Walks like a Duck


We all, at one point or another, have had the temptation twisted by our senses. Oh, the new car smell – the leather that rolls out when you first open the door. Yes that very smell that instantly blinds us and puts us in the check book/ signing mode with our defensive justification for any counter-intuitive objection on full alert with one main objective; driving away in that new smell. 

So it stands to reason that this very same reaction could be the forefront of a decision on a home purchase; especially if you are upgrading and looking for an updated home with character at a reasonable price.  Oxymoron?  Maybe or maybe not, but it is worth the investigation. My favorite line in selling real estate to buyers – “Today, it’s their problem, after closing, its yours.”  One thing that is for sure; in our market, there are no exceptional deals.. Do your homework, listen to your agent, and ALWAYS get your inspections when purchasing an older home – especially if your senses are on fire from the gorgeous granite, stainless steel appliances and new flooring.

The truth of my life in Flipping Houses – when you are talking about older homes, older plumbing, electrical, etc. There is a cost, and the cost is usually substantial. If you are getting into historical, do it for the journey not the profit. If you are purchasing one, the same rules apply – do your home work. Plumbing doesn’t age like fine wine, nor does electrical. Sure, you can dress it up and add a scent of “new car smell”, but that goes away with the first plumbing leak on your new floors that now have to be replaced because they were laminate and looked good but in the bathroom, how practical is that? Just Say’n.

Ladies, it is kind of like getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, you don’t want to wake anyone up so you leave the light off, and then find yourself butt-deep in cold water because someone  didn’t put the toilet seat down. Once you are in it, too late, your wet and the damage is done, but this is only a slight fraction of the anger you would feel if that toilet cost you 200K and was suppose to guarantee a dry hiney.  Ok maybe a bad late night example. But you get it. You’re smart. So don’t be dumb.

Read a recent article from the National Association of Realtors.. great advice!

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s just not YOUR day…

Once upon a time, in a previous life, I had this job working for one of the largest investment firms in the nation. I would create marketing campaigns to try and direct focus on what to do in the event of a disaster situation. A crucial part of this was understanding the difference between mission critical and secondary. Fortunately, this particular company placed an emphasis on mission critical being defined as family first – then your role and attempting to preserve one of the largest investment firms in the country. No pressure here. It was during this time that I had the best experience and leadership.

Unfortunately, I never told this particular person how much I appreciated and valued her guidance. This job changed me and certainly for the better. Living a life believing that stuff happens to other people is a real false sense of security. Because nothing happens that way. Bad stuff happens to all; learning that your reactions determine the overall effect and destination of your future is the key.

In real estate, stuff happens. It happens all the time. And when you have clients entrusting you with their most precious investment, it is sometimes difficult to weigh who gets serviced first. We are human after all. As Brokers or Realtors, if we are doing our job, it is likely we are working with several buyers and sellers at the same time. This can be a challenge. It is not like you can select whose issue is the most challenging or rather, mission critical, because they all are. Simply saying – “Your issue is important, but not as important as”. This would never do. So what do you do? How do you decide who gets served first, after all, each house is mission critical? Unfortunately it is always a new recipe with one main ingredient; empathy. 

I remember one of the hardest and yet most educational moments in my work for the company I spoke about. I would fly to wherever was on my quarterly schedule, conduct the training and after each session, I would be required to submit a survey to each one of the participants. These surveys would judge my performance as their trainer. In a class of maybe 30 participants, I could get 28 excellent reviews and 2 that were bashing. I would cry. And I mean CRY. I would instantly feel the doom of failure. 

I remember calling into the office after one session, and my boss answered. I probably sounded like a 2 year old, huffing and puffing and certainly not understandable, after reading one of the reviews from a participant. To say I was upset was an understatement.  This particular attendee was obviously not pleased at all with my performance. I remember talking with my boss, and it was almost as if she had been there, in my shoes, and knew exactly what to say. She asked me how many reviews I had. She proceeded with asking me how many had a negative response. I told her, “just the one”.  And then it was like the Angels sang as her words came across the phone. It was so obvious, but it took her saying it and me separating myself from the devastation I was dwelling in. “So, you have all those positive reviews, and one negative. I get it.” And she proceeded to relate and understand my current disaster. “It was not his day”.

