Blog : Market Updates

4 Strategies to Get Help Advance Your Career In Corporate America as a Black Woman

The Erica Rawls Team is “Keeping it Real” with Kristin Harper, Founder & CEO of Driven to Success LLC

On our Facebook Live show, Keeping It Real: Real Estate and Real Issues, we cover a variety of topics desired by our social media audience.

Since our Facebook audience is largely composed of Black women, for our latest live video, we felt we should provide an in depth conversation to discuss what it’s like working as an Black woman in corporate America.

We sat down, virtually of course, with Kristin Harper, entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of Driven to Succeed LLC to learn valuable strategies that all women, but black women in particular, can apply to help them as they navigate their future corporate or entrepreneurial business careers.

Kristin previously held positions as Marketing Director for the Hershey Company on the Hershey’s KISSES Brand, and as a global vice president of marketing for Cardinal Health.

Black Women in the Workplace – Do the Same Rules Apply?

As a black woman are we held to the same standards as our counterparts in the workplace?”

“No, not as much grace is extended toward us,” according to Kristin.

Some people may say it’s personal or there’s a vendetta/conspiracy to keep black women down. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily done on purpose or due to negativity, Kristin explained.

Part of it is human nature: when people are similar to you, you gravitate toward them, extend more grace, and think more positively and optimistic about them, she said.

As such, over the years of working in three different Fortune 500 companies and working her way up and through various departments, Kristin has learned several lessons along the way about how to make the most of your work experience to help you move up and achieve your goals.

Read below for Kristin’s top tips for how to advance your career in corporate America, or watch our show.

1. Build Relationships Based on Who You Are as a Person and Not Your Identity

“You are more human than you are anything else,” Kristin said.

We asked Kristin if she could teach a younger version of herself how to prepare for the challenges she had to overcome along the way in her career journey, what would she change.

Kristin shared a story with us instead.

Kristin worked for a company for nearly eight years and was preparing to leave for another position. Before she left, she had a going away party where she received a card from her peers. Instead of reading comments about the contributions she’s made in her position over the years, the majority of the comments she received focused on her changing hair styles.

As black women, we change our hair often as it can be seen as an artistic expression to us; we cut it, wear it curly or straight, short or long, and even bald.

I know I change my hair every season, and I appreciate when others notice as it’s a way to start a conversation.

However, as Kristin shared with us, the comments she received didn’t sit well with her. After eight years, her peers recalled her different hairstyles instead of her contributions, achievements, or anything related to her job performance over the years, she said.

After leaving that position and moving to a new city, Kristin told us she started wearing more conservative hairstyles because she didn’t want the subject of the conversation to be about her hair.

“It was a personal choice. I didn’t want to spend energy talking about [my] hair,” Kristin said.

She didn’t switch up her hairstyles because she was ashamed to be black or talk about her hair. Kristin explained she simply didn’t want it to be the subject of the hallway conversation.

After attending a life-changing self development workshop, she realized, “I am more human than I am Black, woman, or any label or identity you can attach to me.”

We’ve learned from Kristin’s example that it’s okay to make choices about your physical appearance or how you carry yourself so you put the emphasis on who you are and not on solely how you identify yourself when it comes to a professional working environment.

2. Expand Your Network Beyond African Americans

Diversity is key, even within the black community there is a lot of diversity, we are not a monolithic people, Kristin explained.

When you’re involved with black-based organizations, you are in a safe zone, like family, but they can’t be the only people you associate with, especially if your gal is to advance your career.

The world is more than the 15% black population in the United States — and the world is bigger than the United States.

3. At Every Level You Have To Learn Something New

Over the years as Kristin moved up across various marketing departments at the companies she worked with, she discovered that to move up she had to continue to do and learn more.

When you’re an individual contributor, it’s all about being responsible, but as you climb that corporate ladder it’s all about what leadership role you’re in and the broader organization, Kristin explained.

“When you become a leader of people — and yes, there’s a difference between leader and manager — it’s less about what you deliver individually and more about whether you have the right talent on the team. If not, are you getting the right people and helping those who need to shift make that move with dignity? Do you have a clear strategy, a compelling vision? Are you delivering results? Do you have methods to show accountability?” she said.

