Melissa McGraw joins the Ritter Mortgage Group

Join us in welcoming Melissa McGraw [NMLS 1375917], a licensed loan originator with nearly a decade of experience in banking and mortgage originations. Melissa first started her career with M&T Bank where she worked as a credit analyst, operations, and loan specialist. More recently, Melissa has originated, processed, and assisted other loan originators with their clients while working for a local bank and full-service mortgage lender in Maryland.

Melissa is passionate about helping others realize their dreams – and that starts at home where she is a busy mom to children ranging in age from 6-18. Melissa has lived in Baltimore and Harford Counties for most of her life, where she and her husband continue to be active in the local schools, sports, and scouting – in addition to their professional lives.

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“The ability to help others realize their dreams…whether it’s the first-time home buyer or the growing family looking for the big back yard, or someone looking for that perfect home in the perfect school district…I love being able to help educate my clients along the way.”

Melissa first met Jon Ritter more than 20 years ago, and is excited to join the Ritter Mortgage Group out of her desire to work with other like-minded loan originators. “It’s important to work with other professionals who value the same principals I live my life by; integrity, honesty, and the high value we place on our relationship with clients.”

If you’re looking to purchase a new home, refinance your existing home for cash-out or PMI elimination, or start a home renovation project in 2018, contact the Ritter Mortgage Group today to learn more about how we can help you!

Melissa McGraw Home Loan Specialist can be contacted by calling 410-663-8900 ext. 107 or via email: mmcgraw@rittermortgage.com

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Ted Jones joins the Ritter Mortgage Group

Join us in welcoming Ted Jones, an expert, licensed loan originator with more than 20 years’ experience in mortgage and retail banking. Ted joins the Ritter Mortgage Group after working with another regional mortgage corporation for nearly 13 years, where he both sourced new business and assisted with processing their production pipeline.

Ted’s career started in the performing arts, before joining Bank of America in 1994 where we worked for nearly a decade. He is a true professional both on the stage and in the home loan arena, and has degrees from Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University and Wichita State University.

“I’m confident that the exceptional customer experience Ritter Mortgage Group has developed is an excellent fit for my clients, and I’m looking forward to expanding on this success with the improved technologies and team Jon Ritter has developed.”

Ted has lived and worked in Towson for nearly three decades, and has helped hundreds of homebuyers all across Maryland since 2005. He and his wife have one grown daughter, and remain active in the arts in and around Baltimore.

If you’re looking to purchase, refinance, or finance a renovation project in 2018, contact the Ritter Mortgage Group today! Ted Jones can be contacted by calling 410-404-5036 or via email: ted.jones@rittermortgage.com

The “Old School” Experience with Jen Conrad, Realtor with Long & Foster®

Helping People Find Solutions

An emotionally trying few years caused Jen Conrad to reevaluate her life and her priorities. She decided to make some changes and pursue her desire to help others, which led her right to real estate…not a far journey considering she already had plenty of experience.

Jen began her career in the financial/marketing side of the auto industry, later moved into advertising, and ended up as a branch supervisor at a credit union. It was at that point in her career that she faced some personal trials, including the loss of her mother and major complications from back surgery, that prompted some introspection. “I went through a lot of personal emotional changes. I decided that I needed to do something for me. I had always loved helping people find solutions.” After consulting her husband, some friends, and industry professionals, Jen decided to take her career in a new direction and get her Realtor’s license.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s not easy to find a Realtor who is willing to take the time to listen and provide top-notch service from beginning to end. Jen knows this and strives to be just that for her clients…the kind of agent who hears her clients’ needs and finds solutions.

The “Old School Experience”

When choosing a company with which to launch her real estate career, Jen joined the McAllister Team of Long & Foster in Bel Air. With over 40 years’ experience, Ben and Joan McAllister take an “old school” approach, which appealed to Jen. “It’s not a fast-paced attitude. They take care of clients and give excellent service beyond the sale. They have so much knowledge and are fair.”

Jen appreciates Long & Foster’s excellent training program. “It’s not a ‘sink or swim’ experience in my office. Angie Highkin, the assistant manager, and Mike Scarborough, the lead manager, are very involved in the daily activities of all their agents. It’s a family approach…Everybody helps everybody.”

Currently, Jen works in Harford County and northern Baltimore County but will also be licensed in Pennsylvania.

Experience + Eye for Design + Desire to Help Others = Successful Realtor

Her professional experience in sales, advertising, and loans is only part of Jen’s equation for success. Added to that are her natural eye for design and strong desire to help others. “When people ask me to help them find a home or list a home, I love hearing what their lives are all about and really becoming an integrated part of that. I love helping them find what they need. I enjoy being a part of that walk of life with them. With what I’ve been through personally, I’m able to be in tune with what people are going through…what they may need.”

