destin real estate

7 Must-Haves for Every Realtor

7 Must-Haves for Every Realtor

The word “must” gets thrown around a lot in real estate.

You must be active on social media.  You must use video.  You must work with internet leads.

The truth is, you can be successful in real estate without social media, video, internet leads and just about every other “must” out there.

In fact, there are only seven true must-haves for every Realtor.

#1 – A Plan

You don’t need a formal business plan, but you do need to know what you want to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it.  Make sure your plan is in writing and set aside time to review it at least once per month.

#2 – A Clear Value Proposition

In your marketing materials and in-person, you must communicate to potential customers why they should work with you instead of someone else.  Your value proposition could center on your experience, track record, previous careers, local knowledge, or anything else that distinguishes you from other agents in your market.

#3 – A CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

Your network is your most valuable asset as an agent.  You must have a reliable place to store, manage, and access the contact and personal information of the people in your database.

#4 – A Consistent Way to Generate Leads

If your income is unpredictable from one month to the next, inconsistent lead generation is the likely culprit.  To smooth out the peaks and valleys, invest in marketing and prospecting systems that give you a consistent flow of potential buyers and sellers.

#5 – A System for Tracking Lead Sources

You can’t know what’s working and what isn’t unless you track how you get your leads.  You can use something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, or you can use your CRM.

#6 – A Place to Log Expenses

You might have heard the saying, “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep”.  If you don’t know how much money you’re spending, you can’t know how much money you’re keeping.

Programs like Quickbooks, or apps like Expensify, make logging expenses easy so you always know what you’re keeping.

#7 – A Transaction Management System

The quickest way to damage your reputation and endanger your license is to drop the ball during a transaction.  You must have a system in place to ensure you have the proper paperwork, meet contract deadlines, and follow-up on all outstanding issues.
P.S. – The most common missing item of the seven is a plan.  If you don’t have one, now is the perfect time to put one together. Without a business plan, you will struggle to hit your goals.

What’s the best way to raise my credit score when applying for a mortgage?

Improving your credit (FICO) score quickly can be akin to turning a battleship on a dime. It can be difficult. The time to begin credit score management is months before you make loan application.

However, a good loan officer can help you get “re-scored” based on errors and certain changes, but generally speaking, paying your bills on time and keeping outstanding debt levels low are the key items considered in determining your overall credit score. And, do not close accounts that you’ve successfully paid off. Available unused credit is good for your score as well!

For more on this topic or for a list of great local loan officers, please email us at

Aren’t sellers obligated to provide a property condition report?

Sellers in Florida are obligated by law to disclose known problems or conditions that could affect the property’s market value. But what happens if problems are discovered after closing? Did the seller know?  Should the seller have known?

Buyers should always ask for a real property disclosure as well as making their purchase contingent upon the results of a professional home inspection. This is good for buyer and seller alike as it can help head off a problem before it actually becomes one.

For more on this topic or general real estate info along Florida’s Emerald Coast,  please email us at

Risk Determines Rate

Regardless of what a lender quotes on mortgage rates, the actual rate paid by a borrower is based on a number of variables. Lenders determine whether to loan money and at what rate based on the risk involved with the transaction.

Factors that increase the risk that the loan will be repaid will proportionately increase the interest rate charged to the borrower. If the risk becomes too high, the loan will not be approved. Some of the most important considerations:

Loan amounts – conventional loans for more than the conforming limits set by Fannie Mae are considered jumbo loans and generally have a higher interest rate. Many loans in the Destin and South Walton markets exceed those limits.

FICO score – the lowest interest rate is reserved for the highest credit scores; the lower the score, the higher the rate borrower will pay.

Occupancy – borrowers occupying a home as their principal residence are considered a better loan risk than second homes and investment properties.

Loan purpose – purchase transactions generally have the lowest interest rate while refinancing a home is often higher. Real estate purchases for use as second homes or for investment (as is so common for this market) will command a higher interest rate and higher down payment requirements as well.

Debt-to-Income ratio – a borrower’s monthly liabilities divided by their gross monthly income develops a ratio that helps lenders to assess the borrower’s ability to repay the mortgage.

Loan-to-Value ratio – the lower the percentage of the loan to the appraised value of the property will generally lower the interest rate.

Any combination of these factors could limit a borrower’s ability to secure a mortgage at the rate initially quoted. Being pre-approved by a trusted LOCAL mortgage professional is the best way to know what rate you can expect to pay. We say local because many properties in this market are considered non-warrantable. Only certain lenders have investors for properties so designated. The “banker back home” is unlikely to have any sources for financing properties in Florida. Please call us for recommendations!

Fix it Anyway

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is popular advice, but if you’ve ever had a serious plumbing leak, you probably wished you could have headed up the problem in advance. 

Washing machines, like all appliances, are supposed to work without giving them a thought, and when they don’t, it’s time to have them fixed or replaced. However, there is a critical connection from your water supply that may even be older than your washing machine itself.

