The hardest house to sell is….

I showed a house to a family last night. It was in a desirable neighborhood. Had a nice lot. Had lots of square footage and a nice floor plan.

What was the problem?

There wasn’t any one feature of the house that was amazing and there wasn’t anything to hate either. It was all just okay.

Most houses have a combination of things you love and things you dislike but you can live with. The normal thought process for deciding if you want the house is weighing back and forth between what you like and dislike. When the house has nothing you like and nothing you dislike, it is hard. People want to fall in love with their house. Often it is easier to sell a house with an amazing kitchen and a bad lot. Or an outdated house with an incredible lot.

You would think such an inoffensive house would be ideal, but it is not. Showings for these type of houses usually take a little longer. Buyers typically walk through the house several times hoping they have missed that one feature that they can get excited about. But it isn’t there. And there isn’t anything to walk away from the house hating. So most of them just walk away.

Which offer to pick when you have more than one?

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This is a house I put on the market late Friday evening.  I own it with a friend.  It is fixed up pretty nice, which is why we had over 25 showings scheduled.  We got 7 offers on it.  We had two more interested buyers, but when I told their agents we had multiple offers, they didn’t want to join the bidding war.

You’d think it would be an easy thing….picking which one to accept.  There is so much more to an offer than just the one with the highest sale price.

The lowest offer was way under the asking price and the buyer wanted us to pay $4200 of their closing costs.  When 4 of the 7 offers came in over the list price, that one was rejected with a good laugh.  I am glad I got it because I used it to force the next buyer into bringing their highest and best offer.

I had priced the house competitively. I knew that there was not much on the market.  I knew we had done a really good job making the house appealing.  What I didn’t know was how many buyers there would be.  You don’t know that until you list it and watch it unfold in real time.


Most sellers would be thrilled to have offers over the list price.  While I was excited, I was also thinking about the appraisal.  Anybody doing any type of loan will need to do an appraisal.  And I wanted an offer that would result in a CLOSING!  All of the loan types the buyers were doing made me nervous about the appraisal.  Plus, most of them wanted us to pay their closing costs too.



So, I really wanted a conventional loan buyer.  Since we were over the list price already, I wanted somebody who did not need us to pay any of their closing costs.  The closing cost issue was a really big deal.  Why?  because if the house only appraises for the original list price of $138,750 and the buyer needed $3000 in closing costs paid by us, we would only net $135,750.  If we have to reduce the sale price to match the appraised value, I don’t want to also deduct the buyer’s closing costs from that value too.

Fortunately the house was so nice that I knew all I had to do was wait until the right offer came in.  Once it did, we accepted it.

This is one of many things I take into consideration for my clients.  It was fun to do it for myself this time!


I improved a neighborhood BEFORE it was a neighborhood

10,000 trees.  That is how many I planted in what is now known as The Enclave at Chilesburg.

It was the mid 90s.  Back then Andover Hills was a fairly new neighborhood.  There was a 32 acre parcel that was outside the urban service area.  The developers, Bob Miller and Lynwood Wiseman, decided they would build their own houses on it.

Bob Miller went first.  He had Jose Oubrerie design his house while he was in town serving as Dean of UK’s College of Architecture.  Oubrerie learned a thing or two about architecture from his time with a more recognizable name in architecture, Le Corbusier.



Ok, that is the history of the place before my time planting trees.

Bob Miller was a lawyer.  My dad was a lawyer.  All lawyers know each other because half of them have been partners at one time or another.  Anyway, my dad was good friends with one of his partners and that is how I found out about the job to plant 10,000 trees.

I had seen Bob Miller’s house only from the road.  This was long before Hays Blvd existed.  There was just the little country road over there and it was called Walnut Hill-Chilesburg or something like that.  In the fall and winter, you could see the house from that road.  I had always wondered what it was since it is unlike anything else in Lexington.

Bob gave me the address, which was then on Maple Ridge Road in Andover Hills.  I remember wondering how I was going to plant that many trees on a neighborhood lot-this was before google earth.  I pulled up to a driveway between two houses at the end of the cul de sac and there was a gate.  It opened and I followed the road to the house I had previously only seen from a distance.

