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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It’s Back Breaking Work ….. part 1

The process of getting our home ready for sale means that a few things have to happen before we can tackle some big items. One thing that needed to happen was moving into our garage/apartment and we can now check that off of our list. Well, sort of. Our bed is in place and so is Truly’s dog crate and Tripp and Tyler’s beds. A couch has yet to make it up although the cushions did, so we have been lounging on the floor which suites the dogs just fine. We have plates and cups but no silverware and no food. All of that is still in the house. The other night Don said he was going to the “big house” to forage for food. He came back with a bottle of wine in one hand and a saucepan with a can of soup in the other. That’s my guy! The mighty hunter!  Four days later and we have finally moved the computers. It’s a slow process but we are getting there. At least the dogs seem happy with the move.

apartment and dogs

Our first big project to tackle is the living room ceilings. The living room, kitchen and dining room all share the same 18ft ceiling and there are a few cracks that need to be repaired. Actually, “cracks” is the wrong word. When Don was drywalling the ceiling he was recovering from a burst L1 vertebrae. Instead of using the paper tape that he has traditionally used with new drywall, he used fiber tape. It was faster and got the job done except that it only takes a slight amount of movement (settling) that all new homes go through and it cracks the paint. Slowly he has gone through the house, room by room, and fixed this issue as it has popped up. The ceiling is the last area that needs attention. Having scaffolding in the living room once again brings back memories of the beginning of this project.scaffolding.jpg

June 2004 saw us living in the garage, the house was framed and only lacked windows to be dried in. Things were going well. I was at my office when Don called and simply said “come home”.

“Why?”

“Just come home,” I immediately hit panic mode. Something was wrong. My van was having work done so someone at my office drove me home. We discovered Don laying on the floor in considerable pain. Evidently, he had been coming down from the loft when his ladder kicked out from under him, throwing him backward onto his back. He was the only person working on the house at that time so instead of calling for help, he crawled to the garage and up the stairs to his mom’s apartment over the garage. That’s when he called me. Don wouldn’t let me call an ambulance so we helped him down to my friends SUV and we drove him to the emergency room where we discovered that he had burst his L1 Vertebrae. The neurologist wanted to do surgery ASAP. Don said no, give me time to think. Thankfully we had a friend who was a surgeon who did us the favor of making a few phone calls and asking some questions. He was advised that if the burst was stable, to give it time to heal on its own. We were already incredibly lucky that Don was not permanently paralyzed after all of that moving around, now we were planning to put him in a turtle shell and let him be for several months. You can imagine that this did not make his doctor happy.

Don spent four nights in the hospital and was then sent home without surgery. He stayed in his bed for several days in the garage bedroom. Eventually, he felt well enough to make his way up the stairs to his mom’s apartment. He was on painkillers and in a turtle shell and our life was on hold. We had no idea if he would heal. There was still a chance that he could become paralyzed and to add to all of this stress the bank was giving us grief about our loan. When we took out our loan for the house, we owned our 8-1/2 acres and the garage with the apartment free and clear. We allowed the bank to hold all of this as collateral for our construction loan and now they were threatening to foreclose.  They were unhappy that our contractor/builder was laid up and that I was starting a new career in Real Estate. The loan officer felt that she had stuck her neck out too far and she was going to make sure that it wasn’t her that got burned.  Stress? Yeah, we know about stress.

I had also been competing with Tucker at that time, trying to get his first Utility leg. I had already been entered in a trial in Knoxville when this happened. Don encouraged me to go anyhow. He thought I needed to get out of this mess for a few hours. So at four in the morning, in the rain, I drove to Knoxville and over halfway there I started kicking myself. What the hell was I doing? What if I had a traffic accident? What would Don do? Stupid, stupid me! I continued on as by then it wasn’t that far away. I arrived just as our class was starting so I took Tucker out of the van, aired him and warmed him up. We went into the ring and nailed each exercise one at a time. Finally! It looked like we were getting that first leg! Finally, some good news! The last exercise was the go-out and directed retrieve. Tucker went out, sat, took the high jump as directed. My excitement was building. I sent him out again, he sat in the correct spot, I directed him over the bar jump and he….took the high jump. I quietly put his leash on him, went out to the van and started sobbing. All of the stress of the last few weeks came out. People walked by and saw me having a break down then walked away, whispering.  Eventually, I got myself together, went into the building and sat down next to my friend Michelle who was also crying. I said “Tucker blew the very last exercise. Why are you crying?”

“Titus finally got his utility title after dozens of tries”.

“Congratulations” sniff sniff “You worked hard for that title” sniff sniff. I gave her a hug, pulled myself together and drove home to take care of my husband and start the process of saving our property.

To be continued…………..

 

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our beautiful Tucker

 

 

 

 

Put your left foot in, take your left foot out…….

do the hokey-pokey and reduce yourself to tears of frustration at times. Lately, it feels like our life is one step forward and two steps back.

