Buying and Selling a House…in the 21st Century

Having just bought and sold a house in the last few months, I’m about as “up” as a human being can be as to the do’s and don’ts.  And as a background, Pam and I have lived in different countries and bought and sold more than our share of properties.  Having said that, things…have…changed on BOTH sides of the deal.  Judy Collins was prescient with her song, “Both Sides Now.”  Allow me to whisper in your ear.  One little tip you didn’t think of, could either cost you or make you tens of thousands of dollars.

In ye olden days, you’d paint the front door, do some raking, mow the lawn, bake an apple pie, and do some vacuuming and waxing.  That won’t cut it today.  It won’t even get somebody in the door, least not a buyer.

aaaaaDJITip One:  I wandered into this one by accident.  I picked up a little thing called a quadcopter.  Mine is a state of the art DJI Phantom and it’s still the top dog on the market.  Here’s where it helped.  During spring/summer, I shot videos of things that look pretty on my property.  Flower beds, we have a pond,  gazebo, etc. but everyone has a good handful of angles that show your place at its best.  I have one swooping in from the sky and into the house.  What’s the purpose, you ask?  Because you may not sell your house in spring or in summer.  When the leaves fall, or there’s snow on the ground, it would normally be a time of hibernating home buyers.  Not with a video…which they can click to on You Tube.  How many people watched my video?  A LOT!!!  Curious?  Here’s what I came up with:  “But I couldn’t possibly fly one of those things.”  Four years ago you might have been right.  They made them so smart now, they’ll follow you around like a puppy if you so choose.

aaa before-and-after-stagingTip Two:  Hire a Stager:   “But I don’t need a stager…”  Yes you do!  I’ve made a living for 40+ years advising people as to what sculpture to buy and where to put it.  And I hired one.  What they do well is look at your house without emotion.  You may love that wild painting of Crazy Uncle Charlie, but a buyer won’t.  They go through your house and give it to you straight.  What they suggest:  Seriously consider.

Tip Three:  Pick your realtor the way you’d pick your brain surgeon…carefully.  You want a spark plug.  You want a hyper Type AAA personality and that can come in any package.  Being pretty doesn’t account for anything.  You want the one who knows everyone and is married to the business.  Nothing less.  Don’t pick your cousin, Suzy, cuz she’s your cousin.  Lethally bad decision.

aaaa home_inspection_southern_californiaTip Four: Inspections:  The house we sold is 30 years old.  Times have changed and ordinances change, too.  Get an inspector to go through your house…first, so there are no surprises.  If a buyer goes through your house and finds five or six serious problems, you’re either toast, or you’re going to get a dismal offer.  Bite the bullet and do what needs to be done…ahead of time.

Tip Five:  Detach:  Once you put your home on the market it magically transitions in one day.  It becomes… a house.  The party is officially over.  Say your goodbyes and begin to detach emotionally.  The sooner you can do that, the more ahead you’ll be.  I put 30 years into CrossBow,  dug five large ponds, cleared five acres, and chainsawed close to 200 trees.  And that was just a small portion.  And after all that…it still turns back into…a house.

And now, The FUN Part:   Looking for a House:

The tree house in Fall

Candidate for perfect home: CrossBow, our home for 30 years. Pictured: the Pax Notarius, our treehouse schooner in fall

With few exceptions, here’s a rule you can pretty much take to the bank.  There isn’t just ONE PERFECT HOUSE for you.  You just think that, because we, as humans, can become instantaneously infatuated.  Been there…big time, and done that.  It’s a very, very difficult habit to break, but I believe Pam and I have found a way.  We go on Zillow and define the radius or area for the homes we’re looking for.  For us it was a radius of 30 minutes driving from the central hub of Asheville, NC.   Then we got our dream sheet together:  Had to have water, preferably with a stream/river and a waterfall.  Had to have X number of acres,  be in X proximity to neighbors (in our case, a quarter-mile close to us is really pushing it.)  And…what am I really willing to spend?  Quickly you get your parameters set and begin looking.

