Episode 1- Welcome! Let's Talk About the Germ in the Room

Dated: 05/01/2020

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To experience this episode of the podcast, take a listen here:

Welcome to you don't know what you don't know. I'm your host. Desiree Merriweather, a broker in South Carolina. my goal and ongoing mission for this podcast is to educate you, the general public, on the ins and outs of real estate. I want you to be well informed on the best practices when you're ready to buy or sell a home.

So let's talk about the elephant in the room, or rather the germ in the room. Corona virus COVID19. I am pretty sure that right now, those of you who have thought were thinking or are currently thinking about buying or selling a home are potentially reconsidering what your plans may be due to COVID19.

If that's where you are, I'm here to encourage you to don't change your plans. Real estate has been considered an essential business, which means realtors, me included, are still here working. We know times are hard and changing, but for those of you who still want to move forward, we are still here, ready, willing, and able to work with you.

The emergence of this pandemic has caused us to change how we interact with our clients and the rest of the public. We are following the guidelines put in place by the CDC as well as including additional precautions for how we conduct business. If you've been used to meeting with your agent face to face; Your agent may still continue to do so practicing safe social distancing measures. More commonly you may see drive up meetings, meeting clients In empty parking lots sitting in our separate cars, having conversations with one another. We're showing houses with gloves, wipes, shoes covers & Lysol in hand. I tend to bring gloves for my clients and we use one set of gloves to open the door, walk through a house, open an occasional drawer, flip on a light switch, and then throw those gloves away before we enter our separate vehicles.

Many sellers are still allowing their homes to be shown, but by strict appointment only. When homes are vacant, they are a little easier to show, but we still take the same precautions with as with occupied home. Your agent may no longer do an all-day showing trip, where you get a chance to see 6 to 8 houses in a single day. Your agent may say, for safety reasons, let's limit our showings to three houses, and that's okay. You're still going to have an opportunity see the houses you want. You're still going to have options of homes to choose from. A lot of agents are choosing to schedule showing appts using virtual showing and virtual video tours. I recently showed a home to a client using my tablet. I spent 45 minutes walking through this showing them all the aesthetic details, specialized equipment and all the interior and exterior benefits of the home while they stayed safe in their home.

All of that and any of those methods are okay. You and your agent will do what works best for your situations. Closings are still happening, although agents aren't attending as many, and a lot of that is company driven. Attorneys are coming up with unique and creative way to handle your closing. They're doing drive up closings, they're doing remote closings. We're using electronic signatures and video conferencing a lot more than we may have in the past, but we're still getting it done for those of you who are still wanting to move forward with your home buying or home selling plans.

In addition to changes in how we're handling meetings and showings with clients, there've been lots of changes to the loan process, especially for buyers. When it comes to purchasing a home, there have been changes to the qualifying criteria for loans. Most commonly you're hearing about guideline changes where certain loan types are requiring now higher credit scores. But that's not a universal change. That's a change that will vary from lender to lender, bank to bank and loan type to loan type. If you happen to be in the process of buying a home and you’ve been previously approved, I highly recommend reaching out to your Financing institution, your loan officer, even your agent to find out if your loan type is one of those that have been impacted by a change to the required minimum credit score.

Because the minimum credit score requirement differs between  lenders, it is unclear what the impact to your previous approval could be; we don’t know if it could stop your process or require additional documentation information, or even additional money from you, personally, in order to move forward to closing. So you really need to reach out to the person that's helping you with your funding to find out if you're one of those impacted by the credit score change.

You also now have the government stimulus that's being discussed. The first thing I want to say is there's no such thing as free money, so if you're one of those Blessed individuals who are going to receive the government stimulus, recognize that it's a loan. It's money being given to you by the government in order to help you AND the government make it through these times. And at the end of the day, when things start to get back to normal, the government, as they always do, are going to want their money back. More than likely It's probably going to be retrieved from you When you get your tax return. So if you're used to getting two, three, $4,000 back on your tax returns, understand that if you're receiving stimulus money, your potential return will be reduced by the amount of stimulus money you were given earlier in the year.

For those of you who get the stimulus money, but typically have to pay taxes. I'm not sure what to tell you. Math would have me thinking that if you normally pay taxes, you'd be paying additional taxes in order return what you were given, um, earlier in the year. However, if you’re paying taxes, you probably won’t get much if any stimulus money to begin with. But that remains to be seen.  Next Let's talk about, the mortgage relief options that you may be hearing on the news or reading on different social sites where they're saying, “Hey, you don't have to pay your mortgage’.

Stop it. Don't believe it. Don't take it at face value.  If you think you are eligible for some type of mortgage relief, you need to reach out to your mortgage company to find out if you qualify and if that's something that's being offered. Once again, there's no such thing as free money and your mortgage, if you currently have one, is earning interest on a daily basis. So understand if your mortgage company does say, Yes, you do not have to make a payment this month, that's great!! However, your mortgage balance is still not decreasing. You are still earning interest on that total balance, which means it will take you longer and you will have more to pay off because you did not make a payment.

So if you are in a position to continue to make your mortgage payment, go ahead and make it, it will benefit you in the long run. If you can't make it and you've been given permission not to make it. That's fine as well. You have to do what's best for you at this particular time and not regret or second guess the decision you make because you're going to make that decision with the best information you have at the time you make it.

