Consumer Real Estate News

    • Booking Travel? 4 Tips to Put the Brakes on Poor Customer Service

      15 January 2019

      Are you planning your dream vacation? Nothing puts a damper on travel planning like shoddy customer service from airlines, hotels or travel agencies. Here are four easy tips to help you get more convenient and personalized travel support, courtesy of Genesys®.

      Decide on your preferences. Contacting travel agencies isn't limited to a phone call. You can also get the human touch by making use of digital communication methods like texting and web chat. Explore your options and decide what you prefer, but always remain open to the ever-evolving avenues of communication.

      Embrace the revolution. Save time and energy by taking advantage of recent strides in artificial intelligence (AI). If you need help modifying your flight time or arranging a shuttle, try messaging with a chatbot to access efficient support. Chatbots are smarter and more capable than ever to help you quickly compare prices, locate hotels and identify local activities.

      Skip the hold option. Waiting on hold is the number one irritant for customers, so avoid it if possible. If you decide to access customer service over the telephone, ask for a return call if immediate assistance is unavailable. More and more businesses are offering a 'callback' option – so take it! Enjoy the flexibility of evolving support features and use that time to pack your bags, instead of impatiently counting the minutes you've been holding the phone to your ear.

      Humanize customer service agents. Travel agents help coordinate trips for hundreds of anxious travelers day-in and day-out. Call them by their name and have patience. They'd probably love to switch places and take your vacation, instead of just assisting with yours. Do what you can to make the experience happier for both you and the agent.

      Many of us travel to relieve stress, so planning a trip shouldn't induce it. Following these tips will help resolve your support issues and pave the way for a peaceful vacation. Happy travels!Source: Genesys®

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Tips for Avoiding Scams

      15 January 2019

      Unfortunately, scammers continue to get more creative in their attempts to trick the general public into relinquishing funds and personal information for nefarious purposes. Here are some important best practices from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to help protect yourself next time you connect with an unknown caller, or come across a suspicious link online:

      Try to only answer the phone when you know who is calling. Our curiosity is piqued by those unknown phone numbers, and many times, they look just familiar enough, but don’t answer your phone unless you know who it is, says the BBB. Today’s scammers are very convincing once you do pick up, pretending to be anyone from your grandchild to a bill collector from your utility company, but think about this: anyone who genuinely needs to reach you (like a family member or someone to whom you actually owe money!) will leave a message.

      Don’t provide personal information without asking why. In today’s digital environment, we tend to give away our personal information online with ease. But always question if a site really needs your contact information, credit card information, or Social Security Number. In fact, before entering any information at all, make sure the site has ‘https’ in its URL, which signifies that it is secure.   

      Don’t send payments via wire transfer or prepaid gift cards. The bottom line is, no legitimate business only accepts these payment methods, so when this request is made, you can be pretty confident it’s a scam. Wire transfers and prepaid gift cards are the quickest and most untraceable ways to send money, according to the BBB. If you can’t pay by credit card, which has the most buyer security since you can dispute charges, something’s fishy.

      Don’t click, download or open anything that comes from an anonymous sender. This is most definitely the work of a scammer attempting to gather mass quantities of personal information or install malware on your computer. Always be wary of such unsolicited messages that don't contain your name or other personalizing information and simply delete.

      If you’re afraid you’ll miss out on something by being too cautious, don’t be. Legitimate companies are well aware of the above scam tactics and more and, therefore, practice safe online and telecommunication practices. You won’t be asked to do any of the above or be contacted in suspicious ways by businesses seeking to do you no harm.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • What to Buy in January

      15 January 2019

      Looking to hit the stores for some big ticket items? RetailMeNot shopping expert Sara Skirboll, says, "Some shoppers may be feeling guilt or fatigue from their holiday shopping sprees, but think twice about not shopping because the deals might be worth braving the mall. January brings many opportunities to save on items that will help with New Year's resolutions, whether they are about getting fit or organizing your life."

      Below are Skirboll's top insights:

      Revise Your Workout Routine. It's that time of year to think about your lifestyle habits and commit to a healthier you in 2019. January is the best time to sign up for a gym or studio membership because many chains will be offering special rates. Fitness centers may give incentives like waived enrollment fees, free months or unlimited classes, but make sure to read the fine print so you don't get locked into long-term contracts that are hard to get out of. For those who prefer to burn calories at home, no sweat: This month offers plenty of savings on at-home exercise equipment.

