Happiness by the numbers

thinkerI always enjoyed school. Once I got to college at the University of South Florida, though, I really had to hone in on the classes that were going to be required for my major whether I liked them or not. The one and only class that gave me fits, and the one and only class I ever had to repeat in college was (cue the scary music) statistics. I love research but statistics and I never saw eye to eye. It was much the same way in Algebra. I wanted to know WHY X=Y. I wanted to know WHY one formula was right but other perfectly good formula was not. I’ve always enjoyed the study of human behavior and learning why we do the things we do so it seems fitting that statistics frustrated me because I could never get to the WHY.

Just the same, I’m a sucker for magazine articles about behavioral patterns that teach us why people do what they do. When I graduated from college with my degree in Social and Behavorial Sciences it wasn’t with the intention of putting my degree to use in real estate, but here I am. As a full time real estate Broker I have plenty of opportunities to study the behavioral patterns of buyers and sellers up close and personal. Understanding the nature of human behavior comes in handy a lot in this business.

So today when I got my copy of Insight magazine, a publication of the North Carolina Association of Realtors, I was immediately intrigued by one of the stories about the connection between how our homes are designed and our happiness. The article references a survey conducted by Houzz, one of my all time favorite websites, and according to the 6,000 people who responded here’s what makes us happy in our homes.

74% are happier after remodeling their home.
72% are happiest in rooms that are clean an organized.
42% find happiness in the living room while only 15% are happiest in the kitchen.
Men are 2 times more likely to find happiness from a big-screen TV.
74% prefer big windows.

Want more?

317 is the number of square feet by which the average new home size has increased since 2009.
29.7% was the percentage by which new vacation home sales jumped in 2013.
65% of home buyers want an “environment friendly” home.
70% said that if they were moving, they would buy instead of rent.

If you’re like me, you probably found more than one nugget of truth in these answers and possibly some surprises. I would like to be encouraged by the increases in vacation home sales and that people are in the mood to buy a home instead of renting. The increase in square footage was a surprise for me, though, considering the trend to downsize. The other surprise was the low percentage of people who are happiest in the kitchen. Kitchens and baths are two of the biggest selling points in any home so I’m flummoxed by that one. Maybe those folks just need a better kitchen.

Articles like this are fun. They aren’t hard scientific research, but they give us a small insight into how other people view their homes and what role their home plays in their day to day happiness. From the dawn of man we’ve sought shelter and place we can call our own.  It’s just human nature to want to come home at the end of the day to a place that makes us happy – whatever and wherever that may be.

If you are in the market for a “happy home” of your own, give us a call…. we’d love to help.

Sellers Corner – The Power of Marketing

About a month ago, we got a call from some folks who had been trying to sell their home. Evidently, it had not been going well with their existing agents and they wanted to talk to us about making a change. So we met them at their property and immediately fell in love with the entire package. It was an attractive, well maintained home in a great (actually fabulous) setting. The home was priced a little lower than we thought it could be, but otherwise their current listing sheet had a sufficient number of photos, room measurements were there, and there was an adequate, though not particularly compelling, description of the property.  So why hadn’t such a great property sold? The piece of the puzzle that was missing and the reason it hadn’t sold was marketing.

When we list properties we look for a “perk” –  something that screams for attention and makes buyers sit up and take notice. Not every property has a perk and sometimes it’s hard to find something special to hang your marketing hat on.  But that wasn’t the case here. This was a great home with wide river frontage, 15 minutes from some the best fly fishing and kayaking in the area, in a nice country setting, with views of the mountains. Any one of those things would be enough to work with but this home had it all and we recognized the potential and more importantly, we knew how to capitalize on it.

Several days later, we got another call from the sellers letting us know that the other agents had agreed to let them out of their listing agreement and they were ready to get started with us.

IMG_9636B&W_peSMRobert and I, along with Ace our real estate dog,  spent the better part of a day shooting new pictures and a video. The location was off a dirt road, along the river, and in the country, so we decided to do an “Andy of Mayberry” sort of opening.  The approach we took was to focus on the lifestyle. The house had a lot going for it, but it was the setting that was going to sell this property.  Finding a home in this price range (even after we raised the listing price $15,000) with this much river frontage isn’t something that comes along every day and that was the hook. We carried that theme into the description of the property on the listing sheet and in various print ads. When it was all said and done, the video went out on You Tube, onto our listing, and out to the world.

Fast forward 22 days after signing the listing papers with us.  The sellers have entertained 2 offers and are now under contract with one of them.  Plus, by using our pricing strategy they not only sold quickly, they sold for more money than they would have at the lower listing price.  They will close in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, our phone continues to ring with inquiries from other agents and buyers who have seen the video and have an interest in the property.