“It was not his day” was her way of saying – we all have bad days. If you have 29 people out of 30 people tell you “you did great”. – They score you with above average and yet that one that scored you below the dirt, possibly it was not their day. For that particular person, I could have had dancing monkeys and talking horses, and the outcome would have been the same. It is just not their day. Of course, she didn’t use that exact explanation, but that is what I walked away with – dried my tears and found excitement in the 29 positive reviews.

This is a lesson I would like to pass on. This lesson has truly helped me in so many ways throughout my life.  Every person has their good days and bad ones. Sometimes we react in ways that we would not under normal circumstances. Everyone has issues that are important, and none is more important than the person next to you. I believe with all my heart that just listening to someone can 1) help you find the encouragement to help them find the answer they need and 2) energize you to move forward with renewed enthusiasm.

Having gone through similar situations as the one described, I can see how I would modify my reactions should I ever be faced in that situation again. I would let him/her know he was heard. Ask how I can help, and be the support that could change his entire day, or outlook. Being heard – it is an amazing thing. Learning that you may not have all the answers, you can’t solve all the problems, but you can listen – that, is determining what is mission critical.

How it applies from there – well in my case learning the appreciation of empathy and escaping my “in the box” mentality of “it’s all about me” was a true advancement into my skills in problem solving.  In real estate, this is my most used asset.  Understanding where people are or just knowing the value of the current situation to the affected person, allows me to respond or react in a productive and methodical way. Granted there have been times where this has been challenged and those times repeat themselves all too often, but thank goodness for the new day and the opportunity of renewal and awareness. 

Just a random thought at a random hour – 😀

Vision on a Grande Scale

I have looked at this house so many times, and each time I see more and more possibilities for what it could be. I have so much optimism despite the repairs it needs.  It is not every day that I run across a home like this.

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Home is large. I mean, exceptionally large 5,550 sqft on 20 acres. I realize this is not such a bonus when we are talking flips, however, I do see potential. Of course there is risk. There is risk in each one of the homes we dive into for the vision and hope of profit. I have never even dreamed of doing one this large, so I can completely understand the reluctance from an investor standpoint. DJI_0017.JPG

However, then I look at the numbers, the comps and the excitement resurfaces.

Let’s just look at this systematically – just the numbers first.

20 acres in Brazos County, however, I am going to tighten down to focus on just one area as so that the results are not skewed.  I am going to focus on 20 acres outside the city of Bryan within Brazos County. This way, we exclude the College Station land, another topic for another time.

Searching in Bryan, Brazos County, there are 20 records for acreage either active, pending or sold within the last 12 months with 15-25 acres.

  • 13 Active for Sale
  • 4 Sold
  • 3 Pending Sale

STATSIn efforts to not skew the data, I am going to remove the obvious ones that are sending my averages thru the roof.  Within the 13 active, there are 3 that are commercially zoned and one that is zoned Urban Undeveloped (Each of these are listed at 2-6 million)

Ok. this is better.

BETTERCOMPS.jpg Out of the 20 properties, 4 were removed leaving the stats of the remaining 16 properties. Now, looking at the average, of $241,338 does not really mean much to me, only gives me a generalized look at a price range lows-to-high. In effort to get a better idea of the land value in this area, I am going to extract the data and run some numbers in Excel.

(Because I am not allowed to post addresses and sold amounts, I am just sorting this by distance and extracting the addresses to protect property owner privacy. )

Starting with Land Value – Active

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Sold Values

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and now we can calculate a range of value.  There is one question in the data that has me somewhat confused. The 3rd sold comp had a list price of 270K, only 81 days on the market and a sales price of $90K. This is really hurting the stats because I truly feel there must have been some underlying force that would cause a seller to accept such a lower price way out of the range of values within a short list period, IE – external motivation, problem with land etc.

Land Value Range

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Taking this range, and subtracting from the list price of the subject property we can estimate the value of the house at the list price. I elected to this route because the land is the more consistent value as opposed to the comparable homes which vary in likeness in age, condition, and styles.

Resulting in price per sqft…current list price of $560,000.00

pricepersqftonhouse

Now, that we have taken the LARGE house down to a manageable number, it does not seem so intimidating!  You can see the logic start to unfold.  Look at our price range on the house – and remember we are not even adjusting values for the huge tank on the land, which in my opinion, really adds to the value in the overall ambiance? of the property.

The land value is almost 1/2 the value of the entire price!

