How real estate really works

Maybe it is because this is the only industry I have been in, but there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to get a house sold.

Before I begin, let me tell you how it doesn’t work:

  1.  Open Houses and/or Broker Open Houses.  I will occasionally have sellers ask me about these.  Open houses used to be a non-committal way for the public to see inside a house before the internet.  Today, all you get is neighbors, thieves and buyers so early in their search that they are not yet ready to make any decision….which is why realtors that need work love to do them.  They get to meet unrepresented buyers at your house and hopefully sell them something in the near future.   Broker open houses are for social realtors who want to win a $50 gift card and hang out with their realtor friends at your house.  Same deal as open houses, these worked best before any agent can look online and see if your house is a good fit for their client.
  2. Marketing.  Again, thanks to the internet, exposure is never a problem.  Google your address right now and see how many websites your house is on…even it if isn’t for sale, it will be on tons of sites.  Something like 98% of buyers find their house online.  I guarantee you that those remaining 2% have a realtor who is online looking for them.
  3. Gimmicks.  These are things that agents do to make themselves stand out.  Many years ago it was those QR codes.  That trend didn’t last long.  Today it is the 3-D house.  I mean, most people have a hard time figuring out a 2 dimensional floor plan.   They will soon go away and be replaced with something else.  Companies come up with these things to sell  us realtors to make us feel like we are cutting edge.  There is a house listed in town that has a unicorn and a dinosaur in many of the pictures.  It has been shared many times.  Everybody loves it.  It is a lot of fun.  The house has been on the market for 38 days.  Do you think it is helping to sell the house in a market where houses in it’s price range rarely last 3 days?

There are 3 things to selling a house.  If you do all of them right, your house will sell fast in any market.  How do I know?  I have been doing them for nearly 15 years with great success.  Every day I scroll through the old posts on Facebook I made on the same day over many years.  I was posting about selling houses the first day on the market or getting multiple offers back in 2009 when I joined Facebook.    It was a buyer’s market back then.  Selling fast and for top dollar is common now.  So much so that I don’t even bother to post it when it happens.  Any agent can do it since there are so many more buyers than there are sellers.  It is nothing to brag about these days.

The 3 things that matter are price, condition and presentation.

If the price isn’t right, then no amount of work can make a house sell.  You can post it all over social media, have dedicated websites, have a hot air balloon over the house, have Drake make a video at your house…none of it will matter.  The public thinks exposure will sell an overpriced house.  Trust me, nothing will make an overpriced house sell.  I have tried to do that when I was a newer agent and I see many agents try today.  Usually it doesn’t sell.  The seller thinks it is the realtors fault.  The seller gets a new realtor, who talks the seller into reducing the price a little bit.  It usually sells AFTER the price reduction.

Condition is the next big thing.  Buyers are looking at every house in their price range.  If your house isn’t one of the better ones, it won’t sell.  I often see an average to below average house sit on the market  because there is always a better house for a buyer to pick.  Sometimes these houses sit on the market until late fall or winter when there is no new competition.  I have always said the best time to sell a below average house is in the late fall and winter.  That time of the year is like going to a buffet right before the restaurant closes.  All that is left are the least popular items.  Of course, price trumps everything in real estate.  Often, getting real about the value can make a house sell.  A below average house listed for $200k might be an average house when reduced to $190k, and an above average house at $180k.  You can also improve the condition of your house to make it sell.  I often work with sellers and tell them some small adjustments they can make that will make their house more attractive to buyers.

Presentation is twofold.  The house has to look attractive online to make somebody want to come see it in person, and it has too look as good in person as people imagine it does from what they saw online.  I think the big takeaway here is that the public loses interest quickly.  You want to grab their attention and keep it as they look at all the pictures.  That is why I order the pictures beginning with the most interesting one first.  Whatever the best feature of the house is, that is what I use as the lead picture because I know as soon as people get bored, they stop looking.  You won’t see 14 pictures of the water heater in my listings.  The words in the description are very important too.  I try to use those to tell a buyer what they can’t deduce from the pictures and what isn’t already mentioned in the listing.  If the specs say the house has 4 bedrooms, I see no need to tell the buyer again that it is a 4 bedroom house.  I want to use that space to tell the buyer how the house feels while they are inside.  The goal of the listing is to attract a showing.  You’re not trying to sell the house from the listing, only make somebody want to come see it in person.

So, that is how getting a house sold really works.  Get those 3 things right and it will always sell.  Anything else is just a waste of a seller’s time.

The real reason why sales are down

I’m seeing a lot of news articles with accurate data.  My issue is that I think most are drawing the wrong conclusions.

Most seem to want to make you think the sky is falling in real estate because sales are down.

