THINGS TO DO JULY 4TH WEEKEND AND THROUGH THE SUMMER

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Happy Independence Day! 

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. 

I have been thinking about some outdoor places I can enjoy this weekend and over the summer. I thought I'd share a few  that made my list.

Brookgreen Gardens:

Brookgreen Gardens has always been one of my favorite places. We typically visit the gardens at least once a year and Night of a Thousand Candles has become an annual family tradition.  Though that's not until December, there are summer events that are held in addition to regular admission to the gardens. One thing I am very excited to go see is Bruce Munro at Brookgreen: Southern Light.   Large scale light exhibits by artist Bruce Munro can be viewed in the gardens each Saturday from 8PM-11PM.  Here's the  ticket information, updates, and some FAQs.


Alligator Adventure:

I've been here many times and it's always been enjoyable.  You can explore the park at your pace and view all the animals. You can watch live shows where you can learn about the animals or even have your photo taken with them.    When my family visits from out of town, this is one of the places we visit.  Here's some park information to include current hours and ticket prices. 


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Myrtle Beach State Park: 

Whether you want to camp or just take a day trip, there's so much to see and do at Myrtle Beach State Park.  If you want to plan activities there's fishing, swimming, boating, and outdoor games. You can take advantage of the nature trails, biking trails, or horse riding trails. Or just relax and enjoy the beauty.  Check out activities and information about the park.  (As per their website, fishing rods are not currently for rent.) 


Huntington Beach State Park:

This is another favorite park with so much to offer.  They have some great nature and biking trails, kayaking, and swimming.  Huntington Beach State Park is also home to Atalaya Castle which is a beautiful place to visit. It's also a popular photo spot and wedding venue.  Here's some more activities and information about Huntington Beach State Park. 


I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. Remember.. if I can help with any of your real estate needs, even a general question, don't hesitate to contact me!

Happy 4th of July!

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Look! It’s a cute kitten.

I've committed to writing a weekly blog on Friday. I've even called upon some people to hold me accountable which has resulted in three (almost four) consecutive weekly blog posts.  I had a couple very raw, real, and informative topics I was going to choose between this week, but I waited until the last day and the day literally flew by.  It was super productive, but didn't leave me with  much energy or creativity to write a proper real estate blog entry. Since I didn't commit to content with my accountability partners, I decided I was going to post a cute kitten picture and call it a night, but my daughter called me and we had a two and a half hour phone conversation until 1:30 AM  about current events and cool subreddits. So,  I have missed my deadline since it's technically early Saturday morning and not Friday anymore.  Oops! 

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Here's the promised kitten pic. It's not mine.  I don't even have a cat, but thought he would be a  cute addition to my impromptu weekly entry and distract you from the lack of substance. 

I'll throw in a couple highlights and happenings from my week.  

I enjoyed a true  day off on Sunday. I spent it celebrating Father's Day with my wonderful husband, kids and 'bonus kids'.  Only my daughter and future son in law were missing, but they had a valid  excuse for being absent since they live in Japan and flights are suspended. Thank goodness for video calls! 

Real estate is a profession where you can put in long hours for days or weeks without instant results, but then all of a sudden the persistence pays off.  Last week,  I didn't get one new listing despite my best efforts.  None of the homes I showed were suitable for my buyers. I had lots and lots of cancellations and  even a couple no shows. I have done this long enough to know that you take the good with the bad and should take none of it personally.  But,  productive busy is better than no result busy, so I was very thankful when things turned around this past week, as they always do. 

This week, I  had the pleasure of attending a closing with some first time home buyers who were a pleasure to work with. My husband scored some disinfecting wipes for me at the grocery store.  This was huge because I hadn't been able to find them on the shelves anywhere since January!  One of my listings went under contract. Another received an offer. I helped one set of buyers find the perfect home and another set of buyers find the right lot and builder. I am beginning the home buying process with several new buyers and have a few listing appointments lined up for next week.  

A lot of people expect a certain stereotype of real estate agent or have preconceived ideas about the process based on real estate reality shows.  I love it when clients get to know me well enough to tell me what their expectations were vs. what our actual experience turned out to be.  

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Fun fact:  Yesterday alone, I changed my shoes 3 times with 2 sets of buyers, but both of them found the right home!

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Feel free to visit my Facebook or Google page to message me or check out reviews. If I can help with any of your real estate questions or needs, don't hesitate to contact me! 

Dear Buyers and Sellers: Here’s some very surprising news.

