The neighborhood that influenced 12 year old me

When I was a kid, I had a paper route. It was everyday after school and Sunday mornings. Other than about 3 houses in my blue collar neighborhood, my route was in a neighboring upscale neighborhood called Inverness.

It was during this time that I started noticing differences between neighborhoods, lots, houses, and everything that makes me The LEXpert today.

I got bullied a lot as a kid. I didn’t really like many of the kids in my own neighborhood. This was back in the days before the internet and cell phones so kids went outside. Even people with cable TV only had like 12 channels, 10 really since one was the weather and another just scrolled what was on the other channels. I remember always dreading delivering papers to the 3-4 houses in my neighborhood. Once I got those done and Inverness was in sight, I always felt relieved and would take a deep breath.

Inverness was a very peaceful and calm neighborhood. It had maybe 50 houses in it? All the lots were very large. There were no street lights or side walks. Most of the houses were built in the late 60s and 1970s. It is very much like Greenbrier in Lexington but it did not have a golf course. I loved this neighborhood and always wanted to live here. I eventually ended up living in a 1980s house in Greenbrier, which I now see was the fruition of this desire.

The people that lived in Inverness were mostly middle aged since you often have to work many years to be able to afford such nice houses. They were all very polite to me. I got to know several of them. Many knew I was into houses and neighborhoods and would let me see inside their homes. It wasn’t until last week that I realized the impact this neighborhood had on my whole life. I was early for a showing that wasn’t too far from this area so I thought I would drive around for old times sake.

I started to remember the people, their homes and my thoughts as I would pedal my bicycle through my route, with my bag full of newspapers getting lighter with each one I delivered.

There was one woman who wanted me to leave the paper in a small tin garbage pail by her back door. Once or twice a week, I would open the pail and there would be a bag with a few cookies in it. Another resident had a new 280ZX that I drooled over. I saw my first Audi 5000 with the then new flush windows. There was one contemporary house owned by some big-wig in his political party that I absolutely loved. I became fairly close to one older couple who wanted to move to Florida. I told them all about the community where my Grandparents lived and arranged for my Grandparents to meet them and give them a tour of the area……probably the first realtor like thing I’d ever do.

I would privately critique each house in the neighborhood. My clients will probably laugh when they hear that I would say much of the same things they have heard me say like:

“That’s going to be a difficult driveway to get out of in the winter.”

The columns on the front porch are too far apart and don’t really match the style of the house.”

“This house looks like it was designed on a napkin by somebody who just won the lottery while meeting with their builder at Waffle House.”

“This house is right by the only entrance and exit to this neighborhood and that means EVERYBODY driving in and out of here has to pass your house each time.”

I don’t recall when or why I quit doing this paper route, probably when we moved to Lexington. It sure was a special and influential part of my life.

How I lost over 130 pounds (and how you can too)

I get asked this a lot so I thought I would let everybody know.

I’ll start with recovering from being sick early in 2020. I lost about 10 pounds from not eating and being dehydrated. I viewed that as a head start to what I had known for a long time I needed to do.

I knew nothing about nutrition. All I knew was that I ate too much and ate the wrong things. Initially my goal was to just eat less and eat better. I’ve quit a lot of difficult things in my life. I used to smoke and drink when I was much younger. I quit both. The main difference from quitting those and losing weight is that you still need to eat. I think that is what makes it hard for most people. If you quit smoking, you never smoke again. If you want to quit overeating, you are still eating only you’re trying to eat less. I quit eating junk food and avoided sugar as much as I could. When I ate a meal, I just tried to eat less than I would have in the past. It was working.

I had no idea how many calories I was consuming in things like bread or flour tortillas. I used to have like 5-6 flour tortillas when we would have tacos because I don’t like overstuffed tacos. I would rather eat more with less in them than have fewer that are hard to hold. Those extra tortillas or bread were really adding up and I had no idea.

I also tried to avoid drinking calories. I used to drink a lot of sweet tea and Ale-8s. I limited myself to one Ale-8 a day, even though each one was 60% of the daily amount of sugar you need. Now I might have one a week and it actually is better. It feels like more of an occasion to have one. It is funny that when you do have something less often, it just seems more special.

