Are You in a Flood Prone Area?

It is that time of year, as we have already been reminded. Hurricanes are jumping off the coast of Africa and forming elsewhere, swirling into their path of destruction and perhaps taking dead aim at you and me. Hurricane season has us thinking about what we will do if we get that evacuation notice, but really we should be thinking about that WAY before the season is upon us.

I lived in the ‘slot’ on the coast of NC for many decades and went through my share of hurricanes. People wonder why we’d stay there, but you know, pretty much every area has its threat, whether it is fire, drought, tornado, earthquake…you pretty much have to pick your poison, so to speak. But as you do, there should be a little voice in the back of your mind, reminding you to ‘be prepared’. That means for safety, for evacuation plans, for how to slog through the insurance companies’ blockades. What WILL you do if your home sits for days with 6 feet of water, or more, inside? Sometimes coming home isn’t really coming home.

I never had to evacuate, but things weren’t that terrible when I went through my last set of hurricanes; they were survivable. It’s not like that now. Now, these monster storms become real killers. It’s not just the wind anymore; it is also serious flooding. You can shelter from wind sometimes but not from water. Let me tell you about a friend of mine as I digress. He put his doublewide manufactured home on 10 foot pilings. He was from NY, living in NC. So you KNOW what his friends and neighbors thought about that. Well, after hurricane Floyd, I believe it was, his was the only high and dry home for miles around. He could have said, but didn’t, “How do you like me now?”

Houses continue to sell at a fast clip, and because I’m in the real estate business and thinking of making a move myself, the very first thought I have is ‘flood zone’. I’m just not willing to take that particular risk. I attended a seminar about floods though, and they said this, “If it rains where you live, you are in a flood zone.” In other words, freak weather happens. So…what do we do? I’m wondering, “Where in the world can I go?” Not the desert, thank you.

I’d say, if you have never attended a free seminar about floods, GO. The information is GREAT, and it will at least give you a place to start with your plans. And best of all, it will inform you about what insurance companies will and will not cover. That, my friends, is information you need to have. Read that sentence again. If you think the contents of your home are covered because you have flood insurance, think again. That’s a separate policy and you might not have coverage. Better check it out.

My seminar folks said that if you go through three floods, THREE, then you are entitled to assistance (I think they said from the government) to raise the foundation of your house. Now, you need to investigate that because my brain started steaming when I heard that one. Why? Because of that THREE number. Who goes through THREE big flood events and STAYS THERE? Well, people do. Kid you not. They showed a slide of a home that had been raised up to a walk-in crawl space of 8 feet. And I thought, “Well that won’t work for seniors.” Again, being in the business instigates a different kind of thought process. Anyway, different people solve problems differently. Would I go through that to have an 8 foot crawl space? Oh heck no. I’m thinking with my luck if I raised my crawl space, the wind would blow the house off of the high foundation. But that’s MY luck.

The whole point I’m trying to make as I wonder around the point, is that you need to think about flood zones BEFORE you buy a home, and if you just have to live there (where else can we go anyway?), then be sure you are COVERED insurance-wise, for everything you need to cover, and that you have a plan for safe evacuation and a place to live while you rebuild, if…God forbid…you have to do that. And by the way, DON’T leave your pets behind! I could tell you horror stories about that. Take your pets WITH YOU.

While you think about water, also think about wind. There goes the roof! Better know what you insurance company thinks about THAT, too.

By the way, if you think, “Well I’ll just move to the mountains” to avoid flooding, guess what ladies and gentlemen, it floods there too. Just be prepared.

How to be a Human Bean

Oh relax. I did that on purpose.

I’ve been thinking about how in the WORLD we got here, to this place, the one that makes everyone uncomfortable. The place that fills some with pure hatred and evil intent, and others with disdain and fear. See, people are not violent by nature, unless they’re among the outliers. People are not normally evil and murderous, unless they are among the outliers. So what the heck is happening? Well…I’ve been thinking about that.

The answer is that the outliers are being manipulated. What we ARE as a society, is manipulatable. We can be manipulated…more and more easily, it would seem. Well, I have made it a game to spot manipulative behavior and to keep calm and not laugh, while I deal with it rationally (find out the truth, the whole truth). It feels good that I have the ability to see that the Wizard of Oz is just a short, gray haired guy hiding from view. Operative word: Hiding.

But many people, maybe, oh, about half, can be led around as easily as flipping to the ‘news’ channel. It bothers me that people are being manipulated into violent and inhumane behavior, but it bothers me MORE that they are completely blind to the puppet masters, ALLOWING themselves to be controlled in this way. It bothers me that people see a headline and throw themselves into inhumane, violent behavior, and more importantly that they feel it is good to behave in these ways. Nobody seems to give any real thought to what they THOUGHT they just saw, and no thought to the source, nor the extent, of the ‘news’.

