RealPodVA – Curb Appeal

The Podcast continues.

This week, we discussed curb appeal conveying to good people, finding happiness, and how to spend a couple thousand dollars when prepping a house for the market.

We’ve gotten to the point where we’re going to start having guests. This is a fun project.





Dave: Jim, what are we going to talk about?

Jim: I have notes.

Jim: I was thinking today, talking about in my notes today, Adirondack chairs, pricing a home. I have a point. I have a story on that one.

Dave: You’re going for curb-side appeal.

Jim: And smelly things. To Bart’s point about what can one do to get a house sold.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: One of my number one things is when I walk into a house with a seller, the first thing I do is say, “Get rid of the smelly things.” There’s Glade Air Fresheners, or the spray carpet cleaners, things that really don’t do anything but make it stink. Get rid of that stuff. If I walk in with a buyer, and they’re like, “I wonder what they’re trying to hide.”

Bart: It’s like potpourri, man. It smells like Kirkland’s in the mall from mid ’90s. Did you guys have Kirkland’s?

Dave: Yeah.

Bart: Remember that store?

Jim: I didn’t go to the mall.

Bart: In the ’90s? Everybody went to the mall, Jim. Don’t lie.

Dave: Every went to the mall. Where’d you buy your goods? Were you ordering from the Sears-Roebuck catalog in the ’90s? Is that how you bought your house, like a four by four? Get out of here.

Bart: Those were good houses.

Jim: So get rid of the smelly stuff. Why? Because it’s so good for covering up the dog pee.

Dave: Right. Exactly. Cat pee, dog pee. You want to hide that. You want to clean that stuff first and foremost, and if you can’t, just let people know that it smells. I’d rather people walk in and say, “Oh, it smells like dog pee.”

Jim: We’re going to have to change the carpet.

Dave: We need to fix that, rather than “What in the hell are they trying to hide?” If I had gone to a real college, and I had walked in someone’s room, and they were burning incense, would I have thought that they were just trying to relax, or were they trying to cover up the weed?

Jim: I went to a music conservatory, which is not a real college.

Dave: That’s not a real college, either.

Jim: That’s what they used incense for.

Dave: Okay. Exactly. Yeah. But I think to have people have a real sense. Because a lot of home sellers and home owners, there’s a thing called nose blindness. You don’t know what your house smells like. I walk into my house, and I’m like, “Oh, it smells like home.” You might walk into my house like, “God, it smells like that old geriatric dog that your wife won’t get rid of.”

Jim: It’s always people’s laundry detergent.

Dave: Laundry detergent, dryers.

Bart: Dryers.

Dave: Dryer sheets. Yes. You know, so you want to make sure the house smells welcoming and not necessarily like, “Oh, here are the three things that we need to get rid of that smell.” And you don’t want people to be questioning the what they’re trying to conceal. If it smells like mildew, fix the mildew. If it smells like dogs, fix that. Bacon? It’s always appealing.

Jim: So you’re suggesting like frying a pound of bacon just before a showing.

Dave: Bacon and chocolate chip cookies. Pick your poison. Or both. Or maybe chocolate chip cookies.

Bart: Chocolate chip cookies. I think we got there at the same time.

Jim: Bart’s like, “I could sell my house tomorrow.”

Bart: That’s what [Anna 00:03:06] says that ours smells like the Big Green Egg. It just smells like smoke most of the summer, winter.

Jim: And there’s nothing wrong with that unless you’re selling your house.

Bart: Fair enough.

Dave: Unless you’re selling your house to a BBQ enthusiast.

Bart: Yeah. What happens then, man?

Jim: Then they will just fall in love.

Bart: To each his own.

Jim: But if you’re selling to a vegan or vegetarian, probably not the market for your house.

Dave: He doesn’t want to sell his house to a vegan or a vegetarian.

Bart: I don’t want to sell my house at all.

Dave: He would find that offensive.