As I just slowly kept reducing what I ate, two things started to change. One was I was learning that a human body doesn’t need as much food as I thought it did. I had never really been hungry in my whole life. I was confusing being hungry with the energy crashes from eating sugar and junk food. I would eat the wrong stuff, get some energy, crash, then do it all over again. Day in, day out. Once I quit doing that, I could go longer between meals without snacking. The other thing I realized was that counting calories was a lot like math and managing money, both of which I like.

It sort of became fun to count calories. I viewed each day like I had a budget of calories to spend and my goal was to spend them wisely. Since I had gone into “Fat Debt” by eating way too many calories in the past, I had to payoff that debt by having a calorie deficit.

Once I stated losing some weight, probably when I was about 230 pounds or so, I started thinking I should try to get in better shape. I had an old 50 pound barbell that I don’t even know where it came from. I started lifting it 10 times any time I walked by it. The first several times really hurt. I had done some damage to my shoulders while working at UPS when I was much younger. I always had a hard time any time I needed to keep my arms over my shoulders. I pushed through. Now I have built enough muscle that it doesn’t hurt at all now. I realized this the last time I trimmed bushes at my old house. That used to really hurt and be a miserable experience.

I also started doing push ups. Those really hurt, especially since I was doing them wrong at first. It used to be hard to even do a few of them. That was okay. I knew if I just stuck to it, it would become easier and I would be able to do more. I try to do about 50 a day now.

So I’m continuing to eat less and exercise a little more. All is well.

I sort of like having a routine and sticking to it. I hit a point where I was having no energy and it was hard to get through the afternoon. I started eating more calories earlier in the day and that helped. What I learned here is that things can change. I just thought I would keep up the original plan for the rest of my life.

Then I got into jogging, which I haven’t done in a long time. It was sort of a novelty. I had not run since I was a little kid. It was sort of fun to be able to do it. I mostly walk now. 10k steps a day minimum. Walking really helped me go from 185 down to about 169 quicker than you would think….or at least quicker than I thought. If you don’t do any other exercise, try walking. An hour a day can change your life. Just turn off the TV and do it because no show is more important than your health. You don’t have to go fast or far at first. It is just a really easy way to get into better shape. It takes no equipment or skill. It is something all of us have successfully been doing since we were toddlers.

Speaking of the rest of my life, I viewed this change in behavior and mindset to be something that wouldn’t end. I had seen several friends lose a lot of weight and then gain it back. I did not want to do that. To me, it always seemed like dieting was forcing yourself to do something you didn’t want to do for as long as it took to reach a target weight. Once that goal is achieved, it seemed to me to be the worst thing that could happen. Most people seem to quit their good behavior once they hit their target and then go right back to overeating. For that reason, I had no specific weight goal. I wanted to get as thin as I could. I figured my body would one day just find it’s ideal weight. There were milestones of course……hitting 250, then 225, then 200, then I got into things ending with 9 such as 199, 189, 179, 169. Still though there is no magic number for me where this ends. Also, my goal was to make this mindset a permanent change. I don’t want to ever view my journey as being over, just at some point switching from weight loss to maintaining my health.

Here I am over 18 months into this. I want you to know I haven’t starved myself. I haven’t done some fad dieting. I just did what we all know we should do which is use self discipline and common sense. There is no magic way to lose weight and keep it off. You just eat better and you eat less. It isn’t hard and it didn’t hurt. I never once felt like I was suffering. I ate pizza, I ate a few donuts, I ate way too much pasta. I just didn’t go crazy with those things and I would just eat a little less the next day or the day before. Remember, it is like budgeting. If your car needs new tires one month, you spend a little less on other things that month.

I sure hope this helps somebody with their journey. I cannot emphasize enough how past due this was. All that had stopped me from doing this sooner was myself. I was in denial. I was lazy. I was afraid of failing. I tell people the hardest thing was the decision to give 100%. After that it was easy. If you need to lose weight, just commit to the change. You don’t have to know everything to make the first step. You will learn along the way. Don’t view it as you are giving up anything, view it as you are gaining quality of life and a longer life. Don’t be afraid. You will have setbacks. You can’t beat yourself up. Just keep moving forward. How fast you go doesn’t matter, the direction is what matters.