You know who needs to care about the number of sales?  Appraisers, realtors, mortgage people.  Those of us who make money on each transaction.

As a buyer and/or seller, the number of sales isn’t really important to you.  What you care about is supply and demand-the ratio of buyers to sellers in the market.  If there are 3 buyers in the market and only 2 listings, then we have a seller’s market.

I am seeing a lot of articles stating that sales were down in November of 2018 versus November of 2017.  Of course they were.  It happens every election year.  The market pauses until we see which set of morons we will be stuck with.

The ones that really bug me are the ones that say the affordability crisis will hold the market back.  I think they have it backwards.

Sure, we have an affordability issue.  Many people can’t afford to buy a house with rising prices and interest rates.  All I know is that every house under $200k in this town seems to go very quickly, which allows that seller to buy up to their next house and that seller to buy up to their next house and so on.

Back when the market was terrible, I said that it was like a baseball game where the bases are loaded.  The seller on first base needed a buyer without a contingency to buy their house so they could buy the 2nd base seller’s house, who could buy the 3rd base seller’s house.  The first time buyer needed to hit a home run and push all those sales through.

Back then a buyer had a ton of choices for their next home.  The issue was selling their old one.

Today, no buyer really has a huge selection of houses.

For that reason, I think our current market is the opposite.  There are a ton of first time buyers eager to hit a home run and push all those deals through, but what is happening is that the person on 3rd base doesn’t like home plate and has decided to just stand there until they feel like running.

The buyers with the most selection are the people buying their pinnacle home.  The one they stay in forever until they begin to downsize.  These are mostly Gen Xers.  They are in their 3rd base home, which is probably a fairly large home in the $250-350k range.  They want to move up to the $400-600k range, where there are plenty of houses for sale.

Their only problem is that most are just tarted up versions of their current house.  These buyers aren’t getting a better house, a bigger house, or a bigger yard.  They are just getting prettier finishes.  They find the houses in this price range, well, boring.  And we have a TON of them for sale.

So what do these Gen X buyers do?  They wait for the right house to hit the market.  Since they already have a nice house, they are in no hurry.  Because they aren’t in a hurry, that means the people looking to buy their house are in the same position….all the way down to that first time buyer eager to bid their heart out on their first home.

And, that is where we are today.  Sellers wanting to sell but not finding anything they want to buy.

What makes a location good?

Ever wonder what all goes into making a good location?

It’s usually a combination of many things.  The more of these you have, the more appealing it is:

  1.  Proximity to amenities like shopping/entertainment/dining.
  2.  Easy access to work (Think New Circle, Interstate, airport, etc.)
  3.   Good school district.  Even for people who don’t have kids in school, this is important because realtors have convinced everybody it is good for “Resale Value.”
  4.  An absence of major negative things like road noise, smoke stacks, crime, or something smelly like a landfill.

Very few neighborhoods have all of these.  The ones that do have always sold quickly and for top dollar.  They appreciate the fastest in a hot market and depreciate the least in a bad market.

Want to know a few like this?

  1.  Chilesburg-It’s got the top rated schools in the area, two of which are within walking distance.  You can get to two interstate exits easily.  If you want to go to Hamburg, its an easy drive down Todds Road.  If you don’t want Hamburg, go out the Richmond Road side.
  2. Willow Bend-This area has really shot up in value this year.  It’s got some of the best schools on the south end of town, is close to Fayette Mall, Brannon Crossing and The Summit.  Shillito Park is close and it is right off of Man O War.
  3. Beaumont Enclave-This neighborhood has always been popular, mainly because it is the cheapest way to get into the Rosa Parks Elementary/Beaumont Middle/Dumbar High district.  It is a $200-300k neighborhood surrounded by $500k and up houses.  That helps too.  Besides one of the most desirable school districts in town, you have everything Beaumont has too offer, plus a city park and a library.  It is right between New Circle and Man O War, making it easy to get in or out.  It is also a short drive to the airport for traveling executives.

I normally encourage my buyers to pick a neighborhood with as many of these location features as possible since we don’t know what the market will be like when they need to sell.  The first rule in real estate is ALWAYS have an exit plan.

Some of my favorite marketing remarks for listings

One of my favorite things about getting a new listing is writing the marketing remarks.

My sellers often ask me what I am going to say about their house.  I tell them I don’t know yet.  What I like to do is sit down with a cup of coffee and look through all the pictures until something pops in my mind.

I like to use the words in the remarks to tell a buyer what they can’t see in pictures.  I also like to say something that will be memorable.  I know I’ve done a good job when all my realtor friends will text or call me saying how much they enjoyed reading them.

