“If you were me, would you (fill in the blank)?”

I get asked what I would do if I was in my client’s situation an awful lot. So much so that I thought maybe I’d write a little about the most common times this is asked.

  1. Would you buy a house right now if you were me? My answer is always yes. Not because I want to make a sale, but because I am old enough to know that the sooner you buy a house, the sooner you start building equity. You are leveraging time when you buy real estate. Rates go up and down. Prices generally increase consistently over time. You can always refinance later if rates drop. One thing you can never do is go back in time to get a lower price or a lower interest rate…..NOW is always the best time to buy.
  2. Would you still buy this house knowing what we now know after the home inspection?” My general thought is that no house is perfect. I’ve read probably 600 or more home inspection reports. Most houses seem to have 90% of the same issues as other houses of a similar age. I am rarely shocked at anything a home inspector finds since I’ve seen it all before. I personally think there are only a few times to walk away from a house after the home inspection: When the sum of it’s major immediate needs are just too much for you to handle financially or if there is something found such as structural damage that can make the house harder to sell when you want to part with it. I would not worry about the usual 20-30 minor items that any inspector will surely find on any house.
  3. I’m only going to be in town for 3 years, would you rent of buy if you were me?” For 3 years or more, I would buy. You should be able to net enough from the sale to cover selling it and your own closing costs. I would look for a house that will not need anything major like a roof or HVAC units replaced because that could wipe out any gain. For 2 years or less, I would definitely just rent.
  4. Would you move to a town surrounding Lexington to save money if you were me?” I usually tell people to live in whatever town their lives are in. If you work in Lexington and your social life is in Lexington, then you need to stay in Lexington. My first house was in Winchester. My business and all my friends were in Lexington. I felt like I lived on I-64 since I spent most of my time driving between both places. You won’t really save any money doing this even if you buy a cheaper house. Trust me. What you spend extra on gas, tires, extra oil changes and depreciation on your car costs more than you’d save by living in a cheaper town.
  5. I can’t find a house in my price range, would you buy a townhouse or condo if you were me?” The condo/townhouse market has generally been about 10% of the whole residential real estate market. That means that only 1 out of 10 buyers will consider purchasing your place when it is your turn to sell. I usually tell people to buy a condo or townhouse if that is really what they want. It needs to be mostly about your lifestyle. If you want a low maintenance lifestyle, then it is a good choice. I also suggest getting a condo or townhouse for buyers with a super low budget. If your choice is continue renting, buy a worn out house that needs everything in a sketchy part of town, or buy a decent condo/townhouse in a decent neighborhood…..then buy a condo or townhouse. I have sold several to first time buyers with super low budgets. It was a great way for them to start building equity verses waiting until they could afford more.

Telling people what they need to hear

Back when I was so overweight, I dreaded going to the doctor. They would always tell me all the ways being overweight would affect my health. It’s not like I didn’t know that. I just didn’t want to accept it.

A lot of buyers are in the same situation today. The reality of what it takes to get a home seems overwhelming. It is easier to just hope somehow it will all work out and you’ll get a house somehow if you submit enough offers.

Reality checks are never fun. One day I accepted everything the doctors had always told me. Once I did that, I knew what I needed to do if I didn’t want to have health issues as I aged.

I sold a house over the weekend to a new client who had lost several houses previously with their last realtor. I didn’t really do anything special. I did my usual good job in trying to make our offer the most appealing to the seller. The hero of this story is the buyer. I was just like the doctors telling me the reality I didn’t want to here. He took in all the information and chose to do something about it.

Like all houses these days, it got several offers the first day on the market. It is normal to go over the list price these days so we did an escalation clause up to a certain amount. The buyer was a little anxious about going that high. I explained that odds are we would not need to go that high, but that he would have hated to have lost the house by just a little bit. He agreed.

Once the offer was sent and I told the Seller’s Realtor a few things, I got a question about not having an appraisal gap waiver. I knew this meant that our offer was one being seriously considered. If we were not the best or one of the best offers they had, why would he ask about it?

I told my buyer this good news. He didn’t really want to risk having to put out more cash should the house not appraise for the sale price. I told him that this is getting more and more common with every house I’ve sold. If we didn’t do it this time, odds are we would be in the same situation on the next house when prices and interest rates might be higher. He agreed.

A few hours later I got a text that he got the house!!!!!

The hero here is my client. All I did was tell him the reality of what would most likely happen just like all those doctors did for me. My client accepted the reality of today’s market. He realized he wasn’t going to magically escape some of these uncomfortable things and end up winning a house in multiple offers. Once he saw that, he knew what he had to do just as I saw what I had to do.

My Dad always said “Living in reality is never fun, but what other choice do you have?” to which I will now add “Plus living in reality with a house is better than not doing so and waiting for the next new listing to hit the market and do it all over again and again.”

What’s it really like living in the country?

I’ve been in the sticks for almost a year now. I get asked this a lot. For the most part, it has been everything I hoped. I enjoy it. I did have some concerns before we moved, and of course there are a few things I had not thought about.

My biggest concern was getting stuck out here in the winter. I don’t know why, but for some reason ice on my street in the country bothered me more than ice on the street at my old house in a neighborhood. It was about two miles inside the neighborhood at my old house before I got to well maintained road. Well, I live about the same distance from a major state highway. Guess what? Two miles of ice is still two miles regardless of where you live. The good thing for me is that my road gets plowed and salted faster than my old neighborhood road did. My next door neighbor out here is the police chief, so I guess they want him to be able to get out easily if there is an emergency.

