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So…um…do you like art?

I’m going to take a little diversion from Real Estate here, so that my blogging can reflect my life a little bit.  While I’ve been super lucky to help several people find great agents back in the US over the last couple of months, we’ve been busy with some things that have forced the “grander looming topics of real estate” to take a back seat in my mind.  

Since my last post, we have been to the Canary Islands, Wiesbaden and Heidelberg Germany, Paris and Sicily. We spent an unexpected full week in the hospital with my youngest (who is fine now thankfully).  We also enjoyed our Germany home in Stuttgart, and had a blast at Frühlingsfest with friends.  

Reflecting on the last couple of months, I am so grateful that we’ve gotten to explore so many places. I also have been reminded over and over of the unexpected joys in travel.

When I went to Italy for the first time back in 2006, my dear friend and travel mate asked me a question that would shape how I travel for the rest of my life.  We were planning out where we would go (Venice, Florence, and Rome on that trip), and she asked me, “So…um…do you like art?”  It’s a funny question, and it was clear where she was going with it.  She was not interested in going to a bunch of museums and spending all of our time staring at art.  And the truth is – I do like art, and I can appreciate art, but it’s not my life’s passion. I am SO glad she asked me that because it made me own up to the fact that even if I felt like I was SUPPOSED to go from museum to museum appreciating everything, it really wasn’t what I wanted to do.  We spent our time walking the cities, seeking out fabulous food in lovely environments, and drinking wine in various piazzas while people-watching.  It was perfect.  

Ever since then, I don’t completely PLAN a trip. I don’t feel any requirement to see ALL THE THINGS wherever we go. Because when I look back, with a few exceptions, what I really remember about a place is not seeing those things that you read about in books in person.  

What I always remember about a place is how it made me FEEL.

Those feelings are captured in moments that are small and lovely that you might be able to replicate at home, even with the same people, but are somehow made sweeter and more beautiful by the place you are – 

It’s sitting on a toppled medieval column outside of the Duomo in Siena on that 1sttrip, with my friend, chatting about nothing. 

It’s discovering the BEST mobile crepe and waffle truck in Paris while walking along the river bank when we didn’t feel like waiting in line at the museum.

It’s walking down the street with different and interesting architecture all around you.  Every time I’m in a new city or town it seems there is a moment when I take this in…I don’t know why really, but just walking down the street speaks to me about a place.

It’s my husband’s automatic joy whenever we are near mountains.

It’s having a beer with my dad in Munich.

It’s finding the world’s best cannoli in Sicily with my sister and nephew.  

It’s piling ALL THE WINE into the cart at a random grocery store in Italy with my father-in-law, to the wonder and probably horror of the natives.

It’s the pure joy on my kids’ faces as they jumped on the outside trampolines in the Jardin des Tuileries. There was a beautiful statue there that I fell in love with.

It’s the time “Volare” (New Blu Depinto Di Blu) was playing at the restaurant below my open window when I was getting ready for dinner in Sicily.

It’s watching my mom, on every trip anywhere, enjoying herself completely.

It’s being with my sister at an eclectic biergarten in Berlin.  We went for a beer and stayed for 8 hours.

It’s Pecorino cheese on eggs in Tuscany, and just hanging out with my Aunt in our villa surrounded by olive trees.

It’s sitting on the terrace at our Taormina apartment reading, snuggled with Jakey on my lawnchair who was playing (gasp!) video games on my phone and singing to himself all the while.

I could go on and on and on. 

I feel like we would have missed a lot of these moments if I had succumb to the pressure to tirelessly pursue all of the things that we are supposed to want to see everywhere. Maybe a lot of folks would be more disappointed to miss out on seeing the sites, but for me these smaller moments are more lasting.

As I’m looking back I’m also realizing how special most of these moments were because of the people that I was with, and I’m so grateful for the loves in my life. It’s so fun to share these places with them. Traveling with kids is challenging of course.  But if you’ve already relieved yourself of the pressure to “see all the things” it is so much nicer.  It’s easier to be on their pace and not try to force a timeline that isn’t necessary anyways.

So, if you’ve got a trip coming up, I’d encourage you to decide what you really want to do there. If you are one of those people that has to see all of the famous sites in order to feel like you’ve been to a place, then by all means go for it. I do sprinkle in some of the “gotta see” stuff on each trip, but it doesn’t completely drive the agenda. 

But if you, like me, just want to BE there…then I’d encourage you to allow yourself to do just that – and enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Open Houses – Yay or Nay?

People often ask whether open houses are truly helpful in selling a house. In my opinion, the short answer is a resounding YES, but not for the reason you think.

