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9 Ways to Share the Spirit of the Season—Starting From Home

Holiday Spirit

The holiday season is upon us, and many of us have already begun to celebrate. From trimming trees to lighting candles, it’s the time of year to fill your homes (and hearts) with holiday joy.

But there’s no need to stop at your front door. Let the spirit of the season radiate outward from your house into your community. Some homeowners hang outdoor lights and decorations to help make the neighborhood “merry and bright.” But that’s not the only way to share the magic of the holidays with others.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 9 inspirational ideas for spreading cheer far and near!



You probably don’t have to look far to find someone who could benefit from a gift or kind gesture this time of year. Try one (or all) of these ideas for sharing the season with those closest to home.

  1. Host a Holiday Party

Hosting a neighborhood holiday party is a great way to reconnect with old friends and welcome new families to the community. And it doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment of time or money. Plan a potluck dinner and ask your guests to bring a dish or drink to share. Or host a holiday cookie exchange and ask everyone to bring a couple dozen of their favorite cookie to swap with other guests. Hot cocoa and caroling is another great way to bring neighbors together to celebrate the season.

If you have a neighbor who you’ve been at odds with in the past, consider extending them an invitation, as well. It could be the perfect opportunity to make peace in the new year.

  1. Help a Neighbor in Need

The holiday season is the perfect time to offer help to a neighbor in need. Next time you head out to rake your leaves, take care of an elderly neighbor’s, as well. Or drop off dinner for a friend who is recovering from surgery.

If you know of someone in your community with a larger need, consider setting up a Care Calendar through a site like CareCalendar.org. Then share the link with other neighbors who may be interested in helping, too. Users can sign up to run errands, cook a meal, babysit, wash laundry, clean the house, mow the lawn, or complete other household tasks depending on the individual’s needs. Even a small gesture of kindness can make someone’s holiday extra jolly.

  1. Treat Your Mail and Package Carriers

Extend comfort and joy from your own front porch during your postal and package carriers’ busiest time of year.1While many of us love the convenience of shopping online for holiday gifts, the boom in e-commerce has exponentially increased the workload for our postal and package carriers, some of whom work up to 70 hours a week during the holiday season.2

You can help brighten their day by leaving a goody and note of gratitude in your mailbox or a basket of water and snacks by your front door. Attach a sign that says: “Thank you for working hard to deliver our holiday packages. Please take a treat to enjoy on your route!”



Surprise and delight those you encounter with a small act of kindness or a generous gesture. ‘Tis the season of giving, but the reaction you get in return may be the best gift of all!

  1. Overtip

Don’t be a Grinch when it comes to tipping at the holidays. Your waiter, your Uber driver, and your hairdresser will all appreciate an extra-generous tip this time of year.

International etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer recommends that you start by setting a budget for holiday tips and prioritizing those you most want to thank.3Place those who help you most frequently at the top of your list—such as your trusted housekeeper, nanny, or daycare provider. For those you regularly tip at the time service, consider frequency and length of the relationship to determine an appropriate amount.

Everyone could use a little extra cash around the holidays. If you can afford it, share a bit of your abundance with others.

  1. Thank Those Who Don’t Get a Holiday

Santa isn’t the only one working on Christmas. Emergency workers, hospital staff, airline employees, toll booth attendants, movie theater staff, and many others will be working to make your holiday safe and bright.

Say “thank you” by bringing breakfast to the firehouse or police station on Christmas morning or by dropping off a tray of goodies for the hard-working hospital staff on New Year’s Eve. Keep a stash of treats or coffee-shop gift cards on hand to pass out to those you encounter working over the holidays. And, if appropriate, a generous tip is always appreciated!

  1. Fill Stockings for the Homeless

Not everyone gets to go “home for the holidays.” You can bring a little cheer and comfort to a homeless person this year with a holiday care kit.

Pick up some inexpensive Christmas stockings from a craft store and fill them with a variety of useful items, such as:

  • Applesauce cup (and plastic spoon)
  • Baby wipes
  • Bandages
  • Bottled water
  • Beef jerky
  • Cereal or granola bar
  • Cheese or peanut butter crackers
  • Deodorant
  • Gloves
  • Lip balm
  • Lotion
  • Nail clippers
  • Socks
  • Tissues
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Tuna and crackers
  • Trail mix

As an added touch, include a sweet treat and a handwritten note wishing them a happy holiday. Hand the stockings out at a shelter or keep a stash in your car so you can offer one when you encounter someone in need.



