Being a realtor isn’t about houses

You’d think being a realtor would mostly be about houses, but it is really about relationships.

One of the things I am the most proud of is how many of my clients have used me multiple times. I always look forward to working with them over and over again. Since I have become friends with most of my clients, it doesn’t even feel like work.

Part of this relationship can sometimes be about keeping secrets. People often move when their life changes. I am often the first to know about a marriage proposal, job promotion, pregnancy. I am also sometimes the first to know about the less fun life events like a job loss, divorce and even a death.

I get lots of texts or calls about renovations. I’ve had people standing in the flooring isle at Lowe’s and asking me which floor will add the most value to their home. If you’re wondering, I usually tell people that if you think you’ll be in your house for more than 5 years, get whatever you want since styles will change and it won’t be brand new by then. If you think you might be there for less than 5 years, lets go with something buyers will like.

I get asked for contractor referrals a lot. This has gotten harder and harder to do since nobody seems to want to work any more. I recently had somebody who seemed promising at first and turned out to be a total loser. I am thankful that I have found a great handyman who was actually referred to me from a client. That doesn’t happen often! My HVAC person has faithfully been serving my clients and me for 13 years. Everybody loves him.

I get asked “What’s my house worth?” Sometimes people want to move. Sometimes they are considering refinancing and need to first know a number to see if it is worth it. Sometimes people just want to know how much equity they have in their house. Occasionally people have me over just to see their home after a renovation. It is always nice to get to see them, their home and have a cup of coffee with them.

Being a realtor is really a lifestyle. Yeah, its a business. It’s a job. But it is really about getting to know people and helping them any time they need something. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What to expect from me for the next 17 years

It feels so strange to think about how real estate has changed over the course of my 17 year career.

Back when I was a newbie, agents hung around the office. We had like 14 phone numbers on our cards and one of them was a fax number. We dressed up….well, others did. I wore shorts year round back then. We licked the back of stamps and mailed people silly stuff like calendars. I did it once but thought it was pointless. All I’ve ever done is Christmas cards.

Then the PDF came along and changed it all. It was so much easier than a fax. There was nothing and I mean NOTHING worse than getting a fax from somebody that was illegible after several rounds of counter offers. Then electronic signature programs made it even better.

The biggest change has been to everything being online and consumer driven. When I got into this, many old school realtors back then didn’t realize that being online meant they were dealing with the public. The MLS had mostly been just for realtors. Before computers, they had books that came out once a week with listings. Since space was limited, you got stuff like “Cute 3/2 on unfin, dining room chandelier does not convey. Lockbox on backdoor.” A lot of realtors were putting that in the marketing remarks still. Also, there was one tiny black and white picture of the outside.

While so much has changed, some things remain the same. At the core, this business is really about people more than about sales or houses. It’s about helping and advising people on something that most people think they know a lot about but don’t really. I often describe my job as “Talking people into good decisions and talking them out of bad ones.”

I’ve probably got at least another 17 years left of my career. The trendy things (like the short lived QR codes) will come and go since the next generation always wants to reinvent the wheel, but I am sure that the core of this business will remain the same. I will be talking people into making good decisions and talking them out of bad ones and I will still be wearing shorts (at least on warm days).

Are we in 2005? Yes and No

17 years. That’s how long I’ve been in real estate. Man, have I seen a lot!

When I got into this in the spring of 2005, here is what it was like:

  1. No realtor wanted to work with buyers.

2. It took no real skill to list a house and sell it since they were selling so fast.

3. We all thought the market would be like this forever.

4. Affordability was an issue and people were considering moving outside of Lexington to find cheaper housing……until gas shot up to $3 a gallon.

