Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Q: We’re getting ready to sell our house and have some questions.

Our daughter says that we should paint the whole place inside and out. That would cost us a lot of money we just don’t have right now. I really think it looks pretty good but I’d like your opinion. We also wonder about re-doing our driveway. There are some potholes and it looks kind of bad.

A:
After visiting your home I would recommend that you absolutely do something with the driveway. Some of those potholes could cause real damage to a low riding car. It will distract a buyer who, instead of enjoying the drive into your lovely yard, might be concerned about their car making it into the property and worry that they could get whiplash!

As for painting, the outside paint looks like it’s in good condition to me. What is needed is cleaning. In our climate it’s common to have moss grow on outside walls. Most of our houses in this region would look like they had new paint if we just pressure washed the exterior or cleaned the outside by hand. There are also marks from dirt and grass thrown against the house by lawnmowers and weed eaters.

The interior of your home does look a little tired. Fresh paint in a light color would add a fresh and sunny look that will make it show much better. If you’re careful, you can even do this yourself. If you simply can’t do that, then at least wash down all the walls very carefully so that you remove any grime. That will perk it up a little bit, anyway.

We should all thoroughly clean the inside and outside walls of our homes if we’re thinking of selling, or just to keep it nicer for ourselves. After people really clean and paint their homes to get ready to sell, I’ve often heard them say that they never had it looking that good all the time they lived there. What a shame.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Q: New neighbors have moved in and I am very upset about what they are doing.

I've lived in the same house on Vashon for over 30 years. Our new neighbors have taken out two beautiful big trees and are building a big fence around their yard. No one on our block has ever had a fence. We have always thought it was much more neighborly to leave all of the yards open. I spoke to the new neighbors about it and they don't seem to care what the neighborhood thinks. Do you have any suggestions?

A:
People moving into a new community bring the values and habits of their old neighborhoods with them. Perhaps these folks lived in an area where privacy was very hard to come by and all of the houses had fences. They could also be fearful of trees falling on their house in a wind storm, or being a fire danger, and that's why they cut down the trees.

There is probably nothing you can do to remove the fence and you certainly can't replace the trees. What you can do is to back off of your negative attitude and try to slowly make friends with these folks. It may take awhile. They may be mistrustful, based on past experiences, as well as from your initial contact with them.

Most of us don't like change. We also don't like people who have different values than ours. But having a cordial relationship with neighbors is too important to let these issues drive us into a neighborhood war over every little thing. In an emergency, we need each other. Plus, life is simply more pleasant when we learn to care about others. Sorry to sound like I'm preaching, but getting clear on what really matters is important.

Sometimes, when you make the effort, you can gently educate people about the value of trees for wildlife, shade, and oxygen. It's always best to do this by example. You can also help them to trust you so that one day they may not feel the need for fences. Good luck.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Q: I just got started in real estate.

It's a whole lot more work than I thought it would be. I haven't had any training beyond what it takes to get a license, and the office I work in doesn't do much to help either. I really like to work with buyers, but my biggest beef is people who come out and look at everything for weeks, but I don't think they ever intend to buy. Are they "looky-loos?" How do I know if that's what they are until I've wasted a lot of my time?

A:
First, I should tell you that it's very common in a market as small as ours to spend six months or even a year showing property to people before they find something that suits them. Most experienced agents will tell you that a quick sale is rare in our market.

This can be a great opportunity for you to hone your skills. Each set of clients is another chance to learn about people and to work on establishing good relationships. Keep track of peoples' questions. If you don't know the answer, do your homework and find out the answer. Then, get back to the client with the information.

Real estate is really a matter of relationship building. Buying a house or property is usually the largest single investment for most people. They need to trust you, believe you know what they're looking for, and that you are knowledgeable about the community and real estate market.

I believe most brokers would recommend that you take more classes and show homes and property to as many people as possible. Pay attention to what they say and what they want, and do more research on local issues. Perhaps one of the other more experienced agents in your office, or your broker, will be willing to mentor you.

When it comes time to write an offer, be sure to get some help from someone more experienced. I think clients will be happier to have you get some help rather than have you make a mistake.