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.

What’s it like being a realtor?

It is EXACTLY like you see on HGTV.

Hahahaha.  No.  Not really.

I can’t speak to what it is like for most realtors, only myself….so here goes.

What is a typical day like?

There really are no typical days for me.  Some days I have more things to do than I have time.  Other days I have little to do.  Some days I am running all over the place.  Other days I am sitting in front of a computer all day.

What is the busiest time of day?

It has always seemed like 3-5 Monday through Friday is when my phone blows up.  Clients, other realtors, appraisers, etc.  I guess people are trying to finish their to do list for the day or are just getting off work and ready to talk real estate.

What have you done today so far?

This is usually a slower time of year for me.  I tend to do most of work in waves.  This is the between waves time.  I just closed the most work I have ever done in the past 8 months and am waiting for the next wave to come.  I used to get nervous during these times, thinking it would never come back, but it always does.  I am trying to enjoy it.  I guess I still haven’t answered the question?  Today I slept in a bit, drank some coffee, sat with my dog while scrolling through Facebook.  Then I ran some comps for an upcoming listing, cranked out a few emails, and started this blog.  Unless something changes, my plans for the rest of the day are to wash cars.  However, what often happens with any slow day is that you wake up with little to do and suddenly you have a lot to do.   It can change in a heart beat depending on if you have a problem with a transaction of if a cool houses hits the market and you have to show it to a client.

What is the best part of being a realtor?

Helping people and being trusted.  Most of my work anymore is from people who have used me several times.  They know I am giving them the best advice possible to serve their interests.  The second best thing is getting to drive around in cars I love.

What is the worst part?

Not having much free time.  I have taken one full day off in the past 15 years.  Sometimes I have very little to do, but there is always something that needs done, plus you never know when the right house is going to hit the market and you need to get one of your clients in to see it.  It is sort of like being on call 24/7.

How has it changed in the past 15 years?

When I got into this, realtors dressed up a lot and hung around the office.  I didn’t see the point of either.  Now it is much more casual and realtors work from home more often.  We used to present offers to sellers or fax the offer to the listing agent’s office.  Then we quit presenting offers (THANKFULLY!) and used PDFs.  Today we use electronic signatures and the actual document doesn’t even physically exist unless somebody prints it.  I used to spend hours a day talking on the phone.  Now everybody texts.

What will the next 15 years be like for you?

I hope pretty much the same.  I enjoy working.  I hope my streak of working with people who have used me in the past and people that were referred to me continues.  I never had to advertise or do any marketing to attract work and I sure hope I never have to do that…..mostly because I am no good at it.

When everything is right and it still doesn’t sell

It can happen.  I am not going to be one of those agents that pretends all my houses sell fast, like I am some sort of magician.   A lot of selling a house has to do with….the house and the market.  I put the same effort into all my listings.  Most sell quickly, even when the market was terrible.  Sometimes though, a house struggles to find a buyer, even when you’ve done everything correctly and the price is right.

Here are some reasons:

  1.  Too much competition.  If there are like 50+ houses competing for a buyer and all are pretty darn nice and equal to each other, you’re waiting for the right buyer who likes your house just a bit better than the rest.  I am seeing this a lot in a few towns surrounding Lexington where there are a ton of new construction homes.
  2. Bad timing.  Usually the market slows down when school starts in the fall.  The week that school starts is usually really slow because everybody with kids is getting ready for the school year and wants to enjoy that first weekend.  If your house is in a neighborhood with a very popular school district, you may have missed most of your buyers and are waiting for somebody to move during the school year.
  3. There are no buyers….at the moment.  I see this one occasionally.  Sometimes in a certain neighborhood or price range, there just aren’t any active buyers.  This is like fishing when you have the right rod and bait, but there just aren’t any fish there.    I had a listing in a neighborhood of $450-600k houses a while back.  I put my listing on in the late winter.  It got a few showings.  Over the next 6 months there were about 8 houses that also were not selling in this small neighborhood.  It got so bad that all of the agents got together and did a neighborhood open house to try to get some attention for our listings.  Of course, it was a total waste of time and energy because none of them sold any time soon.  It was much later in the year when several of them began to sell left and right.  It wasn’t the neighborhood’s fault.  It wasn’t the fault of all the listing realtors.  All of the houses were priced right.  There were just no buyers at that time and the sellers had to wait for them to enter the market.