5 Star Saints

In the Catholic religion, there is a Saint for everything. Arms Dealers pray to Saint Adrian of Nicomedia to keep them safe. Saint Claude looks out for sculptors and secretaries which seems like an odd combination. Saint Cecilia is the patron saint for Musicians. I wonder if Paul Simon knew this when he wrote his song? Saint Basilides looks out for Italian Prison Officials (French Prison Officials are evidently out of luck). As a stained glass artist, I can pray to Saint Lucy to guide me in my creations. Then there is Saint Joseph, the patron Saint of home, family, carpenters and workers in general. Evidently, Saint Joseph is also in the home selling business.

My friend Peggy swears by Saint Joseph. She is not a real estate agent but over the years she has sold homes and moved many times as well as having helped several family members sell their homes. Every time she has done it quickly and with the help of Saint Joseph. This patron saint even sold her mothers house in Buffalo, New York, in February in under two weeks. Now that’s impressive. Last week, my husband Don and I were talking with Peggy about selling her son’s house and Peggy said that she would be burying Saint Joseph in the front yard. Don was a little taken aback. He was raised Catholic and you do not disrespect Saints!

Peggy explained that you bury Saint Joseph upside down in front of the house. Don thought that was a horrible thing to do to a Saint. She explained that he wants out of the ground so you put him upside down so that he can’t escape until he has done his job. You are also supposed to make sure that he is facing your house so that he doesn’t accidentally sell the house across the street. Once the home sells, you dig up Saint Joseph and give him a place of honour in your new home. She suggested that we bury Saint Joseph in our front yard to assist with the sale of our own home. Don was aghast by the whole thing. Bury a Saint??? You just don’t do that!

The whole time that they were having this discussion, I was on Amazon looking at Saint Joseph statues. Finally, I hit the one-click button and announced: “Done! They will be here by Thursday.”  Don looked a bit baffled and said: “you bought one?”

“Actually, I bought several. The only 5 star Saint Josephs came in bulk. I don’t want to risk our home sale or the sale of my client’s homes to a 3 star saint. I want only the best so I bought a 5 star saint. Why take a chance?”

Why indeed. Snopes does not confirm or deny that Saint Joseph works. They have stayed neutral on the topic. The Catholic Church swears it works but then again, they are in the business of Saints so I would hope they would give this one a good review.  What about you? Do you have a Saint Josephs story to share?

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This house is so bespoke, ya’ll

Describing homes for advertising is both fun and challenging. You need to convey the feeling of the home while also giving the facts of what the home is about. When writing the advertising for my own home, I wrote copy after copy and shared it with several friends for their editing and input. One friend said to use the word “bespoke”. I have heard that word before but I didn’t really know the meaning so I looked it up.

Urban Dictionary has the most concise use of the word: “Bespoke tailoring refers to a particularity of British fashion, but the term ‘bespoke’ is now extended to all life’s domains, as a powerful mark of luxury, an anti-brand/ anti-globalization reaction.”

Initially, I used the word to describe our home. It does fit as other definitions use the word to describe something tailor-made to exacting specifications. That is certainly our house. But then we started spotting the word everywhere and it became a running joke.

On Facebook, I shared a link to a house up in NJ that an artist had turned into a nightmare inside. One friend commented that it was so originally bespoke. Ugh. Another friend shared the website for our house and said: “yo! this home is so bespoke!”  Then we started applying the term to show dogs and it really got weird.

On the request of my husband, I removed the term from all advertising. I still think the word fits, but now I can’t say it without giggling.

What’s your favorite, overused real estate term?

And now we are live!

Several months ago I decided to chronicle our home selling process. I am a real estate broker, but even for me, there are no shortcuts in this process. We have now shifted into another phase so let me update you. We have cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more. We have painted, repaired and landscaped. We have done everything that we can to prep the house and make it sparkly. Every seller needs to do this step before placing their home on the market. For some it is quick, for others, it’s a long process but one that must be done. Think of it as cleansing the soul of your house to prepare it for its next chapter.

The fun for me began when I could concentrate on marketing. I love this part! I wrote the script, edited it and wrote it again (with the help of friends). The professional photographer was brought out, the photos selected, uploaded and labeled. A video was created and now the website is up and running. Ads were submitted to magazines. Last Thursday, it went live in the Multiple Listing Service. It is now out there for the whole world to see! How exciting!