Since starting in this business I have held a LOT of open houses. Like a ton. I’ve held 3 or 4 houses open in a single weekend and kept that pace for several weeks in a row during busy seasons. I’ve come back early from weekend getaways, left swim meets early or missed baseball games (although I really try not to), and missed out on lazy beach Sundays to hold open houses.

I have sold exactly ONE (1!!) house to a person who had never seen my listing before, saw my balloon-clad sign on the street, and veered into my open house on the way to the beach. When I was a new agent I remember an office meeting during which someone asked if anyone had sold a house this way. About half of the agents in the room said that it had happened to them once in their entire career. No one said it had happened more than once. So, okay, but it does happen then. But WHY would I spend all of that time and sacrifice so much of my life holding houses open with such terrible odds of selling that house that day?

Many agents hold homes open in order to meet new clients. And that absolutely happens, and often. People that are in the market, or are thinking about getting into the market, spend a nice afternoon looking at homes and discussing their opinions on them. MOST of the time, even if the person is actively looking for a home, they don’t know the price range of this house, or they are just curious about it for some reason, or they are just learning about the market and want more data points. So it isn’t usually “the one”. And if they don’t already have someone helping them, the agent holding the open house might manage to become their agent if they are able to make a connection.

I met my first buyer client at an open house that I held for another agent’s listing. They weren’t quite ready to buy and that particular house was not the right one for them anyways. But I kept in touch with them for a couple of months and when they were ready we got to work and found them a great home. Another time I met a couple that was going to open houses specifically to shop for an agent! I didn’t know it when I met them but it sure made me happy to learn that later when we were listing their home for sale. So we agents definitely meet people at open houses that can become clients. Great for us – but that doesn’t do my seller any good!

The real reason to have an open house is for the MARKETING opportunity! If you’ve done your marketing correctly up front – the home shows great, the photos are perfect, and you’ve pushed it out EVERYWHERE possible – an open house becomes another marketing BLAST. Most of the sites that people are following during their home search (zillow, realtor.com, trulia, and so on), allow users to save their search. When you schedule an open house, these sites typically send out emails to anyone that has saved the search. You also normally get an extra sign or two out there that week, drawing attention to the home, reminding people to tell their aunt or brother or friend about that house down the street that is for sale.

Check out this actual screenshot from Zillow showing the page views of one of my old tougher-to-sell listings. I originally took the shot because the first set of data was the views that came from another agent that had listed the home at the end of August. I was super proud that our staging, better photos, and probably a little bit of timing, had resulted in quite a bit more interest when we first listed the home in February. So I knew we’d done our marketing right. But guess what drove all of those higher peaks after the initial introduction to market? Open houses and price reductions!

These peaks equal EXPOSURE, which is what you need to find the person that will pay the most for your house. I very often have an increase in showings the week of an open house. People see the house because of an Open House announcement so they call their agent and schedule a showing. Even if NO ONE shows up to the open house, but showings have spiked that week because of the increased exposure, I call it a success! I’m serious!

Once I sold a higher end listing because of an open house that I posted on social media. I was bored and posted a couple of photos and said something lazy like “Check out my view at my open house today”. A friend took notice and started messaging me about it and eventually bought the house through her agent. I never would have thought that specific post would have connected us with the eventual buyer but like I said…it’s all about exposure!

So unless there is an unusual reason not to hold open houses for my listings I always do. It means exposure for my client and that’s what I’m after. As a side benefit I might meet someone else to help as well, but my seller doesn’t care about that and I know it.

But I always go into an open house thinking I’m going to sell that house that day! Because it did happen that one time, so why not today?!

Thanks for being here!

Can’t I sell my home myself?

What if I told you that I could put some money in your pocket, and all you had to do was sit on the couch with your feet up a little more?

The National Association of Realtors publishes annual statistics on home buyers and sellers. The most recent report, which captures the numbers for 2018, states the following about For Sale By Owner (FSBO) sales:

FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of $200,000 last year (up from $190,000 the year prior), and significantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $264,900.

National Association of REALTORS 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Real estate evangelists will try to tell you that this proves that you will make, on average, 25% MORE when you sell your house with an agent than without. Which of course makes the commission you pay your listing agent look like chump change. Sounds great! But it’s not quite that simple.

I’d love to believe it, but I’m a numbers girl. My background in data analysis won’t let me ignore the other factors involved. For starters, it is also true that a higher percentage of people who sell their homes without an agent are in the lower price brackets. So the numbers are skewed a little bit from the outset.