I was speechless as I approached the house.  It was a piece of art to me, surrounded by 32 beautiful acres as it’s frame.  There was a pond in front of the house….well, it was really the back of the house but you saw it first as you came down the driveway.

Bob liked trees.  He had made a walking trail all the way around the place, which is now part of the neighborhood.  He wanted to make a forest in the middle.  So, I spent a few weeks randomly planting about 8 different types of saplings all over the field across from his house.

One late afternoon, I took a break and gazed across the land that is now Chilesburg.  I remember thinking that one day, I would bring my kids to see these trees when they were huge.  The trees when they were huge, not my kids.

Another time I was out planting, Lynwood Wiseman came out in his Nissan Pathfinder and gave me a hard time about planting where he was going to build his own house one day.  He drove over most of the freshly planted trees on his way in and out.  I told him I was only doing as I was told and he would need to talk to Bob about it.  Few people disliked Lynwood.  Everybody else hated him.  Lynwood would eventually build his house on the opposite side of the pond from Bob Miller.  It is still there, right in the middle of the neighborhood.  The pond is long gone, filled in to make lots for new houses.

I was in an architectural program at LLC at the time.  I told several students and a few teachers about Bob’s house.  Word got over to the College of Architecture.  Turns out that Bob had involved many students in the designing and building of the house, allowed it to be photographed for various architecture books and magazines…..and then closed the gate once it was all over.  I was the only person those architecture loving people knew who had seen it in person.  I asked Bob if I could take some pictures and make a video of the place.  I did not realize at that time how private he was about the house.  I have always appreciated his kindness to me for that.  The video I made ended up in the UK College of Architecture’s library.  It was a VHS tape.  I sure hope somebody converted it to a DVD.


Those were happy memories for me.  Then there were some unhappy memories of that place.  Bob Miller passed away.  His wife Penny, who was the inspiration for Penny Lane in Andover Hills, sold it to a developer.  That developer went belly up.  The house was vandalized many times.  While it finally did get an owner who appreciates it, it just isn’t the same for me when I see it now.

I did take my kids to see the trees when Ball Homes began to develop the land.  About half of them are gone (the trees, not my kids).  They are about 30 feet tall I guess.  I think of all the people who picked their lot because it backed to the wooded area that I helped create.  I think of how nice it felt the day they were planted, when I was out in a beautiful field, the only sound being the wind passing through trees, and Bob’s house in the corner of my eye.  I also think about the day when somebody backing to my trees calls me up to list their house, and I get to tell them everything you just read.

2 Lexington homes whose history you didn’t know

I’m doing a mash up of Old Lexington, scandal, politics, big business and……real estate?  Yep, real estate.  Just like a retro-local version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Before moving to Lexington in the mid-80s, I was in Frankfort.  And when you live in the capitol of this fine state, you are always aware of who is the Governor.

So let’s begin with John Y. Brown’s house:

One of my favorite things to do when I was a teenager was driving around neighborhoods and looking at houses.  This one caught my eye long before I knew it’s history.  I later found out that it was John Y’s house, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I knew what kind of stuff went on here:

The book is a good read.  I had always thought of John Y. Brown as the guy who stole Kentucky Fried Chicken from Colonel Sanders and that chubby Governor who really liked riding in helicopters until I read this.  My favorite memory of John Y was when I was in the 4th grade.  He and his wife Phyllis George landed in a helicopter in front of Hearn Elementary.  A limo showed up with their newborn baby, Lincoln Brown.  All us kids got to stand in line and walk past the limo for a quick glimpse of Baby Lincoln.  Even as a kid, I thought it was crazy that they chose the helicopter for transportation when the Capitol was about 5 miles away.  Even crazier now that I am a parent is that the school interrupted education so we could see some baby whose dad was the Gov.

His house last sold for $660k in 2012.  From the pictures I saw when it was for sale, it looks like several of the bathrooms are pretty original-in that cool mid century way.  Somebody at some time added an amazing swimming pool.  The basement has a catering kitchen.  I don’t know if that is an original feature.  It looks to be since the cabinets feel more like 1960 than the 1970s when John Y lived there.