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

  1. “Get out your MUST HAVE list and let’s compare. Do you have these items on it: 1/4 acre level lot that is fully fenced & private? Hardwood floors? Replacement windows? A nicely updated bath? Stainless appliances? Fireplace? Good so far???? Come see it in person. Don’t just peek through the windows. You will love the shape and vibe of this house. The location is amazing.”

runnymede

 

2.  “DO THE OTHER HOUSES you are looking at have a wooded area & a lake behind them? Didn’t think so. Besides the wooded+water view, this house has numerous unique features: *HUGE finished room in the basement plus a full bath down there.  *HUGE storage room in the basement that walks out to driveway.  *End of Cul-de-Sac with nothing but Mother Nature behind you. Come check it out!”

harbor

 

3.  “Like Top 5 lists? The first 5 pictures tell you everything you need to know about what makes this house sooooo special. The rest are there just to make you drool 😉 Classical Character meets a whole house high end reno here….yeah, you CAN have it all, IF somebody else doesn’t beat you to it.”

firebrook

 

4. “Old. New. Modern. Distressed. Pinterest. IKEA. Style. Functional. Character. Unique. Amazing. These are all words to describe what the seller’s affectionately call their Frankenhouse. While you will be amazed at all the detail they have put into this house to make it look so cool, I want you to be sure to notice that you have 3 full bathrooms, an open concept eat in kitchen/family room, a large fully fenced backyard with two decks, a shed and a root cellar. Oh, and the HVAC was all replaced two years ago and the roof is 10 years old….so what you have here is the unique old house you have fantasied about WITHOUT the reality of all the expenses typical to an older house. They have got it all ready for the next caretaker. Could it be you?”

franken

 

5.  “If this house could talk, it would say: I’m a Mid-Century charmer in a fantastic neighborhood. I’ve got lots of hardwood floors, more than one bathroom, and have had updates but still kept my original character. Some people judge me because I back to a shopping center, but you can’t really tell since my large and level backyard has sooooo many mature trees. I mean, just look at the pictures? You have to look really close to even notice. My last people that lived here liked not having another house right behind them. They said there wasn’t any noise and it sure beat seeing a neighbor or hearing a barking dog…………..Since this humble houses doesn’t like to brag, you should know that it is in the Beaumont Middle and Dunbar High School districts.”

traveller

 

6.  “Jessica & Duane looked at many house before picking this one…..and if you’ll take a look at the pictures you’ll see why! For starters, this simply has to be the BEST lot in the whole neighborhood. The house is at the end of a cul-de-sac that is in the very corner of the neighborhood and backs to FARMLAND…..has a bunch of space between the houses too. Step inside, and you will notice that this house feels much more expensive than it is. Sure, it has the open floor plan, fireplace, upgraded laminate floors, separate tub/shower & tall ceilings that everybody wants, but look close and you’ll notice things like an office nook, crown molding just about everywhere, beadboard on the back of the kitchen island, a multi-level deck, cabinets in the laundry area, some floored storage space in the attic, a coated garage floor……well, you get the drift here. Come see it for yourself, but open your eyes so you don’t miss the other cool details of this home!”

crockett

 

7.  “I honestly am challenged to describe this place in less than the 1000 characters I have. I mean, the setting is fantastic. You are on top of a ridge, but don’t have to drive up a steep road nor driveway to get here. Fantastic views & very private. Then there is the house. It has been totally remodeled with attention to design, detail and character. Look at the pictures? This place could be in a magazine!! When you come see this place, walk around it several times to take it all in. Want to be a farmer? A vineyard, orchard trees, chicken house, pond & barn are ready for you. 30 minutes to Lexington & 10 minutes to Nicholasville-can it be any more ideal?? (there is more but I am running out of room.)”

taylor

 

8.  “I don’t often have 61 pictures of a house……but then again, there aren’t many houses like this!! Some thoughts that popped into my head as I toured it today were: Craftsmanship, attention to detail, LOTS of crown molding & trim work, farmhouse sink, awesome cooktop hood, lots of hardwood, wrap around porch, custom built, elegant while being inviting, the best breakfast room I have EVER seen, natural light, I can’t believe it has a great room AND an upstairs family lounge AND a basement family room, Pottery Barn, Southern Living, STORAGE, an unfinished room in the basement that would be a perfect Theater Room. Then as I left, I noticed it is across from dedicated Green space. Before you check out those 61 pictures, let me point out a few other things: The main level bedroom is being used as an office. It works great either way. The basement bedroom has French doors & could be anything you want….Lots to love. Worth a visit!!”

