November 26th, 2011
Anyone who has, or is responsible for anything of value knows the word.
Both a noun and a verb, it’s a complete and unblinking account or listing of what exists, tangibles, even intangibles. It’s a frozen moment in time, usually done because of some greater, larger value.
Whether you are 8 years old and doing a daily check of your Halloween candy-as a precaution against marauding older siblings, a person in recovery looking to stay that way, or a businessperson needing to balance their books, it’s a tool to base further actions on.
As we are rocketing to another new year, it’s a big topic of conversation. Having a clean slate and a plan in place for the new year is an attractive thought, but it can feel like a daunting task to look back and honestly, thoroughly enumerate our actions-or inactions, and the results. Here are a few things that many years in retail taught me to get started, and get through it:
- Listing/recording is all it is. There is no critical analysis, guilt, or judgement, in the proces of inventory.
- Whatever is, “IS”. You can’t re-write history, but you can learn from it. And sort of a Darwin-ian corollary, if there are aspirations to continue-grow-even thrive-you need need to first know all of what “IS”.
- It’s rarely as bad as you think it is. The guilt/procrastination is the worst.
- You can’t do anything genuinely productive until you really know what “IS”
- SURPRISE! A solid inventory also reminds you of all the good and positive things.
As a store manager, it was lots of paperwork before, then after, to reconcile. As a human being hoping to keep evolving into the best person I can be, it means revisiting those too-flip comments that hang heavy in the air, hours later. Since the refreshed home carries little physical inventory, professionally it means asking other trusted professionals for their opinions, and their feedback
If you have read this far, chances are good that bettering yourself is one of your goals as well. ALSO-that there is a fair amount of ”good stuff” that you have long forgotten, or taken for granted.
No matter if it’s for personal or professional reasons, taking an inventory is not just a great way to start the new year, it’s an even better way to wrap up the current one. Take a deep breath, you’ll be fine.
September 11th, 2011
Am finishing up a few big projects now, two of which required me to replace appliances to get the houses ready for sale.
Although I always prefer to go to smaller, local stores I need a lot of things for these jobs, so thinking well, OK< maybe the NAMELESS BIG BOX STORE will save me some time.
Here is the condensed version of my experience that actually took place over 3 days.
ME: What-an appliance sale? 10% off , and YOU’RE KIDDING-another 10% off for opening and using your store’s charge card??
NAMELESS BIG BOX STORE: YES!!
ME: (Thinking now)-HMMMM-that could be a lot of money on a bunch of appliances. Clients hire me to help make decisions that are in their best interest. Putting my personal views aside, if I can save them some dollars on a known entity, I will.
ME: (Talking) Sign me up!!
NAMELESS BIG BOX STORE: OK!
ME: (Afterwards, looking at the bill, finding 10% only off on appliances over a certain dollar volume, and other 10% off is only on the first item on my purchase) Please cancel this order.
Then- (sound of dialing on new smart phone)- “Hello, Bergers?”
Berger’s Appliances has been in the same location, on Commerce Street in Hawthorne since the early 60′s. Opened by Ernie Berger Sr., his sons Ernie Jr. and Bob went on to run the place, and Ernie still puts time in there.
The showroom is not fancy, it pretty much looks the same way I remember it did in the 60′s when my parents were buying a new fridge. Showing an uncanny awareness of good value, even at that tender age, I remembered urging them to purchase this one model that-CAN YOU BELIEVE IT-came with a free butter dish!!
They represent the entire spectrum of brand-name appliances-nothing odd, old, or questionable; and their specialty is, simply knowing what they are talking about. They do not BS the customers.
Their sales staff has been there for years, and many travel from quite a distance. My salesman-Jim K. -there are two Jims- is younger than I am, travels from Red Hook, and has been there almost 30 years!! When I walked into the showroom unannounced, 6 years after Doug and I bought our new kitchen appliances, he not only recognized me, he remembered where I was working at the time!
Everything is always free delivery, and free haul-away. Every. Thing. Every. Day.
They will price and give you print-outs of the product, and these print-outs are tied into a data base, which will advise you of any rebates for the product. And they let you walk out of the store to think about it.
ORANGE YOU GLAD I TOLD YOU ABOUT BERGERS??
July 19th, 2011
the ‘little c’
Today I have two messages, connected in an unexpected way.
Earlier today I underwent a routine health screening procedure that is recommended for people my age. Everything went beautifully. I was in good health going into it, so with God’s good grace, this will continue to be the case.
This procedure has a very high ICK factor, and required extended preparation on my part, which was one reason I put off scheduling it for a few years.
And that is POINT #1: If you are overdue for any regular health care, Man-Up (or Woman-Up) and JUST DO IT.
And if you think you don’t have the time….getting sick , even dying is really inconvenient and time-consuming.
Just as with houses, deferring maintenance does not make it go away.
During this whole process, I was in a brand-new circumstance. With health-care professionals I never met before. Talking about some fairly intimate things. Totally uncharted territory; I was nervous, vulnerable and apprehensive. Funny thing about fear, it can bring new insights and lots of clarity, in a hurry.
