Have You Ever Been Hit by Cupid’s Arrow? – August 2014

I often tell my buyer clients that when they walk into the right home, that ‘you will know it,’… ‘It will just feel like home, and you can’t force it.’

Now imagine moving half-way across the country, from Colorado to Frederick, having only been to the area twice before. Not knowing anyone. Having no clue what restaurants are good, who has the best pizza, or where to find the best sushi. How do you get to the grocery store? Where are the schools located? Who provides daycare? Where is the closest dentist? Where do you go to get your hair cut? If you think moving locally is stressful, try moving to an unfamiliar area. The stress level is immense. I take great pride in helping to relief the stress of moving. My clients and I form a bond and they come to trust that the advice I’m giving them is honest and from the heart and that their interests and concerns are paramount in our relationship. A Realtor can add undue stress to your life or can eliminate the stress depending on their knowledge and expertise of all aspects of a purchase, and sale for that matter, but particularly a purchase. A Realtor, when moving into a new area, is often your first new ‘friend’ as you spend countless hours together and work towards putting your family in their new ‘home.’

I understand the stress that goes into a move, the exterior stress of uprooting and moving your family either across the street or across the country. Or maybe it’s a first-time home purchaser (still after 12 years, my favorite buyers).

I usually fill up this space with examples of helping sellers. How I teach my sellers a new mindset of taking a ‘Value-Driven’ Approach to selling their homes, coined ‘The Warren Buffett Approach to Sell Real Estate.’ I speak of my ‘team’, including Stagers- Stacy and Sharon, Professional Photographer- Annie, House Cleaner-Heidi, inspectors, contractors, etc. and how I have a system or strategy that I’ve developed that is geared towards increasing my sellers perceived value of their home, and much like a business preparing for sale, increasing the stock or sales price.

Helping sellers is more systematic, and thus the examples and the experiences in which I write about are tangible and easier to write when you sell a home in X days, when everyone else in the neighborhood took Y days…. Or I helped a seller get the highest sales price in their neighborhood this year. These examples are black and white and can be documented.

Helping buyers is more about emotions.

Controlling and managing emotions and expectations of a home buyer is much, much, more different than dealing with a seller. When a buyer finds a home that they ultimately want to buy, it becomes an emotional decision and a Realtor’s job- my job- is to manage these emotions to make sure that my buyer clients are making rational decisions. The euphoria of actually helping ‘a friend’ (which is ultimately what my clients become) purchase a home is second-to-none. Seeing the joy on my clients’ faces when they get their keys and are starting a new chapter in their lives is amazing.

I’m asked quite often, “Eric, which do you prefer, helping sellers or buyers?” Both have their plusses and minuses. Both are extremely stressful for me and I’m dealing with my client’s/friend’s home and where their family is going to live. I enjoy sellers, but this is much more a ‘business transaction’ as my seller’s success is determined by a bottom line and how quickly we sell. Helping a buyer, the emotions are greater and, in my opinion, more rewarding. Helping someone achieve a dream and buy their ‘home’ is about as rewarding as any profession I can imagine, and for that, helping buyers holds a place in my heart. That is why I might spend 3, 6, 12 months looking at houses with a buyer… The reward that I get when my clients’ eyes twinkle as they walk through the front door of the house they ultimately purchase for the first time, that twinkle, that feeling they get in the gut that they have found ‘the one’ makes the hundreds of hours, the sometimes 60-80 homes that we previewed all worth it.

In this article, I’m going to briefly talk about 3 recent buyers and how they found ‘their home.’ These 3 buyers came to me through 3 different avenues: one used to teach Anthony and Alex swim lessons, one was a co-worker/referral from friends and past clients, and the other I had no prior relationship and they found me on the Internet. This 3rd couple read my reviews at: http://www.redfin.com/real-estate-agents/ericv?show=reviews&type=all and decided that I was the type of Realtor they wanted in their corner as these were the buyers referenced in the beginning of this story who moved to Frederick from Colorado. I had different levels of familiarity with these 3 clients prior to working with them, but I now consider all 3 friends. Each transaction offered different hurdles in getting to settlement, and each had it’s own unique challenges, but ultimately ended with 3 happy homeowners.

What started as swim lessons in the summer of 2009 at Hood College evolved to a home purchase in the Summer of 2014.

