What’s Your Word For 2017?

Have you seen the “What’s your word for 2017?” posts and articles?

The thought is choosing one or two words for the year can help you focus your energy and goals on a specific theme.

I’m going with it.

After much deliberation and consideration of many fine inspiring words, I’ve chosen mine: 

Carole King

Carole King are my theme words for 2017 and they are my hope and wish for others as well.

You’re going to have to hang with me for a bit, because the only way this is going to make any sense is to tell you a story…

When I was a little girl I knew all the words to every song on Carole King’s album Tapestry…every song, every word…from the album’s biggest hit “I Feel the Earth Move” to the less popular “Tapestry” and “Smackwater Jack”. I loved that album, and would sing  along with Carole’s easy to sing along with alto voice. To nine-year old me Carole King  was all that was hip and earthy and cool. I loved her, I wanted to be Carole King.

20131121-121543.jpg

It was 1971,  I got a Panasonic cassette player/recorder with microphone for Christmas. I remember the day I took my tape recorder and blank cassettes up to my bedroom. I put my Tapestry album on the record player, popped a blank cassette in the Panasonic and pressed record. As Carole sang into my ears, I sang my heart out into that microphone. Our recording session didn’t end until we finished every song, sides one and two. And I thought and believed with each belted note…I am Carole. Yes…I was Carole King…until I played it back and learned quite quickly and certainly with just a few flat off-key notes…I wasn’t Carole at all.

Fast forward forty-four years to January 2016. I’m in New York for a real estate conference and my real estate soul sisters and I score tickets to Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

file_000

Beautiful is a  fabulous, move you to tears, dance in your seat, if you ever get a chance to see it you must, show. Really…it’s that good.

What struck me the most was that I had loved Carole King all my life and never knew her story. I didn’t know that she was an incredibly talented and successful songwriter. As Carol Klein she wrote some of the biggest hits of a generation. “The Locomotion”, “One Fine Day”,“Up on the Roof”, “Go Away Little Girl”…yep, all those songs and more were written by Carole King. She didn’t perform back then, she wouldn’t sing, she didn’t believe she had talent enough to be a singer. She was a songwriter…and a good one.

Her personal life hit a big bump. And what came out of that bump was  Carole King. The Carole King of “Tapestry” the Carole King I loved and knew.

In the play it’s a visual and musical transformation…Carol Klein in her skirts and sweater sets and perfectly tight curled hair writing hit after hit…always refusing to sing but watching others take those hits to number one..and then…the last scene…a dimly lit  Carnegie Hall…a spotlight on the piano in the center of the stage…And with a flowing maxi dress on, and her curly hair now left untamed…she sits at the bench and begins to play…and it’s her song she’s playing and it’s her voice singing… “You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face” …and bam, it’s Carole King…and damn, it is beautiful!  Curtain falls. There’s a standing O. My real estate soul sisters and I??  There’s not a dry eye among us.

I saw the play nearly a year ago, and have thought of it and Carole King often…even up until today…and I realize, the reason it’s stuck with me, the reason I think of the play and Carole often is…all these years later…I still want to be Carole King.

No, I’m not setting out to begin a musical career, Carnegie Hall isn’t in my future. I’m not after fame or fortune and it’s not to be the cool, super hip, earthy chick that nine-year old me wanted to be. No, it’s none of those things.

It’s that… I’m Carol Klein the songwriter. I am a good and decent person. I’m good at the things I’m good at, I take pride in my work. I’m okay with who I am.  I’ve no fewer “hits” of success in my life than Carol Klein had in hers… it’s all good. But it’s not Carole King. If I’m honest with myself…really, really honest, I have to admit, I hang on to fear to keep life successfully safe. Carol Klein did too…at least for a while.  Carol Klein was an accomplished songwriter but she was afraid to sing…afraid she didn’t have the talent to do more than she had already successfully done.  And then she hit a big bump in life. And when she found herself in the bump, she didn’t shrink, she didn’t retreat, she threw caution to the wind, let her hair blow back, was true to herself, found her voice, her words, her music, she sang, became Carole King and gave the world Tapestry.

And me? Though it’s a fresh start this first day of a new year, this first day of 2017, it  is for me a bump…I’m sure  I am not all  I might be and I am afraid of just about everything…failure, rejection, embarrassment, racism, Donald Trump, post-truth, global warming…you name it and I’m afraid of it. But in choosing Carole King as my words for 2017, I am wondering with hope and determination  what might be on the other side of this bump and all that I am afraid of. I’d like to find out. I’d like to see what “tapestry” I might have in me.