These are all examples of things Kristin learned at each level.

4. Be Clear About What You Want — “You Are the Architect for Your Career”

You can’t expect your manager, or anyone, to advocate for you if you’re not clear about what it is you’re great at, based on feedback and your own personal assessment, and where you want to go.

“Set your vision and make it clear with your manager who has to be your number one advocate,” Kristin said.

Many people often think of their manager as their enemy. If people get stuck on having an adversarial relationship with their managers, they’ll never get the results they desire, Kristin explained.

“How Do You Approach Asking About Wages Without Coming Off Angry or Ungrateful?”

For people who don’t feel like they’re being compensated what they’re worth, or who feel they deserve a raise in compensation based on their contributions, many have difficulty figuring out how to properly ask for a wage increase.

According to Kristin, it’s a balance of expressing gratitude. It’s not going in there and saying, “This is what I deserve and you better increase it or I’m out!”

You have to know how the system is designed. Oftentimes, there are salary ranges for your position based on levels: median (middle), mean (average), and a high and low range. Knowing these ranges can help you better determine where you currently fall and provide comparison ranges.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook provides statistics on job salaries, projections and much more. You can also talk with job recruiters in your field to get a feel of the current landscape and inquire about salaries based on skill set, industry knowledge, etc.

Asking for a wage increase is beneficial for two reasons:

  1. If you want to go to another organization, in order for the organization to attract you they have to come with a better package than what you currently have.
  2. If you stay with your current organization, you’ll maybe earn 2%-3% more each year, which means loyalty doesn’t always pay.

If you find through research that your salary is not at the end of the scale you think you should be, you can bring the data to your manager to help make your case.

If you apply to other places and receive an offer, you can leverage that in your negotiations.

Be cautious when leveraging another offer to try to gain your wage increase as it may not go in your favor — you should be prepared and willing to walk away!

How to Contact Kristin Harper & Find Her New Book on Career Advice

Book C

In July 2020, Kristin Harper will be releasing her new book “The Heart of a Leader: 52 Emotional Intelligence Insights to Advance Your Career.”

The book is 52 short, powerful and easily digestible bites of advice based on Kristin’s over 30 years of leadership experience.

She covers topics including leadership, personal branding, leading and influencing others, organizational politics and insights she learned early that helped her climb the corporate ladder.

To preorder her book visit, www.driventosucceedllc.com/books, or to inquire about keynote speaking or executive coaching, contact her at Kristin@DriventoSucceedLLC.com.

Don’t Let Frightening Headlines Scare You

Don’t Let Frightening Headlines Scare You

There’s a lot of anxiety right now regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The health situation must be addressed quickly, and many are concerned about the impact on the economy as well.

Amidst all this anxiety, anyone with a megaphone – from the mainstream media to a lone blogger – has realized that bad news sells. Unfortunately, we will continue to see a rash of horrifying headlines over the next few months. Let’s make sure we aren’t paralyzed by a headline before we get the full story.

When it comes to the health issue, you should look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) for the most reliable information.

Finding reliable resources with information on the economic impact of the virus is more difficult. For this reason, it’s important to shed some light on the situation. There are already alarmist headlines starting to appear. Here are two such examples surfacing this week.

1. Goldman Sachs Forecasts the Largest Drop in GDP in Almost 100 Years

It sounds like Armageddon. Though the headline is true, it doesn’t reflect the full essence of the Goldman Sachs forecast. The projection is actually that we’ll have a tough first half of the year, but the economy will bounce back nicely in the second half; GDP will be up 12% in the third quarter and up another 10% in the fourth.

This aligns with research from John Burns Consulting involving pandemics, the economy, and home values. They concluded:

“Historical analysis showed us that pandemics are usually V-shaped (sharp recessions that recover quickly enough to provide little damage to home prices), and some very cutting-edge search engine analysis by our Information Management team showed the current slowdown is playing out similarly thus far.”

The economy will suffer for the next few months, but then it will recover. That’s certainly not Armageddon.

