Ladies, it is homebuying season! Well...is it? Currently, housing prices are stagnant and have even increased in some cases, considering we're all sitting in the face of a potential economic shutdown in the midst of a global pandemic. And on the upswing, interest rates are near all-time lows—with potential to go even lower.
But unfortunately, employment, which has been a roller coaster since March, remains a big question mark. And according to researchers, with thousands of housing inventory being withdrawn from the market during the shutdown, prices may soar, lowering affordability.
So, should you buy a home during the COVID-19 pandemic? Should you refinance? What's the best advice for the times? To help answer a few of our biggest questions, I decided to link with a few frontline real estate agents to get the best brewed tea for the market. This is what I found out.
Karissa McRae, Serving Georgia and Maryland—Atlanta/Baltimore Areas
Courtesy of Karissa McRae
Industry Specialty: First-Time Home Buyers
"Your earnest money, closing date, and the due diligence period, are all pertinent in securing a deal of excellence. While there are several other factors that contribute to a successful accepted contract, these are components buyers should consider during negotiations."
I appreciate my clients greatly, which is why I ensure that I'm on top of trends, news, updates, etc. to be able to provide them with the best advising possible. The more I've become seasoned in the industry, the more I've learned that knowledge of this game. This industry has a lot of to do with managing application of knowledge when appropriate. On the surface of things, selling a house appears to be as simple as selling a product. However, I am not in the business of just selling a home. I am in the business of navigating, assisting and driving results. The more knowledge you have to drive those results, the better chances you have of closing the deal.
Ask your realtor thousands of questions, and make sure that they are providing insight as well.
During this COVID-19 crisis, there are many advantages and disadvantages of purchasing a home. For one, there are lower interest rates. Also, when sourcing income, stimulus checks can be used toward the purchase of a home. Disadvantages? Uncertainty. We're not sure how long interest rates will remain what they currently reflect and the manner in which many homes can be shown. Some homes require virtual showings only until the home is under contract. This may be a disadvantage if the buyer is eager to view the home physically within a specific period of time.
My top three pandemic real estate tips:
- If you love it, put an offer in. While you want to ensure you are completely comfortable and love the home, you also want to ensure you are getting your offer in within a timely manner.
- Ensure your offers are strong. Making sure you have a strong offer can mean the difference between the seller selecting yours vs. another buyer. A strong offer can include, but isn’t limited to, the closing date, sellers concessions, financing type, etc. You should consult with a licensed Realtor regarding which.
- Ensure you are protected with contingencies. There are contingencies that can be written in the contract to protect you due to unexpected losses during this pandemic. Consult with a licensed Realtor regarding contingencies such as an appraisal, financing and COVID-19 contingency during this time.
For my current homeowners, the question remains: should you refinance? Yes. It's a great time to refinance now due to lower interest rates. However, a common misconception is that refinancing does not cost. Refinancing can cost about 2%-6% of the loan amount. Either way, now is your time. So, go for it!
Leann Henri, Serving Michigan—Detroit, Southeastern Region
Industry Specialty: First-Time Home Buyers, Selling and Relocating, Millennial Buyers and Sellers
Home Buying Hack:
"Find a down payment assistance program—there are so many available! Some of them are even grants that you don't have to pay back. If you don't have to use your own money to buy a home, why would you?"
It's no secret we're in a pretty substantial housing shortage in the US. Couple that with a global pandemic and you've got a recipe that spells complete and utter frustration for eager buyers to find homes. A major disadvantage is the competition between buyers for existing homes currently listed on the market. I submitted an offer on a home last week and the agent told me they have 22 other offers! EX-CUSE ME?!
Not to mention, some of these agents are reckless in advising buyers to waive inspections, put in outrageous appraisal guarantees, and submitting offers thousands upon thousands of dollars over asking. Many people can't compete with that, and honestly I would never advise my clients to do such a thing. The right home will come along and I always tell them, "What's for you will not pass you by." On the cloud-covered bright side (I say "cloud-covered" because these low rates are largely fueled by the pandemic), there are still fears of new coronavirus outbreaks affecting the economy, meaning rates will probably stay low for quite some time to incentivize buyers and sellers to make a move.
And that's always a good thing.