So after all of this conversation deep thought, if you've decided that you'd rather wait until the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic has died down and we've returned to normal, or what is going to be our new normal. That's okay too. There are some things you can still do while you're waiting that will put you in a better position to buy or sell your home once you're ready.

Start working on all of those home improvement task, your DIYs, your handyman honeydew specials that you've been putting off. This is a perfect time for you to get them done. If you want to sell, this your opportunity to start decluttering, getting rid of those items that you thought you were going to wear, but you still can't fit back into. Go donate those items that that you were going to save for some else that, that have just been collecting dust & lint in the back of the closet

If you need to paint, do it. If you need to make your yard look more alive than dead, the weather is cooperating, so get it done now. Now, the pollen may is still interfere with what you're doing, but at the end of the day, this is a perfect time to get your curb appeal the way you need it to be; trim your trees and clean your cutters so you home will look its best in person & in photos.

Don’t neglect the Inside the house either, that leaky sink, that running toilet, that strip of carpet that trips you up every time you walk down the hallway- handle those items too. Fix the doors that won't close or stay open. Repair the windows that squeak or fall every time you lift them. Use this opportunity to address those items that your previous schedule may have made a little more difficult to do. Many contractors are still working at this time, so if you personally don't have the skills of Bob the builder, go ahead and pick up the phone.

Your local plumbers are still working. Your local electricians are still working. They're out there ready to help you and still taking call and making appts during this time as well.

For those of you who are waiting to buy, there are quite a few things you could do at this time to get yourself in a better position to buy when the time is right for you. Number one, work on your credit. Everybody talks about how important credit is, but very few people talk about what credit is. Credit is simply your financial history from the time you started spending money and creating debt. It has no face. It has no personality. It's simply pluses and minuses based on how you've spent your money & paid your bills in the past. If you don't know what your credit is, if you don't know, if you have credit, if you don't know your scores, a wonderful resource for you to use is annualcreditreport.com it is free.

You can go there once a year and pull your credit from all three credit bureaus. That's Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The services free. However, if you want to see your actual scores, they do charge individually for you to see your scores. Your scores are important. Your scores are what lenders use to qualify you for buying a house.

There are a lot of apps and resources and services out there that say, Hey, use us to get your scores. They do provide you your scores. However, the criteria they use for calculating those scores differ from what a bank or a lending institution would use. And typically, what you'll find is if you're using a other than a bank, lender or the credit bureaus directly, you'll find that, your scores tend to be lower.  lending criteria. Lenders Look at more detailed bits and pieces of your credit score to calculate whether or not they think you're a good financial risk to get a loan. So use annualcreditreport.com and if you want your scores, pay for them.

That'll give you a good idea of where you are and what's in your financial worksheet so you can see what you need to work on or improve. If you finally get it and you don't really understand what you see, pick up the phone. Call your realtor, call your lender, go to your bank and let them explain to you what you're seeing and what it means and how it impacts you.

Number two. Stop spending unnecessarily. We understand right now in these times, you may be using your credit cards or quick cash Services or title services to help see yourself through these times, but realize everything that you spend and everything that you borrow is traceable, meaning it's going to impact your credit one way or another. And if you start maxing out your credit cards, it is going to impact your score exponentially. The closer you come to maxing out your credits. Card, the lower your credit scores will be. So you want to be mindful if you're going to have to use your credit card to survive, be prepared to pay it off in larger chunks than you normally would once you get back to making the money that you're used to making.

Number three. Pay your bills on time. Let me say it again. Pay your bills on time. There is nothing more hindering to your ability to buying a home than not paying your bills on time or maxing out a credit card. So. If you don't pay your bills on time and it gets reported to the credit Bureau, it too will cause your scores to drop drastically.

The two biggest killers of a credit score or rather a positive or strong credit score are late bills and maxed out credit cards. There's absolutely nothing wrong with delayed gratification. It sounds like I'm preaching. It sounds like I'm fussing, but if you take these tips to heart. Your reward is having a high credit score that benefits you not just in buying a home, but it helps you when you're needing to get into an apartment.

If you're wanting to buy a car, if you want to use a credit card for a particular purchase and you have to apply for credit, having a high positive credit score means your interest rates are lower and your ability to purchase may be increased because you've shown over time that you have the ability to handle access to money wisely.

Right now, we're in a period of the unknown. We don't know what's happening why it's happening, or even what's going to happen next. Not knowing creates a lot of questions, and unanswered questions which typically translate into a lot of stress. So the first thing I want to say is RELAX.

Breathe calm down because at the end of the day, everything is going to figure itself out. We don't know what's going on from day to day basis because things are changing so rapidly. But there one thing that we are in control of. We are in control of ourselves. If you're not considered an essential service. Stay home. If you are considered essential, stay safe. Look out for one another, take care of each other and be there for one another. Thanks for listening and I’ll be talking with you again next week.

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C. Desiree Merriweather

With 17+ years of real estate experience, my career has given me more than the ability to take care of my family. It has given me an awesome opportunity to assist anyone who wishes to have a piece of ....

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