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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.

COVID-19’s Impact on Central PA Real Estate

Keeping It Real About Coronavirus and Its Impact on Central PA’s Real Estate Market

On our latest Keeping it Real With Erica Rawls Team Facebook Live episode, the Erica Rawls Team discussed how we’re practicing social distancing while sharing our predictions about how we think the Coronavirus will impact the Central PA real estate market over the next few months.

We don’t know what the future holds, but at some point we’re going to get back to business, so we want to ensure you’re aware of the changing dynamics of the real estate market at this time.

Micheal Pion, owner of Next Home Capital Realty, joined myself and Sheena Lansannah, to explain what we have been doing to make this new reality a smooth transition for our company, clients and overall Central PA community.

How is the Erica Rawls Team Dealing With Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 reached Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has implemented a “Stay at Home” mandate and ordered all non-life sustaining businesses to close, which includes real estate companies and services.

We have been following Gov. Wolf’s mandate to practice social distancing and maintain at least six (6) feet away from others, but this, of course, has directly impacted our business operations and ability to interact with clients.

Under Gov. Wolf’s mandate, anyone with a real estate license is not allowed to meet face-to-face with any person. We are unable to meet one-on-one with clients, show houses, attend settlements, or have our physical office open for business.

“We are shut down. We cannot do anything with regards to showing housing — anything real estate services. We’re following those rules, we’re doing what the governor has asked us to do because the health of our community is more important than selling a house. That comes first in anything,” Michael said — and Sheena and I agree.

Our team, which operates independently under our parent company Next Home Capital Realty, follows guidelines set by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors (PAR) — and the latter is following Gov. Wolf’s mandate.

An Unconventional Way of Doing Business—Virtual Consultations

“One of the things I love about the company [Next Home] is when you walk through the doors in Camp Hill everything is open, everybody’s talking and everybody’s saying, you know, ‘Hey what’s going on there?’ and ‘How can I help?’ At the end of the day, I miss that,” Michael said.

As realtors, we respect the safety and concerns of the people we work with and our families.

We are currently servicing our clients in unconventional ways by holding meetings via Zoom, an online video conferencing software, and coordinating virtual home tours with potential buyers and sellers.

We are also speaking with individuals virtually to answer any questions or concerns they have — whether or not they’re currently in the process of buying or selling a home.

This, unfortunately, is our new normal as federal social distancing guidelines have been extended until April 30, and we don’t truly know how long those guidelines will be in place.

We know you have questions and we understand how important it is to connect with our clients and share what we have going on in our lives.

Right now, all of our experiences are a little different, but we’re all going through this together.

Because of this, we believe it’s important to provide guidance on the information we’re seeing about the real estate market to best help our clients who may be feeling unsure in these unprecedented times.

How Will Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact Buying or Selling a Home in Central PA?

As the day-to-day situation around the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, one thing we noticed is an increasing number of concerns from clients who are selling a home or who have a home that is under contract to close within the next 30 days.

We’re not economic experts, and while we believe we are going to feel an impact, we don’t expect it to be as bad as the 2007-08 housing crisis given the differences in circumstances.

The housing market supply in Central PA won’t change dramatically while we’re taking this pause and staying quarantined at home because we’re all in the same boat operating under the same conditions.

When our day-to-day lives return to normal, the housing market will need to give it a few months until it falls back into a sense of normalcy. However, if we had to take an educated guess, we believe, and hope, the market is going to remain solid once this is over.

Unlike the recession of 2007-08 where the real estate market was a cause of what was happening, the real estate market is currently caught in the crossfire of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We’re only on hold because we are unable to practice not due to an issue within the industry.

“It kinda just came in like a tsunami and hit us and no one was prepared for what it was going to be like,” Sheena said describing our current reality.

What Should Potential Buyers and Sellers Do Right Now Amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic?

