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2011 Affiliate of the Year - NOCBOR - North Oakland County Board of Realtors
Franklin Title Agency's Areas of Expertise:
RESIDENTIAL (Purchase & Refinance)with Flat Fees!
FORECLOSURES / BANK OWNED TITLE
FORECLOSURE GUARANTEES FOR BANKS
JUNIOR LOAN POLICIES (Credit Unions)
DEED WORK (Quit Claim Deeds, Warranty Deeds, Transfers, etc)
CO-MARKETING - 5 YEAR FOLLOW UP AFTER THE CLOSING TABLE
Franklin Title Agency's 15 Minutes of Fame
Title firm uses name identity, Web to grow Seminars, fundraisers, online networking and e-mail help the agency expand to second office. ____________________________________________________________
Maureen McDonald / Special to The Detroit News ROCHESTER HILLS -- Nearly every Monday, Keith Stonehouse, co-owner of Franklin Title Agency, pours himself a coffee from the office pot by 8:30 a.m., dials up Frank Sinatra on his iPod and cruises his Motor City network for a weekly listing of networking events and charitable fundraisers.
Within an hour Stonehouse, 28, will identify functions from a networking class at the Sterling Heights, Utica, Shelby Chamber of Commerce to a seminar on raising money at the Birmingham Community House. He sends the list out to more than 1,000 e-mail recipients, embellished with his advertising message.
"Five years ago business came to you. Today you must lock down leads wherever possible," Stonehouse said, noting name identity helps because people can select their own title agent for any real estate or mortgage closing. He'll travel to Flint, Farmington, Lansing or Rochester Hills to close a deal.
While financial numbers are held close to the vest, the firm -- aided by majority owner Susan Pierucci and taking several people from title companies that downsized, expanded to 13 employees. It is opening a second office in Northville this spring. Growth comes from name recognition and referrals.
Stonehouse tosses martini parties through Tempus Networking, a charitable group. He runs networking events at Mongolian Barbecue in downtown Royal Oak, organizes steak and burger fundraisers for the Boys and Girls Clubs and encourages blood donations for the American Red Cross after seminars on sales success.
Aiming at young condo buyers and the active online scene, Stonehouse installed four pages for his agency on MySpace.com, added introductory pages on ActiveRain.com, NetworkPods.com, WannaNetwork.com/Stonehouse and LinkedIn.com.
"People know I'm out there plugging, that's what drives me," Stonehouse said.
The agency's interactive software facilitates same-day turnover times on title orders. He found a competitive edge by offering real estate agents free, one-year paid home warranties on home purchases and set a flat $150 rate to customers for title work on refinancing a home.
This month he began assembling a group of loan officers, mortgage brokers, real estate brokers and investors to conduct seminars in 10 Michigan cities in 2008 called The Reality of Realty Tour.
"We're picking up guys that flip one to 100 houses a month. I'm looking to get the title insurance on the deals."
Networking online is the hottest trend in the business, according to Ka Luo, director of corporate communications for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Linked In. The service has more than 102,000 members in Metro Detroit, 18 million nationally.
"So many people are scared. They don't know how to go out and get business. We do positive things and we promote our businesses," Stonehouse said.
Virtual business networking helps Keith Stonehouse, Vice President of Franklin Title Agency in Rochester, raise money for his favorite charities and recruit referrals that wouldn't necessarily come from singing the national anthem at Rotary meetings.
But others insist face-to-face interactions, “hello-my-name-is” badge in place, still hold a vital place in small-business marketing.
“In my experience the online business networks are one-dimensional. Anyone can present anything they want, and there's no way to validate or invalidate if true,” said Doron York, president and CEO of Business Edge International, a leadership coaching company in Bloomfield Hills, who is a member of LinkedIn and Zananetwork.com, a Farmington Hills-based online referral network launched in June.
While York seldom leaves home without his BlackBerry and laptop, he is more inclined to check e-mails from trusted associates and family members than his networks. “You expose yourself to billions of members — a glorified Yellow Pages. You have no ties to these circles,” he said.
But Americans are spending more time online and conducting more commerce online. Omniture Inc., an Orem, Utah-based provider of online business software, recorded 1.4 trillion transactions in 2007 with clients such as eBay, AOL, Wal-Mart and Microsoft, and a company spokesman expects 2 trillion online interactions in 2007.
