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Real Estate Agents: How the government shut down will affect your business

With: John Meussner, Loan Officer & Mortgage Coach @ Mason-McDuffie Mortgage

So it’s been a day and the government is still shut down.  What exactly does that mean?  I’ll spare the humor and all the things I’d like to say – basically it means that some services are available, and others aren’t.

     While many vital services are still in action and exempt from shutdown, many others have been frozen, and could inadvertently have a pretty poor effect on the housing market, especially if this shutdown lasts for more than a couple days.

Please note: Not all lenders will have the same processes during a shutdown, just like in 2013. Your experience may vary. For example we are good to proceed on USDA Loans as-is during the shutdown.

USDA loans – the USDA loan program is frozen.  Since files are approved by USDA offices directly, there will be no more guarantees or housing loans issued by the USDA offices until the shutdown is over.  This could have a pretty terrible effect for those who live in rural areas or need 100% financing.

VA loans – VA loans should be in full swing, as the program is run based mostly on fees.  Where there might be an issue is when someone needs a VA certificate.  When the government shut down in the 90’s, there was a delay in obtaining certificates, and this will likely be the case again.  New applications will be taken, and files will be underwritten and funded, though.

FHA loans – FHA loans aren’t expected to feel a real impact from the government shutdown so long as the shutdown doesn’t last for a long period of time.  HUD is running at a significantly reduced staff, though, so getting information and paperwork to & from HUD could take a lot longer than usual.  The good news is, loans will still be insured & they will still have staff delegated to underwriting.

Conventional loans – while many are stating the shutdown is ‘no big deal’ for conventional financing, this is simply not the case.  Yes, conventional loans will be applied for, underwritten, approved, and funded.  BUT, over the past few years, as we all know, lenders have taken extra steps to fight fraud, and 2 of these steps are social security verifications and IRS 4506-t transcripts.  These services will be unavailable, and therefore loan files may be put on hold until the shutdown is over.

     Some borrowers will be in more trouble than others – for self-employed borrowers, they may be at the mercy of the shutdown as a work around for 4506 transcripts isn’t currently available.  Also, for any government employees that are in the midst of the loan process it will be extremely difficult to get any verifications of employment done.

   I’d strongly recommend being proactive in making sure none of your clients are surprised by any potential delays – sellers should understand that the shutdown can cause delays at no fault of buyers.  Anyone buying or refinancing should be aware of what type of loan they are getting, and if the potential is there for delays, they should plan accordingly.

     Hopefully in a day or 2 this blog post won’t matter & things will be running smoothly once again between our elected officials, but as a preemptive stragegy, it would be a good idea to know this information.  And for an added benefit you’ll already know what to be ready for if this happens in the future.

–  John Meussner

Phone
(949) 247-7530
Email
jmeussner@masonmac.com

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5 Important Tips for REALTOR Safety

Today’s Guest Blogging topic is: REALTOR Safety
With: Sonia Figueroa, BROKER @ Century 21 Affiliated 

My passion has always been about real estate especially helping those that don’t have a clue about what home buying is all about. I embarked on my real estate journey 13 years and still going strong as if it were just yesterday that I started.

I never thought about safety in my last 12 years but this last year my perspective completely changed. I was in 3 major life threatening incidents that nearly killed me, literally. All three of them happened while on the job and it made me think of how dangerous my job can be.

The first incident was being attacked by a pitbull that nearly chewed my leg off, the second was a drug deal gone wrong in a vacant building while I was showing it. I was heading up to the second floor when I had a gun pointed at me and lastly my real estate office was robbed while I was inside. They three teenagers took my purse and the receptionist belongings as well.

I finally had it and decided to choose my own destiny by getting my conceal and carry license. My story was featured on NBC and the Chicago Tribune.

Now I feel safe at all times, I know this is a big deal for many and some choose not to use a firearm. Just know that when it comes to your safety you should at least use something like pepper spray.

In the 2017 Realtors report, 25 percent of men and 44 percent of women said they had experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or the safety of their personal information. Don’t let fear dictate your life.