Because I love what I do, am always looking for new ways to present and deliver a better product and experience. One thing I do is look for things that work well, try to understand why, then see if I can draw a parallel in my own business. The product or the field doesn;t matter to me, if it makes people happy I want to know why/how.
I found myself thinking this experience was a very fresh look- a good reminder-of how it feels to be a potential customer.
ALSO-I got a renewed, and very personal perspective on the value of working with true experienced professionals.
Experience is not just about time put in someplace. Whether you work on cars or brains, at a cash register, in a library or a corner office-it’s about what one learns, and how one uses that knowledge to continually better both themselves, and the experience for others.
In many cases it means you know enough to answer most questions, but that you also know to look for unasked questions, and unspoken concerns, then how to coax them out, and make them part of the conversation.
Professionals know the journey, and understand preparing clients in a thorough, kind and direct way is just as much a part of a good process as anything else.
Oh yes…and they care. Usually a lot.
If you are an experienced professional who has made someone’s life easier today-I thank you, even if your client forgot.
If you are a client, or another professional who’s had a good experience with someone, call them tomorrow and thank them.
And if you are Dr. Geders, or one of her team at MKMG, I thank you all very much.
July 14th, 2011
Are You Tired?
In the last week I’ve met with 4 new potential clients, each with a different agent.
Their houses have been on the market for anywhere from 3 to 5 months.
Each seller had made efforts to prepare the house for the market, and to have it show-ready at all times.
Yet in each case, there were few showings, and no offers.
All parties-sellers and agents-were discouraged, and yes, TIRED. The kind of tired where you’ve been back and forth so many times, you can’t think straight and just want to walk away.
Sellers are tired of being ready, living their life in limbo, and giving it all they had, with no results.
Agents are tired of having no news or bad news for sellers; tired of having neither a vison for change, or the words to even address it.
Given the overall fatigue, and costs both sides have already incurred-agents in marketing the property, sellers in carrying it longer than they anticipated-who knows what will happen.
But this is why they best time to talk to me is before your house goes on the market. Before you spend time, money, or waste that all-important first 30 days of a new listing.
Staging supports all of your efforts, and makes the most of what you ARE able to do to prepare your property.
Whether your property is about to be listed, or is currently on the market-if you haven’t been getting the results you want, dare to look for a way to make changes. Call me, let’s talk about getting your house SOLD.
But first, I know you could use a smile, so enjoy this clip from one of my favorite Mel Brooks movies.
May 15th, 2011
In Baseball, It’s Called A Suicide-Squeeze…
..in basketball, it’s known as a buzzer-beater, and in football, a Hail Mary Pass.
Last moment, last chance, to win big. You’ve run out of options, back against the wall. Nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
It’s dramatic and nervy, a move borne of both confidence and desperation. Once it’s launched, all spectators hold their breath, and time stands still.
It makes for great sports experiences, but when selling a property… not so much.
Considering Staging as a fall-back, or Phase Two kind of plan will cost both agent and seller time and money.
Homes get the most interest/traffic in the first 2 weeks they are on the market, and MLS has rigid guidelines about what constitutes a ‘new’ listing, so taking it off to clean it up, and give it a second chance to make a better first impression is not encouraged.
Whether you are an agent, or a home seller, do yourself a favor and talk with a professional Home Stager early on. There is nothing to be afraid of-in fact, consider these comparisons:
1. Like any other profession, talking with a Stager is not a decision to hire anyone, you are gathering info.
2. Like any other job interview, you both get to ask questions.
3. Like dating, it needs to work for both of you.
4. Like holiday shopping, delaying and last-minute decisions limit your options.
5. LIke any other major destination, there are numerous ways to get there.
Stagers, are, for the most part, nice and regular people, who just want to help get houses sold. Even if you don’t hire a Stager right away, you will be smarter, and make some better decisions.
REMEMBER-your successes are their successes…so deep breath, relax, and just start the conversation!
January 8th, 2011
Have gotten some feedback about the first part of this series….let me just say I have nothing against HGTV> In fact, I love HGTV.
A 24/7 TV network that devotes itself entirely to all things home-oriented that entertains and educates, while raising all our profiles is a good thing. But as a practical matter of actually getting things done in your home….
As the network has grown, the beast must be fed. Some concepts get stretched a little too thin, or you are spending a lot of that half-hour wading through semi-celebrity personalities (or is it celebrity semi-personalities??), product placement plugs, teaser trailers and repeated video, to get to those good ideas.
IMHO, setting Sabrina Soto’s programs aside, viewers for the most part have to really work at culling root concepts.
Which might be ok, if you are one of a minority that can distill it all down….visualize it for your space…. exclude the typically unrealistic or not even mentioned issue of budget…translate it into specifics that meet your space, needs and circumstances…on your own.
Like I said…as a professional Decorator and Home Stager, I love HGTV.