And it brings despair deep into my heart that our media have become so hateful and untrue, that they seem to find real pleasure in standing before a burning city and acting like that’s just fine. It’s not fine. It makes THEIR job more exciting, true, but it makes our lives worse. It brings despair into my heart that I have no source of trustworthy information about the world in which I live, that nobody trusts anybody anymore. ‘News’ has been tainted to the extent that none of it is useful or believable…even if it is TRUE! One bad apple HAS spoiled the whole bunch.

Don’t get me wrong; there are issues in our society that really steam me, too. And I desperately want the bullies and intolerant ones to be put in their places. But I don’t grab a gun and go shoot someone. That’s not the way to foment change. Violence HURTS any movement. So I support peaceful protest, for as long as it takes. I also support getting rid of the bad apples, weeding them out, exposing them and even imprisoning them if that’s appropriate…AFTER a trial. I DON’T support crucifying anyone before the whole story is known; and I don’t support crucifying anyone ANYWAY. We have a justice system based on facts, and we need, desperately need, to let it work as intended.

‘News’ sound bites don’t provide enough information to know a story, and definitely not enough to incite destruction of an entire city. And I CANNOT understand how any drug abuser, child molester, wife beater or even killer, can become a hero, while law-abiding citizens are treated as criminals, even killed in their once peaceful communities. See, what people have forgotten, or maybe never knew, is that we NEVER get all of the facts on TV. The JURY gets those. And it becoming okay to gun one another down in the street and feel glee about it. This is NOT normal behavior, but it can BECOME normal if this doesn’t stop.

Today I saw that there is a new ‘celebrity’ on Dancing With The Stars, and this women is being investigated for killing her husband and POSSIBLY feeding him to lions! She’s one of the people on Tiger King, and has been found to have forged her missing husband’s will. Now she’s being made a celebrity, and I think about the family of the dead husband, whose body has never been found. I think about their investigation and grief, and wonder who in the world is thinking about THEM? See I think this is insane! But the pundits say it’ll bring viewers. Does that make it okay? NO!! THAT MAKES IT WORSE!! What has HAPPENED to us as a people??

See, I believe many of these outlier folks will grow up one day, have jobs and families of a variety of types, people whom they love; and when they DO, they will feel protective of their loved ones, and themselves as well. They will want their loved ones to be safe and happy. And they will look back at their present behaviors and be mortified. I fear that many of them will pollute their offspring with bad opinions and bad behaviors, putting THEM into the outlier group, and on and on. And I also believe that these current behaviors, or rather MISbehaviors, will forever mark these outliers as unemployable, untrustworthy, unintelligent, manipulatable. I said MARK THEM, not that they are, but some of them surely are. In other words, these people are hurting themselves greatly and they don’t even care.

I never want to go all the way to thinking our society has lost any hope of humanity, but right now, I’m ashamed of our country on the world stage, and I wonder how horrible others believe us to be. I have no doubt we are a laughingstock on the world stage, believed to be a society of animalistic, destructive behavior, when we were once the place of opportunity and hope. I remember being proud to be an American. Now, whole different story.

Managing Isolation

If I were a fruit, I’d be a grape. I like other fruits around me. As a real estate agent, I draw energy from being around others. I’m an introvert, though. Let’s start there. That does NOT mean I am shy; it means I don’t have to poll the universe to think things through, to process data. I do that inside my own head. I would rather have a tooth pulled than go on a cruise though, so I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum with respect to the amount of socializing I need. Introverts are not necessarily shy and not necessarily doormats. I live inside my head a lot, but I enjoy people! I also like leaving them and going in my cave when I want cave time. I believe I’m well rounded. I’m strong, independent, glad to be me. I know people who cannot be home alone, have to be going, going, going. I don’t understand that. Sometimes, solitude is wonderful.

But not always and not chronically, like we’re having to do now. I was just thinking about the things I do to break the monotony when I’m not working in real estate, where there are periods of quiet. I’ve done a water color painting of flowers. It’s TERRIBLE. But so are the other ones I’ve done over the years. I have enough terrible paintings to do my ‘”Wall of horrible paintings by Brenda”. Yep, I’m gonna do it. It’ll be fun. I’m no painter, but it was fun doing them, and it kept me occupied.

I’ve crocheted afghans and what I all “cardi-wraps” which are basically crocheted big-scarves with pockets. They are WAY cool and fun to do. Professional? Nope, but making them kept me occupied.

