2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review
I like being a real estate agent. I like the work. And it’s nice to like your job…it makes the whole idea of working more pleasurable. Earning a living doing something you enjoy so you can do your life…it’s a good thing.

 

But it’s not the best thing…

The best thing is moments.

Those moments that feel like gifts. The moments too precious to think of as work…the precious real-life moments that are a privilege to be present in…

 

2017 had moments…

 

Rita was sure she was ready to downsize…Larry? Not so much. Larry liked his set up in his man cave basement. His fish tank, the pool table, his makeshift home office, his recliner and big screen tv…he was comfortable. And he liked the familiarity of where he’d lived for twenty plus years…the grocery store, the best place to get this or that, it all worked for him. But Rita wanted to get closer to the grandkids and Larry was grudgingly willing to consider it.

 

We started looking at properties, we’d already been through a few. It was the day we saw a little house in Lockport and Larry was taking a look around…and I asked him… “What do you think?” and Larry said…”I could see myself here.” To be there and see the look on his face, to sense in that moment he began letting go of his man cave and began looking forward to a home near the grandkids…

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That was a moment.

 

Debbie’s husband Joe passed away earlier in the year. The house they had built together was too much to keep up with alone.  When we found Debbie the perfect townhouse on our first time out, Debbie said, “I know Joe is helping me do this.” To be there with her at a moment of both holding on and moving on…

 

That was a moment.

 

When I  unlocked the door to the adorable house on Olive and Janet and I walked in and I turned and looked at her. She had tears in her eyes. It was right there on her face  “Oh my gosh can I do this? Oh my gosh am I really going to do this? Oh my, I love this house.” And it happened with me standing right there…

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That was a moment.

 

There was a moment when Fran and Tony found the house they were looking for which wasn’t so much a house they were looking for as it was a piece of property with a house on it. And we found it.

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There was a moment when Gary said he was putting a new roof on the house but he really wanted the new buyer to pick out the color.

 

There was a moment when Chris was face timing with his mom in Ohio during the final walk-through of his and Robyn’s new home.

 

There were lots and lots of moments with my niece Lisa and her husband Rick while we searched and found and had to find again their perfect forever home.

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And when Mary Ann and I were standing in her kitchen and she’s telling me she can’t believe she’s doing it but she’s moving to Arizona and her face reflected both the fear and excitement in doing such a thing…that was a moment.  Later when she asks me my size and then gives me her beautiful plaid Christmas coat and tells me it will make her happy knowing I will love that coat as much as she did…that was a moment with a cherry on top.

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My daughter Joanna is an Account Supervisor with a marketing firm in the city and these last few months she’s been helping me organize and improve the work we do. And wow have we gotten some stuff done…new logo, new website, improved processes. It’s exciting knowing what’s been good is going to be even better. But it’s our Saturday status work sessions…working together, being together… so many moments.

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Some years are better than others. Some years I’m in the top 5 in production in my office, some years I barely make it in the top 10…sometimes my business is up and sometimes it’s down. But every year I am grateful for a job that I love…and grateful most of all…for the folks that have given me the privilege of being present in…the moments.

 

2017 was no different…2017 had moments.

 

Can Jake Buy a Place?

Meet Jake.

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Jake is a 25-year-old college graduate, he has a decent job. Jake has some student loans he’s paying off. Jake lives with his mom and dad but he’d like to move out, get a place of his own. Jake might get an apartment but he wonders if he could buy a place.
Should Jake rent an apartment? Can Jake buy a place?

I’m not sure.

But I  know Jake should give me a call.

Yes, I’m a real estate agent and yes I earn a living, get paid, make money when I close deals. I am paid when the apartment is rented or a home is sold. But Jake doesn’t have to be definitely renting or buying anything to give me a call…because I’m also a help Jake figure it out resource.
I can help Jake figure out what he can do, what makes the most sense.
I could introduce Jake to Pam.
Meet Pam.

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Who’s Pam?

 

Pam is a VP of mortgage lending with Guaranteed Rate. Pam’s smart about “buying a place stuff.”  She’s super nice and works with a lot of people like Jake.