December 11th, 2010
Come close. Closer.
And yes, that’s the first thing.
1. It is not easy being involved in the housing industry these days, but of all the things I know for sure, the desire for a space to call one’s own is in our DNA is near the top of the list. If we all took a deep breath, we’d all be a lot better off.
2. Start the conversation What most people know about Staging is what they see on TV. HGTV elevates your level of pain, but it’s not reality. Stagers know what buyers like to see, and how to make your house look it’s best, but a good Stager will welcome your questions, because that’s how we come up with solutions you can live with.
3. You can do more than you think you can. REALLY.
December 8th, 2010
It’s been a beautiful fall, but winter and the holiday season arrived in tandem on Thanksgiving Day, and actual snow flurries on Monday!
Ahhhh, Yes. Winter/Holidays-the season of so much to do, so little time….well, a very little bit of planning now in your home can save you loads of time, money and heartache down the line.
Charles Brown, a State Farm property and casualty agent in New Rochelle has seen first-hand the damage winter weather can cause. Helping prevent loss is his goal; here are some of his favorite tips on trouble-proofing your home this season.
Ice Dams form in your gutters when under-insulated attics let warm air up from the living space below. Warmer attic temps melt roof snow fast, and when the melted snow hits the colder eves, it re-freezes.
A few days of this builds up an ice sheet that traps other melting snow below, and with nowhere to go, it pushes water thru the roof covering into the house.
Same under-insulated attic, but now air coming into the attic is both warm and moist-cold temps condense the water vapor and can cause rot in the wood framework.
Remedy: Right now-before ‘real weather’ hits-clean out gutters/downspouts and install gutter screens. Also-insulate the attic, and insure there is good ventilation to keep interior and exterior temps closer.
Freezing water pipes that burst ruin about a quarter-million homes a year, and it can happen to both PVC and copper piping. A one-eighth inch crack can spray 250 gallons of water… a day.
Before the temps nose-dive, insulate the exposed pipes in your attic, crawlspace and garages. The more insulation, the better. Seal any leaks around pipes or wiring that could let cold air in, and turn off the outside water from the interior shut off valve.
Inside, keep temps at 55 degrees or higher. Open cabinet doors that conceal pipes to let warmer air circulate around them, and let both cold and warm water trickle out of one faucet. Going out of town? Even if it’s one night, arrange for someone to come over and check.
If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out, your pipes may have frozen. Keep faucets on, turn main water valve in house off and call a plumber. NEVER try to thaw out a pipe with any type of flame. Warm air from a hair drier may help-start close to the faucet and work towards the frozen section.
Unless you are uber-handy, consider licensed professionals to do these jobs easily, correctly, and safely.
Click here for more tips on how to keep you and your family safe this holday season. Just like anything else preventative, it’s best to know about these things before you have to.
November 30th, 2010
Each year at holiday time most of us gather with friends and family. While these are largely happy times, it can be a real eye-opener for adult children with parents who are getting on in the years.
Spending extended time together, you may notice changes in your parents behavior. The holiday season plays havoc with all of our behaviors, and changes are not all bad …but how do you rationally and constructively handle this?
Paula Meighan knows. As an RN and LMSW, she worked with seniors as a visiting nurse, in hospice, and then as a geriatic care manager. She then became one of the founding partners of Changing Places LLC, a Stamford CT-based senior transitioning firm. Members of NASMM and Certified Relocation and Transition Specialists (CRTS)-they specialize in assisting seniors-and their families-first navigate these emotionally charged issues, then providing peace of mind as they facillitate changes on their behalf.
Paula recommends using this opportunity to observe any changes that may be a signal that the time is approaching, or has come, to suggest resources to make life easier for them. Some solutions might be an aging in place organization, a geriatric care manager, additional help in the home or beginning to look at alternatives such as a move to independent or assisted living.
Here are a few things to consider:
Household - Can they food shop on their own? Are they able to pay their bills? Is the laundry done? Are dishes clean? Is there excess garbage or spoiled food in the refrigerator?
Hygiene– Are they wearing clean clothes? Are there any smells on their person?
Health – Can they keep track of their medications and take them properly? Have they made and kept medical and dental appointments? Do you see any signs of memory problems?
Socialization – Are they isolated or still getting out and about?
Safety – How is their walking? Bathing? Dressing? If driving, take a ride with them and observe their reaction time. Note if the car has dents and scratches.
Once you and any siblings have gathered information, which may include speaking with neighbors and friends, you might start a conversation about their thoughts for the future. Do they want to stay where they are? Would they consider having someone check in with them on a regular basis? Do they think a residential facility would make life easier for them?
These can be difficult conversations and we need to remember it is a process that will take place over time, unless of course you sense an immediate issue that needs resolution. There are so many options available, just opening the door can be a major step. Good luck!
November 23rd, 2010
One of the things we all love about this time of year is getting together, seeing friends and catching up; your teens are no exception.