If you are looking to refinance, absolutely do so! Rates are at record lows right now. Money is so cheap, it's basically free. Why pay "them" more money to borrow their money than what you have to? Oftentimes people sign a mortgage and don't look at the details again until they're planning to sell, which is terrible! Usually a person's financial status when they first bought their home, changes over time. You could qualify for many more perks, the key is to just ask. Even if you refinance and only save an additional $150/month on your mortgage - that's $150 extra dollars a month to go towards another bill, savings, investments, or put it right back on your principal mortgage balance to pay down your loan faster and save in interest over time.
The goal is to pay them back as quickly and efficiently as possible so you can start building wealth. Of course, I always strongly suggest consulting with a qualified mortgage lender about the pros and cons of refinancing for your particular situation.
For those interested in a COVID-19's buyer market, here are my immediate tips:
- Analyze your finances. If you can't afford it, don't force it.
- Stay encouraged. It's a jungle with low inventory and high competition.
- Don't pick a random Realtor. Interview as many as you need to find one that you trust and that truly has your best interest at heart.
Since the start of the pandemic, what I've always believed about real estate has been cemented. Good morals, staying ahead of the curve, and real authentic interactions will always win. My business has grown so much during this pandemic and every time I ask a client why they chose me, the answers are always along the same lines: they felt well-informed from the very beginning, my social media or my YouTube channel made them feel like they could relate to me, and I actually ANSWERED THE PHONE! People let chasing a dollar get in the way of really truly caring for your neighbor and I believe that will separate the successes from the one-hit wonders.
Claudia Garcia, Serving Illinois—Chicagoland
Courtesy of Claudia Garcia
Industry Specialty: First-Time Home Buyers, Buyers, Sellers, and Leasing
"Make biweekly mortgage payments to pay off your mortgage quicker. You're basically breaking down your monthly mortgage in half every two weeks, (there are 26 biweekly periods in a year) which has the equivalence of making one extra monthly mortgage payment every year."
Ladies, buying a home is definitely one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make! COVID-19 may have put some strains on us, but what better time than now to begin preparing ourselves? A lot of individuals assume that they can't purchase a home considering the times, but they haven't taken the initiative to actually see if that's the case; there actually isn't a better time than now to purchase.
While some mortgage companies may have tightened up their requirements, interest rates have been dropping. And people whom are already homeowners that are locked in at higher rates have—and should have—been looking into refinancing that the low interest rates institutions are offering (rates have recently dropped below 3%).
Agents are noticing that many people believed that the market was going to crash, but this totally hasn't been the case at all (thus far). Yes, new home listings decreased in late March, at peak hysteria of COVID-19, but listings have started to pick up in late June, early July. Just know that we are in a buyer's market right now: there are more buyers looking to purchase homes than homes listed on the market, which in turn, has created a multiple-offer scenario for certain properties/sellers (and creates disadvantages for some buyers).
My top homebuying tips are:
- Talk to a loan officer first. People automatically think or assume they are not qualified to purchase a home, for whatever reason, but they have never actually talked to a loan officer to see what exactly it is that they need to prepare themselves for purchasing a home.
- Save every dollar that you can right now. Why else wouldn't you be saving during quarantine? Create a budget, cut costs, and spend less, so that you're prepared for closing time, as well as just establishing rainy day funds.
- Educate yourself as much as you can about the homebuying process. And then find and work with an experienced and trustworthy realtor.
Real estate is a continuous changing market, and a never-ending learning career. I've even taken advantage of this time to learn and educate myself even more in the field by enrolling in different certifications and designations so that I can provide the best experience I can for my clients.
And for all my homeowners, I hope you're researching the best options for your possible purchasing/selling journey as well. It's a great time to do so, so why not?
Marly Walters, Serving Florida—Southern Region
Courtesy of Marly Waters
Industry Specialty: First-Time Home Buyers, Buyers, Sellers, and Leasing
"During the inspection period, you can ask the seller to make additional repairs, or ask for a seller credit at closing to make repairs after closing. In Florida, the high majority of offers use the approved AS IS with the right to inspect standard contract. So, even though you are purchasing the property as is, you can use the inspection as a second chance to negotiate the sales price or credits."
I had a client once that got very sick only a year after I helped him purchase his dream home. Even though I offer many listing services that other agents don't offer, typically getting the home cleaned and show-ready, meeting with multiple contractors for repair bids, and arranging storage and movers, are the responsibility of the seller. However, he did not have any local family and I knew he was not going to be physically able to handle any of these tasks so I made sure that I personally took them on. I was able to sell the home over list price and net him enough so that he still had funds to downsize and purchase a new property. For me, that's what being a realtor is all about.