We’ve spoken to a few clients and heard their concerns about the ongoing pandemic. Some questions we’ve received are:

  • “Should I pull out of my contract?”
  • “Is the value of the house I’m purchasing going to change?”
  • “Will it become a buyer’s market again?”
  • “Will I be able to close on time?”
  • “What happens if the seller doesn’t find suitable housing?”
  • “I have to move to start my new job; can I buy a house sight unseen?”

We don’t have a crystal ball, but if we could tell the future we expect we’re going to have some growing pains.

If you have a job that’s not going to be affected by this, such as a government, teacher, or medical position or one that is deemed an “essential service,” you will most likely be fine.

We’ll have to bridge the gap for the economy and all the people that are out of work and small businesses, who will be affected the most — and that includes small real estate companies like ours.

If and when things get back to normal, the housing market will too. Right now, we don’t see a lot of people rushing to sell their homes amidst the outbreak. We may see demand go down some given the sudden changes in finances for some families due to COVID-19 related layoffs.

If demand goes down, it will benefit those looking to buy a home because they will have less competition for offers.

Are There Any Potential Benefits to the Housing Market?

With essential workers such as government and healthcare/medical employees, we may find that people might need to relocate for a new job.

This can be tricky if someone needs to move to Pennsylvania, or to another state, depending on the restrictions in place to slow the spread of the outbreak.

Another potential benefit is the sheer time spent indoors because of the social distancing guidelines.

People who live near a city like New York, which has been heavily impacted, may consider relocating after the outbreak subdues to get away in case a similar event should occur again.

For those who are quarantined in a house – with or without children or other housemates – they may find their space is too small after spending three to four weeks, or more, in their home.

Some people may even desire to search for a house with more rooms or a backyard so they have more freedom if they’re stuck in this situation again.

If you’re going to be quarantined or stuck somewhere, you want it to be a place that’s comfortable and you enjoy.

What Should I Do If I Rent, Own a Home or Am Selling My Home?

If you can afford to pay your mortgage, we recommend paying it or putting down whatever you can.

We don’t want to lead people by fear because we know each person’s circumstances are different. We all face different factors, and have varying employment statuses.

If you’re unsure based on the information you see going around in new headlines and social media, we recommend going to reliable sources like the CDC and

The federal government has announced a mortgage relief program for anyone that is having financial difficulties with their mortgage within their stimulus package.

For FHA, HUD or any other government related properties , we strongly recommend calling your lender or customer service representative to see which programs they have that can help you.

If you have a conventional loan, you should go to your lender, regardless whether or not you lost your job. You don’t know what is going to happen, and you may be able to pause for 60-90 days, or make interest-only payments on your mortgage.

Before you can’t pay your rent or mortgage, call somebody. Don’t feel bad because we’re all being affected.

For instance, if you just signed on a 30-year loan on a new home last month, some lenders may approve of putting the amount you owe/can’t afford to pay right now on the backend of the loan.

If you’re renting, you also should speak up if you can’t afford to pay your rent.

Landlords cannot evict you during a pandemic.

On the other side of the equation, a landlord’s property may be his or her only source of income, and there is also rent due for that property.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say there’s a landlord who owns four (4) units and three (3) of his tenants tell him they can’t afford their rent payment.

If we were the landlord, we would call our bank to explain that our tenants can’t pay us, so we can’t pay them.

“Banks aren’t in the business to own properties,” Michael said, which means they may be more willing to work with you toward a solution. We have seen some emails from banks that have said they want to work with people, he explained.

Erica Rawls Team image

What Should I Do If I Have Questions? Contact the Erica Rawls Team!

Here at the Erica Rawls Team, we want you to contact us with your questions. Our number one goal is to provide you guidance during this time – regardless if your currently looking to buy or sell your home.

If you need help in any way, we are here. We’re all in this together.

We’re all feeling the effects of it — whether you’re employed or unemployed. We’re all feeling the effects of it. We’re really sensitive to that.