 

Here are my 5 quick tips for realtor safety:

1. Be mindful of your environment

Be aware of your surroundings. We get carried away with our daily routines and never even know what’s around at times. Is there someone that looks suspicious in a car? While you are texting in your car who is next to your vehicle? How many people are watching you walk into a house? These are just some questions on why you should be mindful when showing a home especially going into a vacant house. Take a quick pause throughout your day and check out what’s around you. Don’t ever walk with your head down.

2. Comfort Level

As realtors we meet people for the very first time without knowing their background. If the first phone conversation you had with this person makes you uncomfortable do not meet them by yourself at the property. Ask that person to meet up with you a local coffee shop, at your office somewhere in a public place first.

While you are talking to this person take notice of unusual behaviors. Is he or she asking odd questions or lingering a little too long? Don’t be afraid of being impolite. Trust your gut if someone or something is making you uncomfortable.

If you must meet with client for the very first time at a property take another realtor or your broker with you. Let them know that for safety reasons we work in tandem.

If can’t take your broker with you or another teammate then its good practice for any uncomfortable situation, threatening or not, to have friend who knows where you are and knows you would only call if you needed help. Call your friend and say an agreed upon phrase that lets them know you need help before alerting the potential threat. They can then send help without alerting the threat that you are privy to the situation.

 

3. Daylight savings time- Schedule

Keep showings during the daytime when at all possible. As we change our clocks the day turns into night very quickly. Someone is less likely to try something during the day and people are more likely to witness any suspicious behavior. When possible, rearrange your schedule — if you know you are dealing with previous clients, schedule those appointments in the evening. Keep new clients and open houses during the daylight.

4. Safety Apps

If you are not the kind to get a firearm or pepper spray then at least have some safety apps on hand. Here are some that I recommend.

Watch Over Me – Watch Over Me greets you with a screen that presents two statements, ‘Watch Over Me While I…’ and ‘For…’, followed by two buttons. For each statement you fill in an action (‘walk home’, ‘walk to my car’, ‘take a cab’, ‘meet someone’, or add a new event), and a time frame (hours and minutes). Watch Video

bSafe – bSafe has some of the same features as Watch Over Me—for instance, it allows you to add contacts (it calls them Guardians) who can follow you when you’re on your way home. Watch Video

StaySafe – StaySafe is centered on a timer that you set when, for example, you go out for a run. If you don’t check in safely when your timer is up, the app notifies your contacts. StaySafe sends your GPS location via email or SMS, and you can add the details of your trip or event so your contacts know that they’re receiving an alert because, say, you haven’t checked in from your typical 7 p.m. jog. Watch Video

 

5. Methods to Defend Yourself

If you do find yourself in a scary situation, make sure you learn de-escalation techniques and implement them into the situation. These can include simple self-defense techniques to deter the threat and allow you time to get away. It can also mean not showing your anger or fear in a situation until you can alert someone to help.

These steps are so simple, but could be the tools to saving your own life when necessary. I know from experience that these situations are more common than you might think.

Aside from self defense classes, firearms and pepper spray there are other items that are not common to the public.

There are also cute kitty keychains are not toys, but are in fact a very serious defense weapon. The design has been around for years, but the technology has gotten better. They are now made of an ultra-tough plastic material that is very hard to break, which is exactly what you need should you ever have to use this device.

A personal alarm on a keychain can also be used as a panic alarm or medical alarm.

No one has the right to take away your feeling of safety in the workplace. For that matter, no one has the right to take away your desire to go out there and be the boss! By implementing this safety checklist, we can take back our business and our lives.

More about the Author:

Sonia Figueroa is a Broker in Chicago with Century 21 Affiliated. Sonia been in Real Estate for the last 12 years and loves every minute of it.  She loves helping people realize the dream of homeownership and prides her self on creating long lasting relationships with her clients. She was born and raised in Chicago earning a Bachelors Degree in CIS and an Associates Degree in Computer Science. She is the Queen of Facebook Live and uses her vast expertise on Social Media Marketing to grow her business. 