      Redo Your Dwelling. For homeowners looking to sell or renovate their place in the coming year, now is a great time to get a jump on any renovations that need to be done. Retailers will be marking down certain home renovating essentials to help owners prepare for house-selling season in the spring.

      Revamp Your Rooms. If you just want to spruce up your space, you're in luck. Furniture manufacturers will be releasing new designs and models in February, so items like couches, loveseats, and recliners will be at their lowest price points of the year this month. Pro tip: Have measurements handy and bring a tape measure so you avoid making any "final sale" mistakes!

      Restock Your Decor. It should be no surprise that holiday decor is at its lowest price point in January. With the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day hot on the heels of holiday, retailers are motivated to discount past seasonal inventory. Before packing up last year's ornaments and garland, think about what you could do differently next season. Write down what you have so you don't buy multiples of things you already own.

      Refresh Your Linen Closet. The annual "white sale" has always been a popular seasonal staple that comes with the start of a new year. While the shopping event has evolved over time, shoppers can always count on January to bring savings on all manner of linens. Holiday houseguests may have come and gone, but another round is sure to follow. Get ready for them by

      Source: RetailMeNot, Inc.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Does Your Credit Score Need a 'Boost'?

      14 January 2019

      According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in 2017, an estimated 26 million Americans had no credit history at Experian, Equifax or TransUnion, the three largest credit-rating bureaus, and another 19 million were considered inactive due to not enough recent history to generate a credit score.

      And without a credit score, access to loans - such as a mortgage - is virtually impossible. That’s why new ways to develop a credit score, such as the recently launched Experian Boost platform, are giving lenders different avenues for assessing a borrower’s credit history and determining a credit score.

      Experian Boost enables consumers to add their utility and cellphone payments to their credit reports, enabling those without a traditional credit history to demonstrate that they are financially responsible.

      Experian states in a recent USA Today article that the tool is the first of its kind and provides people an immediate way to prove that they are creditworthy, something that traditionally takes months to do. Experian Boost will be most helpful to those consumers with “thin” credit histories; in other words, those with less than five accounts and FICO credit scores between 580 and 669 will benefit the most, according to Experian.

      Here’s how Experian Boost works: Consumers give Experian permission to access their online bank accounts in order to identify their utility and telecom payments. Once consumers confirm that this information is correct, it is added to their credit histories and a new credit score is instantly generated.

      Important to note, while Experian Boost will work with the credit scores most commonly utilized by lenders, if the lender relies on a TransUnion or Equifax credit report, your approval chances will not be improved.

      According to the USA Today article, Experian expects that two-thirds of consumers will see an improvement, and 10 percent of people with thin files will now have a score.

      Source: USA Today

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Break Away for a Spring Travel Adventure

      14 January 2019

      (Family Features)--Spring is the perfect time of year to break away from everyday life for a journey to a new destination. Across the country, the climate tends to be moderate, so you can take in a wide range of activities for a fun-filled getaway.

      One challenge of planning a trip is finding things to do that appeal to everyone's interests and packing it all into a limited amount of time. Get started planning your trip for this spring with these activity ideas.

      Learn something new. Museums are a great place to learn more about your favorite topics, see memorabilia and share your passion with your traveling companions. Look for a destination with museums dedicated to a wide range of interests, like the broadcast industry or the path toward freedom in America, for example.

      Get immersed in nature. One of the best ways to appreciate the local flora and fauna is inserting yourself right into the middle of it. For example, at Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack, Texas, you can paddle waterways dotted with bald cypress trees draped in Spanish moss that tower over the lake's maze of bayous, sloughs and ponds. While visiting the park you can also stay in a historic cabin, try your luck fishing, hike, picnic, camp and even experience an adventure within an adventure when you look for a geocache.

      Get up close with animals. Zoos across the country may have one thing in common (the animals, of course), but each offers its own special touches that make learning about and interacting with animals a fresh experience. From petting areas to drive-through safaris that put you right in the middle of the animal kingdom, there are plenty of ways to satisfy the animal lover among your group.  

      Travel through history. If there's a history buff in your travel party, a destination like the Texas State Railroad takes visitors back in time by allowing them to ride a refurbished train car through a round-trip, four-hour, 25-mile rail journey through the Piney Woods of East Texas. Vintage steam and diesel locomotives take passengers on a trip featuring historic narration, comfortable seating, and food and adult beverage services.

      Source: Texas Tourism Board

      Published with permission from RISMedia.