Friday, October 19, 2012

4-Months In

It's kinda hard to believe it, but I'm nearly 4 months into my new career as a Realtor!  As I expected, the learning curve was HUGE and I continue to learn something every single day.  One major thing I've learned is to ASK questions.  About the time you think you know something, you suddenly realize you didn't even know the half of it! 

Fortunately, not being scared to ask questions has worked to my advantage.  Not only have I learned the necessary information, I've also managed to discover additional information that I wouldn't have known otherwise.  Thankfully, all that extra knowledge has allowed me to become fairly competent at my craft :-)

So, what are some of the things that I have learned about real estate?  Here they are, in no particular order!

1.  SHORT SALES.  Even though the housing market in our area has remained even (ie no positive or negative changes), MANY sellers end up facing a short sale.  In fact, more often than not, the sale ends up coming up short...Meaning, that once all the fees, taxes, commission, etc is paid out, the sellers have to dig into their own pocket and bring money to the table just to sell their own house.  Getting a proceed check after selling your house?  It's almost unheard of!  Especially if a home equity loan is taken out or the home is ownly owned for a few years, that proceed check rarely exists!
2.  CLOSINGS.  When I started my training classes in the first of June, only about 50% of home sales were closing on time.  Appraisals are taking longer than expected, final loan approval has become incredibly tight.  The combination of the two will realllllllllllllllllly impede the closing process.  However, by the first of August, only 30% of home sales were closing on time.  If you're looking to buy or sell your home, make sure you can be flexible with your closing date :-)
3.  DIGITAL MEASURING TAPES.  When I list a property, one of the things I have to do is measure the rooms and list the dimensions.  Not that hard, until you imagine yourself fumbling around with a metal measuring tape, all by yourself in a vacant living room!  Thankfully, someone was smart enough to develop a digital laser measurer--and they only cost $13.  Seriously, it's probably the best $13 I have ever spent!


4.  FORECLOSURES.  Most people like getting a good deal...that's human nature.  People especially like getting a good deal on a home and that's where Foreclosed properties become very, very appealing!  But did you know that the government loans generally REFUSE to finance a foreclosure???  I didn't!  That said, most buyers have to have a minimum of 20% down in order to buy one of these properties.  Or cash.  Good old cash will always buy you a foreclosure!
 5.  TIME IS MONEY.  During my first 3 months, I literally worked around the clock.  I was going into the office at 7:30am on Monday morning, shutting down around 11pm, and doing that every week day.  Saturdays were full days of showing houses--Sundays were Open House days AND a lot of times I managed to schedule showings before and after those Open Houses.  How many hours a week was I working?  I didn't even count.  I knew better than to do that!  Working with buyers is time-consuming.  Managing a listing is time-consuming.  Coordinating a closing on a house that's under contract is time-consuming.  Fortunately, I was no stranger to long work weeks so the demands of real estate was very natural...that was, until I gave myself a concussion when I was trying to juggle too many balls.  I'd never managed to do that at my previous jobs :-)
6.  LOAN OPTIONS.  By the time Labor Day weekend was here, I had 5 houses under contract...and of those pending sales, the buyers were using 4 different mortgage loans.  We're talking VA, FHA, Rural Development and First Time Home-Buyer loans.  Before I started real estate, I knew there were different down-payment requirements for the various loan options.  However, I had no idea HOW DIFFERENT each loan can be, the various requirements that they have, even exceptions from "the standard" requirements, the paperwork involved, etc. ... But if I was going to learn the ins-and-outs of all the loans, I might as well do it at the very beginning :-)  I'm just glad I'm not a banker and have to figure out which mortgage option best suits the borrower!!!
7.  A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND "CALLS". It's worth the money to have a decent head-shot!  Keep in mind, I absolutely HATE my picture.  My face looks fat, my eyes appear tiny and beady (one of which is even lazy in the picture), my hair was in dire need of a cut,my jacket was too big, the list of dislikes goes on and on.  I can't stand it. Had I not had my business cards printed right away, I would have had a new picture taken.  Looking back, I'm soooo glad I didn't.  Apparently, other people seem to really like it as it has driven a significant amount of interest and business my way.  In fact, it's a running joke in our office that when somebody I don't know contacts me, it's because "they like my picture."  And uh, usually it's true.  Guess I have a head-shot for the rest of my life ;-)
7.  AN AGENT VS. A REALTOR.  Who knew that not all real estate agents are Realtors?!  This is something that's briefly covered in our home-study book, but once you get your license, you really figure it out!  Essentially, an agent is an individual who represents another person in a transacation.  Anybody who acquires their Real Estate license is an Agent.  So, what's the difference? A Realtor is an agent who joins their local Association of Realtors and pays significant annual dues each year to belong.  Through this, they have access to the Multiple Listing Service (aka The MLS) which allows all the other Realtors to view all the listings within the Association's geographical area.  A typical real estate agent does not have access to this service and thus, information sharing can be difficult in larger communities.  The other big difference that some Realtors like to brag on, is the fact that Realtors are required to adhere to a Code of Ethics.  Personally, the real estate agents that I have known are just as ethical and successful as the Realtors I have been around.  Thus, I really don't consider that as something that sets us apart.  However, because of the Code of Ethics, only Realtors are able to use the term "Realtor" and we have the fancy little "Registered" symbol after our title!