Like her mentors, the McAllisters, Jen strives to give her clients the “old school” experience. “Life experience has taught me to slow down and listen. Life is short and you never know what’s going to happen. I try to stop and hear what people are saying to me. If I rush through the sale, it’s a disservice to them. I don’t find it inconvenient to listen to their story.”

Words of Advice

Likewise, Jen stresses the importance of clients listening to their agent. “As long as you have a good working relationship with them, then trust them and believe in them. Understand that your agent is only trying to help you.” A good example is the listing price. Clients may have an incorrect assumption of a home’s worth, not knowing the determining factors for pricing a home. Industry professionals have experience and wisdom in this area.

She further advises clients to “Take your time in the process and always go with your gut. Take one step at a time, one day at a time, and what is meant to be will happen. Also, any type of education you can get is great.” Jen recommends taking advantage of free classes or workshops offered locally, perhaps through a credit union, college, or mortgage lender. “Educate yourself before jumping into this process, and things go much smoother.”

More About Jen

Jen has been married to her husband and real estate partner, Mark, for 22 years. They have a 13-year-old daughter, Katelyn, and are very involved in her extra-curricular life. They are members of Trinity Lutheran Church and enjoy family time and traveling. Jen also enjoys decorating, reading, and yoga.

Contact Jen

For a Realtor who will provide you with genuine, old-fashioned care…one who is committed to listening and helping, contact Jen Conrad at 443-981-9148 or Jennifer.Conrad@LNF.com.

WRITTEN BY DAWN WOODEN

Meet Joe Smith: Providing Access to Information & Clear Communication to all Clients

Joe Smith

Joe Smith knows first-hand the importance of clear communication. As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult), Joe was in a unique position. American Sign Language was his first language since both his parents are Deaf. What he didn’t know then was how that experience would transfer to his career as a Realtor®.

Access & Communication

As a sign language interpreter of 15 years, Joe’s services were often requested at real estate closings. During those meetings, he realized the glaring need for Deaf clients to have access to an interpreter earlier in the home-buying process. Because of lack of communication access, customers were making decisions with a tunneled awareness of the full picture. “Agents never had anything to do with the Deaf community and, therefore, didn’t know what their clients needed in terms of communication access.” Frustrated by the lack of information provided to Deaf clients due to communication barriers, Joe became determined to fill the gap. “Having someone there to empower and advise you along the real estate path can be invaluable.”

Joe is quick to point out that it’s not a matter of intellect or ability. Rather, “It’s all about access and communication. Regardless of a person’s abilities, if deprived of access and communication, they can’t make the best decision. It’s like saying, ‘I’m only going to give you half the information.’ That’s just not right. Writing everything on paper complicates the process regardless of hearing status, and without an interpreter, everything must be written down. Therefore, a 5-minute conversation becomes a much longer process. My goal is to make sure they have the access to an interpreter and communication they deserve to make the most informed decision.”

Passion for Real Estate

With the realization that he could be part of the solution to the problem, Joe decided to follow his lifelong passion for real estate—a passion inherited from his father. He became a licensed Realtor with the Matt Wyble Team of Champion Realty, Inc. Joe’s ability to clearly communicate is beneficial to all of his clients, hearing and Deaf alike. “I provide high-level customer service, and simply, this is accomplished by two things: (1) Understanding the value of good communication and providing it, and (2) Having the knowledge to best serve my clients’ needs.”

While Joe is happy to work with customers in any part of Maryland, he raves about his hometown of Severna Park in Anne Arundel County. “I know a lot of the pockets that are gems. There’s such a strong sense of community here. I have clients who move in, and within days, neighbors are bringing cookies. It’s a great place to come raise children and has a good educational system.”

Although Joe is licensed in Maryland, his desire is for Deaf clients who are relocating to other states to also be linked with real estate agents who know sign language. To do that, he started a Facebook group, which currently has 30 members. His goal is to have at least one agent who knows sign language representing each state in the US. Then, he can refer to agents elsewhere who will be able to communicate with them in their native language.

 Champion’s Uncommon Approach

Joe is thrilled to be a part of the Matt Wyble Team (TMWT) of Champion Realty. In this team of 14 agents, everybody has a different niche, or area of expertise, creating a strong network of real estate professionals who serve as resources for one another. “All of us have different clients, so when something comes up that we’re not well-versed in, we’re able to refer them to inside agents we know and trust, or we can go to that person and get information to provide to our clients. I love that structure.”