Ask someone whose hose broke while they were asleep or out of town and you’ll hear stories of how quickly the water can damage walls, flooring and furniture. Almost anyone can replace the hoses with a pair of pliers for under $30.00 to avoid this potential catastrophe.

As you’re shopping for the replacement hoses, consider the braided stainless steel connectors. The advantage is that the stainless steel offers additional protection should a soft spot develop in the hose beneath. They’ll cost a little more but offer considerably more protection for a nominal difference in price.

A reader asks … Are short sales a better deal to buy than bank foreclosures?

Oftentimes yes. Lenders can be more motivated to approve a short sale as it can save them time and money as opposed to the foreclosure path.

However, according to RealtyTrac most major lenders are accelerating their foreclosure actions this year to the tune of about 25%. This more aggressive foreclosure activity is expected to result in a 60% increase in short sales.

While this may not necessarily bode well for property values in the near term, the market cannot fully recover until the distressed and shadow real estate inventory is absorbed.

For more on this topic, visit or email us at

5 Major Banks Roll Over

Under an agreement between the U.S. Attorney General’s office and five major U.S. banks, e.g.,  Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial, the principal amount of mortgage loans for nearly 1 million homeowners will be reduced.

The agreement, worth an estimated $25 billion is also said to include a provision that would pay approximately $2,000 each to about 750,000 homeowners who may have been improperly foreclosed upon, particularly during the “robo-signing” period in which foreclosing lenders were accused of falsely and improperly executing foreclosure documents.

$10 billion is supposed to be earmarked for mortgage principal reduction. This may sound like a big number, that is, until you divide it by the number of homeowners affected. At 1 million targeted homeowners, this only equates to a reduction of about $10,000 per mortgage. As it is extremely rare to see a mortgage that is underwater by anything less than $50,000, this is an incidental gesture.

At least $3 billion is supposed to be earmarked for “refinancing”.  Again, if we do the math, this would only equate to 15,000 mortgages at $200,000 each.

According to the AG’s statement today, this settlement is “to ensure justice, and to recover losses, for victims of reckless and abusive mortgage practices”.  This agreement does none of those things. It certainly does nothing to ensure justice. It simply puts to rest a slew of politically motivated lawsuits in 49 of the 50 states. Oklahoma is the sole hold-out.

With 2.2 million mortgages said to be in some stage of foreclosure, today’s announcements look like little more than window dressing.  When the AG says “recover losses”,  the question becomes, recover losses for whom?  And who are these “victims of reckless and abusive mortgage practices”? No one put a gun to anyone’s head to force them to borrow money. No one forced anyone to take out a second mortgage or a cash-out refinance on their primary residence and then spend the money on condos, cars, boats, vacations  and bobbles.

This position on the part of our government serves to distract from the needs of the many responsible individuals who have become un or under-employed in this economic cycle.   Homeowners who are in need of mortgage assistance through no direct fault of their own. These responsible individuals are now being lumped into the same hamper as the so-called predatory buyers and mortgage abusers.  Is this just another way to reward those who abuse our system while punishing their responsible counter-parts?

In retrospect, it is clear that many banks were reckless and many borrowers were reckless.  The only difference between them? The banks can’t register to vote!

Question: Will I get a 1099 at the end of the year if I short sale my house?

Answer:  If your lender forgives part of the debt against you, they are supposed to issue a 1099 to alert you and the IRS of the canceled debt which is theoretically taxable. However, in the case of your principal residence (resided in for at least 2 of the last 5 years) you may be able to exclude up to $2 million of debt forgiven under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007.  But do not wait … The Act expires at the end of 2012 if not extended by Congress.

Are loan fees going up on Fannie Mae mortgages next year?

Yes. Maybe. Our elected Mensas in the U.S.  Senate, in an effort to aid and assist an ailing real estate industry (ha!),  voted to increase mortgage fees on newly originated Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA loans. This increase will equate to $180 per year on a $200,000 mortgage, and will last for the life of the loan.  This new tax is said to be necessary to extend the much publicized “payroll tax cut” for an additional two months.  Okay, then what? And besides, who ever said that intelligent life exists in Washington?


Congress may very well choose to reject this latest Senate proposal, in which case the payroll tax cut may be allowed to expire. If so, expect a cut in your take-home pay come January 1st.

Florida Sales on the Rise

Florida businesses posted record gross sales of nearly $80 billion for the month of September, the most recent month for which figures are available. This increase represents the first such monthly record since the “Great Recession” began.  While increases were noted through most urban areas of the state, conspicuously lagging was SW Florida. According to the Herald Tribune, Sarasota and Manatee Counties reported some of their worst performances since June 2011 and February 2010 respectively.


Northwest Florida counties posted large gains in bed tax receipts for October. Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties reported collection increases  of 14.7, 10.9 and 42.7  percent respectively.  According to the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council,  Okaloosa had the best October ever. Bed taxes for Okaloosa County are primarily generated through hotel and condo short term rentals in Destin and Okaloosa Island.