Tips for Choosing the Right Realtor

(2 min read)

Tips For Choosing the Right Realtor

A record number of Americans are gearing up to buy their first homes.  This is a big decision that can bring a lot of questions including the big one. How do I choose the right realtor? We can help with that! Read below for simple tips that will help you find the best real estate agent.  Here’s a hint: the tools you need are actually right in front of you.


Ask Around

Just like recommending your favorite local coffee shop, word of mouth recommendations are still the best way to go to begin curating your list. Ask friends and family for realtor references especially if they are recent buyers. It’s important to note that just because a realtor might have been a good fit for someone you know, they still may not be the right one for you.


Find Your Neighborhood

Decide on the areas that you are interested in living in and narrow down your potential realtor list based on that.  You can research this online or drive those neighborhoods and take note of the realtors selling homes there. Working with an agent who has experience in successful sales in the area you want to live will put you several steps ahead.



It’s time to find out more about your potential prospects. Do a few Google searches to get to know their online persona.  As a first time home buyer, pick a realtor who is experienced and knowledgeable, but also current and fresh. Does it seem like they know the area you are interested in?  If they have a website, is it modern and up-to-date? Are they active on social media and post regularly? Do they offer relevant content that is helpful and coincides with your vision? A realtor who takes the time to continue learning about the growing market trends is someone you want on your side.


Be a Boss

Make a list of real estate questions that are important to you regarding your house hunt.  Ask them to explain the home buying process and add anything that you expect from your realtor (i.e. preferred method of communication, how often you would like updates).  Being honest about your expectations from the beginning will pave the way for a smooth buying experience. Meet your potential realtor for coffee or just give them a quick call. Do you feel that they are genuine in the advice and information they are offering you? Are they approachable and outgoing? Someone who is outgoing is most likely confident and confidence is definitely a characteristic you want when choosing a realtor. At the end of the day, go with your gut. And remember, they work for you.

Buying a first home is a significant milestone. Take your time when selecting who will help you make this major financial and emotional decision. Just don’t forget to have fun and enjoy this time, too! You’re only a first-time home buyer once!

If you need help finding the right realtor for you, call us.  Cardinal Financial AZ has worked closely with hundreds of realtors and will be able to recommend the right fit for you. Call 480-759-1500 or email to talk about your options!

Top 5 Marketing Trends for Realtors in 2019

(5-minute read)

In this ever-changing digital landscape, marketing professionals recognize that online marketing will continue to be one of the most important channels for your overall marketing strategy moving into 2019.

With all of the advancements in video, live streaming, predictive analytics, messenger bots, etc., social media marketing continues to be one of the most prominent tools when it comes to marketing your business online. However, several things have changed in the past year. Social media algorithms have transformed, Facebook announced the decline in organic reach for business/brand pages, Instagram began deleting “fake accounts” and removing likes and comments from those who were using third party apps and bots to inauthentically engage with their followers, and brands are being asked to produce more genuine and engaging content now more than ever.

So, what does all of this mean for Realtors? We’ve put together a list of the top five real estate marketing trends we see as being key for real estate agents in 2019.

1. Virtual Open Houses
With everything becoming digitalized, virtual open houses provide massive exposure and should be at the top of your to-do list in 2019. One advantage of virtual open houses is that only serious buyers will inquire about viewing the property in person. Video marketing is key, whether it is a professional video or quick segment from your phone.

2. Automated Marketing
Make your life easier with programs that automate tasks like emails, social media posts, text messages, and website chatbots. Time block an hour each week to set up content and you are done! For more information, take a look at the 7 Marketing Automation Tools That Could Change Your Small Business by Forbes.

3. Content Creation
The internet is chocked full of the same information. 2019 is your time to shine! We recommend updating your professional website to include more personal information. Your bio is a great place to differentiate yourself by sharing personal interests, hobbies and passions, as well as include your listings, client testimonials, social media channels, videos and a blog section.

The blog should consist of topics that are customized to your specific area or niche. Think about what clients typically ask you and then fulfill their needs through your blog with helpful tips, articles and links. For example, create content about the schools in the area, transportation, or what amenities the neighborhood offers (best coffee shops, patios, happy hour, dog parks, etc.)

4. Refreshed Email Marketing
Take a look at your 2018 email marketing campaigns and note what performed well and what did not. Did certain subject lines produce exceptional open rates? Did a particular format get more clicks than others? Once you establish those points, adjust your current email marketing strategy to reach your audience more effectively.