Laws vary by state, but to drink alcohol in New York, ‘legal’ means 21, no ifs and or buts, and that doesn’t mean just in public facilities. If your teen wants to have friends over, there is no more important time for parents to “be” parents.
Everyone wants their kids to have fun and ‘fit in’, so there may be the temptation to look the other way, have a very minimal presence during a gathering in the home, or make the rationalization of ‘well, at least I’ll know where they are’. Perhaps your teen might even revert to some emotional blackmail, and try to align their behavior with your behavior as an adult. WRONG.
Michael Greenspan is a partner at the law firm of Greenspan & Greenspan in White Plains who concentrates his practice in personal injury and criminal defense. Michael wrote about an important decision handed down by New York’s highest Court last week regarding the liability of party-hosting parents. He has these words of caution for parents hosting a teen party:
Preparation is key- first, set rules as a condition of having a party, prior to word getting out. Let your teen know what to expect, and that these rules will be enforced. Check all bags coming into the house, Bulky coats can conceal a lot, taking coats and putting them in another room gets the word out quick.
Supervise; even invite some other parents over for support. Walk around your property, to make sure nothing is hidden outside, or being brought in through another window/entrance.
What to do if alcohol is discovered? End the party right then and there. Have each guest call their parent and ask to be taken home. Do not let teens leave your home until their parents arrive.
What if a minor is intoxicated? You call the minor’s parents. If the minor is vomiting, passed out or otherwise unresponsive, call 911 immediately. Their health and safety is paramount. Do not let any minor leave the property until their parent arrives.
What if a guest is injured on your property? Call 911, then the guest’s parents. You also need to be prepared to defend and protect yourself. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can, once you have contacted 911 and the injured teen’s parent or guardian, and notify your homeowners insurance company as well
www.MADD.org is also a great source of prevention tips. Not fun stuff, but please-don’t let your inaction lay the groundwork for a real tragedy.
November 14th, 2010
OK< house is ready-nice listing photos, everyone is remembering to keep the house neat, there are good showings.
YAY! There is an acceptable offer!!
DOUBLE YAY!! Buyer financials are looking good, and since your agent priced it accordingly (I know, sorry, that’s a whole other post), inspection and appraisal should go right through, right?
As a seller you may be thinking hoo-rah, but agents know better. Ownership of your property needs to be easily and readily transferrable.
Properties that have had work done without the proper permit and inspection process can get derailed in the blink of an eye. When caught by an appraiser, inspector or title company, everyone in the sale is notified, and no one is happy.
It comes up most often when houses have had one owner for a long time, but ownership means responsibility, so newer sellers can be on the hook for past owners’ oversights/misdeeds as well. Things that may have been missed/misfiled in in the busy/crazy markets past now have..shall we say… very dedicated…people looking at them.
Key is understanding the process so you are prepared. Architect Steven Secon AIA, friend, colleague and principle of Steven Secon Architect in Dobbs Ferry NY explains it best:
“Many home and builing improvements require building permits. Before a project begins, an application is submitted to the municipality that the property is located in. When issued, the permit indicates the project has been reviewed and approved for conformance with the building code and zoning regulations; this is when the work can actually start.
“There are inspections throughout the process, and when the project is complete, a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is issued, and municipality records are updated. Having accurate and completed COs on file is a valuable asset; it tells appraisers, attorneys, title agents and buyers that all work was done in accordance with local regulations.
It is against the law to make most non-cosmetic improvements without these approvals or permits, period. Bringing work without prior, necessary permits/approvals into conformance is called legalization-it’s completing the approval process after the work is done.
No matter what you may think of the permit process (and yes, I do know) the bottom line is if you want to sell your property it needs to be compliant, or else it will cost you-time, money, and yes, even the deal. Often there are penalties, and perhaps some additional work will be needed to make it legal… NOT what buyers or lenders want to hear, especially when there are a lot of other properties out there.
Steve sums it up: “Moral of the story-whether you are re-financing or just doing some updates to get your property ready for sale- do your homework. Check with the municipality, take the time to get project approvals in order- or make sure the property is legalized before you get it on the market.”
October 8th, 2010
Staging a property is first and foremost a business decision. Lots of buzz in the media-OH YES, it’s a great idea...just don’t see a heck of a lot of confidence-or comfort- in many of the agents I meet and speak with.
LOTS of different ways a property can be Staged-or prepared for sale-and that doesn’t mean how many different walls the sofa can go on.
I’ve prepared properties by way of providing a detailed written checklist for the homeowners for several hundred dollars, and overseen $60K worth of needed updates (paint, carpet, floor refinishing, landscaping, etc) while using all the existing furniture. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and a good Stager will do their homework. .
Staging is a creative service, but consider finding the right one for you in the more traditional manner, via a job interview. Last post were questions agents and sellers should ask a Stager, here’s some questions I ask at first meetings:
For the listing agent
1. Tell me about the neighborhood, and this property. Why is it special, why would it be in demand, who will likely be looking at it? Real estate is hyper-local, let me think of ways to reinforce what you and your seller know to be attractive to buyers.
