Second Chance

To recap the first chance, Kelly and I missed out on THE quintessential cottage on THE lake we really wanted to live on at least part of the year.  We were in a multiple offer situation and we went $17,000 over asking and didn’t get it. We tried to make the offer and the decision with our heads and not our hearts only to find out we were heart broken when we didn’t get the cottage and someone else would call the cottage HOME.  I was heartbroken because of how disappointed Kelly was that it didn’t happen.  We both knew it was important to use our heads and not our hearts- that’s how the housing market got it trouble in the early 2000s.  In my previous blog, I reflected on the emotional aspects of how a buyer feels and how it was really good to be engaged with emotions because I actually felt the feelings and the emotional rollercoaster Buyers feel. I have bought several homes, apartment buildings, and second homes in my life time, but never in a multiple offer situation.  It is my opinion, until you are in a multiple offer situation you can’t really understand the helplessness, the anxiety, or the desperation a Buyer feels.  When I was teaching, teacher friends of mine use to say, “You will never understand how a parent feels until you are a parent”.  I didn’t believe them until I was a parent.  This experience was just like that.  We can advise, we can recommend, and we can superficially think we understand and feel compassion; however I would say we are only fooling ourselves as Realtors. That said, let me tell you what I learned from my “Second Chance” a cottage on the lake.

As we all know, it begins with a “match” email from the search we have set up for the place of our dreams.  Bingo!  That looks perfect and we need to see it.  The list agent is a little slow getting back to me on my request to see the property. My mind jumps right in with, “is he stalling because he has a Buyer”?  That’s what a multiple offer market does to an agent and a buyer.  The Broker doesn’t call, but he does text that my visit is confirmed.  The next day when arriving I met the owner in the driveway. We exchange pleasantries and in our conversation she reveals that the reason they are selling is that they have 15 grandchildren and they want to build a house and divide lots off for their kids to live nearby in a “family” compound” type setting.  I filed that away for later.

Kelly arrives and the lot has a western exposure, 250 feet of frontage, large lot, surround by year-round homes, and the house was had great light, incredible stonework on the beachfront/patio, and was big enough yet not too big. Needless to say, it was perfect for us.  I called the agent and said we would submit and offer and his response was, “I have an offer in hand”.  I asked him if it was his buyer and he said “yes”. It was time to make a strong offer!  This is where the plot thickens.  I told Kelly we are in a multiple offer and suddenly our competitive juices start to flow. We aren’t going to lose this waterfront house!!!  The last time I treated the situation from a prospective that there will and are other houses- this time it’s like the last house on the lake and we need to have it!!!  The agent in me says, ok, how do we make this so strong that we will win?  Unfortunately we couldn’t pay cash; that would be our best bet.  I discuss with Kelly just like I do with my clients, “every line of a contract is important; so let’s look at what else we can do to strengthen the offer”.  I ask Kelly, how much do you want this house and how much short term inconvenience are you willing to bare to win this battle? Kelly says, “Bring it on!”  So pen goes to paper and this is what we come up with:  I looked at the disclosure and the septic system is brand new, it has public water, the basement was dry and that was enough for me to suggest no inspections.  There are two ways out of a Buyer-friendly contract and inspections is one of the biggest “outs” of a contract.  Giving up building inspections is not for the faint-of-heart, but if you want to strengthen your offer it’s a strong tactic. Next, if you remember I had spoken to the owner when I first visited the house and she mentioned she wanted to build a house.  Building a house and finding the land is a daunting task, we included an addendum stating we would rent back to the Seller if they were interested in that. Last, but not least, we went $10,000 over asking price. Then we waited to see what happens.  This is when reflection and no regrets come into play.  We were fine with the outcome either way and we put down everything possible to make it happen.  We both said, “If it’s meant to be; it’s meant to be”.  To be continued…

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The Little Piece of Paper

Sometimes we have lessons we learn from the oddest places, from people we have never met; they teach us a great deal about what is important in life.  I have done many “estate” real estate transactions in my career; however I want to share one that I just had this winter.