When Susan and I met Morgan 5 years ago she was just finishing up college and worked summers teaching swimming lessons at Hood College. She has since graduated and is now a working professional in DC. When she contacted me last summer about the possibility of purchasing a home, I was thrilled to help her. When we first talked, Morgan was new to the home buying process and I explained the steps necessary to buying a home, what you could expect financially and the time-frame for purchasing a home. I think she was a little overwhelmed about the entire process and commitment of purchasing a home. She took some time to decide that she actually wanted to buy a home and when she contacted me again, the first of this year, she was ready to actually move forward with purchasing. I recommended a lender, Mike Haggerty, to get approved and to make sure that the financing for a loan was in place when we found the right home.

Morgan was not under any deadlines to move, so she could take her time to find the right home. Morgan, her mom- Lorna, and I would go and check out a house or 2 every other week. In March we came close to making an offer on a property on South St. in Frederick. But after a second showing, before writing an offer, it was mutually decided that the home might have too many issues for Morgan and could end up costing too much money in repairs and updating. So we continued to plug along for another couple months. One Saturday in May we went out to look at 5-6 homes and one stood out above the others. It was just listed and appeared to be a good fit for Morgan. Morgan’s mom and Morgan, after months of looking, both looked at each other and said, “I think this might be the one.” It needed paint and some general cleaning, as a single dude lived there, but was a good value in a location that Morgan wanted. When we were done, I told Morgan to think about it and let me know… It didn’t take long for her to decide she wanted to purchase it as she texted me that evening and said, she ‘wanted to make an offer.’ I called the other agent, whom I know, to get some necessary paperwork and to see if anything was cooking on the house, and she said that they had an offer. I told her that I’d also have an offer to her the next day. Morgan and I wrote the offer the next day, and it was accepted that next evening. She was thrilled!!!!

The next 40 days, from contract to settlement, we had a few minor hiccups along the way (that’s for another day, maybe in my ‘Stories From The Street’ section), but we got to settlement and the joy on Morgan’s face when she got the keys to her house was INCREDIBLE. Morgan had this to say about the whole experience:

Eric, I cannot begin to thank you enough for helping me on the long and bumpy road to the purchase of my *first* home. You went above and beyond to make the process as smooth as possible given the hurdles of my somewhat dysfunctional family, and I am beyond grateful for that! I also greatly appreciate the help with the Warranty. Your patience was a breath of fresh air when dealing with the twist and turns along the way. I cannot thank you enough for your professionalism – I know this was not the easiest process for anyone involved. Who would have thought teaching swimming lessons and babysitting would turn into purchasing a home. I could not imagine working with anyone else. Thank you again, all of your work did not go unnoticed. 🙂  Hope you enjoy the rest of summer! I will let you know once some progress is made with the house!

Frustration leads to euphoria after a years’ worth of turmoil leads to a new home.

My next client, Brandy, worked with a couple of my past clients and a few friends and had a –not so good- experience with another Realtor before her co-workers convinced her to give me a call. Brandy, also a first time homebuyer had been actively searching for a home for over a year and actually had a contract on another home, with another Realtor, but never got to settlement. Brandy reached out to me in March/April after her unsuccessful purchase. She was frustrated with the entire purchasing process, she was worn down, and she was unsure. A few things that I tell my buyers when we first meet are that buying a home is a very stressful process, and I’m here to help and answer any questions they might have. I, having been in their shoes, know that there are a million things running through your mind when you are purchasing, and it could be as minor as who to call to transfer electric service. I’m here to answer those questions and reduce that stress.

I also try to manage expectations on purchasing and- at the initial consultation- lay out a time line for the buying process. What happens after you get a contract? What step is next? When is the inspection scheduled? Who orders the appraisal? How long until actually settling? I do this so that my clients have a clear understanding of what happens at each step in the purchasing process. I have found that when buyers know what to expect and when to expect it that stress is minimized. So I had to give Brandy a clear understanding about how the process ‘should’ play out and what she could expect. She was an amazing client. Even though she had not had the best of experiences for the past year, because she knew some of my past clients and friends she immediately trusted me and listened to my advice. Brandy was only available to look at homes on evenings and weekends, so we spent about a month to a month and a half going out every weekend or so, checking out 4-5 properties each time. The great thing about Brandy is she knew what she didn’t want. We would walk into a house and she would just say, “nope, not it.” I love clients that know what they don’t want!

