What do you really want in a house?

I’ve lived in my house for just over 5 years.

My biggest complaints?  I don’t have taller ceilings and I don’t have a lot of natural light.

What do I like about it?  I’ve got lots of space.  We have some empty cabinets and are no where near running out of room to store stuff.  I’ve got more than average room to park cars.  I’ve got a big lot with a lot of trees.  I like that I sit sort of high on my street and have some open space I can see between and over my neighbor’s houses.

I also like that the master bedroom is upstairs.  I don’t like it when the master is on the main level and is right off of a living space.  I like to feel like I am tucked in far away from any possible noise or distraction when I go to bed.

I find myself always looking out the windows.  I love watching the wind move tree branches.  It is like the trees are dancing.  I’ve got several peekaboo views of a golf course and a pond.

I like that I am on a dead end street about as deep in my neighborhood as possible.  It is very peaceful except when the dogs behind me are barking.

The funny thing about all this is that none of my favorite things about this house were part of the criteria for the search.

Like a lot of buyers, I based my search on logical things:  Bedroom count, square footage, part of town and price range.

I got some bonus things that were not part of that criteria.  I compromised on some things too….like my 8 foot ceilings and lack of natural light due to all the amazing trees that block the sun.

Being a realtor for over 12 years, I know that often the logical criteria gets thrown out the window when a buyer sees a house that triggers something emotionally for them.

For me, I was willing to compromise as soon as I pulled up to the house and saw the landscaping and the wide front lawn.  We were willing to do some updating after we saw the fireplace on the covered patio and all the trees in the backyard.  (We are still willing to do updating….meaning it hasn’t happened yet, haha!)

Almost all my buyers end up buying a house that is slightly different from the logical criteria they tell me they want.  And that is okay.  It’s all about finding a place you love.  Sometimes you don’t know what features you will fall in love with until you see them.

Why I let my sellers stay home 2-4 on Sundays

The house across the street from me recently sold.  There had been open houses almost every week that it was listed.  It had tons of people come see it.

Sounds great, right?

Doing a little research, there had been 82 sales of houses priced $50k less and $50k more than this house’s list price.  That is 82 sales all year.  In ALL of Lexington. And there had probably been about half that many people come to the open houses.  I know because I was home every Sunday between 2 and 4, usually washing my cars.  Could it be that there were half as many buyers out there looking as we have had sales all year?  Doubtful.  I bet most of those people are just out on a Sunday between 2 and 4 for entertainment.

Which gets me to my point.  No offense at all to the agent who had this house listed.  The agent did a great job.  The pictures looked great.  Great marketing too.  I just don’t think open houses really help sell a house.  In the internet age, exposure is never the problem.  I think they are one of the few tasks an agent can do that a seller can see.  It makes a seller feel good.

Selling a house is a lot like fishing.  You bait the hook with quality pictures and an attractive price, drop it in the water we call the internet, and wait for a bite.  Sellers don’t like that.  Sellers want action.  An open house is something they can see.  Even if at 4:05 when you are pulling the open house sign out of the yard and telling the seller the house didn’t sell, they are happier because they saw you do something.

I often have sellers ask about doing an open house.  I guess I could do one and make them feel happy, but I normally tell them how it really works.

I tell them that open houses are the 8 track player of the real estate world.  They hark back to the days when there were no pictures except maybe a black and white thumbnail of the front of the house in the newspaper.  An open house was the only chance a buyer had to see the inside.  Now we have multiple quality pictures, inside and out, and some even have pictures to show you what the house looks like to passing airplanes.

I tell them that most people that come to an open house are either just beginning their search and not ready to pull the trigger, or are neighbors, or bored, or even thieves.

I tell them that to believe the house will sell due to an open house means that we have to believe there is a buyer out there who wants to buy the house but is too afraid to call their own agent or the listing agent to schedule a time to see it.  And in this market, doesn’t mind the risk that it will sell before the open house.

I tell them I know all this because I use to do open houses all the time until I realized all I was doing was kicking them out of their home in the middle of one of their days off work.

And they always tell me they didn’t realize all that and to skip the open house.

