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What’s Up With Housing?


Spring Forward! 7 Ways to Make the Most of This Weekend.
Wild birds, Pi Day or an extra hour of daylight in the evening — which of these pre-spring pleasures tops your list?


Many home sellers worry that they could be selling their home too soon, losing out on thousands of dollars. Here’s a reality check to help you cope.
Project Destined teaches kids how to value and finance local apartment buildings, and then given the opportunity to share in real profits from those properties.
Nine Florida metropolitan areas, including the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro, ranked in the top 20 metros nationwide for consumer reports about fraud in 2017.
“We are concerned with the recent increase of loans that have debt-to-income ratios exceeding 45%.”
It’s getting harder to find areas with a healthy balance of affordable home prices, low competition and strong growth prospects.

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Stay Safe and Sell

Realtor Safety (video):

Very powerful and sad story of the importance putting safety first when showing property.

A safety plan begins with doing due diligence and, most importantly, walking away from uncomfortable situations. Insist on a first meeting in a public place. Verify the potential customer’s identity, and also let colleagues know your itinerary for the day.



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Protecting Buyers Against Wire Fraud

Following up on our recent Coffee Corner discussing Cyber Fraud, here’s a short video by Margy Grant on the subject of Wire Fraud.

Wire fraud cases are on the rise; and buyers are being bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Criminals use sophisticated software to hack email accounts and look for keywords that indicate a transaction is in progress. Florida Realtors has added a Wire Fraud Prevention notice to the forms library to assist agents in working with buyers to help them understand the danger of fraudulent wiring instructions.

If you would like an infographic on what to look for in a fraudulent email please email me, Katie@TitleSecurityFL.com.

Thank you Florida Realtors.


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10 Anti-Burglary Tips for Your Sellers

When your clients are opening their doors to the public for showings, they need to take extra precautions. Share these suggestions to help them keep their belongings safe.

Realtor Magazine – Tracey Hawkins: After Christmas, many people put the empty boxes their expensive gifts came in out on the curb. What do you think that says to potential burglars? It screams, “I just got a brand-new TV! Come and rob me!”

10 Anti-Burglary TipsThat’s just one example of some unwise habits homeowners have. If those owners are sellers opening their doors to the public for showings, habits such as these put them in even greater danger. The above example is a good warning to give to your clients now, since we’re in the holiday season. But use it as a jumping-off point to have a deeper conversation about safety — and to show that your safety knowledge is an asset to sellers.

Consider using this checklist (you can request it as a customer handout on my website) during listing appointments to better prepare prospective sellers and show your value as a real estate professional. We spend a lot of time telling sellers how we’ll market their home, and while that is obviously important, we rarely address their true concern: how to keep their home safe while it’s open to the public. Touch on these 10 anti-burglary tips so your clients will know that you have their best interest at heart.

A burglary is committed every 20 seconds, with nearly 1.6 million such crimes nationwide annually, according to the FBI’s 2015 Crime in the United States report. That’s down 7.8 percent from 2014. Total property crime, which includes arson, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft, reached nearly 8 million instances in 2015, down 2.6 percent from 2014.