I got a call to list a condo and a cottage from the estate of this person who we will call Winifred.  Her husband Bert had passed away a few years ago. I did all the standard paperwork and I was told that the couple had not had children and there was only one distance family relation.  There were people interested in that camp; friends of Winifred I was told I should call.

One cold Maine January morning I decided to go to the condo and see what I was going to have to do to sell the home.  What furniture needed to be removed, what valuables needed to be secured, and what needed to be repaired or updated in order to sell the condo. I opened the door and I immediately knew no one had been in the condo since Winifred had gone to the hospital for the last time.  Her purse was on the table, dishes were in the sink, her walker was by the door, and as I moved around I started to see notes on small pieces of paper attached to a few pieces of furniture.  The note on the coffee table is something I will never forget.  It was on a lined note pad sheet of paper 3 X 5 inches in size. That note told the story I’m about to tell. I knew little about Winifred and her husband Bert. It seemed like few people living did.  Her financial advisor was very close to them- almost like the son they never had. He was the person who told me about their lives.  Where they worked, how they loved their camp on a Maine lake, and he seemed a little lost when it came to how to deal with Winifred not having children or much family.  I could tell this was hard on him and he was proud of how he had helped them multiply their investment portfolio even though it was more a labor of love than a huge portfolio account.  They were simple people who enjoyed the simplicity of life in Maine and I was soon to find out they had some close friends who loved them dearly.

The note was Winnifred’s last requests in this world. At first when I read it I was just looking for names and contact information for people who she wanted her belongings to go to and solving my dilemma of how do I get rid of all this stuff.  There were names and phone numbers so I took a picture of the note with my phone not really paying attention to the details; then a word in the note caught my attention and I started reading the note line by line. The word that popped out was “ashes” and as I read closer this is what the note said in a bullet format:  “I have had a great life and I am at peace with passing.  Whoever is reading this thank you for following my request.   First, please bury me with the narrow wedding band and not the one with the diamonds. I have Gertrude’s ashes in the corner of my bedroom and want them buried with me.  Next, engrave my name and date of passing on our headstone.  If the camp is not sold, contact the Smiths, their phone number and address is: ______”.  I sat down and looked around the living room and thought about the people who had lived there.   This home is where they entertained, lived, loved, and made a home for each other.  They were both gone and I was to find out who would find their belongings important. Little did I know I would find them.  I called the Smiths and told them I was asked by Winifred to call them about the camp. I told them the price and I could tell Ester thought it was high.  The condo went under with a family member quite soon after and had just recently been able to get into the “camp” to gather a little more information. That’s when the phone rang and it was Ester.  We hit it off with them and they put the camp under contract.  We talked a lot and I got to know them well.  As the day of closing on the condo approached, I started getting nervous about getting the belongings out of the condo. I called Ester and she and her husband Wilfred agreed to come over and go through the belongings. I am so glad I called.  They knew what was what and I pointed out old watches and furniture that was too good to throw out.  Thankfully they took them and I felt relieved.

In the end, estate sales usually don’t bring so much emotion to the transaction as this one has; however the note, the lack of family, and learning about who Bert and Winifred were though the eyes of Ester and Wilfred moved me a great deal. It reminded me of the huge responsibility I have as a real estate broker to people, their heirs, and their legacy.  The camp is going to their close friends who will always remember the times they had there with Winifred and Bert.  The special trinkets will be in the hands of loved ones. There were two benches that Bert had made and a special end table that looked like an elephant that the niece or nephew wanted and that went to them.  When it is all buttoned up and the camp is sold I will feel closure and until then I will reflect on how important this profession is to people.  We are there in a time of need and treating it as more than just another transaction is so important.  It is so easy to just be focused on the volume numbers, the number of transactions, our average sale price, and our cost per sale.  All those things are important; however doing meaningful work is more important.  The reward of seeing a completed process that was well done and made a difference in someone’s life makes this so worthwhile, especially when you feel appreciated.  I am thankful for the referral that brought this family into my life. I am thankful to reflect on how Winifred handle her life with class, faith, and no regrets.  Last but not least, the power of that little piece of paper with a few written words on it made the whole experience change and made it personal to me.  I was the conduit to the living, the survivors, and the people who Winifred and Bert left behind.

