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Philly realtor talks about resilience during COVID-19, and offers some advice about mortgages

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Philadelphia real estate agent Elizabeth Clark. (Courtesy of Jill Wolfe)

Philadelphia real estate agent Elizabeth Clark. (Courtesy of Jill Wolfe)

During the coronavirus pandemic, Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn has been talking to listeners and learning about how they’re living through the virus.

On Friday morning, we heard from a local real estate agent.

Liz Clark has had her finger on the pulse of Philly’s real estate market for over a decade and has seen ups and downs. Now she’s prepared to show properties virtually, if she has to.

She spoke of resilience and offered some advice about mortgages.

I remember very well what happened in 2008, 2009, 2010, when the belly fell out of the market and we were hit. I think that for a lot of the agents or the people working in our industry who are new, who are used to this very fast paced, healthy market, it’s going to be a very scary time for them. For me, I think housing of the major marketplaces, I think that that’s going to recover at a faster rate than maybe some of the other points in the economy because people live in their houses. Are we definitely not planning any big trips this year? Absolutely. Are we looking to scale back some of the home renovation projects we had in our mind? Absolutely. So we’re being smart about it. At the same time, this is a moment in time. It will recover and it’s going to happen a lot more quickly, I think, than, you know, it did during the [Great] Recession.

Yeah. You know, we have this moniker of Philadelphia, something to the effect of, “poorest, well-off city in America.” How do you feel some of the folks who have less to work with in getting housing security will be affected the most by this situation?

I think we’re going to see a lot of folks who maybe were hoping to come out of these situations into maybe their first house on a federally backed program, FHA, maybe with a little bit of down payment money. They may make the choice to stay and renew their leases right now, because for them, it’s not so much the monthly mortgage payment. It’s the scary thing of parting with the majority of your earthly savings. At the same time, it’s an interesting period in Philadelphia in that housing is going up year over year in terms of value, sometimes by double digits. And so for a lot of those people who are going to be limited because of their income in terms of what they’ll be able to borrow, that window is shrinking in terms of the ability to buy into a house in certain neighborhoods in Philadelphia. It’ll be interesting to see how this all affects that demographic in this rising tide of Philadelphia as we’re still in the shadow of New York, Chicago, D.C., Boston, Seattle, all of these other major cities. We’re still the least expensive of them all.

You know, for those who feel they can’t even pay their mortgage. Going forward, what advice would you have for someone like that?

That advice is call your servicer. So this is the person who maybe originated your loan for you. It’s the person who collects your payment now. So if you have lost your job or your hours have been cut back or you’re somehow affected by the coronavirus outbreak, call your servicer and let them know. I believe that the government is starting to work with some of the big banks to put forward an amount of time. And I’m not sure if it’s six months or 12 months or what it’ll end up being, but you stop to say, hey, it’s in no way at all your fault that you can’t make your mortgage payments. So we’re not going to start foreclosure proceedings. And if you can’t make your mortgage payment, they can actually give you an opportunity to just lump on the month that you can’t pay at the end of your note. Beyond that, there’s an understanding that they’re not going to report those late payments or missing payments to the credit bureaus, which is really, really important.

And how are you connecting with your clients, with your friends?

I have never Facetimed as much as I have now. Prior to this, I was trying to put myself on a screen diet. And that is just not going to be possible right now. So I’ll tell you, yesterday I started to get a sore throat. And I thought, “Oh my god, I have a sore throat.” And I thought, “Oh, I’d been talking for 12 hours.”

OK, well take care of yourself, and good luck with your business.

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