Aside from this successful teamwork approach, other features provided by The Matt Wyble Team bring value to customers, as well:

(1) Matterport Technology – The internet has changed the real estate industry in dramatic ways. At no additional cost to clients, TMWT’s in-house photographer, Erin Fiddler, captures 3D photographs of homes for use with cutting edge virtual reality technology. “Matterport basically allows buyers to walk the property virtually.” This ultimately attracts more buyers. People who are unable to physically walk through a property are able to “get the immersive feel of being there and can truly see it from every angle.”

(2) Staging – Another benefit of working with TMWT is that the team provides staging services for every client selling a home. Their stager, Anita Seeman, has 20 years of interior design experience. She goes to each home and advises sellers on what they can do to maximize the home’s potential for sale. Strategies, such as rearranging furniture, decluttering an area, or removing personal photographs, go a long way in helping to sell quickly. “Staging is Anita’s world. She’s done it for over 20 years. She comes in and sees what the homeowner has and makes it work. That’s a huge skill.”

Joe has advice for both homebuyers and sellers, alike. “Don’t get overwhelmed. It’s easy to do. I want my clients to understand that I have their best interests at heart. I value their time. I value their specific situation. I want them to be able to trust and know that my pure goal is to make sure their goals are achieved.” He recognizes that the process can be daunting. To alleviate some of the anxiety, Joe walks customers through the steps of the process. Again…access to information and clear communication. “Part of our process is to provide customers with a checklist so they can literally follow along as we’re going. We’ve already mapped it out for them. It’s all about the client. If they feel like we’re here for them and their best intentions, then we’ve done our job.”

Free Time: Faith, Family, Fun

Doing his job well doesn’t leave a lot of free time, but for Joe, family is important. He and his wife have two young children, ages 5 and 3, and a new addition due in July. Aside from spending time with them and coaching his children in soccer, Joe enjoys golf and skeet shooting on occasion. Faith is important, as well, and he and his family are involved in a local church.

Contact Joe

Whether you’re looking to purchase or sell a home, if you’re looking for a knowledgeable Realtor who will clearly communicate with you every step of the way, contact Joe today at 410-991-9414 or JoeSmith@championrealty.com.

Written by Dawn Wooden

Meet Kim Sweat, Realtor® with Keller Williams®in Bel Air, MD

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Prioritizing People: Impacting Lives Through Real Estate

Putting people first. That’s Kim Sweat’s priority. She learned early in life that caring for others is more important than business. With both parents working in the real estate industry, she saw first-hand how this career can impact lives. That’s what lured her into the field…the opportunity, or as she says, the privilege, to positively influence others. As a child, she witnessed how her mom and dad put clients’ needs first.

 

Kim’s Career Path

Stemming from that same desire to help others, Kim began her career as an elementary educator. After her children were born, she moved on to serve as a planner and volunteer leader with Young Life, an international nonprofit Christian organization that supports middle school, high school, and college-aged adolescents. With three boys of her own to keep her busy, Kim wanted flexibility in addition to an extra income. By combining her people skills with her organizational skills, Kim became an entrepreneur and started Detailed Simplicity, a residential organizing business, which she successfully ran for eight years. Kim reflects, “What I noticed through that time is that I have a passion for people, especially helping people in their homes because home can be such a reflection of who we are and what’s important to us. That was a big part of discovering more about my gifts and personality and the way I cared for people, and I wanted to take it to a different level.” Real estate became a natural fit for Kim.

Keller Williams American Premier Realty®

Choosing a real estate company with which to partner was a no-brainer for Kim. To say that she is glad to work for Keller Williams® would be an understatement. She is wholeheartedly dedicated to the corporation. It started with the success her parents had while working with Keller Williams® in the beginning stages of the company. “What drew them back then and draws me today is what sets Keller Williams® apart – their focus on building and caring for people in so many different ways.” Kim has no trouble listing the many ways the organization accomplishes this:

  • Training – Kim describes it as “world class” and “one of the best in the country.” She points out that the support system doesn’t stop at the licensing step and is thankful for the continued care the company provides agents. “They are all about giving agents the tools to set them up for success. I think that’s what sets them apart from any other business.”
  • Technology – Keller Williams® is recognized nationally for cutting edge technology. “They always want to be #1, and I’ve already seen that first-hand. Next year, there are going to be some major explosions with new technology that’s going to blow everybody’s socks off,” reports Kim.
  • Culture – Kim describes a culture of caring at Keller Williams®, one where the typical competition between agents seems nonexistent in lieu of a spirit of building one another up. “We are a team. It’s obvious to others who come in from other offices. It’s a company that breeds agents who really care. One of the first things on our values statement is that we want transactions to be a win-win for the seller and the buyer, and that’s a great spirit to have.” Helping to create such a culture is the leadership and character of Gary Keller, the company’s owner. Keller Williams® even sponsors a nonprofit organization that helps victims of natural disasters.

