Jul 7 | 2017

3 Tips to Stay Healthy When it Gets Busy

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Tips to stay healthyWhether you’re a lawyer, lender, mortgage broker or realtor – working in the real estate industry can be unpredictable. Before you know it, things get hectic and you can slip into bad habits like skipping meals, not exercising and working on just a few hours of sleep. This will eventually take a toll on your health and even your mood. But when you’re busy, it’s even more important to maintain peak performance.

Here are three simple ways you can stay healthy and energetic all year round.

1. Make healthy food choices

Not that you can’t enjoy the occasional pizza party, but think of it this way, nutrition fuels your body and you’ll get the most out of premium gas. If you skip meals, you may end up making bad food choices out of hunger. Try to stash healthy snacks like fruits, nuts and pre-cut veggies at your desk. This way you won’t need to rely on candy bars and fast food to get you through the day.

2. Keep active

You may be sitting hunched over a desk all day or behind the wheel of a car – going to client meetings or rushing from one property to another. Take some time in the day for a quick stretch break or better yet, start a fitness challenge with co-workers. Getting other people on board is a great way to ensure you all stay moving and motivated.

3. Set expectations and priorities

At the end of the day, you’re only human. Make sure your clients and co-workers have reasonable expectations of you. Create a list of priorities for the day to help you get organized and let people know when they can expect deliverables.

Do you have any other tips to get through busy periods? Share it with us in the comments section!

Mar 15 | 2016

COMPASSpoint 2015: The annual FCT EXPERT/ease mortgage market review

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COMPASSpointOffering brokers direction for the year ahead

Well, it’s that time of year again: time for everyone to take stock of 2015’s news, trends and learnings in an attempt to glean a few pearls of wisdom in preparation for the year ahead.

To help brokers make sense of the main happenings in the real estate world last year, we’ve put together our annual FCT EXPERT/ease mortgage market review in the COMPASSpoint 2015 report, now available in PDF form for easy reference. Essentially we delve through and consolidate the year’s news so you don’t have to.

With COMPASSpoint, we want to help you take an informed, hard look at what actually makes the market and drives its behaviours: how we form relationships of trust and value—and how those relationships create shared opportunities. In this edition you’ll find an examination of the five combinations that are being hailed as the key drivers of innovation in the Canadian mortgage marketplace for 2016, including:

  1. Possible regulatory changes under the new government in Ottawa;
  2. Digital transformations targeting the industry;
  3. Macroeconomics of capital flows and interest rate influencers;
  4. Hot and cold spots in the Canadian market and reasoning behind the fluctuation;
  5. Demographic and cultural triggers affecting not only rates, but consumer aspirations and financial capacities.

We hope you find COMPASSpoint informative as you plan for the spring season. If you have any insights about the mortgage market in 2015, feel free to share by commenting below.

Sep 23 | 2015

Ask a title officer: how to complete the RSA form

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Andrea Tait has been with FCT since January 2015 as a title officer.

Andrea Tait has been with FCT since January 2015 as a title officer.

No one likes completing paperwork, we get that. But no one likes a delayed refinance deal either —especially your clients. By completing all the forms required for your Platinum Refinance Deal correctly the first time, you will minimize delays, but more importantly, you’ll improve the customer experience and stand apart from your competition.

Our latest edition of Broker’s Edge examines just how to put this advice into practice when completing the Request for Statement and Authorization (RSA) form. Andrea Tait, title officer at FCT, offers some helpful tips to avoid time-consuming errors and unnecessary back-and-forth that can annoy your clients and can potentially put your deal at risk.

Andrea explains:

“I like to think of the RSA form as the combination to a lock — get everything right and the vault will open.”

Andrea offers the following checklist for seamless processing:

  • Always use the FCT form, if available. If not, use the form provided to you by your lender.
  • Choose only one purpose for the form by identifying it as a discharge, transfer or information only.
  • Identify the financial institution and include all pertinent contact information.
  • Include the mortgage number.
  • Make sure all necessary parties sign the form.
  • Include contact information for the lawyer handling the mortgage.
  • Ensure all information is legible.
  • Give your lender enough time to process the refinance by submitting as soon as possible.