There is a reason why companies large and small spend so much money on marketing….because it works. Real estate is no different. The minute you sign the listing papers, your home becomes a consumer product and just like the car you drive, the clothes you wear, or the ketchup you put on your french fries, your home will stand a better chance of selling if it is marketed properly.  Just ask these sellers!




Farm Fresh Markets Near Brevard

For some people, summer time means family vacations or a trip to the beach. For me, and other foodies, the summer months are when we can flex our cooking muscle with the freshest fruits and vegetables of the year. I’m not talking about tomatoes that were grown in California and shipped in or green beans Heartpotatothat have been transplanted from Ohio. I’m taking about vegetables with local roots that are so fresh you have to brush the warm soil off them. It may sound strange to anyone who has only known life in a big city where “fresh” probably means anything picked in the last 2 months, but there is a world of difference between a potato straight out of the field and the potato you find in your local grocery store. And don’t get me started on tomatoes. I feel a little sorry for anyone who has only known tomatoes from a grocery store.

As a child, being the product of a southern upbringing, summer was the time of year when beefsteak tomatoes and juicy cantaloupe shared our breakfast plates with the salty country ham, homemade biscuits, and fried eggs.  Come supper time, it wasn’t unusual for us to have a meatless meal of pinto beans, turnip greens, fried okra, a wilted salad, and a tall glass of iced tea. For anyone who grew up north of the Virginia line, a wilted salad is bibb lettuce and green onions picked fresh, topped with bacon, and then drizzled with warm bacon grease. I know, I know. But these were the days when kids played outside every night until the street lights came on or your mom called you in to eat. Worrying about what all that bacon might be doing to your arteries wasn’t on our radar. It was just the food my southern family was raised on.  Even today I can’t imagine summer squash without onions and bacon.

My grandparents in Louisiana were part of that self-sufficient generation that always had a garden. It was in my grandmother’s kitchen where I first learned to appreciate summer vegetables. Whatever wasn’t eaten during the growing season was put up for the winter months.  Everyone had a pantry lined with jars of green beans, corn, chow chow,  tomatoes, squash, and black eyed peas, ready to enjoy when the warm days of summer were long gone. It was what you had to do to keep food on the table. Even though both of my parents worked outside the home when I was growing up, and grocery stores were plentiful, they also managed to have something growing in our back yard.   Ideally, I’d have my own little back yard garden to satisfy my cravings for fresh vegetables this time of year. Ideally, I would have inherited not just the knowledge of how to grow things, but how to can them for the months ahead.  Sadly, I have neither so for the time being, I rely on local growers who do know how to do those things. Lucky for me, I live in an area where this time of year I can find just about any fresh vegetable I can think of.

The Transylvania Farmers Market in downtown Brevard is a great place to start if you’re looking for fresh vegetables, fresh eggs, locally grown beef, jams and jellies made with local berries, and a whole lot more. Most weekends, there’s live music to enjoy while you fill your basket with all these goodies.  To me, it’s the perfect way to spend a cool Saturday morning.

cornfieldJust east of us is another one of my favorites spots.  McCalls Farm is a family farm located in Penrose, about an 8 minute drive east of Brevard.  Going to McCalls is more than a stop for great farm to table food, it’s the total experience.  The last time we were there, there was a boy about 10 years old driving the tractor in from the field all loaded down with the best corn you’ll ever eat. I never buy corn in the grocery store. Why bother. It’s nothing like fresh picked corn. While you’re there you can pick up a mess of green beans, tomatoes, peppers and other farm fresh food for your family. McCalls is old school and doesn’t have a website, but you can find them on Crab Creek road, just off Highway 64.  Or you can call them at 828-884-4054.  Corn season started today, July 14 and will only run for a couple of months so get there and get you some while you still can.

For the mother load of farmers market, head to Asheville for the WNC Farmers Market. It’s part the NC Department of Agriculture. This is the same spot where local restaurants come to fill their own pantries and stock up local produce for their daily specials. It’s an amazing experience and you’ll want to take your time. It’s 38,000 square feet and filled with certified farmers who sell direct to consumers. It’s a scenic spot with easy access and it’s open year round.

I envy people who have the time, energy, and knowledge to grow things. In Transylvania County, it seems more people have some kind of garden than don’t. I keep saying “someday” and when that day comes I will happily pick my own home grown tomatoes, have green peppers at hand, and enjoy tender baby squash. And yes, now and then I will indulge my past with a wilted salad. Until that day comes, you’ll find me at the farmers market as often as possible.