Gardening…Great way to occupy time and so rewarding. I don’t enjoy it as much on 100-degree days, but again, it keeps me occupied.

Exercise. Not so great at that, but even if it is too hot outside, I can do exercises inside to increase my heart rate, and if I exercise to music, it is less like punishment and more like fun.

Stay in touch with people. I talk to my sister every day, and there are others I talk to almost every day. Look, solitary confinement is punishment. So remember to reach out. The isolation causes stress and depression, both of which can be deadly.

Helping our Seniors

I have heard some recent accounts of tough times in real estate when dealing with senior clients. Anybody who knows me, knows I have a soft spot for seniors because they are often the forgotten members of society; so it bothers me when I hear about these things happening. Like this: One very elderly lady gets to within days of closing and decides she doesn’t want to sell. She doesn’t want to sell because she never really wanted to in the first place, and besides, all attorneys are in cahoots with each other: She wants to keep her house. And, she doesn’t begin to understand the consequences of such a decision, nor even how she got to this point, really. Heartbreaking.

The key is patience. Patience and covering the same ground over and over…and OVER if that’s what it takes…until everyone truly understands not only the process, but HOW the process works. Remember many of these people, our seniors, don’t understand how real estate works ‘these days’. In their minds, they may envision Mayberry, where everyone knows everyone; or they may think the barber and the attorney are best buds. By the time many of the true seniors get to the point of selling the ‘family home’, they may very well have lost touch with the modern fast-paced reality. If you are going to represent them, you are going to have to assess the level of understanding of your client first; and if you can’t walk them through it, beware.

Remember that seniors need to net a certain amount, usually, and that’s a great discussion to have; but you may have to have it several times to make it understood; in other words, whether or not you can make that happen. And remember that these folks may not know how the attorney works, or even why one is involved. Think about how much real estate has changed in your lifetime, and then imagine being 85 and trying to grasp it. And remember that a seller may think the BUYER’S closing attorney is also her/his attorney. Explain it! Take the time, because I have found that there’s a lot of fear in the hearts of many seniors, and I have found that they truly appreciate it when you take the time to let them know they are being CARED for. That’s what I do, and I mean it. It’s just what we owe them.

A Quick Note for Real Estate Agents

Hi fellow servants. I just wanted to send a quick note about technology. I get all KINDS of responses to it, and the only ones that bother me are the staunchly resistant ones. I’m lucky. I’m over 60, but I ‘grew up’ when technology was getting wings, and I have something of an aptitude for it. So I’ve been a fan from the start, and I’m a nerd, which makes me crave the newest cool stuff. I think some of it is much ado about nothing, and I can usually tell when a program or gadget is going to be a one and done. And I can usually tell when someone took an existing popular program or app and tweaked it to make it seem new and ‘cool’. So I don’t have to have every SINGLE app that comes along, and I don’t need to post pictures of my food. So there you go.

But for the OTHER things, the ones that make our lives SO much easier and better, those…I love. And I put in the effort to learn how to use them so that I have at least a fairly proficient use of them. That’s one secret: Time. The other secret is teamwork. I GUARANTEE that your fellow agents will help you when you get stuck. At my office, if anyone needs help with ANYTHING, there are many hands reaching out to offer assistance. If you don’t have that…well, come to my office. You’ll be amazed.

For real estate, it is ESSENTIAL that you stay IN the mainstream of technological advances. None of them are rocket science, and I keep telling people: “You can’t break the earth if you make a mistake”. Because…you can always fix mistakes, either by re-doing the effort, or by filling out, you guessed it, a FORM. But I digress. Keep trying. Take a deep breath and remember that you are a human with a high functioning control mechanism (brain), and you can do this. And besides, I really hate it when I get a PICTURE of a document in dark gray…impossible to read. Come on.

YA GOTTA LEARN THE PROGRAMS, PEOPLE. Look, we are in this together, and while we are often on opposite sides of the table, we are in the same business. We can either go through it in abject pain and suffering, or we can all be paddling the tech boat in the same direction. I know time is precious in our world, but I also know that every one of us has time to sit down and learn one or two things a week, or a day…however you want to do it…to learn that new database or website you have to use. Again, none of this is rocket science. You can do it.

If you are going to use an electronic lockbox, for example, make SURE your smart phone has a high level of charge, because it has to talk to the lockbox, and if you are under 30% charge? Forget it. You’re going to have problems. And if you are in a low signal area, first of all there should not be an electronic box on that property because it won’t work right (the listing agent should have known that and acted accordingly). And listen, if the majority of the world is using electronic lock boxes, you NEED TO LEARN how to use them, and yes, you need to download that app on your phone. Why? Because it makes. your. life. SO. much. better! And??? It is EASY. Another reason? The listing agent shouldn’t have to teach you how to use the tools of your trade. My blood pressure shoots to the moon when I get an accusatory call that “your lockbox doesn’t work”. OMG. YES IT DOES. It does. I have driven many many miles to listings to check out my lockboxes and guess what? THEY WORK! And they provide a great service to sellers because each person who accesses it is ON RECORD. That’s essential in today’s world.