 

Pam would help Jake figure out if he can buy a place.

 

The ability to get a mortgage basically depends on three things:  Credit score, Income, and Debt.

Sounds simple enough, but those three factors combine in a variety of scenarios. Toss in the different mortgage products available,  add some college debt and available grant programs for first-time homebuyers and the whole thing can get kinda complicated.

Jake doesn’t know all that stuff. I don’t know all that stuff. But Pam does. And Pam can help Jake figure it out.
Nearly forty million people move each year. Six and a half million are about the same age as Jake. With so many people moving each year you’d think moving was a really simple thing. But moving makes the top ten on every list of life’s most stressful events. For most, moving is a big deal.

 

I suppose Jake could google his way out of his parents’ house. There’s not a thing he couldn’t find about renting an apartment, getting a mortgage or finding a place somewhere online. But when it comes to a big deal like moving human help is helpful. Human help takes some of the stress away. Human help has experience, knows the questions to ask, sees the big picture. Human help has your back, human help means you’re not alone with the big deal of moving.

 

Maybe Jake can buy a place. And maybe he can’t. Maybe Jake should rent an apartment. Or maybe Jake should stay where he is for another year and save a little more money, or pay off some of the student loans. What I know is, Jake doesn’t have to figure it out alone.

Maybe you have nothing in common with Jake but a desire to maybe get a place of your own.

My advice: Call a real estate agent…start there. A good agent will help you sort through it. Nearly every agent I know would be happy to help Jake. Every agent I know has a Pam.

 

Nearly every agent I know is like me, Amy.

 

Meet Amy.

 

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Who’s Amy?

Amy is a help you figure it out real estate resource.

Give her a call.

 

Word Wednesday: Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal

The visual attractiveness of a house as seen from the street. (Merriam-Webster)
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Curb Appeal…

Client Tony calls…A couple of the houses you sent look interesting, I’m going to take a drive by and take a look at them after work.”

As we set out for some showings on a Saturday client Jan says…”I’m most excited to see the house on Sycamore, it reminds me of the house from Miracle on 34th St.”

Agent Bob calls me, wants some feedback from my showing on one of his listings, sadly I have to tell him…”Bob, my client didn’t want to go in, they saw the outside and wanted to move on.”

Everyone talks about it…you know, the visual attractiveness of a house from the street…curb appeal. Agents talk about it, potential buyers talk about it…houses speak about it too.

Curb Appeal.
When it comes to selling a house, everything speaks…the house “speaks” and “curb appeal” is the first thing it says.

 

What a house has to say, can be heard in the words of clients Tony and Jan and the sad words told to agent Bob…

 

I’m worth a closer look”

 

“I’m cute as a button, like something out of a movie,”

 

“Don’t bother coming in.”
Curb Appeal.

 
Let’s be real, not every house can look like one out of the movies, but since your house is going to speak you want to be sure to put the right words in its mouth.

 

And how can you do that??

 

If the door is faded, paint it.vht_viewer_84

 

If the screen is broken, fix it.

 

If the front yard is naked, dress it up some.

 

If it’s too covered up with trees and overgrown bushes, strip it down some.

 

And the grass, gutters, and roof??

 

Keep it trimmed, keep them clean and make sure it’s in good shape.

 

Clean and spruce up!

 

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Curb appeal…that thing that can make a home worth a drive-by, that thing that can make a potential buyer super excited to see more, that thing that can be an insurmountable hurdle to a sale. That thing that speaks volumes.
You want your house talking about its hardwood floors, the updated kitchen with the groovy new light fixtures. You want the house to exclaim how well it’s been taken care of by showing off it’s newer furnace and brand new hot water heater.  You want it to answer every question, you want it inviting folks to sit on the couch to imagine themselves living there. You want the house to welcome those new owners home. But the house isn’t going to get a chance to say any of those things unless the first thing it speaks is right.

 

Walk out to the street and take a gaze back…what’s your house saying to you??

 

“Curb appeal.”