Contact Sonia @  773.308.5505 or you can send email her at Sonia@SeeSonia.com
Website: www.SeeSonia.com

Disclaimer: : The views, data, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Mason-McDuffie Mortgage Corp.
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How to Start A Video Blog (Vlog)

Week 5 of our Onion Juice Podcast partnership with:

Episode 120 – How to Start A Vlog, with Caleb Jahr

 

Caleb Jahr.On this episode, I talk to my friend and coworker Caleb Jahr about vlogging. Yes, I said vlogging. If you are unfamiliar, vlogging is a video blog.

Caleb is one of those real estate agents who understands that being a media company that happens to sell real estate is a great way to build trust, be vulnerable and real, and help people get to know you.

Caleb talks about how he turned a discouraging piece of advice into a successful brand, and how vlogging can add value to your real estate business.

 

The challenging way is probably the right way

Caleb Jahr YouTube.Sometimes the traditional approach is the right approach. In Caleb’s case, that is just the opposite. Soon after starting out as a real estate agent, Caleb approached a mentor to ask about how to sell real estate.

His mentor, while well intended, offered that his vlog seemed scattered and made him vulnerable, and he was not sure how it was helping Caleb. This of course would be discouraging, so Caleb stopped vlogging…and the world waited in anticipation for him to publish more content.

When he finally started publishing again, he got tons of positive feedback. I should know, I’m addicted to watching his stuff.

Caleb’s vlog, which he publishes to a few times a week, documents what he is working on in a day, or life events, such as the birth of his new baby.

 

You are one piece of content away from breakthrough

The Beatles.Caleb’s videos have not gone viral yet, but that does not discourage him. The reality is, if you are publishing content to YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram, you may be one piece of content away from a breakthrough.

You never know what video or picture or caption may speak to someone, who then shares it or likes it and launches your real estate business to new heights.

 

The long game is 18 months

Photographer.If you are thinking about starting a vlog to help you sell real estate, keep in mind the long game. On average, it takes 18 months of consistent content before your brand may gain momentum.

Don’t get discouraged if you publish a video and only a few people like it initially. At some point, people will look back and see that you have a long history of pushing relevant content, and that will help you build even more credibility!

 

So you want to start vlogging?

iPhone Video.So, you want to start a vlog? Caleb Jahr is someone you should pay attention to in this space. He has even published a video that details the process of how to start a vlog!

His advice to agents just starting out is to not overthink it.

Nobody is automatically comfortable on camera, content does not have to be polished and perfect, people (usually) don’t yell at you for having a camera on all the time. He also said that when he first started, he did not publish consistently, and that may have hurt him a little.

He recommends figuring out a schedule, then creating a theme or an overall story that you want to tell.

In the post-editing, add some upbeat music and keep the video short. Check out his “how-to” video below!

 

Caleb Jahr’s How to Vlog (On a Budget)

Here’s the full video! Check it out, it’s only 5 minutes long. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Listen to the episode

 

Episode Outline

  • [1:15] Neil on how vlogging can help real estate agents
  • [10:00] Neil introduces Caleb Jahr live in the studio!
  • [12:00] How Caleb got started Vlogging
  • [13:15] The traditional approach may not always be the right approach
  • [18:00] The Youtube vs. Facebook dynamic
  • [20:30] Caleb shares how to vlog

 

Resources & Links

 

Subscribe to The Onion Juice

Onion Juice Podcast on Apple Podcasts Onion Juice Podcast on Stitcher

Subscribe to The Onion Juice wherever you get your podcasts. And thanks for listening!

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Top 5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Realtor

Today’s Guest Blogging topic is: How to hire the best Realtor for your needs

With: Jessica Wallace, REALTOR @ COLDWELL BANKER

Working with the right Realtor makes a huge difference in your success in home buying or home selling.  The ‘right’ Realtor will be different for each person as well depending on personalities and goals.  Here is a list you can use for a general rule of thumb when looking for a Realtor to help you buy or sell a home.