Even though I make it a priority to stay on top of the local real estate market and trends, I am sometimes surprised at my own findings.  For example, this past week I did a search for a buyer with a very general wish list.  They want:

1.  to live in Conway. 

2. to live in a single family stick built or modular home.

3. to spend under $150,000.

4. to have 2 or more bedrooms.

5. to have 2 or more bathrooms.

6. to have at least a 1 car garage. (attached or detached)


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I've searched each day for the past several days and guess how many homes are active and for sale on MLS with the above criterion?  

100?  50?  25?  10? 

Nope.  If you said "Only 1 home",  you are correct.  That includes resales and new construction. 

Only one!! I was curious and ran the same search with "Horry County" instead of "Conway". 

4 homes showed up on the search results. 

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What does this mean?

For buyers with a $150,000 or less budget, it means there are very limited housing choices. It means waiting and saving while carefully watching for new listings that often go into multiple offer situations and under contract almost immediately.  It means competing with all the other buyers with a 150K budget who are watching and waiting for a new listing to hit the market. 

If you are considering a home purchase, I've got a few tips that can give you an added advantage in a competitive market:

1) While other buyers are doing their own searches on sites that don't update in real time, you can have your own buyer's agent who will inform you the minute a new listing hits the market or a price reduction puts an existing listing in your price range. I can't speak for all agents, but this is a service I provide for free to my potential buyers. There's no high pressure sales pitch. The listings can be emailed or we can set up a collaboration center where you have constant  access to real time listings.  My buyer clients can contact me immediately to find out more information or to set up showing appointments right away.  I can show my buyers any home that's for sale, not just my own listings.  Having your own buyer's agent means having someone who can represent your best interests before, during, and after the transaction for absolutely no cost to you.  There are many benefits of working with a buyer's agent. 

2) If financing is necessary, make sure you speak to a lender to find out what programs you are eligible for and get pre-approved. Now is the time to do this. Not after you find the house.  This is truly in your best interests and will minimize the risk of losing the property to a buyer who is prepared to move forward instead of scrambling for a pre-approval after finding the house.

3) While you wait, make sure you pay your bills on time.  Don't make any large purchase without checking with the lender who pre-approved you. Don't trade your car, open new lines of credit, or use existing credit without checking with the lender. Follow these rules, even if you are not yet under contract. Use this time to find out things you can do that will ensure the best terms and rates when you do find the right home. 

4) Don't delay.  That doesn't mean that you should make rash and uninformed decisions, but being pre-approved and having a concise plan of action will put you in  a much better position to successfully purchase the home you want. 


For Homeowners who want or need to sell their home, the current low inventory is definitely your friend. 

If you are a homeowner who has tried unsuccessfully to sell your home in the past, things could be very different now. 

There are way less homes on the market. This is especially true of,  but not limited to, homes under $150,000. I've personally helped sellers who bought their homes only a year or so ago, who were able to recently sell for a profit due to increased equity and/or less competition. While this isn't the case for everyone, you may be very surprised to know the value of your home. If you are a homeowner who would either like to sell your house or just know how much your property is worth, here's some information for you: 

1) Find a listing agent who can provide you a free Comparative Market Analysis.  You will want a more detailed analysis later on, if you actually decide to list your home for sale. An agent will ideally visit your home for the most accurate value report, but it's optional for information purposes. A real estate agent can prepare a general report based on public record, agent tools, and information you provide about your home.  This is something that many agents, myself included, will provide as a complimentary service with no obligations or fees. 

2)If you want to go a step further, you can ask the agent to prepare what's called an 'Estimated Net Sheet'. This will show how much you would earn  on the sale of your home after the typical closing costs and prorated items are estimated.  

3) It all depends on how much equity you have in your home, but rising home prices, low interest rates, and low inventory have definitely caused a true Seller's Market in our area. There are so many home buyers who are all watching and competing for the few homes that show up in their search criteria. If you were on the fence about selling, now may be the perfect time to sell! 

4)If you want or need to sell your home, I'd love to provide the information you need to feel comfortable with your decision.  If you want to sell your home, but don't know where to start, I am available for a free and confidential consultation to go over options and strategies for your individual situation. Perhaps selling isn't your best option and you decide you would rather keep your home and save money on your monthly mortgage. I'm happy to help with that as well. 

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I'm here for you, even if you just have  general real estate questions.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend. 

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More Ways to Save Money

I've never met anyone who didn't enjoy saving money. 

