Cyber Security Threats

We have all been or no someone that has been affected by cyber security threats,  There seems to be a new threat everyday.  From email hacks, to company breaches, to those scary phone calls from the “IRS”, we all need to be on alert and educate ourselves and our customers on how to protect our information from these scams and threats.  

We have two great classes coming up that will give you some tools that will help you learn how to protect sensitive personal data in today’s ‘electronic’ age.  Please RSVP today!

May Stats Are In!

Our Stats at a Glance are here!  Click here to see our new format of the stats by county.  For more detailed information, check out this link.  Or for full stats by county, click here.  If you need past DFW Real Estate Stats information, please visit our Resource Section located on all of our office pages.

house graphic republic title

Texas Housing Insight

Here is a great post from Texas A&M Real Estate Center regarding home sales.

Texas housing sales reached record highs as lower mortgage rates and the healthy labor market spurred demand across the price spectrum. Increased activity is quickly eating away the marginal inventory expansion that occurred last year. Housing starts continued to fall short, but momentum is building in the residential supply pipeline as loan values and permit issuance increased. Pricing pressures picked up but held well below peak growth levels. Waning affordability and the shortage of homes priced below $300,000 remained the biggest challenges facing the housing market. Texas’ robust economy and population growth, however, support a favorable outlook.

Supply*

The Texas Residential Construction Cycle (Coincident) Index, which measures current construction activity, inched downward as construction values trended downward. The Residential Construction Leading Index, however, ticked up for the fourth consecutive month amid falling interest rates and increases in construction permits. The extended economic expansion in Texas and across the nation bodes well for the housing market.

First-quarter private bank loan data indicated a rebound in residential construction investment after a sluggish 2018. Loan values for one-to-four-unit properties jumped 4.4 percent quarter over quarter (QOQ), and multifamily loans increased 1.7 percent after three consecutive quarterly declines. Single-family construction permits followed loan values upward, rising 9.1 percent year to date (YTD). Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) remained the national leaders, issuing 3,346 and 3,068 monthly permits, respectively. Austin ranked fifth nationally with 1,790 permits, posting its fifth consecutive monthly increase. In San Antonio, permits stabilized around 705 after significant first-quarter volatility.

Total Texas housing starts flattened around a four-year trend despite increased population and a growing economy. Starts in the single-family sector trended upward, particularly with development in Central Texas. In contrast, single-family private construction values fell across the state. While luxury-home construction has stalled over the past year, the new-home price distribution does not explain the persistent decline in construction values. That said, Texas’ single-family construction value-per-start ratio hovered around its lowest level since the Great Recession.

Flat housing starts held Texas’ months of inventory (MOI) below four months. Last year’s stretch of slow and steady inventory growth has stalled amid rebounding demand. A total MOI around six months is considered a balanced housing market. The MOI for homes priced below $300,000 retracted after marginal relief in 2018. The supply of active listings dropped below 2.9 months for homes priced less than $200,000 and approached 3.2 months in the $200,000-$300,000 range. A slowdown in the rate of Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listings hitting the market weighed on inventories at the lower end of the market.

The MOI reversed downward in all of the major metros. Austin’s MOI dropped to a YTD low below 2.5 months. Fort Worth followed closely behind at 2.6 MOI. Houston and San Antonio posted their first MOI decline of the year, dropping to 4.0 and 3.6 months, respectively. Dallas was the exception, where inventories inched above 3.4 months, nearly a month higher than in April 2018.

Demand

Texas surpassed a record-high 30,000 total housing sales in April as lower mortgage rates provided some relief to waning affordability. Sales increased across the price spectrum, but a third of the growth occurred in the $200,000-$300,000 price cohort. The luxury market, consisting of homes priced more than $500,000, accounted for a quarter of the growth with more than 2,800 single-family units sold.