Along with the big players, thousands of business professionals seek to make their presence known among colleagues and potential customers.
Stonehouse sends regular announcements to his e-mail roster notifying them of in-person networking events, including his own monthly martini group for young business people called Tempus Networking.
“At least half of my business comes from online, out-of-the-box networking, but it is important to have live events as well,” Stonehouse said. “Most other networking groups ask you to make a one-minute speech about yourself. We ask people to take ties off, have a martini and relax while sharing business cards.”
When it comes to online networking, he finds it a fast medium for commercial trade. “If you show people a benefit, remind them of options, people will click with you right away; you are in the same virtual medium,” he said.
After doing business, he makes a database entry for every contact. Contractors, real estate agents, builders and potential home buyers are all grist for the title insurance mill. For any request, he can refer business to his online network of professional associates assembled on the Troy-based networkpods.com. He has a custom profile page that acts as an interactive brochure.
He also maintains a presence on linkedin.com, where users have free access to basic information and pay $19.95 to $200 a month to see something beyond the superficial billboard.
“The first thing I do when I wake up and last thing I do at night is check my business networks,” Stonehouse said.
RealView Michigan Real Estate Review WJR OnlineOctober 2007 Unlike any time in recent memory, the topic of real estate has been making its way to water coolers, coffee shops and online discussion groups and blogs just in the same way as the latest celebrity arrest or last weekend's big game. Unfortunately, by the time a story or topic gets told and retold, it comes out something like the commercial that starts out with "Bobby's got an Oreo Cakester" and ends up with "Billy got his first chest hair."
That bugs Keith Stonehouse, vice president of Franklin Title Agency in Rochester Hills. "There are so many myths and rumors about what's really going on in the market. People think only people in the City of Detroit are having their homes foreclosed and you can't get refinanced. People want straight answers," he said.
So he figured, why not get the right answers out in the public the same way they're getting wrong answers by coordinating a series of meetings, the Reality of Realty, which he calls "a laid-back educational seminar about what's really going on in real estate."
"What we're doing is getting together a group of real estate professionals - real estate agents, loan officers, appraisers - to talk about what's really going on in the market and be on hand for anyone who's looking for help," Stonehouse said.
The first Reality of Realty meeting will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Dave & Buster's at 45511 Park Ave. in Utica. Other meetings are scheduled for Royal Oak, Southfield, Utica and Ferndale. To register or for more information, call (800) 532-3332 or visit http://activerain.com/blogs/stonehouse.
New York Times Real Estate November 07
Here is the small article that is going to be put into the New York Times next week within a much larger article talking about Real Estate issues across The United States, Keith Schnieder called me last week to interview me after getting my name thrown at his desk a couple few times along with crossing over my name online numerous times doing a search for michigan real estate, networking, and title insurance...
"People in this business much older than me say they've never seen anything like it or heard of anything like it," added Mr. Stonehouse, Vice President of Franklin Title Agency in Rochester Hills, Mi. "Everyone is affected. The best neighborhoods in Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield, and the toughest ones in Detroit. I saw a guy buy a house for $2.1 million in Bloomfield last year, brand new house. He got hit by the economy and never moved in. Now the house is on the market for $950,000, and it might not sell for that much."
Local real estate experts discuss ‘Reality of Realty'
By Christa Buchanan C & G Staff Writer
To help keep consumers abreast of the ever-changing real estate industry and market, Keith Stonehouse, vice president of Franklin Title Agency, has organized monthly "Reality of Realty" seminars.
They feature real estate professionals from every aspect of the field - U. S. Bank mortgage loan officer Ted Edginton, TJT Financial Services credit specialist Tim Thrift, Keller Williams Realtor and foreclosure expert Richard Kallabat, Glenn Maas Agency insurance rep David Haugk and licensed appraiser Dante King of All Good Appraisals and Stonehouse - discussing the trends in each speaker's particular niche and answering audience questions.
"The idea is basically kind of a laid-back educational seminar about what's going on in the real estate market," said Stonehouse during the March 3 seminar in Royal Oak.