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retaining walls and heavy trucks don’t mix

My mom left for Illinois over a week ago and two days later the moving truck arrived. The movers were two young Serbian boys who did a good job of bundling up moms furniture and carefully loading it on their truck, but they weren’t such good drivers. While turning their truck around in our driveway they got too close to the retaining wall and pushed it out. Now we are diligently looking for someone to repair our retaining wall in the next few months. Do you know anyone?

Don has been busy in the garage-apartment, laying new flooring and cleaning it up. The green paint in the bedroom didn’t look good with the flooring so I spent the weekend painting it “Canvas Tan” to match the rest of the apartment.  Things are looking good up there. Not so much in the house. Don turned on sprinklers to water the grass outside of the breakfast room window, not realizing that I had opened the windows to let in the cool morning air. As I was headed out the door to an appointment I saw the flood of water on the floor and hurriedly shut the windows and grabbed the towels and fans. Since these are real wood floors and not laminate, there isn’t any damage that a light sanding and a few coats of poly won’t fix. We’ll just add it to the list……..2018-06-16 15.13.08

The other night we were busy preparing dinner. The dogs had just finished eating when Don happened to catch old lady Truly peeing on the floor! Oh my gosh! This is new. Truly will be 13 in a few weeks and occasionally has lapses that seem a bit like dementia. We often leave the porch door open for them to come and go as they please but with this heat, we have been running the a/c. Instead of asking me to go out to pee, Truly just did the job where she was standing. Thankfully it was caught in the act so no damage was done but we are starting to feel the pressure to get into the apartment so we can stop adding to the list of maintenance items on our house. It’s starting to get a little overwhelming.

On Facebook yesterday a friend posted how exhausting it is to prepare a home for sale and I had to agree. Our entire summer will be spent prepping this home for sale this fall. There are many activities that I’ll have to miss and the thought of working on stained glass is out the window. Who has time? I keep repeating to myself, it will be worth it. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it; the more your home sparkles, the better impression it will make on a buyer and that translates to a quicker offer and more money in your pocket.  It’s a proven fact. Do not skimp on prepping your home and keeping it maintained. There is nothing more disheartening than being told that your home (or even my sellers home) looks “too lived in” or is showing its age. My home is 13 years old but I want it to look brand new. That only comes with a lot of hard work. Speaking of which, I better get to my list!

Dogs, Apartments and Designs

We have many things that need to happen before we can put our home on the market. The first is to move out of the house. Having pets makes home selling difficult, although not impossible. We have previously sold three other homes while living with one or two golden retrievers but those homes were smaller and easier to manage. This home is quite large and our three goldens can make a day’s house cleaning look like a wasted effort in no time. Just keeping up with the puppy nose prints on the windows is a full-time job. We have the option of moving into the apartment over our garage so this is next on the checklist.

When we designed our home back in 2002-2003, my mother in law had just moved in with us. We decided to build the garage first, with an apartment over it, and then live there while we built the house. It was a great plan except that the apartment only has one bedroom. To give everyone a bit of space, we planned for a half bath in the garage and partitioned off part of the garage as a bedroom. Don and I slept in this space while my mother in law got the apartment. We ended up living with this arrangement for two years. Two long years. My mother in law lived with us for several years then moved back to Louisiana. We had a couple of renters after that. Each were real estate clients that needed a place to crash for a short term. Then our nephew moved in for a while. Six years ago, my own mother moved in with us. Recently she decided to move back to Northern Illinois to be closer to friends and family and that’s how I spent this weekend; helping my mom with her final packing. We spent a great deal of time organizing what the movers will take north, what goes in storage and what goes to Goodwill.  The apartment is now empty (or will be after today). It’s almost time for us to move in.

Next on the checklist is scrubbing down the apartment, fresh paint, and new flooring. We have to remember that this space is also for sale and it, too needs to look good. Once this is complete we will move just enough furniture for our needs, including the dog beds. All two dozen of them. Doesn’t every dog have a bed in every room of the house including their very own couch in the bedroom? Of our three golden retrievers, only Tripp will think that moving is an adventure. Old lady Truly simply won’t care as long as she is sleeping in the same room with us. The Punkin, however, is not going to like this. The Punkin doesn’t like change. She thinks everything is a conspiracy to her happiness and well being. The Punkin will not be pleased but the Punkin needs to learn to cope. We expect many arguments with the dogs as they realize they are no longer allowed in the house. All three of them have lived their entire lives on this property. Not having access to their refuge is going to take some convincing. If they only knew what comes next…..

All seven of our dogs have lived all or some part of their life on this property. Taylor was our first golden and we got her as a little pup when we lived in town on Murdock Avenue. From that remodel project we moved into a rental house while we built in East Asheville then moved again when that house was complete. We eventually sold that house and then house-sat for friends for a few months before moving into another rental while building the Spec house at the front of our property. We moved into that once it was complete. Poor Taylor moved with us four times plus two house-sitting stints. By the time we got to the Spec house, she knew all of the signs and when she saw the dog bed hit the floor in the new house, she was not please. She went to a corner, turned her back and sulked. We tried petting her but she went rigid. Her body was vibrating with the effort not to respond. So we did the only thing we knew to do; we made popcorn. Popcorn makes everything better in the eyes of a Golden Retriever. It was while living in the spec house that Taylor was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor. She was our beautiful flower child, always chasing butterflies and looking for fun. She made it through one more move when we moved into the garage. She saw the foundation go in for the house but missed the rest. She is the only one of our seven dogs who has not lived in this home but at least she had the opportunity to enjoy the pasture and the 100 Acre Woods.