I was worried about crime. That is probably because having grown up in neighborhoods, the thought of nobody being close by was scary. That’s been a non-issue. Only your neighbors drive past your house unless you live on a main road and there seems to be a real strong sense of respecting the property of others out here. And for those that aren’t so respectful, they assume everybody has a gun so they don’t really want to risk getting shot at for your stuff.

There are really only two things that I didn’t think about. Neither are big deals thankfully.

The first is that most people in the country keep to themselves. My neighbors will wave to me. Several stopped and introduced themselves to me when I was new. But most of the time it is just like a neighborhood where you mostly just smile and wave. I guess small talk is harder to do at the mailbox when your houses are so far apart.

The other thing, and this one is what bothers me the most, is that there are no storm sewers. In a neighborhood, the rain water runs neatly down the curb into the storm sewer and disappears. Out in the country, the water runs down a hill, crosses the road leaving mud and gravel for daaaaaaaaays after it quits raining. This probably wouldn’t bother me if I wasn’t trying to keep my cars clean. As soon as it all dries up, here comes another rain to do it all again.

And that’s it. Other than these few things, it really isn’t that much different than I expected. Sure, I have to drive longer to get anywhere and I have a lot more grass to mow. That is totally worth it to me to get the peace, quiet, calmness and beauty that county life offers.

I love showing rural properties. Nothing like a fun drive in the country and then getting to see a house and some land. Here are the counties I work in for both rural and neighborhood properties: Fayette, Scott, Jessamine, Clark, Madison, Woodford, Bourbon, Montgomery, Franklin and Garrard Counties.

How to make a good choice in a frenzied market

It used to be real estate was all about “Location, location, location.”

Today real estate seems to be more about “Finishes, finishes,finishes.”

This disturbs me. Why? Because one day there will be enough houses for sale that a buyer has a choice on location. Right now, with so few houses for sale, buyers are considering ANY house in their price range. When you only have one or two choices, you can’t afford to be picky.

Something else that disturbs me are all the houses that have been extensively renovated and are selling for twice what a similar non-renovated house is worth in the same neighborhood.

I am not sure why this is but I suspect it has to do with the speed of the market. Nobody has time to do a market analysis and see what the house is worth compared to other recent sales or see if it is overimproved for the neighborhood

This is what I tell my buyers:

  1. Location is still important. Any house can be updated but you can’t easily move a house to a better location.
  2. Only buy at the top of the neighborhood’s price range if there are several other homes equal in finishes and value. You do not want that $400k house that looks like the reveal at the end of an HGTV show and is surrounded by $200k houses. In a balanced market, or even worse in a buyer’s market, potential buyers will love your house but will not buy it. They will be in a $400k price range and expecting a $400k neighborhood. They won’t like the cheaper houses around it. Remember when you buy a house, you are also buying stock in the neighborhood.
  3. Don’t compromise on the lot. Right now nobody cares. Buyers are just excited about any house in their price range. You don’t want the house with the tiniest or oddly shaped lot in the neighborhood. Remember neighborhoods are about conformity……fitting in among the rest of the houses. It’s okay to have the biggest or best lot in the neighborhood of course, but if most of the lots in the neighborhood are flat, you don’t want one that isn’t. If most are large, you don’t want the smallest one. Avoid driveways that are pretty steep. It is better to have a lot where the backyard slopes downhill away the house verses sloping uphill.

Basically, the best thing to remember as you frantically are trying to decide how much over the asking price you want to go is that one day you will be selling the house. The market may not be as tight. You won’t know whether the house you picked was a good decision or a bad one until it is your time to sell it.

So, always go into a purchase being mindful of your exit plan.

I took my own real estate advice and bought a car

I’ve been wanting to get another car for a while now. Anybody that knows me knoooooows I am a very sensible, practical guy in all aspects of my life other than when it comes to cars.

This year was probably my worst. I mean, I should probably make a YouTube channel about the stupid decisions I make when it comes to cars. I don’t keep them long. I spend a lot of money fixing them up then get bored and sell them for cheap.

I sold a newer Porsche that just didn’t do it for me anymore. I was thinking of getting one of two BMWs since BMWs are my all time favorite cars. One was practically new. The other was an older one. I tend to like older cars better so I went with the older one. After doing some modifications on the car, the engine blew up. It was worth nothing. Meanwhile, used car prices have been going crazy. The other car that was on my radar earlier this year was now worth at least $10k MORE! I really wish I had just bought that car back then. I would have saved the money wasted on the one that blew up and also saved on the other one too…..but no, I took the most foolish route because for some reason I throw out all logic when it comes to cars.

All of this has been really upsetting to me. I mean, I wish I had just bought earlier. I don’t like the current prices of the car I now want. They are hard to find. I don’t even know if now is a good time to buy since who knows what the market will be like next year. Will prices go up? Will they go down??

Then it dawned on me.

I was doing the same thing a lot of home buyers are doing, which was just being paralyzed with confusion and being mad that I should have done something sooner and can’t seem to get what I want now.

What do I tell my buyers who are in this same place? I tell them yes, you could have or should have bought sooner but you can’t go back in time. Yes, it is a frustrating market but it is the only market there is. Yes, prices could go up or down but in addition to usual market issues like supply/demand and interest rates, we now have inflation to think about. Let’s say prices drop. If you have a mortgage, you are paying that loan back with deflated dollars due to inflation so it’s sort of like you are also paying less and less over time. If prices go up, you are also still paying back that loan with deflated dollars so you are coming out ahead.

So, for the first time in my life, I have taken my own expert advice and pulled the trigger on a 2020 BMW M2 in my favorite BMW color, Alpine White. (Sorry for the picture. The dealer is putting on new tires and getting the car cleaned up for me so I don’t have it yet……which feels even more like buying a house since I have to wait to actually get possession of it!)