Take a look around the property!  From a few feet up… or just give me a call!  Sherry Perry 979-229-7254 or email sherry@iclickhomes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boys will be Grown Men 

But to us mama bears, they will always be our Cubs, or Man Cub as he is now. My son grew up so fast, it does seem like yesterday that he was the tough guy at day care in California. He was sent some cowboy boots from our family in Texas and although he was only 2, he managed to change the rules for the day care center all on his own. Because us Texans are rough and tough, he had to show his California friends just how tough, and how hard he could kick with his new cowboy boots. After just one day of his new cowboy attire, we arrived to school the following day to see a note posted on the door “No Cowboy Boots to School”.

It was certainly not the first time he opened our eyes to the unexpected. He continues to surprise me as a grown man. And most of the time, I am always up for the adventure! His recent challenge is close to home and it has been a big one.

His grandmother (my mother) has an old manufactured home on her land and offered to lease it to Evan. I was thrilled because Evan has a German Sheppard, Zeus, that is his complete partner-in-crime; and his girlfriend Sarah. Finding a place to rent with his giant dog would be a challenge.

So with optimism we go to view the home which had been previously leased for quite some time. The viewing was more like an investigation to a home invasion of rats and putrid scents. What in the world were we supposed to do with this?! I felt like I was doing a foreclosure inspection. The same smell, the same condition, the same dread.

putrid

Walking in, the smell of urine is so strong your eyes are burning. The filth leaves you wanting to bathe in sanitizer and the overall condition sends my optimism out the door screaming for help. What a mess!  My brother, Mike, tried to bring my optimism back in. He tried to remind me that it WAS a 1950s manufactured home, of course it needs repair. (He being optimistic is a ploy to keep me encouraged so he would not be asked to fix this mess). My optimism looked at him, laughed and kept running. It was my son who stopped my escaping optimism and brought it back to a hint of reluctant hope.

My son does not normally like doing these things. In fact, pretty much his whole life he has thought I was a crazy nut for the projects I create. But this time, he brought the crazy to me and me being me, I took the challenge.

Because our budget was very tight on this, we knew we could not do one of our famous guts. Hard to convince anyone to put much into a decaying manufactured home. The three of us, myself, Evan and Sarah came up with our plan while walking through Lowes for ideas.

The old Formica countertops were awful, the dark paneling was worse. The fireplace looked like part of the dark paneling because it blended in and the smell had to go.  The kitchen vent hood looked like it had been a recent home to the rats that had left there mark everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE. 

Our budget was 1000.00 for kitchen, living and bedrooms. Sounds impossible and probably is, we are certainly not done. I gathered up my left overs from a recent remodel, purchased some clearance tile, rented a wet-saw, borrowed a paint sprayer and purchased a truck load of paint and we got started!

I will spare the photos of the rats, even the one that was found fried in the breaker box.

Evan and Sarah started with the demo. Removing the urine-soaked flooring. In doing this they found that several areas of the subfloor were soft. Some areas we found to be rotted by falling through the floor (but both Sarah and I were graceful in our falls). Basically a lot of rotted subflooring.  Larry, our savior, began working on this while we got to work painting. The priming took hours and hours and hours. Everything needed primer.  The years of leaks, build up and just yuck needed way more than a good cleaning. My brother (and Evan) had recently replaced the roof so we just had to deal with the evidence of the precious failing roof.

Once we got the rooms primed and floors removed, my optimism came back in and offered a hand. Together, Sarah, myself and Evan began tiling the countertops and bringing in a back splash that would lighten the kitchen. We went with white, mostly because it was true picture of at least one part being clean.

The job was harder than we thought due to the un-level walls.  Certainly not perfect but definitely improved. We still have the ceiling to paint, but painting the vent hood a happy color was an immediate must.  One more push for hope and encouragement to keep us pushing on.

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It wasn’t in the budget to have the bullnose edge so we improvised with some creative use of coved trim. Primed and painted the cabinets, and we did a colorful centerpiece with the vent hood and island. We still have more to go but we are making progress! Grout tomorrow and then I am back to work at my REAL job but I think it is an awesome start to dazzling this decay! And still under budget! 3 days of hard work brought this home to a great start in being not a forever home but a great home for now.

Oh and we gave a new face to the fireplace!

 

And a happy color to the walls… Bye-bye brown and yellow stained ceilings (well almost all of them anyway). New floors will be right around the corner!

