Do you remember times in your life when you wanted to look your best? Like your high school prom or probably your wedding or a big job interview, or when it’s time to apply for your mortgage? Today on Real Estate Mortgage Shoppe I will be sharing with you the inside scoop on how to look your best to get your mortgage approved and some tips on improving your home’s curb appeal too.

If you have your house for sale and you want to have the best chance of getting top dollar for your home, you have to get the right people into your home. If you’ve done everything right on the inside of your home but you have neglected the outside of your home, you may look out your front window to find would-be homebuyers hunkered in their car looking over your house and around at your lawn, only to pull away from the curb cruising onto a better looking house.

What do YOU want to accomplish from YOUR mortgage? Let’s stay connected. Call me at (901) 482-0354. Let’s explore your financing options. Subscribe to get weekly Real Estate Mortgage Shoppe podcasts with show notes at

To Your Success,

Jo Garner, Mortgage Loan Officer NMLS #757308

Sierra Pacific Mortgage 46 Timber Creek Dr. Cordova, TN 38018

Good morning, Memphis! Welcome to our internet listeners and podcast listeners across the 50 states! You’re on Real Estate Mortgage Shoppe. I’m your host, Jo Garner, Mortgage Loan Officer. You can connect with me at Our general topic is CURB APPEAL WHEN YOU ARE FINANCING A HOME OR BUYING OR SELLING A HOME. Subscribe to get Real Estate Mortgage Shoppe podcasts with show notes at Call us while we’re live today August 29, 2020 at (901) 535-9732.

John Lawhon of Lawhon Landscape and Design, it is always good having you in the radio studio. You’ve got some great tips for us to keep our curb appeal –well appealing. Your family has been business since 1958. You do the landscape designs, installation, irrigation and spray. You do it all. Tell us a little more about yourself and what Lawhon Landscape offers your clients. (John Lawhon introduces himself and talks about what Lawhon Landscape does-)

(Jo) John, when it comes to looking good, your job is to help your clients get the best-looking curb appeal for every season. My job as a mortgage loan officer is to help my clients look the best they can on a mortgage loan application. Knowing what virtues to accentuate for a client is like window dressing for the file.


Not long ago Ren (not his real name) called me and said he was finally ready to buy his first home. He announced that “I am going to use my money to pay off ALL of my bills before I come in to see you. Don’t you think that is the best thing?” My suggestion was, “Before you spend a dime paying anything off, Ren, let’s get a snap shot of where you are right now.”

Money Talks Loudest

Ren’s lease would be up soon on his apartment and he knew he needed a strong prequalification letter and a quick approval to be in the new house before he had to get out of his apartment. He was worn out with paying rent money every month when he could be investing in owning his own home. He had just enough saved to pay the 3% to 5% down payment on the house he wanted, but knew he had some other debt too.

I truly appreciated Ren’s willingness to go the extra mile to help me get his loan file looking its best. But, the top priority with the mortgage underwriting software systems is to show an adequate amount of money available in the bank to make the down payment and pay some costs and its always looks good to have reserve funds left for emergencies.

Good Credit Can Take You Far

The second important factor in making a borrower like Ren look good is to show a high credit score Ren’s ability to show that he pays creditors and only owes a small percentage on the credit lines available to him. I pointed out to Ren that a great credit score is a score over 780. An average score is around 700. When your credit score gets around 650 or 640, then you can probably still get a standard mortgage, but some loan programs will price up the rate you pay to get the loan.

Income-To-Debt Ratios-Can You Make The Payment

After looking at funds available and the credit profile, underwriters look at income-to-debt ratios. Ren’s income-to-debt ratio added the new proposed house payment including principal, interest, taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance together with all the minimum payment amounts from credit cards, the car loan and other installment accounts. This total divided into the gross income amount equals the income-to-debt ratio. For Ren, his debt-to-income ratio –total monthly debt divided into his gross income— was around 45 percent. Not bad

However, in some cases the mortgage underwriting program could have prequalified Ren with a 50 percent income-to-debt ratio due to the fact that he keeps more than enough cash available in his bank account. Ren’s prequalification letter was very strong. He was confident going into the real estate market to purchase his first home. We looked at some down payment assistance program for Ren also. Once the home appraisal and title work is done, Ren gets all of his income and asset supporting documents into the file, then a human underwriter reviews the information and makes the ultimate decision on approving the loan suspending until further information is documented or denies the loan. Approve is the goal.

