Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Dancing Banana -- revisited

Do you remember that Dancing Banana on YouTube from, like, 10 years ago?  The video featuring a cartoon banana, the victim of poorer than poor graphics (even for the time!), who danced to "It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time?" 

Well apparently I do.  Last week, while trying to make dinner for my hungry and screaming cubs, that silly banana danced right into my head.  From out of nowhere.  In the moment, amid the screams and smell of burning whatever-it-was, that dancing banana appeared to me like a mirage in the desert.  And in a moment of desperate parenting, I pulled it up on the computer for them.

It did the job.  And now, a week later, this is what we're faced with at bedtime:

Happy Wordless Wednesday!  As you can see, there is never a wordless day around here!  :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

What's the value in YOUR job?

I love working with buyers.  There's just something about helping people find their dream home -- a place they can be proud of and call their own. 

A place they take pride in making their own through their own personal decorative touches, landscaping, and improvements. 

A place they can live their lives in, raise their families in, laugh in and cry in. 

And all at a price they can comfortably afford.

In order to do that, I have to be a true expert in my local market.  I need to know neighborhoods inside and out, and know what properties are doing there and when. 

And I love that, through my hard work, I can help save people with a dream to own a home (the classic "American Dream") from overspending on that home ... and getting themselves into trouble later down the road.

Who wouldn't want that?

So you can imagine my surprise when people call me to show them homes -- yet don't want to be represented in the transaction.  I actually had someone tell me a few months back that there was no value in my job.  That people can easily look at pictures of homes online and find their own. 

Well, that's partly true -- the part about being able to go online and look at pictures of homes.  Of course you can!  You can even map homes and see their sale history, if you know where to look (many people don't).

But I think there are a few misconceptions that people have about buyer's agents.  I'd like to briefly address the "fictions" and 'facts" about buyer's agents.
  1. FICTION: You have to pay for a buyer's agents.  FACT: Buyer's agents work for FREE (yes, FREE) ... until you buy something.
  2. FICTION: Buyer's agents do little more than look at homes online (which anyone can do form their own computer).  FACT: We do a lot more than that.  Buyer's agents are experts in neighborhoods and spend a lot of time analyzing market trends, home prices, inventory, sales histories, comparable properties.  They know what a homes real value in the market is (I'll blog more about this later, as it is it's own post entirely).  Realtors also have MLS access, which is far more up-to-date and accurate than other real estate Web sites out there (even your favorite ones). 
  3. FICTION: Finding a home is the hardest part.  Once you find the home, you buy it and that's the end.  FACT: Finding the home is the easiest part.  Buying a home is a whole other animal.  It's not like buying a couch.  There's negotiations ...contracts ... inspections .. appraisals ... and the myriad of things that can go wrong with all of them.  (What happens if the house doesn't appraise for what you, unrepresented by an agent, agreed to pay for it?  What happens when something goes wrong with the inspection?  What happens if the seller wants to back out at the last minute?)  Don't think these things don't happen -- I see it every day.
The truth is, having a trusted buyer's agent represent you -- whether your buying your first home or your 10th -- is the best decision you can make once you've decided to buy.  It's 100% free -- and will actually SAVE you money, stress, and potential heartache in the end.  Yes, you can still look for homes online -- go crazy!  Yes, you can still stake out neighborhoods and go to all the open houses you want on weekends.

Just do it all knowing you've got an agent looking out for you.  ;)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Head in a bubble, now you're in trouble

I've spent the last six weeks in a giant bubble.  Not a "Glenda the Good Witch" kind of bubble, but a kind of bubble void of any oxygen that has floated me here and there and everwhere.  And then ... POP!  The other day, it finally burst and landed me back at home, with no idea of what was going on around me.

I had great intentions for this summer.  I was going to take the kids to the pool.  We would go on walks in the evenings, and E would take swim lessons.  We'd get him a bike with training wheels, and R would learn to ride a tricycle.  There would be lots of grilling out and roasting marshmallows with good friends.

I'd be busy with real estate, but I'd balance work perfectly with my volunteer duties with Ethiopian Orphan Relief.  I'd begin a direct mail campaign and help raise much-needed funds for orphaned and vulnerable children. 

And in the meantime, I'd potty train R before the school year.

But as you can probably guess by the way this post is going, none of this actually happened.  What happened instead was that everyone got sick, and stayed sick for a month (in fact, I am still sick after 5 weeks).  While we were all ailing, lawns needed to be mowed ... errands needed to be run ... and children needed to be fed.  Bathtimes needed to be squeezed into the 15 minutes we had between one thing and another. Tantrums and tears became like background noise, and the exhaustion grew and grew.

