HELLO? IS ANYBODY THERE??

You know what I’m getting a lot of lately from listing agents? Nothing!

I’m a real estate agent, and some questions actually require a conversation. Let me give you an example. If you list an older doublewide, it has to have the right kind of foundation in order to qualify for an FHA loan. AND there are other requirements. Lots of them. How long has the current owner owned it? Was it a flip property? If it is, what will the profit be at the current list price? Do you have the HUD paperwork that came with the home? You know, stuff like that. Stuff that can keep MY buyer client from getting loan approval AND losing their due diligence because of your negligence. Yeah, lots of agents don’t know about this stuff. I’ve been through the wringer with agents who list a home as qualifying for FHA when it would NEVER qualify. BTW that instigates a PHONE CALL.

Nine times out of ten…NINE…nobody answers the phone. Everybody wants a text. Look, most of the time I get text messages first too, and I like that as well, but SOMETIMES, a buyer agent needs to have a CONVERSATION with you. Know how you can tell when those times come? THE PHONE RINGS. SOMETIMES it will take me longer to type the text message than a conversation takes, and you’ll have to call me anyway because you won’t understand what I’m asking for. And that’s if you even return my call. That’s ANOTHER story.

ANSWER YOUR FREAKING PHONE.

Oh that’s not cool, you say? Well listen up. There are a lot of wealthy older folks out there who not only don’t WANT to text, they don’t want to work with YOU if you don’t answer the PHONE. You’re not being cool and contemporary; you are losing business! And younger people get really upset if they don’t get instant answers. Here’s how it works: Ring ring! You say, “Hello?” It’s EASY. Give it a try.

I can hold a grudge. You don’t take my calls, wait until you call me and let’s see how that goes. I’M KIDDING. I answer my phone, I read my texts, I check voice mail, you know, I use the entire phone.

I’m not really angry; in fact I’m laughing. For now.

Why Give Thanks?

Thanksgiving has crept upon us again. Seems like we cruise along and suddenly it is holiday time. Thanksgiving and Christmas tumble into our lives like puppies wrestling, tumbling down the stairs. Thanksgiving is like practice for Christmas, but it deserves its own spotlight.

Gratitude is becoming less and less visible in our world, and that’s too bad. We have come to look to ourselves as our own providers, our own saviors, our own trailblazers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Every success we have depends on the efforts of others, mostly strangers, whose lives overlap and intersect with ours. Sometimes their impact is obvious, but not usually. More and more often we receive our gifts and hardly acknowledge them because we’re grappling for more, more, more, never having said thank you for what we already received. I believe as gratitude goes, so goes love.

Big deal, you say? Yes. Big deal, because gratitude is a grand reminder that we’re not that great, not that important, not that autonomous. Whether we like it or not, we need each other. Stopping to think about that, particularly around a table full of delicious food, is not only wonderful, but also quintessential to our psychological wellbeing. Giving thanks is a way to humble ourselves and to finally look around at those who have lifted us up.

These days there’s far too much emphasis on tearing down. I think you can agree that building UP is better. And don’t forget about subtlety. There are people who give you rich blessings that you never know about, folks. That’s right. Some people prefer not to have the spotlight, but we are there.

Imagine someone looking at you with gratefulness, remembering how you loved them, carried them, helped them stand after a fall. So receiving gratitude is also a very good thing. This is what, I believe, the Bible means by ‘love one another’. How much do you appreciate that steadying hand when you are falling? See what I mean. Which actually is better, giving or receiving? I hardly know.

So it goes both ways, gratitude. Not a single day goes by without thanksgiving my my life, beginning with prayer, but also thinking about how much I appreciate my friends who are there for me, people who offer to help me carry heavy things, the mechanic who changes the oil in my car, clients who never fail to brighten my day, the people who deliver my packages, and on and on. Make a list? You’ll never get to the end, I promise.