I plan to share with you some more insider tips from behind the mortgage desk. But for now, let’s dig into some landscaping curb appeal tips from John Lawhon of Lawhon Landscape

(John) starts with curb appeal tips that homeowners can use without a lot of expense to improve their home’s curb appeal for selling or staying… )

You’re on Real Estate Mortgage Shoppe. I’m your host, Jo Garner, Mortgage Loan Officer. What do YOU want to accomplish with your mortgage? Make your plan. Let’s work your plan if the deal works for you today, let’s do it today. When we come back John Lawhon of Lawhon Landscape will be sharing more great curb appeal ideas. See you back in just a moment.


2nd segment after 9:15 break: Our Look Back Memphis Trivia Contest is brought to you by notable Memphis historian, Jimmy Ogle. Twelve of his Memphis History lectures entitled Making Memphis – Storytelling by Jimmy Ogle may be viewed by Googling “JIMMY OGLE PINK PALACE”. View at . The Look Back Memphis Trivia Contest is sponsored by John and Jennifer Lawhon of Lawhon Landscape (901) 754-7474 the Lawhon’s can help you plan your landscaping if you have a BIG, BIG project or a smaller project or you can do the big project in phases . The Lawhons are giving away a $25 gift card to the first person with the correct trivia answer. If you know the answer to our trivia question, call us at 901 535 WREC 901 535-9732.

Garner # 185 * 08/29/20

Eads, Tennessee

Question: I am a tiny unincorporated community in east Shelby County near Hwy 64 and I-269. Who am I?

Hint: I am located near the Old Stage Road, which opened in 1829 between Memphis and Somerville.

Hint: A famous musician with the hit song of 1967 (“Ode To Billie Joe”) lives in this community now.

Hint: My USPS Zip Code is 38028.

Final Hint: I was named the man who designed the first all-steel bridge across the Mississippi River, in St. Louis in 1874.

Answer: Eads, Tennessee. Before there was Eads, that area of eastern Shelby County, was known by at least two other names. Its core was called Stewardville. Much of the surrounding area was known as Grays Creek, probably due to the vast amount of land owned in the rea by brothers James and John Gray, who were among Shelby County’s earliest settlers. John Gray’s home is believed to have been the first built of bricks in all of West Tennessee. (The John Gray house was moved to Germantown Municipal Park in 1989 and restored for visits.

Four schools for African-American children funded by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation were built in the Eads area in the early 1900. Singer Bobbie Gentry, who had the # 1 song of 1967, “Ode To Billie Joe”, is a resident of the area.

Eads Bridge in St. Louis, named for its designer and builder, James Buchanan Eads, is a combined road and railway bridge over the Mississippi River connecting Missouri to Illinois. Opened in 1874, Eads Bridge was the first bridge erected across the Mississippi south of the Missouri River. Eads Bridge is the oldest bridge on the river.



