Softness, Mutants, Right-Sized Façades | Monthly Note Archives

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Mutant Cricket Jumping Spiders

Bet you’ve not heard this one before. Apparently their more common name is “camel crickets,” but if you are familiar with the area, you know what I’m talking about.

I was representing a seller. We were through all contingencies and the buyer was buying the property as-is, with no repairs (the house needed some work and updating, and the buyer was ok with that). All was going well, until the appraiser came through and found “mold.” To be brief, the mold that the appraiser thought was “mold,” turned out to be an accumulation of camel cricket poop.

Who knew? I didn’t, but now I do. And now you do too.

Building the Right-Sized House

To get the right-sized house, for many, if not most, of my clients, they need to build. You’ve probably seen the headlines, “Millennials don’t want to buy baby boomers’ sprawling, multi-bedroom homes, and it’s creating a major problem in the real-estate market,” and they’re not wrong.

The right-sized house, as seen through my limited lens through which I’ll paint with a broad brush: High quality, energy efficient construction.

  • At least three bedrooms + an extra room (yeah, they mean “four bedrooms”)
  • Open kitchen and living room with eating nook
  • Outside living space, with a yard big enough for a dog and tomatoes
  • Basement or ADU (accessory dwelling unit) for one of the parents

Production builders aren’t building this type of product, so buyers need to build their own home, if they have the opportunity,. Using a reasonable rule of thumb of $200/foot, plus land, means that building your own is pretty expensive.

So buyers buy what’s available. They’ll like it enough to buy it, but what they really want likely eludes them.

Something about a Dog

We got a dog. I now understand how Americans spend $80B on pets every year. And $636M for Animal Wellness? I had no idea.

I’m fascinated to see the world through the eyes of so many of my clients. I’ve even added, “Do you have pets?” to my Buyer Survey, and I’m wondering why I didn’t have that before. Another story in the journey.

The Façade.

Everyone wears a mask. Often, I’m lucky enough to have my clients show me a little bit of what’s behind that mask.

There’s more to real estate than bedrooms, baths, and type of floors. I learn often about clients’ fears and hopes:

  • Does one travel a lot, and the other is afraid of being home alone? (Look for a home with fewer points of entry and no glass doors in the basement.)
    Are they going to have kids? One more? Two more?
    One client shared in the first conversation we had, “My sister (another client) told me to tell you that we’re never going to have kids.” Important stuff.

And sometimes, I need to empathize by mirroring.  While I’ve written a fair bit about empathy, I haven’t touched on how I occasionally share bits of me with a few, when appropriate.

Ultimately, it’s about sharing

Paraphrasing something I read recently –  choosing to be soft with a few, occasionally exposing a certain rawness, can help build that relationship, earn trust over time, and in this context, help with the transaction.

Letting emotions out in the transaction, but not overly so, is a learned skill, and I do my best to hear and guide my clients.

Micro-Market Analysis.

Last month’s micro market analysis was fun. This month, I’m looking at the Rugby Hills neighborhood (with a bit of a nudge to a wider area) in the City of Charlottesville.

Next month’s neighborhood has already been chosen by a client, but I’m tempted to do two, as I enjoy doing these so much.

Let’s dig in, using my overly-broad geographic area, but this is what’ I would  likely use for a client to start.

Right now (13 August ~1300)

  • There are currently two active on the market, at $845K and $1,285,000.
  • One pending, asking price of $425K.
  • 86 sold all-time in the MLS, and 10 since the first of last August, ranging from $300K to $750K.
    • 3 of those sold strictly as-is, with expectations set that home inspections were for informational purposes only. (Meaning, don’t ask for repairs, because the house needs work, and you know it.)
      4 of those sold as cash purchases.
    • Average Days on Market was 35; median was 21.
    • A moment of observant pride: Of the 20 sides (one buyer agent + one seller agent), Nest agents represented 9 of those sides.
    • If you’re curious to see how useless price per square foot is, when looking at this type of product: the price per square foot ranged from $166 to $279. $166 was for the one that sold for $349K, and $279 was for the one that sold for $300K.
    • These 10 houses were built mainly in the 1940s and 1950s, and most of the sold had between 1200 and 1800 above grade square feet – a much more reasonable square footage than many of those built today.

Short summary – This neighborhood is in a fantastic location, close to Greenleaf Park, the new YMCA, schools – sort of equidistant between UVA, Barracks Road, Downtown, and UVA. It’s walkable for those willing and able to walk ~25-30 minutes, mostly on sidewalks, and often in the shade.  Definitely bikeable. As evidenced above, a lot of the inventory is being renovated.

My polygon is sort of a refined arbitrary, and for a client I’d start wider with my analysis – start with the City as a whole, then to the Venable Elementary School District, then likely broader to incorporate homes of similar age, price, and proximity to X.

Ok, now I’m curious.

  • There are 35 homes active on the market in the City, built between 1940 and 1959. 15 are pending.
    • Actives range from $239K to $2.1M. DOM from 0 to 765 (I’ve shown that one at least 5 times).
    • Pendings range from $249K to $1.295M. 2 to 335 DOM; median is 22.

Price, timing, and luck all matter.

What do you enjoy seeing in the real estate process?

I asked my assistant, Sarah, to answer the above. I’m a huge fan of her answer.

The best part about our job is helping people accomplish their goals. Everyone’s reason for buying or selling a house is different, but the end result is change.  It could be helping a family find the right size for a growing family or even selling a house due to a divorce.  Both situations end in a fresh start in the next chapter of their lives.  I like knowing in some small way, we helped them get there.

She’s rightWe often see clients at profoundly pivotal times of their lives – new kids, kids moving out, pets passing, marriage, separation, moves far and near. We’re privileged to work with so many, and the goal is to ensure each feels like they are the only one we are working with at that time. I try, I really do; I represent clients all year; most of my clients will buy and sell a home three to five times in their lifetimes. As I’m fond of saying, buying or selling a home represents a pile of money, and will impact the rest of my clients’ lives.

What I’m Reading

A few weeks ago, a new VMI parent asked me one of the things that I’d learned at VMI. One of my answers was: to recognize and appreciate the tiniest of joys; you might not be expecting them, but learning to value them when they arise is a special skill. 

Thanks for reading. If you like this, please forward to a friend. If you don’t, please unsubscribe. 

– Jim


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Jim Duncan, Nest Realty, 126 Garrett Street Suite D, Charlottesville, VA 22902. Licensed real estate agent in Commonwealth of VA.

Do something nice for someone today. You’ll feel better about it, even if they don’t know that you’ve done said nice thing.

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