  1. Maintain your property. Especially in the wintertime, many people stay indoors and neglect issues such as peeling trim or an overgrown yard. But if the home looks unkempt, thieves may think it’s abandoned and, therefore, an easy target. Shoveling your walkways to clear them of snow and debris and removing holiday decorations and fallen tree branches in a timely manner will signal that the home is occupied.
  2. Know your neighbors. Many people don’t really know their neighbors; it’s more than just saying hi and being friendly. Invite them over to see your home before it goes on the market, and introduce them to the people they may see regularly stopping by during this time (especially your agent). Then they’ll know who is and isn’t supposed to be at your home and can better assess when there may be a threat while you’re gone.
  3. Assess your home’s vulnerability. Walk to the curb and face your house. Ask yourself, “How would I get in if I were locked out?” The first thing you think of, whether it’s the window with a broken lock or the door that won’t shut all the way, is exactly how a thief will get in. Think like a burglar, and then address the issues that come to mind.
  4. Respect the power of lighting. Criminals are cowards, and they don’t want to be seen. The house that is well-lit at night provides a deterrent because thieves don’t want the attention and the potential to be caught by witnesses. It’s wise to invest in tools that make nighttime light automation easy. That includes dusk-to-dawn adapters that go into existing light fixtures and motion detectors. But beware of leaving your exterior lights on at all times, which signifies the occupant is gone for an extended period of time.
  5. Use technology to make your home look occupied. In addition to lighting, smart-home technology has made it easier to make it appear like people are home, even when they’re not. Systems that remotely control lighting, music, and appliances such as a thermostat can help you achieve this. Though not considered smart-home tech, simple lamp timing devices available at hardware stores are also good for this purpose.
  6. Yes, it has to be said: Lock your doors. It’s amazing how many people think they live in a safe-enough neighborhood not to have to lock their doors when they leave. Some facts sellers should know: In 30 percent of burglaries, the criminals access the home through an unlocked door or window; 34 percent of burglars use the front door to get inside; and 22 percent use the back door, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
  7. Reinforce your locks. A good door lock is nothing without a solid frame. Invest in a solid door jam and strike plate first, and then invest in good locks. Know the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt. Double-cylinder deadbolts are recommended because they require a key to get in and out. For safety and emergency escape purposes, you must leave the key in when you are home. But double-cylinder locks are against regulations in some places, so check with your local police department’s crime prevention office.
  8. Blare the sirens. Burglars are usually in and out in less than five minutes, and they know police can’t respond to an alarm that quickly. Their bigger concern is witnesses to their crime. For that reason, an external siren is invaluable, whether as part of a monitored security system or a DIY alarm. Even if you don’t have an alarm, it’s not a bad idea to invest in fake security signs and post them near doors.
  9. Consider surveillance cameras. The Los Angeles Police Department started a program encouraging homeowners to install a device called Ring, a doorbell with video surveillance capability that allows homeowners to view what’s outside their door on their smartphone, in a neighborhood that was a target for burglaries. After Ring was installed in hundreds of homes, the burglary rate dropped by 55 percent, according to reports. Most state and local regulations require posting a warning that people are being recorded. (But again, this can be effective even if you don’t actually have the cameras installed!)
  10. Mark your valuables and record details. Use invisible-ink pens or engravers to mark identifying information (driver’s license or state ID numbers) on items. Log serial numbers and take photos of your belongings. Check to see if your police department participates in the Operation Identification program. They will have stickers for you to place on doors or windows warning would-be thieves that your items are marked. These steps may prevent them from pawning or selling stolen items and can help you reclaim recovered belongings.

Tracey Hawkins, founder and CEO of Safety and Security Source, is a former real estate agent who, for 21 years, has been a national speaker and educator on real estate safety issues. She has created the country’s only real estate safety designation, the Consumer Safety and Security Specialist (CSSS) program.

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Top 12 Tips for a Safer Holiday Home

Safer Holiday Home

Our world is full of risk at every turn—from perilous jobs to dangerous driving conditions. That’s why we all love to get back to our homes and not worry about everyday safety hazards. It’s great to feel comfortable and safe at home, but is it as safe as it can be?

Your home should be your haven: the place where you will be protected from harm. It should be a top priority, and yet every year 1200 people or more visit the emergency room during the holiday months due to accidents and unintended injuries sustained from hidden dangers around the home.

With a sharp eye and preventive action you can reduce the chances of lurking safety dangers for everyone who visits your home.