This home was built and designed for our dogs as well as for us. There are no stairs for arthritic hips to maneuver when going outdoors. The windows are at dog level so they can look out at the pasture and watch their domain. We tiled the back foyer and designed a pocket gate for easy confinement when entering the home with muddy feet. The basement has a training ring so I can work with my dogs towards obedience competition titles and a large dog bath to make grooming easier. We also have a dog run off the back of the house so the dogs have a place to potty on days when we are gone too long. I am hoping the person who buys this house loves dogs as much as we do. We built it for them as much as for us.

 

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Tripp and the Punkin watch over their domain from the dog bed

 

The House on the Hill

Don and I are constantly asked why we are selling our home. Today is a prime example of one of the many reasons. He is busy mowing and scraping the road while I am busy mowing and spreading mulch. Both of us would rather be in our studio creating art but even without the amount of rain that we have had lately, our remaining 8-1/2 acres is a full-time job this time of year. Our property would be perfect for a horse person as we have ample space to cross pasture without overgrazing. The knoll where the tobacco barn used to sit would make a beautiful spot for a stable.  A gentleman farmer would enjoy having orchards and maybe a cow or two. Don and I faced the hard truth several years ago, we are not farmers. We are artists and what we want out of life is not what we wanted when we purchased this property 18 years ago. Our needs have changed.

Like any home seller, putting our home on the market is not an easy step. We can’t just say “ok, do it now.”  There is a lot of prep work involved.  The basement needs more insulation installed in the ceiling. I had started drylocking the dogs grooming room, mostly to brighten it up but the job is only half done. The basement itself is a mess. My training area is in order but we tend to pile stuff wherever we drop it. On the first floor the fireplace is still lacking a cherry surround and mantel. My closet was finally finished with shelves installed after 13 years of living out of milk crates. Many rooms are missing trim in areas. The kitchen needs some additional cabinetry and most buyers are going to expect quartz or granite countertops and not the Formica that we have been perfectly happy with. The second floor has rooms that need painting and more trim installed. The outside has all kinds of little maintenance projects.  Could I put the house on the market without doing these many items? Sure, but I wouldn’t get top dollar for my home. In fact, even if your house doesn’t need a lot of maintenance (or in our case finishing) a good power washing and scrubbing down will make your home show better. The better it shows, the faster you will get an offer and the stronger that offer will be. Don’t skimp on the spit shining.

Curb appeal is important which is why we are keeping up with the mowing and the gardens. We want everything to look its best when the property goes on the market.  Even when designing our home, curb appeal was at the top of our minds. When planning a driveway and the approach to a house, too many people get from point A to point B with very little thought and an opportunity is lost for some wonderful curb appeal. What Don envisioned that October day in 1999 as we sat on the hill was a driveway that snaked into the property. As you come in from the road, there are woods on one side that hide the home from view. You start to come around a curve and you catch a peak of the home but then your view is hidden once again by the rolling fields. As you round another curve, there it is in full view; our imagination comes to life. The fruit of our designing efforts to combine a southern plantation home with stylish arts and crafts. This home has curb appeal and plenty of it.

Growing up, Don’s family spent a lot of time in Louisiana and he fell in love with the look of the plantation homes with steep roofs and covered porches. I prefer the arts and crafts movement with pillars and gables. After owning our property for more than two years, we were still debating the design of our new home.  It was a constant topic for discussion. One day I was standing in line at the grocery store and was thumbing through a Southern Living Magazine when I came across the centerfold photo of a Long Island Sound beach house. It had a 12/12 pitch roof, gables, steep dormers and a circular covered porch for dining. This was the BACK of that house, but even so, I was smitten. I bought the magazine and rushed home to show Don. He smiled and said, “yes, that’s it!” We didn’t use that design exactly, but we did use that photograph as the launching point for our imagination as we drew the plans for the home that we eventually built.  Now as we drive home after a night in Asheville, we often remark that our home is just as we imagined it that day as we sat in the pasture.  Its nestled back on the furthest knoll, overlooking the pasture yet surrounded by the 100-acre woods, with the driveway adding to the curb appeal instead of detracting from it. Every ounce of our property was designed as an artistic landscape.  The vision isn’t fully complete but we feel it’s time for the next person to put their impression on this property.

One last note on that Southern Living Magazine photo that our house is based on; to make it perfect, I printed out scaled photos of our two golden retrievers and placed them in the grass in front of the porch. I must have gotten the scale correct as friends joked that we picked that house because it had dogs in the photo.  All of our dogs have enjoyed that porch, watching the sunset and hoping for a deer or fox to bark at. This home was lovingly designed for all of us. The design process is a story for another time.

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