Recently sold a high-end condo in White Plains…pet-friendly in the big city was a drawing card, finishing touches included a great dog dish, treat canister on the counter, and a leash on the doorknob.
Did they buy a $475K condo because of a cute bowl? Not conciously, BUT pet lovers are a large, specific and very passionate market, it got their attention in a way other units did not.(kind of like this picture), they might have been able to see themselves here more easily…yes, new owners have 2 dogs. Come on, say it with me now, a-w-w-w-w-w.
2. How does this fit into the local market? Tell me about the comps, and your strategy. Do you consider your price aggressive, accurate or negotiable? The more you can tell me about what you’re thinking and why, the better. I’m not competing with you, or looking to second-guess you. YOU are the real estate expert, I want to come up with solutions that will compliment, and support your plans.
3. What are your client’s needs, motivations and plans? Staging success is generally commensurate with a seller’s motivation. NOT looking for any confidential or overly specific info, but often you’ll have unique insights the seller is not even aware of.
If your seller MUST sell by a certain time, has a specific amount of funds to spend, or need to get a certain price for the house, let me know. Updates with a high ROI, seasonal buying cycles and carrying costs are some of the things I factor into my recommendations.
1. What do you know about Staging? What’s the history here: Have you ever had the house on the market before? Tell me what you did, what happened. If I know where you’re coming from it’ll save us both time and energy. Opening up the discussion levels the field and can lead to new insights.
2. If we set a strategy of what needs to be done, how is the work going to get done-who will be doing it? A motivated seller is key, but so is being realistic about your time availability and expertise.
Washing windows, cleaning out closets and clearing off the kitchen counter is do-able for most; more ambitious projects like painting, power-washing, or replacing a fixture are things that might best be left to professionals. Even if you have the ability, do you have the time? 2 or 3 weekends tied up in painting could be wrapped up in days by professionals, ,and your house would be marketable that much sooner.
3. Let’s talk about your resources. Resources DO NOT always mean money. Resources could be friends or relatives who could help paint and clear out, it could be a neighbor with furniture they’re not using, you could belong to-or look into joining-a barter club, where you could trade say bookkeeping skills for someone to fix your roof.
How could I know specific ways to help you get your house sold if I don’t know more about you?? Take the time, and have that conversation. You will get comfortable with Staging by first being comfortable with the Stager.
October 3rd, 2010
How To Interview A Stager
Staging someone’s house is a fairly intimate undertaking, getting it to look good is just the beginning.
As more and more sellers must stay in the house until it closes, Staging it, then keeping it looking that way can represent a real lifestyle change. For that to happen, there needs to be motivation and commitment, and at the root of that is having a good relationship.
Sellers want to know who is going to be touching their stuff, and agents frankly should be sure this person will be a good representative of them and their business, and be a team player.
Staging is not a new trend, but it’s not one everyone is familiar with; many wonder how to even get started. To have a successful Staging experience, here are some questions I’d suggest agents and sellers use to start the conversation.
1 Tell me, how did you get into doing this? (There are many different hats a Stager wears in the course of a job, this will tell you exactly what’s in their toolbox)
2 Why do you like it? (Getting a home ready for sale, especially one that needs a lot of clearing out can be challenging, you want someone who loves what they do and can always see the light at the end of the tunnel)
3. What were some of your more challenging situations, and how did you handle them? (whether they were challenged by a person or a space, what and how they answer will tell you a lot)
4. How do you handle getting along with so many different personalities? (A variation on the old stand-by, you want to open the door and see if and how they choose to walk through. Again, this shows attitude, character and judgement).
5. How would you handle_____ (Pick your own most outrageous or uncomfortable scenario, and put it in the form of a general question. A house that smells bad? Spouses in an ugly divorce? Art in questionable taste? Bugs? Meddling relatives? Just like Miss America, their poise as well as their actual answer both count.)
Notice “the M word”has not been mentioned. DO NOT, repeat DO NOT make money part of the initial conversation. Getting to know the person/situation is not a sales ploy; here is why you’ll get the most accurate info, so you can make your best decision.
First: Because more needs to be known about what needs to be done, and who is going to do it. If there is no discussion/agreement on that first, all you’ve got is a number: unhelpful at best, wrong at worst.
Second: If you and your client have an unpleasant experience, you will never, ever, ever remembered what you paid-or thought you saved.
Lastly: If you don’t like/trust/respect the person, why would you ever want to find out how much it would be to hire them??
NEXT: What to expect when a Stager interviews YOU
August 25th, 2010
…just the interpretations and okay, the conclusions that are inferred.
Front page, centered and above the fold, announced in very un-wall Street Journal-like primary colors-was the 27.2% drop in existing home sales in July, as reported by the National Association of Realtors.
Emotionally I immediately regressed to ‘lalalalala-I can’t hear you-lalalala’ mode; intellectually , as a grown up and a professional working in the field of Real Estate, ’NOT helpful’.
