, however, all lenders must comply with the new procedures for providing GFEs and transparent accounting of closing terms.

Your role as an adviser to buyers can include informing clients of their options and helping frame proper expectations from pre-approval to closing. That said, you should definitely understand these basic points in order to appropriately educate them:

3-day Rule
Lenders now must provide borrowers with a GFE within three days of receiving a loan application. HUD does allow lenders to provide general information worksheets in lieu of the GFE during the pre-approval process as long as no specific property is identified. If consumers ask for a GFE, however, one must be provided whether the borrow is ready to buy or not.

Fee Categories
The new GFE includes three categories of closing fees that your clients need to understand. They are (1) fees that cannot change at closing, such as origination fees (2) a group of charges that collectively can increase up to 10% only, such as government recording fees, and (3) costs that are permitted to change if a buyer chooses to shop around for services, such as homeowner’s insurance.

Checks and Balances
Consumers should confirm their lender’s compliance with the new RESPA rules by carefully reading and reviewing the GFE and HUD-1 forms. Remember, your expertise can be invaluable as buyers verify the fees and other information in preparation for their closing.

These items only scratch the surface of new RESPA rules and their impacts. HUD appears to be proactive in addressing any snags in the new process through Webinars and other training materials, and you can be proactive by taking advantage of these resources to expand your knowledge of the guidelines to better assist your clients. For more information, visit or search “RESPA” at

Margaret Kelly (CRB) is Chief Executive Officer of RE/MAX International, Inc. For more information, visit

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Have you "Googled" yourself lately??

I was catching up on some blogs I follow and one was about googling yourself. I won't lie, every so often I do google myself. Mostly to see what comes up and make sure it's something about Real Estate!

This blogger had a good point to her make sure the information about you is CORRECT!!

Mine all seemed to be correct. AND I learned that there is someone else with my name!! (or at least it was her maiden name!) Her facebook page came up in my search, but that was the only listing on the first page that wasn't me!

Go Google Yourself!!