  • You can email us at hello@ericarawls.com
  • Send us a direct message on Facebook or Instagram
  • Give us a call at (717) 500-2116

If we don’t have the answers for you directly, we have enough resources and people who can get you the right information.

Contact us today so we can help or to schedule your virtual consultation!

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 Ways to Make Your House Sellable for Potential Buyers

3 Ways to Make Your House Sellable for Potential Buyers

We meet with a number of sellers on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and one common feeling we’ve gathered from partnering with homeowners is selling a home can be a stressful process.

If you’re a homeowner who is looking to move and you ever thought “I don’t know how I’m going to sell my house.”

Trust us. You’re not alone.

We understand the thought of packing up your entire life and moving it somewhere else can feel overwhelming — especially when you never sold a home before and don’t know where to begin.

The Erica Rawls Team is here to help!

We sat down with our project manager Robbi Guthrie, who is also an interior designer and owner of Mika Interior Designs, to learn the three things homeowners must do before placing their house on the market.

If you have ever worked with us before, you may have seen Robbi collaborating with us in one of our seller’s consultations.

Robbi understands what makes a house harder to sell and the things homeowners can do to make their house appealing to potential buyers. She spoke with us to share tips for sellers to help get their houses off the market.

In our post, we’ll share Robbi’s advice and explain the following three things you must do before selling a home and why they’re important:

  1. Get a Pre-Listing Home Inspection Before Listing Your Property
  2. Make Repairs and/ or Upgrades (That You Can Afford!)
  3. Declutter/Depersonalize Your Home For Showings

Before we get into the tips, we first want to help our sellers to understand…

The Most Important Thing to Consider When Selling Your House Is … Your Potential Buyers

It’s important to make buying a home a seamless process for potential buyers, according to Robbi.

“You want them to come into the space and feel comfortable and confident, and you want them to feel like, you know, this could be home,” Robbi said.

Aside from aesthetics, your potential buyers will consider the price and convenience of owning your home, so as a seller you want to make sure buyers are confident in your property.

This leads us to the first thing we advise you to do before selling your home…

1. Get A Pre-Listing Home Inspection Before Listing Your Property

Getting a pre-listing home inspection can give your home a clean bill of health when you put it up for sale — and a clean bill of health will give you leverage, even in a competing market.

You want to confidently say to your buyer: “I’m giving you a certified home that’s inspected so we know there are no issues with the HVAC system or roof.”

As realtors, we often recommend buyers get an inspection on a new home they’re interested in so they have an understanding of it structurally and mechanically as well.

If you know your buyer is going to get their own inspection, wouldn’t you want to be sure your home will pass?

As Robbi explained, if there’s a leaking faucet, your potential buyer may take a closer look at other things and scrutinize the entire property.

“And you know, that could make a buyer go and look at other properties, where otherwise, they would have stayed and made an offer,” she said.

For example, Jameel Poteat, a realtor and buyer specialist on our team, saw first-hand what can happen when we take clients to view a home and the sellers did not get a pre-listing inspection.

Jameel’s clients were the first to tour a new home on the market, and they loved it!

However, the clients noticed one thing wrong with the home and it happened to be a deal-breaker for them — they no longer were interested.

If the sellers would have obtained a pre-listing home inspection, they could have fixed the issue before the buyers even knew it existed and sold their home.

The benefits of getting a pre-listing home inspection will easily outweigh the costs.

Once you have the inspection completed, you can move to the next step. Which is…

2. Make Repairs And/Or Upgrades to Your Kitchen, Bathroom, or Roof (That You Can Afford!)

One of the benefits of a pre-listing home inspection is learning what repairs are needed, and determining if there are any upgrades you can do to make the house more attractive to buyers.

We highly recommend making any repairs you can, especially things like the roof – no matter the cost – because you’ll get it back in return.

If you know you need to replace your roof, it’s better to do it before the buyer learns about it from their home inspection report.