In the article economists and market analysts attributed the drop to first the ending of the $8K tax credit, and then to the overall weak economy. OK< but one question:
HELLO-does anyone remember July?? Per National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the highest global land surface temperatures EVER were recorded last month-that’s over 130 years of records.
Is ‘global’ too broad? The entire Eastern seaboard registered temps ‘Much Above Normal’; 5th highest ever in Northeast, 3rd highest ever in the Southeast. Rhode Island and Delaware with the dubious distinction of highest temps ever recorded in July.
Still too broad? Weather historian Steven Frybish found not only was July a record-setter for NY metro area, so was June; in fact, this years’ June-July was this area’s hottest ever, since 1869, when they started keeping records.
The reality of global warming and the planet’s future is a discussion for another time; the reality I want to bring up here is simple: people don’t make big decisions, like buying houses when it’s so hot they can’t think straight.
You’re right, I am not an economist. Or a real estate agent. But 30 years of working with people, in their homes as an Interior Decorator and a Home Stager, I know the home buying and selling process is an emotional one, and all sorts of things can move it one way or another.
I also am very lucky to know some very smart and dedicated people who are in the business of educating their clients and customers on the very intimate, hyper-local reality of our real estate market. Stay tuned while I share their some of their insights on why the sky is not falling in Westchester. NEXT: Cash deals and short sales
August 20th, 2010
Ahhh…The Smile. They are happy people, looking for good times. Positive, upbeat, who doesn’t love the bouncy Smile?
You know them, or, more accurately you’ve heard them, having animated conversations…in crowded elevators…or across the floor in a restaurant. Or seen them-they’re first on the dance floor, or the most ardent fan at the game.
People who operate from this most expressive modality talk fast, think and move quickly. Depending on your perspective, they are enthusiastic-or loopy and overly excitable. They are usually ‘the life of the party’, even in un-partylike circumstances, which is the crux of the matter.
Understanding where people are coming from is always helpful, but in transactions, it’s like driving on a straightway-you can see what’s coming and be prepared to act accordingly.
The Gut will appreciate the speed The Smile operates with, but could be turned off by the ‘unnecessary drama’. The Heart will believe they are genuinely nice people, but then secretly focus on if they are really that happy, perhaps they should settle down a bit? The Head will have the hardest time dealing with the smile, because just like the Gut-Heart combination, they are diagonal opposites.
The Head, (being The Head) is ohso sure that information is king, could doubt The Smile’s sincerity, even their stability. Similarly, The Smile will think..well, not happy thoughts about the head, and unhappy thoughts are just their #1 buzzkill.
SO-what’s a partner in this transaction to do?
Smart agents already know they need to keep all the different hats handy, ready to change them as circumstances dictate.
To engage the most buyers, smart sellers will prepare themselves and their properties fully. I almost never think it’s a good idea for the seller to be present for showings or Open Houses-this is one of many reasons your should always hire a Realtor-but there is much that sellers can do to make it work better for all:
They’d know a definite move-in date for The Gut, have service records on the boiler handy for The Head, make a list of personally recommended restaurants printed up for The Heart, and plant flowers, and set up a volleyball net in the backyard for The Smile.
Regardless of their own style, buyers who like having choices should be similarly prepared. Before even going to the house, they will have their financials in order, and truly be prepared to make a move. They will then show up on time, and know/have a list of the questions they want to ask.
They will be respectful in the house-wiping their feet, shutting the door behind them. If the owners ‘happen’ to show up, they will listen to a story or two, be prepared to ohh and ahh suitably over family pictures/heirlooms, and discuss the house’s decor only when they are safely in their car, on their way back home.
Of course transactions are about dollars…but Real Estate is also intrinsically personal. If you can connect with the other parties on that level, you have the best chance of getting what you want. And yes, it really can be as simple as listening, watching, subtley mirroring the other’s style when possible, and always, always RESPECT for the other parties.
August 11th, 2010
Know the phrase ‘still waters run deep’? That’s The Head, personified. Very still. Very deep. You may need to put a mirror under their nose for signs of life…better, wave some market comps or stats in spread sheet form, just see the pink return to their cheeks!! OK, I may be exaggerating here a bit, but really, not that much.
Real Estate is a lot of numbers, facts and interpretations. The Head loves it all, nay, needsit all. They are detailed, focused and precise. Numbers and facts, preferably on paper, is where they find comfort and value (a little foreshadowing here-it’s often also where they believe most of their own value lies).
Sure, this way of thinking in extreme-and when it’s not your deal-you’ll chuckle, but until you have established a good working relationship with The Head, any missteps will cost you.
Those operating from this modality I believe has the hardest time seeing the point of others, including the value Staging. Not out of ignorance or arrogance, they are just that sure of the superiority of data. Real Estate is hyper-local, and (more foreshadowing) there is no reliable/independent gathering and reporting process.
Residential Real Estate has a strong emotional and interpersonal component to it; buyers, sellers, even agents-anyone really entrenched in the data-misses all the other signals, and can easily lose the distinction between “Data” and ”Guarantees”, and-say it with me now-Guarantees?? There’s no guarantees in Real Estate!