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I got some positive feedback on last week's topic, so I decided to expand on that by sharing  a few ways I have personally shaved down my monthly expenses.  I'll even share a few costly mistakes I've made in hopes it will save you from making the same ones. 


Money saving tactics don't have to be huge or difficult tasks done all at once. The little things add up and you will see results. I'm no financial expert, but I have found that frugality often begins out of necessity, and continues by choice. Once I  realized that I could use money I'd been wasting to pay off debt and save for things I really wanted, it almost became a contest (with myself) to figure out more creative ways to save. 

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  • BUDGET: Preparing a budget seems overwhelming, but is crucial. Even if you think you know what you owe, there's something about seeing it on a written page and watching those balances get smaller.  There are many free resources online to help with budgeting and tackling debt. If you have hopes of getting a mortgage sometime in the future, it's important to find a lender who doesn't mind coaching you on things that can really help (or hurt) your chances of loan approval.  If you need some recommendations, just let me know. (Did you know that paying off a credit card and closing the account can have an unintended negative effect?) 
  • CANCEL SELDOM USED MEMBERSHIPS, SUBSCRIPTIONS,  & AUTO RENEWALS: I'll tell you a true story.  I paid 19.99 per month from 2015-2019 for a gym membership I used maybe twenty times.  Not proud of that, but it auto drafted and the longer it went on, the more I told myself that I had too much time invested to cancel. I have also learned the hard way about other subscriptions that automatically renew or things that start off as a 'free trail', but require payment information. I doubt there are many  people who don't have at least one  item they could immediately cut out of their monthly expenses and not even miss it.  Bonus savings: Go to all the sites that your bank account information is saved and delete it immediately.   Online shopping is way too easy, but storing your card info makes it even easier to impulse buy. 
  • CABLE: Cancel premium channels or any channels you don't watch. Better yet, cancel it altogether. I know this is easier said than done because it took me a long time to build up the courage to do so. I can honestly say with all the reasonable streaming options, I very seldom miss cable television. On the rare occasions I do, I just think about the $100+ I'm saving each month.  And if it's something I can't wait to watch for free later, like Blacklist or Better Call Saul, I just pay for the season with some of that savings.   If you want to get some good ideas on cable alternatives and what to stream for free, post it as a question to your friends on social media. You will have a multitude of options! 
  • INSURANCE:  I mentioned in my previous blog that it's wise to touch base with your insurance company to ensure you are getting all the discounts you're entitled to, as well as shopping around for better rates. I once saved several hundred dollars per year on homeowner's just by asking. Just make sure you shop for comparable and adequate coverage.  
  • INTEREST RATES & SERVICE FEES : Until they are paid off, you can call your credit card companies to see if they will give you a better interest rate. If not, look into finding a company that will, and transfer the balance.  If mortgage rates are lower than when you purchased our home, consider refinancing your loan. If you are paying service fees for your checking accounts, find out if there's any way to have them waived.  Many banks waive monthly fees for students or if you direct deposit your paycheck to your checking account and allow them to auto draft even a small amount to your savings. 
  • CELLPHONE:  If you don't want to have a 'no contract' service provider, at least evaluate your plan and stop paying for services you don't use. Keep you phone longer. Just because you are eligible for an upgrade doesn't mean you have to get one. If you don't have unlimited data, watch out for data running in the background and use WiFi when possible.  I once thought I was being thrifty by keeping a phone, but forgot it was a lease, so I continued paying the lease amount for several months after I could have just owned it outright. 
  •  MEAL PLANNING:  If you can't commit to meal prepping for the week, at least meal plan by making a list of all your meals for the upcoming week. Keep in mind how much time you will have to prepare the meal and plan accordingly.  For years, I would go over budget at the grocery store. Even worse, I often ended up not even cooking the food, but eating at restaurants because of work schedule and poor meal planning. There are so many good recipes online and "What should I cook for dinner?" is another question your Facebook friends love to answer.  
  • EATING AT HOME: I'm not saying that I don't go out to eat or that being frugal means never going out to eat. I just go less and it's much more enjoyable when I do. Proper meal planning means you don't find yourself cruising through the drive through for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. Not only is eating at home way less expensive, but healthier and more enjoyable than endless fast food. Bonus points for making your own coffee or tea instead of buying it already brewed. I figured out that just cutting out morning coffee at the drive through and restaurant lunch  5 days a week saves me a minimum of $300 per month!  The amount of money spent on food is shocking for those of us who weren't previously tracking it. 
  • SHOPPING:   When I first decided to become frugal to get out of soul crushing debt, it was like a competitive sport.  I was very fortunate to come across a site called Southern Savers that taught me all the basics of finding amazing deals and using coupons. Back in my heyday, I would come home from the drugstore with 6 month's supply of paper products, laundry detergent, dish detergent, shampoo, deodorant, and makeup all for $3.20. I'm not joking. It was addictive. Jenny, who runs that site, explains exactly how to shop with coupons and take full advantage of sales.  I'm literally still using my stockpile from 3 years ago! These days, I order my groceries online, so only digital coupons I have downloaded on my grocery app will work, but I've found that aside from the convenience, it saves me time (which is money) and actual savings from not making impulse buys.  
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I know that I used to read blogs on how to save money and think "Duh.. that's just common sense." And it's true, but we have to actually do the things to see the results. I learned that the hard way.  These are all things I've actually done that have saved me lots of money plus promoted better financial habits in general. 