  1. How can homeowners or business owners use color in landscape to enhance curb appeal?
  2. What kind of response do realtors get from a home that has good landscaping vs one that has not been spruced up?
  1. Talk about ways homeowners can get some great curb appeal if they are selling their home or just getting ready for the in-laws to pay a visit.
  1. Spruce up outdoor containers.
  2. Container plants make a positive difference to patios and doorways where would-be buyers enter and exit the house..
  3. Mulch in the right spots spruces up a place, so apply a fresh layer in all your garden beds. The right color mulch enhances the other surrounding plants and makes everything pop.
  4. Plant something with color that brings a feeling of pleasant excitement.
  5. Colorful flowers. Go for a splash of several colors or a more one-color method-whatever looks good at your home.
  6. Giving your landscape the neat and tidy trimmed look. Get rid of dead stuff. Dead and unkempt plantings indicate neglect which buyers could presume is true of the inside of the house too. Grab would-be buyers at the curb with a great looking landscape.
  7. Tend to perennial beds. Tidy up annual and perennials that don’t look good. If you have to replace the plant, you may want to consider replacing it with a different plant.
  8. Dig up and prepare to transfer plants that will go with the house if you are moving. Make sure the buyer of your home know you are taking certain plants.
  9. Clean up small ponds or pools. Get rid of any visible algae, remove leaves and clean filters so that the water is pure and clean. Green algae water in a pool can be a real turn off .
  10. Correct any irrigation issues. Fix a broken system or install an irrigation system if needed. Correct drainage problems.
  11. Fix leaky faucets since this can indicate to would-be buyers possible other water problems in the house.
  12. Drawing the eye pleasantly to your home’s front entrance is an easy, low-cost way to up your home’s curb appeal. Painting your door a pretty hue that contrasts but complements your home’s color. Place a potted plant or two by the front entrance to add pizzaz.
  13. Manicure the Lawn
  14. Use potted plants to dress up your entryway.
  15. Add architectural details that go with the style of your home to enhance your façade
  16. Use plants that will keep the landscaping low-maintenance lawn.
  17. Improve the looks of driveways and pathways.
  18. Rocking and Hardscaping
  19. Talk about some of your more high profile landscaping projects.

Collierville Town Center, Page Robbins, and more



  1. What are some other ways you can look your best on a mortgage loan application?
  1. Other ways you can spiff up your mortgage loan file so that you are looking your best is to stay away from overdrafts on your bank statements. Right before you close, underwriters will want to see updated banking history. Try to keep from making large deposits into your accounts other than payroll. Loan regulations require that you show a paper trail documenting the source of large deposits. Depending on the story behind the large deposit, it could cost you your loan or at least delay your closing while you document its source.
  2. Don’t buy anything other than daily things you normally purchase while you are in the loan process. Right before you are ready to close, your report is checked again. If it appears that you bought a car or furniture or appliances or cosigned a loan for someone, this could cause your mortgage to be denied. Whatever you do DO NOT open a 12 months same as cash account. This can be a real deal killer and it can drop your credit scores 50 to 100 points.
  3. I have a Do’s and Don’ts checklist that we can go over together to insure you have the smoothest loan process possible and get to closing on time. Connect with me and I am happy to go over it with you. You can find me at
  1. What are the top five steps for improving credit scores?

Phillip and Farrah Fenton had been married over a year and expecting their first child. As newly- weds, they didn’t mind living cramped in a tiny house in a family member’s backyard. But, now they had the baby to think about. Phillip’s credit score was suffering because of some bills he had not paid and others he had racked up from his carefree college days.

In order to put himself and his family in a better position, Phillip and I talked about his plans. He disciplined himself with the help of his wife to aggressively pay down the balances on his revolving credit card accounts to keep the owed balances under 30% usage on each of the lines of credit. His credit score started improving.

After adding several points to his credit score, Phillip was in a position to get a lot lower mortgage interest rate. Bragging rights for the Fenton’s. They locked in a lower mortgage rate than they ever thought possible. Now they had more money to spend on their baby.

We are going to talk about some other strategies you can use later in this show. But the way you can get started using this one on improving your credit scores is pull the free credit report the government allows you to get once a year from Review it for errors and look for ways to get your revolving credit balances paid down and maintained as low as possible —using less than 30% if possible on your credit lines and making your payments on time.