When Your Seller Doesn’t Want to Sell

It’s a tough market out there for Buyers.  Period.  Blog ended.  Haha kidding. Seriously though, it is a tough market for buyers.  Why you ask? One word…Inventory.  Or lack there of I guess you’d say.  Buyers are searching for homes and Sellers aren’t listing because of the lack of inventory here in the Greater Portland Area of Maine.  Thus, my recent experience on the Seller-Side of a transaction.  Buyer-Side too, actually.  The Seller wanted so badly to move from his current home and buy something in a different town that he could fix up and turn a profit someday. Until then, the new home would be fine enough for him to live in and put his own stamp on until he was ready to one day sell it.  He was ready and months went by waiting for his home to sell.  He wanted top dollar (don’t we all), so he didn’t mind waiting and the winter passed us all by.  Spring arrived and the perfect Buyer came along and made an amazing cash offer on the home.  So exciting, right?! Well, yes…if your Seller wants to sell.  No, if your Seller has had a change of heart.  This Seller had a change of heart. Why you ask? Tough one…maybe a little fear? Uncomfortable? Probably a little (or a lot of both).  The big reason? Inventory.  He didn’t see anything that he loved and hasn’t seen anything in months.  So, instead he said NO to a next-to-full asking price CASH offer.  He would rather stay in his home that is tailored to his liking then risk settling for something mediocre.  Yes, that hurts indeed.  Lesson learned? It doesn’t matter how good an offer on a home may be…If the Seller wants to sell, he will.  If he doesn’t…well then, he won’t.

-Lori Lavoie, The L’Heureux Real Estate Group of Keller Williams Realty

Featured Image Credit: http://listingcenter.com/

 

New Listing in Scarborough, Maine

Your chance to live in Scarborough! Large, level lot (1.6 acres), 2+ bedroom home, with Douglas Fir flooring in living room and dining area adds to the ambiance of this Contemporary Cape/Cottage style home. The addition adds a first-floor bedroom and second-floor bedroom with expansive den and office space making the second floor a large private suite. Detached two car garage will be painted in the spring when weather permits. Don’t miss this one!

Gorgeous Sebago Lake Home!

The best of Sebago Lake, ideally situated on a peaceful, private 3 acre setting, boasting 186 feet of sandy beach, dock and moorings. The home has extraordinary entertaining space inside and out. This open-concept retreat artfully blends the interior with the natural world. Beauty and functionality describes the designer’s vision of this masterpiece home with state-of-the-art systems, top-of-the-line amenities and pristine condition. An additional waterfront lot allows this to become your own private compound!

MLS#: 1290725
List Price: $1,450,000

 

 

Our Newest Listing in Gorham, Maine!

Country living at its best! Extraordinary pastoral setting offering 10 private acres, convenient to Portland amenities and yet is “country.” Solid home built with every detail in-mind and updates to kitchen and baths that add to the value of the cosy, quaint, traditional Cape Cod style home. Snowmobiles, hiking trails, and peaceful country road add to the life-style. Sit in front of one of your wood-burning fireplaces and enjoy the best of what this home offers.  Call/Text Lori Lavoie @ 207-713-4011 or Email @ lorilavoie@kw.com.
@lorilavoie @thedonlheureux

MLS#: 1319937
List Price: $375,000

 

Experiencing the Emotional Multiple Offer

We are in Seller’s multiple offer heaven and Buyer’s multiple offer hell!  For the past 12 months in Portland, Maine we have been in a very strong Seller’s market.  At Team meeting, Team owner and agent discussions in general are about topics such as: Buyer agents sharing strategies, concerns, war stories, and the emotional roller-coaster their clients are on in the inventory-starved market.  As primarily a Listing agent/Team Owner, I have just been an observer and counselor for the most part; however I have had a few multiple offer Buyers as well. Something happened last weekend that made me experience the roller-coaster first hand- my wife and I made an offer on a lake front cottage!  Guess what? We were in a multiple offer!  I discussed the comps with my wife, talked about the topics we always discuss with clients, like: “How will you feel tomorrow if you don’t get the property?”  What’s your best and highest- most likely you won’t get a second change to counter”.  We decided to make an offer $17,000 over asking price. I told myself what I tell my clients, “If it’s meant to be, it will be.”