Those cowboy boots have brought one young man a long way, and Sarah right along with him. Proud of these two!  Hard work can lead to amazing results!

Unfastastic Finds

As I think I have mentioned a million times, this is a busy job. So it is not that unusual for the kids to pop in the car and ride along on a property  assessment.

The thing is, this can either be an incredibly positive-teaching moment for your kids – “This is what happens if you do not straighten your little ass up” or it can entirely backfire, and it has many times. One particular regrettable and haunting moment was with my, then 5 year old. It was undoubtedly a teaching moment, for both her and myself. We strolled into the house – the aroma of urine filled the air, yet we pressed forward. I should possibly be discomforted to say the scent was nothing out of the ordinary.

With my camera in hand, we venture room-by-room, photographing damage, personal items left behind and overall layout to “tell the story” to the bank.

Most of the time, the previous owners just leave trash; nothing of value, just the junk that was not worth packing. On this particular day that would have been appreciated. As we make our way through the door, my daughter runs forward with way too much familiarity and I stop just a few feet behind her, long enough to photograph the living room.  I ventured on to meet up with her in the master bedroom. I walk in and see my daughter standing next to the master bed (mattresses on the floor), staring at the attractive display of shapes and colors covering the bed.

As I get closer to the bed, I can feel my face turning red, panic arriving and my husband’s dear face coming into my mind to liven this party. Yet again. I have found myself as the loser at the end of the line for the Mother of the Year award. Better described and visualized as the group left standing on the stage with those who will be ending their journey on American Idol; I actually visualized this.

This time, it was bad and getting worse. The closer I got, the more horrific the situation became. As I started to watch my daughter’s hand slowing reaching toward one of the objects.  My mind was not mustering up an appropriate reaction, which was surprising given how often I find myself in similar “oh shit” moments. So when all else fails, sing or scream. I chose to scream. There was definitely a lack of appropriate or relevant tunes; couldn’t remember the words to “Darling Nikki” and even if I did, the appropriateness was still an issue. 

Contingency planning was in over-drive. My daughter and I make eye contact, those “mama I love you” eyes staring at me as her hand is continuing to inch forward. It was now or never – I broke our stare and focused on the ground and began my scream as loud as I could “RRRRRRRAAAAAAAATTTTTTT!” 

Her face went from curious to frantic in less than five. I rushed her out of the room, out of the house and into the car with the mission and hope of disremembering; a true wishful thought.
To completely understand this horrific moment, I ask you to close your eyes and imagine you are in a manufactured home; don’t forget the 5 senses – the smell of urine setting the scene, the filth you can taste when you lick your teeth, the deafening silence that reminds you of why you are standing in someone’s bedroom and the vision.

The entire bed, I mean in its entireness is sprinkled with sex toys of all colors and sizes. I think the pure quantity is more than Google ever produced,   (Actually, I tested this – DON’T DO THAT!  I was wrong but regardless easily, 3-4 mortgage payments).


 There are beads of assorted color and size, tube shaped objects, round things that had they not have been with this assortment, you would have categorized as vacuum cleaner parts and about two hundred more objects you have never seen or wanted to imagine. All of the items are unwrapped, in used condition and perfectly displayed for your unobstructed viewing, with the exception of your five year old whose hand is slowing reaching out to grab one of these glorious finds.

SERIOUSLY? Why on earth would someone think that this was a good idea? Dog mess on the floor seemed like a magnificent find compared to this unexplainable presentation of complete insanity.

Ok, now back to the car, we are racing home and my mind is in overdrive. I knew the questions would soon surface during our 15 minute ride home. It only took a few minutes when out of her mouth poured the words I had genuinely dreaded. “Can we go back and get those beads MaMa? I really like them!” I was completely and whole heartedly trying to think of words to say and then my true savior appears. Katie Perry on the radio begins to “Roar”. My 5 year old quickly begins her singing routine and surprisingly, I am off the hook, well at least until her daddy asks how her day was, which he did, and which she answered and then I had to sit in time out once again. Bad Bad Mommy Day.

If these Walls Could Speak…

The past has so much to say .. And one day today will be the past and what will it say?  Amy Grant has a song “If These Walls Could Speak”. I have always held the lyrics close to my heart. The walls that make our house a home, the stories they tell and the beating they take! I guess that is part of what makes me a sucker for old houses! 

