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.

Bluegrass market update & fun with a calculator

I’ve always been a number person.  When I was a kid, my dad gave me a calculator.  I would make pretend budgets, figure out things like compound interest, and do things like type 77345 and flip the calculator upside down to see that I spelled ShELL.

So I guess I am not surprised that I get excited when my local real estate board publishes the statistical info once a month.

It is also nice to see if my own experience is echoing what is happening in the whole market.  It usually is.

For example, I hardly show any houses any more because there is so little for sale.  I used to be out 3-4 nights a week and ALL weekend just showing houses.  Now I may show 4-5 a week and have the same amount of buyer clients……on a busy week.  There just aren’t enough houses to show people, and buyers are making fast decisions because they don’t want to lose a good house while waiting for a great one.

In Fayette Co, sales from Jan 18- April 18 are down 11% from the same period in 2017.  Listing are down 9%.  You’d think a decrease in sales would be bad, but since listings are down by a similar number, it is still a super tight market, especially in the sub $200k range.

All the Bluegrass counties have a big decrease in listings.  Most have an equally big decrease in sales too.  Makes sense.  If there are fewer houses to buy, there will be fewer houses sold.  Unless you are in Scott, Madison or Jessamine Counties.  Those places are the only ones where sales have increased from this same time last year while listings have decreased.  I know, I know.  How can that be?  This is just my gut, but I think those counties had more on the market last year that just sat and didn’t sell.

I also feel like I am spending more time in surrounding counties than I have in a long time.  When I first got into this business, there were a lot of people moving to Jessamine Co in search of a cheaper house.  But then gas prices went crazy and nobody in Fayette County wanted to leave.  Now gas is fairly cheap and people have returned to moving outside of Fayette Co again.  Jessamine County has the tightest market under $180k.  There is literally next to nothing for sale there.

Just this past March, we had a net loss of 61 households in Fayette County.  Scott and Jessamine Counties were the only ones that saw much of a gain in new households.  Yep, Fayette County folks are back at it.

I still play with my calculator a lot.  Only now I’m using it to determine what a house is worth before listing it or making an offer.  Maybe with all this extra time I have from not showing houses every night, I can figure out some new words my calculator will spell?

How I won in multiple offers

I was working with a client for several months who was buying in Nicholasville.  The market there is even worse than it is in Lexington for a sub $200k buyer since there are only about 8 neighborhoods to choose from.

A great house came on the market.  I scheduled a showing.

I just knew this would be the one.  I checked out the recent sales in the neighborhood to get an idea about what this house was worth.  I even prepared all the docs my buyer would need to sign so we would be ready to go.  All I needed to do was fill in the offer price and have her sign it from her phone.

We looked at the house.  It was a winner.  I call to tell the listing agent that I just sent an offer and was told that there was already one offer on the table and another one was coming.

We revised our offer to be slightly over the list price.  I asked all my usual questions that can help with getting an offer accepted……When would the seller like to close?  Do they need delayed possession?  Would they like the inspection type where the buyer either takes it or leaves it after the inspection?  Other than price, what would the seller’s ideal offer be?

The seller didn’t need anything special, so I knew this one would come down just to price.

A few hours later I get a call telling me that the third offer arrived and it had an escalation clause.  That made me pretty nervous.

I tell my buyer this and suggest we also do an escalation clause.  I tell her that the default setting for most agents is to offer $1000 more than the highest offer, so we better do more.  Otherwise all we would accomplish was knocking out the third buyer.

She agreed to a number we discussed and that she would pay that much higher than any offer up to certain price.  The list price was $192,900 and all the offers were higher than that.

I was a nervous wreck all day.  I really wanted to see my buyer get this house.  It was perfect for her and she had been waiting so long to get a house.

Finally, I get the call that she won the house.  Turns out all the offers were $194k, and the other offeror’s escalation clause was the predictable $1000 that I suspected.

It was sort of funny for me because it was the first time I had ever called to tell a buyer they had just bought a house and they didn’t yet know what they were paying for it.  I tried to make her guess, you know, like she was a contestant on The Price is Right, but she was so anxious that she said “JUST TELL ME THE PRICE!!”

 

Was this my biggest mistake?

The LEXpert.

That’s a name I’ve been called for a long time, even before I got my real estate license in 2005.

It began when somebody was impressed that I knew where just about any street was in Lexington.  Somebody mentioned a street and I knew what neighborhood it was in.  They said I was quite the LEXpert.

It’s stuck with me ever since.

So, when I left a nationally franchised real estate brokerage to start my own brokerage a couple of years ago, I needed to pick a name for my company.

Most real estate company names either sound like a law firm or a bank….there is even one that sounds like a landscape company and dry cleaner.

I wanted something that would convey what the client was getting, which was me.  So, I picked The LEXpert.

Only problem is people are thinking I only work in Lexington now.

I’ve always worked in Nicholasville, Winchester, Georgetown, Versailles, Paris, Richmond and Frankfort.  I occasionally even have people look in Lawrenceburg/Anderson County, Sheby County and Montgomery County/Mt. Sterling.

Maybe I should have named myself The BluegrassPERT?  Not sure if that would even fit on a sign unless it was so small you couldn’t read it from more than 3 feet away.

Now that almost all of my work comes from past clients or people who have been referred to me from past clients and/or friends, it doesn’t matter all that much.

I am not sure what I will do.  I occasionally think about changing the name of my brokerage.

I guess if this could possibly have been my biggest mistake, I am still in good shape.

The first house you buy is the most important one ever

First time buyers.  I’ve been working with a few of them lately.

Most first time buyers are thinking about finding a place they like.

I like to show them that their first house is so much more than that.

Every house you are ever going to own is impacted by that first one.

It is really the most important house you are ever going to purchase.

Why?

Because eventually you will sell that first house.  How well of an investment it turned out to be will impact how much money you have to put down on your next house.  It just keeps going until you are middle aged and in your forever home.  You know, the one you sell to help fund your retirement when you downsize to a cheaper home.

My dad called this compounding.  He was mainly referring to interest when he was teaching me this stuff in middle school, but it applies to real estate too.

It really reminds me more of bowling though.  To get a strike, you don’t knock down every pin with the ball.  You just hit one of them right and the pins begin to knock down the remaining pins.