How Cyber Criminals Use Real Estate Transactions

Criminals are hacking into the email accounts of real estate agents or other persons involved in a real estate transaction and using the information to dupe a party into a fraudulent wire transfer. The hackers often send an email that appears to be from an individual legitimately involved in the transaction, informing the recipient, often the buyer, that there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions.  Following the new instructions, the recipient will wire funds directly to the hacker’s account, which will be cleared out in a matter of minutes. The money is almost always lost forever.

The National Association of REALTORS® urges its members and state and local REALTOR® associations to be on high alert for email and online fraud. In May 2015, NAR issued an alert regarding a sophisticated email wire fraud hitting the real estate industry. Since then, the incidents of online scams targeting practitioners have continued to rise, but the advice is the same. Bottom line: Do not let your guard down! Start from the assumption that any email in your inbox could be a targeted attack from a criminal.



Safety Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Many first-time home buyers are unaware of the simple methods that can be used to increase safety. Here are a few tips from Real Estate Training Institute you can give your clients when purchasing a new home. 

  1. Change those locks! The first thing that homeowners should do is change the locks on all their outside doors. There is a chance that not all of the keys were collected, and someone could still have a copy. It is also wise to change out the garage door remotes as well.
  2. Lighting is everything. Having a well-lit exterior is great for discouraging criminals. Encourage clients to check all light fixtures for any burnt-out bulbs that need to be replaced, and for any places that lighting needs to be installed.
  3. Be Neighborly. It is always a good idea to meet and get to know the local community and neighbors. They can provide an extra set of eyes looking out. Encouraging clients to meet with their neighbors helps build a relationship that allows them to notify each other more comfortably if something is amiss.
  4. Alarms are not a bad idea. A home that has been on the market might be a magnet for criminals. Installing an alarm system will not only be a deterrent for criminals but also give homeowners peace of mind in their new home.

Real Estate Environmental Issues

This is a snippet from our Environmental Issues course, available in several states for continuing education credits.

If you are buying a facility (commercial or industrial property) you must find out what contamination may be there. Facilities could include factories, gas stations, mirror plants, dry cleaning establishment, or farms. There are three phases of this process.

Phase I. This is a preliminary report that investigates the history of the subject and neighborhood. Inquiries are made regarding owner/operator, governmental and agency documents, and records. A chain of title search is generally performed.

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission requires registered companies to disclose material information that a reasonable investor would believe significant.

  • The Department of Transportation requires that all hazardous material must be reported and all hazardous spills are recorded.

  • The Army Corps of Engineers issue dredge and fill permits and conduct inspections.

Surveys, site plans, and aerial photos can show the location of storage tanks, ponds, transformers, vehicle maintenance areas and topographical features.

Phase II.  This involves actual site testing, including monitoring of wells, soil probes, and their analyses. A Phase II investigation is undertaken if the Phase I investigation finds evidence of possible surface or subsurface contamination, AND/OR past or present violations of environmental laws and regulations. It is during this time that the presence or absence of contamination can be confirmed. Investigators can also identify the types and amounts of hazardous substances present, identify locations, and estimate the rate of migration. Soil and groundwater testing can be done as well.

Phase III.  This phase includes an engineering study of the means of correction (remediation) for the site, including estimates of the costs and time involved. It more precisely determines the degree and extent of contamination (including groundwater contamination) and determines the type of clean-up or control techniques that are appropriate. Note that the recommended cleanup/control techniques must be approved by the appropriate regulatory agency.





Does Your Company Have Your Best Interest In Mind?

There have been a number of assaults on Real Estate professionals reported on our nations news networks.  One such incident regarding a female real estate agent Beverly Carter is still making headlines. 

Carter was abducted and killed in 2014 after meeting a couple (Aaron Lewis and Crystal Lowery) who arranged a fake tour. The couple is currently incarcerated and serving 30 years and life sentences.

The victims family is suing her employer stating in a lawsuit document that “Crye-Leike was well aware of the life-threatening dangers Mrs. Carter faced in the real estate industry and had the duty to provide Mrs. Carter with the necessary tools, guidance, skills, information, awareness, consulting, training, support and technology to keep her safe. Defendants failed in this regard, and as a result, Mrs. Carter's life ended much too soon.”

While most companies have employee safety and welfare at the forefront of their minds, some safety aspects are often overlooked.  The Real Estate Industry has its share of hidden dangers and opportunities where an agents safety is compromised.

Certified training institute offers an online Personal Safety and Self Defense training program to help prepare you and your staff for the unthinkable. 

Course instructor Preston L. Taylor “PT” is a police officer with over 20 years of experience, and is extremely knowledgeable in the realm of personal protection and self-defense.