If you are selling a house in town under $300,000, you will now have people knocking on your door. When you are selling a house out in the county for over $400,000 (like we are), the process isn’t as quick. It’s just the facts and again, there are no shortcuts. This is day 6 and so far we have had one drive-by that we know of. We did not invite them in as showing the house is my co-brokers job. That is what I hired her for and even I need to stick to our game plan. We have had agents call, asking questions for their clients. We have had some web inquiries. Overall, I’m pretty excited for the first not quite week on the market.

The hard part is what comes next. We don’t really want to rent as having 3 dogs makes that difficult. We might buy a cheap little house that needs work and live in that while we build a home. That means finding the right cheap little house and the right building lot. If the location and house are just right, we aren’t against buying an existing house and turning it into the perfect home. We have started looking but without a time frame, it’s hard to look seriously since what’s on the market now may not be available when we are ready to start that step of the process. We are flexible and Don and I work well under pressure. We have a plan A, plan B, C, D, and E for what comes next. We have options and really, this is a good position for a seller to be in as it prevents rash decisions.

 

 

 

All Work and Some Play

We interrupt the saga of my personal home sale to share my latest Pet Gazette article!

As a real estate agent, I have long been able to enjoy my dog’s company as a regular part of my day. In fact, I have often had clients request that my dogs join us when we are viewing land. Nothing makes a hike on a large tract more enjoyable than watching Fido happily bound through the woods.  I remember one 25 acre tract that I had listed for sale. It had a nice level area for a home site at the top then there were two trails that wound down through the property, across some rocky ledges and ending on a sandy beach on the French Broad River. I would often join the buyer’s agent in showing this property to their clients since I had a good idea of where the trails were located. A listing agent’s number one concern is ensuring that a buyer gets the full picture of a property so showing it to them myself only made sense. On the first weekend that this property was on the market, we had six showings scheduled. Five were on Saturday. I took my Golden Retriever, Tucker with me and together we showed this property each time. Luckily not everyone wanted to hike to the river but we did make that loop at least three times. When we arrived home from our work day we both crashed on the living room floor for a nap and were soon interrupted by my husband’s request to help clean up a debris pile that he had created. I agreed as long as he joined me the next day. I wanted him to know why I was so tired!

The next morning we drove back to the property, this time our puppy, Truly joined us. My clients and I, my husband and both dogs hiked down to the river and back up again. We all had a good time viewing the land. When we arrived back at the vehicles I was distracted with my clients and hadn’t noticed that puppy Truly had ventured over to say hello to a neighbor’s dog who was out on a chain. The dog tried to attack Truly who squealed and thankfully got away. I quickly grabbed her; made sure she was ok and put her in her crate. Stupid me! I wasn’t paying attention!  I also wasn’t paying attention to Tucker who was now circling the chained dog, peeing every three feet just outside the dogs reach. Tucker wasn’t a fighter but he wasn’t a pushover either!

Another time I was viewing a home that was under construction way up on a mountain in the little community of Trust. It was remote. On my way down the mountain, I stopped the truck to ask a question of a man that was out hunting with his dogs. He was using a radio collar for tracking and I was curious about how he was able to track them. The gentleman stood next to the open window while we had a nice conversation. Then I looked at Tucker. He obviously wanted us to leave, so I did. Sorry for the anti-climax with that little story but real estate agents often put themselves in harm’s way by meeting total strangers in remote areas or in empty houses. Tucker was doing his part to keep me safe.

Recently I sold a home in Leicester belonging to a little old lady who was half blind. She was in agreement that it was time for the house to be sold but it was still a sad time which made it stressful. Her daughter requested that I bring one of my Golden Retrievers to visit with her mom. This time I took Tag, our very gentle and soft-hearted Golden. He sat by her side through all of the paperwork, allowing himself to take all of the petting and ear rubbing that she doled out. She gave him a hug when we were done and thanked me for bringing him. She said he made the day easier for her.

Our dogs enrich our lives in so many ways and I am happy that they often bring joy to others as well. I train my dogs and work hard to ensure that they are good citizens who will be invited to join me wherever I want to go. I strive for them to be ambassadors for all canines that work and travel at their owner’s sides.  Hopefully you, too get to enjoy your dog during your workday.  Cheers!

Tucker in the snow

I just hired a Realtor…….

Yes, you read that title correctly. Me, a real estate broker, has just hired a real estate broker to sell my home.  When we tell homeowners that it is wise to hire a real estate broker to represent them in their home sale, we are not kidding. We are not saying this because we want the business. We are not saying this to make real estate brokers seem relevant. We say this because it is the truth.

