Quick, name three things that make most people cringe.
Going to the dentist.
Moving/Selling their home.
Those are just three and I’ve done all of them in the past year. Didn’t enjoy one.
Funny thing is, since moving to Austin 30 some years ago, we have moved five times! This fact is a bit surprising to me considering what a nester I am and considering my husband owned a home in Houston during the big bust in the 1980s, had to write a check for someone to buy it, and swore he’d never buy another house in Texas again.
Fast forward and my sweet Yankee boy is still in Texas and just bought his sixth house here. Never say never, right?
Our most recent move was eight months ago and consisted of a major downsizing. We are loving our new one story home and the neighborhood it’s in and I’ve surprised even myself at how quickly I felt at home. And good thing, because I don’t want to sell a house or move again anytime soon!
For the first time, we built our house, which was great but which also means every little detail had to be selected by us. This can be both exciting and painstaking. My best advice? Don’t rush through any decisions. Consider and reconsider every knob, light, drawer pull…everything.
I put a lot of time into the kitchen and master closet and am thrilled with both of them because….storage! Our kitchen is bigger and brighter than our previous one and I love the white beadboard cabinetry with black hardware. I also love the two lantern style pendant lights I convinced the builder to use over the kitchen island rather than three small ones that were given to me as choices. I also scrapped one upper cabinet and had them add a bookshelf, which I’m obsessed with. In hindsight I wish I would have gone with an apron-front farm sink, but that can always be done later!
Closet-wise, I couldn’t be happier. When meeting with California Closets to design it, I jumped on the shoe cubbies as well as additional shoe shelves for. You just can’t have enough shoe storage, right? The closet also has drawers for him and drawers for her, including one that is a jewelry drawer complete with a jewelry storage insert. I also had them include space for my ironing board and iron. I’m an ironing freak so these tools deserve a spot of their own! Something else I’m thrilled I thought of when working with the builder was eliminating florescent light boxes and opting instead for several can lights. Someday I envision replacing the center one with a fabulous chandelier! I also did this in our utility room and will be changing out the flush mount for a pendant or chandelier.
Now for some things that I would rethink or do over.
I really, really wish I would have made one of the bathtubs in at least one of the extra bedrooms a walk-in shower. Again, can be done in the future but woulda, coulda, shoulda at the get go.
In another bathroom, the light switches are behind the door. How did I not notice this, especially considering I had them move a thermostat and switchplate off a main room wall so I could hang a large piece of art on it? Besides, who put switches behind a door? Grrrr….
I’m proud to say I didn’t have any mirrors hung in any of the bathrooms, as I really wanted to select them myself. I do kind of wish I would have opted for pendant lighting over the sinks instead of the wall mounts, which I did do in our powder room.
In our entry we have a wall of windows that are operable. Considering the Texas heat and constant allergens in the air, I wish I would have made them fixed, like the ones in our family room.
I added kitchen drawers, but wish I would have added at least two more.
I know, I know…pretty picky, right? But you should be! You are paying a lot of hard-earned money for a home. It’s hard though because you are picking and choosing soooooo many things!
All in all though, I love our home and am so very grateful.
The Business of Real Estate
On any list of “things that are stressful,” selling a house is usually somewhere near the top. Nothing anyone tells you beforehand can change this.
So, what did we learn from recently going through it all?
Number one, we learned to be picky about the realtor you choose. My husband’s entire family has worked in real estate for as long as I’ve known him (31 years) and many, many friends are realtors. They pretty much have a market made in real estate heaven right now with Austin, but even though houses may sell in a matter of days, the process is still stressful and choosing an agent is still critical.
In choosing our agent, I respected my husband’s appeal to not choose a realtor friend. He’s a successful businessman and wanted to keep this business deal purely business so we went with someone he was familiar with but came to find out he wasn’t a hustler. Our original agent seemed to work around the premise that our house would sell itself but guess what, it didn’t. We ultimately switched agents and are so impressed with Realtor #2 who was such a go-getter, great communicator, and sold our home in no time.
This brings me to probably the smartest real estate tip I’ve heard. As we were signing the title to our new home and discussing our selling experience with the title agent, she said it’s not an uncommon complaint in Austin right now, or in any “hot” market. Her advice? Always choose a realtor who was a realtor when the market wasn’t so hot. These long-time agents know what it takes to market a home and are willing to work overtime to do so. If all your agent thinks they need to do is put up a sign, post some photos online on MLS, and are difficult to get a hold of, keep looking.
