And Now For Something A Little Different. And a Cat Video at the End.

I am so excited about a seminar I attended last night and you’ll never guess the topic… keeping a record of my life and possessions so that my heirs can step in and run the show in the event of my unexpected demise! (This includes everything about running a home, so it is a direct tie-in to the overall purpose of this real estate blog.)

Have you ever been so stressed that you almost can’t remember your current address and phone number? I have! My mind shoots straight back to an address from 3rd grade, or something useless like that. So, how in the world could I cope with the avalanche of information I need at hand in the case of a family death? And how could I expect my family to cope in the event of my death? I have bits and pieces of information all over the place, some online and some on paper!  Some is stored only in my head. Yikes! What a nightmare to leave my family. They would miss me and be angry with me all at the same time, right?

On a related note, a couple of days ago, it occurred to me that, since my spouse is away for a week, and I am doing all the cat duties by myself, what would happen to these little living creatures if I keel over and become non-functional while he’s gone???? I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to have a plan! I have to write down every detail of cat care, cat medications, as well as cat-related chores. I have to write down how to run the two septic systems, the water softener, the HVAC, the potted plants, the swimming pool, the…… etc. I need to keep a notebook around here where close friends and family know to find it and access it in a mere 30 seconds to start up the routines and keep the place humming, if no one else is here to do it.”

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Amy Praskac

Voilá! Enter my friend, Amy Praskac, of On the Record Advance Planning, who conducted last night’s seminar. Yes, her workbook, available on Amazon or from her website, has a page for pets and their care! And an entire section entitled ‘Household Facts’!!!

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Amy even recognizes what a daunting organizational task this is for most of us, and she provides a three-month calendar along with tips for scheduling this bear of a project to get it finished. Remember the goal? To create a smooth path, rather than a nightmarish chasm for your family and friends to traverse after you’re gone. (Must put that over my desk as a reminder.)

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Here’s what the seminar provides me:

  1. Peace of mind for me, if my spouse dies before I do.
  2. Peace of mind for my spouse, if I die before he does.
  3. Reaaaalllly important: peace of mind for our kids, who would have to step in and take over immediately in the event that my husband and I are in an accident or something shocking like that.
  4. A concrete way to start these conversations with our children about funeral/burial plans, will and power of attorney documents, disbursal of personal possessions, whom to call, financial accounts.

We know from personal experience that this kind of planning is important for adults of any age. My sister-in-law died very suddenly and unexpectedly without a will, half-way across the country from us and from her parents when she was only 30, and getting her simple possessions and simple legal affairs wrapped up was anything but simple! Do your parents a favor- make a will and leave a record of everything they will need to know to pick up where you leave off.

And if you are a homeowner, seriously, how is anyone going to keep the place functional with running water and electricity, if you have not left them operating instructions? Somebody has to pay the gas bill to keep the gas turned on. Take it from me, if your heirs have to sell a house that has been neglected, even for a few months, it is much harder than if the house is in tip-top shape while waiting to go on the market! They will actually lose money if the house is neglected.

Contact Amy on her website if you want more information about the seminar. And contact me at 512-970-9121, if you need to sell a house. Let’s chat!

There is something unimaginably appealing about The Critical Information Workbook: Creating a Road Map for Your Family!

 

(Almost) Every House is Unique

Cat video. You’re welcome.

Recently, I have found myself consulting with a number of different people about future moves that are not necessarily imminent. I think this time spent together with potential clients is rewarding! Every situation is different and every house is unique in that it is situated in a particular place in the city, in a neighborhood, of a certain age, amount of updating, and is experiencing street changes, or street stability, according to what’s happening in the market.

After asking lots of questions about goals, future desired location, amount of support- family, and otherwise- financial strengths and weaknesses, and determining which emotions are most at play, I put together a suggested plan for tackling all the issues, including prepping the house, for that future move.

Before our meeting, I drive the neighborhood carefully, even if I already know the area well, looking for signs of change, looking for clues to what’s happening. If I see on the MLS that an older home that is mostly in original condition has recently sold, I’ll check from the curb to see what it looks like now. If it is in an area where older houses are being torn down to make way for new ones, I want to know if this particular older home has met that fate, or if it is still being used as a home. Toys and playthings in the front yard six months after the sale are a pretty good indication that this home isn’t being replaced this year.

In advance of my neighborhood drive, I study the MLS and all the properties that have sold in the past six months, or year, depending on the area, searching for sold prices, condition of homes, location in neighborhood, etc. I study the photos that the listing agents put up on the MLS to see the condition of the interiors. I look for homes that might be comparable to the home I am scheduled to visit. I make graphs and charts of market activity in that neighborhood or that feeder district to a particular high school, depending on which parameters I think are most relevant to that house in that location.

When I show up at the door, I already know a lot about the situation, and I bring my graphs, information on comparable homes, a Seller’s Disclosure that the owner will have to fill out sooner or later, and other useful papers. After we sit down and talk about the personal situation, I walk through the house, taking snapshots and noting things that need to be repaired and/or updated.

Depending on the house and the micro-market it inhabits, I use one or more sets of these eyes to examine the property: the flipper-investor eyes, the buy-and-hold investor eyes, the move-up buyer eyes, the downsize buyer eyes, the coming-from-a-different-state eyes, the moving-out-of-the-city eyes, the second-home eyes. The recommendations I make to prepare the house for sale are usually based on the least amount of stuff the homeowner can do to make the house desirable. Of course, price of the home and price of updating and repair is a big factor, too.