The Top 12 Home Safety Tips

  1. GOOD LIGHTING— Adequate lighting reduces the risk of tripping and falling both inside and outside your home. This is especially important in winters when days are shorter. Critical areas that need to be illuminated are the stairs, outdoors, and foyers. Make sure your street number is well lit and visible from the street to aid first responders find your home. The fix: Make sure adequate wattage is utilized and long-life bulbs and motion detectors are in place.
  1. ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS?— Electrical issues, like a flickering light or a dead outlet, can be mild annoyances that actually signal serious dangers. If not addressed promptly, a faulty electrical system can result in house fires and shocks. The fix: If you’re experiencing any problems with your electricity, contact a professional right away. In your daily life, make sure electrical cords are not frayed or pierced and extension cords are securely connected. Do not run too many cords to a single outlet. Unplug small appliances, space heaters, and power tools when not in use.
  1. DO ROUTINE CLEANING— Not maintaining your appliances leads to a greater chance of accidental home fires. The fix: Do simple tasks regularly like cleaning grease off your stovetop, emptying the lint trap on your dryer, and keeping your chimney clean and clear.
  1. SMOKE AND GAS DETECTORS— Every home needs functional warning devices that detect smoke and gases. The fix: When purchasing smoke alarms, make sure they also detect carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that is especially dangerous because it is colorless and odorless. Replace the batteries every six months—or whenever you change your clocks. Create an emergency evacuation plan, build a preparedness kit, and practice regular safety drills with your family to ensure awareness of procedures.
  1. SECURE YOUR HOME— Many homes now have the latest technological advancements but still rely on locks and hardware from decades ago to keep you safe from intruders. The fix: Do an audit of all entry points to your home—doors and windows and screens. If any do not have secure screens, locks, and deadbolts, have them installed. For those entry points that do already have door knobs, handles, and locks, make sure that they are in good working condition.
  1. WHEN YOU ARE AWAY— We all enjoy long weekends and out-of-town vacations, but unfortunately that leaves your home vulnerable to intruders. The fix: Create the illusion that someone may still be there. Leave a TV or stereo on in the room where a burglar would most likely break in. Have neighbor pick up mail and the daily paper. Turn down phone ringers, keep blinds drawn, and don’t leave unsecured valuables in the home even if you think they are well-hidden. Never hide keys around the home or garden, and don’t leave notes on the door that suggest you are out of town.
  1. HOUSEHOLD REPAIRS— Even if you are an expert and know your way around electrical, plumbing, car or other household repairs, proceed with caution. A poor repair could be a recipe for disaster. The fix: Call a professional or ask me for a referral from our trusted sources.
  1. VEHICLE CAUTION— Remember that there is danger even before you drive on the street. If you are backing your car up, watch out for children and pets on the sidewalk and road. The fix: Be cautious and proceed slowly when driving vehicles in or out of your driveway. If your driveway does not have good visibility in both directions, walk down and look in both directions before you get in your car.
  1. MAKE IT SAFE FOR VISITORS— If you are hosting friends and family, consider what additional safety challenges they may face. The fix: Put yourself in the shoes of a small child and look for low, hard edges, sharp objects, easy-to-open cabinets with chemicals and cleaning agents. Look for falling and tripping hazards that may fell seniors.
  1. BRACE YOURSELF— Heavy objects are rarely braced in the home. Appliances, artwork, televisions, and aquariums present real hazards if they are knocked down by a person or a natural disaster. The fix: Strap and brace heavy objects and use security hardware for large artwork.
  1. UNCOVER HIDDEN DANGERS— If your home was built before the late seventies, there’s likely lead in the paint under the top coats on your walls and windows, and there might be traces in the varnish used on many hardwood floors. In addition, asbestos often can be found in insulation and “popcorn” ceiling textures. The fix: Hire a licensed contractor to test for possible contaminants and remove them safely, especially prior to a remodel.
  1. MOTHER NATURE— Your homeowners insurance will cover you in many instances, but did you know that you may not be insured against natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes? They typically require an additional policy. The fix: Contact your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate replacement coverage as home values escalate and coverage amounts can stay static. Discuss costs for adding disaster policies for the natural disaster most likely to hit your area. Finally, having a disaster and communication plan can minimize the risks.

Safety Dangers to Kids You May Not Think About

Do you have small children who live with you? Even if you don’t, with the holiday season rapidly approaching, your home may welcome friends with young children and older family members. This makes now the ideal time to survey home your home for potential safety problems.


Did you know that as little as an inch of water can be a major hazard? A pail of water in the yard, large puddles from a storm, even a washing machine can induce a small child to trip or fall into and become at risk. The fix: Watch for open ice chests and other standing water, and don’t leave toilet seats open.