We looked at some houses that needed work. We checked out a few ‘historic’ row homes. We had a pretty large variety of homes that we visited before we found ‘the one.’ Brandy, her roommate/co-worker, and I went out one weekend to see a few homes in an area of town that we had not checked out previously. There we found 2 homes that Brandy immediately said that she could envision herself living. Both were the exact same model, built by the same builder in the 1950s. Now there were minor variances as they were upgraded throughout the years. We made an offer on one house, but there was another offer that was accepted. At this point, Brandy, disappointed, but not discouraged, said, “ok, let’s make an offer on the other one.” So, we did. She got a contract on that home and 30 days later was the proud owner of an incredible single family home in Frederick.

What happened at settlement was one of the coolest things I have encountered in 12 years. One of the sellers (this was an estate) was the daughter of the original owner and had grown up in this home as a little girl. Her parents had the house built and she had many, many memories in this home, and the seller had the Original Contract from Hamilton Homes for $16k in 1956. The seller framed the contract and gave it to Brandy as a ‘house warming gift.’ Absolutely one of the COOLEST things I have seen. Everyone got a little choked up as the seller, who was probably in her 60’s and grew up in this house, passed along her memories and a piece of history to Brandy. Brandy had this to say about her experience: “I would recommend Eric to any friend or family member without any hesitation. Eric was extremely professional and walked me through each step. This was my first home and Eric made me feel comfortable throughout entire process. He went above and beyond what I expected.”  Brandy has since added her own touches to the home to make it her own and has started making her own memories.

Pressure of Moving provides a Marathon Showing Session.

The final story is about Jason and Margie, and their son, who moved half-way across the country from Colorado for work reasons. They had come out to the area a time or two prior to deciding to move and on one of the trips even reached out to another Realtor. Jason said there was just not a good fit with the Realtor. So he did an online search, found me on Redfin, checked out my profile and reviews and reached out to me. I remember our first phone conversation. It was early spring and Anthony was at soccer practice. As I was watching practice, Jason and I had our first, of many, conversations. He told me about his family, his job, what he thought he wanted for a home, and where he wanted to live.

It was about a month later when Jason and Margie had a trip planned to the area to do their home search. They had set a move date in early July that we either had to have them in a house or they would have to do a short-term rental and then move twice. They wanted to avoid the situation but also didn’t want to ‘force’ a purchase. They were coming in for a week but also had some ‘family sight-seeing’ trips, a work meeting or two, and a couple other prior engagements. But the main goal of the trip was to find a home. We spent 3 full days looking at 8-12 houses a day from Adamstown to Urbana to Germantown to Gaithersburg and even down to Silver Spring. Of the 30+ homes that we found they had narrowed their search down to 2-3 homes. I did some additional research for Jason and Margie, and they were mulling over their decision. Although all the homes on the short list were very nice and fit most of their needs, they weren’t in love. The day before they were getting ready to leave a townhouse in Urbana popped on the market. Jason and Margie texted me and wanted to see it before leaving the area. Although they, initially, did not want a townhouse, this was not a typical townhome. Nearly 3,000 finished sq feet, an end unit, a 2-car garage- it caught their eye.

When we walked in you should have seen the look on both their faces… they were in awe. Both Jason and Margie were in agreement that this home was amazing, and they could definitely envision themselves there. We quickly wrote a contract before they left town the next day and submitted the offer. After a couple days of negotiations, but we got them under contract before the home could go through a weekend on the market. Jason and Margie were thrilled that they got ‘their house.’ And after looking at 30+ homes they had trust in me to handle things on their behalf, as they were in Colorado dealing with selling their home and moving their family. Jason and Margie said this about our experience together, “Buying and selling a house is stressful, often because so many realtors should not be working in the business. Eric loves helping people through the process, and it shows. He makes you feel like you are the only client he’s working with, and he went well beyond what we expected. We love our house and the area (just as he said we would!) and we cannot say enough about how unbelievably responsive, professional, and kind he was from the first (of many) showings to closing.”

I still get sporadic text messages from Jason and Margie, and I LOVE IT, asking me where the best pizza in the area is. Or what was the daycare name that I mentioned? Just general items that someone new to the area needs to know. I cherish being one of their first ‘friends’ in the area and that they chose me to work with.

Being in the business for 12 years, the houses that I’ve sold definitely run together. The details of the transactions are blurred. The one thing that I don’t forget is the relationships that I’ve built helping numerous families. Each family holds a special place in my heart, and I consider all who read this a friend.