The Importance of a Branded Closing Gift

We are all bombarded with advertising every minute of every day. It’s no wonder most of us have trained our brains to ignore all the noise and focus on what is important to us. If you have been in the real estate industry for any length of time, you know how hard it can be to get noticed. Marketing companies promise you increased prospects if only you buy in to their fancy business cards layouts, and personalized give-away gizmos.  Unfortunately the truth is that unless you already a top 10 producer chances are you aren’t able to afford to compete against the big guys through marketing efforts alone.

The trick to growth is word of mouth. The old saying “A happy customer will tell 1 or 2 people, an unhappy one will tell everyone,” is as true as it gets. The key to getting recognized is by making your clients happy and keeping yourself at the top of their mind so they refer you to their friends and family. Practicing this business philosophy is probably the single best way to grow without breaking the bank.

It doesn’t make sense to invest thousands of dollars trying to attract new customers when your best advocates are the customers you already have. My experience in the industry has shown that time and time again money is spent on having the perfect logo, the best headshot and high-glossy flyers but no thought goes into carrying the same message through with piece of advertising that is likely to stay with the client the longest… the closing gift.

When my husband practiced Real Estate he was often so busy with all the walk-through’s, inspections and paperwork that he had no time to get a closing gift together. I would help take on this task, but without personally meeting his clients I never really knew what would be appropriate. Did they drink wine or where they recovering alcoholics? Do they like fruit or are they allergic to strawberries? There really was no sure way to know. Usually I stuck to the tried, true gift card from a nearby hardware store and a plant. Neither of which did a good job of reminding the new homeowners of all the hard work and good customer service they had received by working with my husband.

In most cases, after 3 or 4 years, some of those customers had completely forgotten who had helped them with their house purchase and the worse case scenarios ended up buying their newest home straight from the listing agent and giving that agent twice the business by listing their home with them!

As I reflect on all the postcards, the nights of stuffing envelops and the 200+ American flags dispersed throughout the neighborhood one 4th of July; I am dumbfounded that we never stopped realized that we were overlooking what could have been the most affective marketing tool at our disposal. Whether you are a new agent or a seasoned veteran please take my advice and invest in a closing gift that speaks to you and the services you provide your customers. More over, be sure that this gift bares your message and contact information to remind your clients about how much you care for them and their business.

Think practical; what would you like to receive if you were just getting into a new home?

My company, RocLok Hide a Key, Inc. just launched a line of closing gift packages to help take the guess work out of the equation. All of the packages include 5 RocLok Hide a Keys that have a personalized message inside to remind your clients how much you care about them and their safety. Since the message can also have your contact information, they will know where to find you when they want to refer your services to a friend or family member. Plus who could ever forget getting a rock in a box as a gift?  Sign up for our Business Benefit’s Program today and save up to 25% on all RocLok Hide a Key products!

How $257 can halt a home purchase

My company frequently works with customers to “clean up” their credit so that they can qualify for a home loan. This process typically takes about 6 months, maybe longer depending on the severity of the problem and the resources available to pay off delinquent accounts. We don’t charge anything for this because: a) it’s illegal, and b) it’s part of serving our clients and ensuring they get a loan they can live with.

We have been working with one couple on this process for about 8 months, and we were able to get them approved to buy a home. We all know that corrections/updates to credit tradelines can take somewhere between 30-90 days to be reflected on your credit report. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the delinquent items continue to reported inaccurately for years. In my experience, in no instance is this more true than with government judgments and tax liens.

We’ve all heard horror stories about government inefficiencies from every department in every level of government. Whether it’s the DMV or the USPS, it’s a big undertaking and people are, after all, only human. There will be mistakes. However, the lack of accountability is an area in which I think the public sector excels.

When we re-pulled the credit to get the loan going, the client’s FICO score was just fine. However, a $257 judgment from Multnomah County, OR was still reporting as delinquent. A couple of years ago, the county instituted a temporary income tax called the ITAX, and many people wound up owing hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars when the tax expired. Our clients were some of those people.