How To Prepare For Your Home Inspection

The very idea of a home inspection can strike fear in the hearts of sellers but for buyers it’s a good way to learn everything you can about the home you are about to buy. The buyer pays for the home inspection and it is the inspector’s job is to discover all the flaws and faults of a home (real or perceived) then neatly detail them with pictures and descriptions in a written report for the buyer. It’s a great idea, in theory, but sometimes an inspection report can create controversy and cause unnecessary problems between a buyer and a seller. With a proactive seller and a fair-minded buyer, though, both parties can come through the process and head towards the closing table without too much drama.

What do sellers need to know?

As a seller, no matter how diligent you are, there is no way you will ever know everything about your home so you may as well anticipate that the inspector is going to find things. That’s what they are paid to do.  Sometimes, those “things” are significant like termite damage, water intrusion, faulty wiring, leaky plumbing, structural issues, or a high radon reading. Other “things” you will likely see are a lot less scary like a door that sticks, a loose railing on a deck, a missing face plate on an electrical plug, or a light that doesn’t work.  Big or small, the more things that show up on an inspection report the greater the anxiety level for the buyer. They are looking for some degree of assurance that they are buying a home that isn’t going need a lot of repairs right away and if the report shows a long list of things that need to be done, it can cause them to second guess their decision and no one wants that to happen. Sometimes, though a buyer’s expectation can be unreasonable and that’s when a good buyer’s agent should step in and help guide their client.  Sellers can short circuit this anxiety, though, by making sure the home has as few defects as possible and it begins with a note pad and a walk around your home.

INSPECTOR1. Check all your doors and windows. Does anything stick? Are the windows difficult to open and when they open, do they stay open? If not, add them to your list of things to be taken care of.

2. Check your plumbing. Do any faucets drip? Do you notice any clogged or slow draining sinks? Do all your outside faucets work? You may consider paying for a plumbing company to come inspect your home for you in advance to look for any damaged pipes, leaks, and especially water intrusion and get any problem areas taken care of before the home inspection.

3. Change all your air conditioning filters. If it’s been a while since you’ve turned your A/C or heat on, give it a test. Does everything heat and cool as it should? Like your plumbing, if it’s been a while since you have had your HVAC system serviced, now would be a good time to do that so you can take care of anything that might show up on the report.

4. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace the batteries and make sure they work.

5. Check for burned out light bulbs. Sounds simple, but if a light doesn’t work, it will show up on the inspection report even if it is nothing more than a burned out bulb. The inspector’s report won’t indicate why a light doesn’t work, only that it doesn’t.

6. The tougher things to detect on your own are on the exterior and found in places you probably don’t visit often like the crawl space or the attic. On the exterior you want to look for any soft wood, a damaged shingle or a roofing nail that has popped up, a loose gutter, a loose flange around the chimney.  If you have a good handy man handy, do a preemptive inspection for those things and repair them. Structural issues are a little different. We recently had a seller who was required to install squash blocks in his floor joists.  If you aren’t a builder you probably would not know what those are or why they are important, but it’s the kind of thing a home inspector will point out and something a buyer will likely expect you to repair.

7. Look for any potential pests like ants, termites, bees, hornet nest. Treat if in doubt.

8. Look for any signs of water intrusion. Water can come from a number of sources and it’s never good. If you don’t know what to look for or if you don’t like poking around in your crawl space, add it to the list of things for a handy man or your plumber to look for.

Whatever repairs you decide to make be sure to keep receipts so you can demonstrate that the work has been done. Not every job requires a licensed professional, but if the repair involves a roof, plumbing, or anything structural, it’s a good practice to hire someone who is.

A word or two for buyers

Home inspection reports were created to give the buyer an opinion on the overall condition of the home and help them identify potential problems. They were never intended to be a big stick that you use to beat up a seller over every defect in a home. Unfortunately that is how some buyers approach it. Yes, a buyer can ask a seller to repair anything or everything on the report but a seller is under no obligation to repair anything.  This is where it gets a little tricky because in North Carolina a buyer can bail out on a contract during the due diligence period for any reason at all and a inspection report with a lot of recommended repairs can be just the ticket out.  It is certainly reasonable to ask a seller to make certain repairs or ask for a credit so you can make those repairs yourself but if a seller has agreed to a buyer’s offer that is far below the home’s real value, it’s reasonable to expect that a seller may be less inclined to be generous with what they will repair.

The bottom line?

Sellers, be proactive.  Prepare for the inspection by identifying as many issues as you can and addressing them before the inspection. Buyers, be reasonable. Every home has issues. Even a brand new home. So as my mother used to say “pick your battles”.  If there is a significant repair that is needed, work with the seller to determine the best way to deal with it and don’t sweat the small stuff.  With a proactive seller and a reasonable buyer, there is no reason why both parties can’t meet at the closing table with little or no drama.