Jim: I’m selling the house-

Dave: It’d be like me selling the house to a Yankees fan.

Jim: There you go.

Dave: They may come in as the high bid. I’d be like, “Eh.” I have a house closing today in Crozet.

Jim: I don’t think you’re making good business decisions, Dave.

Dave: No, I make poor business decisions based on stupid sports rivalries. But anyway, I’ve got a house closing in Crozet today. I know the sellers. Obviously I know the buyers really well. They don’t know each other. And the buyers have a different agent. And I ran into the buyers yesterday. And I said, “Oh, congratulations.” And I saw my seller yesterday as well, and I said, “Just so you know, your house is being conveyed to a really good family, to really good people I’ve known for 15 or 20 years.”

Jim: Cool.

Dave: And she’s like, “Oh, thank you. It’s been kind of a bumpy transaction for a variety of reasons, but thanks for letting me know that this is going to good people.”

Jim: I think that’s an important thing, though, too. We talked about this a ton of times on the pod, but a house is a home. And this is where you establish your roots and your family. So there is that emotional connection to it.

Dave: Right.

Jim: So it’s not quintessential in a business transaction, but it is good to know, just from a comfort standpoint, to know that this house that I raised my family in is going to go to another really great family for them to raise their family in. That’s a comforting … it’s an added bonus to a already positive business transaction.

Dave: Right. And that reminds me. I think next pod, maybe we’ll talk about the iBuyer phenomenon.

Jim: Okay.

Dave: Which is commodification of real estate and is changing a lot of things. So it’s a much deeper pod. And the other thing I wanted to talk … a little vignette of one of the things that when I’m working with buyers that we try to … buyers often don’t know what they want, but they know what they feel. And I was driving around showing houses a couple of weeks ago with clients. And I was talking about my folks had built a house a couple of years ago back behind Crozet Park. And I was talking about how when they bought their house and they built it, they oriented it so that it would face the vacant lot that couldn’t be built upon, which we knew it could not be built on, and would be facing the sunset. And I said, “You know, my guys have said that when they did this, they wanted to get two Adirondack chairs, and then watch the sunset and drink wine.” What’d you get a home for? You know.

Jim: Sounds perfect.

Dave: Drive around with my new buyer clients. We drive past this house as I’m telling the story, and they’re outside, sitting in their Adirondack chairs-

Jim: Drinking their wine.

Dave: Drinking their wine, give me a toast and cheers as we drive by. And I told my new guys … I’d met these guys for two hours. “I’ve got to turn around.” Turned around and said, “Hey, guys.” And they just waved and just happiness. And that’s what I try to get with my buyers is find that little bit of happiness and try to achieve it. It was just very cool to be telling the story and see reality, and I wasn’t full of it.

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: Which is kind of nice.

Jim: Well, and I think what you bring up so often too, which is A, just a testament to the work and the job that you do. But it’s you look for … and it’s important for people to just understand … what are the small things that you want to come home and enjoy every day? And focus on that. The big things of how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, square feet, whatever it is, those big things that you’re looking for. But the little things are just how do you spend your time? What is the things that you find, the little joy in life that helps you out? And that was just a perfect example of-

Dave: Right. And it’s people. I don’t know that with buyers until we’re well into our relationship.

Jim: Right.

Dave: I’ve got to look at the 27-question survey that I send out to new buyers that talks about what are you looking for, price point, what do you want to be close to? One of my newer questions is what are you trying to solve with this move, and what do you not like about your current place? Which is a good thing for people to think about. But it’s really learning more about what’s important to them.

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave: Because it’s, again, the 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 baths, 4 bedroom, whatever, we can find that. But finding the place where you can sit in your Adirondack chairs or walk to the park or whatever is critical.

Jim: And if you’re selling a home, how do you help buyers see that, or help buyers find that in that house?