Designed to resemble the actual process that one looking to buy a home would go through, each presenter spoke in the order that a potential homebuyer would see them, detailing the home buying process.
Essentially, said Stonehouse, the first person a potential homebuyer should talk to is a mortgage broker (Edginton) to see if they qualify for a loan; if not, then the person should consult a credit specialist (Thrift) to find out how to improve their credit so that they can get a loan. After that, he said, the person needs to find a Realtor (Kallabat) to aid in the search of the home. Once a home is found, the person will need to look into obtaining homeowners insurance (Haugk) and have the home appraised (King) to find out its true value. The last step, said Stonehouse, is with him, getting the title insurance and all the paperwork in order for closing.
Each presenter spoke on how the current market has affected changes in each presenter's aspect of the real estate industry.
To start, Edginton discussed changes in the mortgage industry, including the relatively new concept of "risk-based pricing," in which one's credit score plays a big factor in interest rates, making it important to improve one's credit before seeking mortgage approval.
"The process starts with me - if I don't think there's a place for you under my umbrella ... I'm going to tell you to clean your credit up," said Edginton.
To that end, Thrift spoke on the increasing importance good credit plays in obtaining favorable interest rates, how to obtain a credit report, the three national credit reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax and Transunion - and ways to go about disputing discrepancies in a credit report.
If there are negatives on a credit report, Thrift said, consumers should take advantage of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and file a dispute, because the credit agencies "often can't validate things such as collections" and will have to remove the item. Another way to increase a credit score, said Thrift, is to not close credit cards that have been paid off - this leaves more available credit, which in turn can increase a credit score.
To obtain a free credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228. For those inundated by pre-approved credit cards, Thrift said, there is an opt-out service.
"You can go to the FTC.gov Web site or call 1-888-5-opt-out. It's similar to the do-not-call registry. It's good for five years and within about 30 days the mail should cease," he said.
Kallabat began by discussing the movement toward "going back to the way home buying used to be."
"It used to be commonplace where people would save their money, work hard, have 20 percent down and pay off their home in 30 years. ... Everything has escalated to the point now where you're able to purchase a home that you really can't afford," he said.
As "a lot of things are difficult to comprehend, and each story is different," he suggested consumers meet with a consultant for professional advice no matter their situation.
King then gave insight on the appraisal process, which involves understanding all the market dynamics, from housing stock, values and sales to mortgage, title and insurance policies.
Now, said King, appraisers have to find a home's "true value" in a market that has, among other issues, three levels of sales: foreclosures, which are selling far below true market value; investment properties in which foreclosed houses are bought, fixed up and sold slightly below value; and real property being sold by the homeowner at value.
He also discussed how foreclosures are affecting housing values, including the difference in value of a "warm house," which is lived in and cared for, and a "cold house," which is vacant.
Haugk started by discussing the "three key terms" that determine the cost of residential insurance: mortgage indemnification, which is essentially protection for the amount needed to pay off the loan; the market value, or what the house is currently worth; and replacement cost, or how much it would cost to rebuild.
A lot of people, said Haugk, especially with changing market values, do not have enough coverage on their homes.
Stonehouse spoke on the legal end of things, discussing title insurance and the closing process: checking to see if taxes are paid, the owners are legit, there are no liens on the property, etc., and "from there, the fun part - waiting for approval."
"I pull the background check on the property. ... We get everything lined up legally and get all the paperwork ready," Stonehouse said.
Meanwhile, said Stonehouse, he is dealing with the bank, the mortgage broker and the Realtor and getting all the paperwork in order for closing.
"Now it's time to do the closing and sign all the paperwork. ... Then we cut the checks," he said, to the mortgage company, real estate agents, for any back taxes and to pay off the old mortgage. "Then, we take the mortgage or deed and make sure it's recorded," ending the buying process.
The "Reality of Realty" seminars, held the first Monday of every month, not only give consumers the latest information on the ever-changing real estate market, but also contribute to local charities. Half of the $20 admission fee, which includes refreshments, goes to a local charity - the March 3 event benefited the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Michigan. The next event is 6:30 p.m. April 7 in the Washington Building, above D'Amato's, 222 Sherman in downtown Royal Oak. For more information, contact Stonehouse at (248) 894-4785.
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.