As the clocked ticked away Monday morning, I had a feeling something wasn’t right.  At noon time I received a text. Yes, a text and not a call.  I was amazed this was how I was being notified that we were in a backup position.  I was in a state of disappointment and needed to share the information with my wife and this is how I was notified with a text? We had taken the time to go through the whole process of making an offer?!  The next thing I had to do was to make a call to my wife… or should I text her?  The text would leave the emotion and drama out, but … that’s what the other agent did and that was less than professional.   So I called her and I could tell she was really disappointed. I started to ask questions; then I started to wonder how I could let this happen?  I had let her down and I felt to blame. Did I ask enough questions, Should I have discussed an acceleration clause with her?  Should we have paid cash and really made it a strong offer?  I didn’t realize she REALLY wanted that cottage on the lake, on a big lot, and turn-key.

As bad as I feel about this event, it was a good for me to experience. It brought me back to what our Buyers are feeling. The regret, the losing the property and the pain of knowing we will never have a chance to get that property again weighs on my mind.  I know we will compare every house we look at to that one that got away!  I have seen that so many times when it’s so hard for a client to not use that property as the “Barometer” property that I so often call it.  Every real estate agent should experience what I experienced firsthand.  It’s so easy to become calloused to the emotion of the process.  I suspect keeping your emotions out of it keeps an agent from burning out;  if they internalized the frustration, the disappointment, and/or the regret the “Buyer” feels when they lose out it would probably be too much to handle over time.  I have also called more clients than texting them a response on an offer if it’s bad news.  I realize it’s a generational thing and Millennials prefer texting; however on rejection topics like offers I think a call is in order. I called my 28 year old client a few minutes ago to inform him that our offer was rejected.  It was a little more time and a conversation; however I felt better about it than I would have if I had just texted him. That said, let’s remember to have compassion for our clients in this multiple offer Heaven and Hell we are in.

First Time Buyers and Parents

I have the honor and privilege to mentor new agents who are on our real estate team or attend classes I volunteer to teach for new agents.  One of the questions I get often is “If there is one thing you would tell a new Buyer agent about first time Buyers, what it would be?”

There are so many things to say on this topic. It could be that you are helping someone with the biggest purchase of their lives and the responsibility that goes with that.  I could be the roller-coaster of emotions that are involved in buying a house; however, when I think of a first time buyer and the role of an agent I put on my counseling hat and start with you are going to need to be a counselor.  You are their trusted advisor, counselor, and expert.  It’s easy to be an expert- it’s called experience and knowing you don’t know everything and you need to be problem solver and solution “finder”. Sometimes you need to check your ego at the door and find an expert that knows more about septic designs, easements, and installing. It’s harder to be a counselor, it takes being a good listener and truly understanding what a client is feeling.  That said, I want to share my one thing I think agents and first time buyers need to recognize.  When a Buyer puts a home under contract and starts the process of being a home owner, you are now becoming an adult in an adult world.  This is a break from a world of being a young adult to an “adult” and the roles of parents, friend, and family change.  Parents have been comfortable with a son or daughter moving out and renting, but until now their parents could protect them from making a wrong “BIG” decision.  They were comfortable with them in the pigeon hole called a “renter”.  Suddenly they are making “big boy or girl” decisions and their parents may not be involved.  Friends who don’t own a home yet may feel threatened that their friend is moving forward into the world of adulthood before they are ready.  Friends often try to put them back into the “pigeon hole or box” because they are more comfortable with their friends being like them- renters. Siblings can also feel this way, but I find parents and friends subconsciously try to sabotage the purchase more often than family.