 Now, here’s the tip:  When you find your ultimate perfect house, make a file.

 Title it: Perfect Houses and drag in 10 or 20 Zillow shots of perfect house #1.  Do that about ten times and something wonderful happens.  You get over your infatuation.

What you quickly begin to glean is that your ten “perfect” houses are actually an average of eight or ten or twenty parameters for perfection.  One house will be a perfect 10, except for the price which is about a 2.  Averaged-out you might just toss it out.  One is a perfect 10 but it’s on a tenth of an acre ( a deal-breaker for us).  Or, one has a trout stream and a waterfall to DIE for, but the house looks like the Manson murderers stayed there.   You and your mate have to come up with your list of deal-makers and deal-breakers and add up the numbers honestly.  And then, once your minds have done all the sorting, you have to ask your hearts, “Is this where I want to live the rest of my life?”  If you can’t nod your head…move on.

More technology:

What you find pretty quickly is, that “perfect” house becomes more elusive as you get pickier and pickier.  And, you and your mate get called-upon to imagine that purple living room you’re staring at as a soft mushroom beige.  Or…the house is gorgeous in every way, but, you hate the exterior with a passion.  Or… there’s a really cheesy carport, or, or, or…..

gazebo and bridge fine dry brush satPhotoShop:  I happen to be pretty facile with a keyboard and PhotoShop, but if you aren’t, there’s probably some kid on your block who is.  In ten or twenty minutes you can remove those superficial deal-breakers and see how it’s going to be when YOU move in!

aaa waterwheel-in-brittany-dave-millsWATER:  How far can you take this concept?  Pretty damn far.  Pamela’s and my Achilles’ Heel, looking at houses amounts to water.  We love streams.  We really love streams with waterfalls.  And if there’s a huge trout stream with a 12-foot waterfall, we’d just about settle for a double-wide…almost.  What you learn, however, is that even this seemingly insurmountable deal-decider can be fixed.

Once Pamela physically saw her first big waterfall, that became a focal point, actually for both of us.  But, you can’t fake Mother Nature, can you?  Oh, yes, you really can.  I promised Pam she could have a 12-foot waterfall going into a pond, with a twisty trout stream coming out the other end.  And I can do that.  You can, too, if that’s what you want.  E-mail me if you want to know the tricks to that one, and I’m talking about something you will swear was made by the great Creator, Herself.

Pacolet spring

The Pacolet River which runs at the base of the property

The Coup de Grace:   We were Google-Imaging and Pinterest-ing images of the sort of home we wanted.  One of them had a waterwheel and Pamela about swooned.  “You’d like to have that?” I asked.  “Oooohhh, baby…baby.”  Do a two-minute search on Google, as we did, and you can have your cake and eat it, too.  We’re actually buying a house on a river (with a French name that I can’t pronounce).  Putting up an old-style gazebo…with a 10′ waterwheel on the side of it.  This one will actually produce healthy viable 110 ac current and is powerful enough to power our house and then some.

Last Tip:  Think BIG….  If you think small, it won’t accidentally get big.  That concept works with just about everything you face in life.


P.S.  Even in the 21st Century you can pretty much have it all, if you can be patient, roll up your shirt-sleeves and dare to dream big.  The place that’s in our crosshairs has all of the above…plus it’s a five-minute row, or Zodiac trip up the Pacolet River….to a five-star restaurant.  Country Roads….take me home…to the place…I belong.  Carolinas…nothin’ finer…take me home…country roads…   Okay, I improvised a bit.

2 Responses to "Buying and Selling a House…in the 21st Century"

  1. Henry Harvey says:

    So, you’re serving at this new bed and breakfast?
    So excited you found a place. Just don’t want you two to leave Bucks, but Wade, being a true Southerner understands.
    And near Ashville, yes, oh baby.
    Life is too short not to keep dreaming.

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Pam!

    Bucks County has been just SUPER for us for 30 years. Great county. But, for us, we’ve done everything there is to do here, fifty times over. Time for a new adventure. And you and Wade have a standing invitation!


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