Wire transfers. Things are changing. You have to get on board with the new direction things are going with regard to funding real estate. And do you know, I have clients who do not have a checking account? Right! Providing directions for tracking electronic due diligence and earnest money transfers is coming. That’s technology. And it is necessary. The old ways of doing things are fading away; even ‘normal’ banks are fading. It’s true! How banking is done is being tweaked as we speak. Better learn to love technology, or at least not scream in fear of it. You HAVE to do this stuff.

Here’s something else to think about. If you are a buyer agent and you don’t have the electronic lockbox app, you will have have to get a one-day code to access the property. You probably should call the listing agent for that, because sometimes the showing services get it wrong and cause a lot of anxiety for buyer agents trying to show property. So, listing agents, learn how to get a one day code for your buyer agents! You should know how to do that if you are going to put an electronic box on the property. You don’t want them to get frustrated and walk away from your listing in anger. Not a good thing.

I know some folks who are absolutely terrified of new programs and apps and processes. I don’t really understand that, but I do try to help those folks navigate through, because each time they make it through without being struck by lightning, they feel a bit braver about using ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. But folks, if you are afraid, if you’re one of them, please try to learn. Try to stem the panic, calm down enough to remember WHAT you have just done, and WHY you did it. Knowing the ‘why’ piece makes learning the ‘what’ a lot easier, in my experience.

If you were in the corporate world and the new way of doing things was implemented, you WOULD get on board. These new real estate tools are no different. They are here because they add value to the process, they provide another level of protection for our clients, and they ease the process for all of us. So dive in. You can’t break the earth. Trust me. If it could have been done, I’d have done it by now! You should have seen me in the science world…right Phil?

And one more thing before I go: NOT answering your calls is NOT being technologically advanced. It’s resisting actually speaking to another agent in a business where we NEED to actually speak to one another. I know, don’t hyperventilate. ANSWER. YOUR. PHONE. If you do not, you are adding another UNNECESSARY step in the process, and you know….TIME IS PRECIOUS. Don’t ask me to text you. If I WANT to text, I will text.

Answer. Your. Phone.

Okay, I’m finished now.

Don’t Kill the Deal

Getting Advice from Friends and Relatives about your First New Home

It turns out that I work with a lot of first time home buyers, and I am a HUGE fan of it. I love, and feel honored by, helping people with this first big step in life. Most of my first time buyers are smart, young, professional contributors to society and I appreciate them; and I make it my job to protect their financial input to their purchase. I just love helping them. Nearly all of my first time buyers make it to closing and actually into their first ‘move-up’ home. But not all of them. Some of them never get to the closing table.

I do a good job of helping my clients be ready and able to purchase when they find the home they love. That starts with finding a good lender, getting pre-approved, and looking at homes they can actually afford. In other words, they don’t find out at the 11th hour that they can’t afford the home they chose.

Most often, though, the ones that never get to close are the ones taking advice from ‘friends and family’ behind the scenes. These would be people who do not have a stake in the purchase, or do not have a realistic expectation of the process. In other words, they are not professional real estate agents! For example: Some parents forget that THEIR first home was 1000 square feet and needed work. They walk through the homes with their children with completely unrealistic expectations of the price point, and their child goes forward feeling disappointed. Parents walk through pointing out all of the flaws and elevating their child’s expectations beyond what the child can afford. Sometimes you have to start out without granite countertops and hardwoods throughout. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this: “You’re going to have to go up in price to get that.” So parents with the best intentions in this case, end up crashing their child’s dream.

Another example is the handyman dad who says, “I can build you a house’. Or…”Find a foreclosure that needs work and I’ll fix it up for you.” Well….first of all, those houses have to be bought as a cash purchase, because no lender will do a mortgage on them. Want to build from the dirt up, handyman dad? You have to pay cash for the land and here, that’s going to start at twenty grand for a lot in a less desirable area, more in the more desirable ones. Think about this: How many people do you know who have a regular job, that can go out and build a house in their ‘spare time’, and afford the cost. Think: Refrigerator, stove, dish washer, water heater, HVAC system, wiring, plumbing, roof, flooring. I don’t have any handymen like that in my contact list. Why? They do not exist.