Make payments on your existing credit on time, never going over 30 days late.

the source of his extra funds—he just didn’t make the payments on any of his bills and

  1. Keep your revolving account owed balances UNDER 30% of the total credit limit. Revolving credit is open ended credit lines like credit cards. Revolving credit activity makes up 35% of your credit score. Many times if a mortgage client needs 15 or 20 points added quickly to their scores, I will suggest they try paying down the revolving accounts to under 30% of the total credit limit. As soon as the lower balance owed is reported it can many times add 10, 20 or even 30 points to a borrowers score. Whatever you do, DO NOT get a 12 months -same as- cash account. These appear to the credit scoring computers like maxed out revolving accounts and send your score down in the tank.

My older customers grew up with credit in the 70’s and 80’s and were taught that the higher credit balances you carried, the better your scores. NOT TRUE TODAY! In fact, if you owe over 50% of your total credit limit on a revolving account, today’s credit scoring algorithms will cause your credit scores to go down by 10,20, or 30 points or more. Not a good thing.

C. Leave really old collection accounts alone if they creditor has not been recently reporting the collection to the bureaus. If they are a few years old, they probably aren’t negatively affecting your credit scores anyway. It seems counterintuitive for it to work that way, but once you pay off an old collection account and it is reported paid, it’s computer numerical code identifying it as a derogatory account type doesn’t change and the credit scoring software reads your paid off collection account as a recent derogatory account taking your scores down temporarily. After several weeks your scores should look better though because you don’t show an UNPAID collection but at first paying off a collection account can send your scores down which is what you DON’T want when you are trying to buy a home or refinance one. You can pay these old collections off after you have purchased the home. (use the basketball bounce analogy)

  1. If you do not have a credit score due to having no credit or if you are trying to offset some negative credit accounts, you may want to open a small secured account and keep the balance owed between $12 dollars and $20 dollars each month. In order to keep such a tight control on the balance owed like that some of my customers just use the secured credit card account by buying $12 to $19 dollars in gas for the car each month. That way they can control keeping the balance strategically in those margins. You’re just playing a game with the computer scoring system.
  2. The important way to maintain your credit is to get a free report (without the credit score) each year from a place like Just look over the activity and make sure it is correct and that your revolving account balances are comfortably under 30% of the total credit limit. Check for any derogatory reporting. Since identity theft is one of the most wide spread white-collar crimes, it is probably a good idea to sign up for a service that alerts you if someone is trying to use your social security number

Another great resource for determine generally what is most important in determining your credit score in order of importance is the website

  1. Strategies that make your home purchase offer stronger without having to pay too much for the house.

Get all of your income and asset support documents to the lender right up front. Ask the lender to review our income and your assets and email their opinion. Print the lenders prequalification letter and the lender’s email message to you with the complimentary comments about the strength of your credit and loan request. Give these papers to the seller or their realtor. Some sellers aren’t looking for the highest sales price offer. Some sellers are looking for the surest officer. A lender who, from their message you indicates that you are financially strong and able to purchase their home, is a good strategy to use to make a great impression on the seller in a multiple-offer, competitive situation.

REAL ESTATE TIP OF THE WEEK (John Lawhon of Lawhon Landscaping shares a real estate related money-saving or time-saving tip. Consult a landscape design specialist before starting on a design by yourself. A professional can save you a lot of money be planting the right plans ): Jo Garner shares tip for homeowners taking advantage of refinancing to lower mortgage rate, shorten term, or freeing up cash per month—situation with burning inflation hotter warning of possible spike upward in the prices on mortgage rates


Talk Shoppe offers free networking & education to anyone interested in real estate or in business. Go to and click on Upcoming Events Tab for virtual meeting location website address. Talk Shoppe meets every Wednesday September 2nd , 2020 9A-10A CT This Wednesday Talk Shoppe presents: Jon Isom, Covid-19 Safety and Health In the Work Place, 3836 Safety LLC, 901-600-6746

Talk Shoppe events are free thanks to supporters like Tim Gilliland of When you need to recover lost data on your computer, you will feel very thankful when you call Tim at BackupRX and simply download all your data and system files immediately when you need it. Contact BackupRX about getting your data automatically backed-up at