Moving on, the other  80s Governor who is memorable for things not having to do with being the Governor, is Wallace Wilkinson.  He is best known for saying things like he was for “Tax Avoidance” and not “Tax Evasion.”

Life was probably pretty good for him when he built this monster of a house in 1972.  His chain of bookstores were doing so well that he had the money to make several additions to his home, one of which was an indoor swimming pool.

This picture was taken when he was selling the house….probably to pay off the $300,000,000 in debt he had at the time.

According to Wikipedia, he was insolvent since about 1992 and was operating a Ponzi scheme.  Maybe that is why the pool was covered with a tarp in this picture?

Wilkinson’s house last sold in 2004 for $875k.   It use to have two other huge lots with it, but those were sold to pay off his creditors.

Every time I pull into Greenbrier, I try to imagine what it would have been like for Wally to drive home from work.  I picture him in a 1979 Cadillac Seville, talking on a giant cell phone hardwired inside his car as he drives past Hamburg back when it was only a farm.  He waves to Anita Madden if she is at her mailbox.  He gets off the phone about where Man O War is now, pushes the Conway Twitty 8-track in the stereo and chills for a minute before turning on Bahama Road.  Then it is fondue for dinner and an evening watching The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.



Mold and $5000: Why I feel like Superman

“Do something a person can’t do for themselves or something they don’t want to do and you will always have a job.”

I think my dad said this when I was about 11 years old or so.  It is one of the many things he said to me that has always stuck with me.

I had a lawn care business when I was younger and stronger.  That was clearly something anybody could do for themselves, so what I was doing was something my customers didn’t want to do.

Now I’m a realtor.  To some people, it can look like I am doing something anybody can do.  Sure, people do sell their own houses, buyers do buy without the assistance of a realtor.  The funny thing about it is that those people never really know how well they did…..what did they have to compare it to?  Often, a bad buying decision isn’t discovered until you go to sell.

That is where experience comes in.  I kind of feel like all my life has been preparing me to be a realtor.  I was into architecture as a kid, always drew floor plans, went to open houses and model homes as my hobby.  Took drafting and construction classes in high school and college, worked around building materials at Lowe’s, was an estimator for a construction company.  It’s all helped me to offer something beyond opening doors and filling in the blanks on a contract for my clients.

I recently had 2 experiences that I am pretty proud of:

  1.  I have a client who is building a new home.  We just did what is called a pre-drywall walk-thru.  The builder’s goal is to make sure they have the buyer sign off on where all the outlets and such go before the drywall gets hung.  My goal is to check out the house.  I like to just walk around and look, and look and look.  Besides a few little things, I noticed what looked like mold on the roof trusses.  I sold a newer house to some friends a few years ago.  The home inspector found mold on their trusses.  The trusses are delivered to the site in bundles and sit outside until the workers begin the roof.  If it is really wet, those trusses get mold growing on them and are installed before they dry out.  Ever since then, I am always looking at roof trusses when I have a client building a new house.  It was a real pain for the seller of the house my friends bought, and I don’t want my clients to go through that.  We got lucky this time.  The builder at first tried to say it was dirt, but then agreed to spray something on them that would kill any mold.  That’s a win for my client on several layers, the most important one is their health.  (By the way, the truss in the picture  is cracked, which is also being addressed!)img_1756
  2. One of the most common things I get asked from a seller is what needs done to get their house ready to list?  I had a client whose house had a 27 year old roof.  That is pretty old.  I rarely see a roof that old.  And it wasn’t really in that good of shape either.  He was ready to spend $5000 to replace it before we listed it.  I came out and looked at it.  I told him we should put the house on the market as it is.  If we get lucky, nobody will ask for it to be replaced.  There weren’t a lot of listings available at that time and buyer’s could not be that picky.   We got the home inspection repair list.  Nothing at all about the roof.

So, a little experience got one client a mold free house and saved $5000 for another.  It feels really good to be able to do for my clients what they can’t do for themselves….often simply because they don’t have the experience to know what to do.