So yes, family and friends can foul the whole process, and they do. Because they are not real estate agents, they don’t understand the process or market, and they don’t know the ‘rules’ for lending on certain types of property. Do they have the best of intentions? Most of the time, but not always. Some just ‘don’t like realtors’ and some always feel like someone’s out to get them. Those people are never happy, for anyone.

But. There are often parents and family who ARE interested in the happiness and success of their children. How can I tell? They come and meet me, and we sit down together and talk. I answer questions for them, and ultimately let them know that I am honest, excited for their child, and very good at what I do. It doesn’t take long before we are all on the same page and excited for the child buying her or his first home. And that’s the magic formula.

So, if you are a family member or ‘interested party’ who will advising behind the scenes, if I don’t meet you face to face, I expect you to cause problems. Not because you’re a bad person, but because you are not a real estate agent and some of your advice will be wrong, or just plain bad. Talk to me. Bring me your concerns and let’s talk through them. I love a team working toward a common goal. It’s the best way to succeed. Most of all, I want my client to be happy.

Edward Snowden’s ‘Thoughtcrime’ on Netflix

Sometimes, I like to write to you about ‘stuff’ not related to real estate, so you get an idea of the kind of person I am. You will choose, or not choose me, to represent you and I’d like you to have a lot of data before you make that choice. So here goes.

I watched Edward Snowden’s documentary, “Thoughtcrime”, in part because I like him (the media persona; I don’t know him personally) and I like his passion for his cause. I disagree with a lot of what he espouses (and I agree with some), but that doesn’t make me dislike him at all. So it’s a bit of a conundrum for me, because he is a criminal talking about crimes against Americans, as though it’s okay for HIM to be a criminal, who committed a crime against America. This is a glaring sign of an egocentric view, which points to an underdeveloped psyche (youth). That’s not a slam against him: remember I LIKE him. He’s just clearly young. And cute.

Edward stole government property when he walked away from his job and began his crusade. That made him a thief, a criminal. Then he published sensitive government information, making him a criminal in the eyes of the government, the NSA. So, he’s a criminal. He is subject to the law and we are a country governed by laws that apply to everyone. Even Edward.

And yet, much of what he says makes sense. It feels bad to be spied upon; it IS an invasion of privacy. These days, much spying is done by companies trying to get inside our head so they can get our money. I don’t’ like that, and yet, when an ad pops up for cool jewelry, I check it out. So…I guess I KIND OF like it. When it suits me. Targeted marketing has helped me at Christmas time, in particular. Hey, I wish I had makeup on when I’m online, so I’ll look good when they check me out, but I’m getting over it. And I have my computer camera blocked. Like using a little pail to bail out the ocean rushing over the dunes, but it makes me feel better when I’m online at 3 a.m. with bedhead.

But more importantly, while Snowden points backward in time to the intent of our forefathers who wrote our Constitution and other laws…at the same time he is riding the present train of technology and breaking those very laws himself…specifically the ones about liberty. Bear with me. In THIS current age, we cannot just hope for the best behavior of others. Mores and norms have changed; and we are dealing with global cultures which are NOTHING like ours. They don’t care about our LAWS. There are people in the world who want to see America and everyone in it perish. These are the ones who want to behead us because we have different religious beliefs. Really, it is because they want power, but that’s another book. Still, THESE PRESENT TIMES are not like the ones Edward cites as foundational. There WAS no internet when the Constitution was formulated; people were not ‘on the grid’.

So, very simply, if Snowden has his way, American liberty will be eradicated, and all of us along with it, BECAUSE, terrorists don’t give two hoots about our PRIVACY. And while Edward is lamenting the fact that we don’t do like we USED to do, terrorists are crawling all over the internet, seeking destruction and death. And Edward would like to see that be just fine. Just sit down and wait to be nuked out of existence. And if you don’t believe that can happen, rewind to 9-11. To some who ARE using the internet for ill intent, human life means nothing. Those people are the ones the NSA are trying to track, by the way.

Metadata: Edward rants on (and on) about how it is so wrong that all of our emails and phone calls, the things we order online and say on facebook, where our GPS says we went or are going…are captured by whomever, because that’s Invading Our Privacy. And, according to Edward, there is NOTHING we can do about it. Well, there is something we can do, if it matters THAT much. We can get off the grid. And by the way, if anyone wants to read my emails, they are welcome. I don’t have anything to hide. I am law-abiding and honest. Boring, to someone like Snowden.