Button-sized lithium batteries power small electronic devices, including remote controls, watches, musical greeting cards, and ornaments. When accidently swallowed, they can get stuck in the esophagus and generate an electrical current that can cause severe chemical burns and tissue damage. The fix: Only let small children play with mechnical devices and toys under supervision, and make sure to put these items away when not in use.


Every year, more than 5,000 kids end up in the emergency room after tumbling out of a window. Combat that by installing window guards or window stops so kids can’t fall out. Stairs are another potential hazard for youngsters with less-than-perfect balance. The fix: Baby gates can prevent young kids from venturing up or down. Steps should always have firm footing and be clear of objects as even older people can slip and fall or trip on items left on the stairs.


Cats can scratch a child not used to playing with finicky felines. The family dog may be big and loving but can outweigh a child by five times. Children can be easily knocked down, nipped, or even bitten by a dog not used to the activity of small children. The fix: Monitor play activity and make sure your pet is not getting anxious or annoyed.


Babies can be strangled by cords on blinds and shades. The fix: Excessive cords of all types should be removed or secured down. Always keep cribs away from windows with loose cords.

Now’s the Time

With the upcoming holidays at hand, now is the perfect time to survey your home and address potential safety hazards to yourselves, your family, and your friends. It doesn’t take long, most fixes are very inexpensive and simple to do, and your efforts will pay dividends in peace of mind for years to come.

If you would like our advice on how to make your home safer and need a list of trusted sources for home repairs, please contact us today. We want to help ensure that your home is safe and secure for your family.

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5 Simple Tips For Home Showing Safety

Realtor Safety

Follow this advice, and stay safe

“Get out as fast as you can,” are your thoughts as panic washes over you. You hear the eerie sounds of a door shuffling on its hinges. You look back to see only shadows but no movement.

You frantically fumble through your pockets in search for your keys. You pace and breathe quickly. You are spooked from being at this house — but no, it’s not Halloween or a laughing matter.

Whether real estate agent, buyer or homeowner, this can be the uncomfortable and, frankly, downright frightening experience that unfolds when real estate showing safety guidelines are not used.

Sadly, more often than not, we agents, homesellers and real estate buyers have been in precarious home showing situations that could spell danger.

Lee Davenport offers five simple tips to showing a home safely in honor of Realtor safety month (September) and in memorium of Beverly Carter (the Realtor who was attacked and murdered at a home showing):

1. Make sure your squad is in the know

Let this be our primary #squadgoals! Use apps such as StaySafe, bSafe (I love that it can make fake calls so that you can excuse yourself) and Bugle (in case you are loaded down with a tablet or laptop and your phone is out of sight and out of mind) to keep your family, friends and brokerage in the know of your whereabouts.

These apps can help you outsmart any would-be creep or criminal.

2. Have a public meet-and-greet

If you just got a call or social media message out of the blue from someone interested in viewing your home listing, be sure to vet the person.

As a real estate agent, your first time meeting the prospect in person should not be at the home of interest. I know, I know — you are busy and have a full day, the house is on the way, you don’t want to be late for your next appointment, yadda yadda yadda. All of those are poor excuses in comparison to your safety.

We all — not just children — have to be alert to “stranger danger.” Take the time, and meet the person first at your brokerage firm or a nearby busy public space like a local coffee shop.

Check the Realtor Safe Harbor app if the real estate property is in an unfamiliar area for you to locate a safe meeting spot.

You get bonus points for taking the interested person somewhere that has a surveillance camera that you both can be seen on and can be tracked on the safety app mentioned above.

3. Trust but verify

We are in the age of social networking, so use social media to get to know the interested party. Use the name, phone number, email address or social media username you have to access their full profile.

Take time to explore various posts to get a feel for the potential client from both a safety standpoint and relationship building vantage point (should this prove to be a good sales prospect, you can better seal the deal).

Homebuyers, sellers and real estate agents should ask for business cards from the prospects no matter if they identify themselves as buyer, seller or real estate agent as there have been instances of impostors for each.

