Top Five Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Are you thinking about buying your first home, but don’t know where to start? This process can be overwhelming for someone who has never experienced it. Whether you plan to buy a home in the next couple of months, or if it’s in your 5-year plan, there are steps you can take now to prepare yourself and your family for purchasing a house.

However, if you’ve already started the process as a first-time home-buyer, we hope these tips will encourage you to hit your goal and have a smooth transaction.

1. Save Money
You should already be setting money aside for your down payment and other expenses which arise that you didn’t know about or plan for at the beginning. Don’t forget about closing costs, HOA fees, purchasing a survey, etc. Every real estate transaction is different, but it’s best to be cautious and save as much money as possible to cover your expenses.

2. Work on your Credit Score
Whether you plan to buy soon or in 5 years, start building up your credit score now. Pay your bills on time, especially your big purchases like car payments, and then focus on your credit cards. Keep your credit cards at 10 percent or lower. It’s important to have a good credit score so that you may be approved to buy your home!

3. Keep a Steady and Reliable Job
Two-year employment is ideal, but at least a 2-year history of your job is required. If you have over a 6-month gap in employment, it can start to get tricky to get you approved through a lender.

4. The Truth Behind Your Down Payment
You don’t actually need 20% down to buy a house. There are several grant and down payment assistance programs that can help with up to 7% of your closing costs and down payment. Those programs aside, the FHA minimum down payment is still only 3.5%. Every lender or bank is different, so be sure to talk to your loan originator about your options.

5. Don’t Feel Obligated to Buy at Your Highest Approved Amount.
Even if you are approved for a higher-priced house, that may not always be the smartest choice depending on your needs and the needs of your family. Look at your budget and see how much house you can afford to live in and still be comfortable with your finances. You never want to be ‘house-poor’.

Voila! These are our top 5 tips for first-time home-buyers. If this is you, we are very excited to help you and would love to give you more information. Please reach out to us today if you have any questions and happy buying.



Questions? Comments? Reach out to your First International Title rep today!

Top Seven Social Media Tips

Erik Qualman, author of the book Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business said, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

For today’s REALTOR®, social media is not as much of a choice as it is a necessity to keep your business alive and growing. According to an article by Forbes, 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, and online reviews have also been shown to impact almost 70 percent of purchasing decisions.

Marketing methods used even just one decade ago are not nearly as relevant as they were at that time. With the majority of the American population on social media, and the majority of home buyers being millennials, it is imperative that real estate agents spend a proper amount of time marketing on social media.

If you’re a REALTOR® thinking to yourself, ‘I’m already on social media,’ now would be a good time to re-evaluate your pages and marketing techniques as Facebook, who also owns Instagram, went through many changes in the beginning of 2018. Here are our top 7 social media tips to keep you up to date.

  1. Online Reviews

Google, one of the only companies to successfully turn its name into an actual verb, is still incredibly relevant. Most Americans, who are considering buying something (or, in our case, using a REALTOR®) still read reviews before making a final decision.

Luckily, whenever someone gives your services a review on Google, this increases your organic results, also known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), thus pushing your name and business higher up in the results. Google considers this an “update” to your website, therefore the more updates you make, the more relevant you become. In essence, the more Google reviews you receive from clients, the more other people searching for real estate agents in your area will see your pages.

This also goes for Facebook reviews, which have recently changed to “Recommendations” on your page, in order to minimize the amount of fake and paid reviews online. Be sure to ask for the review at the end of every transaction.


  1. Facebook Targeted Ads

Some REALTORS® claim that they get better views, more engagement, and a higher number of shares on their personal pages than they do their business pages. If that works well for you, keep on doing what you’re doing! However, one of the major drawbacks to this is Facebook targeted ads are only available for those who have business Facebook pages.

Targeted ads allow you to reach a very specific target audience. Think of this way. You have the potential to reach thousands upon thousands of people in their most relaxed state: drinking coffee in the morning, or laying on the couch after a long day of work, and browsing their newsfeed. There is a reason these ads are so popular right now: they work. You essentially cut out everyone that has zero potential to be interested in the services you offer. You only target those you would need your real estate expertise.


  1. Facebook Live

Take a moment to scroll through your newsfeed and take a mental count of how many videos you see versus how many written posts, or even just a photo. It’s a huge difference. Facebook is currently rating video as the highest and most relevant form of communicating on your page.

Facebook Live takes it a step further. Not only is your live video pushed up to the top as one of the most important posts, but your friends and followers get a notification whenever you go live. This is a quick, fun, easy to get in front of people. Nervous about going live? Give your local First Western/International Title Rep a call and they’d be happy to get you started!