Years ago I sold two homes by owner. We set our own price and we negotiated the contracts and yes, things went smoothly. So smoothly that this is what tempted me to get my real estate license. As I sat through the long hours of classroom time, I was horrified to realize all of the ways that I had I just opened myself up to get sued. Your real estate broker is your buffer in these transactions. They know the law, the paperwork involved, and the pitfalls that can occur. If anything ends in a lawsuit, they are your first line of defense.

Then there is the marketing angle. Sure, you can put your home on many of these websites for the public to see but there are many more out there. Also, do you really know how best to describe your home? The best photos? I once dealt with homeowners that insisted I post a photo of the back of their house as the first photo. I agree it was impressive. It made the home look like a three-story McMansion with lots of stairs instead of the one story with finished basement that it really was. The buyer for this home most likely was going to be a retired couple with bad knees. They want one level and the back photo of this home was not at all appealing to that kind of buyer. Would the seller listen to me? No, not for many, many months. Once they agreed to let me swap out the first photo we started having showings and then a contract. Trust your broker. They do this every day and talk to hundreds of buyers. They know what appeals to people. If they give you advise, listen to it.

Don’t forget about pricing. Sure, many websites offer home valuations but it’s based on algorithms and not real facts. I put my own home through three of these sites and had a $700,000 spread in price. Yeah, that’s accurate. Real Estate Agents know the market. I recently met with a home seller whose home has been on the market for several months with little action. I explained that his home was overpriced by about $30,000. In his current price range, a buyer can find a newer home that needs little cosmetic work. This particular home was well built and had some essential upgrades like a new roof, windows, and HVAC but it needed a complete cosmetic makeover. The price needed to reflect this. The seller was emotionally attached to this home and didn’t see the work that needed to be done.

So why do I need a real estate broker for my own home?  For all of the same reasons. Don and I designed this home. We built it with the help of one laborer and a few tradespeople. Every ounce of this home is us. We are too emotionally involved in this home to see it objectively. This hurts me when pricing it. It hurts me when staging it. It hurts me when describing it in advertising. For all of these reasons, I will make a bad listing agent for my own home. Further, the state of North Carolina does not allow a real estate broker to represent a buyer in the sale of their own property. This is a fairly new rule and I think it’s a good one.

My plan is to co-broker my property. I have hired one of the bright, new, rising stars in our real estate office to team up with me on my home. I will hire the professional photographer, possibly a drone, set up the website, and handle all advertising just as I do with all of my listings.  She will have complete control to edit anything that I do. I always trust in my marketing plan for my clients but for me, my co-broker will tweak as she sees fit. She will answer all calls and talk to potential buyers. This gives me breathing space to think rationally instead of having knee-jerk reactions to any offers or questions that come in.

Honestly, listing and selling my own home is not much different than selling by owner. If I am advising you to hire a professional to assist you in this transaction (a very expensive transaction I might add), shouldn’t I do the same?

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Ceilings, and not the popcorn kind

We all hate popcorn ceilings. So why do builders do them? Because they are easy. They save time. You hang your drywall, apply the texture and you are done. I have helped Don remove many popcorn ceilings over the years. It’s fairly easy although labor intensive and the finished product is a nice, flat ceiling, just as the almighty intended (if he cared about interior ceilings).

Flat ceilings are labor intensive. You hang the drywall, mud, tape, sand, prime and paint.  Imagine doing this 18 feet in the air. Our living room, kitchen and dining room all share one large ceiling that vaults to approximately 18 feet. This allows us to have clear stories above our covered porches and brings in plenty of sunlight throughout the day.Clear Story

Not long after Don was out of the turtle shell for his burst vertebrae, we tackled this ceiling. We had two layers of scaffolding with a drywall lift on top and wheels below. Our routine was to pull the 12 foot sheets of drywall into the loft, lift them onto the drywall lift, I would then hold it steady while Don wheeled us in place. I then cranked the lift up until the drywall was where it needed to be. Don would climb the scaffolding and screw the drywall in place then climb down and wheel us back to the loft for the next sheet. Rinse and repeat several more times. I have hung 12-foot drywall in the past. It is not as easy as 8 foot sheets as it’s more prone to breakage if it bends even a little too much. We were handling this drywall a lot and the more you handle it, the higher the chance of breaking. Somehow we managed this with most pieces intact, maybe because after all of these years of assisting Don, we have a system that works. In this living room, it tested our system to the max. You can’t imagine the feeling of exerting all of this effort to hang a sheet of drywall just to look back over the ceiling and see something on the scale of a postage stamp hanging there. Intimidating to say the least. We got it done, taped it, sanded it and painted it. Painting was fun. Instead of ceiling white, we agonized over a paint color that was a darker beige than our wall color only to have friends ask what color we planned to paint the living room and ceiling……..