Reach beyond your sphere by sending some holiday magic out into the community. Surprise a stranger with an anonymous gift that’s sure to make their holiday shine.

  1. Offer Warmth on a Cold Day

As temperatures drop, some members of our community will be left out in the cold. Our local homeless population is especially vulnerable this time of year, but so are many families living in poverty. Health experts warn that a two-degree drop in body temperature can result in reduced heart rate, lack of coordination, and confusion, making it difficult for adults to work and children to learn.4

You can help by bringing your old but gently-used coats to a collection site. Leave a note in the pocket wishing the recipient a warm and happy holiday. Or tie a scarf around a tree and attach a sign that says: “I am not lost. If you need this to stay warm, please take it!”

Check with local homeless shelters to find out if they accept donations of old blankets. Well-worn blankets and towels can often be donated to an animal shelter to help keep four-legged friends warm this winter, as well.

  1. Pay Off a Stranger’s Layaway

Some large retailers offer layaway options during the holidays so that shoppers can pay for their purchases a little at a time. Media stories often surface this time of year about anonymous donors who pay off a stranger’s layaway account to the surprise and delight of the recipient.

This is a great way to help a family that may not qualify for charitable assistance but is on a limited budget for holiday gifts. If you have a particular interest in helping kids, you can ask to pay off an account that consists primarily of children’s items.

You don’t have to drop a bundle to become a family’s “Secret Santa.” Ask the layaway attendant to search for accounts with balances that fit within your budget. To make a bigger impact, ask friends and family members if they want to pitch in to help, too.

  1. Donate Toys to a Tot

One of the most popular ways to give back during the holidays is to participate in a toy drive. There are a number of great charities that collect toys for children of low-income families.

Before you shop, find out if the organization has a wish list of preferred items or guidelines for wrapping and labeling the gift. And check the drop-off deadline to ensure your gift will reach its intended recipient in time.

If you have children, involve them in the process of selecting and purchasing the gift so they can experience the joy of giving to those less fortunate, too.

One more easy way to support the community this year? Shop local! From locally-owned stores to service providers, please consider spending your holiday dollars here at home. We have an extensive network of local businesses and would love to recommend some of our favorites. Give us a call, and let us know how we can help!



  1. NASDAQ –
  2. The Kansas City Star –
  3. Huffington Post –
  4. One Warm Coat –


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Branding With Your Name in Real Estate? Come On, You Can Do Better

Brand Building

Successful branding let’s your consumer know what you do in a memorable way.

by Bernice Ross
Key Takeaway:  Branding with your name is a blunder because most people won’t remember it. It’s better to let people know what you do.

Effective branding is at the heart of virtually every successful business, yet it is a rarity in the real estate industry. If you’re branding your business with your name, it may be time to take a different tack.

Over my 30-plus years in the industry, I’ve been affiliated with several of the major brands in the business.

The standing joke in Coldwell Banker is that people often think that they’re in the banking business. At Century 21, a common question is “Are you the people who have the great deals on car insurance?”

And by the way, exactly what does Re/Max and ERA stand for? (Real Estate Maximums and Electronic Realty Associates.)

Effective vs. ineffective branding

The challenge in each of these examples is that the branding doesn’t meet the three simple criteria for having an effective brand. An effective brand does each of the following:

  1. It’s memorable
  2. It immediately brings the product being sold to mind.
  3. It identifies a specific target market.

Here are three examples of effective branding from outside of real estate that are easy to recognize:

The ‘Uncola’

7Up’s tagline, the “Uncola,” is easy to remember and specifically targets people who want something other than a Coke or a Pepsi.

‘The ultimate driving machine’

You may not know what the letters BMW stand for, but its branding has stood the test of time. The reason? The tagline tells what its product does — it gives you the “ultimate” driving experience. Referencing what the product does is much more effective than branding with only a name.


This is a superb example of strong branding — one word that says exactly what the product does: provides “flicks” (movies) on the “net.”