That’s the story…and that’s why Carole King are my words for 2017…and they are my wish for you in the new year too.

So here’s to making something good of life’s bumps, here’s to throwing caution to the wind, forging ahead in spite of fear, here’s to letting your hair blow back, here’s to finding voices and being true…here’s to finding the Carole in you! It’s gonna be beautiful.

Happy New Year!

 

P.S. I erased mine and Carole’s recording session moments after playing it back on that fateful day in 1971…the Panasonic tape recorder and cassette are long gone…but in the spirit of this post and as my first attempt at demonstrating my commitment to the endeavor of plowing through fear I share this concrete evidence…though I may know all the words, when it comes to singing, I am no Carole King. But in being brave enough to share it, there’s no denying there’s a glimmer of her in me…#iamcarole

 

 

  

 

 

“How Do I Look?” “What Do You Think?” Do You Really Want To Know?

 

My daughter Joanna has that killer combination of complete honesty and willingness to say exactly what she thinks.

Admirable qualities? I think so.

Admirable, but not painless. I’ve been on the receiving end of her brutal truth-telling…

Me…showered, make-up on, hair done, dressed in a very carefully chosen outfit, ready to walk out the door, see Joanna, strike a pose and ask…

“How do I look?”

“What do you think?”

And what does Joanna say??

“You look nice mom, but you’re kinda getting fat, you really need to start walking or going back to Weight Watchers, and don’t scowl I can see all your wrinkles.”

OUCH!

I would have much rather heard…

“You look great Mom, it’s hard to believe you’re 50, you don’t look a day over 30, and damn you look good in those jeans.”

Yeah, that’s what I’d want to hear…but it wouldn’t be the truth.

Truth is, I did look nice, but I’ve also gotten about twenty pounds too chubby, and I don’t scowl but I do sometimes squint, and when I do, you really can see all my wrinkles.

Even though it can be painful, given the choice between hearing what I want to hear and hearing the truth…I’m picking truth.

Establishing where you stand on the “hearing what I want to hear –truth” spectrum is important when you’re looking to sell your house.

When you’re ready to sell and begin the process with selecting an agent, the “listing appointment” or ‘agent interview” eventually ends up being an invitation to answer the same questions I asked Joanna…

“How do I look?”

“What do you think?”

It starts out easy enough…We agents arrive at the appointment eager to meet you. We want to develop rapport, build trust, demonstrate our expertise. We come wanting to learn more about you the seller, we want to know why and when you want to move. We want to hear what you’ve loved most about your house, and what you’ve liked the least. We’re willing to let you show us every nook and cranny, we smile when you show us the pull out shelves in the pantry and we make a note when you tell us that you bumped out the family room an extra eight feet. It’s a lovely visit, all rainbows and unicorns, but eventually the questions need to be answered…

“How do I look?”

“What do you think?”

The listing appointment is often the first meeting between the seller and the agent.   No agent wants to tell someone they’ve just met the “house” version of…”You look nice mom, but you’re kinda getting fat, you really need to start walking or going back to Weight Watchers, and don’t scowl I can see all your wrinkles.” No agent wants to tell a seller that their house is worth less than the seller was thinking it was worth. No agent enjoys giving a seller a list of things to do to get the house ready for the market.  No agent wants to say anything that the seller doesn’t want to hear.

But it’s important that they do!

When you’re interviewing agents it’s easy to be lulled into believing what you want to hear. It’s easy to be lulled by the agent that tells you your house is worth the most. Easy to be lulled by the agent that tells you your house is perfect just as it is and you don’t have to do a thing.  But here’s the thing…hearing everything you want to hear isn’t going to get your house sold for top dollar any more than Joanna telling me “damn you look good in those jeans” is going to make me twenty pounds leaner. And if the agent you’re interviewing isn’t telling you some things you don’t like hearing, you’d be wise to wonder if the agent wasn’t erring on the side of telling you what  they think you want to hear over telling you what you need to know.

The truth is… sellers almost always think their house  is worth more than the market will bear and nearly every house needs to be tweaked if it’s going to get top dollar. The reality is…appropriately priced homes well prepared for a demanding market sell quicker and for more money than those that aren’t.

The best agents I know “err”. But they err on the side of sound advice over rapport. They err on the side of evidence over finger-crossing. They err on the side of market education and preparation over wanting to get your listing.  The best agents will answer the questions  “How do I look?” , “What do you think?” with the same brutal honesty that Joanna would.