Ensure your campaigns are mobile friendly and that you are personalizing your email content based on data from website visits, purchase history, and email preferences. Finally, remember that the quality of your email marketing campaigns always trump quantity.

5. Authentic Social Media
Customers do business with people they know, like and trust. Clients are interested in getting to know who you are as a professional and as a person. It’s not only about promoting the properties you want to sell, but it’s also about educating them on who you are and showcasing your personality.

By being genuine and engaging in your posts, you will create the right audience following. Post encouraging reviews from customers to demonstrate that you have experience working with real people who made successful purchases. When using stories to promote an open house or new listing, show your face, use your voice to describe the space, and look professional.

I hope you found this information helpful. By turning these trends into action, I am sure your real estate business with thrive in 2019.

What do you see as being an important or emerging marketing trend for real estate? Let us know in the comments below!

What’s Keeping You From Buying?

7 Tips for Negotiating Without a Real Estate Agent -

Are you looking to buy a home in 2019 but worried about finding a lender that can work with your situation? Maybe you are self-employed and think you won’t fit into a cookie cutter loan program. Mortgage loans are not one size fits all and Cardinal Financial understands that better than anyone. We have smart solutions for just about any circumstance and are here to help!

Income & The D Word (DEBT)
Many prospective buyers believe that your credit score is a deal breaker when purchasing a home. That is not the case! Your monthly debt to income ratio (aka DTI) is also a significant factor. You get this number by dividing your total monthly debt by your total monthly income before deductions. The DTI golden rule is to keep your debt at less than 50% of your income. And just like a golf score, the lower the better!

The Dreaded FICO Score
A lot of credit cards, car loans, etc can make getting a mortgage more difficult but definitely not impossible! The goal is to keep your balance at less than 50% of your credit limit on each card. Helpful Hint: Don’t open or close any trade lines prior to getting pre-qualified and throughout the entire loan process. A Cardinal Financial Loan Adviser will let you know when it is ok to make any changes to your credit.

Credit History Haunting You
Don’t dwell on the past! Lenders mainly concentrate on your last two years of credit and rental history. So you can breathe easy; no one is digging for a skeleton in your closet!

Down Payment Stress
Good news! There are several sources of down payment assistance. Did you know that you can borrow directly from your 401K? And when you borrow from yourself, it will not affect your credit score. With an FHA loan, all you need as a down payment is 3% from your 401K.

Qualifying for a loan is easier than you think! And when you work with Cardinal Financial, the possibilities are endless. With our experience, knowledge and creativity we have all of the tools to help you find the right loan. So start that 2019 Pinterest Future Home board and pin away!

To learn more or if you are looking for a great lender contact us! We are always available at 480-759-1500.

Real Estate Agents: 3 Steps For End Of Year Goal Planning

As the end of year approaches, many begin looking to define their next year’s goals. Recent studies show that about 3% of adults have clearly written goals and accomplish 5 to 10 times more than those who do not. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction, it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding.

As someone who has been actively business planning for 10+ years, I can personally attest to the power of the physical act of writing down a goal. It helps clarify the things you truly want to accomplish; and by writing it down, you no longer have an excuse to forget about it.

First things first, to accomplish your goals, you need to know how to set them; but, don’t worry, in this article, we’re sharing three steps that will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish.

Step 1: Set Your Goals

Identify clear, concise and SMART goals that motivate you. (SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound) In more specific terms, your goals must be clear and well defined, include precise figures and dates, are possible to achieve, are aligned with the direction you want your personal and professional life to take, must include a deadline and, last but not least, must be written down so that they inspire you to take action.

Step 2: Create a Business Action Plan

Now that you’ve identified and written down your goals, it’s time to put a plan in place to achieve them. To get yourself into the business planning mindset, start by conducting a review of your current or previous year. Some great questions to ask yourself: What did I accomplish? What are some road blocks or challenges that got in my way? What opportunities did I miss? What did I learn? It is important to review what worked last year and to know your basic numbers (i.e. average days on market, listing to sale ratios) before you begin planning for the year ahead. Once you know your stats, begin writing down the individual tasks you need to carry out to achieve your objective, and in the order you need to complete them. Keep this list close by so that you can easily mark off tasks as you complete them.

Step 3: Track & Measure Your Results

How do you know if what you’re doing is yielding positive results? Using a suitable tracking system – whether that be a simple tracking form or a CRM platform to record your results – will allow you to track your progress and make necessary corrections throughout the year.

I hope you found these points helpful. By following these three steps, I am confident you can set goals with certainty and enjoy the satisfaction that comes along with knowing you achieved what you set out to do.  If you’d like a copy of the forms I use for my personal and business goal setting, please email me at and I’ll be happy to share them with you. Good luck!