Back to getting off the grid: Stop using a smart phone, stop being on facebook, no GPS, no smart TV, no iPad. Just stop it. I couldn’t take in much of what he said toward the end because I thought, “Why are you not off the freaking grid?” It is because he wants to change the world. But he’s starting in the wrong place. And it is because…are you ready for this? HE HAS TO BE ON THE GRID, because that’s where his battlefield is! Are you seeing the irony here???

When you buy a home on the fairway of a golf course, you ‘assume risk’ along with the joy and privilege of living there. You’re gonna get broken windows, golf balls in the flower beds, dings in siding, maybe even a lump on your head. And guess what? If you try to sue the errant golfer, the lawyer will cite “assumption of risk” and you will lose. Period. No matter how much you FEEL that is wrong and want to change the world, the law is the law and it makes SENSE. If you don’t believe me, golf with me sometime and see me shank one. Then buy a house RIGHT THERE, knowing what you now know.

So if you go online, for WHATEVER reason, you assume risk. It’s that simple. It’s THAT simple Everybody knows your data are not secure. And yet, here we go. Doo de doo. Online we go!

I believe it is imperative, for our NATIONAL SAFETY (liberty), for surveillance to find the correspondence that will thwart a dirty bombing attempt, or another 9-11 style attack, and track down and arrest the killers. I believe that we absolutely MUST look for these correspondences, and today, we have the wherewithal to do it. How many terrorist attacks do YOU think have been averted? Oh, yeah, there are millions of people who are NOT risky who are being surveilled, but…it’s part of the program, folks. Ya gotta do it. Might they find people who are trafficking drugs or ammunition or humans? Yep. GOOD! You don’t deserve privacy if that’s what you are doing with it. And you might say, “But I am a GOOD PERSON! I don’t need to be surveilled!”

Define good.

Yes, as Edward says, our government has the financial and technological resources to track those emails and phone calls, to intrude on our “privacy”. Yes they do. I’m pretty sure they can’t see me in the shower, and that’s about the worst it can get with me; but listen to this:

Terrorists also have the financial and technological resources to track us electronically (and they do) to try to murder each and every one of us. I don’t relish the idea of being murdered, and that is exactly the goal of terrorists. That sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Sounds a bit overdone? Well, I’m guessing the people in the twin towers never thought they’d be targeted for murder and yet, they surely were. THREE THOUSAND of them. Are their families glad the NSA is collecting data? You bet your ass they are.

In response, it is not only prudent, but also just commons SENSE that we have to operate in the paradigm set before us, and that paradigm is driven by technology and subversion. And so, if the government, the NSA, has to capture any of my emails or phone calls, more power to them. If it stops another 9-11 style attack, I’m all for it. I’ll make that sacrifice for liberty. In other words, the cat is out of the bag: greedy companies have figured out how to surveil us now, and decide we need to diet. So here come the diet ads on Facebook. Who cares?

Do I think this will get out of hand? YES I DO. Why? Because human nature is such that humanity will screw up an ANVIL with a rubber hammer. That’s the sad truth. And Edward Snowden is not going to change human nature. And if he could, that would make him dangerous, because he would change it to HIS view of how it should be…and that’s called dictatorship. See how that works? And I keep coming back to this: If Snowden has HIS way, we are all doomed. America is OVER. And I wonder if that isn’t the real goal, consciously or subconsciously.

So many times with antiestablishment rhetoric, the source is a young, idealistic individual with the best intentions, and with a heart that believes people are basically good. They are not. ANY system you put in the hands of humans will be corrupted. Once you reach a certain level of maturity (fully developed psyche), you become less self focused, less ‘feelings’ driven, and you understand that. And you get a better sense of the ‘world’ and importantly, that you are just a part of it, not the absolute center and generator of all that is good and right. Eventually you also understand that there are people out there, a lot of them, who would hurt you for the pleasure of it, to take what is yours that you worked for and they didn’t, because you won’t just come around to their way of thinking, or because their god is a bigger god than your god. You get the idea. Create your utopia, put humans in it, and watch it go down in flames. That’s how it is.

So to Edward: I’m going to predict that one day you will change your mind. I fully understand that your world view is now stunted because you are in hiding and you don’t know the real world anymore, so it could take a bit longer. But I fully expect that one day you will turn yourself in and take your punishment. You were wrong to do what you did, and you know that; I know you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t have been so scared going out of the NSA building that last day. There was a better way. Maybe the best way now is to own up, stand up. And the impact of that action would be monumental, by the way.

I know, you cite whistleblowers from the past to defend your actions. That tactic, and it is a tactic, is called “affiliation’. It’s a manipulation tool. It is actually a very good marketing tactic; but it is also a tool often used in desperation. I have to say that this time when I watched you, I wondered when you would change your mantra to make it less of a repeat, to acknowledge…or better yet REALIZE… that if you hand over your secrets and your weapons to killers out to behead you, they surely will not hug you and send you on your way; THEY WILL KILL YOU.