If you don’t make repairs you should be prepared for a buyer to ask for a deduction on the home. For example, if it would cost you $50 to fix a leaking faucet and you don’t, a buyer may ask for $1,000 off the home’s listing price.

Is There Anything In The Home Not Worth Fixing Before Selling Your House?

It depends.

We know everyone can’t afford to make all the major repairs their home may need before selling it, so we suggest putting a small fund together and asking your realtor what is the most important thing or things to focus on.

Is It Worth Making Upgrades to Your Home?

Yes, if you can do it!

When it comes to determining what price to sell your home, upgrades can make a significant impact.

According to Robbi, if you want to get a little more for your home than where it’s sitting now, you should invest in the following high-value upgrades that buyer’s love, which include:

  • The kitchen
  • The bathroom
  • The roof

If the spaces have been recently upgraded or you can’t afford to repair anything that’s not required, there are other things you can tweak that will make a difference to potential buyers.

Think about the last time your carpet was replaced. Was it over five years ago? Consider replacing it.

Have pets? You never know what unpleasant smell could linger in the house, and because you’ve lived in your home for so long, you could be immune to it. Ask a friend what they smell when they first walk into your house.

After your home is inspected and you’ve made your necessary repairs and desired upgrades, you’re ready to begin showing your home to potential buyers. Before you do, Robbi highly recommends you…

3. Declutter / Depersonalize Your Home Before Showings

Once you know for sure you want to put your home on the market, you must begin to look at it from the eyes of the buyer, Robbi explained.

In today’s society, the first time your potential buyer may see your home is via pictures from an online listing. You want to allow the person to see themselves in the space, which means you need to have less of YOU in the space, Robbi said.

This means removing family photos and other personal items or painting bright or bold colored rooms and accent walls to neutral tones. Just because you love your red accent all doesn’t mean your potential buyer will.

This can be hard because your home can have sentimental value for several reasons:

  • You lived there for 10-15+years
  • You raised children or grandchildren there
  • You purchased the home single and now you’re selling it to get married
  • You love your first family home but you’ve outgrown it and need a bigger one

Despite all of the reasons you may be attached to your time, it’s time to depersonalize it for potential buyers, especially when it’s time to stage your house for showings.

Do Homes Sell Better Furnished or Unfurnished?

Furnished — every time.

As realtors who also work with buyers, we know they want to be emotionally tied to the house they’re looking to make their new home. Furniture plays a huge role in that.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR)’s 2019 Profile on Home Staging, when staging a home:

  • 83% of buyers’ agents said it made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.
  • 28% of sellers’ agents stated saw staged home on the market for slightly shorter times
  • 22 % of sellers’ agents reported an increase of 1% – 5% of the dollar value offered by buyers, in comparison to similar homes.
  • 17% of respondents stated that staging a home increased the dollar value of the home between 6% and 10%.

Bottom line – furnished homes sell faster and for slightly higher prices than unfurnished homes.

However, there’s a difference between staging a furnished home and keeping everything in your house as-is for showings.

And that’s where Robbi’s role as an interior designer/project manager comes in.

“My job is to quietly and strategically tug at the heartstrings of the potential buyer,” Robbi said.

When staging is well done, you can walk into a room and it has an essence to it. A furnished home goes a long way to making a space feel comfortable.

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Contact The Erica Rawls Team – Let Us Help You Sell Your Home Today!

Doing the right things in the right order when you place your house on the market will help you sell your house in the timeframe you need.

Are you preparing to sell your home and need some assistance learning what you should be doing in the process?

Let us help you!

If you’re not sure what things need to be improved in your home, contact The Erica Rawls Team!

Complete our online form or call us at 717.500.2116 today!

To learn more about Robbi’s interior design services visit www.mikainteriordesign.com.

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.

Why You Should Get Pre-Approved Before Looking for a Home

Why You Should Get Pre-Approved Before Looking for a Home

& How to Get Comfortable Talking to Mortgage Lenders

If you’re considering buying a home, you may wonder whether you should get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start looking for one.