2. Fed President Predicts 30% Unemployment!

That statement was made by James Bullard, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. What Bullard actually said was it “could” reach 30%. But let’s look at what else he said in the same Bloomberg News interview:

“This is a planned, organized partial shutdown of the U.S. economy in the second quarter,” Bullard said. “The overall goal is to keep everyone, households and businesses, whole” with government support.

According to Bloomberg, he also went on to say:

“I would see the third quarter as a transitional quarter” with the fourth quarter and first quarter next year as “quite robust” as Americans make up for lost spending. “Those quarters might be boom quarters,” he said.

Again, Bullard agrees we will have a tough first half and rebound quickly.

Bottom Line

There’s a lot of misinformation out there. If you want the best advice on what’s happening in the current housing market, let’s talk today.

Are We About to See a New Wave of Foreclosures?

Are We About to See a New Wave of Foreclosures?

With all of the havoc being caused by COVID-19, many are concerned we may see a new wave of foreclosures. Restaurants, airlines, hotels, and many other industries are furloughing workers or dramatically cutting their hours. Without a job, many homeowners are wondering how they’ll be able to afford their mortgage payments.

In spite of this, there are actually many reasons we won’t see a surge in the number of foreclosures like we did during the housing crash over ten years ago. Here are just a few of those reasons:

The Government Learned its Lesson the Last Time

During the previous housing crash, the government was slow to recognize the challenges homeowners were having and waited too long to grant relief. Today, action is being taken swiftly. Just this week:

  • The Federal Housing Administration indicated it is enacting an “immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages” for the next 60 days.
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced it is directing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for “at least 60 days.”

Homeowners Learned their Lesson the Last Time

When the housing market was going strong in the early 2000s, homeowners gained a tremendous amount of equity in their homes. Many began to tap into that equity. Some started to use their homes as ATM machines to purchase luxury items like cars, jet-skis, and lavish vacations. When prices dipped, many found themselves in a negative equity situation (where the mortgage was greater than the value of their homes). Some just walked away, leaving the banks with no other option but to foreclose on their properties.

Today, the home equity situation in America is vastly different. From 2005-2007, homeowners cashed out $824 billion worth of home equity by refinancing. In the last three years, they cashed out only $232 billion, less than one-third of that amount. That has led to:

  • 37% of homes in America having no mortgage at all
  • Of the remaining 63%, more than 1 in 4 having over 50% equity

Even if prices dip (and most experts are not predicting that they will), most homeowners will still have vast amounts of value in their homes and will not walk away from that money.

There Will Be Help Available to Individuals and Small Businesses

The government is aware of the financial pain this virus has caused and will continue to cause. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported:

“In a memorandum, Treasury proposed two $250 billion cash infusions to individuals: A first set of checks issued starting April 6, with a second wave in mid-May. The amounts would depend on income and family size.”

The plan also recommends $300 billion for small businesses.

Bottom Line

These are not going to be easy times. However, the lessons learned from the last crisis have Americans better prepared to weather the financial storm. For those who can’t, help is on the way.

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling a Home in 2020

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling a Home in 2020

It’s exciting to put a house on the market and to think about making new memories in new spaces, but we can have deep sentimental attachments to the homes we’re leaving behind, too. Growing emotions can help or hinder a sale, depending on how we manage them.

When it comes to the bottom line, homeowners need to know what it takes to avoid costly mistakes. Being mindful of these things and prepared for the process can help you avoid some of the most common mishaps when selling your house.

1. Overpricing Your Home

When inventory is low, like it is in the current market, it’s common to think buyers will pay whatever we ask for when we price our homes. Believe it or not, that’s far from the truth. Don’t forget that the buyer’s bank will send an appraisal to determine the fair value for your home. The bank will not lend more than what the house is worth, so be mindful that you might need to renegotiate the price after the appraisal. A real estate professional will help you to set the true value of your home.

2. Letting Your Emotions Interfere with the Sale

Today, most homeowners have been living in their houses for an average of 10 years (as shown in the graph below):3 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling a Home in 2020 | Simplifying The MarketThis is several years longer than what used to be the norm, since many homeowners have been recouping from negative equity situations over the past 10 years. The side effect, however, is when you live for so long in one place, you may get even more emotionally attached to your space. If it’s the first home you bought after you got married or the house where your children grew up, it very likely means something extra special to you. Every room has memories and it’s hard to detach from the sentimental value.