Housing sales reached record highs and double-digit YTD growth in all of the major metros. The existing-home market, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of sales activity, generated the positive momentum. Dallas and Austin led the way with 10.3 and 9.0 percent total sales growth, respectively. Houston sales jumped 7.1 percent, while Fort Worth and San Antonio posted monthly growth above 3 percent.

Robust demand pulled Texas’ average days on market (DOM) down to 60 days, but market movements were mixed across the major metros. The Austin DOM sank below 55 days, while Dallas’ metric trended up to that level for the first time since 2013. Houston’s DOM dipped below 59 days, and San Antonio hovered around the statewide average. In Fort Worth the DOM plateaued in December and has since hovered around 43 days.

Continued concerns of global economic growth and trade uncertainty pulled interest rates down for the sixth consecutive month. The ten-year U.S. Treasury bond yield fell to an annual low of 2.5 percent, while the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation’s 30-year fixed-rate dropped below 4.2 percent. Texans capitalized on lower rates, pushing mortgage applications for home purchases up 17.8 percent YTD. These data corroborate the uptick in sales activity across the state, particularly in affordability constrained markets. Refinance mortgage applications, which are more sensitive to interest rate fluctuations, increased 38.2 percent over the same period.

Prices

The recent spurt of demand pushed prices upward after a relatively calm start to the year. The Texas median home price increased $2,000 to $238,000, surpassing 4.1 percent YOY growth for the first time since October. While still increasing, home prices are no longer soaring at double-digit levels YOY as in 2017. Austin and Dallas maintained the highest median price at $303,800 and $288,800, respectively, but remained on a flat trajectory. The Houston ($241,250) and Fort Worth ($237,100) median maintained steady YOY growth at 2.2 and 3.0 percent, respectively, while San Antonio ($227,300) posted 4.3 percent YOY growth.

The Texas Repeat Sales Index suggested stronger home price appreciation in Central Texas with Austin and San Antonio posting 4.6 and 5.2 percent YOY growth, respectively. The Houston and Fort Worth index increased 2.9 and 3.7 percent, respectively. On the other hand, YOY growth decelerated to 2.1 percent in Dallas, the lowest level since 2012.

Source – James P. Gaines, Luis B. Torres, Wesley Miller, and Paige Woodson (June 11, 2019)    https://www.recenter.tamu.edu/articles/technical-report/Texas-Housing-In…

DFW Real Estate, Housing Market, Title Insurance, Title Company

MckinneyFalls

Texas State Parks

Texas has some of the most beautiful state parks in the country.  Here are links to all of the state parks.  Enjoy planning your next road trip!

State Parks

 
State Forest
 
State Historic Site
 
State Fish Hatchery
 
State Fish Hatchery
 
National Parks
 
National Forests
 
National Historic Site
 
National Historic Park
 
National Wildlife Refuges
 
National Recreation Areas
 
National Seashore
Alushta, Russia - December 3, 2014: Woman holding a iPhone 6 Space Gray with social networking service Instagram on the screen. iPhone 6 was created and developed by the Apple inc.

Instagram: I Have An Account, Now What?

One of our most popular CE classes is consistently our “Instagram: I Have An Account, Now What?” class. We all know how important it is to have a presence on social media, but how do you create content, know which hashtags to use and most importantly, connect with buyers and sellers? Our technology trainers Robin Riggs and Annette Carvalho are here to help! Read on for Robin and Annette’s top takeaways from our popular class and visit us at www.republictitle.com/residential-education for a full list of upcoming CE classes.

Use Hashtags and Link to your Website

  • Using the “Stair Step” approach, users can spread out hashtags using the Stair step approach (hashtags with lower #’s mean you might be seen more.  So if you did 27 hashtags (which we don’t necessarily recommend) use nine that have 0-50K followers, nine with 50K-100K followers, and nine with 100-250K followers, etc.
  • Make sure to include contact information – including your website – in your Instagram bio.

Connect with your sphere by turning on “Post Notifications”

  • Because Instagram is always changing their algorithmic feed, you may not see everyone that you follow consistently. Make sure to turn on Post Notifications for the accounts that you want to make sure and see.