What’s changed with The LEXpert?

I’m gonna try something new here. I have always used this blog to give practical advice and updates about real estate. I’ll confess, the original goal of blogging was to attract clients. The past several years, most of my work has come from people I know and have worked with before and those referred to me from those same people. I occasionally get found by great people through this blog or a dormant Youtube channel I made 10 years ago. Long story short, I have enough of a pipeline that I don’t have to chase new work. It finds me. I am also at the point in life where I can really just enjoy my work. Whether I sell 25 houses or 100 houses a year doesn’t matter to me.

I still plan on using this platform to give practical advice and my thoughts on real estate. I think since most of my readers are now people I know, I might occasionally get into a bit about what I am up to personally. This will be one of those ideas that will be great or terrible, so let me know what you all think.

Here we go!

A lot has changed with me since the beginning of COVID. I don’t think much of it really has to do with COVID, just more of a timing thing where many other things that were on the burners all came to a boil at the same time.

I had a mid life crisis. Nobody ever noticed though since I already had several sports cars, lol. My business peaked about the same time my kids were grown and didn’t need me as much as they used to. I realized that I could no longer grow my business without forming a team, which I did not want to do. I want all my clients to have me 100% of the time when they need me. I was doing as much work as a team of two or three realtors. I simply could not do any more work so I realized I had reached my peak. I sort of didn’t know what to do with myself. I had spent the past many years trying to get to where I had just arrived. All I knew how to do was climb. I wasn’t prepared to maintain. I had no other hobbies other than cars. I sort of felt bored with life really. I didn’t know what to do with myself other than just work. I went back and forth on if I should just be happy maintaining my business like it is or if I should start a second business. Well, I did something else. Instead of basing my personal feeling of success on how much time I spent working or how many houses I sold, I made the goal just enjoying the time I spent working and being with my clients. I am much happier now.

Then I had the perception of a financial crisis. I guess this is the only thing that was sort of related to COVID. I have 11 rental homes in Lexington, Winchester and Nicholasville. When the government started the eviction moratorium, I thought nobody would pay me and I would end up in a mess. I am a good planner. I try to think of every possible risk and have a plan for it. I never once entertained the idea that I might collect no rent from any house AND not be able to evict for non-payment. Fortunately I have a knack for picking the best tenants and maintaining a great relationship. I am told all the time that I am the best landlord my tenants have ever had. I respect that while I own the house, it is their home. I am responsive to fix things when they break. None of my people missed a payment. Crisis averted. What this did for me though was make me not afraid of losing it all. I learned that while losing these assets would most definitely change my life, it was not the end of the world. I might not have had as nice of a retirement or felt as financially secure had I lost the houses, but I could still be happy because ultimately happiness is a choice and it is within you. Things and money can make your life easier, but I know several people of lesser means who are some of the happiest people I know. If they can do it, then I could too. I am much freer now.

Right before the quarantine, I got really sick. No, I don’t think it was COVID. I didn’t really have any of the tell-tale symptoms but it was before any testing was available. I really just felt like I had the worst cold ever, the worst flu ever, and the worst stomach virus ever. I lost about 5-10 pounds. I had always been fat. For the past several years I would tell myself that I could lose a lot of weight if I would just commit to it. Well, this was a head start. I decided I was sick and very tired of feeling fat, being bloated all the time, and eating way too much. I started eating less and better. Then I kept eating even less and even better. Then I started exercising more. Funny thing happened, I started losing weight and feeling much better. I’ve lost close to 130 pounds now. I wish I had done it years ago. I’ve never been into looking good since I didn’t think that would ever be possible for me. I’m still not into that. What I enjoy the most is feeling better. I have energy to do things now. We tend to think weight loss is all about physical health, but I feel mentally better too. I am much thinner now.