Monday, October 15, 2012

You Haven't Lived Until You've Had FRENCH-PRESSED Coffee!

I have discovered my new crack :-)

French-pressed coffee.

Seriously, I crave the stuff all day long--every day.  I want to do nothing but sit on the couch and drink all.  day.  long.

If you think you like coffee--or even love coffee--you have not lived until you have had French-pressed coffee!

Several years ago, I remember my friend Travis sharing his experience with French-pressed coffee.  He raved on and on about it, but the process seemed a little bit overwhelming and I thought "Oh, that's nice.  Maybe I'll try it someday if someone makes it for me." 

The time finally came and somebody DID make it for me!  This past Spring, we stayed at our friends' house in Lawrence and on Sunday morning, Kyle and Lori made me a cup of coffee using their new French-press.

Holy.  cow. 

It was frothy.  It was bold.  There was no unpleasant after-taste or funky breath to worry about.

It was coffee heaven.

After being introduced to stuff, I was really tempted by the process--but again, I was still a little concerned about how complicated it could be.

Fast forward to last weekend.  Kyle and Lori were our house guests for the weekend and being as kind and considerate as she is, Lori brought us a Hostess gift.  It was none other than our very own French-press!

Turned out, it's super easy. 

You heat your water.  Put your coffee grounds in the French-press.  Add your hot water.  Push down on the plunger-thing (the pressing component) until it reaches the grounds.  Then pour yourself a cup of freshly-pressed coffee!

In fact, I enjoy my French-pressed coffee so much that I think it's time to retire our coffee-maker to the basement!  It's super easy AND it justified buying a super cute tea kettle to prepare the water in--and to sit on our stove-top and provide eye candy :-)

I'm telling ya--if you're a coffee affecianado, you MUST get a French-Press!  Or just make sure you have great friends who look out for your coffee-consuming needs  :-)

Our new vintage green tea kettle (it's more Jadite-green in person) and French-Press!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Past 2 Weeks--in 43 Pictures!

Since my last post, life has been absolutely non-stop!  I notice that every year around this time, that happens...why is it?!  I'm pretty sure it has something to do with school resuming, thus people settle into a routine and are more willing to schedule things.  The unfortunate part?  Most of it has nothing to do with other people scheduling stuff!  It's all stuff that we get ourselves into!
Justin is getting settled into his new job with Union Pacific.  Even though the work can be grueling, he's loving every minute of it PLUS he loves the commute!  Thus far, the highlight of his driving has been varying his driving habits to see how many miles per gallon he can achieve--the record so far is 48 mpg!  Granted, he had to drive 55mph--Interstate included--but if he has the patience to do so, I say go for it!

And while I'm thinking of it (because, isn't it normal to always think of having a drink?!), I was introduced to a super yummy gluten-free beer at our September Dinner Club!  Turns out, it's available at the Abilene liquor store and they carry 6 varieties of gluten-free beer--who would have expected such a thing?!

We've spent the past month or so coordinating a new roof for our bungalow.  Long story short, I always hated the color of the shingles and the mildew streaking--soooooooo, when we saw the first sign of damage and received a notice stating insurance had totaled our roof, I was calling up the roofer! I had no IDEA how much of a pain the process would be.  The insurance adjustor missed a few things that we had to re-address, the mortgage company had to start their monitoring process, shingles had to be picked, gutters ordered, etc.  It was a HUGE pain, but the Project Manager for the roofing company did a most excellent job of communicating everything AND dealing with my hypersensitive fear of picking the wrong shingle color!
Do you see what I mean about the shingle colors and streaking?! And it looked even worse in person! Ick!