If you are working with The Head, either as buyers or sellers, be punctual, be organized, and be prepared (be very prepared).These folks do not like vague answers, overly optimistic scenarios or anecdotal stories. Just as with any other different modality-to connect, watch and mirror their actions: speak slowly, and never, ever rush them.
They take their time and deliberate everything, but generally there is no mystery: they will tell you where they are and why they are stuck, and decide when you have answered all their questions. You may be in for the long haul, but once won over, these folks are very loyal.
If you are a Head, I have a confession: we are brethren.
In 1981, I took the job at Ethan Allen on a dare. I was young, had instinct and raw skill, but little professional training or experience, and I was selling fairly expensive furniture to people whose own kids were my age. Memorizing measurements and other facts seemed the best way to for me to succeed.
Yes, I made some great connections with 25% of the customers I met, and for me at the time, I thought that was great. But looking back, by keeping in my comfort zone, I wasted so much time, and missed so many opportunities with the other 75% of the people I met.
Remember-none of this is judgemental, and no one personality type is better than another. Understanding the different styles is like having the right eyeglass prescription: Sure you can see the eye chart, but different lenses give you the most clarity, and lets you get the job done.
NEXT: The Smile-Keepin’ It Real
July 27th, 2010
“Home” is both universal and intimate in nature. People get involved in Real Estate for a myriad of reasons. It’s not just a product or a paycheck, it’s a way to assist-connect-facilitate-another’s happiness and sense of security. Some times are easier than others (!!!), but deep down, true Home Professionals know this is where they are supposed to be.
The Heart: People who come primarily from this place are not just nice, they really are all about others-their comforts, concerns, issues and needs come first.
Great quality in a friend or spouse, but depending on the degre and the other personalities involved, it can slow, stop, even reverse a business transaction.
Polar opposite of The Gut, they are pleasant to deal with, but present a real challenge in business. To make decisions and move forward, the decision makers need to well, decide…which means taking some stands and putting their needs ahead of others-not their comfort zone.
They are deliberate, speaking, moving and thinking slowly. They consider all options, and rebel if you try to nudge things along before they are ready. They want you to like them.
These sellers still have every report card, lost tooth and piece of macaroni art from their grown children; these buyers find something special about each house and the people who live there…which then makes them reconsider, just where the heck did they get this crazy idea to buy another house and move in the first place??
It takes longer for these sellers to get their house ready for sale. Slow and steady win the race, but their being highly motivated to start with is a close second.
They know how easy it is to get wrapped up in someone elses’ “stuff”-and understand how it would take attention away from the business at hand, getting their house sold. Also-focusing on the prize at the end:-a yard for the kids, rooms for visitors to stay, or one-level living for a loved one-will be what moves this seller forward.
Buyers who come from the heart will linger when attention is paid to the ‘secondary’ rooms-kid’s room, guest rooms, even the powder rooms.
They will appreciate the fresh towels, nice soaps and fluffed bed pillows. These are the people that we light fires in the fireplace and put out homemade cookies for. Welcoming kitchens, and discussions of how many people could fit in the Dining Room will put a sparkle in this buyer’s eye.
They can frustrate agents and annoy more quickly moving people on the other end of the transaction, but remember the parable about the Wind and the Sun?
They disagreed who was more powerful, and decided the winner would be whoever could make a passer-by remove their overcoat The Wind went first….stong and blustery, he blew and blew, trying to blow the coat off; but the passer-by only wrapped the coat around themselves more tightly.
Then it was the Sun’s turn. He shone and radiated, and in short order, the gentle warmth induced the coat to be taken off.
NEXT: Behold The Head
July 11th, 2010
This is why you need to talk with a Home Stager.
Dobbs Ferry Road, Greenburgh, Sunday July 11th.
July 2nd, 2010
When I was in sales, I always tried to put my best presentation forward. Even in soft markets, or with choosy, unmotivated or non-commital shoppers. In fact, if typical times got my A game, the more challenging circumstances got my A++ game.
Sales can be physically demanding, and in more difficult times, I found many of my competitors were letting shoppers lead them; that is, fatigued or distracted, they accepted casual interest, or ‘just looking’ at face value, nothing worth pursuing. I found these to be very productive times.
In my capacity as Sales Manager for furniture stores, and now, in my own business, during my one to ones, if somone was unhappy with their situation, I always ask one question: Is there anything you think you could do to change things?
I’ve found that serious home sellers and people who choose to work in commissioned sales are both already highly motivated, and that in some cases I’m just steering, with the wind at my back.
So if their answer is yes, we discuss specifics, and how best to implement. Occasionally, the answer is no; then we talk about acceptance, the satisfaction of knowing they were being the best they could be, and faith that this, too will pass…I mean, let’s face it, you can always re-assess, and sometimes no matter how hard you work, things don’t always roll the way you want.