The dining room was next with a beadboard barrel ceiling. Yeah, that was fun. We put wet towels on the back of the beadboard in an attempt to make them bend easier. Then you have to bend it in a curve and attach the center to the middle of the ceiling making sure that you are straight and square. Now imagine doing this with 12-foot sheets of drywall because that was the NEXT project when we did a barrel ceiling in our bedroom.  Honestly, I thought MY back would break from this work, let alone Don’s already recovering spine.

Is it worth it? You tell me. It’s this kind of detail that adds value to a home. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s worth the labor to get the finished results.

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Barrel Ceiling done in drywall

 

 

It’s Back Breaking Work………part 2

Part 1 of this story………..

June of 2004 was a miserable month. Don was laid up after a ladder kicked out from under him, bursting his L1 vertebrae and breaking a bone in his wrist. On the advice of a friend who was a surgeon, he was opting against surgery and instead wanted to give his back a chance to heal on its own. He was resting in bed (which was in the garage) in a turtle shell, trying not to move too much. The neurologist wanted to do surgery and warned that paralysis could happen without it. We both felt that healing on its own was the best option, but it was a scary option.

To make matters worse, our lender was threatening foreclosure. Don was our builder/contractor and now he was out of the picture. I had started my new real estate career earlier in the year which incensed our loan officer. She wanted me to stick it out at my previous job, not understanding that my position was going away and I would have been laid off if I hadn’t of quit first. When we started this project we owned our 8-1/2 acres and the garage/apartment free and clear. We had over $130,000 in assets that the bank was holding and they were threatening to take it all. The loan officer felt it was better to ruin us rather than risk any repercussions with her job.

Then there was the house. The windows had just been delivered and needed installed. We also needed the roof shingled and a few things done to shore up the house and completely dry it in. We were hoping that Don could recover and continue on but honestly, we didn’t know how things would turn out.

Also, keep in mind that I was only six months into a new real estate career. That in itself is stressful. Our life was a mess. I spent plenty of time in our shell of a house, trying to think of only the coming weeks and what needed to be done. I cleaned up the job site and hung Don’s tool belt on a nail. A sparrow found it and thought it was the perfect place to build a nest and raise her young. I let her have it. We had a long way to go before Don could use it again.

My favorite saying is “don’t be afraid to go out on a limb because that’s where the best fruit is.”  Dons favorite saying is “careful thought enhances luck”. Many times Don and I have been willing to put ourselves out on a limb but it was also done with plenty of careful thought. That thought always involves the advice of friends who have provided us with valuable input through the years. One friend that I called was a lender, Kay Taffer who I had started working with. Kay and I spent a lot of time going over our situation and she pulled out a miracle. She got my loan refinanced with a new lender. Another friend who came to our aid was Larry Ohl, who Don had worked with when we had first moved to Asheville. Larry spent several days helping me install the windows. My fellow real estate agents helped track down a roofer. Soon we were dried in.

The neurologist had told Don to expect three months in the turtle shell. At the end of the three months, Don called our laborer and put him to work decking the front porch, with his instruction. Don was feeling much better, his back appeared to be healing and the sparrow had left her nest in his tool belt. It was time to start working again. About that time he received a phone call from the neurologist who asked him what he was doing. He happily replied, “I’m working on my house!”  The neurologist was not thrilled with that answer and proceeded to tell Don all the many ways that his spine could still collapse, leaving him paralyzed for life. When I arrived home that day I found Don lying in bed, feeling completely dejected. I reminded him that most likely it was the doctors CYA talk, take it with a grain of salt. It turned out to be the last conversation that he had with his neurologist who pretty much washed his hands of him.

Don eventually went to physical therapy on the advice of his family doctor but his real physical therapy was working on our house. He started laying nearly 3,000 feet of oak hardwood floors while still in the turtle shell. The neurologist had said 3 months and since he was no longer communicating with us, we felt that 4 months was a safer bet. Don started by laying a few boards, then going to our bedroom in the garage and resting his back for a half hour. Then a few more boards and another rest. The boards eventually grew into a bundle a day then several bundles a day. He made hash marks on the kitchen wall to track his progress. By the end, he had worked himself out of the turtle shell and was back to work, albeit cautiously. Our new loan was in place. we were ready to move forward once again!

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