I spent most of the quarantine walking around a very large house. It was nice when both my boys lived at home but we didn’t need all that space. Cleaning and maintaining it felt like a giant anchor to which I was chained. It was a burden. I also had so many cars that I never drove. Some were what I call “Precious cars.” Those are ones that you want to preserve and you spend more time not driving them. They are the ones that you don’t want to drive in the rain or you worry about parking safely so you end up leaving them at home to collect dust. I had worked so hard to achieve the American Dream and I didn’t really want it any more. I was realizing with the weight loss that eating less was better. It made me start to think about how having less might also be better. I sold a few cars. I still have more than I really should. We also ended up moving to a humble little home out in the country worth half what our old house was worth. It is less to maintain other than mowing. I would rather mow for hours than vacuum and trim 70 bushes. Life is much simpler now.

So, if you see me and wonder why I am much happier, much freer, much thinner and my life is much simpler, now you know!

I’m really proud of this…….

“If I have to send them postcards and basketball schedules to make them remember me, then I don’t deserve to be remembered.”

That’s what I told my broker back in 2005 as a new agent when I was told what I needed to do to keep people coming back and referring people to me. Back then about the only way to keep up with your clients was to send postcards reminding them of time changes, packets of seed in the spring, calendars, basketball schedules, etc. There was also a schedule for calling people and taking them out to lunch periodically too.

I think I sent calendars the first year but did nothing else like that ever.

I wanted to be a realtor. To me, realtors did real estate work. Licking stamps and always looking for the next house to sell didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to show houses, answer questions, do research on values, give my opinions on houses and neighborhoods, negotiate deals and work them to the closing.

Many agents in my office thought I was crazy. And not just because I wore shorts all the time. They didn’t think I would make it since I didn’t do all the status quo things they did.

My plan was to just do a really good job for my people. I thought if you left the closing and they thought you did a good job, there was no need to keep reminding them you are still a realtor.

It worked obviously since here I am today, but I’ve got one special story to share.

15 years ago I sold a house for an elderly lady. I met her daughter too. I really liked them both. I closed several weeks ago on the daughter’s new house and am closing on her old house next week. I have not seen or talked to her since that closing back in 2006.

She went to a lot of trouble to track me down. I have since gotten my brokers license and stated my own business. She just remembered my name and the real estate company I was with back then.

I had forgotten how I met them so I recently asked. She told me her and her mother came to an open house I had in 2006. They didn’t like my listing, so I told them about all the other ones in the condo complex. I told them the good and bad of the whole complex as well as the good and bad of other ones that were for sale. She said she liked how helpful I was so they decided to use me to sell her mother’s house even though she had a good friend who was also a realtor.

I don’t feel old enough for that to have been 15 years ago, but it was. What an honor to be remembered by somebody after all that time.

My first day of being a Realtor

The prep work to become a realtor is sort of crazy.  Take classes.  Take a test.  Pass the test.  Take the state test.  Pass the state test.  Find a broker to hold your license.  Transfer your license to them from the Real Estate Commission.  Join LBAR.  Take LBAR new agent classes.  Set up the LBAR profile.  Get an agent ID number.  Get your picture for cards.  Order cards.  Get set up at your new office.

Then nothing because you don’t have any clients.

I do remember sitting at my computer at home in March of 2005.  It was the first time I ever logged into the “Agent only” access to LBAR.  I was so excited.  I got to see selling prices, what type of financing the buyer did, who the buyer’s agent was, the agent only remarks, seller disclosures, if there were any seller paid concessions, etc.

After I spent about an hour playing around on that site I think I went outside and played with my kids because there was nothing to do.

That was the last day I ever had nothing to do.  I think I have worked literally every single day since then, at least a little.

I would have never imagined what today was like.  Doing about everything online.  Back then I would send maybe 10 texts a day and spend hours on the phone talking to people.  Now I spend 10 minutes talking to people and all day texting.  I would have been shocked that there would be a giant website to look at houses for sale anywhere.  I would have been even more shocked that the Great Recession would wipe out about 20% of the property values here and make being a new realtor a bit more challenging.

Sometimes when I log on to LBAR in the morning to see new listings, pending and sold houses, I remember sitting at my old computer that day.  Keeping up with the market is one of the few things that really fascinates me…..the other two are cars and the beauty of nature.  It’s been a good time and I sure hope to be doing this for at least the next 15 years.