Did you know that 91% of consumers listen to radio? Let’s explore some affordable radio packages through Talk Shoppe to help get YOU and YOUR business message out to your target market. Call me and let’s explore the right stations and time of day to reach your audience. (901) 482-0354

2. Thoughts and prayers going out to those in the path of stormy weather and those dealing with the California fires



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QUOTE CORNER: “Beauty attracts the eye but personality captures the heart” Pinterest

A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.” Henry Kissinger



  1. Rejoinder Dan Sater, author and credit score advisor, Long Island, New York
  2. Don Lawler, videographer with Storytellers of Memphis
  3. Brandon Thompson of Home Team Inspection service (901) 848-2388

Transitional Music: “Mama’s Broken Heart” Miranda Lambert;“Tacky” by Weird Al Yankovic; “Style”   by Taylor Swift; “Memphis” by Johnny Rivers for the Look Back Memphis Trivia Contest


Call: (901) 754-7474

Beautiful gardens begin with thoughtful design. The staff of Lawhon Landscape Design includes professionals with degrees in Landscape Architecture, Plant Pathology, Studio Art, and Agronomy. Our designers and plant professionals create outdoor living spaces with your lifestyle in mind.

Our many years of experience in design, installing, and maintaining Mid-South landscapes make us uniquely qualified to create gardens that are both beautiful and practical to maintain.

A Family Business

Our business was started in 1958 by Rex and Beth Lawhon and was one of the first weed control companies in the Southeast. Over the years, we have kept our client list small and personal in order to serve the gardens of Memphis with the best in lawn and shrub care. The high quality of our work has paid off over the years by the many repeat customers we have – both residential and commercial. We follow the philosophy of doing it right the first time. We hope that you will give us the opportunity to serve your garden needs as well.

In 1985, we expanded our family company by offering a complete design build landscape service. John Lawhon, with a degree in Landscape Architecture, offers complete landscape designs for every budget as well as outstanding plant installation services. In order to help maintain your landscape, we offer complete irrigation system installation. We have everything you need to make your home more beautiful than ever.


WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH WITH YOUR MORTGAGE? (901) 482 0354 twitter @jogarner NMLS# 757308 (currently working with Sierra Pacific Mortgage, Inc)

“Whatever YOUR personal priorities are, my job is to help you get the mortgage terms that will give you bragging rights when you talk about it and help you score on hitting your goals .”

As a mortgage loan officer, my job is to help you get to the benefits you want from your financing terms. What is most important to you? I can help you find the financing terms that will help you get to what you want. What is your comfort level on a house payment? How much are you comfortable paying down,? What type of financing do you need to get the house you want to buy or refinance?

Different clients have different priorities in life—some are buying their first home with very little down payment funds. Some are recovering from medical challenges, divorces or preparing to send children to college and some are embarking on a long term goal of buying properties to build rental income.”

Jo Garner is a mortgage officer with extensive knowledge in tailoring mortgages to her customers who are refinancing or purchasing homes all over the country. She offers conventional, FHA, VA or other loan programs for refinancing and purchases.

Jo can help you look at rent vs buy, when it makes sense to refinance, how to get the best deal on your home purchase financing.

Jo Garner has been in the real estate/financing business for over 25 years.  She got her start in Portland, Maine where she first began her real estate career. She received her real estate education from the University of Southern Maine  and was personally mentored in San Diego, California  by Robert G. Allen, author of Nothing Down, Creating Wealth and The Challenge. 

On moving back to West Tennessee in 1987, she went into business buying and selling discounted owner-financed notes secured on real estate.  In 1990 Jo went to work for a residential mortgage company and has been a mortgage loan officer for over 25 years.  Her goal is to offer excellent, affordable service to her customers, tailoring the loan programs to the specific needs of her clients.  

In addition to her work in the mortgage field, Jo Garner  is the primary sponsor and founder of Talk Shoppe in Memphis. Jo Garner also host the radio show Real Estate Mortgage Shoppe airing on News Radio AM 600 WREC and iHeart Radio with podcasts and show notes published on