In my opinion, the best thing you can do when your house hasn’t sold is to listen to the market.  If you get feedback from showings and most of the buyer’s thought the price was high, the house needed paint, or there was some other negative, you should fix the issues or reduce the price.  Remember my fishing analogy?  Not responding to the negatives is like fishing with the wrong bait.  Inviting all the fish to come see your bait will get you an audience, but they won’t bite if they don’t like it.

Oh, about that house across the street.  How did the buyer see the house?  They scheduled a private showing with their own agent.

Why isn’t that house selling? I thought it was a HOT market?

You’d think in a time where there are not a lot of houses on the market, buyers would be less picky.

Not the case at all.

Back when the market and economy were bad, few people were updating or renovating their homes.  I mean, why would they when they didn’t know if they were going to remain gainfully employed as they watched the value of their home decrease?

Flash forward a few years and people are feeling great about the economy, home values have gone up, all is swell.  After all those years of watching HGTV, it’s time to pull out some cash on a refi or HELOC and spend spend spend.

Not so long ago, most of the houses for sale were just very ho-hum.

Now it seems like most of the houses I show have been updated or extensively renovated…..cooler, lighter colors, lots of white cabinets.  Marble and quartz have replaced granite.

So where does that leave the house that needs paint, flooring, has too much travertine or has that Tuscan vibe that was so popular earlier this century?  It leaves them sitting on the market, collecting dust each and every day as they get overlooked online.  The ones in more desirable neighborhoods do better because a good location can make a buyer more forgiving.

You’d think in a time where there are not a lot of houses on the market, buyers would be less picky.

Not the case at all.

A fun way to lose $100k

I had a client ask me about a gorgeously renovated house in South Lexington the other day.  It looked like something right out of HGTV.

What was the problem?

It was easily $100k more than anything in that neighborhood.  It was around $350k in a neighborhood of $180-225k houses.

It was too risky.

Now, it could be this was the first house to be totally renovated and many more will follow in this neighborhood.  Or it could forever remain the one house that doesn’t really fit in.  Only somebody with a crystal ball could tell.  For now, I think it is too risky to be that first person to pay waaaaay more than what any house in the neighborhood is worth.  If this isn’t the next “Up and coming” neighborhood, then the buyer for this house will find that in 10 years, nobody wants the 2017 trendy finishes they paid an extra $100k to have.  It will just be another outdated home in the neighborhood and no longer the best one……and will be worth about $180-225k adjusted to inflation.

The best place I have ever lived

HK for blog

 

Of all the places I have ever lived, this house was my favorite.

Somebody once told me that people either are moving away from pain or moving towards pleasure.

We were definitely moving from pain.  We were miserable at our old house due to two neighbors.  One held poker games several nights a week.  40-50 guys gambling and drinking until the middle of the night was going to eventually erupt into something scary.  The other problem neighbor was an animal hoarder who kept multiple dogs outside 24/7.

We had a contract to build a brand new house.  Then it turned out that the Army Corp of Engineers had not issued a required permit the developer needed.

My wife told me I had better find her a house fast!

I had shown the house we eventually bought to another client.  It didn’t really impress me.

The price had just been reduced so I told my wife we could go see this place but I had been in it and didn’t think she would like it.

She did though.

I wasn’t too excited about it, but it was better than where we were living.  We bought it on my oldest son’s birthday.  I remember having to leave his party early to go drop off the signed contract to the listing agent.  This was a few years before we all used electronic signatures.  Today, I would have been out in the backyard with he and all his friends doing it from my phone.

We moved in.  I woke up the next morning and it felt so good to have all the natural light flooding the two story foyer.    It also felt good being on a dead end street.  And knowing my boys were safe.

We had no idea what an awesome time was ahead of us.

There were lots of boys the same age as our two.  A family across the street was in the same magnet program our boys were in.  We carpooled a lot.  We didn’t realize it when we bought the place, but it was just down the road from my oldest son’s best friend.  My wife’s roommate from college lived about 200 feet down the road too.

It just felt like home.  We knew our neighbors.  Everybody was friendly.  Our kids and all the other boys could play outside.  The floor plan really worked well too.

It was…….perfect.

This is what I hope to find for all of my clients.  It feels really good when you touch base with somebody after they have moved in and they tell you they are loving everything about their new home.