This online course offers self-defense tactics from the stand-up position utilizing gross motor skill (easy but effective) techniques as well as ground defense and ground avoidance (rape prevention) tactics which can be used anywhere in any situation. You will also learn to be aware of your surroundings and potential dangers.

Certified Training Institute also offers corporate discounts. Not only will you learn lifesaving skills, you can also claim course credits toward your state required continuing education.  Don’t wait until another agent falls victim to foul play, Be Prepared, Be Safe! Sign up today.


Helping Buyers Live Large in a Tiny Home

Due to the skyrocketing popularity of two popular television series “Tiny House Nation” and “Tiny House Hunting,”  the tiny housing market has been booming.  Tiny house hunters have been scooping up these treasures for personal use as well as an opportunity to provide long and short-term rental properties.

A tiny house is typically defined as 500 square feet or less and can be customized to each owner's individual needs.  It can be stationary or mobile making it an extremely flexible choice for transient buyers. Some tiny homes are even made from recycled materials and shipping containers.

Although this lifestyle is dominated by Millennials, every age group can reap the benefits of tiny house living. Some buyers will not make this their “Forever Home”, others may see it as an opportunity to downsize during their retirement years and still be able to live an active experience rich lifestyle.

Real estate agents must keep an open mind and a Trail Blazer’s spirit when attempting to sell one of these tiny treasures.

You can assist in the process by educating yourself and potential buyers.

Start by putting together a marketing campaign geared toward the benefits of a “lifestyle” change as well as “Debt-Free Living” where a person can own their own home as well as enjoy having the extra cash flow to travel and experience life’s little pleasures without being encumbered by a large mortgage.  They must have the courage to downsize and commit to transitioning from living “Large” to living “Tiny”.

Each State and County may have its own rules and regulations regarding tiny structures. It is best to check with local building and housing authorities to see whether these homes are allowed to be placed on private homeowner land or vacant properties.

Encourage buyers to begin the process of downsizing and decluttering their current space, ridding themselves of any excess material items not absolutely necessary in their future tiny home. This means a full overhaul of their current environment starting with their clothes closet, kitchen items, and garage space. Of course, if they intend to sell their current home, retaining items such as enough furniture to stage the home properly would be wise. They’ll be amazed at how this exercise will free them from the burden of too many possessions.


Real Estate Training Institute – A Woman Owned Small Business

Certified Training Institute is excited to announce our Women's Business Enterprise (WBE) & Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) Status.  Company president, Teri Francis, has the keen business sense that has enabled our company to be the success it is today.

As a WBE and WOSB company, we have are a perfect match for the woman-dominated field of real estate. Real Estate Training Institute, a division of Certified Training Institute provides online classes such as Personal Safety and Self Defense, designed to meet the unique needs of real estate professionals. We are dedicated to bringing quality prelicense classes and state-approved continuing education to real estate professionals nationwide. 












Self Defense Tips for Real Estate Agents

Real estate professionals face daily dangers even as they navigate simple necessary tasks. Here are a few tips to ensure your safety.

  1. Drive separately. This may seem like common sense but many real estate professionals carpool with potential home buyers, leaving them open to robberies, car theft, and worse. Furthermore, do not park anywhere that is hard to access or easily blocked in. This will allow a quick get away if necessary.
  2. Protect your personal information. First and foremost, do not use photos in marketing materials. Police have documented cases of criminals circling real estate professional's photos in newspapers as targets for theft. Second, use your cell phone and office address in all marketing materials. Do not provide home buyers with any personal information such as where you live, who you live with, or how many children you have.
  3. Promote security at open houses. Advertise security measures you plan to implement at open houses. Require identification at the front door and, if possible, use video surveillance. Implementing and advertising these measures will help discourage criminals from attending your showings. Additionally, partnering up with another agent and introducing yourself to neighbors are tried and true cautionary measures.
  4. Avoid showing houses alone if possible. A co-worker, spouse, or dog can be incredibly useful in discouraging attack. If you must show a house alone avoid confined places, walk behind the homebuyers, and make sure someone knows where you are and about how long you plan to be there.
  5. Learn self-defense. When all precautionary measures fail it is important to be able to protect yourself. Certified Training Institute provides online HD video classes designed to teach real estate agents basic self-defense from standing and ground positions. This class is a great measure for any real estate agent with the added bonus of being approved as continuing education in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.





Easy Curb Appeal

Curb appeal can help increase overall home value but no one wants to sink a lot of money into a home they are intending to sell. A few simple, inexpensive tricks could help put a home's yard over the top. 