When interviewing agents, do your homework. Your best bet may be someone who specializes in your neighborhood or style of home. Most of all you want them to go the distance for your house so ask them point blank who will be handling your phone calls, marketing your home, taking you to look at houses, and their hours and days of availability. Real estate is a 24-7 business. Your agent should be too. Ask them specifics about how and where they will market your home. The MLS is a must, but don’t let them stop there. If they offer references, ask who they are. If they’re relatives or good friends, ask for additional ones. Finally, know about added “administrative fees” that are on top of standard commissions. We learned this the hard way with the agent who ultimately didn’t even sell our house. These fees are negotiable so negotiate away before signing away!
When deciding on a realtor, you will run across hundreds. Everyone sells real estate today. My friend who used to sub where I teach? She’s selling real estate. Former stay-at-home moms? You’ll find their names on “For Sale” signs now. Be picky and think of them as any other professional you might hire to do work for you.
If you are selling a house, you will hire a “listing agent,” sometimes also referred to as a “seller’s agent.” If you are looking to buy a house, you will hire a “selling agent.” Confusing, right? Just remember, a listing agent or seller’s agent holds the listing to sell your home, while a selling agent represents someone buying a house. In essence, when you sell your house, the listing and selling agents typically split the commission.
To add more confusion, they are all pretty much real estate agents, but they might not be realtors. What?
Yep, Realtors are only those who are member brokers of the National Association of Realtors, the industry’s trade association. And what, you ask, constitutes a broker? Basically a broker owns or manages a real estate office or franchise, teaches real estate courses, holds various licenses sales agents don’t, contracts with sales agents to work for the brokerage, and also works directly with buyers and sellers.
Whew! Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, what might those listing and selling agents advise you? Here are just a few tips I’ve come across again and again:
If you are selling, don’t be put off by potential buyers wanting to look at your property in 15 minutes or so. Let them, even if your house is a bit messy. Messy, not dirty. Why? Last minute types often make impulsive buying decisions and your house may just be their next one. This is also why the agent you hired should be available at all times, as you are expected to be able to show your house at all times. Remember those key words: YOU HIRED. They are working for you.
Plug-in air fresheners and other masking products will turn off as many visitors as they will impress. Avoid them.
Open Houses in some markets are beneficial, but in hot markets they aren’t necessary or as popular as the majority of visitors aren’t potential buyers, but nosy neighbors.
Don’t overprice your house, which is the most common mistake home sellers make. Focus on a fair price, not your dream price. Yes, it’s your home but it’s also business. Take your emotions out of it.
Don’t miss the final walk through (and during it, don’t miss things like switch plates behind doors!) This is your last chance to make sure repairs have been done, things are as you requested, and all items that convey are still there.
When getting your house ready to show, clear off all countertops and stage it. You want potential buyers to see what the house will look like with their stuff in it, not yours. Plant flowers, buy more lamps, and do anything you can to make your home homier. Also look for things that may not bother you like a broken window blind or faded front door but that will turn away a buyer. In other words, see your house through the eyes of a buyer.
When analyzing property values and appraisals, keep in mind that they assess nearby homes of similar size, not the inside of them or any upgrades you’ve made to yours.
Millennials are a growing and important real estate demographic and it should come as no surprise that they have very specific wants and needs. These first-time homebuyers ages 20-36 look for open floor plans, energy efficiency, and a place they can ultimately morph into their own style with little effort. Most importantly, they want new kitchens and baths and make sure your agent is up-to-date on all real estate websites and apps, as that is where Millennials head first. Not proficiently marketed online? Not gonna sell!
Lastly, if your house just isn’t selling perhaps look no further than St. Joseph. Yes, that St. Joseph. Small statues of Joseph have long been buried in the front yard of homes that are for sale and many swear by them.
As head of the Holy Family, Joseph is seen as a source of domestic strength and home security and the practice of enlisting his help in real estate matters dates back centuries. It all started when European nuns buried medal of the saint as they prayed for property on which to build convents. The only rules? Bury the statue upside down and next to the FOR SALE sign.
So there’s my two-cent’s worth on moving, selling a home, and building a home. I would love to hear any tips you have so please share!