What nearly 15 years in real estate has taught me

Sometimes I don’t feel old enough to have been doing this as long as I have, but here I am!

I guess after this long, you gain wisdom.  Or superstition.  Either way, you begin to recognize patterns that help you advise your clients.

Here are a handful of things that always are a sign of what is to come:

  1.  The longer it takes to receive an offer decreases the chance of it arriving.  I can’t tell you how many times I will have an excited realtor call to tell me their client is going to make an offer, then it never shows up.  In the old days, I would immediately tell my client we were getting on offer.  Now I tell them once I have received it.
  2. When an agent schedules a showing several days in advance, odds are they will cancel.  This is one I have never figured out, but always seems to happen.  An agent might schedule a showing 3-4 days in advance, and then cancel it for no reason the day before the showing.  Always a bummer.
  3. When you get an offer and the buyer is wanting a lot of the sellers personal items, it is a sign that the buyer is going to be difficult.  When I see furniture, gas grills or such listed on a contract and they were not offered, it always means it is going to be a tough deal.
  4. The bigger the gap between the list price and the offer amount lessens the odds of both parties reaching an agreement.  Usually one or both parties get so mad at each other that they don’t want to work together.

There are several more, but these 4 are the biggest ones.

A trip to the beach reminds me of how good we have it here

I just got back from Florida last night.  Spent a few days at our favorite beach in the Bradenton/Sarasota area.

One thing I always do is drive around and check out some local neighborhoods.  Since I was already familiar with all the beach properties, I thought I would venture inland a bit.

I used to spend every summer with my grandparents in the Clearwater area when I was a kid, so I know what the “Non-beach” part of Florida is like.  Or I thought I did.  Maybe I forgot?

I was a little blown away by the lack of cohesiveness.  None of the neighborhoods seemed to relate to each other, collectively creating a “Vibe” for the area.  The typical street was an older house on a very large lot that made you feel like you were in the country, then right beside that was a newer neighborhood of townhouses, next to that was a new neighborhood of more expensive houses, and next to that was a row of run down looking older houses.

The randomness sort of bothered me.  When I see land develop like this, it always makes me think of playing Sim City in the 90s.  You know, where the town is laid out in a grid and you just click it and decide if it is residential or industrial?  Everywhere I went it just seemed like there was a square piece of land that somebody built a wall around and filled it with houses.  All of the development seemed like it could have been done anywhere, just as easily as setting out a board game on a table.

Then it got me thinking about Lexington.  Is Lexington like this but I don’t see it because I have been here so long and know the order in which the neighborhoods developed?

About the closest thing we have to this is Tates Creek Road outside Man O War and the Alumni Drive Corridor….although neither is as random or as unattractive as the Florida norm.  Both of those corridors have several neighborhood entrances and the roads sort of feel like high speed alleys running between them.  At least we have trees and make them pretty.

Then I asked myself if any of my out of town clients have ever had comments that matched my feelings for Florida neighborhoods.  I’ve never had anybody say our town was anything but pretty….so I guess we have it really good here.

I came home with a new appreciation for smart development and am thankful I get to live in such a pretty place.

Once I was 7 years old & was already The LEXpert

Any of my clients can tell you that I am always making random observations about any house I show them.

I was just thinking about that this morning and realized I have always done that, ever since I was a kid.  I have always been critiquing, comparing/contrasting houses as long as I can remember.

When I was probably 7 years old, I noticed that our backyard was flatter, more private, but smaller than the houses across the street.  Ours was better for playing hide and seek and my best friend’s house across the street was better for playing baseball.  That same house had an addition built on the back of it that had this smaller section of a larger L shaped room.  I never got why it was built that way.  It was wasted space.

We moved into a very small house that had a shared driveway.  It was very steep.  So steep that nobody ever used it for cars.  I remember thinking “Who would do that do a house?”  It was a two bedroom house.  One of the bedrooms was more than twice as big as the other.  That bothered me a bit.  The house next door was the same floor plan just reversed.  You could look out our hall window and see into their hall window….which led to the first time my 9 year old eyes saw a girl in her underwear, lol.

Then we moved to another town.  Our house sat lower than the ones to the side and rear.  That really bothered me.  The house behind us wasn’t there when we moved in, so I knew how much better it was without a house there.  Once the houses behind us were built, we started to have some drainage problems.  This is probably why I am always trying to help clients visualize what might be in the empty lots and fields around them when they build a house.