Some homes merit new faucets, new flooring, new paint, etc., because through these improvements the homeowner is likely to make a quicker sale, or sell at the higher end of a reasonable price range. Some homes will be purchased by a flipper and price is the only thing that will matter to those folks. Even within my written recommendations, I make two tiers- one is “must do” and the other is “would be nice to do, if possible”.

Here are three short samples from some write-ups I’ve done recently:

The two most important points at which we must capture a buyer’s imagination are from the street and then again just outside and just inside the front door. Those are our ‘hooks’. People have no clue when looking at your neighborhood from the street that there is an amazing view behind the privacy fences, so we have to pull them up and in until they arrive where we want them to be.

The goal of any effort put into your home between now and putting it on the market is to transform it from your ‘home’ into a ‘house’. In other words, it will become a commodity when it hits the market. Your best chance for getting the highest price the market will offer is to get as many buyers aware of its existence as possible (that’s my job) and to pull them from the curb and into the front door (your job and my job). What I am describing now is changes you can make to the real estate to help pull those people in. Staging, our last effort before taking pictures and putting it on the market, will come later.

Because you are looking at a limited time for owning and enjoying the house (5 years is your general estimate, but it could be much less), you will only make changes which, if not made, will result in more days on market to sell your house, or will make the price lower than it needs to be. The changes you elect to make to upgrade the house in the eyes of future buyers must be changes you would enjoy, too, for the length of time you own the house.

Now… why the cat video?  Today I met with a friend and fellow agent who has recently marketed and sold a house that was home to an elderly couple with dozens of rescued cats! What a feat! (It took a village.)  Our rescues in the video? There are only 11 and they are well-loved and cared for. But, I hope we don’t have to move anytime soon!

A Few Things I Wish Sellers Knew

Thematic Thursday is the day when I post about buying and selling and leasing transactions, which are mysterious if you don’t do them at least every couple of years.

  1. The market does not care what price you need or want to get for your house. The market price is not set by you or by me. It is set by what buyers will pay for it at this time and in this place.
  2. Your house will sell faster, and likely for a higher price, if you make it look its best. This might mean replacing worn floor covering and putting on a tidy coat of paint, in addition to making repairs and making every corner sparkle for the nose, eyes, and ears of potential buyers.
  3. If your house is not going to sparkle, is not going to be repaired, is going to be worn and dated, don’t worry. You can still get lots of eyeballs and potential buyers by presenting a discounted price. Some buyers are looking specifically for a bargain!
  4. As soon as you decide to, or are forced to, sell your home, it becomes a house; a commodity. It is no longer your home. Get therapy, if needed, to get through the grieving process, then do yourself a favor and help me do my job of getting your house sold for the best possible price in the least amount of time. Please take my advice to heart, because I work in this business all the time and I see what is effective for selling and what isn’t.
  5. You will be leaving your house for scheduled showings, and you will be taking the pets with you. Especially the snake. It might be kinder for you and the pets if you can find a  loving and gentle home-away-from-home for the animals during the selling process, so they are uprooted once, instead of daily.
  6. If your house or property has unusual or challenging features, they will reduce the number of buyers from the buying pool for whom the house will be a good match. This often translates into a longer  time on the market before a sale. You might have to go through several rounds of fresh buyers before a match is found. In case you were wondering, this is a LOT like dating- the quirkier or more difficult we are, the more potential mates we have to meet before finding one that sticks. The alternative is to quit being quirky and/or difficult, but this isn’t always an option.
  7. When you pay my brokerage to sell your house and for me to get you through the process as gracefully as possible, you are paying for my experience, my work ethic, and my character, as well as the depth of knowledge and integrity in my brokerage. I draw on all these qualities when working on your project. By way of analogy, in buying art, you are paying the artist for focus, observational skill, imagination, practice, and creativity, all of which are worth far more than these particular molecules of ink on this particular piece of paper.

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    Horse from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook

Your Move and Your Pets, Part 1

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So, you’ve decided to move. Caution: big changes ahead!!!

Selling a home and moving is always more work than we think it is. Even with the smoothest of transactions, there is still a lot of upheaval for the people in the household. Our pets want us to know that they are feeling stressed, too!

If we want our home sale to go as well as possible, we MUST plan ahead to keep the pets as emotionally and physically secure as possible. Having a plan takes a load off the people.

We have cats at our house, and being the emotional creatures that they are, cats can freak out at even small changes in their environment or routine, and disrupt a perfectly staged house faster than anything. The lovely animal in the photo above will eat any plant in the house, whether natural or fake, and throw up the leaves afterward.

This isn’t hard to remember under ordinary circumstances, but when staging a home to look inviting for potential buyers, it would be super-easy to forget the cat’s predilections and place cut flowers in strategic places. BAD MISTAKE!

Or, when rushing to get knick-knacks packed away and out of sight, it would be sooooo easy to leave a plastic bag lying out where this tuxedo lovely could get it:

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Here is a partial list of pet challenges I work out with sellers ahead of putting their house on the market.

  1. Pet safety when readying house for market.
  2. Being intentional about addressing the pet’s feelings.
  3. Securing, or even better, removing pets from the house before showings.
  4. Stain and odor removal.
  5. Planning pet transportation to the new home.
  6. Readying the new home for the pets.