  1. First things first, if your home is looking shabby consider a fresh coat of paint or renting a power washer. Power washers can also come in handy for windows, walkways, and details that are looking drab. You'll be surprised by how much fresher your home can look after a vigorous cleaning. Be careful to use the right pressure settings!
  2. Don't have time to work in the gardens? Potted plants are a great, low-maintenance, and cheap way to add splashes of color and the illusion of landscaping.
  3. Do not underestimate the value of your front door. The entrance to your home needs to convey what the buyer will find inside. While a new front door is relatively expensive, Houselogic estimates a 75-100% return on investment.
  4. Clean up those leaves! This one is easy, dead leaves make a yard look unkempt. Make sure you rake or leaf blow before showing your home.
  5. Last but not least, replace that old mailbox. It's amazing how something we use almost daily can fall into disrepair without notice but this is a common complaint by home buyers. A rusty broken mailbox makes home buyers wonder what else has not been up kept in a home. Since this is a cheap, easy fix, make sure your mailbox is looking good.





Tips for Flipping Houses in Michigan

Flipping houses can be incredibly profitable if done correctly but many first-time home flippers lose money by making beginner mistakes.  Ask yourself a few questions before you decide to flip a home and make sure it is a good venture for you.

Do I have enough money to flip homes?

Many first-time home flippers fail to consider costs aside from the initial acquisition. Make sure you also take interest, holding costs (taxes, utilities), and renovation costs into account when deciding if you should purchase a home to flip.

Do I have the skills to renovate a house?

If you can do the work yourself you may be able to make house flipping lucrative. On the other hand, if you must pay a professional to do the work it will eat into your profits. Make sure you do not go overboard with renovations.  You need to make sure you do enough work to increase the value of the house without sinking all your profits into upgrades.

Do I know the neighborhood?

Make sure you know the average selling price of homes in an area before you purchase. If you’re considering buying a $60,000 house in a neighborhood where homes sell for $100,000 you will want to make sure renovations won’t cost more than $40,000 or you won’t turn a profit.

Do I need a license to flip houses in Michigan?

Depending on the frequency and nature of work you will be doing you may need a builders or maintenance & alterations license and/or a real estate salesperson license.

A builders license is necessary for any person who purchases, substantially rehabilitates or improves, and resells a residential structure, within one year unless the home is for your own use and occupancy, you contract/hire a licensee to perform all the work, or you have a licensed employee do the work.

real estate salesperson license is necessary if you make more than 4 transactions per year. That means you cannot purchase and sell two homes within one year without being licensed.

How do I obtain a Michigan builders or maintenance & alterations license?

The first step to obtaining a Michigan builders or maintenance & alterations license is completing an approved 60-hour pre-license course either online or in classroom. Once the 60-hour course is complete you must fill out an application form and submit a $195 payment to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). The state will contact you 2-4 weeks after receiving your application at which point you can take the state builders exam.  You will receive your state license in the mail shortly after passing the state exam.

How do I obtain a real estate salesperson license in Michigan?

First, you will need to complete a 40-hour pre-licensure course. Then, submit a real estate application to the state and find a broker to house your license. Once your application has been processed by the state you will need to pass a state license exam.

Like most endeavors flipping homes takes practice and patience. Make sure you give yourself enough time to find a home priced correctly, in a good neighborhood before you purchase.

Interested in obtaining your builder or real estate salesperson license?


40-hour Prelicense Course
Online 60-hour Prelicense Course | Classroom 60-hour Prelicense Course




Realtors, are you ready to share your knowledge?

The real estate market saw an influx of new agents in 2016 to match the lowering mortgage rates and increasing home sales.  New agents are hungry for trade secrets and senior agents are looking for new, more efficient methods. There is an industry-wide need for expert information. Real Estate Training Institute is offering you the chance to help meet that need.  We help individuals with real world experience share their knowledge through online courses.  If you haven’t considered authoring a course, ask yourself the following:

  • Have you acquired knowledge about subjects in your industry that you are passionate about?
  • Have you developed working processes within your own career that have helped you grow and succeed?
  • Are you tired of seeing the same mistakes made over and over within your industry?

Author hours are flexible and their only cost is time. Authors write content, record voice narration, or use the office recording studio at their convenience.  Suggested course content includes, but is not limited to, the following subjects, Staging, Modern Promotions, Photography, Open House, and Marketing to Millennials.

Writing a course is a great way to leave a legacy in your industry that benefits professionals for years to come. Pay is based on royalties from course sales with Real Estate Training Institute offering leading compensation for the online education industry.


“I am thrilled to be able to share the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years.  I thought once I retired it would just be put aside.  This has been a great experience, plus I’m enjoying helping people enhance their careers.”
 – Paul Acker, author of Estimating and Bidding for Success