As we've already mentioned, the biggest advantage in our industry during the pandemic is that interest rates are at historic lows.
So, the same home you could not afford a year ago, you might be approved to purchase today because a lower interest rate increases your monthly affordability amount. This also means that in a lot of markets, it's a hot seller's season. There's a home inventory shortage, meaning that for the smaller number of available homes, there is more competition, increasing the likelihood of you running into a multiple-offer situation, and ultimately driving up sales prices.
My three tips are these:
- Look for homes that have been on the market for 60+ days if you are looking for a deal.
- Be comfortable with going virtual (virtual property tours, electronically signing documents, etc.).
- Work with an experienced buyer's agent that will know how to negotiate well on your behalf and can save you from the pitfalls of a transaction.
I used to think that you had to have your hands in a lot of different lead generation pots in order to be successful in this business. However, as I grow in the business, I now understand that focusing on a few things, doing them very well, and putting the attention on building long-term relationships with clients is more important than building a big volume of leads.
When you are laser-focused on your strengths and your clients, the success will come.
Feature image courtesy of Leann Henri
Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She enjoys traveling, #SummertimeChi, and the journey of mastering womanhood. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Savannah James Credits Her Mom For Helping Her Deal With Fame By Instilling Self-Confidence In Her As A Child
Savannah James has won the hearts of many over the years because she showcases the power of self-confidence and staying true to oneself through various fashion and beauty posts, regardless of the current trends and the opinions of others.
The 36-year-old, who has been with Lakers forward LeBron James for over two decades, shared she was able to form her own identity with the help of social media by unapologetically being herself because of a past experience and the lessons her mother, Jennifer Brinson, instilled in her long before LeBron became a basketball star.
During a recent interview with Vogue, Savannah revealed that one of the reasons why her mother was adamant about her having self-confidence and self-assurance was because Brinson didn't want her to conform to societal pressures as she entered the spotlight alongside LeBron.
Savannah On The Self-Confidence Her Mother Instilled in Her
In the discussion, the mother of three recounted a time when she experienced a hair disaster before her prom due to not explicitly informing her hairdresser about the particular style she wanted.
Savannah disclosed that after viewing the finished product, which consisted of a "partial updo with long bangs," she left the salon with tears streaming down her face. Although she made the best of the situation after composing herself and even posed with LeBron for the infamous prom photo, Savannah explained that was the last she remained silent about what she wanted.
As LeBron got drafted into the NBA in 2003, and the spotlight increased for the pair, Savannah stated that when it came to her looks, she took into account the past horrible experience and the advice her mom gave her about being herself to become the woman she is today.
"My mom always instilled a certain level of confidence and self-assurance in me, so I didn't go into LeBron being in the NBA and having all these spotlights around thinking that I needed to change anything about myself," she said, "I was just going with what I knew, what I was comfortable with, and what I felt looked good on me."
Savannah also mentioned to the publication that she feels it's "pretty dope" that she receives positive remarks about her life, beauty, and fashion choices.
"I'm honestly just being myself. I don't put on air or try to pretend to be something that I'm not because I can't do that very well. So for people to receive me for being who I am, that's pretty dope," the star added.
Savannah On The Talks She Has With Her Daughter Zhuri When It Comes to Hair and Beauty
Later, Savannah opened up about why sharing the experiences she learned about self-love and self-confidence with her 8-year-old daughter, Zhuri James, was necessary.
In the interview, Savannah revealed that once becoming aware that she was welcoming a girl in October 2014, she asked God for Zhuri to have a lot of hair so that she could do it "all day."
"Once I found out I was having a little girl, I was like, 'Please Lord, can she have a lot of hair? Because I just want to do her hair all day.' I never thought it would get to where it is now. You get what you pray for," she said.
Savannah also mentioned that her wish of wanting Zhuri to have long hair wasn't solely based on her physical appearance but rather on the bond they would build overall as they do beauty routines together, something she did with her mom growing up.
"It's important for me [to do her hair] because it's something that I did with my mom. It was a true bonding time that we had, and a time for her to instill confidence in me, tell me that my hair is beautiful, and embrace my curls. I do the same with Zhuri, and we can have an open dialogue about not just hair but other things too," Savannah explained as she shared details about the conversations that occur between her and Zhuri.
Whatever tactic Savannah uses when it comes to being in the spotlight, it appears to be working because she is trending so often on social media for just giving fans an honest view into her life, which is commendable.
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Feature image by Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images