Note from Jim | Horrible Represent Joy Survey

This was a fun and sad one to write.

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This month: Perspective, sentimental stages as we send a kid to college, the market, calibrating what “horrible” means, the joy of homeownership, getting a survey, and thanks.

Perspective Matters

(see the bottom for the other side)

Clear shot looking forward at mountains
Same location as below, but looking forward

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A quick word about the market.

It’s too soon to say definitively what’s happening, but I tried here: Bubble? Crash? Correction? What is Happening?

An economist once told me that the reason he made predictions, even when they were wrong, is that nobody trusts economists if they don’t make predictions.

I think it’s too early to tell whether we are in a bubble or not, but a truth is that housing prices have gone way beyond commensurate salaries and income, and a moderation of prices is needed, necessary, and inevitable.

I also think that right now there are more buyers coming out and preparing for the winter 2022 and spring 2023 real estate markets. There are homes on the market and so long as that remains the case, we should be OK. Particularly the things at the lower price points. 2023 will be interesting. (If you’re interested in talking about buying or selling a home, please talk to me 🙂 )


Next Stage

My wife and I just took our younger daughter to her first year of college, and have been reflecting on the past 18 years. All I know is that those 18 years disappeared more quickly than I could have imagined.

I had a home inspection this morning and was relating to the inspector how I took my younger daughter with me to show houses when she was just in her carrier. He remembered that well.

A couple of days before I took her to college, she came to another showing with me. She said it was one of the most, if not only, fun things about showing houses with me.

Doing what I do, practicing real estate and representing clients, has given me the luxury to be in many ways a better dad because of the time I’m able to carve out. Now, aside from grandfather duties, I should have more time on my hands to work, yes, but also spend time with my wife and ride a bike a little bit.

I’d like to think I made my kids a little bit better; I know they’ve made me better.

I’ve written before that these stages and experiences make me better at what I do for my clients. I’m grateful for each and every step.

I wrote this in 2011.

I ride my bike with my younger daughter frequently. In two days, she will be a second grader.

This morning we recommenced our morning ritual of riding our bikes to the Crozet Mudhouse, a pit stop on the path to Crozet Elementary.

Upon our return home, we stopped for a bit of exploration and she seized the opportunity to cut me to the quick:

“I wish I could stay 7 forever, and you could stay 35. Because today is just perfect.”

With that, she got on her bike and started by herself, a skill she mastered two days ago. And she said,

“Come on Daddy!”

And I followed.

Lesson of the day:

Live life every day. You don’t stay young forever. And these moments must be appreciated.

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Calibrating Horrible

What do I mean when I tell a client that a house is “horrible”?

As with most things, the answer to that question depends on which client I’m talking to.

A universal horrible is a house that smells like smoke.  This should always be disclosed by the agent representing the seller, but rarely is. (I have done so when I have represented sellers who smoked.) Few things are as binary as when I smell the cigarette smoke through the crack between the front door and the doorjamb; as soon as I taste the smoke, I know my clients will not be buying the house. To the agents who I know are reading this: do better.

Horrible could be a layout that is functionally obsolete, and impossible to prohibitively expensive to rectify. Or so dated as to be unlivable before said updates are made. Or the neighbors are terrible. Or, or, or … it depends, and getting my horrible calibrated with my clients’ horrible takes time.

One time with new clients, I knew that a house would be horrible before walking in. I knew the agent, knew the company, and knew that the house would be trashed. As we were new in our working relationship, my clients rightfully didn’t believe me. Two minutes in the house, they agreed with my opinion, and we moved on. Trust is built.

I’ll rarely conclude a house is horrible for clients before we’ve seen a few houses together.



The Joy

This year I have had the privilege to represent several first-time home buyers, and this is the very brief story of one.

Our journey was a long-ish one, as many of them are, and I think my client was one of the happiest I’ve had in a long, long time.

We went to her final walk-through with her daughter and her sister, and her sister took their picture on the front porch. The joy that they both exuded was palpable and rewarding. While I love working with each of my clients, this one felt really good. It is a reminder both of why I do what I do and of a story I wrote a long time ago about how there are no little deals. (Short story: every transaction is a huge one to that client)


Should I Get a Survey?

Everything was going fine. Inspection, appraisal, title work. And then we got the results of the survey. The shed that was about 16′ x 24′ was a big asset for my buyer clients and turned out to be about 8 feet on the property behind what would become their property. And that property was owned by the homeowners association. It took several weeks of  delay and angst, worry, and inconvenience but it was resolved.

Moral of the story: My clients would have not discovered this issue until whenever they eventually sold their house. Per Murphy’s Law, their buyers would have discovered the issue, and my clients would have to deal with it then. It may not have been as relatively easily solved as it was for us, and they would’ve also questioned why I had not recommended the survey originally.

Better to know than not. This is one of the many reasons that I advise my clients to get surveys, just as I advise them to get chimney inspections rather than just chimney cleanings.


A wish

I wish for geo-targeted news searches that include the radius of the address, district, neighborhood.  I want to be able to type in an address and be able to find the relevant news, rezonings, failed-but-will-return rezonings.  Basically all of the relevant things that affect that property, wherever it is. Until then, I’ll keep reading as much as I can to better serve and represent my clients, and be a better-informed citizen.

Next month:

  • “It’s a personal struggle to come to terms that prices are often almost 2x or more. I just have to accept either this is the new normal or perhaps a correction will come in a year or two,” the first $5K, friendly representation, and a few thoughts about new agents, disclosures, mentors and more (looking forward to writing this one).
Foggy shot looking back
Same location as above, but looking backward. Perspective matters.


What I’m Reading


What I’m Listening To

The photos in the post above will likely go away whenever Substack feels like it, so I’m keeping them here.

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