  1. Instagram Hashtags

Many real estate agents are saying that their Instagram leads have a higher ROI than their Facebook leads. This is something to consider. Instagram, although it is owned by Facebook, has its own way of reaching people.

There are 4 types of hashtags you should use with every post on Instagram to increase your SEO:

  1. Content-related (this will change depending on the post)
  2. Your niche
  3. Your industry
  4. Company-branded

Using these specific hashtags will help people who like similar pages to yours find you easier.


  1. LinkedIn

A friend of mine once said, “Do you want clients who are business people with a college degree? …Then why aren’t you on LinkedIn?” Running an ad campaign on LinkedIn will help you to reach those exact people, as the majority of LinkedIn users are working and have college degrees.

With that being said, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, as these people typically want to work with others who are go-getters, hard-working, and have a lot to show for their work. Also, look for many different types of LinkedIn groups that you can join, as that gives you the ability to reach an even wider audience.


  1. Quality Over Quantity

Be intentional about the types of people you are following on Instagram and inviting to like your Facebook page. Is this a person someone that you want to work with? Do they even fit the description of your ideal client? Don’t waste time following people who aren’t going to get you where you want to be.

Your followers on social media should be liking your content, having a reason to comment on your posts, and eager to share your thoughts to their own page. If someone doesn’t fit the bill, move on.


  1. Be Yourself

Now more than ever, people want a relationship, a connection, with someone before they do business with that person. Are you portraying your true self online or will your potential clients be surprised when they meet you in person for that listing appointment? There shouldn’t be any surprises. In fact, when you meet a social media lead in person, there should be some sense of “I already feel like I know you,” before you even sit down. Are you being yourself?

Social Media is an ever-changing and a never-ending conversation. Be proactive about attending classes and asking your business developer for updates on social media. First International Title offers classes for realtors every month.


Questions? Comments? Reach out to your sales executive today!

Tips for REALTOR® Safety

September is REALTOR® Safety Month and all of us here at First International Title desire that everyone be protected and intentional about their individual safety.

For real estate agents, that is an everyday task as they are continuously advertising their services online, showing properties, making listing appointments, and hosting open houses. Here are a few practical reminders and tips for the real estate agent to stay safe in every situation.

Don’t Do it Alone
When you host open houses, consider bringing at least one other person that you know and trust with you. If another realtor at your firm is unable to come along, your lenders and First International Title partners should be willing to help you as well.

Have all of the open house visitors sign in with at least their name and phone number and check all of the rooms at the end before you lock up to ensure that everyone has left.

Show During the Day
Try to show properties during the daytime. If you have to show in the evening, arrive at the house early and turn on all of the lights and be sure to keep blinds and curtains completely open.

Let People Know Where You Are
Whether it’s your significant other, a coworker, or a friend, let at least one person know where you will be at what time, especially if you’re out past sunset.

You may even consider downloading a GPS tracking app, such as Life360, to allow your spouse or trusted friend see where you are at all times.

Keep Them In Front
When showing houses, keep the potential buyers in front of you and direct them to where they need to go. For example, stay slightly behind them and say, “the kitchen is through this hallway to the right.” This avoids any surprises happening behind your back.

Lock It Up
When showing houses or hosting open houses, lock your car while you’re inside. Keep minimal amounts of your valuable belongings on you, aside from your cell phone. Hide your wallet or purse in your trunk or under a seat and leave it in the car the entire time.

Check Your Surroundings
Always be aware of what’s happening around you. Before you enter a house, take 10-15 seconds to scope the area. Make sure there are no suspicious cars sitting around, someone watching you, or a person hiding. Also, have knowledge of where the closest exits, or “escape routes,” are so that you’re able to leave quickly if needed. Finally, ensure that your cell phone has enough battery life and service if you need to make a quick call.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
As you’re showing properties or going to an open house, ask the neighbors to keep an eye out around the house for anything that looks out of place. Let them know why you’re there and that you just want to keep everyone safe and out of harm’s way.

Protect Your Emails and Personal Information
Real Estate is one of the largest targets when it comes to online hacking and phishing. Do not accept wiring instructions from someone other than your title company and always call to confirm the instructions before sending the funds.

If you are questioning the legitimacy of an email, go with your gut. Call the supposed sender of the email and ask if they actually sent it. If you have no idea who the sender is, move that email to spam and do not click on any links asking for or to “update” your personal information. If you are unsure about a link in an email, hover the curser of your mouse over the link and it will show what the hyperlink actually is. If it shows something other than what the email is saying, don’t click it.

For more information about email fraud and what First International Title is doing to keep your information safe, contact your local office today!

The National Association of REALTORS® also offers many tools and safety resources for agents and they can be found at


Questions? Comments? Reach out to your First International Title rep!