I know this isn't technically a real estate topic, but feel free to call or message me with any of your real estate questions or future topic suggestions. 

Have a great weekend! 

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Struggling With the Mortgage?

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If you answered yes,  you are not alone. 

You can skip this entire first section if you want and go straight to the resources.  It won't hurt my feelings. I won't even know.  Summary of the first section: An explanation of why this isn't going to be the prettiest and best formatted blog you have ever read, but also that I am committed to providing helpful and relevant information.  

More wordy explanation: I'm terrible about wanting to blog about an important topic, but rather than get the information out there, I put it off until I 'have extra time'  to make sure it's well written and properly formatted. Needless to say, 'extra time' doesn't  happen and I miss a chance to share information when it's most relevant. I continually struggle with writing a blog the way I'm 'supposed to'.  Worrying about that stresses me out and  prevents me from actually sharing lots of helpful advice and information, so from here on out I'm scrapping the 'correct way' and I'm just going to put it out there in my own words.

Today's topic comes to me after having a recent surge of people contact me about listing their home for sale.  In an effort not to get off topic, I won't go into my procedure, but it  involves so much more than pulling comps, taking photos, and listing on MLS.  I talk to potential seller clients about their individual situations and what they need to achieve. We discuss realistic figures, time frames, and plans of action.

I will be taking on some new listings this month, but there are a few people I spoke to who decided not to list their home with me.  I'm not sad about this because they didn't actually want to sell. They just didn't know there were other options. 

Below you will see some of the resources I've shared over the past couple weeks.  Keep in mind, I can't address all things for all people in one post, but I will say that I'm available to answer any questions or to provide additional  resources. If you want to sell your home, I'd love to help, but if you don't, there may be other options to help you keep your home.  Disclaimer:  I am a licensed SC real estate agent,  so I am not giving mortgage or financial advice, just resources and ideas. Policy and procedure is not the same everywhere. Absolutely consult with your lender, accountant, attorney, insurance provider, or appropriate professional before making any financial decisions, changes to your existing loan, or insurance coverage.
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Federal Programs 

If you have been affected by COVID-19 , there are certain federal programs to include the CARES Act.  Check out the link  for some available programs and assistance.  Some of the provisions include tax relief, unemployment benefits- even for those not usually eligible, student loan relief, small business loans, and much more. Just make sure you read the fine print and understand if and when you will be responsible for repayment. 

Existing Loan

 If you are struggling with your mortgage you should call your lender and discuss all available options.  You can ask them if any of these are an option for you:  

  • Forbearance
  • Recasting:  This is a way to reduce monthly payments. Term and interest rate remain the same since the existing loan is kept.  Government backed loans are excluded. Typically there is a low fee as opposed to closing costs associated with new loans. 
  • Restructuring or modification:  The existing loan is kept, but modified for lower payments. 
  • Refinancing:  This is whole new loan that pays off existing loan(s). It's often done to reduce payments and interest rates.
  • PMI: If you didn't put down 20% at the time of purchase, you are likely still paying PMI, or mortgage insurance. If you now have 20% equity in your home, check with your lender to see if your loan is eligible to discontinue PMI. If so, find out what the procedure is to eliminate mortgage insurance from your payment. 

Your lender will be able to discuss the pros and cons and determine what option is best for you.  Hopefully they can help  you find a viable solution that you are happy with. If not, it may be an option to re-finance with a different lender who offers additional programs. 