I couldn’t help but wonder what might you have accomplished if you had put that big old brain to good use. You would have been a superstar, I have no doubt, because you have what it takes. But the truth of this present situation with regard to surveillance makes sense, as unfortunate is it is. And it should make sense to you, PARTICULARLY when you are a data person.

Nobody knows the whole story. It is too intricate and multifaceted to know. And I’m sure there is abuse happening, but I believe it is not the intent of NSA. The intent is to prevent mass death at the hands of terrorists, and WHO would not want that? Listen, there are hackers all over the world (including Ed Snowden). And there are some very bad things being done, because the systems are run by humans who are flawed. Some will do dishonest things. But that doesn’t mean we can trash the whole system. We need it too much.

DECLUTTER: the Seller Dirty Word

Nobody wants to hear that their home is too full of stuff. But let’s face it: If you live in a home long enough, you accumulate a lot of it, and only you become blind to it. Everybody else walks in and says (hopefully to themselves), “Wow, there’s a lot of ….” you get the idea. I’ve lived where I live for almost 7 years, and I KNOW if I list I’m gonna have a LOT of work to do.

I’m a realtor who actually likes to see personal items in the home, because to me, it makes the place warm and…well, home-like. The other half of the realtor word will tell you to take out all personal items and paint everything and put in new carpet. In other words, try to make your used home a new home. I don’t necessarily advise that, unless the particular case needs it. For me, it’s only pix of your children that should go, and alters. Yes, people do have them, and yes, they can effect your selling ability. But CLUTTER (sorry about the dirty word) has GOTTA GO.

You will say, “If they don’t like my stuff they can take a hike.” Yes, I have heard that. But that statement comes from a person who has not gotten their brain around the true idea of selling. If you are not willing to take the advice of your professional listing agent, then you don’t really want to sell you house. It’s that simple.

I had clients who held on to their clutter so tightly that it cost them tens of thousands of dollars to sell the home. Kid you NOT. Clutter makes a difference in how much cold, hard cash you put in your pocket at the end of the transaction folks, and here’s why:

  1. Buyers will think you don’t take care of the house, i.e. MAINTAIN it, and therefore will not want it. OR they will make a lowball offer. Yes, it’s a leap to go from ‘too much stuff’ to ‘they probably don’t maintain the house’, but trust me! They do! Every time. Even though they, themselves, probably don’t run a tight ship, they will expect you to, and will judge you harshly if you don’t. And they will walk away with their money, which you are trying to get.
  2. Buyers need to envision THEIR stuff in the house. You want them to stand there and place their furniture and other ‘stuff’; and if yours overwhelms them, then they can’t see theirs. You WANT them to see THEIR STUFF there; that’s how you sell the house. If they think they can’t fit their stuff in the house, they will leave with their money, which you are trying to get them to give to you.
  3. Buyers are buying SPACE. The more ‘stuff’ you have in the space, the smaller the space looks. If the space looks small, the buyers will think, “Hmmm, this house is small.” And they will leave, taking their money with them. That would be money you would like to have. Following me?

So, here’s the deal: Ya gotta clean out the ‘stuff’. Get rid of the clutter. Now that doesn’t mean THROW AWAY the clutter. NO! It means go ahead and move it out. You’re leaving anyway. Just let it go first. Put it in storage or your friend’s garage. That would be a GOOD friend, but I digress. Then, dust in all the spots you couldn’t get to because of all of the stuff you used to have there, and your offer price JUST WENT UP. I am NOT kidding about this. Oh, and guess what? When you have to decide what size storage unit you need for your stuff? Suddenly you don’t mind actually getting rid of some of it.

Listen, I feel your pain. I think about the day I have to list my home and I literally shudder. I’ll even have to paint because I have so much wall art. So I get it. But you gotta do it.

And finally, let me say that when I say ‘stuff’, I’m also thinking of another ‘s’ word, that most buyers ACTUALLY USE, as in: “There’s too much s*** in here.”

Should I List My Home in October?

Short answer: Yes.

Listen, I think I’ve worn you guys out telling you that real estate is “local”, even sometimes down to sections within a subdivision. This is SO incredibly true, and is a fact, however cliche, which should not be ignored. These days, people look on Zillow and Realtor.com (both of which I visit myself, often), and they do their own market analysis without knowing the personality of their subdivision, let alone the town or region. There may be some great areas within the subdivision and some not-so-great ones, for a variety of reasons. And some towns are destination locations for students, doctors, patients, retirees…you name it. Each of those groups has a specific need, and you need an agent who knows the markets to satisfy them.