 

Additional resources

If you’re looking for more tips on completing the RSA, check out the RSA Tip Sheet. And if you still have questions, get in touch! You are invited to contact us by phone at 1.855.500.3565 or by email at brokersedge@fct.ca. Remember, your questions and comments are the key to helping us deliver a better experience for you and your peers and we’d love to hear from you.

Check back again soon for more of the inside scoop or subscribe to the FCT blog today.

Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited

Mar 4 | 2015

How to protect against mortgage fraud

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how_to_protect_you_smallMarch is Fraud Prevention Month, and as such, our focus turns to this month-long education campaign aimed at addressing fraud within Canada. As one of the fastest growing crimes in North America, it is absolutely vital for all Canadian individuals and businesses to be able to recognize and prevent it.

What is mortgage fraud?
Mortgage fraud is a type of real estate fraud that most often hurts the institutions lending money to individuals purchasing property.

The most common type of mortgage fraud is when fraudsters acquire property and then artificially increase the property’s value through a series of sales and resales between themselves and an accomplice. A mortgage is then secured on the property based on the artificially inflated price.

Mortgage fraud can also occur when individuals falsify information used to qualify for loans beyond their financial reach.

Fast and easy money with huge consequences
According to the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP), the average case of real estate title fraud amounts to $300,000 and industry insiders estimate these scams are becoming increasingly common.  For lenders, this type of fraud amounts to potentially huge losses resulting from unpaid mortgage and property foreclosures.

FCT pays out more as a result of fraud than any other claim type.

Protect yourself and your organization
In this digital age where face-to-face contact is minimal, it is more important than ever to be vigilant. Prevention is and always will be the best protection against fraud:

•    Know your client
•    Request a face-to-face meeting, whenever possible
•    Ask for identification and verify its information
•    Look for patterns of odd behaviour and trust your instincts
•    Get title insurance

Title insurance — the ultimate protection
A title insurance policy from FCT allows you to:

•    Protect your financial interests with some of the most comprehensive title insurance coverage available
•    Safeguard yourself, your reputation, and your business by easily mitigating risk associated with claims
•    Provide the best possible service to your clients by partnering with the leader in the title insurance industry

For more information, watch for real-life lender claims stories in an upcoming post.

Jan 21 | 2015

Mortgages in the Apple Pay era

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mobilepayment_280x200What will a change in customer expectations mean for the mortgage industry?

Sometimes you overlook the next big thing for the bright shiny object.

Even as smart watches and wearable technology wins lots of press, Apple Pay, as game-changing technology, is already quietly changing how we human beings move money around.  Tim Horton’s and Subway have deployed the transaction service in select locations—you can watch a brief YouTube showing just how simple this new smartphone service is here.

Apple’s renowned for its gadgets, but the real revolutions the company has sparked changed entire ecosystems—and this one will change the mortgage business in ways that are far from clear yet.

But you’d be nuts not to think through the implications and opportunities for your business.

Why?

Think about it: Apple’s changed more lives (and made far more money) through utterly demolishing the entertainment industry’s business model with iTunes.

Music, pay TV, films, podcasts, even university courses—they’ve all be changed by iTunes.  Add iTunes on mobile smartphones and you change an entire culture.

You change people’s expectations, the essence of any revolution.

Well, that’s about to happen to banking transactions. Your banking is already on your smartphone, but now your phone’s ready to become your transaction card.

As we all know, credit card companies earn very juicy margins indeed, upwards of 35% for the big brand cards. Apple has singled out the credit card industry as its next target; with mortgages as most people’s single biggest lifetime transaction, what does the future look like for the mortgage industry when (not if) Apple Pay changes the game? (Not least if Apple’s competitors—Amazon, Google, Facebook—weigh in with services of their own.)

Here’s some context: across the country, slowly at first, but reaching critical mass by 2017, Bloomberg predicts, Canadians are increasingly using their smartphones to access their bank accounts, archive healthcare records and workout performance data, and even deposit cheques.