Looking to Buy A Home? | 3 Tips For Improving Your Credit Score

Congratulations! You have decided to purchase a home. It is a very exciting time; however, it can also be very stressful. You begin questioning if your credit score is in good shape? Will this slowdown or stop the process of buying a home altogether? How can I improve my credit score, fast?

First of all, do not panic! Many consumers are worried about their credit score. Trying to improve one’s credit score is a common concern for a lot of buyers. Check out these tips on how to approach any issues and improve your credit score so when mortgage lenders look at your financials you are in a much better position than you were prior.

3 Tips on How to Improve Your Credit Score

  1. Pay Off or Lower Debt

Paying off debt is one of the quickest ways to improve credit scores. Credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score. Therefore, try to pay off your balances or keep them predominantly low. With the holidays around the corner, do not foolishly dig yourself in more debt because you are shopping for friends and loved ones. Keep it simple and keep a budget as you have big plans to purchase a home.

  1. Stay Current on All Accounts

Do you have any accounts that have late payments? Catching up on all delinquent accounts and outstanding fees can improve a credit score pretty quickly. Once you take care of those unpaid dues, it is vital that you pay your bills on time. By staying on top of payments, you will continue to increase your credit score.

  1. Plan Accordingly

When you are preparing to buy a home, there are a few things you should and should not do. You should be mindful of any additional large purchases you plan on making. For instance, this is probably not the best time to buy a car. Every event you apply for credit can cause a decrease in your credit score which is not what you want right now.

It is also not an ideal time to open or close any accounts. You may want to shut down an account once you have paid off the balance, but you should ensure that this will not affect your credit score first. Most of the time closing an account will not improve your credit score, and by leaving the account open, you can continue to increase your score by making timely payments.

Want more? We’ve put together a downloadable list of 12 Things Not to Do When Getting Approved For a Home Loan.

With these credit improving tips you should be well on your way to becoming a new homeowner! If you are still seeking further guidance, call us at 480-759-1500 or email and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Happy house hunting!

3 Housing Options To Consider For Continued Independence As You Age

Independent living is often cited as being good for one’s well-being, so it’s no surprise that aging in place has become so popular. Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change.

Thankfully, many options in today’s housing market make aging in place possible.

Preparing for physical safety and financial security are the most immediate concerns that come to mind as we plan for aging in place. However, convenience and overall well-being should also be considered before deciding where to settle in.

Here are three housing options to weigh as you or your loved ones plan for continued independence.

1. Renovate Your Current Home
Adding front entry ramps, bath bars, sit-in tubs and other safety features may make it physically possible to stay where you are. However, renovation costs can add up quickly, especially if they’re needed all at once.

Home maintenance should also be factored in. Who will manage the upkeep if the property has multiple floors or a large yard?

2. Right-Size to a Manageable Floor Plan
Some may find it easier to purchase a home with barrier-free, universal design rather than deal with the stress of home renovations. Moving closer to family and friends can also help to prevent social isolation or depression.

3. Buy a New Home With Family Members
Floor plans for multigenerational homes are often designed with individual privacy in mind while allowing family to be nearby. Sharing home maintenance costs also minimizes living expenses. And this is an excellent way to help family members enter into homeownership.

Aging in place requires thoughtful preparation. Get in touch with one of our trusted loan advisers today to discuss the option that best fits your long term housing needs.

Real Estate Agents: 5 Ways to Get Involved With Your Local Community

I’m a firm believer that getting involved in your local community and volunteering your time is beneficial not only for your mind and body, but also your business. There’s a sense of connection and community that occurs when you surround yourself with other like-minded charitable people — that quite often — results in the deepening of relationships with existing clients, as well as the fostering of new ones.

We’ve all heard the old saying, “people do business with people they know, like and trust.” Volunteering is a great way to network and meet new people, but more importantly, when the effort is genuine, can result in new business opportunities and referrals.

If you’re a real estate agent and you’ve been thinking about donating your time and service but aren’t quite sure how to get started, here are five ideas to consider:

  1. Rotary International not only offers help locally and worldwide, but membership offers tremendous networking opportunities. The Rotary motto is “Service Above Self” and Rotary is an organization of over 33,000 local clubs serving their communities around the world.
  2. HandsOn Phoenix partners with a wide range of community service organizations and government agencies to put volunteers to work where they are needed most – tackling issues like homelessness, hunger, education, animal welfare, environmental challenges, and more.
  3. Kiwanis International offers volunteer opportunities to help enhance the physical, emotional, educational, and social wellbeing of our children. Click the link to to see what opportunities are available in your community.
  4.  Smaller groups that cater to different ethnicities may be ideal for the agent who specializes in a certain ethnic market. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, for instance, can help you get in touch with local groups that offer help to the Hispanic community.
  5.  Hyper-local volunteer opportunities like coaching a community athletic team, volunteering at a local school in your farm area, your church or community theater groups are also great ways to donate your time while meeting new people.