In terms of real estate brands, the one that best fits the criteria above is relatively new — NextHome. This brand describes exactly what it does in a single word: find your next home.

The least effective brand in the business: Your name

In contrast, the most common type of branding in the real estate industry is based on people’s names. This is the least effective approach to branding because virtually everyone has difficulty remembering names.

The reason is that every day you are constantly bombarded with names of people you meet, names in the news, plus thousands of product and place names. The reason you have trouble recalling names is due to “interference.”

To illustrate how interference works, you can probably easily remember what you had for dinner last night. On the other hand, it’s highly unlikely that you remember what you had for dinner a year ago.

The reason is you have had 365 dinners since then. The memory of all these other dinners “interferes” with the memory that you are attempting to recall.

Complicating the situation even further, even if the customer remembers your name when they do meet you, memory research shows that we forget 70 percent of what we have learned within the first 24 hours after learning has taken place.

People remember functions, not names

If you were to meet me at a social event, and I introduced myself as Bernice Ross of ABC Realty, chances are you will remember the “blond lady who sells real estate,” but you won’t remember my name.

Furthermore, if you work for a brokerage such as Coldwell Banker or Keller Williams that use two names in their branding, the consumer is more likely to remember the brokerage brand because they see it on every just listed card, for sale sign, business card, newspaper ad and web page that the companies’ agents send out.

How to create a memorable brand

To establish a memorable brand, make sure that you reference “homes,” “real estate” or “properties” as well as niche or a specific geographical area that you serve.

For example:

  • Phoenix Probate Real Estate Specialists
  • Westlake Waterfront Properties
  • Richmond Historical Homes by Sally Agent

Sample URLs could be www.WestlakeWaterfrontProperties.com or RichmondHistoricalHomes.com. If the URL is not available, choose a different brand.

Be sure that the URL you choose references both your geographical location as well as your specific niche.

Branding is the most effective when you use the brand on all of your marketing materials. Consequently, your website, your cards and each advertising piece you send out should contain the same branding.

(Some real estate regulators have started to crack down on the wording that can be used in individual agent and team branding, so check the law in your state before proceeding).

The good news about owning your own brand

If your company is purchased or goes out of business or if you decide to change brokerages, having your own brand allows you continue to market without losing momentum.

In contrast, if you are relying solely on your company’s branding, you would have to start your branding efforts all over — this translates into lost income.

Remember, the key to successful branding is to let your consumer know what you do, where you do it and who you do it with!

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

via Inman News



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Google Drive: Confessions of a Title Processor

After such a warm response to our February Coffee Corner, March was an extension of what Google has to offer in terms of Gmail accounts. Over the past few years, Google has expanded the applications that are available to its subscribers and most of the services are perfect tools for real estate professionals.

Google DriveMost of the applications are free with your Gmail account and are all synced in Google Drive, a cloud based drive that can be accessed through any device on or offline. Many of the services available parallel software that comes with a laptop or home computer Microsoft Office package, but for free! And, not only can you access all of your files, organize and share them with other users, but you can edit your documents from any device and they will automatically save in your Google Drive folder.

The more involved you are in what Google has to offer, the better your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will be. Use Google’s application to create blogs, websites, presentations, reports, or surveys! And since it’s saved in one central location, you’ll stay organized and save time.

Follow the link below to a mock website that was created for our March Coffee Corner. Feel free to use the documents and try out Google’s products!


Around The Corner:  Tracy Baer, with North Shore Insurance Group, will be speaking at our April Coffee Corner on April 8th at 9:30am. Tracy will be providing information on flood insurance updates during the first quarter and what we should expect from the year to come.

Please RSVP with Christina@titlesecurity.net or call 727-321-7678 x226.

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Optimizing Your Google Calendars: Confessions of a Title Processor

February Coffee Corner Recap

To start off 2014 on the right foot, our office decided to host our first Coffee Corner on technology. Google technology, that is. A Gmail account, Google’s free email platform, has become much more than just an email address and inbox. Google has really amped up their products (most of them for free) and provided an excellent cloud for real estate professionals to organize everything under one account.

With so many online advances happening so quickly and busy work schedules getting in the way, we thought it would benefit our fellow real estate colleagues to hold a series of classes on Google products. Our first was to tackle Google Calendars. Having a well organized calendar is the first step in the road to success for any business and Google has optimized their calendar function to be accessible through practically any device. Their calendar function is available on both Apple and Android devices.