Dave: If I have the seller for the house, one of the things that we’ve started at Nest last year, on the Nest site, there’s a thing we call the Seller’s Scoop. It’s like an eight-question, nine-question survey that are questions that we give the sellers homework to try to talk about the house. One of the questions is, “What is your favorite tree? What is your favorite walk? Where do you like to go to dinner?” And that sort of thing. It’s to define the area around it. I put one on the market in Old Trail the other day, and my client’s question … her answers were awesome. Just talks about how … where do you like to go to dinner? I think she said, “We’ve got a steady rotation of Smoked, Rooftop, Fardowners, telling the area. And then I think she ended that with, “It’s nice that a car is optional.” Which is something that I can describe … and of course I live in Crozet. I love Crozet … but other parts of the Charlottesville area, I can say, “You’re close to Target. You’re close to the Forest Lakes park, and you’re close to this stuff. But hearing it through the sellers’ lens is critical, because they can describe what life is like there on a Tuesday morning, and a Wednesday afternoon, and a Sunday evening.

Jim: They’re giving average daily life.

Dave: Which is sounds trivial when you say you’re looking at the average daily life, but that’s what we’re trying to achieve, is have a reasonably happy average daily life.

Jim: Absolutely.

Dave: We were talking earlier about living your best life. Sometimes living your best life is coming home, and having a beer, and watching the kids play in the yard.

Jim: That sounds awesome.

Dave: Which is not a bad … When I was 19, that would’ve sounded like the dumbest thing in the whole wide world.

Jim: You’re not tired at 19.

Dave: No, but just the concept of-

Jim: I’m tired.

Dave: There’s a point in my life will come when I’m like, “Oh, I just want to drink a beer, and stay home, and watch my kid.” That sounds awful.

Jim: Awesome.

Dave: Yeah. Exactly. But now I say, “Yeah, that sounds kind of nice and perfect and sweet.”

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: Again, we’ve got young clients. I’m 42 now, and anybody under 35 is a kid, because I’m apparently old.

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: It’s helping them understand … what’s the noun for mundane? That achieving a mundane lifestyle is kind of a good thing.

Jim: Yeah.

Bart: Yeah.

Dave: You know? You figure out that you have a decent life. You’ve got a decent yard-

Jim: I don’t even know if it’s a value judgement on that either though. I think that that just is what it is. I don’t know. Maybe [Drake 00:10:51] every day can live it and just amp it up. But Drake is also close to our age. I can imagine that Drake occasionally is like, “Hey, we got to take a night off.”

Dave: It’s probably like 20% Raptors games and like 80% Netflix and chill.

Jim: And the things is like, you know from some of those regular season games, Drake bailed out so that he could beat traffic. Drake ain’t a young man anymore. He’s right there with us. And he’s lived a hard life, man. It was hard to be on [Degrossi 00:11:21] for a long time. He’s had multiple careers already. He’s done a lot-

Dave: I’m really not okay with you saying Drake had a hard life. [inaudible 00:11:27] is looking at you like, “I don’t really think-”

Jim: [crosstalk 00:11:30], whatever.

Dave: Or referencing Degrossi. But we’ll let that pass.

Jim: Oh, yeah. Good. We want to do 40 minutes on Degrossi? I’m right here for it, man. I’m ready to talk about it. But I’m serious. I think that that just is what it is. You can’t max it out all the time. Even when you’re a kid, you can’t really do that. We remember the nights when we maxed it out, but really, there were a lot of days we were like, I played a lot of video games.

Jim: That’s just like what it is. I think you have to figure that out. If that’s not as comfortable as possible, that’s going to be the majority of your time. Hey, it may be great to live next to something awesome, but if you’re not going to be at that … it’s like my kids talk about going to Jump all the time. I’m sure Jump is awesome, but I only got like one Jump trip a year in me. Maybe two.

Dave: Well, it’s like Busch Gardens. Busch Gardens is awesome to go to two or three times a year. Living next to it?