So this Thanksgiving, in spite of how crazy the world tries to be, look around you, see your blessings, and remember to say THANK YOU. Those words are disappearing from our landscape too. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Modernizing the Look of Your Home

If you have read anything I’ve written, you know I have a hint of sarcasm in my vernacular. I can’t help it. If you take this life seriously, it will kill you. I have proof. One hundred percent of the dead people I know, died.

And I’m in real estate now, though my other life work was in science. When I had the corporate ‘personality profile’ done, the result that was that the ONLY thing keeping my job from being Nirvana, was the ‘people piece’. Science suited me to a tee, because of the analytical, data pieces, but I needed PEOPLE. Never would have believe it. Prior to that assessment, I thought my job was heaven. Troublemaker.

“What do you mean by that?” I asked in my wide eyed corporate brainwashed manner. I hate myself when I look back on how I took the brainwashing…though some of it shaped my life in a positive way. Like the ‘valuing diversity’ piece. That was true and right on point. Too bad they don’t teach THAT anymore.

BUT, the evaluator’s answer was about customer service, the face to face kind. I needed more PEOPLE in my life. I thought about that, and realized that in the course of a day, my ‘people’ were the ones who brought samples to the lab for me to analyze. Traffic was not what you’d call heavy. So yeah, I took that to heart, particularly in my second life, thrust upon me by a cheating ….you know.

I ended up…because I was over 50 and NOBODY wants to hire an over-fifty woman…in 1) retail, 2) house cleaning (my business); AND 3) real estate, as a way to survive. Three jobs, all involving PEOPLE. God, did I have PEOPLE.

People are mean in retail. Customers throw things on the counter, rather than placing them, they watch you like you’re trying to steal a penny as you scan the items, they accuse you of all KINDS of things, they throw things on dressing room floors and urinate on them….they steal in the MOST amazing ways. OMG. I with I had not taken THAT part time job. Retail changed my opinion of humanity as a whole. But I had people. People, people, people.

Then, house cleaning. Wow. Not going there AT ALL. And job three was real estate as the ‘foundation’ income. Three jobs, all people. See how karma works?

REAL ESTATE. All about ‘relationships. The good things is that I get a steady dose of the ‘people piece’ AND I get to use the data/analytical piece too. I actually do love that, most of the time. Like every other venue in life, there are good ones and not so good ones, but I try to remember that I AM PROBABLY one of the ‘not so good ones’ in somebody’s list too. Wouldn’t it be nice if that statement mattered to me. HAHAHA. Like I said: I’m over 50. Things don’t ‘stick’ like they used to. Listen, I TRY to be good. I really do. And most of the time I am. But like everyone else, somebody thinks I’m horrible. And I’m okay with that. Remember “I’m Okay; You’re Okay”? You don’t? Hahahah. Never mind then.

But what is the absolute best about the ‘people piece’ is that I get to meet all kinds of people, all the time, and I only do real estate now. So it’s like my lab once was, only with human specimens, and I get to see first hand how they handle stress, how they handle making choices, whether or not they can make a decision without someone holding their hand, how brave or willing to take risks they are, whether or not they listen when I speak about important things they need to know, whether or not they are kind, whether or not they have manners, whether or not they are grateful for their blessings…or not. I get to see whether they have to have every nut and bolt in the box before taking a step, or whether they build as they run. It’s amazing and fascinating. Every single person has something amazing to offer this world, even if you have to step back and search for it. Everyone has a reason for being, and everyone deserves to be ‘seen’ in that way.

Steve Jobs used to say, “Think different.” It sums up two reasons why I loved him. One: The idea…thinking like there IS no box; and Two: Grammar. Because you know that “Think different” means something entirely different than ‘Think differently’. And OMG yes, someone is whining that Steve Jobs didn’t actually COME UP with that slogan but WHO CARES? See how people are??

I know you think I’m wandering all over the place, but wait. I’m taking you to the point. I find that thinking different is antithetical to MOST people. For example: There’s a magnetic spice rack from Ikea that has round metal spice holders that stick to a magnetic square plate. Most people mount that on the WALL. I saw one mounted to the CEILING in a tiny house. THAT’S thinking different, people. That’s life without a box. Of course I loved the idea because that person was a GENIUS of creative thinking. At some point, one of the two people living there said, “Wait! Why don’t we put it HERE?” GENIUS! Most people…I’m saying 95% don’t have that. I’m developing it.