Taxes 

In Horry County, homeowners who occupy their home as a primary residence pay less taxes than those who have a vacation or investment property. Property tax is determined by multiplying the assessed value of the home by the assessment ratio, then by the millage. The assessment ratio for a primary home is 4%. The assessment ratio for a 2nd or investment home is 6%. When you close on a home, the assessment ratio automatically defaults to the higher rate.  So, if you bought a home in Horry County that you are occupying as your primary residence and did not change the rate at the assessor's office, you should proceed immediately to Horry County Assessors office or check this out for some serious savings.  

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Insurance

Some homeowners are surprised to find out that even if they have a  fixed rate mortgage, their payment  can change. Though principal and interest remain the same for the life of the loan, insurance and property taxes being held in escrow can affect the mortgage payment amount.  I recommend contacting your insurance provider annually to go over existing coverage and rates to see if there can be any improvement.  You want to make sure you have adequate coverage with appropriate deductibles, but often the current policy can be changed to save money.  I once reduced my insurance rate over $500 per year without changing coverage, deductible, or companies...just by asking my agent if we could do better.  Be sure to ask your agent about any discounts that may apply to you such as a new roof, monitored security system, or multiple policies. 

Even if your insurance payment is held in escrow, you can still shop around for better rates.  I've had clients save hundreds of dollars by doing so. Be sure the coverage is sufficient and the deductible is manageable.  You'll need to  let your lender know if you are changing insurance companies. It's quick and easy to find out if there's a better rate, and if so it's a great way to save money and reduce a house payment without changing the loan. 

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I love helping people buy and sell property, but if I can help someone figure out a way to keep their home if that's what they prefer, I consider that just as rewarding.  I promise you I mean that, so don't hesitate to reach out if I can help with any real estate related question or refer you to someone if it's beyond my expertise.  

What is Mortgage Forbearance?

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There's so much new information emerging each day relating to COVID-19. Today, I want to specifically focus on some assistance available for those who will not be able to pay mortgage payments due to hardships caused by the virus. 

CARES Act

CARES Act  stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security. It includes some mortgage assistance.  Before you take any action regarding your loan payments, you should contact your mortgage servicer.

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What is Forbearance? 

Forbearance is the action of refraining from exercising a legal right, such as enforcing the payment of a debt.  Your mortgage servicer or lender can allow you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a limited period of time.  The CARES Act addresses the following in relation to mortgages:

1) Eligible homeowners who are experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19 have the right to mortgage forbearance. 

2) There is a temporary moratorium on foreclosure proceedings. 

Who is eligible for mortgage forbearance?

If your loan is federally backed, you could qualify for these benefits.  If you don't know if your loan is federally backed, these links should help:

This does not erase the debt!! Since the mortgage servicers have the right to immediately demand the total balance accumulated during the forbearance period, it's best to continue to pay mortgage payments if at all  possible. If you are unable to make your mortgage payments, you should call your servicer to find out what your options are. 

Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need information or support. 


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Reasons a Home Buyer Benefits From Working With a Buyer’s Agent

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While buying a home should be a fun and exciting experience, it isn't as simple as as they make it appear on those house hunting shows. In reality there are a lot of things that can go wrong that can potentially cause a buyer to lose time, money, or even the home of their dreams. The good news is that most of those pitfalls can be prevented. 
One of the best things a buyer can do to help ensure a smooth and successful transaction is to first find a trusted buyer's agent before they start looking for homes for sale.  There are some tips and suggestions for buyers to know they are hiring the right agent for the job. There are also many misconceptions on the topic. If you are wondering if you should hire a buyer's agent, here are a few valid reasons why you should: 


Home buyer's best interests are protected at no cost. 

A listing agent has a responsibility to protect the seller's best interests. Buyers can have their own agent help them with any home that's listed on MLS. Buyer's agents can also help with homes being sold by owner. To take it a step further, a great agent will even find  a home that's not yet even on the market if there's nothing listed that meets their buyer client's criteria. Buyers can have their own agent who is ethically bound to represent their own best interests at all times. The best news is that the buyer doesn't have to pay for this invaluable service. 

 Home buyers get access to the most current listings and property information.

Buyers often begin their home search by searching online or driving around finding yard signs and open houses. Those 3rd party property sites pull information from various sources to include public record and rely on algorithms to guess values. Homes that are listed For Sale on those sites are often already under contract or sold. Taking a drive can be an enjoyable way to spend a leisurely afternoon, but it is not a very practical way to find the best home. A buyer's agent can make sure their clients are notified immediately of any new listings or price adjustments. They can provide up to date information and schedule all appointments. This saves valuable time and reduces the chance of missing out on 'The Right One'.

