Maximize Your Holiday Networking Fun

Raise a glass this season and make a toast to a crazy year! We saw real estate records set, wacky elections, and just manic weather between the droughts and the storms. What a year it has been!
It’s not over yet. So, while celebrating the season with friends and colleagues at the multitude of parties and events in the coming weeks, take this time to grow your friendships and partnerships with some year-end party networking tips.
• Start with having some fun – At this time of the year don’t be a buzzkill by being solely focused on business at holiday events. You want them to know that you are genuinely interested in them, and not just what they can do for you. This is where the ‘art of conversation’ really applies.
• Be prepared – If there are folks you want to re-connect with, make a memo on your phone with their name and contact info in case they don’t have business cards or you forget to get one.
• Use Facebook – This is a great way to check up on the lives of the folks you want to see the most; you can start meaningful conversations when you know what your connections are engaged in.
• Research on LinkedIn – everyone is impressed to have someone take the time and interest to check them out, it’s flattering. Do it.
• Who do you want to connect with? Holiday events can be a great time to really connect with one or two people who you’ve wanted to meet. If you come away with one new potential friend or partner, you’ve had a successful evening. Now go have more fun!
• Don’t attend big parties if you don’t like them – You’ll be unhappy and others will feel that vibe. Find other ways to connect in smaller groups. Perhaps host a small event or ask a few new connections to lunch.
No other time of the year offers such rich opportunities to connect like the holidays do. Making new connections or strengthening existing relationships is a great way to head into the New Year.

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Don’t Underestimate the Gift of Giving Gift Cards!

Gift cards have become the go-to choice for many stressed out gift givers. How can a gift card not be the perfect gift when the recipient can select something they really want or need? Let’s forgo the conversation about the joy of selecting something special for that special someone, the pleasure that comes from watching the glee upon opening your hard fought selection, the romantic notion that every year your gift recipient will recall that delightful and well thought out gift that YOU gave them.

We know that gift giving can be very challenging; some people appear to have everything already, or they may have very specific tastes, or you simply cannot come up with single, solitary idea of what to give them. Now, the gift card is looking pretty good.
But wait – before you get all your holiday shopping completed from the gift card rack at your local store, consider some of the awkwardness that may come with an ill-conceived gift card. There are a few guidelines when it comes to selecting gift cards:

• The business goes out of business! Out of luck with that particular gift, make sure you are purchasing from solid businesses.
• There is an inactivity fee and the card loses value
• The card has an expiration date (federal law requires that cards be valid for at least 5 years). Many retailers offer cards with no expiration date.

Believe it or not, there is some thought that goes into selecting gift cards.
Don’t give a gift card to membership stores such as BJ’s or Costco, if your recipient is not a member there. A gift card from Red Lobster may sound wonderful, except that the closest one is in Connecticut! When choosing for your client’s 8-year-old daughter, maybe that gift card from Home Depot isn’t the way to go. Take the time to really think about what interests and excites your gift recipients.Consider the experiences you love and think about sharing that with them. If you simply cannot match the gift card to the recipient, think about getting just a general money card. They are a one size fits all gift that they can use anywhere.

During these stressful holiday seasons, gift cards are the perfect vehicle at the intersection of good intentions and convenience.

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Get that chip off your shoulder!!!!

When shopping this year, consider this: In 2015, over 13 million consumers fell victim to credit card fraud at an amount of $15 billion. However, since the widespread adoption of the chip and pin cards known in the industry as EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa)*; credit card fraud rates have dropped 54% in April 2016 compared to April 2015 due to chip technology**.

Next time you get frustrated because you keep trying to swipe your card, when you are supposed to insert it into the chip reader, remember that YOU are being protected by this new procedure. So instead of grumbling, tapping your foot or steaming in some other way over the minor delay caused by this new action, look up and make eye contact with the people around you. Say hello or happy holidays to the person standing in front of you serving you during this busy time. You can even use these few extra seconds to say thank you for protecting my credit in this small way!

Why is the chip card safer? The information stored on cards with just the stripe is finite. Once a hacker gets this information, they can copy your card’s information and begin using your card number. The chip is different because it creates a unique and random code for each transaction. So now if your card is copied, the information stolen is no longer valid.

What if you do have a chip and pin card but the store you are shopping at is still using the old reader, who is responsible? In this case, it is the merchant. Beginning in 2015, merchants were encouraged to upgrade to the EMV system on their POS (point of sale) terminals. As an incentive, processing fees are lowered for merchants who adopt the new system. For those who are dragging their feet, not only will they pay higher fees, they will also be responsible for any fraudulent activity on behalf of their customers. In the highly unlikely situation that your chip and pin card is compromised on an EMV compliant terminal, the card issuer is responsible for any fraudulent activity on your card.