When I walk into a house that is battered, beaten and just about done, I imagine the stories it would tell. A time capsul, if you will. 

I instantly begin imagining how this home could be given another 50-100 years and what it would take. Granted that the beginning is more exciting because of the hope of potential. It is the journey of this that is wearing, frustrating, expensive and a definite challenge of strength. For 4.5 months we have been chanllenged, worn out and almost beaten but I am thrilled to say we are about two weeks from completion. 

I imagine the family that will sit around this table  and the homework being done at the bar. 

   
I imagine the slumber parties and late night giggling in the kids bedrooms 

  
The movies and entertaining

   
 
And the family that will never know that one hard headed woman made these doors because I never give up  (even when I sometimes should). They will never know the dinners I missed or the family time sacrificed to bring this home back to life. The family they will never know that gave their hours of time and energy to make their home a reality.

 
Yet we will know and we will never forget. The 4.5 months we gave, and a lot of money, gave this old, failing house, a new beginning. The Fountain of Youth. 

Queen of Stinky Houses

Yes, that is me. The Queen of Stinky Houses.  I think the smell actually produces a fog that smothers my ability to think rationally which fires up my nurturing guards to do whatever it takes to make this smell go away.  It is what my kids hate when I deal with them and what my husband hates when I shop for houses!  So how do you stop a house from stinking?   Silly question!  You buy it of course!

The first really ..really.. stinky house we purchased was built in 1945 and had just under 900 sqft.  It had two bedrooms and 1 bath, an oversized laundry room, carpet flooring, mold in the walls, no HVAC system, and a cistern or well under the house.  We purchased this beauty at an auction while it was occupied.  That was interesting.

So once we were able to start working on the house, the demo was horrible. The carpet still gives me nightmares.  The filth. The smell. It was bad.  What was good? We did it together. Whenever I have the opportunity to have all my babies together, husband included, and we are having fun and getting things done – it is a great day for me.  The best Mother’s Day Gift ever!

Here, you can see my little Addison, who is now 8 years old, but in this video, she was getting things done, with the help of her big brother (Bubby Armstrong).  I truly believe in the value of hard work, and equally in the value of family and working together. That trumps any smell, any day.

And to continue his obvious strength, Evan demonstrates how to take out a sheet-rocked wall.

and that is how it is done.

To get a better understanding of the condition of this home, I found some of the before photos.. I wish they were better quality, but you can get the idea!

 

Pretty bad hu?  Well after some serious demo, we worked hard to piece things back together and deal with the challenges as they came. One of those challenges was the low ceilings. We put in an HVAC system, however due to the lack of space in the attic area, and the lack of space to put a full pull-down attic stairway, we decided to create an access panel disguised by the ceiling beams that we created in the living room (credit for this is to Chris Whatley, cMARC Homes). In one of the “squares” created by the crossing beams, we put in an access panel right in the living room that was completely un-detected!

The results? My proudest moment was on the final day after staying up all night before preparing for new tenant to move in. We were actually laying sod at 2:00 am. But it was worth it. The only smell that was in this home now was what I call the “new car smell”. Just beautiful!

 

 

 

 

It’s All About the Character…

Without changing the actual elevations of the home, I wanted to give the outside an appearance that would be as nice as it was on the inside. The new concrete work definitely added character but it wasn’t enough. Replacing the siding was a good move, even considering the added expense. After it is painted, that will certainly add some shine. But I wanted more!

I decided to put in new columns in the front.  I originally had them done out of hardi, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  I wanted more character and that was accomplished with cedar. In efforts to bring everything together, and to accent the new windows, I built some cedar shutters. I found some iron gate hinges. I had Mr. Larry do a little welding to get the parts off that I didn’t need to leave more of a look of a hinge and less functioning parts.  I hung them temporarily to gauge my liking.

Once I had decided the color, I removed the shutters, painted and rehung the shutters.  What a transformation it made!

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beforeandafterfront

Ugly fireplace … awesome laundry room!

One last blog for the day.. As I was going through my photos, I found a video that I thought worth sharing!

  • The back room was a large eye-sore. The fireplace had to go! Not only was it dated, but it had issues, and took up major space. http://youtu.be/HZiEtre84N8   

 
This modification provided the ability to go from  

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To raising the ceiling and putting in French doors to exterior, dividing remaining space between mud room, enlarging master and putting in a laundry room.