TOP 5 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A REALTOR:

#1  LOCAL EXPERTISE

This is a big one, you want your agent to be extremely knowledgeable in the areas you are looking to buy or sell a home.  Having deep local knowledge of the nuances in pricing in an area, familiarity with other local agents and lenders is huge and working with an agent that really knows their marketplace will help you be successful.

#2 EXPERIENCE = YEARS IN THE BUSINESS + NUMBER OF SALES PER YEAR

With each real estate transaction I have done, I learn something new every time.  I have been selling homes since 2004 and the amount of knowledge I have attained is crucial to my client’s success  It helps when a tricky or difficult situation comes up in a sale that I can draw on my experience to make things happen and solve problems.  Make sure to look up an agents average number of sales per year.  You don’t want to work with a part time agent that is not fully invested and knowledgeable about the real estate business.

 

#3 REVIEWS – REPUTATION

Do your research on the Realtors you are considering and see if they have any reviews online on sites like Zillow, Google, Realtor.com, LinkedIn.  Read about other people’s experience with the agent and if they do not have any reviews or very little I would be wary.

#4 PERSONALITY

Everyone is different and has distinct ways of interacting and even a very experienced Realtor might not be the right one for you if you don’t mesh with their personality.  You could be spending a lot of time together and potentially dealing with stressful issues that come up.   If your Realtor’s personality rubs you the wrong way, even if they are great at what they do, you may want to consider working with someone that you are more comfortable with on a personal level.


#5 TECHNOLOGICAL SAVVY

You want a Realtor that keeps on top of the newest trends and technology in real estate, especially when you are selling a home.  Understanding how to leverage technology and social media to bring the greatest amount of exposure to the home you are selling will potentially get your more money for your home in a shorter amount of time.   If your Realtor is not using professional video, photos and a social media strategy to sell your home, they are doing you a disservice.

When it comes to selecting someone to help you through one of the biggest financial transactions of your life, make sure to chose wisely my friends.   

More about the Author:

Jessica Wallace is a Realtor in Santa Cruz with Coldwell Banker and has been selling homes since 2004.  As a native of Santa Cruz, Jessica uses her local knowledge and years of experience to help her clients be successful and achieve their Real Estate goals while making the process as enjoyable and stress free as possible.  

Contact Jessica @  831.419.9345 or you can send her a message HERE.
Website: www.BuyorSellSantaCruzHomes.com 

Disclaimer: : The views, data, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Mason-McDuffie Mortgage Corp.

 

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How to Build a Media Company: I Love Madison Podcast

Week 4 of our Onion Juice Podcast partnership with:

Episode 119 – How to Build a Media Company

 

What is the I Love Madison Show?

I Love Madison Logo.The I Love Madison show is all about connecting people in the community, especially the “trailing spouses.” If you moved to Madison because your spouse took a new job, it can be very hard to make new friends or find people who share similar interests.

Neil hopes the show will help people build community, and highlight all of the amazing places around the city that Madison residents enjoy.

Every week, Neil’s team will highlight a new meetup for you to explore, interview a Madison resident about their recent move and how they got connected, and feature a local influencer from the city.

As a result of these connections and community meetups, Neil gets the chance to meet people in the community, and if the need arises, offer his services as a realtor. This is the power of being a media company that happens to sell real estate.

 

The ILM Brunch Club

I Love Madison Brunch Club.I Love Madison is more than just a podcast! Each month leaders from the community will host an event called the I Love Madison Brunch Club.

This 90-minute event is designed to connect people to each other and to the needs of the community. Attendees will have 30 minutes to network, followed by 30 minutes of talks based on the idea of “lifestyle.”

After the lifestyle talks, there will be topic tables where community members can go to get more information on a particular subject or interest.

Neil’s goal is to launch the Brunch Club in January of 2018!

 

The Game of Magnets

I Love Madison Magnets.There are tons of fun things planned for the I Love Madison Show, including the Game of Magnets.

There will be magnets with a number and the I Love Madison logo all over town.