 

Should I Have My House on the Market for the Holidays?

Should I have my house on the market during the holidays?

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If you have your ears or eyes peeled on anything real estate this time of year, you’ve heard or seen some variation of “The holidays are a great time to sell” real estate marketing theme. It goes something like this…“Inventory is low”, “Winter buyers are serious”, “Relocations take place in the 4th quarter”, “Demand is strong”, “There’s less competition”. The answer appears clear.

If you google “Should I have my house on the market for the holidays” in .5 seconds you’ll get 132,000 search results.

I guess that makes this 132,001….

Should I have my house on the market for the holidays?” 

Should you? I don’t know.

I’m not big on shoulds. If you ask me, we live by too many shoulds. Shoulds exert control, they’re stressful.  Shoulds mean we do things, not by choice, but because we think we have to.

Selling a home is loaded with shoulds. That’s one of the reasons it’s so stressful, the shoulds exerting their control. The shoulds creating the sense that your life and your house are no longer your own. Both being given over to the task of selling the house. Selling a home isn’t fun…it’s stressful. Even under the best of circumstances…it’s no fun mostly because of the shoulds:

You should keep your house super clean.

You should be ready to have your day, evening, weekend disrupted by showings and you should disappear for the hours they’re scheduled.

You should accept that there will be compromises to make…your home is worth the value the market puts on it and you may get much of what you want, but not everything is going to go your way.

You should know there will be no-shows for appointments, late shows, quick shows and long shows.

And while you may abide by your shoulds, there’s no guarantee others will…that feedback the agent should send? The lights that should be turned off? It’s not going to happen every time.

You should be aware of and prepared for all of this.

So…”Should I have my home on the market during the holidays?” You can decide. You should decide.

If you are ready to move and don’t mind the shoulds this time of year…don’t let the holidays stop you…

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Homes sell every day of the year.

There are agents that can tell you stories of the homes they sold on Christmas Day…homes they showed and sold in blizzard conditions.

Homes sell every day, and yours can too. If your home is on the market and you need a break, you can take one…

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If you want to have out of town guests for the holidays or want to throw your annual holiday party without worry that someone is going to call for an appointment the next morning…

 

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If you’d rather spend the next couple of weeks with cookie sheets spread across your kitchen counters, or want to leave your wrapping paper and gifts on the dining room table to wrap at your leisure you can do that too.

The shoulds will still be there after the holidays…homes sell every day and yours will too.

The first, most important should in real estate is…YOU. You should first consider you.

Selling a home is always only one piece of life’s puzzle…a part of a larger transition…one part of a larger life decision…and it’s with the entire puzzle in mind all real estate decisions are best made.

Selling a home means shoulds…and it’s doing the shoulds that will get your home sold. It’s not the time of year that matters. It’s when you’re ready and best able to give up fun and turn your life and house over to the task of selling your home. It’s when you are ready for the shoulds that make the difference.

Selling a house is a list of shoulds, but “during the holidays” isn’t one of them.

“Should I have my home on the market during the holidays?” You don’t need to listen to real estate’s marketing themes and you don’t need this one or the 132,000 other search results to the query…

You know best what’s right for you.  YOU decide.

Word Wednesday: Porch

Porch

-noun

An exterior appendage to a building forming a covered approach or vestibule to a doorway.

Porch.

Most of the houses I’ve lived in have had porches…

My house has a porch, a small one. I have a chair out there with a pillow on it. In the summer or fall, there’s a pot or two of dying flowers on my porch. I’m never on my porch so mostly it belongs to the postman and the wasps. The postman’s on my porch every day; the mailbox is just outside the front door and since he’s only there briefly each day, the wasps freely build and dwell around their nest on my porch without disturbance.

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The house we had in Charlotte NC had a big front porch and our house in Orland Park had a porch too. The potted flowers on those porches faired a little better because there was a hose nearby but I didn’t spend much time on those porches either. Those porches were mostly the place for holiday decorations and posing for Halloween and the first day of school photographs.

 

 

Each porch an appendage to my house.