A couple of "easy" family trips were made difficult by long car rides, lots of packing, lots of carting toddlers from here to there.  Sicknesses continued.  My grandmother passed away, and more chaos ensued while trying to pack up the kids up quickly, take care of work and change appointments, drive toddlers back out to Washington, DC for the scond time in two weeks, and take care of them at the wakes and funeral.

The bubble finally popped this past Monday, the day after we returned, exhausted, from the funeral.  I asked my husband to take the kids to school, and on my own way to work he called me.  "Um, do they have school today?  There's no one here."  Ohmygoodness.  In all the chaos of the last month, I didn't realize their summer camp had ended ... and that they would start school the next week for good.  The summer was over.  I hadn't been fulfilled my volunteer duties to the best of my ability, and had let people down.  We hadn't gone on family walks, pool trips, or bike rides.  I needed to get a uniform for little R.  And she still wasn't potty trained.

POP.  Back to reality.  Now it's time to mop up the suds ... and catch up on everything that I missed while floating from here to there.  It's been a learning experience, to say the least.  And that's one thing that's made the summer all worth it -- that I've learned, learned, learned.  And I'm still learning.  And I made some precious memories to forever remind me of how blessed I am to have such wonderful teachers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Endings, Beginnings, and Ice Cream

Mom has been in the Sick House for the last month, hence the time gap since my last post. First, E got bronchitis, then my darling husband got the flu (in July??), and now I'm sick as well.  Well, what goes around comes around.  It happens to even the very, very best of us, I suppose. ;)

The real estate market around here continues to be very, very interesting.  Things that are updated and priced well go FAST ... and yet, some other very valuable properties that just might need some cosmetic updating -- but are otherwise gems in very desirable locations -- are sitting longer.  I recently read an article about how, more than ever now, buyers are "community shopping" as opposed to "home shopping."  It surprised me, because I am tending to see the opposite with many buyers (at least around here).  I am seeing many buyers just want "finished and new" -- even if the location might be less convenient or less well established.  Although, every buyer is different ... and it's true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

As a newer agent, I'm learning quickly that it's hard to say "goodbye" to my clients at the closing table.  I mean, some people and families I feel I've really gotten to know and love.  I have had the best time helping them realize their dreams in their new home.  It's a highly personal decision I've helped them make,  and one of the biggest financial investments they may make in their lives.  I've talked with them day in and day out, spent hours in the car with them, and have really gotten to know them. 

And then, at the closing table, you hand them the keys and they ride off into the sunset.  Which, of course, I'm HAPPY about -- that's exactly what we've worked towards together for all this time, right? But I am finding that, like some weirdo, I have the sudden urge to shout "Call me!" as they drive away.  But, this is part of the job, and I am getting to learn it!

And with every goodbye, there are more "hellos" around the horizon.  I love meeting new people and working with new clients.  And the cycle continues (or so we hope in this business! ...)

And the last thing I've learned so far from my new career?  Ice cream has to happen.  Every night.  Not sure why -- maybe it's because it's so dang hot out?  Maybe I subliminally think I can depend on it's sweet, cold, creamy goodness at the end of every day?  Maybe I'm overanalyzing my ice cream addiction?  I don't know.  Does anyone else have this problem???

All I know is that as I close the freezer, full and happy, it's as if I hear that faint and familiar voice call out to me ... "Call me!"  Yes, yes I will, Edy's Limited Edition Pineapple Coconut.  Same time tomorrow night.  ;)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Three-Year-Olds' (Chicken) Nuggets of Wisdom

About a week after I began work, my three-and-a-half year old son came up to my while I was getting ready.

"Mommy," he said and sighed.  "I'm so proud of you."

"Aw, thanks, bud.  Why?" I said.

"Because you're working now.  I'm so, so proud of you now, mommy!"

"Ummm, thanks bud."  I said.  But I really thought, "Huh.  Does that mean he was 'ashamed' when I 'wasn't working' taking care of him and his little sister all this time?"  Of course, it was a funny moment I didn't take too seriously.  But he did bring it up again today out of the blue.  "Mommy, I'm so proud of you.  You go to work ... and I'm also proud you got your nails painted."

(Sigh.  Always a critic.)

Actually, he's fascinated by the whole new "working" mom thing.  He loves to pretend he's going to work with my team and pulls out imaginary smart phones and pretends to text and leave work-related voice mail messages to my team members.

And I love that he's always trying to help and support me in this new role.  Every morning, while we're all getting ready, he asks what I'm going to do that day. The other day, I was a little stressed already in the morning.  I had a lot on my plate (both at home and work).  When he asked what I was doing that day, I went through the list.  "Mommy!" he practically yelled.  "You can't do all those things!"  Then he lowered his voice seriously and said:

"You just have to do them one at a time."