What you need to know about the Triangle and surrounding areas, is that we have a housing shortage here, and over 60 thousand people moving in EVERY DAY.

So yes. List. Your. House. In. October. Call me.

Buying a Cheap House

If you are a contractor or investor with lots of cash, just find it and buy it. You can find them for under 100K around here. Godspeed and all that.

If you are a first time buyer, or an ordinary, first time move-up buyer with one home you live in and a little bit of savings, forget it. It does NOT go the way you think it goes. Just doesn’t. Trust me. You won’t, but I am right.

If you are going to try to buy through an internet provider, just know that there are going to be costs. Like…1.95% ‘up front fee’, for example. That’s cash, up front, and you still have to get loan approval. Most cheap houses? NOBODY will lend on them. NO-BOD-Y.

If you want to go it on your own, you had better know how to find out what the REAL cost will be. Or get out the crying towel. These days in real estate, there are usually up front ‘money on the table’ outlays of cash, some of which are not refundable. Just call a realtor. And don’t call one to USE one, call one to compensate them for the help they will give you. I’m tired of hearing horror stories of people losing thousands because they didn’t know or wouldn’t listen. Really! It really bothers me when I hear this stuff, but on the other hand, if they have been advised well and they continue to blunder, well…that’s on them.

Want to just buy a piece of land and build…because land is 20K an acre? Just know that you can’t finance that land. You’re going to have to pay cash for it, even if you family member is “standing by” to build a house on it for you. And dare I say this? Your family member is not going to make you the priority if he’s doing the build on a discounted basis (or has a job he has to go to every day). And if you didn’t have that kind of cash to get you into a home the traditional way, how are you going to get it to pay cash for land?

Oh, I know. Buy a foreclosure house! NOT! If you find a cheap foreclosure house, trust me, the repairs will be astronomical. And you don’t have discretionary funds, remember? Oh, and this is important. You can’t finance it. Ya gotta pay cash. And, you know those seller disclosures you get with homes listed in multiple services? The ones that tell you what’s wrong with the house? Not gonna get one with a foreclosure, and if you DO, all of the boxes will be checked with ‘no representation’. That means: I don’t know and/or I don’t care. So you won’t know whether the foundation has major issues, the structure is termite ridden, half of the structure was not permitted, the septic system is collapsing, the well is contaminated…you know, those little details.

So you get to spend a LOT more money on inspections than you might otherwise spend, only to decide you don’t want the house. I call that a colossal waste of money! UNLESS you are a contractor or investor, flush with cash.

Want a fixer-upper? Great! You’d better like DIY home improvement projects, because you’ll be living in one for years! Now, I have clients who do love DIY and are good at it, and have the patience and love of restoration to enjoy the long term, patience-sapping experience. Not many people do. So. If you go this route, plan ahead. Know that if you run out of patience and money, you’ll have a heck of a time selling a partially restored fixer-upper. And depending on the nature of the ‘fixing’, you may have to wait for a cash buyer to show up. By the way, I can spend five minutes with you and know whether or not you can handle it. Yes, I’m that good.

See, this stuff is important! Real estate agents…the good ones…can walk you through the processes so that you don’t trip over your own feet, even if you ARE looking for a cheap house. And please please please remember, you are hiring an agent for her/his expertise. That’s what you’re paying for. So don’t let non-Realtor people yap into your head and ruin your deal. This happens so often that when I hear about a family member being involved, if that person is not willing to meet with me and talk it out with me? I don’t want the transaction. Why? Because they NEVER make it through to closing when the family member wants to be a behind-the-scenes puppet master. Usually they do not understand the process and don’t want that to become obvious to the professional.

I have done many transactions where I DID meet with family and talk things through. What’s the first job? Make sure everyone is on the same page. Listen, if you and your family member are at odds, stay out of the market until you reach consensus. Real estate agents do not get paid until the property closes. That means if you argue and tug back and forth with family throughout the transaction, not only does the real estate agent have to sit down and wait for you to get bad advice from a non-agent, but we also lose the deal and get NOTHING for our time. I know you like to be paid when you work, so please, remember that our time ALSO has value. So, bring your family to me first. Then I get to decide if the deal has a snowball’s chance….you get the idea. I love nothing more than a tight, loving family, working together. But one behind the scenes giving bad advice? No.

I have helped buyers purchase low priced homes many times. Some are investments; some are homes to be brought back to life to be loved and lived in. I love these transactions, because I hate to see homes fall into disrepair and be destroyed. But you have to know that there is a way to approach and close these purchases and a way to completely blow the deal.

Which would you rather do?