Jim: You’re just dealing with traffic.

Dave: Fine, I guess. But yeah, I think it’s funny you mentioned traffic.

Jim: What you want to do is you want to have the grandparents live right next to Busch Gardens, which is somehow an advantage that I’ve just [inaudible 00:12:43] in life, and I’m excited about that.

Bart: I bet you’re more excited about being able to go to Yorktown 30 times a year.

Dave: If you were to ask me how many times I’ve been to Yorktown compared to Busch Gardens, my parents moved the scale-

Jim: So there’s nothing in Yorktown’s favor.

Dave: There’s nothing 9-year-olds love more than going to Yorktown.

Jim: Exactly. Oh, do you want to go to Busch Gardens and ride some roller coasters? No, I’d rather go to Yorktown, and I’d like to learn about what happened.

Dave: And I’d like to look at an open field and figure out where Lafayette staged his charge. That’s what I’m looking for.

Jim: I want to know where Alexander Hamilton climbed a hill.

Dave: I can’t believe I chose Yorktown for that bit. Could’ve gone Williamsburg and talked about, I don’t know, ginger cakes or making a saddle or shoes or something, but I chose Yorktown, which is legitimately boring. No offense, Yorktown.

Bart: Bart Isley with Scrimmage Play. I was going to write an old-school radio jingle for this, something slick with a catchy chorus of people just singing our name over and over again. But we have zero musical talent on staff. What we do have … and that is one slick transition there … is a passion for talking about, writing about, and shooting video of high school sports in central Virginia. For almost a decade, we’ve been the top source for high school sports coverage in this area. We’ve also got a podcast that’s now part of the central network. If you love high school sports, give us a listen. And if you like what we’re doing, check out the support link in each episode description and support the work we’re doing. In the meantime, we’ll keep working on that jingle.

Dave: And so, Bart, you texted a question earlier when we were talking about the topics. And you brought up a beat-up driveway that you know is going to need work, and you know it needs about $5000 worth of work. Where we talked about get rid of the smelly stuff. Show the house as-is. But obviously everybody talks about curbside appeal and everything like that. You want to make sure your lawn’s mowed, and it’s just not looking terrible and everything.

Bart: Right.

Dave: But is that investment of like, put $5000 into paving the driveway valuable, and it will help sell that house faster? Or is it like people are going to walk in, and they’re going to see it’s a beat-up driveway. At some point, we’re going to have to take care of a beat-up driveway.

Jim: It depends. My answer to almost everything in real estate is it depends.

Dave: It does.

Jim: If you’ve got … and I usually say, again, a rule of thumb is budget $1500 to $3500 to get ready for the market, unless you have a pristine, perfect home.

Dave: Sure.

Jim: We all do, obviously. But I think-

Dave: I mean, we’re just going to tidy up or something, I’m sure.

Jim: Well. But no, I put my clients through the exercise of pretend you’re buying the house again. Stand outside on the front porch. Sit there for 90 seconds while the realtor’s fiddling with the lock box or whatever, and look at the sconces, and look and see if there are cobwebs. Look and see if the threshold needs to be painted. Driveway, though? It’s a big one. A thousand bucks to re-do a driveway, depending on the length obviously. But you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I think that you want to be mindful of the intent that you’re going to set.

Jim: Like if they come up, and they see a torn-up driveway, they’re immediately going to think, “Oh, it’s a fixer upper.” We’re going to come in, and were already looking for what else we need to do. Whereas if that’s done, it’s like, “Oh, sweet. They started doing the right stuff to sell the house.” And you get the fresh driveway. You got the new mulch, which is university sign of a house going on the market. They painted the front door. They painted the columns. They’ve done the stuff.

Jim: So if that’s the biggest thing you need to do, I would probably say go ahead and do it. If you need to re-do carpets, or the floors are trashed, or-

Dave: Maybe put the driveway on the back burner.