It is not invasive to politely ask for a business card so get over feeling awkward about it. Go the extra mile and have a sign-in sheet or app that clearly states that photo IDs must be shown because the business cards could be fake too.

Be sure to snap a picture of the ID directly into your calendar app for the time of the appointment. Should anything happen, your calendar app can easily be referenced.

4. Be cyber conscious

Whatever you might think about the Snowden movie, know that cyber privacy breeches are real concerns. Do not wire funds to accounts that you have not verbally verified as authentic (don’t just follow directions in an email or text).

Be guarded with your account and identification numbers (social security number, etc.).

A property seller, a home stager or mover should not flippantly move your unlocked box with all of your vital documents in it. Nor should a potential homebuyer be able to walk into the owners’ home office with unlocked cabinets and drawers that have information on their business and personal accounts.

And unsecured emails shouldn’t contain confidential information no matter who the sender or receiver is. Slow down and think about what is at stake beyond just the moment.

5. Report it

It is definitely better to err on the side of caution and immediately report anything strange or risky that you encounter, be it verbal, online or in person.

Think safety first instead of taking the wait-and-see approach when it comes to reporting threats to the onsite security team or your local law enforcement. The more others know, the better.

Lee Davenport is a licensed real estate broker, business doctoral student, trainer and coach. Follow her on Google+ and Facebook.


Are You Too Nice for Your Own Good?

We’re taught to be kind to everyone, but that means keeping your guard down against potential predators. Unfortunately, to stay safe, you must adapt your nature to a more dangerous world.

Realtor Safety MonthFollowing up on our May Coffee Corner discussing Safety, and the fact that September is Realtor Safety Month, I wanted to share some additional insights on this important topic delivered by Realtor Magazine’ Graham Wood.

In Robert Siciliano’s eyes, no one is ever truly prepared to defend themselves against an attacker. “It goes against human nature,” says Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, who teaches personal safety skills to real estate professionals. “We inherently need to trust one another in order to survive.”

According to Siciliano, most of us went through “civilized conditioning” as children, where our parents taught us to be courteous to others. While that’s a virtue of society, it also teaches us to keep our guard down — and hampers our ability to assess true danger — when dealing with strangers. “As good as it is to make [kids] behave, it also suppresses their instinctual need for survival. So when they come into contact with a predator, they don’t know how to deal with it,” Siciliano says.

Having the physical skill to thwart an attacker is only half the battle when it comes to personal safety. The attitude you’ve learned to adopt in social situations may be the biggest hazard to your safety. That’s why some experts suggest reconsidering your outlook on the world, even if it’s uncomfortable.

“A lot of people in society choose to ignore what’s going on around them,” says Gianni Cerretani, a martial artist and mortgage loan originator with HomeBridge Financial Services who teaches a mental-preparedness safety course for real estate pros in Atlanta. A year ago, the Georgia Real Estate Commission approved his class for continuing education credits for local REALTORS®. “We teach that you have to deal with the fact that violence happens and criminals are out there. If you’re aware of it, you have a better chance of surviving.”

Is It Rude to Be On Guard?
Cerretani was inspired to begin teaching safety after the case of a man disguised as a woman who brutally attacked several agents in the Atlanta area. The suspect, Jeffrey Shumate, was arrested last year after one such incident, but he has been linked to other attacks dating back to 2000. His first intended victim was Alicia Parks, an agent who was showing him a vacant property. “He was wearing white high heels, black stockings, and bright pink lipstick,” recalls Parks, GRI, a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty Lanier Partners in Gainesville, Ga. “He had on leather gloves, and he said his hands were severely burned and he didn’t want anyone to see them.”

Though she says she was on high alert from the moment they met, Parks thought the incident was a joke — even after the man began using provocative language. But after calling her his girlfriend and trying to get her to follow him to the back of the house, she knew she was in trouble. The meeting only came to an end after Parks accidentally set off the home’s alarm system, prompting the man to flee. “I didn’t even mean to set it off. I just pushed the wrong numbers,” she says.