Think about this: How many closets have you seen where things are piled on the floor to the extent that they tumble out the door when you open it? And yet, the vertical space above the shelf the builder installed, goes unused. PUT UP SOME SHELVES, PEOPLE. PUT UP SOME SHELVES. USE THAT SPACE. See how that works? Think different. Look up! Look around!

Which brings me to the point. Told ya.

We are in the midst of so many ‘modernizing’ ideas. This or that will make your house so modern and desirable when you decide to sell. Well…here it comes, people…Mason Jar light fixture covers will NOT get your house sold. I can hear the wailing of the 5% now. And if you try to serve me tea in a jar when I visit, I’m going to assume you can’t afford actual glasses and MAYBE the tea bags were used once before. Somewhere, there’s a warehouse FULL of jars that need to be sold. At a profit. And there you go.

Remember that 95% of people don’t think outside that box? Well, there’s a 95% chance that they will be the ones looking to buy your house. Barn doors….not an efficient way to close off a bathroom, folks. Yeah, they’re different, but they are not private. And I mean private related to ALL senses, if you get my drift (and I used THAT word deliberately too). Sponge painting. Oh my gosh, please just don’t. Open shelving? For you, yeah, all day. For the majority of buyers, NOPE. Track lighting: kill me now. Remember that when you put your house on the market, you are going to HAVE to appeal to the 95%, the MAINSTREAM. So you’ll need to ‘de-individualize’.

Do things like new countertops, new, fresh, neutral paint, new appliances, new flooring, and by the way, Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring is hot and it will last into the future and actually BE a good selling point for your home. When you talk about how dark the pantry is, go to Home Depot and buy battery operated, motion sensor lighting. I use it in my pantry and I LOVE it. And by the way, PAINT THE PANTRY interior. It makes it cheerful and shows you can think different. And you will love it, by the way. Use the pantry door for storage. You can actually screw storage onto the pantry door, and that extra space is like a new dimension. You can fit EVERYTHING there.

Under the sinks: Please go search ‘creative under cabinet storage’ and BUY SOMETHING to make that space organized and neat. You will love using it and when you get ready to sell, so will your 95% buyers. I just finished putting up shelves and pegboard in my storage closet. I just stare at it. Who would think that organized storage could be SO BEAUTIFUL? And my 95% will love it too, when it’s time to sell.

Trends, people, TRENDS. “A current style or preference” is the definition. CURRENT. Means it will PASS. So, if your tendency is to go awry of the mainstream (admirable in most cases in my opinion), just remember that that special little sponge paint job can keep you from selling your house when you are ready to move.

And here’s the counterintuitive part. Hang on because this will twist your brain. Remember that the Mason Jar lights was the 5% out of the box thinkers? Well, it becomes TRENDY, and then the 95%-ers, who can’t think creatively, follow. So the jar thing becomes ‘trendy’. I know. But remember we’re taking about herd mentality here. Just remember that the ‘trend’ followed by the masses trying to be ‘modern’, will ABSOLUTELY pass and will have to be changed. Be ready for that. Remember Harvest Gold and Avacado? Didn’t think so. It passed. And so, thank GOD, will Mason Jar decoration.

It’s complicated. The best you can do is make your home YOUR home while you live there. But when you get ready to sell, PLEASE I BEG YOU, cut those emotional ties and just know that the special paint you have loved for thirty years is OLD and will not appeal to current buyers. Know that those precious JARS will need to go. You have to become ‘mainstream’ in order to sell. Unless a handyman comes along, or unless you want to drop the price by a LOT. Or unless you have an 800 square foot loft downtown.