But the part that made all the work worth it???  We opted to upgrade our ventilation so that the gawd-awful soffit vent in the dormer can come down.  We first thought we could replace it with the original glass dormer window that had been hidden away in the attic...but, there was no access point for air to enter the attic.  Grrrr!   Now, we're trying to track down a decorative vent louver to go in the dormer.  I'm super disappointed, but at least it will look better than it does right now!

Granted, the roof replacement came with it's share of surprises...

The roof decking is original to the house--and 3/4 of the house had 2 layers of shingles on once the shingles came off, they discovered that various sections of the butted-board decking had broken and required repair.  A section of decking by the dormer was broken...the garage had 3 layers of shingles...the west side of the roof had not 3, but 4, layers of shingles to remove!!!
The covered back porch had several pieces of decking that had to be totally replaced...
And nearly half of the garage's decking had to be ripped off and replaced!
But once all the repairs were made, the felt paper finally started to go on...even at 12:30am, when the forecast shifted to a chance of rain.  Yes, I kid you not--the roofer was on our house in the middle of the night, covering up our very vulnerable *non-existent* roof!

Problems aside, just getting the new shingles on has already made a huge difference!  Check it out!

Next up will be new gutters!  Oh--and we're going the lazy route--we're having gutter screens installed :-)

For the second time in 3 years, we overseeded our lawn a few weeks ago...and naturally, we did it RIGHT BEFORE the roofers came!  Some areas of our yard did okay, considering the drought...
While other spots required a total overhaul!

In the midst of all the home-improvement projects, I hosted my second clothing swap...this time, we included a few home decor items and children's clothes.  About 30-40 gals attended and it was a huge success!  The next semi-annual swap will be in March or April, so stay tuned for more details...

The following morning and afternoon was spent at my parents'...Justin had a tree-job to do for them (he's the dot of orange in the tree!), so my sis and I got to play with Baby Marcella!

She may have been a bit leery of Mitz, but Mitz had her own entertainment--Mom's dog, Libby!  Libby, well, she's a whole other story, but she's an over excited Viszla who think she's the size of Mitz and has to be the center of attention...Libby is a hellion, but I still love her :-)  Even though Mitzi acts like Libby's not around if I'm present!
Later that night, we came back to the Little Apple and went to see Seth Meyers do some stand-up comedy.  Seth is the head writer for Saturday Night Live and he did not disappoint!!! At one point, I was laughing so hard that I thought I was going to have an asthma attack!
The next day, I hosted an Open House and we made a quick trip to Topeka...then, I came back and decorated our mantle for Fall!  It's the first-time I've ever decorated the interior of our house for a holiday other than Christmas--and it turned out okay!
The first of the week was finally here, and I picked up 3 new listings!  One is a Craftsmas bungalow, one a Westside ranch and the other a completely remodeled 110-year old 2-story!

After TONS of running around so that my listings could come on the market, the weekend was finally here!  And it was a GREAT weekend at that!  Our friends Kyle & Lori came into town and joined us for the dedication of K-State's new Basketball Training Facility.  All the former basketball players were invited back for the occassion, so Justin's "service" to the Men's Team scored us entrance to the event!


And while we were in the neighborhood, we decided to take advantage of having Bramlage Colliseum to ourselves!
I'm pretty sure Justin could have stayed there all night to shoot hoops!  He was back in his element!

The next morning, we checked out the KSU/KU football game...for a while, I was wondering if K-State would win! 

Want to know what the second-best part of the game was?  Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family came back for the game!  See him in the black pants and black jacket???  He actually looks a LOT thinner in person!  I almost wonder if he wears a faux belly on-set, or if everybody else is just that incredibly thin?!?!

But the number one best part of the game?  Getting to see all the former Men's basketball players honored on the field!  Justin was down there, even though you couldn't see him on the jumbo-tron!  Once that part was over, we jumped back in the car and headed home to watch the game and eat some steamin' hot chili soup and apple crisp! 
All-in-all, the past 2 weeks have been an absolute whirlwind!  We still have plenty of stuff on our to-do lists and it doesn't look like it will slow down until after the holidays are long gone...while I would love to live a slower pace at times, at least we're busy doing things that we wouldn't want to miss! 
Until next time...