Saturday, February 16, 2013

House hunting?

Be verweey, verweey quiet, I'm hunting...houses...((paraphrasing Elmer but you get the idea)).

The whole real estate, realtor (( gig, is, or can be, incredibly silly. There are Realtors out here in cyberworld who "brand" themselves by wearing funny hats, outrageous bad hairdo's, killer glasses frames, catchy-kitch-catch phrases, with those seemingly stock photos: you know the ones? Those with their hands cupping their chins or full-on profiles of them standing slightly to one side, arms crossed over their bodices in a manner to imply the deal is done. <sigh> Must I?

First of all...if someone had told me I was about to enter a profession that warrants, no, demands (!), obligates and requires current photos of me??? I would have politely but firmly sent my regrets. Is there anything more worser than having to have a full face photo made regularly? I think not.

I was in radio, remember? Behind the screen where it is safe to be stupid and drool into the microphones. Well...until you go big league morning show. Then you still get to have silly photos.

My first business card shows me in a senior-in-high-schoolish type photo with me kind of squinting in to the lens Eastwood-like. <sigh> I am unphotogenic. <sigh> One of the main reasons I learned to take pictures, studied photography?  So I could take the photos in any gathering and not have mine taken. Ugh.

Moving back to SoIL I got out my cameras at family events and found my niece, Celeste, (pictured above) also declined when I asked to take her picture, thinking, that she is unphotogenic. As you can see from her self portrait above -- she's lovely. I'd like to think I had a hand in showing her how to capture an image. And she's the gifted photographer I used when I needed some updated headshots last year.

So what does all this have to with real estate, listing houses and house hunting?

Plenty, my Precious, let me explain: Just like people can be photographed in wacky poses, with bad lighting, hokey-pokey-hurky-jerky styling? So can houses. And that can be very, verweey bad...hahahaha. Especially since a huge number of potential buyers first see your home on this here onerous device known as the internets. Ya know, like former Alaska State Senator Ted Stevens ( so aptly explained: the internets is a series of tubes. Streaming into your computer, my computer, your neighbor's computer, stalker and troll alike now have your info on these series of tubes call the internet.

Which drives us back to this whole photos on the internet thing. Realtors can be savvy, professional, fact-filled, walking, talking, house selling machines!! But not all of them know what makes a good, clean, well-composed shot of a kitchen. Seriously, some Realtors should have their cameras taken from them with the warning if they are ever caught trying to fill a frame, they will immediately be charged with visual assault with intent to create ugly.

And it is not just here in SoIL's beloved EBOR MLS. Some of my favorites come from upscale video tours out of Dallas and Seattle. O. M. G. The horror! And a lot of these are listed for close to a million bucks!! But, Realtors being Realtors...they shoot the sites themselves and it becomes a project to provide a thousand laughs. Perfect examples of what not to do.

This happens, because, by and large, I have found Realtors to be an independent, sorta know-it-ally, competitive bunch of egomaniacs. Look at me...I blog!! I use social media like it's special sauce on a cheeseburger. Dude, I have met the enemy and they is us.

So...yea....I do take the best darn photos ever! I can do what others cannot. I am magically gifted with talents and abilities other Realtors don't even know exist in the Universe. YaHUH...YaHUH>

Honestly? What I won't do is insist my photo efforts are the best ever. I will change the photos around in the Virtual Tour and I do make sure there are some pleasant effects and catchy music. I want it to be pleasing. I want to entice the buyer to call us up and come see your house!

I do get caught up in the composition of photos, the lighting, the angles. I do try to make something aesthetically pleasing and, forgive me, artistic. I can't help it. I want it to be pretty. I want it to be inviting. I want it to say, "Come see me in person."

That being said. I do not want it to show better on the Virtual Tour than in person. I'm not trying to fool anyone. I won't try and make it look bigger. I won't try and hide things like window a/c. I like the photos to feel....interesting, real, genuine....True.

A few years ago there was a series of ads that said: "Life is messy, clean it up." I used to tell my kids, "Life's hard. Wear a helmet."

Life is messy. Life is hard. Life can be stressful.

Statistics show that buying/selling a house is one of the top five most stressful things you can do. It is up there with death and divorce. And the reason for this? Because you are about to outlay a substantial amount of money, time and effort.

For sellers this stress comes in the form of listing contracts and pricing the house to sell so it maximizes profits, pays off what is owed, gives you seed money for the future but doesn't shortchange you. It means making the most of, most likely, the biggest tangible asset we have.

For buyers it means finding a good deal. It means being able to see yourself in this structure. It means borrowing more money than you've ever borrowed before. It means finding...home.

It can be stressful - for buyers and sellers -- because it means making a decision and some people just are not good at making decisions. Making decisions, to some, means knowing absolutely what they want. This causes a lot of stress.

This idea of absolutes? Let's put that to rest. As my client, I have a few really good, tried and true ways to belay that stress.

Humor works. Honesty works. I do a lot of the legwork and homework on the markets for you and that works as a stress reliever, too.

Mostly I think just knowing you've found an advocate, a friend, a confidant. Someone listens and really hears what you say.