Choosing an agent to assist you with the sale of your home is no easy thing. There are so many to choose from. My advice to you…line up some interviews, enjoy the visits and when it comes time to hear the answers to those two important questions…even though it might be painful, be open to hearing what you don’t want to hear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Housing Market Has a Heart as Cold Winter

20140303-152857.jpg

I am SO done with this winter.

I’m done with hats and gloves and my expensive North Face parka that doesn’t keep me any warmer than my less expensive parka did. I need this winter to end; I need my chapped lips and dry cracked hands to heal. I don’t want to leave my kitchen faucet dripping so my pipes won’t freeze.I don’t want to buy any more salt.  I want to hear some birds chirp, I want to see a daffodil. I don’t want it to be below zero, I don’t want it to snow, I want this winter to be over, I need it to end.

It’s March. March weather in my hometown is never perfect. March usually means gray skies, chilly temperatures, highs  in the 40’s. It’s not beautiful, but there’s usually a sense that spring is just around the corner. Not this year. This year it’s polar vortex, this year, if it’s not snowing, it’s freezing. This year it’s the winter that just won’t go away…and I’m just gonna lose it.

As I look out the window and see the seventy-fifth inch of snow start to fall, one thing is blatantly clear…what I want and need just doesn’t matter, I don’t control the weather.  All the wishing, hoping, complaining, wanting and needing won’t change a thing. I better  just grab my hat, gloves and not warm enough parka, bundle up and deal with it.

You’d never know it by the weather, but  the spring housing market is underway. With the spring market comes a whole new batch of home buyers and sellers…and often they come to the market with  wants and needs regarding home values. It usually goes something like this…

“I need X for my house because I owe Y on my mortgage.”

“The house is worth more, but I need to get the house for X, I’ve only been approved for  Y.”

“I want X for my house because I want to put Y down on my next house.”

You get the idea.

With their wants and needs regarding home values, buyers and sellers want to control the ” weather”. It’s as fruitless for them as it is for me.

The market, not buyer or seller wants and needs, determine property values. The market delivers its weather in the form of supply and demand, closed comparables, appraised values, motivation of the competition. The market doesn’t care what a seller owes, or what a particular buyer has been approved for. A buyer wants this, a seller needs that? The market couldn’t care less. The market has a heart as cold as this never ending winter.

Buyers and sellers have to recognize that they participate within a market they have no control over. They can make the best of it, put their best foot forward in it, they can push it to its limits, but they can not control it or change it.

Like me, buyers and sellers need to bundle up and deal with it.

What does that mean?

For buyers,  bundling up means having that preapproval letter ready, making a realistic offer with attractive terms, maybe even including a heartfelt letter to the seller.

For sellers,  bundling up means having your house in tip-top shape, making the small improvements your agent and stager suggested, it means presenting your property in its best possible light to the widest audience and it means pricing it appropriately for the market.

This winter WILL come to an end, birds will chirp and daffodils will bloom…but remember the market’s heart…it’s cold, no matter the weather.

Bundle up!

Did your agent not tell you…or did you just not listen?

I showed a house last week that I just can’t get out of my head. I’ve shown countless houses in similar condition, so I don’t know why I can’t stop thinking about this particular house.

It isn’t the house so much as it is a thought…a question really, that keeps running through my mind…

Did your agent not tell you or did you just not listen??

It was a nice enough house, there was nothing blatantly wrong with it. The entire selling family and their yapping dog were home for the showing and that didn’t help but it was the house itself that could have shown so much better. A good bit of decluttering, a fair amount of depersonalizing and a couple of coats of paint and the house would have shown and looked completely different. Better different, worth more money different.

And all the while I was showing the house, as I walked from room to room, the question kept running through my mind…

Did your agent not tell you or did you just not listen??

If this particular agent, in this particular instance didn’t tell his clients how to properly prepare their home for the market, shame on him. If the agent didn’t tell the seller to do the things that would maximize the sales price of their home, then he did his client a disservice. He didn’t do his job.

If the agent did tell them…if the agent let them know that the walls of family photos, the knick knacks on top of knick knacks, the lilac, pink and neon green rooms, their too much stuff and their yapping dog presence would be a hindrance to a top dollar sale…if the agent told them all that and they didn’t listen?? Then the sellers are fools.

Harsh, I know.

Lest you think I write this from my high horse, I have a confession to make.

In my earlier days, and regretfully more than once since, I’ve been an agent that “did not tell you.” Because I wanted your listing, I needed your listing, because I wanted you to like me, because I didn’t want you to be angry with me, because I didn’t know, because I was too new or too scared, I didn’t tell you. I didn’t tell you that the price you wanted for your house was never going to happen, I didn’t tell you that your house was dirty or cluttered or entirely too decorated. I didn’t tell you to get real, get cleaning and painting. I didn’t tell you to make sure you and your yapping dog weren’t home for showings. I didn’t tell you.

And I’m sorry. Shame on me. I did a disservice; I didn’t do my job. And I won’t let it happen again.

And I think that’s why I haven’t been able to get that house and the question out of my head until now…it’s been working its way through my mind until it could become this promise:

My seller clients may not always listen, it is their right to do as they wish…but wondering isn’t necessary…I told them.

Had an “I love my job” week

 
I had an “I love my job” week in real estate this week.

 
I got a new listing, sold one of my listings and had a buyer sale. That’s a good week. Selling houses means the promise of future paychecks and that’s a good thing. But a new listing, selling a listing and a buyer sale in and of itself isn’t what made it an I love my job week.

 
What made it an I love my job week was…Anna, Linda, and Joe and Britany…

 
This week I met Anna. I was interviewed and hired by Anna’s son Bob a couple of weeks ago. This week I was meeting Bob at the townhouse to have the photographs taken and to sign the listing paperwork. The townhouse belongs to Anna so she was there. Anna is 90 years old, born in 1923. Anna has moved to an assisted living community, she can’t really live on her own anymore, so she is sadly selling her beautiful townhome. Her age, her pretty white hair, the unsteadiness in her hands, as she signed the paperwork in that perfect handwriting you just don’t see anymore, the vulnerability of her demeanor…Anna moved me and I liked being near her. The townhouse is lovely and it will sell, but Anna was beautiful and getting to spend just that little bit of time with her…that was an I love my job thing.

 
The listing I sold is a house that’s been on the market for what seems like forever. The house belongs to Linda, it’s the family home; it’s her inheritance. Linda lives in Kentucky,  her husband is in Wisconsin where he was transferred over a year ago. The house selling means that she and her family can buy a house in Wisconsin and be together again. It’s been a long and difficult time for her and I am so happy that her wait is almost over. Listing sold…great. Seeing Linda get to finally be on her way…that’s an I love my job thing.

 
And then, just moments ago, I heard from the listing agent that the offer my buyers made on a house this week has been accepted. My buyers are Joe and Britany. They are a super sweet couple; been married for six years and are so ready to start a family. And they want the family they start to be close to Britany’s family…not 45 minutes away let’s make a plan for Sunday close, no, they want to be coffee close, stop by close. Showing them houses has been a family affair. Sometimes Britany’s mom and dad have come along; sometimes brother Ryan and his wife Kate have popped in to check out the house too. And whenever they all see one another, there’s handshakes and hugs all around.  Their affection for one another fills a room. They are all really good people so working with Joe and Britany has been a pleasure. And now they have a house! The house needs all kinds of updating: There’s wallpaper and paneling everywhere, bathrooms need to be updated, and the kitchen has awful fluorescent lighting that’s gotta go…and yet it’s perfect. Sold a house…great. Joe and Britany being over the moon happy and 60 days away from coffee-close…that’s an I love my job thing.

Definitely an I love my job week.

Happy Friday!

 

Top 10 Reasons I Love My Job

With the spring market underway, my days have been long…working from sun up to past sundown, each morning passing a quickly accumulating pile of laundry as I walk out the door, and coming home at the end of long days with my personal to do’s left undone. I’ve not been out with friends, or gone to the show in quite a long time. There’s an ebb and flow to working in real estate…this is a “flow” time of year. So for now at least, it seems that “work” is all I do.

And yet, I’m happy. I won’t go as far as to say, as the expression goes, find a job you love and you won’t work a day in your life.  It’s work, but I do love my job.

Most people have long days, and work really really, hard and yet not everyone has a job they love, not everyone is lucky enough to be happy in their careers. I was just thinking about this the other day, when lo and behold, Forbes publishes an article that says real estate agents are among the happiest in their careers. Who would have guessed? You can check it out here:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/03/22/the-happiest-and-unhappiest-jobs-in-america/work

The article sites a study that was done that “scored” a variety of factors that affect workplace happiness: one’s relationship with their boss and co-workers, work environment, compensation, growth opportunities, control over the work one does on a daily basis and others.

There’s truth in the “happiness” factors though they aren’t things I’ve “scored” or even conciously thought about. But because of the article, I have thought about it. Forbes and its study had their happiness factors, and I have mine. With maybe some overlap…here are the top 10 reasons I love my job.

1. People and their stories.

Everyone has a story, and each one fascinates me. It’s the people I meet, that I would otherwise not have known, and the life stories they share with me that I love, love, love the most about my job.