The important part is to think about what’s important to you. What are you passionate about? Then, reach out to that organization and ask how you can help. Making the time to start giving back will come back to you tenfold. In the words of Bryant McGill, “Giving is the master key to success, in all applications of human life.”

I hope you find these ideas helpful. We would love to hear about other ways you are volunteering your time and service to your local community, and how the act of ‘giving back’ has impacted your business. Feel free to comment below or share your stories with me via email at

To learn more about Cardinal Financial and our charitable work here in the Valley, please visit our Community & Charity page.

Real Estate Agents: 4 Tips for Effective Time Management

We’ve officially entered fall. The kids are back in school; snowbirds are making their way back to the Valley; business levels are waking up from their summer slumber; and we’ve officially entered the fall home selling season.

For many real estate agents and mortgage lenders, fourth quarter is crucial – to assess current business levels and determine what objectives need to be met to achieve those year-end goals. How often have you said, “If I only had more time,” or, “I wish there were more hours in the day?” We don’t really need more time in the day to achieve our goals. What we really need are strategies to better manage our time.

Here are four tips to help you eliminate mental distractions and finish the year strong.

Implement a Time Block System
Map out your ideal work week using a time blocking system that includes a start and a stop time every day, as well as time for yourself and your family. Key components to incorporate into the schedule include: daily team meetings and emails; power hour spent selling – either on the phone prospecting or face-to-face with clients; afternoon appointments (listing, buyer and channel appointments); and follow up. Having a structured, time blocked schedule to follow will ensure you are consistently marking off tasks that will help you make those monthly/yearly goals. I have personally found success using The CORE Training’s Ideal Work Week – developed by Reeta Casey and Rick Ruby. Their structured calendar and time block system has been a game changer for my productivity.

2. Set Up Your Voicemail Message
This one may seem obvious but can make a huge difference in managing your time. Explaining your communication process upfront with your clients not only establishes boundaries but sets expectations for the relationship moving forward. Creating a voicemail that reiterates your hours of operation and when you’ll return voicemails provides the space you need to recharge and connect with family.

3. Delegate Your Emails
Admittedly, one the biggest disruptors to your productivity is emails. Having a member of your team manage your inbox will do wonders for your time management and eliminate those unnecessary distractions. Tip: Create an email address that no one knows about and have your team member forward time sensitive messages to that address to be answered from your business email address during your “scheduled” time block twice a day. Imagine what you could do for your business if you replaced five hours a week spent on answering/responding to emails with five additional hours of prospecting?

4. Schedule “Brain Dumps” Into Your Day
A ‘brain dump’ is a scheduled 15-30 minute meeting every week with yourself or the appropriate team members. Meeting topics can include operations, marketing, leads and client gifts. Each team member brings their operational updates, success stories, issues or roadblocks to be discussed (unless it’s a fire). The key to these brain dumps is learning to table these topics for the weekly meeting vs. interrupting one another’s time throughout the week.  I then schedule one hour in my calendar post meeting to address any time sensitive issues.

Effective time management is possible when you have a plan and stick to it. This means being disciplined, setting priorities that communicate clearly what’s really important, making wise decisions that help set realistic goals, and setting firm boundaries that allow us to keep the promises we make to ourselves and others.

Additional information about the Ideal Work Week and The CORE Training time block system referenced in this article can be found in the book “The Roadmap to a Profitable $30 Million Real Estate Business,” by Reeta Casey and Rick Ruby. 

I hope you guys found this article and some of these tips helpful. If there are other time management tools/systems you use, I’d love to hear about them.  Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

Drastic Changes Coming For Real Estate

Photo Credit: Inman News

There is no denying that massive shifts are taking place in the real estate industry. Tech-based startups are entering the marketplace at a rapid pace offering consumers a faster, more streamlined approach to the home buying and selling experience; the number of consumers going without a real estate agent is on the rise according to J.D. Power’s 2018 Home Buyer/Seller Satisfaction Study; and several of the industry’s top real estate executives and broker owners predict more extreme changes are on the horizon.