For some homeowners, that makes it even harder to negotiate, separating the emotional value of the home from the fair market price. That’s why you need a real estate professional to help you with the negotiations in the process.

3. Not Staging Your Home

We’re generally quite proud of our décor and how we’ve customized our houses to make them our own personalized homes, but not all buyers will feel the same way about your design. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you stage your home with the buyer in mind. Buyers want to envision themselves in the space, so it truly feels like their own. They need to see themselves in the space with their furniture and keepsakes – not your pictures and decorations. Stage and declutter your home so they can visualize their own dreams as they walk through your house. A real estate professional can help you with tips to get your home ready to stage and sell.

Bottom Line

Today’s seller’s market might be your best chance to make a move. If you’re considering selling your house, let’s get together to help you navigate through the process while avoiding common seller mistakes.

The #1 Reason to Sell Your House in the Winter

The #1 Reason to Sell Your House in the Winter

Many sellers believe spring is the best time to put their homes on the market because buyer demand traditionally increases at that time of year. What they don’t realize is if every homeowner believes the same thing, then that’s when they’ll have the most competition.

So, what’s the #1 reason to sell your house in the winter? Less competition.

Housing supply traditionally shrinks at this time of year, so the choices buyers have will be limited. The chart below was created using the months supply of listings from the National Association of Realtors.The #1 Reason to List Your House in the Winter | Simplifying The MarketAs you can see, the ‘sweet spot’ to list your house for the most exposure naturally occurs in the late fall and winter months (November – January). 

Temperatures aren’t the only thing that heats up in the spring – so do listings!The #1 Reason to List Your House in the Winter | Simplifying The MarketIn 2018, the number of homes on the market increased from December to May. Don’t wait for these listings and the competition that comes with them to come to the market before you decide to sell your house.

Added Bonus: Serious Buyers Are Out in the Winter

At this time of year, purchasers who are serious about buying a home will be in the marketplace. You and your family will not be bothered and inconvenienced by mere ‘lookers.’ The lookers are at the mall or online doing their holiday shopping.

 Bottom Line

If you’ve been debating whether or not to sell your house and are curious about market conditions in your area, let’s get together to determine the best time to place your house on the market.

5 Reasons to Sell This Fall

5 Reasons to Sell This Fall

Below are 5 compelling reasons listing your home for sale this fall makes sense.

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing, and able to purchase…and are in the market right now. More often than not, in many areas of the country, multiple buyers are competing with each other to buy the same home.

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal market. This means that in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers.

Historically, a homeowner would stay an average of six years in his or her home. Since 2011, that number has hovered between nine and ten years. There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years due to a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

Many homeowners were reluctant to list their homes over the last couple years, for fear that they would not find a home to move to. That is all changing now as more homes come to market at the higher end. The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until additional inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and simpler, as buyers know exactly what they can afford before shopping for a home. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report, the time needed to close a loan is 43 days.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up. There is currently ample inventory for sale at higher price ranges. This means if you’re planning on selling a starter or trade-up home and moving into your dream home, you’ll be able to do that in the luxury or premium market.

According to CoreLogic, prices are projected to appreciate by 5.2% over the next year. If you’re moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage) if you wait.

5. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to these questions. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

Homeownership Will Always Be a Part of the American Dream

Homeownership Will Always Be a Part of the American Dream

On Labor Day we celebrate the hard work that helps us achieve the American Dream.

Growing up, many of us thought about our future lives with great ambition. We drew pictures of what jobs we wanted to have and where we would live as a representation of a secure life for ourselves and our families. Today we celebrate the workers that make this country a place where those dreams can become a reality.

According to Wikipedia,

Labor Day honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the development, growth, endurance, strength, security, prosperity, productivity, laws, sustainability, persistence, structure, and well-being of the country.”

The hard work that happens every day across this country allows so many to achieve the American Dream. The 2019 Aspiring Home Buyers Profile by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says,

“Approximately 75% of non-homeowners believe homeownership is part of their American Dream, while 9 in 10 current homeowners said the same.”