The client had paid a settlement with the county a couple years ago, and believed that this amount was included. Even if it wasn’t, $257 isn’t a huge deal for anyone to worry about. Until you start adding penalties and 9% interest, that is.

We decided that we would submit the loan file anyway, and given underwriting turntimes, we would be able to collect proof before every other piece of documentation had been signed off by our underwriter. What follows is the story of how that happened.

I called the county circuit court, where the judgment had been filed and processed. I was given another number to call. The person at that number couldn’t help me, because it was a “small claims” matter. She gave me the number for small claims. The nice man at small claims told me that he could accept a payment for the judgment, but has no way of knowing what the payoff amount would be. I played along hoping he could give me the number of someone who would know more about the issue. He directed me to yet another phone number, which was the “helpline” for the ITAX. I called this number. It was out of service, as it expired THE SAME YEAR THE ITAX EXPIRED, which was a few years ago. A pre-recorded message directed me to yet another number. The person I talked to at that number told me that the account had been sent to collections, and gave me the number of the collection agency they contract with.

OK, now I’m getting somewhere. I skeptically call the collection agency, and a very helpful lady answered the phone and told me what I already suspected:

They would never sue someone over $257 because it costs $100 to file the suit.

This is where her very nice qualities shined through. She took down my information, and said she would call the county courthouse to find out what was going on and get back to me. I thought to myself, “why the heck would she take the time to do all that for something she has no prayer of receiving payment on?”. However, I thanked her and moved on.

I called the county back, explaining yet another person what I had just been through, and she directed me to the one man who still deals with ITAX payment issues. She also asked to remain on the line to verify that this would be the correct way to deal with any other future ITAX related issues so that people like me would not have to waste what had become a 45 minute telephonic wild goose chase. I thanked her profusely.

The “ITAX man” picked up the phone and was very courteous and professional. However, he told me something after looking up the client in his system that absolutely floored me. He said that the client’s judgment amount was for $833! I told him they had another tax lien from a previous year that had already been paid off, as indicated on my credit report. He said he didn’t have any record of that, but that he would take my word for it because that’s what the credit report said. He said that the client would need to send his department a check for the $257, and he would send the check and the paperwork to the attorney’s office. The attorney would clear the item, then send the check in to be processed. Once the check had cleared, I would get an email with the proof of payment on county letterhead. I hesitantly asked him how long he thought this process would take. He said 5 or 6 business days.

I knew the client would pay the $257 just to get it over and done with, and feeling like I had accomplished a small victory, we called him. He told us that he had just made 5 phone calls to various county departments and that they told him that their records indicated that he didn’t owe anything, which is what we suspected all along. However, he would need to get a letter from the law firm he settled with indicating as such so that we could prove to the lender that everything was all clear. That is where we are in the process.

Now, everyone I talked to during this entire process was courteous and helpful. But here’s what I want to know:

How can a society function when it takes roughly 23 phone calls to clear up a $257 judgment that NOBODY can even determine is still active?

It would be a shame if something like this caused this client to miss out on the opportunity to buy the house of their dreams at a record low interest rate. Surely, we can do better.

Jason Hillard

Tax Benefits of Homeownership

The tax deductions you’re eligible to take for mortgage interest and property taxes greatly increase the financial benefits of homeownership. Here’s how it works.



$9,877 = Mortgage interest paid (a loan of $150,000 for 30 years, at 7 percent, using year-five interest)
$2,700 = Property taxes (at 1.5 percent on $180,000 assessed value)

$12,577 = Total deduction



Then, multiply your total deduction by your tax rate.

For example, at a 28 percent tax rate: 12,577 x 0.28 = $3,521.56


$3,521.56 = Amount you have lowered your federal income tax (at 28 percent tax rate)

Note: Mortgage interest may not be deductible on loans over $1.1 million. In addition, deductions are decreased when total income reaches a certain level.

If you are looking to buy a home in the US Virgin Islands, be sure to contact the team at Sea Glass Properties to help you through every step of the way., or