Lose your dream house? Don’t worry

I recently had a deal fall apart after the home inspection.

It was a house that my buyer’s really fell in love with.  They were crushed.  The house didn’t inspect as well as we thought it would and the seller refused to do much negotiating.

It was a rough few days for them after this, but they eventually moved on.

We found an even better house that had a far better seller.  This house suited their needs much much much better and was in far better shape.

This got me thinking about past clients who have had this same experience.  I can’t recall any client who had to walk away from a house and didn’t find one that was even better.

Getting your dream home really is a process.  You might lose a house or two in multiple offers these days. Some houses might sell before you even have a chance to see them.  You might have a deal fall apart after a home inspection.  But in the end, you’ll have the best house for you.  Just ask my buyer’s who are very excited about their new place.


The first rule in real estate

The first rule in real estate today is that there are no rules.

In the past, there was a general thought that certain times of the year were better to sell, you had to do a lot of prep work before listing your house, and other things that HGTV still perpetuates.

Back when the market was terrible, I would give people huge lists of things they needed to do to sell their house.  Now sellers are amazed when I tell them to do as little as possible.  I’ve had clients who were planning on putting on new roofs, replacing front doors, replacing old carpet.  I tell them not to worry about it.  As long as these items are in at least average shape, buyer’s don’t mind.  An average house is appealing when there are only like 12 other houses for sale in your price range all over town and you’ve lost out in multiple offers on the last 3 you wanted.

We are so starved for listings that even if a few people don’t like your house, there will be several more that do.  About the only time I see a house not sell is when it is grossly overpriced.  It’s a Seller’s Market for sure, but you still can’t sell your house for more than it is worth…..although if you wait long enough, it will have appreciated into your asking price.

When the market was bad, the value in having a realtor was in knowing what all you had to do to sell and presenting the listing so that it stood out among the multitude of other listings.  Now, having a good realtor is about knowing the least you have to do and the most you can get for your house.  I’ve often paid for myself by saving the seller from spending money that they did not need to spend.  Back then, working with a buyer was showing them 40 houses and helping them pick the best one and getting it for as cheap as possible.  Today, working with buyers is about getting them in a house ASAP and coming up with a winning bidding strategy.

So, as long as it is a Seller’s Market, put your house up for sale any time of the year.  Fix anything that is broken and give it a good clean, but there is no need to sweat the details like you had to when it was a Buyer’s Market.  Today’s buyers can’t afford to be too picky.

My very first listing

Back to the summer of 2005 on this one.

I had already sold my first house, which you probably read about in my last blog post.

I was eager to list a house and see what that part of being a realtor was like.  Most new agents end up working mostly with buyers.  It’s later in your career when you tend to get more listings.

I had gone to the paint store for a house I was remodeling.  While the manager was mixing the paint, he asked what I did.  I said I was a realtor.  He told me how he was having a house built in Versailles and would need to sell his old house soon.  We made some other small talk.  He helped me load the paint in the back of my SUV.

Just as I was about to put the key in the ignition, I remembered that I WAS A REALTOR?!?

I went back inside to talk to this guy.  He said he was interviewing agents and would be happy for me to see his house.  I was so excited and nervous.

I was scared to death they would ask me how long I had been a realtor.  I was trying to decide if it was more impressive to say just over 3 months or say 96 days.

I was with what was then the biggest brokerage in town.  I had no experience.  All I had to offer was the perceived value of the company.

I got all dressed up and went to their house to meet them.  As they gave me the tour, I noticed there were two calendars from different realtors on their fridge.  That’s why you’ve never gotten a calendar or sports schedule magnet from me.

I sat down with them and showed them everything that had sold in their area.  I took a copy of the previous week’s Homeseller.  I showed them that the first several pages were my company’s listings. I showed them where their listing would be when it was a new listing.  I told them I would do open houses every week until it sells. (And shortly after all this, I realized that NONE of these things help sell a house at all.  Even back then, print advertising was in decline and I learned open houses do much more to help the realtor than they do the seller…..but I was new and I thought all this meant something.)