 Reading People

Kim’s success as a real estate agent stems from life experience, a natural ability to read people, and a desire to positively impact the lives of others. She is motivated by helping people reach their goals. “For buyers, especially, it’s a discovery process. You don’t always know exactly what you want, but when you find that one house, that’s the ‘aha moment.’ I want to get you to a place where you’re discovering what home means to you. It’s such a privilege to be a part of that – to get people to where they want to be and to help their dreams come true.” To accomplish that, Kim is building a team of professionals with which to work and identifies the lender and title company as critical to her team. When it comes to a lender, Kim often refers her clients to Brian Atha of Ritter Mortgage Group (batha@rittermtggroup.com). The title company she works with the most is Universal Title (www.universaltitle.com), which is located right in her office, making the entire process easier. She says, “We are all working together for the good of our client, and you can’t put a price on trust. I want the people that I’m putting on my team to share the same values I have, which is putting people first and caring for them. It’s important to have trusted professionals who could be a resource for people. They’re an extension of me.”

 Advice for Buyers & Sellers

Kim advises sellers not to underestimate the value of staging their homes and provides each client a free consultation with a professional stager. The reason is that well-staged houses sell faster. Along with that, Kim encourages all sellers to hire a professional photographer and warns against trying to get away with using amateur photos. With most buyers searching for homes online, Kim says, “You want to have something that’s going to set your house apart. Sometimes staging and professional photos can determine whether a buyer even steps foot into your house.”

Her advice to buyers is to find an agent they can fully trust and with whom they are not afraid to ask questions. “Things are always changing and evolving. Just being able to ask questions is so important.”

 A Personal Note

Kim’s faith and family are top priorities in her life. She loves spending time with her husband and three boys, ages fifteen, twelve, and eight. She and her husband are involved in the boys’ sports, and Kim serves on the board and as volunteer coordinator of their swim club. The family is also involved in their church and have continued ties with Young Life. To fit in some fun and relaxation, they enjoy vacationing at the beach. Kim is thankful to have a career that she is passionate about that also offers flexibility to be available to her family. “Being healthy mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally is everything. It’s neat to be able to build a business around the things that are important to me and incorporate my values into my business.”

 Call Kim Today

If you’re considering a move and want a Realtor® you can trust to make your needs her first priority, contact Kim Sweat today at 410-458-3712 or kimsweat@kw.com.

Written by Dawn Wooden

To Sell or Not to Sell Your Home During the Holiday Season? That is the Question.

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So you’re planning a move, and here we are in the midst of the holiday season. You’re wondering whether to sell your house now or wait until after the holidays. The old way of thinking was to avoid selling a home during this busy time of year for obvious reasons. However, you may want to rethink that theory. Here are some reasons that it may benefit you to keep your house on the market through the holidays.

  • Your house looks amazing!

You’ve already spent the time decluttering, repairing, and cleaning in preparation for family to visit, so a lot of the hard work is done. Additionally, every house looks best dressed up (as long as you haven’t overdone it with huge inflatable snow globes in the yard!). Creating a warm, cozy ambiance that mimics a scene from a Hallmark card or a Thomas Kinkaid painting can lure buyers to make the purchase.

  • Emotions are high.

During the holidays, people are more nostalgic, emotional, and optimistic, leading to purchases not only at the local mall or Amazon but in the real estate market, as well. A seller’s goal is to help buyers picture themselves in the house. What better time to invite potential buyers to visit than when they’re focused on family? During this special season, homebuyers conjure warm memories of Christmases past and envision future family holidays in the house.

  • The internet is a game-changer.

It used to be that potential buyers had to go through a tedious process: find a real estate agent, meet with the agent to communicate desires, wait for the agent to find potential houses and make appointments, and then drive around with the agent to visit recommended homes. It’s no wonder that people searching for a new home tended to shy away from getting involved in the process during the busy holiday season. Currently, the Internet allows buyers to take virtual tours of your home without setting foot outside of theirs. It’s easy enough for homebuyers to tap a few options on their phones and gain immediate access to a list of potential homes. By the time they contact an agent to schedule a tour, the buyer already has a good idea of what to expect and knows that the visit is worth their time.

  • Current buyers are motivated.

At this busy time, you don’t need the hassle of dealing with “tire kickers” just casually looking at your house without real intentions of buying anytime soon. If they’re skipping out on a shopping trip or a holiday gathering, then the potential buyers are likely serious about purchasing now. Whether they’re looking to buy due to financial reasons, an increase in family size, or a job relocation, they’re out there. And with other sellers following the old-school method of not selling during the holidays, there is less inventory to compete with your house.