Parks had an odd feeling when she first spoke to the man over the phone, but she went to the showing anyway. “Just the way he talked to me on the phone, he was so insistent that I come show him that house right away, and it was vacant. But I didn’t know him so I didn’t want to judge him.”

Siciliano, who helped formulate the original REALTOR® Safety initiative with the National Association of REALTORS®, says most people ignore gut feelings of fear or mistrust because they don’t want to come off as rude. They also don’t think ahead about safety because they adopt the mistaken idea that if they don’t think about it, it won’t happen to them.

“They live under the myth that if you’re prepared for a dangerous situation wherever you go, you’re paranoid,” he says. “It’s the it-can’t-happen-to-me syndrome.”

Modifying Your Frame of Mind
Cerretani aims to change how people think about safety. Teaching physical combat is an important component of safety training, he notes, but “to try and teach someone who has never done self-defense in their lives how to do martial arts training in a four-hour class is a waste of time. They’re never going to retain that information.” So instead, he focuses on mental tips such as these:

Look at yourself as a victim. “We ask people, ‘How would you attack you?’” Cerretani says. That question gets people thinking about the weaknesses in their daily routine. Are you often working alone outside the office? Are you aware of whether a door has been locked after you’ve entered a home with a client? Are you leaving a listing when it’s dark? Are your keys in your hand before you get to your car? “One or two people in every class say they don’t lock their house. People aren’t aware that they’re not aware of their vulnerabilities.”
Be hyperaware in “transitional zones.” Stepping out of your car and into a parking lot, or entering a gas station, particularly at night, are situations in which your level of safety can swing widely. “If you really pay attention to a gas station at night — we call it the ‘watering hole’ for criminals — there’s so much commotion going on that it’s very easy to have a criminal activity happen,” Cerretani says.
Watch people’s hands. Certain hand movements — such as balled-up fists — can signal an intention to attack. Other places to pay special attention to include beltlines and underneath shirts to determine whether a person is carrying a concealed weapon.
Focus on what’s near you. Most people focus on their final destination or goal, which can leave them vulnerable. For example, when entering a parking lot, those who are looking for their car are more focused on what’s further away. “If attackers are closer to you and you’re looking far out, you’re vulnerable,” Cerretani says.
Watch your back when you’re on your phone. Put your back against a wall when you’re engulfed in texting or talking on a device so no one can come up behind you and surprise you.

Is the Industry Better Prepared?
Timperis Robertson, founder of the Interactive Real Estate Academy, works with Cerretani to set up his safety class at real estate offices in the Atlanta area. She took his course before it was added to the CE curriculum, and she says it had a big impact on the way she thinks about her day-to-day routine. “It really makes you think about where you’re most vulnerable,” says Robertson, who is also a practitioner with First Home Realty in Lithonia, Ga. “It touches on the situations we face or may face every day. Those are things we don’t think about. We’re just so happy to have a client interested in a property.”

While it takes a concerted effort to change your thinking around safety, it appears many real estate professionals are making strides. With 42 percent of REALTORS® saying they use a safety app on their smartphone, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2016 Member Safety Report — a staggering leap from the 13 percent who said so in NAR’s 2015 survey — a sea change is evident in the way pros are preparing for danger.

More REALTORS® also say they carry a self-defense weapon in the field, the most popular ones being pepper spray, a firearm, or a pocket knife. However, fewer indicated that their brokerage has standard procedures for agent safety — 44 percent in 2016 versus 46 percent in 2015 — a possible indicator that agents are taking on more ownership of their own protocols.

Still, it can be difficult to get agents who have never experienced an attack to think about common-sense safety measures, says Kimberly Allard-Moccia, who helped develop the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®’ first safety class. “You think you’re going to just run if something happens,” says Allard-Moccia, GRI, broker-owner of Century 21 Professionals in Braintree, Mass. “Let’s face it: If most of us in the room are over 50 and wearing inch-and-a-half heels, you’re not going to make it.”

If you don’t think about safety ahead of time and prepare for the worst, “you will cycle in denial and delay,” she adds, “and that’s when you become a victim.”