2. Each day it’s something new.

Sure there are regular tasks but every day brings a different combination of things. New people, new properties, new obstacles to get past…no two days are ever the same.

3. You never stop learning.

While it can be intimidating to not have an answer for everything, as someone that loves learning, my job provides a smorgashboard of things to learn.   Market trends, new technologies, social media and the things that just pop up in every deal, means there’s always something to learn.

4. Real Estate Agents are a hoot…and I get to hang out with them everyday.

I think real estate agents get a bad rap. We’re mostly  genuinely good people.  While we may be in competition with one another we’re generally a pretty try to be helpful to one another bunch, we’re fun and funny…a real estate office is a great place to work. At least mine is.

5. A chance to do good.

Moving is high on the list of stressful things to do, so when I’m able to ease  stress and burden for my clients and to help them get where they want to go, it feels good.

6. You can let your freedom flag fly.

There are laws to obey and rules to follow as a real estate agent but there’s also plenty or room to run your business as you like. I’m my own brand, so I’m free to be me.

7. You get to solve mysteries.

He likes newer construction, she’s drawn to vintage homes…what house will we find that they will agree on? It starts as a mystery, but you get to help solve it…and always do! Solving mysteries is one of the more fun things I do.

8.Outlet for Creativity

I’m not artistic, but I like that my job provides an outlet for creativity…brochures, choosing the right photos, listing verbage, writing a blog…they all sort of scratch the creative itch.

9. You won’t get fired or layed off. 

Starting up, building business, surviving downturns…none of that comes easy…on the contrary…it’s really, really hard (at least it was/is for me). But if you can do it, you can make a decent living…and no one can take your job away. I like that.

10. I do love houses.

Any agent will admit, liking people and houses is not reason enough to do this job. Liking people and houses is only the tip of the iceberg! But with that said, I do love houses. Old houses and new houses, dated houses and rehabbed houses, big houses and small houses. I do love houses.

So…those are the top ten reasons this” happiest in their careers” agent loves her job.  Would welcome hearing why you love yours….

Purple Staging Will Do by Amy Curtis

My last post was my “confession” of faith in the benefits of home staging. I am a believer. But I have my limits…

Have you seen the clever Ace Hardware purple paint commercial??  The one where the woman is searching for the perfect shade of purple? Here it is…

Got it? There’s purple…and then there’s purrrrple.

This may lose something in the translation, but I think you’ll follow…

There are degrees of purple…from the basic purple to the more dramatic purrrrple. And guess what? When it comes to staging a home for the market, there’s staging…and then there’s staaaaging. I’m a believer in the basic purple sort of staging.

Let me explain.

It was just this time of year three years ago and I was listing a home.  When I met with my clients they told me they had already contacted a home stager and were working on their “staging” list.  I thought it might be a good idea….until they told me what the stager had instructed them to do: Repaint the house (inside and out), replace all light fixtures, repave the driveway, relandscape the exterior, replace the garage door, buy “art” and rent furniture. We were in the midst of a rapidly depreciating market and the stager had made recommendations that would have cost thousands of dollars and would have taken precious weeks of market time to complete. And this for an already cute as button house with a gorgeous remodeled kitchen on a large beautifully landscaped lot. The house was already highly saleable, in a desirable location and the sellers were reasonable on price.

Kinda like purrrrple…this was staaaaging.

I suppose if money were no object and there was nothing but time and a seller could rest assured that they’d get back every dime spent, sellers would staaaage. They would just go ahead and remodel kitchens and baths, they’d tear up carpet and lay hardwood floors in their place, they’d paint the whole house in the latest shades of cream and beige, they’d remove all their knick knacks and art and drop a small fortune at Pier 1 to replace it all, they’d call contractors and landscapers. But let’s get real.

Why go with purrrrple when purple will do?

Purple staging is demphasizing seller decor and highlighting the home’s space and features. Purple staging is rearranging furniture for better flow,  it’s pulling pieces from some rooms to areas or rooms that need to be given a purpose, it’s tidying up closets and packing away personal items. Sometimes it includes jazzing up the bedding in the master bedroom, maybe replacing a light fixture or two or purchasing a statement piece of art or accessory that can be used or enjoyed in the sellers next home. But most of all, purple staging is realistic. Purple staging shouldn’t take more than a couple of hundred dollars or a week to complete. And though it’s not staaaaging, purple staging can still make a world of difference in the presentation of a home.

With spring market underway, time is precious…purple staging will do!

So yeah…I’m a believer. A purple staging believer.

 

I welcome your thoughts.