While it’s common to look at homes before securing financing, you receive several benefits when you get pre-approved for a mortgage prior to shopping for your new home.

Finances are often one of the biggest hurdles for first-time homebuyers, and the thought of disclosing bank statements, credit scores, tax records and other financial information with mortgage lenders can be intimidating.

The Erica Rawls Team believes our home buyers are placed in the strongest position when they get pre-approved for a mortgage prior to shopping, especially when they know they may expect some issues to arise during the process.

So, to help potential homeowners become more comfortable talking with mortgage lenders about their finances, the Erica Rawls Team sat down with Angie Shaw, branch manager and loan originator at Fidelis Mortgage, to learn:

  • Why first-time homebuyers are hesitant to talk to lenders about their finances
  • Why so much paperwork is needed when getting a mortgage
  • Why mortgage lenders request bank statements & what they look for in them
  • Who underwriters are and what happens during the underwriting process
  • & much more!

So, Let’s Get Comfortable Getting Uncomfortable With Mortgage Lenders About Finances

As a first-time homebuyer, you may be nervous at the thought of sitting in front of a lender and having your credit score pulled, especially when it can determine your eligibility for something you really want — like a house.

Your credit score is one of the most important factors that will come into play when buying a home.

According to Angie, first-time homebuyers are hesitant to reveal their credit score to mortgage lenders for several reasons, such as:

  • They are nervous or insecure about what their credit score looks like
  • They are not monitoring their credit score
  • They have never pulled their credit score and they have no idea what it is

“Pulling your credit score is the first step to determining what we can do for you, and what kind of programs you qualify for,” Angie said.

There may be programs you qualify for and lenders can find that out upfront. You could think you owe a certain amount for your closing costs, but because a lender has collected your documentation, they might uncover that you qualify for some grant money, she explained.

Even if you attempt to obtain pre-approval for a mortgage and you are denied because of your score, or other factors, you can still obtain a house with a plan in place, our Realtor/Buyer Specialist, Sheena Lansanah, explained.

As real estate advisors, we want future home buyers to know you can talk to a lender without making a commitment on a home. You may know you want to buy a home, but you don’t have a plan for getting it, so it’s perfectly fine to talk to a lender before contacting a realtor. When you meet with the lender, you can simply have a conversation to learn what you can get pre-approved for.

If you don’t receive pre-approval at that time, it doesn’t mean it’s a “no” forever. Lenders can put you on a program to help you get to the point where your score is in a good place, Angie explained.

Why Is So Much Paperwork Required to Buy a House?

The amount of paperwork needed to purchase a home may seem daunting to you, but it’s necessary because of fraud.

People across the country — even if it’s only a small minority — try to create fake documents for others or themselves, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and conventional underwriters are all under pressure to prove the information home buyers provide in their application is accurate, Angie said.

To cut down on paperwork, some lenders have docless options where you allow them to verify your information electronically by signing into your bank account.

For many, this method may feel like an invasion of privacy, but it’s not. You’re only signing in to authorize the bank to provide the lender with the information they need. You’re not giving out your username or password.

To get pre-approved for a mortgage, if you receive a regular W-2, you can expect to submit the following documents

  • W-2’s for the last few years
  • 1-2 months of recent pay stubs
  • Bank statements for the last 2 months
  • Tax returns for the last 1-2 years

If you pay or receive child support, have a divorce decree, or already own a home, additional documentation will be required.

“The reason why we want that information upfront is so that we can give you the most accurate pre-approval and put you in a program that best suits your lifestyle and your family’s needs,” Angie said.

Consider this analogy.

When you go to your doctor to receive a medical diagnosis, you have to provide your complete medical history, get exams — some that may be uncomfortable, even awkward — and fill out several pages of paperwork. You do all of this so your doctor can provide you with a complete and accurate diagnosis.