Jim: Yeah. So when I go through with my folks, we make a list of things that need to be done, and then we prioritize. I went through one the other day, and we started off saying, “Let’s just touch up paint here and there.” And then as they started taking stuff off the walls, I’m like, “I’m glad the contractor’s still here, because we’re going to need him to paint the house.”

Jim: One of the things you get the highest rate of return on is paint. You paint the house. It feels fresh and clean, and then you can worry about the floors later. So it depends on that list of prioritization.

Dave: Speaking of paint, too. If you’ve got kids, if you’ve got crazy painted bedrooms for the kids’ rooms, paint those back to neutral, or is it just let it be, it’s a kids’ room, and they can paint them when they move in?

Jim: It depends, is the first answer. But if you got a torn-up driveway, put the money in the driveway.

Dave: You’re getting really specific with the answers today, Jim. Great.

Jim: Again, I had one. It was a green room and an orange room. We keep that. We were going to re-do the floors in the bathroom and the kitchen, which is a harder thing to do.

Dave: Sure.

Jim: Than painting a kids’ room. So it depends on how it falls within that range. And I’m always, again, be mindful of … right now, a fair amount of sellers have some equity, and the economy’s doing fairly well, so a lot of them have two grand to spend to prepare. But it’s something that I’m always mindful of. Two grand’s a lot of money.

Dave: Yep.

Jim: And I want to make sure that we’re spending it as wisely as we possibly can and being aware that when the market cycles to a different cycle, that two grand might be a whole lot of money they don’t have.

Dave: Right.

Jim: And I’m always trying to be very cognizant of buyers’ and sellers’ situations. I don’t want to frivolously spend money, because it’s not mine, and I can, but where will they get the best rate of return for that thing?

Dave: So you mentioned paint. Where are some other things that do well, that give you a lot of return?

Jim: Anything outside, generally. Mulch, cleaning the shrubs, making them look nice, power washing.

Dave: So the curbside appeal is a big deal.

Jim: Curbside appeal. It sets the intention. It’s like when I used to do yoga many years ago, the Bikram Yoga years ago … There’s a point to this story I can see you just shaking your head.

Dave: I know this is an audio medium, but I just kind of flipped out. My brain broke. We went from mulch to yoga.

Bart: It’s all intertwined. Let’s do it.

Jim: We’d go in, and the instructor would say, “Set your intention to get through the pain.” Which was a great way to start 90 minutes of hot yoga. But you set that intention of you’re going to do okay, and you’re going to push through. And so you want to set the buyers’ intention of they’re not going to come in saying, “Oh, the driveway sucks. I have to paint the threshold. Oh, God. I open the door. I’ve got to re-do these fixtures.” You want to find that low-hanging fruit of things they see initially, and so they’re going to be less forgiving as they go through. Change the air filters. Change the HVAC filters. If you don’t do it but twice a year. I-

Dave: I change mine more than that.

Jim: I hope you do it more than that.

Dave: Nobody does them as they’re supposed to.

Jim: I had a client, he wrote in white-out marker, the erasable marker, on his grill every 30 days when he changed it. I was a bit incredulous as well, and he said, “Should I wipe this off?” I was like, “Oh, dear God. No. Because it’s going to give the impression, the true impression that you do what you’re supposed to do religiously.” It made the house show better, because the people said, “Oh, we’re buying a house that’s been well maintained.”

Dave: If a person’s going to pay that much detail to how often my air filters need to get taken care of, think about how much detail he spent with the big stuff.

Jim: Exactly. So that’s the sort of thing that … air filters. I’d always walk through a house and say, “Oh, the air filters are filthy. But the HVAC is filthy as well, and you’re probably going to have to have it serviced and maybe has a shorter lifespan.” Stuff like that, the easy visual stuff.

Dave: I’m going to go home and change my air filters when I get back.

Bart: I never change my air filters.

Jim: So the takeaway for today’s pod is change your air filters, and be happy with it.

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