And buy things, simply by pushing a button on your smartphone, with the touch of your fingerprint on your smartphone’s built-in scanner as you hold your iPhone at your favourite store’s cash register.

The technology is eerily simple: instead of transferring your personal data, Apple Pay transmits a string of code called a token, worthless to hackers. It’s dead secure and potentially ubiquitous.

Everywhere. If it’s everywhere, that’s a massive change in consumer behaviors and perceptions regarding their finances.

Think for a second: what if Apple Pay replaced credit cards altogether? In the US, according to Bloomberg, Visa and MasterCard processed some 64 billion purchase transactions in 2014, over $3.3 trillion in dollar volume, an immense figure. And that’s just the US.

And the service “swipe fees,” you ask? About US$40 billion annually, even as a micro fee. And that’s just the beginning.

So what happens to the mortgage industry with this revolution in simplicity that threatens to ‘dis-intermediate’ the big credit card companies? Well, Forrester Research, the online data analysis people, reckon that mobile payments in the US and Canada are going to quadruple in the next two years, to something like US$110 billion annually. Here’s a look at just how fast financial institutions are signing on.

If potential clients are moving their financial lives to their phones, the impetus to radically change how mortgages are transacted is irresistible, not to mention this technology’s a given for emerging first-time mortgage customers. This is way bigger than just a coffee at Starbuck’s.

Investment bank JP Morgan’s digital chief predicts that “we’ve seen—certainly in our customer base—a drive to the mobile channel. The timing is right with customer behavior, the customer experience is right, and elements have come together around how the ecosystem is evolving for (the mobile channel) to be a game-changer.”

The headline for the Canadian mortgage industry is coming into focus: mobile will change the transaction, for certain.

Sure, it’s early days yet. How Apple Pay and its future competitors (how will Facebook and Google respond? Amazon?) will change expectations around the mortgage service relationship is still an open question.

But the mortgage industry would do well to consider what iTunes did to the music industry over the past decade, simply by changing the game. For a really solid deep dive into what Apple Pay, its prospects and its competitors’ responses mean to your business, read more here; there’s a link to an important UBS white paper on mobile transactions as well.

Jan 14 | 2015

FCT | Broker’s corner. End to end customer relationship toolkits—is 2015 the year to make the leap?

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differentiator_smallPart three of our three-part 2015 look ahead series

So now you have your three-word brand essence, your brand’s innermost story, the three words we generated last time and now’s the moment to take your brand public.

Ready?

A gentle reminder before you read on: it’s not about you. That’s the first thing.

Social networks—peer-to-peer reviews, self-help forums, the ability to query just about anybody anywhere—have so radically changed client expectations for any retail experience that we sometimes lose track of just how much things have changed. And response times to client queries—and the ability to converse with them, knowing full well where they actually are in their search/deal process—is gold.

But that’s not all.

Take reputation management: a simple misunderstanding can be shared to hundreds if not thousands of people in a heartbeat.

Once you recognize that it’s not about you, there’s a clear route forward: what legendary business thinker, author, and Harvard Business Review contributor Jim Collins calls SMaC in his bestselling Great by Choice.

What’s SMaC? SMaC tands for: simple, methodical and consistent. For as Collins says (and this guy runs the best business think tank on the planet in Boulder, Colorado): ”greatness is not a function of circumstance. It’s largely a function of conscious choice and discipline.”

That’s the irreducible truth.

And by far the best way to accomplish SMaC—the discipline—in relating to and with your clients is an end-to-end customer relationship toolkit. We’re not going to recommend a particular solution (too many variables in your business for that) but rather scope out how to ask the right questions before you sign on the dotted line.

Anyone can spend ten minutes googling and see that there are platforms and dashboards and analytic tools galore. Here’s a great, inexpensive custom dashboard solution: www.cyfe.com is cheap, almost infinitely customizable and if you know what you’re looking for, using a custom dashboard to track client interactions can create huge value in evolving your relationship with your current and future clients. Note that this isn’t just a social media relationship solution: a custom dashboard like this, properly configured, will tell you tons about the client/customer side of your business. (Big personal learning from deploying cyfe? Testing simple Facebook ads—testing one ad against the other—costs pennies but generates sales lift of over 200%. That’s a wow.)

