Yeah yeah yeah. We’ve all been told by real estate professionals for years that the single most important thing when picking a house is it’s location. I’m telling you right now that there is something even more critical than that.
Let me tell you a few things about location first. It’s subjective. People pick where they want to live for lots of reasons: Proximity to main roads, their job, schools, parks, low crime, etc. It’s always a compromise too. One buyer may be willing to be far from parks if their kid can be in a better rated school. Another buyer may be willing to put up with a higher crime rate if it is super close to their job…..so, one person’s great location may not be as great to other buyers. Also, locations are sort of price dependent. What is considered a good location for somebody with a $100k budget will definitely be a bad location for a $400k buyer.
What do ALL buyers have in common though when picking a house? They all want as good of a lot as they can get. In all 15 years of my career, I have never had somebody say they wanted a house that backed to a busy road, had a steep driveway, lacked privacy or had a backyard that was unusable due to a slope.
Why is the lot so important? For starters, it is often a buyers first impression. If a buyer tries to pull in the driveway and their car scrapes the pavement, bad sign. If they are out of breath before they get to the front door, bad sign. If they step out of their car and can hear New Circle Road or the Interstate that is behind the house, bad sign. Additionally, the lot affects just about anything you do with the property.
What should you look for in a lot?
- As flat as possible is the biggest thing around here. Lexington is pretty flat. The severely sloping lot is unusual here. Go to Richmond or parts of Scott County and it is more common. For what’s it is worth, nobody has ever told me they didn’t like a house I showed them because the lot was too flat.
- A nice view is always a plus. If you can’t get a good view, then no view at all is safe. We don’t have a lot of greenspace views and even fewer water views in Lexington. It is totally okay to just have a flat backyard that backs to other houses. I would avoid backing to anything than other houses, such as businesses, apartments or a road…..and ideally it backs to houses that are equal or higher in value than the one you’re viewing.
- Get a lot size and shape that is normal for the neighborhood. If you are looking at a house that has a tiny or oddly shaped lot unlike any other in the neighborhood, don’t buy it. The same doesn’t always apply for lots that are bigger. Most of the time the biggest lot in the neighborhood is the most desirable unless it is in a neighborhood where the most likely buyer will be a retiree or somebody downsizing to get away from a lot of maintenance.
- I would avoid a corner lot if possible. There are a few buyers who prefer a corner lot but most people view them as twice as much sidewalk to deal with. Plus, most neighborhoods only allow you to fence a corner lot from the rear edge of the house, meaning that you have much less space if you want to fence it in. (I’ve got a good friend who looooves his corner lot and will likely find out I said this…..sorry Peter!)
Want to know my absolute favorite thing about getting a good lot? It never needs updating and never goes out of style.
I know, I know…..realtors always say it is a good time to buy, or a good time to sell, but hear me out.
There are two things I have consistently seen over my 15 year career:
- All the buyers come out in mass in about March. They fight for the best houses on the market.
- When the market is good, prices always begin to creep up in the spring because that is sort of the opening season for the whole year.
If you are planning on buying under $200k this year, you will have a harder time finding a house later in the year when there will be multiple offers the first day on the market for the best ones. You will have to do things like be flexible on when the seller moves out and possibly do the inspection type where you don’t ask for repairs, you either take it or walk away after the inspection.
Or, you could start now and avoid all of that while getting Fall 2019 prices.
Right now really is a good time to buy.
I always joke that I am a bad combination of OCD and ADD. A lot goes through my mind, especially as I drive around Lexington.
Here are some things that have popped in my mind lately:
1. Masterson Station is no longer the “Affordable” side of town. I don’t know if you have noticed, but a lot of the new homes in Masterson and the various new neighborhoods that have their own name but in 15 years will be called Masterson are not cheap. I am seeing more and more houses for over $300k.
2. The giant dice looking metal things by Local’s are really cool. I enjoy seeing the murals, art and other well designed structures around town.
3. There are more and more small condo/townhouse projects all over town. I still think they are a little risky. Lexington has always been mostly a single family home type of town. Condos or townhouses were always a niche market with most of them being geared towards first time buyers or empty nesters. I’ll wait to see how well they sell in a soft market and if they appreciate before I give them a Thumb’s Up. I guess the issue is nobody plans on staying in one forever. You’re going to need the next generation to want to live in them too for there to be a future market. Also, way to many of the 10-15 year old condos downtown are rentals now.
4. I’m turning into a curmudgeon Gen Xer I guess because I miss the old days when you dropped some quarters in a meter to park downtown. Now you have to enter your license plate number, hit a bunch of buttons on a keypad and then drop in your quarters. What was wrong with the old way??
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.
I think I’ve always known I would be in real estate, even long before I knew what it was called.
Some of my earliest memories are about neighborhoods, houses, floor plans, etc.
I remember the street my grandparent’s lived on. It was mostly built in the 1940s. There were a lot of Tudor looking houses with dramatic roof pitches. Most had asbestos tile siding. There were a few brick ranches from the 50s/60s. I always wondered why those houses were different.
A kid named Chris lived across the street. His backyard was a hill. I always liked the better view he had over my grandparents house but I did like the flat yard and privacy my grandparent’s had.
We lived in an apartment complex for a while. I really liked the design of the buildings. Our unit faced an open field that was great for playing. I had a friend who lived across the parking lot. His building was sort of built into a hillside. There were lot of steps and turns you had to take to get to his front door. I remember thinking I liked our easier access and view better, but I thought it was cool how getting to his front door was more eventful and intriguing.
Then I lived in a house sitting up on a hill. The house right next door was the mirror image of our house. I remember noticing that we had the only “Ditto” houses on the street and wondered how that happened?
Next was a fairly new house in a neighborhood still under construction. We had a vacant lot behind us. When a house was built, it ruined the backyard for me. It sat higher than our house and that bothered me. It was like the house was casting a shadow on our house. We had some drainage problems too.
All of this and I wasn’t even 10 years old yet.
Now nearly 40 years later, it is still hard for me to believe that I have made a living out of telling people what I think about houses, neighborhoods and floor plans.
It’s been really good!