I did open house after open house after open house.  I met lots of people.  One of whom bought another house from me and has used me two additional times since.

The showing that resulted in a sale happened one Saturday afternoon.  I was working in the basement of that house I was remodeling.  I had drywall dust all over the place.  My phone rings.  I dust it off.  An agent wants to see it.  I tell him to go ahead, it is vacant.

That evening I get an offer.  My first listing sold!

The house gets inspected.  It doesn’t need much.   The buyer noticed some gardening tools in the garage he wanted and proposed we trade repairs for tools.  The buyer’s agent and I worked hard on this.  Finally, we reached an agreement for something like an electric weedeater, a rake and two shovels.

That other agent was new too.  It was his first sale.  We had coffee one day after the closing and he’s been my best friend ever since.  In fact, he is the one that suggested I start blogging.

And once everybody got on Facebook, I found out that this first seller was related to my Dad’s former secretary who is like a little sister to me.

My very first sale

I was so green.

I was 100% dedication and 0% experience.

It was the spring of 2005.  A friend of mine knew I had just gotten my license and he was wanting to buy a house.

We looked at several houses.  It was fun using my electronic key to get in a listing.  This was back in the day when realtors dressed more like bankers, so many sellers didn’t know who was the realtor, since both the buyer and I were wearing shorts and sandals.

I had no idea at that time how seeing those houses and being in those neighborhoods would give me the type of experience I have today.  Every house I go in just makes me a better realtor.

My buyers decided to make an offer on a house off of Liberty Road.  It was late in the evening and this was back in the day when we had to get signatures in ink.  I called the listing agent and told her that I was going to write an offer.  She told me that her seller was an elderly lady in a different time zone, so I could get it to her the next day.  I was so excited.  I slept like it was Christmas Eve and I was 8 years old.  I woke up early the next day to get signatures on all the documents.  I went by the husband’s office on Buckhorn Drive, then went to the wife’s work at Julius Marks Elementary.

I was finally done.  I dropped off the offer at the listing agents office and left her a message that it was there.

About an hour later, she calls to tell me that she had already sold the house because she didn’t hear from me.  I was devastated.  I talked to my managing broker about this.  I gave her all the details of the conversation.  She said that it sounded like the listing agent had both sides of the sale, meaning she had the buyer as well as the seller, and my offer would have ruined her plans of getting a bigger check.  I found it hard to believe that an agent would put their needs over their clients because getting multiple offers is always good for the seller.

I went home, slightly doubting what my manager told me was true.  Then I looked on the PVA to see where the tax bill was sent.  It was sent to the seller in Bowling Green.  When I thought about the listing agent’s comment about the time zone, I began to believe that my manager was right.  Bowling Green is in a different time zone, but it is an hour earlier there than it is here.

I waited patiently until that house sold to see who the buyer’s agent was.  Sure enough, it was the listing agent.  To this day, I have no respect for her.

My people kept looking and finally bought a townhouse.

So we get to the closing day.  I am a nervous wreck.  I go to my office to pick up the buyer’s earnest money deposit and am told that they needed a 48 hour notice.  LOL, they rushed to get it to me.  Something else I learned quickly.

We go to the closing.  It was one of those 5:30 on a Friday closings where everybody is in a hurry.  Once it was all done, I was so relieved and proud to have closed my first sale.  As I sat in my car going through the paperwork to make sure I had everything I needed, I realized that the closing attorney did not give me the commission check.  She also did not take my buyer’s check for the down payment.

It’s been over 13 years and several hundred sales since all this happened.  I’ve learned a lot about neighborhoods, negotiating and human nature.  It’s given me the gut feeling that only comes from experience, just like my manager had.  Her name was Susan. She was a huge help to me when I was a newbie.  She always told me I had what it takes and was always available for advice.  I learned a lot from her.  She passed away from an aneurysm several years ago.  I still miss her.