THAT SAID, there are absolutely money making milestones in the process during which you need the expertise of a great agent to maximize your deal. Here are five of them:

  1. Home preparation – Your listing agent can help you decide what things need to be done prior to listing that will bring in the most bang for your buck. They know the current market and the items that are essential to draw the highest price for your home. They also know when you should keep that money in your pocket.
  2. Pricing – The initial pricing of your home is one the most important determining factors for whether you will score the highest price possible. If you overprice your home, it will sit on the market and become stale, resulting in an even lower sales price. If you price it too low you could leave money on the table. It takes a lot of expertise, number crunching, and an objective eye, to get that sweet spot right.
  3. Marketing – From home preparation and professional quality photographs, to BLASTING your home to all of the channels that buyers use when home shopping in your market, a great agent knows how to get your home in front of the right people. If you don’t get the marketing right, you simply will not attract the buyer that will pay the most for your property.
  4. Negotiations…ALL of them. When the offers start to come in, a skilled negotiator will turn them into the most advantageous situation possible for you. While negotiating the initial sales contract, this doesn’t just mean sales price but all of the terms that are important to you. A second round of negotiations occurs after the home inspection over repairs. During these times it is essential to have someone skilled as your intermediary.  This insulates you from the emotional aspects of the negotiation, and your bargaining position is strengthened.
  5. Appraisal – Being a numbers girl, meeting the appraiser is one my favorite things. If I’ve done all the rest of my job right, and we’ve got the most we think we could get for your home, I am sweating the appraisal a little bit. It takes a lot of skill to have a discussion with the appraiser that will ensure that all of the right things are being considered when determining the home’s true value.

There is so much more I could say about each one of these topics. Maybe I will tackle them each in a separate post in the coming weeks. But let’s get back to the numbers. EACH of the items above can save you TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars.

That’s a lot of dough! Consider also that when you hire a listing agent as a seller, your total commission agreement at listing covers BOTH agents – yours and the buyer’s. When you sell your home yourself you almost always end up still paying a commission to the buyers’ agent. So if you go without representation, that amount of commission that you are avoiding is really very small compared to the amount that you can save at each of these points in the process.

Without further research, I don’t know exactly the true average percentage that you can save by using a great agent…but I do know it’s more than the money you’ll pay them. So to address the original question – Can’t I sell my home myself? The answer is YES of course you CAN. But a great agent can save you money and do the work FOR you! Why wouldn’t you let them?

Notice that throughout this discussion I didn’t say “any agent” or “some mediocre agent” at any point! To maximize your gains you really need an agent that is skilled in all of these areas. If you need help finding a great agent anywhere in the world, I would love to help you! Shoot me a note anytime at jean@therealjeanj.com.

Thanks for reading!

What I’m doing now

What can I say? I LOVE real estate. I am SO happy that I haven’t had to abandon real estate completely while I’m away.  Instead, I’ve become a referral agent!

So, what does a REFERRAL AGENT do? 

When people talk about buying or selling home, whether it’s in Southeaster Virginia or anywhere in the WORLD, I ask that you still send them my way.  

I will connect you to the BEST OF THE BEST.  I already know the best agents in Hampton Roads and in many other areas across the country.  If needed I will scrutinize reviews, study credentials, and conduct interviews to find you an awesome agent anywhere!  These agents that get to work with new awesome clients will be so grateful that they will pay me a little referral fee upon closing, so there is no cost to you.

This is a WIN-WIN-WIN proposition!

You and your friends get the benefit of my industry expertise to help you connect with THE BEST agent for you, fully vetted and ready to serve…YOU WIN!

The agent on the other end gets to do what I wish I could continue doing in the near term – helping people achieve their real estate goals and make a living doing so…THEY WIN!

I will get to stay engaged in my profession, have something to work on while the kids are in school, and to earn a little side money to boot…I WIN!

So, if you, your friends, or family, need to find a great agent locally or out of town, I hope you will let me do the homework!  I would love to hear from you!  You can contact me through the site, or send me a note anytime at jean@therealjeanj.com.

Hallo from Germany!

Thanks for joining me! As many of you know, we are here in Germany for a couple of years. We’ve been here now for about six months, and we’ve started to get into our groove. If you’ve ever moved to a foreign country you probably experienced a similar transition time as I’ve heard six months is the norm. Of course the last time we did this it took a full year to get settled…but there were extenuating circumstances…that’s a story for another day.

So now that we are settled in, I thought it would be fun to start a little blog. Mostly, I will focus on things that are related to real estate, which is my PASSION. I will share my perspective on some things I’ve learned selling real estate, focusing on things that people ask me all the time. I’ll also sprinkle in a little about our lives here, our adventures, and of course the kids from time to time…because I can’t help myself (they are my world).

I hope you’ll join me! And I would love to answer any questions you have – please send them my way. You can put them in comments, fill out the contact form on the website, or simply send me an email at jean@therealjeanj.com. I always love to hear from you!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton