Around the Table

I went to the grocery store the other day; a task I’ve skipped for a few weeks due to working on our daughter’s wedding plans. As I was thinking through dinner plans and remembering how much I/we love to cook, I remembered the event that brought my family around the table several years ago. Our son was young, he’s 22 now, and he was throwing some sort of tantrum about dinner. I was fixing them a quick frozen meal, AGAIN. In his tantrum, he mentioned that all he wanted was for us all to sit around the dinner table and have dinner like a family. Wow. Being a mom that really cared about my kids, I thought I was doing a pretty good job handling the kids, the sports, the job, the household, etc. After all, I was making sure their basic needs were met, right?

Well, here’s my kid telling me one basic need wasn’t being fulfilled. The ordinary family dinner. There’s something to be said for this turning point. My hubby and I rediscovered our love of cooking while the kids found theirs. And I’m not kidding, my kids are skilled cooks now. Around the table, we talked, sometimes we argued, but we always made a point to do this one activity together several times a week. It wasn’t so much about what we were having as it was about the act of making time for each other.

After all this time has passed, I was reflecting on what this simple family activity actually DID and found myself comparing sitting around the table to finding the right home. You see, to my son, having us all together may have felt like a warm, caring hug. That’s exactly the feeling people are looking for when they’re choosing a home. To them, it should feel like togetherness. The right home will feel like a warm hug. Most of the time, buyers will forego several details of what they wanted in a dream home when they find the house that promises a future of family dinners and movie nights. That happy future is way more important than a fenced backyard.

Sellers, you never know when there’s someone in that buyer’s family wishing for that kind of family time. Appeal to the dream. Help them picture themselves around the table.

Finding the Sparkle

The end of the year always causes us to reflect on our lives and I’m knee deep in reflection this year. Looking back I feel like I lost some of my spirit this past year. It’s not as if I didn’t give my work 110% of myself-I always have worked hard. It’s more like my sparkle dulled a little. 

There were several job offers, which should have been flattering, but they succeeded in making me realize I wasn’t in a position they respected. I was ‘gettable’.

Being loyal to the core, this was really hard for me. Honestly, the last thing I want to do is change jobs or companies. However, if my people weren’t getting my sparkle, would they be better off without me?
The first thing I had to address was my sparkle. Where had it gone? Was it simply lost forever?

Every single one of us is susceptible to simply maintaining the status quo. Anything can get you there. A rude comment, blown out of proportion can rock your world for days. Or being treated unfairly by someone you respect. Some don’t have the ability to rise above these things. The smallest thing can be detrimental to the strongest of souls. There is a point that takes you to the intersection of giving up and making a drastic change.

Second, I need to G.Y.S.T. (get my stuff together) I’d encourage anyone at this point to step back and look at things from a different viewpoint. Question everything. Why have you chosen this path (or has this path chosen you)? What purpose have you served? Where was your passion directed?

My friend, Laurie Davis, posted this quote the other day and it sliced to my core. “One of the most courageous decisions you’ll ever make is to let go of what is hurting your heart and soul.”—Brigitte Nicole.
In my opinion, you have to consciously decide to get up in the morning and change your mind. This was my third and final step. Change my mind. Let go of everything.

I feel like I have it easy. I love my people. They inspire as well as challenge me and all the reward I need is to nurture their success. There it is. Therein lies the sparkle.

The end of 2014 was a gift. A self reassessment of sorts. My future is bright and clear. I’ll continue doing what I love and keep giving every ounce of myself to it.

Be. Here. Now.

This post is a little over 2 years in the making. I didn’t feel like I deserved to write it until now.

Be. Here. Now.bag-and-hands phone

For the last few years, I’ve heard this phrase more than I care to admit from my best friend. Be with ME, present in this moment right now. Experience this with ME. Make ME feel important. You see, social media can become an addictive drug for some. It certainly sucked me in. While at dinner, I would check my email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Not just at dinner. Every second of every day. I had to know what was going on in my online world. What my digital friends were doing at all times. While this addiction gained me some very important friends, knowledge and Klout points; it lost me almost as much. I had to be stopped. I needed an intervention.

Be. Here. Now.

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Learning, Growing, Pursuing

I’ve just returned from the 2014 National Association of REALTORS Conference, which was held this year in New Orleans. Every year I’ve attended, I’ve worked to find some tidbits of information to share with the agents back at the office. This year, however, NAR granted me access to the recordings of all the sessions and I felt free to focus on my own personal growth as a broker/coach/accountability partner.

Two sessions were especially meaningful to me. The first was from Bruce Gardner of Strategy Box titled Coaching Your Agents with the Seven Success Styles. Bruce hammered home the point we’ve all known for a long time—there isn’t just one successful type of salesperson. Different customers actually create a demand for many different sales styles and there’s a secret sauce to finding and coaching to each distinctive style. The other session that blew me away was from Trista Curzydlo of C4 Consulting titled Risk Reductions for Brokers in a Digital Age. When the session started, I felt as if I had a pretty good handle on what she was going to talk about. About 5 minutes in, I was pleasantly blown away. If you’re running a real estate company right now, it would be in your best interest to let Trista bend your mind a little bit with her challenging questions and tips on the risk and management of what she calls “New Media”. This girl isn’t just the smartest kid on the block, she’s also wildly entertaining with the ability to create fun where there’s usually fear and boredom.

On the Expo Floor I didn’t find a whole lot of new this year, but I did find a friend who’s launched a new product that seems like a great way to keep in touch with past clients. I was happy to find he expanded on the items we talked about last year and has created something that could turn out to be very valuable in a real estate transaction. Essentially, an active living history of a home—it’s called Home Diary. Don’t worry, the product is totally free and gives agents the ability to load their personal info and logo to the site. Once you’re set up, you can easily invite a list of friends or clients to create their own Home Diary. As the years go by in the home, owners can load information such as details on new appliances, extra work that’s been completed, receipts, warranties and more. When they go to sell the property they’ll simply share that info with their real estate agent and also have a reference to help fill out that dreaded seller’s disclosure.

As everyone knows by now, I’m not this serious worker bee all the time. Heck, we were in New Orleans, a place that demands you have fun—even the networking events were awesome. I was incredibly happy to have my real estate partner/husband with me this trip. Josh is one to turn every place he travels into his hometown and explore outside the tourist box. We became streetcar aficionados, honorary New Orleans Saints fans at the local spot Bamboula’s, part of the crowd at the Treme Creole Gumbo (Jazz) Festival, a bit of a blue crab eating spectacle in the French Market, Wild Thing singers on Royal Street and solid friends with a couple of locals. Here’s some fun pics from the trip.

Market Activity Still Up!!!

After studying the market activity for September in Clay County and Platte County, I can’t say that I’m surprised, this has been an impressive year for home sales overall. Sales are still up over last year, even this late in the year. A couple of factors I thought were affecting the numbers don’t seem to be as important as I thought. All of our Kansas City sports teams are playing their hearts out on the field and people are going to the games in masses. This leaves us to wonder if anyone is buying homes. Well, apparently they are!up arrow

First up, Clay County. For September 2013 we saw unit closed sales at 327 which have increased in 2014 to 355. Prices are up a little as well. The average sales price for September 2013 was $165,682 increasing to $176,723 for 2014. Inventory-wise we’re remaining fairly balanced with 5.45 months of homes available. Contracts are being negotiated to an average of 97.8% of full asking price.* Not bad at all!

Platte County’s unit sales are even with last year at 120 for September with an overall increase of 3% in sales year to date. Average sales prices keep rising and are up to $205,636, an increase of 6.9% over last year. Platte County’s inventory has tipped slightly towards a buyer’s market with 6.21 months of inventory available.*

Right now, interest rates are still surprisingly low, even though we’ve been hearing they’re expected to rise any day. Buyers are still getting great deals! As we always talk about, every single home and subdivision can be different. Be sure to check the stats specific to you before making a decision to list or buy.

*Data gathered from Heartland MLS

Lipstick on a Pig or Listing Photos?

Throughout the year I interact with and learn from the best of the best in real estate. These thought leaders talk about everything from the best way to follow up with web leads to keeping in touch after the sale—and everything in between. What I’ve heard more about these last few years is professional listing photos. So many feel a professional photographer must be hired for each and every listing to showcase it in it’s best light. Also, there’s the thought each and every customer should be treated the same way and your marketing plan should be consistent.

What would you think if I said I constantly argue with myself about this? How do I really feel?

Let me tell you, from a consumer standpoint, gorgeous listing photos that make a house look 110% better than it actually is make me feel as if I’m wasting precious time and being lied to. You see, my husband and I recently purchased a home. We actually felt we needed to tour more houses than we were interested in just because the listing photos made each and every house look like a gem.

It was almost comical to be on the buyer side of things and feel like someone just put lipstick on a pig and tried to sell it to me.lipstick pig

As a REALTOR, my argument comes down to the fact that it’s my job to get potential buyers through the door. It’s our job to market each property and present it in it’s best light. But, does the best light mean you must pay for professional photos on every listing? My answer is no. It’s not because I don’t love my photographers at Amoura Productions and want to give them every ounce of business I can. It’s the fact that I feel professional photos aren’t necessary every single time. So, what’s the best practice?

If you’re in a market and selling in a subdivision where all the competition is using professional photos—you’d better buck up and do it.

Sometimes a home is simply hard to photograph. If you take some photos and all the rooms look super small or you just couldn’t get the lighting right—buck up.

On that note, if the home is huge and you can only use 25 photos in the MLS, a professional will potentially be able to capture the foyer, living room and dining room in one photo. Isn’t it worth it then? Buck up. 🙂

Now, if everyone in the area is taking their own photos, you’re more apt to get away with using your own professional camera. However, use a wide angle lens and the HDR setting. Walk around and stage the home a little bit beforehand. Take the tips you’ve learned from the professionals and apply them when you’re taking your own and your photos will always look better than your competition’s.

Also, if it’s a handyman’s special and needs a good amount of work—those buyers would appreciate more accurate photos. Most investors buy and turn over several properties a year. Do you want to be known as the agent that wastes their time?

All in all, you’re running your own business and your budget might not allow for professional photos all the time. Take a proactive approach and consult with the sellers. If it’s not in your plan, the sellers may want to hire the photographer themselves.

Mid-Year Activity Update

2014_mid_year_activity_update

 

It’s been a whirlwind of a summer. The chart above may be reflective of the stats, but it certainly doesn’t reflect all the activity. Here’s a breakdown of what we’re seeing in Clay and Platte Counties as well as the entire Kansas City Regional area.

Clay/Ray Counties

Clay/Ray County sales were down for the month by 23.9% from 2013. Units were at 318 versus 418 last year. Year to date, unit sales are down 0.6%, with 2,694 units this year versus 2,710 last year. The average sales price for the month was up 14.5% from last year, with an average price of $186,025. Year to date, the average price is up 10.1%. The average price is $172,751 versus $156,885 last year. New listings were down 45 units to 566 or 7.4% from last year’s 611 units. Inventory is up 0.7% from last year and is running at 2,020 units. Inventory is down 67 units from last month.

Platte County

Platte County sales were down for the month by 13.7% from 2013. Units were at 151 versus 175 last year. Year to date, unit sales are up 0.9%, with 1,181 units this year versus 1,171 last year. The average sales price for the month was up 15.5% over last year, with an average price of $241,119. Year to date, the average price is up 8.7% from last year. The average price is $221,599 versus $201,989 last year. New listings in Platte County were up 8 units to 264, up 3.1% from last year’s 256 units. Inventory increased 6.6% from last year and is running at 938 units. Inventory is down 7 units from last month.

 Heartland

Adjusted sales* for the entire Heartland area were at 2,801, down 9.4% or 291 units. The average price was up 4.4%, and averaging $205,109. Year to date, sales were down 1.0% or 210 units for a total of 20,557 for 2014. The average price for the year is running at $190,667, up 5.8% from 2013’s average of $180,252.

The Info You Don’t See

This is all important, but what you’re not seeing is the reason so many agents feel overwhelmed right now. The past 4 or 5 weeks have been full of frustration for buyers and sellers. There’s been many contracts that have fallen through because of financing, inspections or appraisals. Problems like this create a sort of log jam in the system since most buyers will move onto another property after not getting their first choice. Most sellers will make repairs and drop prices and try to attract the eyes of a new buyer. All of this boils down to real estate agents doing more and more work. While one could argue (and some will)  it’s what we get paid to do, the other side will argue that we actually don’t get paid until the property closes. So, for some clients, an agent will work three times as hard and much longer hours for the same amount of pay. While the end goal is always customer satisfaction, I hope this sheds some light on how frustrating the business can be at times. A great real estate agent will take the brunt of the frustrations and issues and try to keep the transaction flowing smoothly for all parties.

We’re here, we’re working, we may just be quieter than usual and the stats may look like we aren’t.

Trust me, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Swimming Pool Envy

It’s summertime in the Midwest and we all call it the same thing. Misery instead of Missouri. It’s unbearably hot most days with humidity levels that curl even the straightest hair. It brings most of us inside seeking cooler temps courtesy of the hard working air conditioner.

Now is the time of year we all share the same desire….swimming pool envy. We walk outside and as our clothes start sticking to us we hear something off in the distance. Laughter and splashing. We walk around a corner and what do we see?
pool envy

I’ve had this pool envy disease for the better portion of my almost 40 years on this planet. I’ve always thought, “if I could only have a pool, summer would be awesome.”

Last year, my (our) dream finally came true. We found an affordable home with a pool and worked like crazy getting the pool ready for summer. New liner, chemicals, hubby worked on the pump and on, and on. We cleaned the pool often and truly enjoyed it every single hot day we could.

However, there’s something I never even considered when it came to owning a swimming pool and most pool owners don’t even mention it. Did you know owning a pool not only triples your water bill when you fill it, but it also more than doubles your monthly electricity bill. What? Yep. Who even notices that pump on the side of the pool that runs (usually on a timer) constantly during the entire summer? Running that pump is expensive. Buying the chemicals and keeping the pool clear is another expensive task. And guess what…check with your insurance company about random weather (or other) incidents that could cause damage to your pool. Because, you’ve probably guessed it by now, we’ve already had to replace the one we fixed and enjoyed last year. Our old one buckled under pressure one rainy day and, that’s it, we’re out a swimming pool. We’ve since torn out the deck, had the new pool installed and have enjoyed long hot days poolside—but there’s an awfully big price tag attached to that enjoyment.

My purpose here isn’t to scare you away from your pool envy (because nothing will). It’s simply to help you be fully aware of the real cost of owning a swimming pool and help lessen that craving. If you have friends that regularly invite you over….you should enjoy that to its fullest. Let them have the headache, heartache and wallet ache while you stop by and swim away.

Hug them lots and bring cold beverages.

Careful, Your Passion is Showing

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Not long ago, I was accused of lacking ‘passion’ when it comes to my work, my everyday job in real estate.

For a second, let’s remember Maya Angelou and her beautiful words:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Me, lack passion? Every single second of my day is filled with a passion for the real estate industry, my company and the people I have the pleasure of working with all day. Real estate isn’t easy and there’s days it takes passion just to get out of bed in the morning. Often, we find ourselves in the middle of difficult situations and we have to be strong and calm in the face of the storm…..PASSION is what moves us through it.

Fast forward to this past weekend when I was out with the hubby and some friends. We had the opportunity to see one of my favorites The Bob Harvey Band which included Bob’s son Quinn Harvey. I’ve enjoyed Bob Harvey’s music for years and it’s been awesome to watch his son, Quinn, really grow as a musician. From his early days when he seemed almost timid on stage, to the bold and confident musician he is now…. (forgive the raw video)

So, as I was sitting and watching Quinn play with such passion, I said something about it to my friends. Of course, this made the word for the night ‘passion’. Well, Jo, was that enough passion for you? (I love my friends) All this brought me back to the idea that anyone can accuse someone of lacking passion. But maybe, it’s not the fact that the passion is lacking, it’s that the person just doesn’t want to (or doesn’t see the need to) share their passion with you.

Are you worthy enough for your friends to share their passion with you?

Real estate is a relationship business and everyone that has any sort of relationship with me, knows that I’m in real estate. Not part of the time, not dipping my toes in the water, not as a hobby—-real estate is a career I’ve been passionate about since October 2000.

It’s awesome to see someone’s passion come alive in a career and I’m super happy to have this avenue to share my passion about real estate with the world. If your passion for your hobby or your career is strong, you commonly feel like you can take on the world and forget the naysayers.

Whatever it is and whoever you choose to share it with, I say, GO and live your passion.

Nobody can take it away from you with their words or their actions. It will always be inside you ready to bubble out when you let it. Protect it as you see fit.