What are potential clients actually thinking? what are they talking about? A simple Twitter hashtag search will tell you far more than any StatsCan datapoint; try #mortgagequestions and #buyingahouse for starters. Try it right now…get the picture? Good.

But what to do with this juicy client insight data once you have it?

You want a customer relationship management system: even a simple open source customer relationship management (CRM) system will lift your lead generation numbers.

First off, a CRM system is no small investment, not just in hard-earned dollars but in time to learn the thing. Don’t subscribe to one without a dead clear understanding of what the outcomes you’re after truly are—and what your ROI targets are: not just for leads, but actual converted deals, networked referrals and leads stemming from those networked referrals.

Here’s why you want to understand the power of a CRM system: just look at the response rates by simply, methodically and consistently following up with a client acquisition conversation documented in a CRM (source: www.Velocify.com):

  • 391%: leads called with 60 seconds have a 391% better chance of converting
  • 138%: attempting contact at least six times can increase your deal rate by 138%
  • 3 or more texts: sending three or more purposeful text messages after contact has been made with a prospect can increase the conversion rate by 328%
  • 50%: more than 50% of aging leads are still interested in buying 30 days after inquiry
  • 60%: nearly 60% of salespeople make less than six contact attempts
  • 78%: of buyers close with the company that contacted them first

 

To vet one system against another for your own business, check out this invaluable resource.  Hint: check out the open source solutions first—there’s real horsepower there.

So now you’ve done the heavy lifting: defining your brand, distilling the essence of the stories you want to tell…and thinking about how to continue the relationship your brand storytelling’s begun via a simple dashboard/CRM solution.

You can see ’em, you can talk to ’em and they’re beginning to see value in who you are. What’s next? Having a terrific 2015.

Questions or followup ideas? Email us at expertease@fct.ca—welcome to the conversation.

Jan 5 | 2015

Broker’s Corner | The art and science of branding

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brand-smallSecond of three look-aheads for 2015

Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of MAD MEN might have a healthy skepticism about branding—the practice seems lightweight, smoke-and-mirrors. But the fact of the matter is that branding is the root of any conversation you’ll ever have about your brokerage business.

Why? Because your brand isn’t yours. (Not even Coke or Nike “own” their brands, despite the billions they’ve spent: you do.)

Your brand is the sum total of what a customer or prospect thinks (or, worse, thinks they know) about you, your business and the very tangible “key performance indicators” like reputation, integrity and delivering on promises.

A brand is expectation: the story people tell in their heads when they encounter you or your product or service. Fail that expectation…and they’re gone, likely to slag you elsewhere. Ouch. Meet that expectation? Likely there’ll be good word of mouth and not much else.

Exceed expectations? That’s the motherlode—you’ll win in word of mouth, spin off great stories in the media and have folks singing your praises at cocktail parties—or that other cocktail party on Facebook and Twitter.

So how do you build a brand without spending zillions? You don’t need fancy consultants or thousands spent on advertising (that least of all.)

First off, you need to understand and state—in as few memorable words as possible—what your brand is. TV and filmwriters do this when they’re pitching a series or script and call it a logline; in Hollywood, it’s an artform and makes the difference between a sale and a script on a shelf.

You don’t want to be the script on the shelf. So here’s how you generate a simple brand statement.

Here’s the best process piece for developing a “brand essence” for your brokerage, simple and to-the-point: you ask at least five of your customer/lenders three questions about the benefits of working with you and your team. The grumpier and more skeptical the folks you ask, the better—you want the truth, not a kiss for luck. They’ll be happy to tell, believe me: they’ll be tickled you asked.

Again, it’s not about you, it’s all about them. Here are the three questions:

1/ name the most important psychological benefit you get from doing business with me (ex: what do you think about the overall process and its impact on you through working with my team and me?)

2/ name the most important intellectual benefit you get from doing business with me (ex: what do you know now that you learned through working with my team and me?)