I am not channeling Pollyanna, nominating myself for Sales Guru of the year, or imploring anyone to hang tough and soldier on.
Opportunity excites me; communicating with other engaged and motivated people about business really excites me; and personally I see the next 6 months as a real juggernaut of opportunity. Steady and low mortgage rates, # of transactions and average sales prices both inching up, and ohyes, all that pent-up demand!!
But for all the deadline-weary, battle fatigued people in the housing market, I also sense a potential pull to the dark side: it’s summer/no one buys in the summer, tax credit over, still waiting for the market to ‘come back’, it’s summer/no one buys in summer…these can be self-fulfilling prophecies.
None of us know for sure what the next 6 months will bring in this market. But-OK, now channeling Oprah-what I do know for sure is that successful people take responsibility for their success. They challenge the status quo, they plan and expect the unexpected. Bottom line, they don’t follow the herd or react as much as they trust their internal compass to explore and establish what works, re-evaluate, adapt and implement.
What I know for sure about my business is that if I can make your space work better, intrinsically your life will be better. So to that end, looking to engage other take-charge DIY-type people, have roughed out my next few posts, starting with 10 free, or very cheap and easy ways to take charge of your space-and life-, whether you are selling or staying.
On this absolutely glorious Friday July 2nd-and throughout this long holiday weekend, whether you are seller, buyer, or RE professional, it is my hope you are trusting that if your mind/body/spirit needs a break you will somehow find some time and allow yourself this.
Then when you are feeling more-well, refreshed-you will refocus on what you can do well, and then proceed, confidently.
June 16th, 2010
What Does IDS, ASP, And IAHSP Mean For You?
Lot of talk in the trades lately about designations-what is worthwhile and helpful, what has meaning? I look for, believe in, and support professional accreditation; here’s what’s behind mine:
Interior Design Society, Professional Level This was my first, achieved almost 25 years ago. IDS, created in the 1970′s an an alternative for home design professionals in the retail field; it’s members, unlike ASID, do not deal with semi-engineering /structural things like moving walls, electric, plumbing or other house systems.
Professional training and hands-on field experience was required to even take the test; between my business degree, time at Parson’s and about 5 years at Ethan Allen, I qualified for Professional, their highest-level designation.
Exam was 100 short answers in first part; still remember triumphantly, jubilantly knowing what a ‘clerastory’ was…yes, one of those architectural terms I had learned, that was actually on the test!!
The second part was a 6 hours, also proctored. You were given the shell of a house plan with plumbing (kitchen and baths)already in place, and the ‘story’ of who lived there.
You were required to block out the space/construct all interior walls,. Create a reflected ceiling plan, place outlets/switches, place/draw in all the furniture, and do an elevation of entire long side of house (scale drawing of walls, with furniture and decorations on it). Then decorate it, including a room-by-room explanation of why you chose what your chose; how it all related to and served this phantom family. If you didn’t finish, you failed.
I completed/passed it on the second try, and beyond the obvious, lessons learned were time = money, how to prioritize, and above all, solutions must suit the clients’ needs.
Had been helping client prepare and get houses sold for probably the last 10 years, but “Staging”?
Lots of schools and organizations out there, but researched and found StagedHome.Com. In 1972, Barb Schwarz was a Realtor is WA, and as the story goes, she coined the term ‘Staging’ when trying to persuade a seller to spiff up her home a bit. The homeowner was resistant, but Barb got inspired by some of the posters/playbills/theater memorabilia that was in the house, and the rest is history.
StagedHomes.com is the original: Barb is CEO, and holds the trademark on the word ‘Staged’. They are a REALTOR affiliate member, and a BBB Accredited Business with an A+ rating, and I was trained by the VP.
ASP (Accredited Staging Professionals)-certified Stagers take an intensive course that focuses on good business practices as much as Staging skills, actually Stage a local house on the market, pass a comprehensive test, and agree to be held to a code of ethics.
If ASP is the educational/training arm, then IAHSP(International Association of Home Staging Professionals) is the organizational, fraternal association that most ASPs belong to.
The same standards exist, but have chapters that hold community service events, and work together to educate consumers, support each other and further further Staging in general.
Lastly, BNI is a professional business networking organization. Both global (5700 chapters, 125K members, in over 50 countries), and hyper-local (3 dozen chapters right here in Westchester/Rockland alone), these are people I love being associated with, see my connections webpage. People who refer me are actually putting their own professional credibility on the line.
Prospective members provide references and are thoroughly checked out by the group’s membership committee. They commit to attend weekly meetings, usually at 7 am, (yes, 7AM) and adhere to a set of standards that include truthful communications providing full, complete and satisfactory service to those they are referred to, at the agreed-upon price. Each group holds its members fully accountable, and any non-compliers are asked to leave.
Yes, these organizations are businesses, but none just take your money and give you letters to use. Professionals who are proud of their designations are happy to explain what they mean and what it took to get them, so don’t hesitate to ask…hopefully, it’s be the start of a great relationship!