Use Direct Messages

  • Did you know that you can direct message up to 50 people at a time?

GeoTag your Posts

  • Searching by “Places” is an entire search category on Instagram. Make sure you are using this feature!

Use Instagram Live

  • This is a powerful tool that Instagram is promoting – you will reach more of your audience using Live since Instagram features those videos in a different way.
  • A best practice in using Instagram Live is to promote your live video in advance with email or Facebook. For example: “Catch me LIVE on Instagram Friday at 10am where I will share my 10 biggest tips for getting your home ready for the market.”

For MUCH more on Instagram, social media and other technology trends, sign up for one of our CE classes at www.republictitle.com/residential-education

Sankt-Petersburg Russia April 13, 2018: Apple iPhone X on office desk with icons of social media network instagram application on screen. Social network. Starting social media app. Photo taken at company office

Instagram For Business

Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms for businesses.  Here are some ideas to use for marketing your business.

  1. Add professional-looking photos.

Instagram is a photo-sharing social media platform, so it’s important to share visually pleasing content. Generic photos won’t cut it. Take photos, edit them, and take the time to make sure you’re creating a cohesive grid on Instagram. [Read related article: 10 Best Photo Editing Apps for Business]

To add a new photo, tap the camera button at the bottom of your screen. You can take a new photo or select one from your camera roll. On the next screen, there are multiple options to personalize your post. You can add a filter, tag other users, write a caption and add a location. You can also turn off comments on this page with the advanced settings. 

  1. Use Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories is one of the channel’s most popular features. These photos and videos disappear 24 hours after they’re posted. Instagram offers many tools that make it easy to create engaging and creative stories.

“Small businesses should leverage Instagram Stories to market their products and services, getting their messages to followers that otherwise might not see regular Instagram posts in their feed because of the latest updates to the algorithm,” said Laura Kenat, content coordinator at Jo Chicago.

On Instagram Stories, you can post recorded videos, still photos, live videos, boomerangs (videos that loop back and forth), basic text, music and focused photos. You can also add stickers such as your location, the temperature, user tags and hashtags.

The stickers for polls, questions and sliding bars make it easy to interact with your users and get feedback. Some accounts use the questions feature to hold a weekly Ask Me Anything, which is a fun way to answer common questions.

Another way to draw attention to your brand is with Stories Highlights, which stay on your profile until you remove them.

  1. Stream live videos.

In addition to Instagram Stories, users can take and stream live video that disappears – sort of like a cross between Facebook Live and Snapchat. You can give customers a live look behind the scenes of interesting aspects of your business, show products or answer live questions through the comments.

Once the video ends, it lives in your Instagram Stories for 24 hours. If you want a video to remain on your Instagram feed, you can upload video you’ve taken or shoot video directly through the app to post. If you choose to shoot or upload video, you can still add filters and change the cover.

  1. Interact with other Instagram users.

As with any social media platform, it’s important to engage and interact with your followers on Instagram. Here’s how.

Liking: Liking is a simple way to connect with other users. To like a photo, either double-tap the image or tap the heart button under the post.

Commenting: Next to the like button is a comment button – just tap it, and the app will take you to the comments page for that photo, with a text box where you can enter what you want to say. Hit Post when it’s complete.

Mentioning: As on Twitter, you can use the @ symbol to tag other users in your Instagram comments or post captions.

Tagging: Instagram allows you to add tags before you post content. To do so, tap Tag People before sharing your photo, and then tap where in the photo you’d like to add a tag. The app then prompts you to type in the person’s name to search for their account. Once you’ve tagged other users in your photo and shared the image, other users can tap on the photo to see the people who are tagged.