Porch.

When I think of a porch it isn’t the porch of any house I’ve lived in that first comes to mind. What pops into my head is the porch on my Aunt Rita’s house.

Summer sleepovers at Aunt Rita’s with my cousins in Bridgeport and memories of the porch…

The porch is where we sat with the small brown paper bags of candy we bought at Priscilla’s. We tore through our Razzles and Mary Janes and candy cigarettes and buttons and plotted our next move.

The porch is where we learned to play cat’s cradle. It’s where we rested from drawing our sidewalk chalk art creations.

The porch is where we waited for our turns at hopscotch and jump rope and bottle caps and foursquare.

The porch is where we spent our days.

It’s where we spent our evenings too.

 

 

IMG_5660.JPGWe went in for supper but when we were done we went back to the porch…and looking up and down across the block we’d know who was still eating and who was done and who could play some more, because returning to their porches for more fun after supper is what all the kids did.

 

 

The porch is where we assembled for games of “colored eggs” each of us waiting anxiously for the wolf to choose our color ready to leap off the steps and bolt down the block without getting tagged.

The porch is where we played and laughed and sweat and argued, made up and played and laughed and sweat some more.

Porch.

I treasure the Halloween and the first day of school photos of my kids on our porches over the years, and I’ve enjoyed decorating those porches for the holidays. And even though I don’t sit on it,  I like the chair and pillow that’s on my porch now.  And yes, my flowers die, but I still enjoy planting them. I like the porches I’ve had and the one I have now.

 

But I loved the porch on Aunt Rita’s house. The porch that defied definition. During those summers in the city Aunt Rita’s porch wasn’t an appendage. It wasn’t a covered approach to a vestibule or doorway. It was a whole world and home to rich memories of my childhood.

It was summer fun. It was games and penny candy. It was sweat and laughter.

It was…a porch.

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Word Wednesday: Pets

Pet(s)

noun

any domesticated or tamed animal that is kept as a companion and cared for affectionately.

 

Do you have pets?

I do.

These are mine. Henry and Vivian…I love them.

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Did you know that an estimated 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States?  Approximately 44% of all households in the US have a dog and 35% have a cat. (Source: American Pet Products Association 2015-2016 APPA)

More cats and dogs live in the United States than any country in the world. I love Henry and Vivian, just as the 3 in 5 Americans who own pets love theirs.  Americans have pet love.

With all that American pet love you wouldn’t think having  pets would ever be an issue…”cuz hey…we love our pets.”

But it is.

Having pets is an issue when you’re selling your home.

Turns out American pet love doesn’t run deep with prospective home buyers.

And while there are all sorts of statistics on pet ownership, there are no hard statistics on pets impact on home values…you’re just going to have to take my word for it. And what I can tell you comes from years of experience and common sense.

A buyer’s perception of the value of a property isn’t going to increase with the evidence of pets. Most buyers are going to consider the presence of pets derogatorily.

Best, kindest, least impactful thing I’ve ever heard a buyer say about pets in the house?

“This house is so clean I’d never guess they had a dog.”

And what does that mean? It means that if they had to guess, they’d guess a house with a dog would be less clean than one without one.

Pets are a hindrance, not a help to the sale of a home. They may decrease not boost the value of your home.

So what’s a seller to do??

In a nutshell…

Make those beloved pets disappear…as well as you literally and figuratively can.

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Some practical suggestions:

Replace any stained or smelly carpet or be prepared for an offer that reflects the buyer’s assumption that they will be replacing the carpet.

Don’t leave pets at home for showings.

Stow away bowls and leashes.

Consider asking a friend or pet loving family member to foster your pets while your home is on the market.

None of this sounds easy does it?? Because it isn’t.

That’s why the most practical suggestion I offer is this…

Accept that pets add an extra layer of pain in the butt when it comes to selling your home and possible bite in the butt when it comes to value…but remember pet love. Remember how much you love your pets, remember how much joy and good juju they bring into your home…prospective home buyers’ pet love doesn’t run deep…but yours still can.

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Pets.