As our realtor Sheena put it, “When we know every piece of the puzzle we can definitely advise you in the best way possible. Once you know where you are, you know where you are going —”

“ — and that empowers you,” Angie added.

If you want to go house shopping with the Erica Rawls Team we believe in talking with a lender first because we truly believe in being properly prepared when purchasing a home.

Could you imagine going house shopping and falling in love with a home only to find out you can’t make an offer on it ? — for whatever reason.

That’s more disappointing than giving up all of your tax and financial information.

One of our responsibilities as realtors is to guide you properly to ensure you have all the tools necessary to make the best investments and decisions — whether it’s the money or the pre-approval you have — so you know everything before making that huge decision.

“Giving that paperwork and documentation upfront can really avoid heartbreak and at pain at the end,” Angie said. “The reason why we ask for a comprehensive list is so that we prepare your life, uncover anything we may not have talked about initially so that you’re not two weeks before settlement and we find out there’s an old tax lien somewhere in another county or state, and it never came up in our search.”

“We’re not judging how much you spend a month, if you go to Starbucks every day, or if you go out to eat every night. We don’t care about that,” she said.

What’s Involved in the Home Mortgage Underwriting Process?

When going into the home mortgage pre-approval process as a first-time homebuyer, you may experience fear of the unknown, particularly when it comes to not understanding what happens in the underwriting process.

You also want to know the personal and financial information you provided ends up in the right hands and remains secure.

We can tell you, as a loan originator, Angie is required to be licensed to take all of your personal information, pull your credit, and determine what program you qualify for in order to structure the mortgage from there. Then, your information is sent to a processor who examines the supporting documents, that were previously reviewed, before submitting them to an underwriter.

The underwriter has designations through HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, USDA, or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that allows them to underwrite a certain type of loan, like an FHA mortgage loan.

In the home buying process, an underwriter’s role is to audit your documents to determine you have the ability to pay back the mortgage

Underwriters follow processes to make sure the mortgage meets their underwriting guidelines for their designation, whether it’s for HUD, FHA or conventional. They run programs behind the scenes to check if there’s anything odd out there that wasn’t disclosed — not purposely, but we are going over a lot of information upfront and there are times clients forget about past obligations thinking they have been resolved, Angie explained.

The underwriter is the final decision maker, and signs your loan documents — and they are also the ones on the hook if your loan goes bad, too!

So, What Do Underwriters Look for In Your Bank Statements?

According to Angie, when reviewing your bank statements, underwriter’s look for the following potential red flags:

  • Large Deposits: If you have a side business and often make large cash deposits, underwriters will ask where the money came from. They want to be sure all funds must be sourced and accounted for when using the money to get a mortgage.
  • Changing Jobs More Than 3 Times in One Year: If you start a new job every three months that’s considered a red flag because it can make you look inconsistent. This, however, does not apply to freelancers or individuals who are self-employed. If you fall into one of those categories, your income is calculated differently. It’s important for freelancers and entrepreneurs to show they are making money along with two years of their tax returns.
  • Inaccurate or Inconsistent Information: Because they are auditing your financings and ability to pay back the mortgage, they need to verify the information submitted in your application is accurate and aligns with your bank statements.

Should You Get Pre-Approval For a Mortgage Before Looking For a House? Yes, It Benefits You!

When you get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start looking for a home, you can look securely knowing that if you write an offer you will go to the closing table.

And, if you’re not approved right away that’s okay! We will work with you to get you there.

“What’s great about Erica’s team is that I’ve been with them where we worked [with clients] for a year. We do not mind putting in the time. If we give you a plan and you’re sticking to it, they will stick with you and they will be there at the end when you finish the plan,” Angie said.

Are You Looking for A House Nearby? Contact The Erica Rawls Team Today!

If you’re ready to take the next steps to purchase your new home, complete our online form or give us a call at 717.409.6500 to contact the Erica Rawls Team online today!