I feel a little vulnerable sharing how green I was back then, but I was just sitting here thinking about how far I have come.  When I work with a new agent who is just as green, I think back on this time in my career.  It gives me the patience to let them learn the same way I did.

My best and worst day as a realtor

Real estate isn’t really a job or a business.  It’s more of a lifestyle.  The good days are fantastic and the bad ones are terrible.

Here are two of my stories (insert the DUN-DUN sound effect from Law & Order.)

My best day was at a closing in the spring of 2011.  The events that lead up to that day actually began at a closing in the spring of 2010 for the same house.

I had some great clients that bought a cool house.  Immediately after buying it, the basement flooded.  The entire basement was gutted.  Shortly afterwards, the husband’s company downsized.  This was when the economy was terrible and people were getting laid off left and right.  They decided to take a job out of state.  I listed the house.  Only the market was worse than it was when they bought it and the house no longer had a finished basement. 212 days later, it finally sells for $16k less than my people paid for it a year earlier.  Now, if you’re reading this and wondering how that could happen, trust me, the market was totally the opposite from where it is now.  There were tons of houses for sale and values were decreasing.  I hope we never have to live through times like that again.  I don’t think all of my listings from the past year have been on the market for 212 days combined.

I really really really liked this family a lot.  Still do.  I was happy to waive my commission to make the sting of losing money hurt a little less.  It was harder to sell a house back then.  I felt very good about getting it done for them so they could move on with their lives.

I get to relive that day every once in a while because that family occasionally, out of the blue, thanks me for my help.

I think of this family when I have a day like the absolute worst day I’ve ever had in real estate.

That day happened around the same time.

Back then, probably half of my work was random people who would find me or were found by me.  Today, almost all of my work comes from past clients, friends, or referrals from past clients or friends.

Another agent in my old office gave me what we call a “Lead.”  I contacted this buyer who said they had just gotten some giant settlement from a drug company and wanted to buy an expensive house in Scott Co.  I was skeptical at first, but the agent who sent me the lead would get a 25% cut of the commission, and I knew she really needed it so I agreed to work with this buyer.

I scheduled several showings for rural houses all over Scott County.

As I spent more time with this buyer and his family, it was clear to me that they were not really buyers, but were dreamers.  Probably liars too.

The husband supposedly owned all my favorite cars while he was in Germany.  He just got millions of dollars in a settlement but would be doing a VA loan, and he didn’t want to tell me who his loan officer was.

It was a strange day for sure, but it got even stranger.

When we arrived at one vacant house, there was somebody walking around out front.  I thought it was the seller at first.  It was somebody who had stopped to see the house.  He said he wanted to see the house.  I told him that I had scheduled a private showing for my clients and that we had a schedule to keep.  He should call the listing agent to schedule his own showing, who would be very happy to show it to him.  I thought that was over and he would get in his car and leave.  No, he tried to follow my clients into the house.  I stepped in front of him at the door and said the same thing again.  He said he tried calling the listing agent and she didn’t answer.  I told him again that I had scheduled a private showing for my client and that this wasn’t an open house.  I surely didn’t want to let him in after all this.

He walked away.  I watched him out a window.  He keyed my car as he walked past it.

We ended up staying at the house forever waiting for the police to show up, which made us really late to the other showings.

When the police arrived, the buyer’s account of what all happened was a little more dramatic than mine…..turns out that the buyer had also been a bounty hunter too, or so he claimed.  I think the buyer thought he was helping me by embellishing the story a little.  The policeman needed my registration for the complaint.  Turns out my registration had expired.  This was the first car I had ever leased.  The leasing company doesn’t send renewals in your birth month like they do for cars you own.  The policeman didn’t care, but the buyer and his family acted like I was driving a stolen car.

So, by the end of that day, I had wasted a lot of time with a crazy fake buyer and had to get some of my car repainted.  Shortly after this, the agent who sent me these fine people unfriended me on facebook.

I’ve had plenty of other rough days.  When I have them, I try to think about all the great people I have met throughout my career.  The good ones far outweigh the bad.