Here we are in 2022 and all that is still the same at the moment:

  1. No realtor wants to work with buyers now since all you do is write offer after offer on every new listing in any buyer’s price range.
  2. It takes even less skill to list and sell a house today since you don’t even need to know what the house is worth. Today you could list the house at 9:AM for $1 and by 5:PM the same day you’ve got 5 offers all at market value. The moment being a realtor gets a little tough, you will see 25% of all realtors get out of the business……starting with the ones who suck at being a realtor but are brilliant at self promotion.
  3. We still think it will stay this way forever. It won’t. While I think the market will stay strong short of a major economic catastrophe, it will slow down. Houses still sold in the late 70s and early 80s when interest rates were the highest they have ever been. Don’t think for a minute that 5% or even 7% will kill the market. Don’t think that inflation will kill it either. Wages will rise. They have in every inflationary time. Right now they haven’t caught up to inflation but they will. If you made $1600 a month in the 80s and your mortgage was $400, that is the same percentage as if you make $6400 a month now and have a mortgage of $1600.
  4. Affordability is still an issue. Used to be finding a first home under $100k was hard. Now it is hard to find anything decent for less than $200k. Many people that work in Lexington have been shopping in surrounding towns for cheaper prices. I have always discouraged that for a couple of reasons. I did the same in the late 90s with my first house. I was driving back and forth between Lexington and Winchester all the time and hated it. What I saved on the mortgage I spent on gas, tires and maintenance for my car. I encourage people to live where their life is. If work and your social life are in Lexington, well, you should live in Lexington. Also, I remembered what gas hitting $3 a gallon did to the market back then. It killed the first time buyers interest in buying outside of Lexington. Now $5 a gallon seems to be the magic price that keep people from doing this.

Appraised value verses Market value

Seems no matter what the market is, I’m explaining the difference between Appraised Value and Market Value.

Many people think whatever the appraiser says their house is worth, is what it is worth. The real value is whatever number a seller and a ready, willing and able buyer agree upon. Appraisers study past buyer/seller behavior and give an opinion of current value.

When the market was bad, I was always explaining how appraised value was usually MORE than market value. It was more like the house’s potential. In this crazy seller’s market, I am sometimes explaining how appraised value is LESS than the market value. A lot of the reason is because market value happens in real time. It is right now. Appraised value is saying what the value should be based on the past.

Just this week, a house I sold for $429k appraised for $417k. As I read over the appraisal report, it became clear to me why it did not appraise for the full sale price. Two of the three comparable sales were 6 months old. In an appreciating market, you must make a value adjustment for this. The appraiser gave the two houses 2 and 2.4% appreciation. We have seen much more appreciation in values than that since last October.

In response, I was able to obtain two other offers the listing realtor got. One was $421k and the other was $427,500. If you average those two offers plus the winning offer of $429k made by my buyer, that is an average of $425k.

The appraiser refused to adjust his opinion of value. This is how appraised value and market value differ. Market value is the 3 ready, willing and able buyers who desperately wanted to purchase this home all agreeing the value is between $421k and $429k. Appraised value, in the case of this home, is some stubborn dude with a big ego who isn’t actually in the market to buy anything cutting and pasting a lot of numbers on a sheet of paper and charging $425 for his outdated opinion.

My response to this always disappoints people

As a realtor, you wouldn’t be surprised that people are always asking me the best way to add value to their homes.

What might surprise you is my response.

There are no improvements or upgrades that get you more than a 100% return. All give pennies on the dollar. I know, you are thinking “Then how do people who flip houses make money?” They make money from buying the house below market value. You already own your house so spending money to sell it and getting back less than you spent is just wasting time. Usually you want to do the least you can do, and the best thing is to address the worst aspects of your home before selling it. If you have worn out carpet, replace it. If you have a rusting light fixture in a bathroom, replace it…..but what is the best bang for the buck in getting top dollar for your house when you are selling it?

The absolute best bang for your buck has always been and will always be a fresh coat of paint.

Fresh paint makes any room automatically feel better and cleaner. Fresh paint can be done in whatever the trendy color is at the moment, which gives your home an updated vibe. Fresh paint can be used to unify all the rooms in your house. Buyers will walk around every room in your home within their 30 minute viewing. Having the same color in all the rooms is soothing and calming. Buyers love that. In a vacant house, all you see in most rooms are 4 walls, a ceiling, a light fixture and the floor. Having 80% of all there is to see be new makes a huge impact.

So there you go! If you are getting ready to sell your home and want to know the wisest way to spend your money in preparation, hit the paint isle at the hardware store.