Vanznat

 

9.  4 ooooh 5 ooooh 2.The best zip code in all of Lexington….and this house is in THE most awesome location with access to The Lansdowne Shoppes, The Signature Club, Chevy Chase, Downtown, UK, The Arboretum, Southland Drive, Fayette Mall and The Summit. Map it. This place is right in the middle of all that. You also get mature trees and are in the Glendover Elementary/Morton Middle/Henry Clay High district. But what about this house? Well, to begin with it sits on nearly a 1/3 acre corner lot that offers a very private backyard. It’s got hardwood, tile and a nice mix of updating and all the original charm that you want in a mid century home. My favorite thing about this place is the floor plan. All the rooms are big and bright and flow well. The kitchen is open to the family room just like in a newer house. When you come check it out, be sure to spend a few minutes sitting at the kitchen island. It’s a great gathering space.”

_SEM6025

 

10.  Let’s call this the TRIFECTA house: You get greenspace, a water view and move in ready condition. You also get a lot of natural light, an open floor plan, a walking trail, are close to Hamburg as well as two of Lexington’s newest schools, Garrett Morgan Elementary and Frederick Douglass High. A little extra icing on an already good cake is that there is more space than usual between you and one of your neighbors, the driveway is flat and it is going to be the cleanest most move in ready house you have ever seen. (Even the lawn is in immaculate shape!!)”

3276 Sweet Clover - 013

 

Some of my favorites houses I have sold

It’s been a pretty relaxing day.  Woke up a little early.  Drank some coffee.  Thought about some of my favorite houses that I have sold.

There are a lot more than these, but I wanted to share with you a bit about what I saw in these homes.

1.  The Cottage on the Lake House

LAKE

One of the things that made this place so cool was how much it offered for such a little price.  The seller used it mostly as a weekend get away.  While the whole place was special, this room with a wall of windows overlooking Herrington Lake was amazing.

2.  The Preserved Craftsman Cottage

sTAMPING GRD

The sellers used me when they bought this place.  It was a time capsule.  I think it was built in the 20s and updated a bit in the 50s.  The previous owner had lived there forever.  Everything was pink.  My sellers updated it with an eye on preserving it’s original character.

3.  The Transformation in the Sticks House

tAYLOR RIDGE

This place was so deep in Jessamine County that it was closer to Madison County than it was to Nicholasville.  It was literally a very plain shack when my buyer with a ton of vision and the energy for the transformation bought it.  Everything she did was totally amazing, but I had to pick one picture and I picked this one because of the window.  The ceilings were low in this house.  The windows were low too.  She came up with the idea to put all that trim around the windows and get this, to make the windows look taller, she put mirrors above them.  Take a closer look and you will see a reflection of what is inside.  Pretty clever!

4.  The Party House

Wyndham

Some friends of mine built this house and then added the pool.  I just sold it for them.  What I loved about this house was all the space for entertaining, which sounds strange of me to say because I never entertain….but if I did, the pool, the flat lawn, the patio, deck, and finished basement with a kitchenette would be what I would want.

5.  The Cozy Corner House

Hemming

I am a sucker for natural light.  This place was vacant when my clients bought it.  I liked this corner because it had windows on two sides.  It looked even better when they got this wicker sectional.  It was so cool that the people who bought it when I sold it wrote on their offer that the sectional stayed with the house.

6.  The “Everything I wanted except a 10 car garage” house

lake v

This is a house that made me wish I was 10 years younger.  Well, I wish that all the time, but what I mean is that I am too close to being an empty nester to want a perfect 5000 square foot house on an amazing lot, in my favorite neighborhood, that has been totally renovated.  If it were 2008, I would have bought it.

7.  The Love at First Sight Garage House

David Powell Media

These buyers had a 3 car garage in their old house that I sold.  They didn’t want to go backwards.  It is hard to find a 3 car garage in Lexington, but somehow we managed to find a 4 car garage.  The seller of this home was some famous football player.  He added the extra garage seemlessly into the house…..that’s how I will always remember him.

8.  The In the Country but not in the Country House

Todds

Talk about location.  Here are 10 acres and all the wonderfulness that comes with being in the country, but Domino’s in Hamburg will deliver your pizza.  Plus it has a pool and a bonus garage with an apartment.

9.  The “My Three Kitchens” House

Cambridge

This place not only had a really nice kitchen upstairs, it had a really nice kitchen in the 3000 square foot basement, plus this poolside kitchen.  I am not really sure why this impressed me because I never cook anything, but it did.

10.  The “Made my wife cry tears of joy” House

antilles

While it doesn’t look this good now, it did when I bought this place.  My wife had always wanted a covered patio and an outdoor fireplace.  When we came to see this house, she cried because she liked it so much.  It was like a dream come true.  I try to remind myself of that when I think about all the work I need to do to the inside….which I have been deferring for over 6 years now.