Then we moved to Lexington when I was in high school.  We had a cool house.  The house on both sides sat way back in their lots.  It was strange to see a house on either side of your backyard fence, but it made it nice to look out the side windows and see grass instead of having a brick wall 10 feet away.  It was this neighborhood that taught me a bit about traffic patterns and which roads got more cars than others.

Then I got married and we lived in an apartment on Redding Road.  I loved that location.  Close to everything.  We had a basement apartment. I didn’t like that.  There wasn’t much natural light and everybody parked right at our front door.

Then we moved into one of those houses that sat way back in their lot next door to my parent’s house.  It sat lower than their house.  I felt like my parent’s house was about to jump over the fence into my front yard.  I didn’t like it.

The first house we owned was in Winchester.  I really liked that house, but it began a trend of me living about 2-3 houses in from a busy corner and having a busy road a block behind me.  I don’t like a bedroom on the back of the house when you have a busy road back there.  Makes it harder to fall asleep.

The next house didn’t have a flat ten square feet anywhere on the lot.  I don’t like sloping lots.

The next house had a flat lot.  Other than the noise from the busy road behind it, I liked it a lot.

All of which brings me to my current house.  It broke the curse of the busy road behind me.  I’m about as far into my neighborhood as you can be.  There are only two ways in and out of the neighborhood.  Nobody comes down my dead end road unless they are lost or neighbors.  I like that.  I keep saying I want to move but I haven’t found anything I like any better.  About all I would change is to have more natural light and maybe taller ceilings on the main level.

So, when I say:

“Will that busy road being so close bother you?”

“If you were to have kids, do you know that there is no where to put a swingset or sandbox?”

“This house is dark inside.  Will that bother you?”

“Does it bother you that the neighbor’s deck sits higher than your deck and you won’t have much privacy if both of you are outside?”

You now have an idea of how I came to notice these types of things.

Something I wish sellers understood

It happens a lot with sellers.

They have a house that isn’t getting much attention from buyers.  It could be due to price, an odd feature of the house, the time of year, competition from new construction, or anything really.  They get a lot of showings and all of the feedback is the same, resulting in no offers.

Then all of the sudden they start getting more and more showings.  Buyers seem more interested in the house than they have been, but still no offers.

The seller finds this time exciting.  They are thinking “Wow, with all these new showings and better feedback, surely my house is about to sell!!!!!

Sellers assume this will last forever but it is a temporary thing.  It lasts until other sellers with better houses put their homes on the market.

And here is the lesson to be learned:  The market changes every time a house sells and every time there is a new listing.  Once the best house in it’s price range sells, it makes every other house look just a little bit better.  That is why your house that hasn’t been that interesting to buyers is all the sudden on their radar.  Once a new listing hits the market, it has to fit into the hierarchy of all the houses available.   If you have one of the better houses for sale, then a house better than your house hits the market, it makes buyers less interested in your house.

When you find the market has it’s eye on your house and you still haven’t gotten any offers, the best thing to do is reduce the price while you have the attention.  If you wait, most likely what is going to happen is the market will move on to other houses and you will be right back where you were.

Which builder would I pick?

Before I spill on which builder, let’s establish the criteria:  Priced between $200k and $400k and brand new.

Ok, you ready for it?

To keep me out of a lawsuit, lets just say it is the big one in town.  Four letters.  You know the one.

I can already feel the tension in the air.  It is because I get it all the time when people ask me who to use and I suggest this builder.

Sure, everybody in town knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who has had a bad experience with this builder……but nobody ever knows “That” person first hand.  I own 3 of their houses myself and have sold 60 of them of all ages.

It has been my personal and professional experience that they build as good of a home as anybody.  Am I saying they are perfect?  No.  I am just saying that after selling new homes built by other builders and selling hundreds of “Used” homes built by other builders,  their homes seem to have fewer issues caused by the construction of the home.

Any house is something with thousands of pieces assembled by lots of different trades that has to withstand both time and mother nature.   Things go wrong with them.

I think one reason this builder has so many detractors is just because of their scale.  If you have build maybe 25,000 homes in the Bluegrass and 5% of those people had a bad experience, that is a lot of people.  If you are a smaller builder who has maybe built 100 homes in the Bluegrass, that same 5% complaint rate is only 5 people.

All I know is that if I were wanting a new home in the $200-400k range, I would rather go with a builder whose 50 year old houses are still standing verses somebody without much of a history.