Direct messaging: To access Instagram Direct, go to the homepage and tap the button in the top right corner. Here, you can send private instant messages, photos and videos to other users. To send a new DM, tap the + button in the top right corner and select Send Photo or Video, or Send Message. Once you’ve sent the message, you and the recipients can message back and forth. Users who are not already following you will be asked whether they want to allow you to send them photos and videos before they can view your DM.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, plans to integrate Facebook Messenger, Instagram direct messages and WhatsApp to create one messaging platform, according to a January 2019 New York Times article. When this is done, you’ll be able to connect with your followers on Facebook and Instagram through one application. 

  1. Use hashtags.

Hashtags are a great way to help users find content on Instagram. Hashtags can include letters and numbers, but they can’t contain any non-numerical characters. For example, #DaveAndBusters works as a hashtag, but #Dave&Busters does not.

Because users can both search for hashtags and click on hashtags they see in posts in the app, relevant hashtags can be a highly effective tool for getting noticed. However, make sure you’re using the right hashtags for your brand.

Hashtags such as #nofilter (a photo that hasn’t been heavily edited with filters), #selfie (a picture of yourself), and #tbt or #throwbackthursday (old photos) are popular on Instagram, but they may not work for you or your brand. It’s a good idea to look at other established brands or even personal users and bloggers in your industry for examples of what hashtags to use.

Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post or comment, but that many would be excessive. The fewer hashtags you can use to get quality responses, the better. Using a lot of popular hashtags might earn you a lot of likes from other users, but it probably won’t increase your following all that much, and the interactions you get will likely not be from people who are interested in your brand but rather those who just saw and liked your image.

Once you understand hashtags, you can branch out and experiment to find which ones work best for your brand. It’s also smart to create a custom hashtag for your business or even an event you’re hosting. This way, customers can follow along with an event, even if they aren’t there in person.

  1. Advertise on Instagram.

Like on other social channels, businesses have the option to advertise on Instagram. There are three formats for advertising:

Photo ads: These look like regular photo posts, but they have a Sponsored label above the photo. They also have a Learn More button in the bottom right corner under the photo.

Video ads: Like the photo ads, these look like regular video posts, but with a Sponsored label on top.

Carousel ads: These ads look identical to photo ads but feature multiple photos that users can swipe through.

All three ad formats appear in users’ home feeds. These ads support four objectives: video views, click-thrus to your website, mobile app installations and mass awareness. 

For more information about advertising on Instagram, go here.

  1. Sell products on Instagram.

In May 2018, Instagram added a payment feature for select users. It has now started to roll Checkout on Instagram out to all users. And it could potentially have a big impact on small businesses. With the feature, users can buy things without leaving Instagram. In the coming weeks, you’ll see a blue Checkout button under images of products from an initial group of 20 brands, including Burberry, Nike and Warby Parker. All that will be required to complete a transaction will be a name, email address, billing info and shipping addresses. Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, will then save that data for future transactions. Users can pay via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal. While this remains in closed beta, small businesses do not have the ability to sell via the platform. But, we anticipate that will change in the next year. 

Currently small businesses can take advantage of Shoppable Posts to sell products through Instagram. A business simply creates a product catalog connected to their account. Then you tag the product, similar to how you tag a person in a post. To create a shoppable post you must have a business account and you must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies. You can create your catalog through Facebook, Shopify or BigCommerce. 

Other Instagram tips and tricks

To get the most out of your Instagram account, keep these tips in mind.

Links don’t work in Instagram captions. The only place you can share a working link that takes users to a website is in your profile. Links don’t work in captions or photo comments, so if you’re trying to direct people to a specific webpage, you can change the default link in your bio to that page and note in the caption that the link is in your profile.

Make sure your posts relate to your brand. It can be tempting to share photos of food, fashion and animals because they’re popular on the platform. But if your business has nothing to do with those things, it could make you look disjointed and confuse your followers.

Run giveaways and promotions. Post an image advertising your giveaway, sale or contest, and ask users to repost that image with a specific, custom hashtag to enter. You can then search that hashtag to see who has reposted it and pick a winner. Promotions like this allow your customers and followers to market your brand for you by talking about your promotion on their personal pages, and it drives more people to visit your profile. If you do decide to run a contest or sweepstakes, though, make sure you’re following rules and guidelines.