You’ve got the right card; you only do business with merchants that use the right system, so now fraud is a thing of the past, right? Well, not so quickly. In the world of credit card fraud, it is always a race between the hackers and the security professionals. Typically, if these criminals are finding it difficult to get your credit card information, they will just find another way to get your hard-earned money. One of more prevalent schemes has been ATM fraud. There are a few methods used to copy your debit card, from card skimming and trapping to cash trapping. Most ATM fraud is accomplished by attaching some sort of physical device to the ATM that appears to be part of the actual machine. These devices can steal the data off your card (skimming), take the actual card itself (card trapping) or take the cash from your withdrawal (cash trapping). If you need cash, the best method is the old school one of going up to a teller and withdrawing the cash you need. However, if time is of the essences look for an ATM machine inside a bank.

There is no better time than the holidays to take a few minutes to get to know the people in your community and to ensure your financial security for the next year and beyond.

*Fraud statistics from Javelin Strategy & Research.
**Counterfeit card fraud statistic from NBC News.

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What’s going to happen?

The election is over and all are questioning what happens next. What will happen to our economy? How will our housing market be impacted? What about interest rates?

These are the questions that are keeping mortgage people hopping and phones buzzing.

Here’s the answer – no one knows.

What we do know is that change is constant. Change can be inspirational and create tremendous opportunity for those who can embrace change and take it on with confidence.

The real estate and mortgage markets have had periods of huge disruption through out the decades, and in the end houses will still sell, families will always move, sell their last house, move and buy the next one. Change is inevitable. People will still need to cash out to renovate or pay for college, consumers move up and down and refinance for all kinds of reasons.

No matter what happens, demographics tell us that millennials are rapidly approaching home buying age and the next 10 years are expected to be some of the greatest years for first time buyer activity that we have seen in decades.

Don’t worry about what’s going to happen or what direction our country or economy or industry is heading and start thinking about where opportunities are for you to grow your business. What challenges are you especially prepared to manage for the consumers you serve, what expertise do you possess which sets you apart from your competition?

Focus on what you can manage and control in your business practice. Optimism wins in sales (and in life) every day.

 

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Qualified? Premier Buyer? Final Approval? What’s the Difference?

Most of us now need to get a mortgage when buying a house and are generally familiar with the mortgage process. However, there are mortgage terms that are used and sometimes these terms are used interchangeably by other loan officers. While these terms may sound similar, they are in fact very different and the level of your qualification process is important to understand. The terms we are discussing are Pre-Qualified, Premier Buyer and Final Approval. Understanding these terms is vital to understanding where you stand in the loan approval process.

1. Pre-Qualified: If you are in the market to buy a new home, getting pre-qualified is the first step. This is a fairly simple procedure that can often be done online or over the phone with a mortgage professional. A pre-qualification will give you a ballpark figure on how much you are able to borrow and thus you know what you can afford. During the pre-qualification process, you will be asked basic questions about your income, debt and assets. This is also an opportunity for your mortgage professional to discuss the different loan options that may be available to you. Remember, a pre-qualification is only a snapshot of your borrowing power. Do not make any purchases based solely on a loan pre-qualification.

2. Premier Buyer: Once you are pre-qualified the next step is going through the approval process. This is a much more involved process. Typically, your lender will request several items from you including: a full mortgage application, tax returns, documentation of income and all bank and investment statements. The lender will also pull your credit history as well. Once you become a premier buyer, you will know the exact loan amount you are approved for as well as which interest rate you qualify for. The main advantage of being a premier buyer is that you are now in a position to make legitimate offers on properties you are interested in. A premier buyer is much more desirable since they are able to close quicker than those who are not premier buyers.

3. Final Approval: Final approval is the last step in the loan process and is often referred to as the Loan Commitment. This is both the final step and the most important one. During the final approval review, the lender will ensure a clean title and that there has been no change in the borrower’s financial or credit status since pre-approval. The final approval is also contingent upon a satisfactory appraisal of the property and establishing that there are no liens or legal actions being brought upon the property as well. The final approval is only issued when the lender is absolutely certain that it will adjudicate the loan. Therefore, it is important that the commitment date and the closing date are fairly close to each other.

An educated buyer will always have the advantage, so understanding the mortgage approval process will put you head and shoulders above the competition.

 

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