3/ name the most important emotional benefit you get from doing business with me (ex: how does all the above make you feel about working with my team and me?)

Now you boil these three sets of “brand benefits” down to three key words: let’s say it’s knowledge, trust, empowerment, in your case. From these three words—your ‘brand essence’—you have the basis of every marketing and PR communication you do…and, just as importantly, these are the unnamed values that you and your staff live every day in your business life.

So now you’ve named your “brand essence,” share it with staff, debate it, discuss it, make sure they’re a fit. Confirm they’ve bought in; share stories over a coffee or a glass of wine with each other about how those values inspire them.

Then you know you have a brand: your own people believe you.

Branding isn’t some concept: it’s the values you live. Sit with your three word “brand essence” until our next blogpost, part 3 of our 2015 lookahead, where we’ll not only apply these values but ask how, without a customer relationship toolkit, you’re going to take your brand public.

Dec 4 | 2014

Broker’s corner | Private equity — the canary in the mineshaft?

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private equity

First of three look-aheads for 2015

In the old days, decades before the advent of testing technologies, coal miners used canaries to test the air quality in mines for poisonous gases like methane and carbon monoxide—the poor birds were the most sensitive bellwethers for what the miners couldn’t sense themselves.

2015’s just around the corner.  With the Federal government’s 2012 B20 guidelines now heading into their third year, the refinancing marketplace, hard hit by those guidelines might well ask: what are the odds equity take outs might be the “canary in the mineshaft”—a use case to detect just how fragile government regulation has left this sector? And what of innovations elsewhere?

We’ll scope out the data here and then look ahead over the next two posts to brokers’ own “refinancing” thinking: a sharp look at the do’s and don’ts of investing in marketing communications and branding and, finally, a look at why the prospects for an end-to-end solutions toolkit for brokers have never been better.

CAAMP’s 2014 data for equity take outs documents that 11% of homeowners took equity out of their home in 2013/2014, with the average funding at some $55,000. Up-shot? Total equity takeout during the past year stands at $63 billion. And where did the money go? No surprise here: debt consolidation and repayment (about $20.6 billion); next up, $17.4 billion for home renos/repair, then $7.7 billion for investments, $6.6 billion for non-real estate (including university tuition/residence), and $10.3 billion for “other” purposes.

Here’s the canary: it’s the US, where market reaction to the subprime horror show of 2008-10 bred several highly innovative equity takeout strategies, the most intriguing of which is the rise of private equity and the commercialization of mortgage equity instruments.

One thing’s certain—the market abhors a vacuum: according to Inside Mortgage Finance, 24% of US real estate equity loans Q1-Q3 2014 were made by non-bank lenders. In the backwash of massive lawsuits, stringent banking standards and intense media scrutiny, traditional US banks have pulled back—way back, in some cases—from the mortgage industry.

In the US, mortgage brokers see this as very good news indeed, as equity loans were dying off, largely, as in Canada, because of tighter regulation (perhaps a good thing, given the precedent) and complex reporting requirements (a mess, according to EXPERT/ease’s research). For US property owners (and owners of multiple properties, especially), this is terrific news for 2015.

Historically, this species of US financing was pegged to the personal financial state of the borrower; now the US regulations allow the loans to be made solely on the property (or property portfolio) itself. These are commercial loans, not residential—and the market’s being driven by lenders seeking to place idle cash and portfolio customers rolling over multiple loans into one portfolio. The first products to market are adjustable rate mortgages, with 30-year amortizations and LTVs up to 75%; the US origination fee structure applies, of course.

Will the US “canary” inspire Canadian deal-making ingenuity in this space? We’ll see in 2015.

Nov 26 | 2014

Introducing COMPASSpoint | the annual FCT EXPERT/ease review for mortgage brokers

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Compasspoint_small“…The entrepreneur’s business is their artwork. The creation of business is as creative as any creation in art. In fact, building a business may be the most creative human activity of all.”