Sometimes it means finding someone who will tell you when you are mistaken and then explains why.

Sometimes it means having someone help you establish what you really, really want.

And sometimes, sometimes, it just means knowing what you don't want.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Real Estate Weekend (otherwise known as "will you drop everything for me" day.

February 9, 2013

Ahhhhhhh. The weekend. A time for relaxing, sleeping late, running errands, getting in touch with your feelings, the plants, animals and humans in your life...or perhaps even your laundry, your vacuum cleaner....

Except for Realtors. Saturday morning, especially, becomes the time of hurried phone calls from agents who have spur-o-moment clients.

It is an issue with time management and client management. It is also, I believe, an issue of Spring Fever.

I have issues with time, clients, too, so it ain't just you. Really. Truly. I get it. I. Get. It.

If the seller is still living there, you can't just drop in on them. It is rude. And Realtor's really hate it. We can't not show it but if we are in the seller's seat, we can help the buyer's agent by setting some boundaries.

"Sure, you can take your buyers over in about an hour and half." ((the unspoken part: After my sellers get up, get dressed, get their kids up and dressed, run a vac or Swiffer around the table, crate the dog, scoop the litterbox, build tons of resentment, high hopes for a sale... and then get out of the house...and you'd better have an offer for us, ya Maroon))

That statement is null and void if this is a SECOND SHOWING!! Which is almost as exciting as a gift from Kay's or Godiva.

Weekends from April to September -- the major league real estate season of SoIL  -- are the major work-week of real estate. Those are the magic, frantic, frenzied two days, filled with appointments, showings, questions, answers, decisions, meetings, driving expeditions into the unknown with buyers looking for the unattainable. Then offers, counters, counters to counters, bidding wars, rejections, acceptances, disclosures, plats, expectations, promises, pledges, letters of pre-approval, contracts and condition of premises.

I love summer weekends. Really. I love the busy. I love forging blindly into the unknown, thinking on my feet and, finally, making the find....yeeeesssssssssssssssssssss......when the big horn sounds, the lights flash and the siren screams....Hockey analogy. (That strike!!  Gary Bettman!! Another topic for another blog -- seriously!). Seriously? Preseason real estate weekends suck like NHL strikes.

Those are the weekends of January/February where home sales are down and the industry is just about ground to a halt.

Those are the weekends of pre-season prep and sweat and waiting for spring. Almost like the last month or so of a pregnacy; where time is short yet seems an eternity of waiting still to be endured.

This time before the season, before the madness, before the need for speed, can be very productive and it can produce some great deals. Sellers listing now in the pre-season take a risk, a bet, a gamble:  that their house can sell before the season gets fired up. They are saying: "Hey!! Look now and offer now before you, the buyer, could be treated to bidding wars and competition for my house." ((And believe me -- here in SoIL inventory is down and we had several bidding wars last summer.))

These early pre-season sellers are placing their hearts on their sleeves instead of their lives on hold waiting for spring. They are offering an invitation ahead of the rush. They are saying take this now even though, by waiting, I'd probably get more.

They are pushing forward to their dream on their own terms. Building their own timetable and saying, "This is my time. I'm going to take it."

See it for what it is and you'll be in on the secret:  You build your own life by managing, planning, developing... your own dreams. And when you own your dreams? That's when you'll start seeing them as reality.

Everyone dreams of home.

Monday, February 4, 2013

New National Ad from the Mother Ship


Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

(Phillip Phillips)

Looks like the Mother Ship was able to use its mass collective to buy Phillips very catchy and popular tune, "Home".

It fits. I like the tune and approve of the message. I even feel a little bit of pride that our marketers at the national level had their wits about them enough to make that song our own. This song does work with a real estate link.

First time home buyers are lost. Whether they know it or not -- if you have never purchased a home: it is not like buying your new truck. Yes. It is about your ability to secure a loan but after that it is about how you see yourself living in your own house. How are you going to go from house to home? What makes these four walls "HOME"?

I like first timers.

"Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home"

I like the idea that I have been chosen to be their guide to Home Buying 101. I lay out the project, step-by-step, brick-by-brick and I'm prepared to repeat it over and over and over and over again. I have a tried-and-true method to help you decide. The biggie? I always ask: "Can you see yourself living here?" I'm sure this is no secret question; I'm not freeing the feline from the burlap.

Home buyers have to deal with what they want verses what they can afford. Making it work for them. Any home buyer has to do this whether the budget is $30,000 or $300,000 or $3,000,000.

Everyone wants to get the most bang for the buck. No one wants to pay sticker price, everyone wants to know the lowest the seller will go, and everyone wants to sail smoothly to the closing table. My duty to my client is to find the lowest price that is mutually acceptable so everyone feels good about the deal -- I like everyone to have that win/win feeling. I want my buyers and the sellers to become friends! Stop snickering at my PolliAnna moment: This does happen with my clients. Closing day should be one of the happiest days of your life!

There is a lot of stress involved with finding a home. You should be excited and nervous. You should preview a lot of agents and you should pick on that makes you feel less stress. You are hiring me to help you find your new home. Just like sellers are doing with every listing presentation.

"Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found..."

So...first time home sellers? Ohhhhh...very different story. By the time you're an owner and want to sell your house? Why, you have a whole different prospective -- some think they can do it all by themselves and reap huge savings. Okay...let's look at that: I've read the For Sale By Owner website. You have to pay to get some service there, now don't you? I, on the other hand, don't get paid until I do what I've contracted with you to do: Sell Your House. Something I know how to do. Something I do fulltime.

((Did you know about 70 percent of my commission stays in the local economy? Something to think about especially if you work at a job locally. As in, more money that stays local feeds an economy where your job is supported so you don't get a lay off notice.))

Like I said: I like to make everyone at the closing table feel like they are getting a good deal. I am serious about this win/win attitude. If I get a hint of an attitude from the seller like they are going to try to hide or "sucker" someone into buying their property? I walk. That's right. I fire them. Life is too short.

Sellers should be nervous, too. Sellers have a lot of legal required forms to fill out and fill out honestly  --  and they are required to fill them out and hand them over to buyers whether or not they are represented by a realtor. That's right. If a seller can't prove disclosures were presented? Well. Now. As they say: "Houston, we have a problem."

Sellers who are just DIY because they want to NOT pay commissions run the risk of doing it wrong without knowing they are doing it wrong. Heck. I run that risk, too. That's why I carry a type of malpractice insurance called, what??? Errors and Omissions. Leave something out because you didn't know you were required to do it? As the lawyers say: ignorance of the law is no excuse. Ta da...I have insurance for that. Omit something that you KNEW? George Takei would say, "Oh myyyyyyyyyyyyy."

You might also want to view this transaction from a realtor's POV. I get the listing? It goes in the local MLS service (Egyptian Board of Realtors or EBOR) where helpful EBOR-angels offer mindful, gentle, soothingly worded hints to make changes if I've gotten anything wrong...on penalty of fines and sanctions from the board. Yowzers. That's right...I have the EBOR police to deal with because there are rules and laws about this stuff. ((Remember those disclosures? Remember that E&O insurance I carry? -- EBOR Police -- yep.)) Yowzers! Again: "Oh myyyyyyyyy."

Also once I get your listing, fill out all the proper paperwork, glide past the EBOR without penalty, then I have an admin/asst in the office who will chase me down for even more paperwork, initials and permissions so our paperwork is correct in the office in case the state comes in for an unannounced audit. Yep. The Great State of Illinois with its infinite power cares deeply about whether or not I have initialed page 4 of the Radon Awareness statement. I don't know about you....but I'd rather the state find my papers in order. Talk about "papers please" laws! Yowzers. And again: "Oh myyyyyyy."

"Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home"

Yes. I wholeheartedly agree with the Mother Ship's choice of "Home" as our theme song 2013. Everything to do with home buying and selling has gotten more stressful and complex. You shouldn't have to go through this alone. You shouldn't depend on grandpa, your Uncle Jake, your mom's friend from work, your cousin's hairdresser or on your own. You do need a professional who takes it all seriously; gives you all his/her attention, hears you when you speak, pays attention and respects your dream.

Because a good realtor can make your dream a reality. If you choose me, I'll make sure we have fun during the process. "Oh myyyyyyyyyy."

2013 Coldwell Banker TV Ad: We Believe

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New Listing!!

February 2, 2013

Yay! A new listing with my name on the sign out front! Yay!

One of the things no one told me about real estate was the thrill of getting a new listing. And, yeah, you'd think I would have thought this thing through a bit better but...referring to the starting script...I did this on a bet. It was a gamble, a risk. I knew I could spin it, market it, see the trends -- but what I didn't bet on was how much I care about the homeowner I represent. That house becomes entrusted to me -- I get the first look with the critical eye and I get to learn all about what makes it tick.  I look for the flaws; I look for the charm. I never fail to see charm in little houses that were loved but have just gotten too small for growing families.

And I never fail to find something wonderful about the house when I pick up my Nikon & power up to play hide-n- seek with the spirit within, the eternal life of the dwelling, the magic that makes this house a home.

Sometimes it takes shot after shot, standing here, pointing there. Some properties take so much more time and others? Well, others spill their guts before I open the lens case. Some homes are well worn, tidy but lived in and comfortable as...well...home.

Others? Ah, the unloved and the vacant of feeling? The abandoned and the weary? Sad places where sorry things happened...I think it shows. I work extra hard with those misfits, those castoffs left to moulder and mildew, waiting for the spark of a creative mind to walk through and see the possibilities, the potential of new flooring, paint, bust out that wall and remodel this bath. I do so feel sorry for those vanquished, sorry spaces who's families vanished and time is left to vandalize.

But that's not the story of the house I listed today.

My new listing? It is a beauty. Loved and lovely, it really is priced to sell and it will go quickly. It's only flaw was it couldn't grow along with the family that loved it. So that bigger family will move on to a bigger house that they will lovingly make a home while leaving behind this little "starter" for some other owner alone or with their new plus one.