Looking at the number of non-owners, you may wonder, ‘If they believe in homeownership, why haven’t they bought a home yet?’. Well, increasing home prices and low inventory can be part of the reason why some haven’t jumped in, but that does not mean there is a lack of interest. The same report shows the increase in the desire to buy in the last year (as shown in the graph below):Homeownership Will Always Be a Part of the American Dream | Simplifying The MarketAs we can see, there are more and more people each quarter who want to buy a home. The good news is, as more inventory comes to the market, more non-homeowners will be able to fulfill their dreams. Finally, they’ll be able to move into that home they drew when they were little kids!

Bottom Line

If you’re a homeowner considering selling, this fall might be the right time, as there are buyers in the market ready to buy. Let’s get together to determine how you can benefit from the pent-up housing demand.

Should I Refinance My Home?

Should I Refinance My Home?

With the recent lower interest rates, many homeowners are wondering if they should refinance.

To decide if refinancing is the best option for your family, start by asking yourself these questions:

Why do you want to refinance?

There are many reasons to refinance, but here are three of the most common ones:

  1. Lower your interest rate and payment – This is the most popular reason. If you have a 5% interest rate or higher, it might be worth seeing if you can take advantage of the current lower interest rates, hovering below 4%, to reduce your monthly payment and overall cost of the loan.
  2. Shorten the term of your loan – If you have a 30-year loan, it may be advantageous to change it to a 15 or 20-year loan to pay off your mortgage sooner.
  3. Cash-out refinance – With home prices increasing, you might have enough equity to cash out and invest in something else, like your children’s education, a vacation home, or a new business.

Once you know why you might want to refinance, ask yourself the next question:

How much is it going to cost?

There are fees and closing costs involved in refinancing, and Lenders Network explains:

“If you were to refinance that loan into a new loan, total closing costs will run between 2%-4% of the loan amount.”

They also explain that there are options for no-cost refinance loans, but be on the lookout:

“A no-cost refinance loan is when the lender pays the closing costs for the borrower. However, you should be aware that the lender makes up this money from other aspects of the mortgage. Usually pay charging a slightly higher interest rate so they can make the money back.”

If you’re comfortable with the costs of refinancing, then ask yourself one more question:

Is it worth it?

To answer this one, we’ll use an example. Let’s assume you have a $200,000 home loan. A 4% refinance cost will be $10,000. If you want to lower your interest rate from 6% to 4%,  then refinancing is going to save you $244 per month. To break even ($10,000/$244), you need to continue owning your home for over 40 months.

Now that you know how the math shakes out, think about how much longer you’d like to own your current home. If you plan to stay for more than 3 years, then maybe it is advantageous for you to refinance.

If, however, your current home does not fulfill your present needs, you might want to consider using your potential refinance costs for a down payment on a new move-up home. You will still get a lower interest rate than the one you have on your current house, and with the equity you’ve already built, you can finally purchase the home of your dreams.

Bottom Line

There are many opportunities for growth in the current real estate market. To find out what’s right for your family, let’s get together to help you understand your options and guide you toward the best decision.

Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership!

Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership!

According to data released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Americans can expect an estimated average refund of $3,143 this year when filing their taxes. This is down slightly from the average refund of $3,436 last year.

Tax refunds are often thought of as ‘extra money’ that can be used toward larger goals. For anyone looking to buy a home in 2019, this can be a great jump start toward a down payment!

The map below shows the average tax refund Americans received last year by state.Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership! | Simplifying The MarketMany first-time buyers believe that a 20% down payment is required to qualify for a mortgage. Programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae all allow for down payments as low as 3%. Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to purchase a home with 0% down.

If you started your down payment savings with your tax refund check this year, how close would you be to a 3% down payment?

The map below shows what percentage of a 3% down payment is covered by the average tax refund by taking into account the median price of homes sold by state.Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership! | Simplifying The MarketThe darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership! For Pennsylvanians looking to purchase their first home, their tax refund could potentially get them 56% closer to that dream!

Bottom Line

Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task. But the more you know about what’s required, the more prepared you can be to make the best decision for you and your family! This tax season, your refund could be your key to homeownership!