Be proactive when you plan to sell and please, consult a real estate agent. Let the licensed real estate agent be the licensed real estate agent, and you be the client…and stop trying to know more than the trained, licensed expert knows. Because if you insist on driving that bus, your agent will let you, and then you get to deal with the result. I can’t tell you how many tens of thousands of dollars have been left on the table because sellers would NOT let to of their avocodo paint or grandma’s furniture. I’m shaking my head right now. Consult your real estate agent about this stuff, folks. And keep that 10K (or 100K as the case may be) in your pocket where it belongs.

Recession Proofing Your Business

Let me get this out of the way: I’m not predicting a recession. But let’s face it: Most of us have ridden this cycle a few times. In other words, there’s one over the horizon. I decided to write about this topic because I’m seeing some of the same poor behavior among service providers that I saw in the last recession. It was ugly then and it is still ugly.

I’m in real estate, so I deal with a LOT of service providers. Top of that list is builders, followed by subcontractors or ‘subs’. These include flooring installers, plumbers, electricians, roofers, even handymen. Then there are appraisers and lenders, attorneys and surveyors. Wow. These folks can get all of the work they need with builders now, who are also sitting in the catbird seat. Anything they can nail or staple together, they can sell. And any sub able to swing a hammer can get a job with them. In other words, they don’t need us right now.

The abundance of work is evident by providers who ignore our calls for assistance, refuse to negotiate at all, promise to show up and then don’t, charging astronomical fees for nominal work, breaking promises made at the the ‘deal’ table…you get the picture. That’s called greed, or poor time management or outright dishonesty, even if it hides behind the ‘very busy’ landscape. And it can be a situation where this provider hasn’t experienced a recession…yet.

In the last recession when things started slowing down, service providers who disregarded and disrespected realtors and other clients came with hats in hand, begging us to bring business to them. Do your clients need any work done? Do you know anybody who wants to buy a new home? That kind of thing. Remember, a lot of service providers went under during the last recession. So it’s just a good idea to stay centered and keep providing good service, even when you are busy as all get-out. Nothing is worse than the cheshire cat at the first meeting and then the Loch Ness when you need them.

Now, what PROMPTED this post was a Youtube video I watched about lenders, not realtors. The host warned lenders not to snuggle down in their rolling chairs and ignore calls from agents and clients, just because they’re busy. Why? Uh, it’s not always going to be like this. Well that goes for all of us. Time is often ‘of the essence’, and if we are fortunate enough to be selected to provide a service, then we should provide a SERVICE. Clients are not calling or emailing to annoy us; they are calling to PAY us for a service. And I can tell you this: My clients will kick a service provider to the curb FOREVER if they are treated like an annoyance…AS THEY SHOULD, by the way. And, dare I say this? I will also remember the ones who didn’t have time for me or treated me badly. When the chips are down, have you recession proofed your business? That’s the question. People who need help will always go to the ones they relied on before. That would be the ones who served them well.

Let’s do something completely out of the ordinary and look at things from the OTHER perspective. Just take a moment to think about lenders, who are INUNDATED with refinance closings as well as the other type, because rates are so low. Let’s think about the closing attorneys who are working SO hard to get everyone closed before the rate lock expires. Think about builders who can’t build fast enough to satisfy demand. They’re working around the clock and having a terrible time getting supplies and materials. Handymen are overworked, washed over with calls for refits and updates and repairs needed in order for closings to happen on time. EVERYBODY is maxed out. So let’s not call every day for an update when we don’t need one. Remember that while you are thinking about what to ask about, these people are working their behinds off. They’re not sipping a marguerita under a palm tree. Most of the time, no news is good news. I find that when information needs to be sent, it usually gets sent. There’s a queue and you are in it; if you haven’t heard yet, it’s probably not your turn. Okay. Fair and balanced.

So…let’s just assume everyone is stressed out, overworked and maybe not their usual loving and friendly self. Let’s try to understand. But at the same time, if you SAY you’re going to do it, JUST DO IT. And if I am hiring you, do NOT go underground and ignore me. You will be fired forever.

Recession proof your business. It’s just plain logical. And serving others well? Well that’s just the way it ought to be. Period.

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.

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.”