"Huh," I thought again.  Here I am, 30 years old, and I haven't figured out what my three-year-old already knows.  People pay big bucks for therapists and coaches to give them the same sound advice. 

Simple, innocent, and honest-to-goodness nuggets of wisdom.  From a three-year-old.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Opening up about open houses

Are you one of those people who loves to go to open houses?  Do you love spending Sunday afternoons wandering around their neighbors' houses to see how they decorate ... to see how much work they put into the home ... and to see how much they're really asking for the house?

If you answered YES to the above questions, don't feel ashamed.  I used to be one of those people too.  As a matter of fact, I have a long-standing relationship with open houses that began long before my real estate career.

Before children, my husband's and my Sunday ritual involved driving around to different open houses.  Sometimes we just followed the signs to see where they took us, and sometimes we got serious and mapped out our routes after scouring the newspaper for open house ads.

When we were first married, we were too dorky scared to leave our real names and contact information at the open houses.  We felt extremely guilty for walking through a house we had absolutely no intention of buying and bothering the poor real estate agent inside.  As time went on, we got slightly less dorky braver and signed in with our real names.

Fast forward -- eight years after going to my first open house, I am a Realtor.  My dad used to always say when I was growing up, "Everything comes full circle."  And now I know it's true because I get people that visit my team's Web site every day looking at homes and leaving fake names/numbers/e-mail addresses.

It doesn't bother me, because I know exactly how they feel.  They don't want anyone to know they were just being nosy and looking at houses.  But I'm here to tell you this:

"Hey!  It's OK!  You're totally not bothering me when you're just coming through looking at houses -- whether it's online or at an open house.  That's what Web sites and open houses are for.  In fact, I WELCOME neighbors and curious people to come on by to my open houses!"

Now, tomorrow I'm holding an open house.  It's not my first; it's actually my third time doing one.  I didn't get much activity at my first two, and I'm hoping that some friends/neighbors/curious people pop on over.  I will have cookies waiting!

The home is in the Brookside Woods neighborhood in Columbus (Worthington schools).  The house is in $89 a square foot, which is just a crazy good deal.

Now, if you want the address, I'll post it on Facebook.  If you're not my FB friend, shoot me a message and I'll give it to you.  (I'm new and slightly cautious about posting about being alone in a house online, because real estate agents are attacked in empty houses more often than I care to think about.  But just so you know, I will have pepper spray on me and my big strong husband close by!)

So if you want to come visit me and check out a fab deal in a fab neighborhood, I'd love to see you tomorrow.  Please don't plan on attacking me.  And please don't be afraid to give me your real name.  :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life as we know it

Ahhh, the end of the day.  Before I went back to work, I cherished this time of the day in a "Thank goodness the day is over!" kind of way.  Now, I cherish it because I love the feeling of a day accomplished.

This is not to say that I didn't accomplish anything in the three years I stayed at home.  Of course I did!  I ran a successful (yet messy) household and did everything I could for my two children (who are the loves of my life).  And I still do.  Going back to work doesn't change that.

But being a stay-at-home mom is tough.  I know that stay-at-home moms everywhere will back me up when I say it's one of the hardest, most demanding jobs on earth.  It really is.  And talk about accomplishments: you have wonderful, living, breathing products of all your hard work right there beside you, loving you right back unconditionally.

So why did I decide to start a career in real estate now -- with two young children at home?  Well, answer this is that this was something I dreamed of doing for a long time -- but held back, time and time again, because I never felt it was "the right time."

But guess what?  There may never be "the right time."  It finally dawned on me that "the right time" practically doesn't exist -- that is, unless you make a time "the right time."  There will always be reasons not to do things.  Heck, I find a million reasons every day why now is not the right time to put my folded laundry away.  But I did finally just decided that now is just as good a time as yesterday, next month or next year to start my new career.

And as a result, life as we know it has changed.  All four of us -- hubby, kids, and me -- are learning a new dance, a new routine, and really trying to figure it out along the way. Our house is messier than it was before (could it be possible??  I didn't think it could be.  Turns out I was wrong).  Errands don't get run as quickly or efficiently.  I do miss things like play dates and zoo trips and fun at the pool with my kids during the day.  And I swear my daughter looks older every time I pick her up from her Montessori school every afternoon.

But I'm really excited about my new role as a real estate agent.  There's soooo much to learn, and I'm quickly figuring out that no two days in real estate are the same.  Every client, every house, every aspect of every contact or transaction is different -- and I love that.

I love that I get to help people find the place they can call home.  And I love that, after a great day of helping people, I can go home to my family that I call home.  I feel very fortunate to be in this position, and can't wait to learn more and do more every day -- both at home and at work.  In life.  Period.