So what does an agent say to a first time home Buyer who has parents who are trying to protect them-especially at a building inspection?  The building inspection is often the first time parents are involved and it’s where they make their stand. The first thing I ask the agent is: are the parents right? Is it a bad decision to buy this house?  We walk away from houses that are homes that need too much work or have problems that will affect the value when they try to resell it all the time; however, when the parents are clouded by their own fears it’s up to the agent to counsel the Buyer. I say, “John, your parents mean well, but they are stuck in a paradigm that they are comfortable with- buying a house is a huge symbol of your independence and that they no longer control your decisions.  That’s scary for them and they just want to put you back into that box where you are safe.”  Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of parents who encourage their children to a buy house or invest in property, but the purpose of this article is focus on the one thing that I find is the biggest hurdle that I see in helping first time buyers purchase a home.  Counseling skills are so important and observing behavior is as well.  Our job is to advise our clients and it is our clients who decide what they think is best for them. Pointing out the strong emotions that are involved and talking about them helps the client have a better understanding of the dynamics of parent involvement in the process.

In my next Blog I will discuss the “Mac and Cheese every night” counseling session I have with my first time Buyers.  That’s probably the first counseling session I have with my Buyers.  That said, there’s more than one thing I would tell an agent when asked what is the “One Thing”.

Plumber with Leaky Pipes

Plumber with Leaky Pipes

We have all heard the saying “plumbers have leaky pipes” because they just don’t see their own problems and they get paid to fix leaks in pipes. As a real estate agent I go into people’s homes, and with the help of a stager, I tell them that they need to update their flooring, windows, light fixtures, clean, and the list goes on.  Around my house, my wife Kelly said last month “we need to change these light fixtures, I can’t look at them anymore”.  Well, we had been living with them for 25 years and they seemed fine to me. A matter of fact, one of them was an original from when the house was built in 1947.  There are so many reasons why people don’t change out fixtures in their homes.  It’s the leaky pipe issue: they work fine, I’m comfortable with them, why spend money on a perfectly paid for light? The reason this is top of mind for me is because I was just in a million-dollar house and it hadn’t been updated in 35 years.  It was so “retro” that the fads were coming back into style. Now the location was outstanding and the “bones” were excellent, however, it would have brought so much more in today’s market if the property had been updated over time.  Buyers today want “move in” condition. Did you know that antique stores have just about gone out of existence due to the younger generations not wanting anything to do with “old, lead paint stuff”?  Today’s Buyer will pay premium dollar for ready to go, move in ready homes.  For the home owner, the key is “over time”.  When you update, you will enjoy the updates; if you’re wise, they will stay in style until you sell or decide to replace them. One of the most common occurrences that I see when I come in and suggest improvements to get top dollar for a person’s house is that they don’t want to sell after they improve their home.  I often hear, “I wish we would have done this years ago”.  The funny thing is that I feel the same way about our new kitchen and bathroom lights.  Should have done this a long time ago.  So, when you walk around your house, even if you’re not thinking of selling, walk around with the eyes of a Buyer.  What are some things that could be done that will add to the enjoyment of your home, add to the value, and not be overwhelming 25 years from now?  I am always available for free consultations and I can provide you with the name of an amazing interior decorator as well. Whether you are selling your home now or five years from now, please just ask. I have attached a couple of pics of the old light (retro 1947) and a couple of new ones we replaced them with. Happy house updating, and fix those leaky pipes!

ceiling new1947 light

Took It To Heart Award

We are proud to announce that Keller Williams Realty – Portland, Maine won the “Took It To Heart Award” for 2015 and 2016.  Portland donated $23,989 to the fund in 2016.  The “KW Cares Fund” is an International Fund that helps people when tragedy strikes. When Katina hit Louisiana and Hurricane Sandy destroyed the East Coast, for example, not only did KW send money but also volunteers.

Keller Williams Realty – Greater Portland also has a local Fund called “Friends and Family” that helps out locally when a need arises.  We have helped people who have needed assistance with medical bills, operations, personal needs, etc.  I am proud to say many agents give to these funds on every closed transaction. If you know of someone who needs a “hand up”- let me know and I can help you connect with the proper contact person.

 

Thanks again to Keller Williams Realty for giving back to the Community.

 

KW cares Pic