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

In a recent article, First American shared how millennials are not really any different from previous generations when it comes to the goal of homeownership; it is still a huge part of their American Dream. The piece, however, also reveals,

 “Saving for a down payment is one of the biggest obstacles faced by first-time home buyers. Dispelling the 20 percent down payment myth could open the path to homeownership for many more.”

 Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

Buyers often overestimate how much they need to qualify for a home loan. According to the same article:

“Americans still overestimate the qualifications needed to get a mortgage, resulting in qualified potential buyers not even considering homeownership. Indeed, the Urban Institute report revealed that 16 percent of consumers believed that the minimum down payment required by lenders is 20 percent or more, and another 40 percent didn’t know at all.”

While many potential buyers still think they need to put at least 20% down for the home of their dreams, they often don’t realize how many assistance programs are available with as little as 3% down. With a little research, many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined.

Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher”

In addition to down payments, buyers are also often confused about the FICO® score it takes to qualify for a mortgage, believing a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.

To debunk this myth, let’s take a look at Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans.2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers | Simplifying The MarketAs indicated in the chart above, 50.23% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 500-749.

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will make the mortgage process easier. Believe it or not – your dream home may already be within your reach.

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.

4 Keys to Buying a Home in Today’s Market

4 Keys to Buying a Home in Today’s Market

After a few months of thinking it over, you’ve finally made the decision to purchase your first home.

You picture the process to be fairly simple: find a realtor, tour a few homes until you find your dream home, obtain a mortgage, and then you have your new home,right?

Not exactly.

You meet with your realtor and view a few homes, but the houses you see don’t match up to what you imagined your forever home for your family would be. 

Because you’re ready to buy your first home, you feel annoyed and frustrated at the process. Then, it happens. Your realtor shows you a house for sale that meets all your requirements, but it has several competing offers. 

Your realtor says you need to be ready to make an offer to the seller soon so you don’t lose the property, and to have the best chance you should not ask for a seller assist.

Reality sets in, and you quickly realize you are nowhere near as ready to purchase a home as you initially thought, especially from a financial standpoint. 

It’s not uncommon for first-time home buyers to reconsider once they realize they may have to compete for a home and don’t fully understand what financial considerations are taken into account at that point in the home buying process. 

Fortunately for you, Erica Rawls Real Estate Advisors know buying a home can be complicated, and our job is to make it as simple as possible for you. 

To help first-time home buyers and others who are looking for a new home, we’ve shared four key things you need to know before buying a new home in today’s market. 

1. Save As Much Money As You Can Toward The Total Purchase Price

That’s right. The most important thing to do you can do when buying a home is saving money.

You may be afraid of not knowing exactly how much money it will cost to buy your new home, but if you have enough saved toward it, when the time comes, you will have a better chance at getting your home.

Here’s Our Tip: Have at least 7 % of the total purchase price saved. This amount includes the down payment, closing costs, and may not may not include money for future repairs and furniture.

Now, you may be thinking how much money is that? Let’s break it down with this example.

Let’s say the home you want costs $100,000, and you have to put a 5% down payment toward the cost, which would be $5,000.

You also need to plan for closing fees, which you can expect to pay, on average, 3% of your home’s purchase price, so that would be $3,000. Then, you know you want to have $3,500 saved for future repairs and furniture.

In this case, you’d ideally want to have $11,500 saved at a minimum ($5,000 + $3,000 + $3,500) to include the down payment, closing costs and repairs/furniture. 

You would only need about $7,000-$8,000 if you want to save 7% without factoring in future repairs or furniture.

If you’re in a competing offer for a home you don’t want to be in a position to ask for seller assistance, which can risk your chance of getting the house. 

Here’s a real-life scenario where having enough money saved benefited the potential buyer in a competing offer.

Our team worked with a millennial who saved $20,000 toward their dream home,which was between $130,000 – $150,000. When the millennial found out there was a competing offer, they told the seller they could make a $10,000 earnest money non-refundable deposit with no seller assistance — the millennial won the offer!