Home buyers need answers, information, and someone who understands real estate contracts on their side.

A good buyer's agent will be able to answer questions using their knowledge and experience or they will be able to recommended  trusted professionals such as a lenders, inspectors, surveyors, or attorneys. A great buyer's agent will provide answers to the questions that are not even asked but crucial to a successful and pleasant experience. There are so many things buyers need to know before they even start looking:  How much will closing costs be? What is a  prepaid expense? What loan programs are available? Are there any options for down payment or closing cost assistance? A buyer's agent will write up the contract according the their buyer's individual needs and best interests.  Buyers will need someone with expert negotiating skills on their side.  One wrong date, missing initial, blank line, unchecked box, or missed deadline can be costly and critical. There are countless things to consider when writing an offer and negotiating a contract, so most buyers  would agree that they would prefer having someone who doesn't represent or solely represent the seller help them with their negotiations.

Home buyers need advice and help with negotiations.

If a buyer is not represented, the listing (seller's) agent can help that buyer as a customer. In this case the listing agent must be honest and disclose known defects to the buyer, but that's all. If the buyer isn't represented, the listing agent has a duty to the seller and the seller's best interests. For instance, if the listing agent knows there's a roof leak, they would have a duty to tell a buyer customer about the known defect. But, if the buyer customer tells the listing agent they want to waive their right to an inspection to 'save money', the listing agent wouldn't be able to stress the importance of a home inspection to evaluate other possible unknown issues, because that's not in the sellers best interest.  That's just one example of why it's very important to understand Broker Relationships and exactly how each party is represented.  Not only does a buyer's agent negotiate offers to help the buyer get the best deal and terms possible, they also offer options and solutions throughout the transaction with their buyer's needs in mind. 

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There are things to consider when choosing the best buyer's agent for the job. It's a good idea to interview a few to make sure you find someone who is knowledgeable, but also someone you will be comfortable working with. After all, this may be the most significant purchase you will ever make. I would be honored to be one of the few you interview or recommend!  

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Keeping it Real: A Day in the Life of Me

The only thing missing is the green tea I drink in between these 2 guys...

I'm going to share just a few of the highlights from my day. You can't make this stuff up!!

Combined with no sleep.. So thankful for good concealer.

-I caved and ordered carry out tonight, breaking my longest cooking streak in recent history....Three nights in a row. One of the three was leftovers. One of the three was actually edible. 

-After having back to back appointments yesterday (which is the mark of an excellent day for a real estate agent) I did paperwork and prep for next day until 2AM. 

-I discovered, quite by accident, that I can stay awake for an entire TV episode if I watch it standing up!  This was momentous.  Finally watched all of  Season 3 Episode 4 of Stranger Things . Who knew I just needed to watch it standing up while folding the mountain of clothes that were covering my bed at 2AM? 

-Risked a nudge from an over zealous Words With Friends opponent, by going  straight to sleep after clothes folding marathon. Almost asleep before my head hit the pillow when I had a panic moment.  I forgot to email updates to my sellers as I do on Thursdays.  Even though it was technically Friday,  I jumped up and sent my email updates.

-4:45 AM found me back in bed. I decided to 'sleep in' until 7:45 making it an even three hours. 

-I woke up 3 minutes before my alarm and stumbled to the kitchen to start  coffee. I applauded myself for having the foresight to put the water in the coffee maker 'last night'.  I debated postponing Samson's morning walk since I was starting the day late, but he'd have none of that. 

-After walk I was happy to come back home to my family sitting around the counter. Until I pushed the button for coffee to find that they had drank the whole pot. (insert profanity) (Shook it off) My son made me more coffee. 

-Got ready for first listing appointment of the day.  Owner had indicated she was interviewing two other agents and I felt like I was the obligatory third that she was using to rule out the second and go with the first. Even though I was super prepared, I listened to two of my "Get It, Girl" songs at full volume while putting on make up. I won't say what my lucky songs are, but one is by Eminem and the other Eric B and Rakim.  Anyway, I don't have time for conventional therapy, so I use all types of music for healing and inspiration.

-Got the listing and made new friends in the process. (human and canine)

-Spent part of day showing property. Got a few more clients under contract and a few others closer. 

-Lost three hours of work due to a computer glitch/log out. Note to self: Maybe there's  something to this Mercury Retrograde thing....