Google Calendars

Our next Coffee Corner will be held on March 4th at 9:30am in our upstairs conference room. We will continue with the Google theme and go over many of the Home and Office applications that you can find attached to your Gmail account. To RSVP for our next Coffee Corner, please email Christina@titlesecurity.net or call (727) 321-7678 x226.

Check out the full presentation on Google Calendars below as well as videos on how to sync your Google Calendars with your iPhone or through the Android Google Calendar App!

Google Calendar Presentation


Sync Your iPhone


Use Your Android Google Calendar App





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Housing News: A Week In Review


Housing ProjectionsHousing Predictions for 2014: Sales Will Surge…




New Market RealityWill Consumers Demand More From Real Estate Professionals in 2014?




Housing DemandDo you think there will be enough housing inventory to satisfy demand in 2014?




Social Media and Your Credit ReportMore lenders are using social-media data to flag problems with prospective borrowers.




We invite you to Like us on Facebook and  Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn



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Housing News: A Week In Review


Happy New Year 2014


Stronger EconomyThe U.S. economy is on a better footing and facing lighter headwinds than any time since 2007, and maybe since 1998.


Buy-n-Rent InvestorsBuy-and-rent investors feel the squeeze…
As foreclosure auction prices rose and rents stagnating, profits for buyers of foreclosed homes have shrunk.   http://cnnmon.ie/JNTmbP

Multi-Gen HousingMulti-Generational Housing Knowledge Will Be Critical for Real Estate Professionals in the Coming Decade.


Mortgage Rates Drop30-year fixed mortgage rate drops for first time in 6 weeks.





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Preparing and Implementing Your Real Estate Business Plan For 2014: Confessions of a Title Processor

Goals For 2014

December is always a hectic month for all of us in the real estate industry. Buyers and sellers want to close before the end of the year, family is flying in and out for the holidays, and you still haven’t bought Christmas presents for your co-workers! Yikes! These reasons, along with a few more, led us to host our December Coffee Corner on Preparing and Implementing Your Real Estate Business Plan in 2014.

With help from one of our underwriters, Old Republic National Title and their Shared Success Program, we held our best Coffee Corner yet this past Tuesday! Bobbi Alonso, an Old Republic Account Representative led the discussion and helped organize professional and personal goals for 2014. While our classes are smaller, they allow for a more intimate setting and foster discussion among attendees.

While the class went over many useful topics to get your plan in gear, here is a small overview of the most important points that were reviewed.

  • A business plan starts out with a purpose. Why are you writing down this plan? What do you want to attain from making this plan? These reasons can be both personal and profession. As a matter of fact, they certainly should cover both. An anonymous author once said, “Taking time to live life will only inspire your work.” Think about that quote when you are forming your business plan.
  • The most helpful portion of the class was reflecting on personal strengths and weaknesses. This spreadsheet, known as the S.W.O.T. Analysis, challenges you to look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Identifying these will help you guide your plan for success for 2014. The most important category (in my opinion) was weaknesses. If we don’t identify what can potentially hold us back from reaching our goals, we will never accomplish what we set out to achieve.
  • After identifying these factors, you can start listing your goals. These aspirations should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Make sure you can easily keep track of how you are working toward your goals and give yourself a little reward when you do. This goal tracking will help you stay organized and will guide you through your day to day dealings.
  • Whether you want to track your progress virtually or keep a written journal, you should always have something to look over and analyze at least once a month. Also plan on going over your entire business plan once a quarter to see where you stand in comparison to what you originally planned to complete.

2014 GoalsNew Year’s resolutions can be daunting and cliché. Don’t think of your 2014 business plan as a resolution. Think of it as evolution. The real estate industry is in constant flux and to keep ahead of the game you need to be aware of what challenges you may face and learn how to overcome them.

To help you with your new streamlined and well organized business plan, our January Coffee Corner will be covering a few technological advances that will greatly help you stay on target and reach all of your goals that you set in 2014. We will be announcing the details for the class soon so stay tuned!

If you were unable to attend our December Coffee Corner and are interested in the spreadsheets provided by Old Republic, email Christina@titlesecurity.net.