The amount of money you save is going to make or break you in today’s market, so save as much as you possibly can.

You may be thinking, I already have so many other bills and obligations, how can I begin to save for a home?

Don’t get discouraged.  Here are a few tips to help you with saving for your dream home 

  • Tip 1: Don’t make any large purchases, including furniture, until AFTER closing! Keep your focus on the down payment and closing costs.
  • Tip 2: Save a portion of money from your tax return! The beginning of the year is a great time to start a new savings plan. Jump-start your savings using your refund.
  • Tip 3: Find a program that will help you pay for your closing costs. There are even some programs will pay up to 100% of the costs!

2 . Understand Your Credit Score And/Or Work Toward Improving It

Aside from saving money toward the down payment and closing costs, your credit score is another important factor that you need to consider when purchasing a home in today’s market. 

If you know the importance of having a good credit score to buy a car, then you understand how imperative a good credit score will be for buying a new home. 

The higher your credit score is, the less risky you will appear to the lender. You will also have a lower interest rate on your mortgage over the life of the loan, which saves you money long-term. 

You may be wondering, “What credit score do I need to buy a home?”

Here’s Our Tip: Reach for a minimum of a 740 middle credit score across all three credit bureaus so you will have the most favorable terms available to you.

It’s possible to purchase a home with a credit score lower than 740, such as a 640 or 680, but you will pay at least one percentage point higher in interest, which is a significant amount of money over the life of a loan. 

There are some programs that may allow you to purchase a home with a score of 580 — we do not recommend going this route!

We want you to be financially successful when it comes to purchasing a home so you become a successful homeowner. 

If you’re credit score is not where you’d like it to be, work on ways to improve your score before you enter the home buying process. 

“What if I can make a big down payment? Does my credit score matter then?”

Your credit score doesn’t matter if you pay in cash. Otherwise, yes, it’s still a factor, even with a large down payment. 

If you make a larger down payment it will not fix a poor credit score. The down payment will only reduce the amount of the loan you will need. 

For example, the house you want is $250,000 and you qualify for a $150,000 mortgage. You can still get the home if you have $100,000 in cash to pay it off. 

3. Have and Maintain a Steady Job For At Least 2 Years

One thing lenders review when considering whether to grant you a mortgage is whether or not you have a steady income. 

Lenders like to see at least two years of employment when they’re considering you for a mortgage. They will review at least two years of your tax returns — whether you receive a W-2 from an employer or work as an independent contractor. 

Here’s Our Tip: If you’re considering leaving a job, wait until AFTER closing.

Lenders understand if you’re working in a position where you’re going from one job to another in the same field that would be considered a promotion, but it still makes the closing process more difficult with additional paperwork to file. 

4. Assess Your Finances – Can You Really Afford the Monthly Mortgage Payment?

The last thing to consider when buying a home in today’s market is how much you can actually afford to pay for your mortgage each month. 

Once you’ve saved the money for your closing costs, boosted your credit score to the ideal range and established you have a steady income, you need to determine how much you can afford for your monthly mortgage payment.

Just because you qualify for a certain mortage doesn’t mean you have to take it. If you qualify for a $250,000 mortgage but know you can’t afford more than $1200/month for a mortgage payment, you may consider taking a $150,000 mortgage instead.

Here’s our tip: Create a list to determine all of your monthly bills and expenses. This can give you an idea for how much you can afford each month for your mortgage.

You know your monthly financial obligations and personal desires better than anyone else. In your list factor things such as how much you shop, spend on bills, potential vacations, children’s expenses (if applicable), etc. 

Contact Erica Rawls Real Estate Advisors Team Today!

If you’re ready to take the next steps to purchase your new home, complete our online form or give us a call at 717.409.6500 to contact the team at Erica Rawls Real Estate Advisors today!