I recently watched a video from the Inman Connect Conference in San Francisco featuring Keller Williams Co-Founder Gary Keller. Keller took the stage with Inman Publisher and Founder Brad Inman to discuss the drastic changes coming for real estate, and what prompted Keller’s decision to pivot from being a pro-agent coaching and training company to a technology company. Here are a few of the highlights:

Technology is an absolute imperative

We are living in an age where the new ‘savvy’ real estate customer is taking a seat at the head of the table and demanding a faster, more concise process. They want to be able to decide and act quicker and “the industry must get better, smarter and more transparent to serve consumers’ insatiable and unapologetic needs,” said Brad Inman.

According to Keller, there are two battlefronts emerging in real estate. The first battlefront is agents empowering technology. He went on to list a handful of real estate tech companies, including Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, Opendoor and Offerpad, that make up this category and explained that these companies are not agent-centric businesses. They want technology to be the rock star in the relationship with the customer versus the agent. “These companies would all run their businesses without agents if they could,” Keller said.

Big data and artificial intelligence are the next big game changers

The second battlefront is technology empowering agents. In this model, agents are the fiduciary and technology – fueled by big data and artificial intelligence – is the tool to provide agents with insights that result in a more meaningful conversation with their client. Keller went on to explain that in order for brokerages to compete with these tech-centric companies long term broker owners will need to build a platform in which they own their own software and data.

For Keller Williams that means no longer dealing with what it called “bolt-on” technology. “Bolt-on technology is anytime you use another company’s technology product that you didn’t build and own,” Keller said. Examples given were off-the-shelf CRM systems like Top Producer, CINC and BoomTown. Transaction management systems like Dotloop and Skyslope, and any AVM like Trulia, Zillow,, etc.

Keller finished by saying “Who you decide gets to have your data, will ultimately determine how relevant you are in the real estate industry.”

What are your thoughts regarding these two groups? Do you agree with Keller’s thoughts on the evolution of the real estate industry? Feel free to comment below. 

PLEASE NOTE: The views and opinions of authors expressed in this post do not necessarily state or reflect those of Cardinal Financial (formerly RedStone Mortgage), its affiliated companies, or their respective management or personnel.

The 10 Most Common Mistakes People Make When Buying Their First Home

Getting ready to purchase your first home?

Here are 10 things to avoid:

  • Not Budgeting for a Home Loan: Owning a home may be cheaper than renting in the long run, but it’s a hefty up-front investment if you’re planning to take out a loan. Make sure you know how much you can afford to pay each month.
  • Ignoring Your Credit Score: A solid credit score will help you go from renter to homeowner. Even if you’re great at budgeting and earn a decent income, a poor credit score may hurt your chances of qualifying for a loan.
  • Not Paying Attention to Housing Trends: The housing market fluctuates. Sometimes it favors the buyer, sometimes it favors the seller. Read up on housing supply and demand, as well as interest rates and price history in your desired neighborhood.
  • Shopping Before You’re Qualified: Don’t shop for a home before you’re pre-qualified for a mortgage loan. It will just lead to frustration and heartache. Meet with an accredited lender or mortgage advisor so you have a clear understanding of your price range.
  • Overlooking a Home’s Resale Value: It’s rare to buy a “forever” home these days. Therefore, it’s good to consider ahead of time whether you’ll be able to re-sell the home for a decent price – or maybe even a profit! – in the future.
  • Trusting an Unqualified Realtor: Hiring the right realtor is the most important step in your home search. Make sure that you’re working with someone who is savvy and well-versed not just in real estate, but the neighborhood of your dreams, too.
  • Betting on a Verbal Agreement: Nothing in home-buying is legitimate until you’ve got a signed contract. Don’t hang your hopes on someone’s word and a handshake. Get all details – requirements, agreements, prices and dates – on paper.
  • Disregarding Hidden Costs: Budget for all of the fees – obvious and hidden! – in the homebuying process. What’s a hidden fee? One example is the closing cost, which can include everything from attorney to title search fees.
  • Forgoing a Professional Home Inspection: Don’t rely on the seller or their real estate agent to point out any issues with the home. Hire a professional home inspector to check for damages, pest problems or any issues with the property.
  • Forgetting Other Related Costs: Just like buying a car, owning a home comes with long-term financial responsibility. Prepare yourself for things like association fees, insurance, taxes, utilities, and regular maintenance and upkeep.

Are you you in the process of looking for a first-time home? Let Cardinal Financial (formerly RedStone Mortgage) assist you in finding loan options that meet your individual needs. Call us today at 480-759-1500.