-Got a present from a client/friend.  It's the biggest most delicious loaf of challah I have ever seen.  

-Realized I'm twelve hours into day and didn't plan for dinner. 

-Decided to procrastinate dinner plans further and walked Samson to the park. Before getting back to my house a bird came screeching and dive bombing at us. I thought  maybe I was delirious from lack of sleep and hunger but picked up pace just in case I was about to get attacked by a bird.   He came at us again.  My 165lb  big baby of a dog became concerned and picked up pace as well. A neighbor, who had been sitting on his front porch, stood up to get a better view of the bird attack.  At this point, I started waving my arms and moved off the sidewalk toward the middle of the road in case I was near a nest. My first ever conversation with this neighbor went like this: 

Me: "He's coming at me." Him: "I see that." Me: "I wonder if he has bird flu." Him: "Maybe so."   At which point, the bird circled back toward us screeching in a very threatening manner.   Samson and I took off running toward our house. My reading glasses fell off the top of my head into the street but I was able to escape the attack with no injuries.  Bright side:  Best cardio I've had all week. Plus, I didn't feel as guilty about ordering food only 4 days into my 'no eating out' month.  Pretty sure I provided quality entertainment for my neighbor, too.

Happy Friday, Y'all!  

Kvelling and  cradling my  homemade challah gift. 

Home Buyer’s Checklist

10 Things to Do After You Are Under Contract

Once you get under contract to buy a home, you are one step closer, but there's still some work to be done. Even though I help my clients every step of the way, it's still good to be prepared, so here's a list. I've also attached a VERY useful Buyer's Guide. 

  1. Earnest Money AKA Good Faith Deposit: This is money that says you are real and serious about buying the property. Make sure it's delivered to my office, your closing attorney, or me (whatever is most convenient for you) in the time, amount, and format as stated in the sales contract. 
  2. Property Inspection: Choose your inspector(s) and get them scheduled ASAP to determine if any repairs are needed. A licensed home inspector will give you a thorough overall report on the house and let you know if there are any indications that further inspections are needed.  The CL100 is a separate pest inspection where the inspector checks for termites, termite damage, and moisture levels. If you don't have an inspector, your agent can help with recommendations.  (*Inspections are almost always paid upon delivery rather than at closing. CL100s can almost always be paid at closing.) 

3. Lender Docs: The minute you go under contract, your lender needs a copy. I always send a copy to the lender as well as the closing attorney. Make sure you get the all the requested documentation to your lender as soon as it's  requested. This is crucial to the timing and success of the closing. 

4. Title Work: Your attorney will initiate the title search and exam. This makes sure the house actually becomes YOUR house. They will check to make sure there are no previous tax liens, federal liens, or judgments. Be sure to review the title commitment once you receive it. I highly recommend asking them about title insurance. 

5. Appraisal: Under most circumstances the appraisal should be ordered as soon as you have performed your inspections and (if necessary) had sellers address any repairs.  Your lender will order this from an appraisal management company. The appraiser will determine the value of the home based on other recent comparable sold homes in the area.  They will then upload it and make it available to your lender who will provide it to you. (*Some lenders require the appraisal to be paid upfront.)

6. Insurance: Choose your home owner's insurance provider and provide the relevant information to attorney and your lender.  You can shop around for suitable coverage and rates. Don't let anyone run your credit before getting the OK from your lender!  If you need recommendations for insurance providers, just ask! 

7: Utilities: Call to arrange for utilities to be transferred on closing date. This may require a deposit. Again, don't let anyone run your credit without first checking with your lender. 

8: Schedule Closing: Make sure you coordinate with attorney to set up a firm date and time to sign your closing docs. This usually takes between 45 minutes and an hour and most attorneys are open Monday-Friday. Some close early on Friday. Please note that in Horry county buyers and sellers close separately and keys are not given until the deed records. If it's important to get your keys on the same day, let your agent and attorney know. 

9: Final Walk through: Before closing, you'll want to do a final walk through to make sure everything is ready for closing. 

10: Close the Deal: Bring your photo ID and make sure you've gotten wire instructions from attorney's office. Make sure you get them directly from your attorney and NOT via email for risk of attempted wire fraud. Your lender/attorney will NEVER change wiring instructions via email. Some attorneys will allow you to bring a cashier's check.  Be on time and be ready to sign your name a few dozen times! 

Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Disclaimer: *These are (some of) MY confessions and don't necessarily apply to all real estate agents.  **In my attempt to write more frequent and individual entries, I may sometimes blog about personal realizations rather than market stats, buyer/seller tips, etc.  

Back story:  My son told me right after graduating high school that he planned on being a real estate agent. He still wanted the college experience and  worked hard to graduate a full semester early with 2 degrees. He immediately signed up for his real estate  class, but has spent several hours each day  learning some of the many things he will need to know for his future career. He had soaked up more knowledge than either of us realized just by learning from osmosis from the time he was 10 years old.  I will try to stay on track, since this is supposed to be about my confessions as a real estate agent.    These are things I learned about myself while teaching him:

"It's important to communicate well.  Not only with your current clients, but also with future and past clients."   

This is some solid advice I gave Ian last week. I explained how it's a delicate balance to stay in touch  without coming off as pushy. I shared my  method of discussing real estate needs, expectations, and time frame upfront. Then, respecting whatever the potential client tells me.  A 'just looking ' or 'curious about what my house is worth'  person needs to know I won't be blowing up their phone every day, though they can always reach out if they need my assistance.   A 'ready to buy or sell yesterday' person needs to know that their needs are understood and prioritized.      I told him the importance of  touching base with past clients at least  every couple months to see how they are doing. 

As I'm telling him all this, I start thinking about how much better I could do at keeping in touch. I have the best intentions but end up in a constant cycle of having new homes to find, new contracts or repairs to negotiate, new fires to put out, new closings to go to and I don't follow up as often as I should with my previous clients. Keeping in touch after closing is not even something that feels like obligation.   When you work with someone on something as important as the sale or purchase of their home, you establish a relationship and want to know how they are doing. Did their son got the part in the play? Did they have a chance to try the restaurant I recommended?    I vow to do better on keeping in touch! 

"It's important to establish hours and work smarter, not longer. You must be flexible and available, but also make sure you set aside time for yourself and loved ones."

This is great advice to give a new real estate agent.  I don't even know where to start with this confession. I work smart and long and still don't get everything on my list done each day. But I've come to realize that I never will nor do I want to complete my list. My lofty goals and long lists keep me motivated.  I've learned to prioritize so I get the important things done. It's not uncommon for me to work 12-14  hour days during the week, but that allows me to work 'reasonable hours' on Saturday, and more often than not have much of Sunday free. Example of how plans go awry: Last night I got caught up on paperwork so I could deep clean my own house and have some 'me time' today. I came into my office to answer 'time sensitive' emails and 6 hours later find myself severely sidetracked with things that could have waited until Monday.  House isn't clean.  πŸ™ 

"It's very important to keep track of time spent,  transactions done, and to keep written goals, so you know what you've done and what you are capable of doing." 

As I'm saying this, I'm recalling a conversation I had with my new CPA at our initial consult recently.  CPA: ' Mary, how many transactions did you do in 2018? ' Me:   '2 boxes full?'  I definitely need to do better with the written goals. 

"It's important to  build your business attire wardrobe.  Even if you work from home, you should dress like a professional each and every day." 

Sometimes a buyer client will want to see a house on short notice and I will make the appointment and show up in jeans and a concert t-shirt. That's not my norm, but it's part of the 'flexible' part I was talking about earlier.  I can and do present myself in professional attire, but not every single day.  

You've all seen the headshots we agents put on our websites and cards. Some appear to be  1990 Glamour Shots.  Some are recent with a generous amount of photo editing. I will just tell you that when you speak to me on the phone, I am not standing in from of a for sale sign with my arms crossed. I probably don't have on a belted business suit or one button blazer. I am most likely in my car, walking into an appointment, or preparing a CMA in my home office  while stuffing a Cliff Bar in my face and asking Alexa how much time it's going to take to get to my next appointment. I have negotiated a purchase price from a highropes course.  I've resolvled inspection issues from the  mountains of Japan. I have set up showing appointments from a hospital bed, and talked to clients from every room in my house to include the bathroom. (sorry for the visual.)   

It's nice to dress well and present yourself in a professional way and I need to relay this to my son. But... he has seen me on many days where I'm so busy that I'm lucky if I have on matching shoes.  He will develop his own style to go along with a strong work ethic, a genuine desire to help people, and a gift for problem solving.  I can't wait to see what else I learn about myself during his journey. 

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Who you think you are talking to..

Who you may actually be talking to...

If you ever need help with  real estate needs or just have a general question, and you are ok working with all I mentioned above, don't heistate to call or message me!  

843-450-6390


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