Respond to other users’ comments. When people comment on your photos, reply to them. Interacting with customers and followers shows that you are paying attention and care about what they say. They’ll be more likely to continue following you and interacting with your pictures if they feel like they matter.

Embed Instagram posts on your website. From the desktop version of Instagram, you can get an embed code to add specific images and videos to your company’s website. This shows visitors that you’re active on Instagram and can help you gain more followers. Just select the photo you want to embed, click the ellipsis button in the bottom right corner, and select Embed. This pulls up a box with the embed code and gives you the option to display the caption. From there, copy and paste the code where you want it to go on your website.

Use Instagram influencers to promote your business. Influencers are people who have large followings on Instagram. You can pay influencers to market your products to their followers in a natural way. These sponsored posts typically are subtle and don’t look like ads. This is helpful because people typically hate advertisements.

Share posts directly to your story. In May 2018, Instagram announced a feature that allows users to share posts directly to their stories. With this feature, small businesses can interact with their followers while promoting their product or services. If a client posts a photo of your product, you can share the post directly to your story to highlight the product and your client.

Use polls and other features in your stories. Instagram offers many interactive features that you can use to build online conversations and relationships. For instance, you can use the interactive questions sticker in Instagram Stories. This feature lets followers submit questions for you to answer. This is a fun and simple way to interact with your followers.

Use IGTV. Launched in June 2018, IGTV is a feature that shows long-form, vertical videos. IGTV is available in a stand-alone app and within Instagram’s app, and each video can be up to an hour long. If you get creative, you can use IGTV to market your business in several ways, including by hosting FAQ sessions and conducting how-to chats. For more ways to use video marketing on social media, check out this Business News Daily guide.

Click here for full article and other helpful information. 

Source: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7662-instagram-business-guide.html

For Sale Nothing is Free Republic Title

What Is Title Insurance?

Two types of Title Insurance

There are two basic types of title insurance:
• Loan Title Policy
• Owner’s Protection
Most financial lenders require a Loan Title Policy as security for their investment in your property, just as they require homeowners or other types of coverage for their protection. Title insurance gives the Lender assurance that there are no other claims to the property and that their lien is secure.
Owner’s title insurance lets the new home owner feel safe and confident there are no other claims as to the ownership of the insured property. Among other matters it insures access to the property, gives the homeowner the right to occupy the property, provides good and indefeasible title which shows there are no specific liens against the property. The policy is purchased at the closing and lasts as long as you have an interest in the insured property.

What does your Premium Cover?

Title insuring begins with a search of public land records affecting the real estate concerned. An examination is conducted by the title agent on behalf of its underwriter to determine whether the property is insurable. We have a highly qualified team of abstractors and examiners that review your property to be sure you have clean and clear title to your new home. Some of the items they review are:
• They review prior owner’s wills and deeds to be sure the wording and names are correct.
• They look to make sure all outstanding mortgages and/or judgments are released or will be released at closing.
• They check on liens against the property because the seller has not paid his/her taxes.
• They search to be sure there are no lawsuits or legal action that would affect the property.
• They examine the records to be sure and make note of any easements and utility lines that will cause any issues.

Protecting your Investment

Title insurance is not as commonly understood as other types of insurance. However, it is just as important. When you purchase a home, in addition to purchasing the actual land or building structure, you are actually purchasing the title to that property as well as the rights to occupy and use the space. Having an Owner’s Title Policy insures and protects claims asserted by others on your property.
Other types of insurance that protect your home may focus on possible future events and charge an annual premium. Owner’s Title Insurance is a one-time purchase and following a careful examination and research of past ownership of your property, it protects you on claims or issues on your property before you were the owner.

Your home is probably your most important investment. Before closing on your home, inquire about your title insurance protection. Be sure to protect your asset with an Owner’s Title Policy.

Why Title Insurance