~ C.K. Prahalad (1941-2010)| distinguished professor of business, University of Michigan | best-selling Harvard Business Review author

CAAMP 2014 | cracks all over the mortgage marketplaceor just historical blips?

Ratesupermarket’s field work isn’t alone: CAAMP’s 2014 data is laced with subtleties too.

The baseline data is quite stable—except for what appears to have been a spike in brokered mortgage market share in 2013, which returned to historical levels (quite mysteriously, admits CAAMP) in 2014.

But there’s more:

* Mortgage credit growth in Canada has averaged 8.1% per year during the past decade.

* The mortgage growth rate has slowed, and is currently 5.2% year-over-year (as of August). The growth rate is likely to slow even more, albeit gradually during 2015 (to about 4.5% by year end).

* By the end of 2015, total outstanding residential mortgage credit is forecast at $1.34 trillion, up from the most recent figure of $1.26 trillion (as of August 2014). By the end of 2016 the figure may be close to $1.4 trillion.

The tale behind the numbers hangs on two salient trends: CAAMP emphasizes that the mortgage policies that took effect in July 2012 continue to have a negative impact on the housing market and, in turn and in parallel, persist as a drag on the larger economy.

The evolving marketplaceeven accounting for the impacts of the mortgage insurance criteria changes two years agois stratifying. CAAMP suggests that simply examining housing indicators from nationally—the ‘30,000 foot view’—masks wide divergences across the country.

CAAMP notes that a few major centres have very hot housing markets, but in many areas of Canada housing markets are weak, which in aggravates the economic stresses on those stagnant or contracting markets. For these less fortunate centres, a blanket government policy designed to cool mortgage markets is unnecessarily harsh: the continued suppression of housing activity in the more fragile markets is, CAAMP believes, unnecessary.

The upcoming COMPASSpoint white paper examines CAAMP 2014 in depth, as well as intriguing trends in self-directed mortgages and marketing communications. Stay tuned: there’s a great read ahead.

Oct 22 | 2014

Winning Mortgage Brokers Think ‘Challenge’

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It’s all about leading the conversation…where it serves everyone best: a solid sale

 

What differentiates a highly successful broker—meaning: someone who retains and grows their network rather than ‘churning’ it—is brutally clear in reading The Challenger Sale.

The differentiator is the ability to grow and evolve the relationship: the catchphrase is ‘challenge it’, but the upshot is simple. In order to stay ‘top of mind’ and not waste the terrific energy you’ve expended to get your client network to this point, The Challenger Sale argues, you have to grow and keep growing client perceptions of the possibilities of a relationship with you.

That’s the differentiator, because without instilling confidence in each and every person you meet that yours is the best brokerage experience around, your relationship with those prospects inevitably fades over time.

The research examining this is remarkable. It’s deep and broad and far more extensive than the usual sales research–at press time, some 6200 use cases in total, first examined in the dark, post-global financial crash days of 2009, when an Australian research council asked an uncomfortable question: why do some salespeople never seem to lose momentum, even in the hellish conditions of 2008-2010?

Those who succeed—notably in sales-driven industries like insurance and manufacturing—persistently challenge literally everyone of their acquaintance (clients, prospects, peers, and managers) to learn more and expand the customer’s expectations of the relationship.

Yes, a clear appreciation of the customer’s business is mission-critical but equally important is the ability, the research demonstrates, to address value head on—to challenge the customer’s understanding of his or her own situation to benefit both parties.

These ‘teachable moments’ pivot the relationship and drive the confidence that closes sales, builds value and extends word-of-mouth networks. Customers are far better informed than they were in 2008; ‘findable business’ has all but vanished since—the real issue is differentiating yourself from the herd in 2014 to capitalize and close those deals in the network you have at present.mortgage broker

Additional Resources

Great review/summary of The Challenger Sale

http://www.greenfieldbelser.com/big-ideas/the-challenger-sale-who-really-clinches-the-deal

Sespresso quick-read of The Challenger Sale

http://www.amazon.ca/Challenger-Sale-eSpresso-Summary-ebook/dp/B00CE7Y788/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411070114&sr=1-3&keywords=challenger+sale