  • Tax break incentives.

Another motivator for end-of-year buyers is the desire to seal the deal before New Year’s Eve to take advantage of the current year’s tax break. Home buyers can take tax deductions on mortgage interest, property taxes, points on the loan, and interest.

  • A jump on the competition for your next home.

Of course, if you’re selling, you’re moving. If you’re looking to purchase another house, getting your home sold before the new year gives you a jump on the post-holiday market. After January 1st, the market will likely include more homes to choose from, but there may also be more buyers. Having your house sold allows you the freedom to make a non-contingent offer on your dream home and beat the competition.

If you’re willing to put up with the stress of having your house on the market during the holiday season, it may be worthwhile to tolerate the inconvenience. Motivated buyers and less competition may combine to get your house sold quickly, and closer to asking price, than post-holidays when buyers have more choices. Contact us today, and we can put you in touch with one of our trusted Realtor partners to help with the sale of your home AND the purchase of your next one.

By: Dawn Wooden

Other Related Sources:

Should I Sell My Home During the Holidays by Bill Gassett

Should I Take My Home Off the Market for the Holidays? by Kevin Vitale

 

Case Study: Realtor Finds Professional Mortgage Broker to Meet Clients’ Needs

“A minefield.”business-meeting

That’s how Zach Zander describes the mortgage loan process. From application to ownership, first-time homebuyers, especially, face a multitude of potential hazards. Helping them navigate that minefield has been Zach’s job for the past eleven years. His main goal? To help as many families as he can “work through the process with as little stress as possible for them.” That includes alleviating buyers’ fears, which Zach enjoys. He is especially fond of working with first-time buyers as they are the ones who most need a guiding hand. Zach has purposefully partnered with other reputable professionals to create a bundle of services for his clients that ensures the best possible experience from beginning to end. His clients may not avoid the mines altogether, but at least he knows he is helping them find safer ways around them.

Problem

Zach grew frustrated with the unprofessionalism of many mortgage “professionals” who unnecessarily complicated the process instead of providing answers for his clients. As a Realtor who prides himself on providing stellar customer service, he found the lack of responsiveness from loan officers unacceptable. “I would have a client ready to write an offer, and I couldn’t reach the mortgage officer to get answers! It puts a screeching halt to everything.” The mortgage loan process is not exempt from Murphy’s Law. A variety of issues may arise which complicate things for buyers. “Mortgage loan officers know what things we might run into,” says Zach. The ramifications of a seemingly simple oversight or missed return phone call can be huge. The entire process hangs in the balance. “The buyer doesn’t know what’s going on and can’t move forward on possible offers. They could lose the house of their dreams!” Zach resorted to contacting managers to notify them of the problems, but it wasn’t an option to continue working with those officers who dropped the ball when every day mattered.

Responsiveness and organization are two of the key traits he looks for when choosing a loan officer to with which to partner. “I want someone with a methodical way of working from contract to settlement.”

Solution

His answer was Jon Ritter, president of Ritter Mortgage Group. “Jon and I have been working together for the entirety of my career.” Jon began earning Zach’s trust in 2004 when he worked as the loan officer on Zach’s own property purchase, so when frustrations arose with other loan officers, it only made sense for Zach to begin referring the majority of his clients to Jon. Among the things he likes best about working with Jon are that he is knowledgeable, successful, and professional.

Knowledgeable

Not only has Jon been a wealth of knowledge for Zach, but he takes the unique approach of educating every client in one-on-one meetings using the latest technological tools to ensure that the buyer is aware of what is going on during every step of the process. “He meets with my clients personally. He does a video for them and gives them different loan options, rather than just picking for them.” Zach relies on Jon throughout the process to answer any loan related questions his clients have.

Professional

Zach now has the confidence that Jon will meet clients’ needs immediately. The positive feedback from customers on post-closing questionnaires is proof that choosing Jon was the right thing to do. Jon’s systematic approach to the mortgage loan process is comforting to Zach. “He utilizes videos to tell us where we are in the process. They’re great for me and incredible for the client.” More importantly, “He’s present and available, patient and responsive.”

Successful

Jon’s ability to find answers to challenging circumstances helps him rise above typical loan officers. “There are hurdles that we have to overcome, and Jon finds answers to challenges. I’ve had some loans that looked sour to other lenders, but Jon made it happen. My clients have been thrilled with him. Jon gives me the confidence to I know that when I refer clients to him, they’re in best hands they can be.”

By Dawn Wooden