If you see one of those magnets you can take a picture of it and post to social media. This will “register” that magnet under your name, and put you in the running to win several prizes.

Check out the I Love Madison website, or Episodes 1-2 of the I Love Madison podcast on iTunes for more information.

 

The Madison Food Tournament

I Love Madison Food Tournament Bracket.Food is a great way to bring people together, so Neil decided to host the Madison Food Tournament.

Each month, he’ll choose a restaurant category to feature, then ask the I Love Madison listeners to submit their favorite restaurants. The submissions will be narrowed down to a top eight, then top two, and a champion will be crowned.

Make sure you check the I Love Madison website to be a part of it.

 

Listen to the episode

 

Episode Outline

  • [1:00] Sponsors
  • [3:50] I Love Madison Show – connecting people that are new to Madison
  • [4:45] Neil explains each segment of the show
  • [5:15] What is a trailing spouse?
  • [6:15] The I Love Madison Brunch Club – lifestyle networking
  • [7:40] The Insiders guide to Madison
  • [8:40] Game of Magnets
  • [9:40] Madison food tournament explained-
  • [11:00] The tide raises all ships – how being a media company can help you attract more business

 

Resources & Links

Subscribe to The Onion Juice

Onion Juice Podcast on Apple Podcasts Onion Juice Podcast on Stitcher

Subscribe to The Onion Juice wherever you get your podcasts. And thanks for listening!

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Insights on How the New Tax Bill may Impact You

Even though we are not tax professionals, we wanted to give you some general insights regarding how the new tax bill* may impact you starting this year.

If you have a large first mortgage loan amount, you will be grandfathered in to the interest deduction up to $1,000,000 of your loan as long as it closed prior to December 15, 2017.  From that date, going forward, you’ll be limited to the interest paid up to $750,000 of the mortgage. One thing to note, is that the interest deduction has expressly indicated “acquisition debt” which coincides with purchase money loans and rate/term refinance loans.  It remains to be seen if this will be impacted with cash out refinances in the future for tax-purposes.

 

If you have a second mortgage (fixed or home equity line of credit, also known as a HELOC), the interest paid on these loans is no longer tax-deductible. (Formerly interest paid up to $100,000 was tax-deductible.) I believe that with our still-low mortgage interest rates, it may be beneficial to talk about the possibility of rolling the first and second mortgage loans into one loan through refinancing. And, in the future, cash-out refinances will be more likely vs. getting a second mortgage, since the interest paid on those are akin to the interest paid on credit cards and auto loans – no longer deductible! (However, see the paragraph above this one on commentary on interest paid on cash-out refinances.)

If you move, the rule requiring you to live in the home two of the last five years in order to exclude the net gain from capital gain income is still in place (congress wanted to raise it to five of the last eight), however, in 2008 the rule quietly changed to exclude the time you rented the home from the amount you can exclude from capital gains.  This will impact people who lived in their homes, kept them as rental properties and bought new homes (or moved and rented, but retained their home as a rental), then decided to sell or move back into the home so they met the “2 of 5” limit.  The IRS has issued Publication 523 that includes a worksheet indicating exactly how much of your net gain is owed as capital gains and how much is not.  You can find more information and the work sheet here https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-publication-523

Other items to note:

Property tax and state tax payments are now limited to $10,000.

Unreimbursed employee expenses and tax preparation fees are no longer deductible.

Moving expenses for anyone other than military personnel is no longer a deduction.

Individual personal exemptions (in 2017 the amount is $4,050 per person listed as tax payer and dependent) are eliminated.  However, the standard deductions have also increased and there is a $500 per dependent tax credit. Tax credits are much more favorable to the “bottom line” in tax preparation than tax deductions are.

Child care expenses have increased to $2,000 per child and now the credit doesn’t phase out until the AGI is over $200,000.

And the tax brackets have improved, allowing everyone to potentially pay less in federal income taxes!

*Again, this post is not intended to give you advice on your tax situation.

To find out how this new law impacts you personally, please contact your own tax advisor.

We hope you will find the above information useful as you do your tax planning under the new law.