Two years….

IMG_2802Today marks two years since my sister died. It was sudden, and tragic. She was one of my best friends, even though we lived two states away from one another. You know those relationships that seem to pick up where they left off when you get together? That’s what we had. It wasn’t because we were sisters necessarily, but we experienced some similar things in life, and we helped one another through the hard times.

She came out to visit for a week every other Christmas and Thanksgiving, with her amazing husband by her side. She had come out in the summer more recently since our parents were getting up in years and my mom’s health was declining. She came when she can, and when I needed her help with their care and attention.

I am sure to many she was just a sister, but for me she was a mentor and she probably didn’t even realize it. I should have told her. You see, my sister had a hard life for quite a few years. She was the rebellious one growing up—running away at 16 and marrying young at 18. Her marriage was filled with abuse and an alcoholic and drug-addicted husband.  And two children. Her kids meant everything to her and when she knew she had to leave she lived out of her car for months until she could take the children with her. She was willing to be homeless before she was willing to leave her kids behind and escape to the safety of my parents’ home—taking temporary refuge while she enrolled in college and prepared to raise her kids on her own.

There was a lot that was hard in her life, and yet she smiled. She finally met the love of her life and they married in 2000. She smiled more then. She suffered health issues and challenges, and she continued to smile. I am not saying she was always happy, or ignored the challenges, I am saying she managed to smile through them. She loved others, and she flashed that smile. When I asked my brother in law what made him fall in love with her, he said it was her smile. Life isn’t always easy, and for many it is hard—really hard. But I learned from my sister that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to smile. I try to remember that when I am frustrated or discouraged. And I can do better. I am so grateful that she found happiness, and her smile. I will forever be grateful that she was not just a sister but a friend. And I will always miss her. RIP Rebecca “Becky” Weston, and please smile down on me and let me know you are near.

Is a Virtual Office Really the Answer?

50565978_10217758466584220_481617768349696000_nThere are a lot of changes in the real estate industry, just like in so many other areas of our economy. Technology is changing the way we live and the way we do business in real estate and other areas. And there is a lot of competition in real estate; competition for listings, for buyers, and for agents to join a brokerage–and it seems there are nearly limitless possibilities. I have some real estate friends who swear by a virtual platform for their real estate brokerage, and they claim it is working wonderfully for them. In fact I have been asked by several of them to join their virtual world. They claim to make more money, have more freedom, and they can interact with other people in the company via an avatar in an online platform. But then I just scratch my head when I see that they are opening up a physical location. If virtual is really the answer, why have an office?

Real estate has been and always will be a relationship business. People depend upon their agent for advice as they traverse the minefield that can be a transaction. Sometimes it is just nice to sit down and talk over the issues face to face. It’s even better when you can sit down face to face and just talk. I know we can meet in a coffee shop, or at their home over the kitchen table, but having your tools close at hand in the office and a quiet space to communicate can go a long way toward getting the deal done with a little less stress. If virtual brokerages really are the answer, there would be no need for office space, or an annual in-person awards ceremony and celebration. We need human contact, in fact most people crave it. That happens in person, and let’s face it–an agent who meets their clients in a professional work space when needed shows their clients that they are worth the cost of having an office. For those who work exclusively from home, that is your choice. I personally prefer to have my CPA, my attorney or my financial advisor to have a place we can sit down in a professional setting with no distractions. So today I am grateful for my work space, for my 100-year old building in a quaint downtown. I am grateful for the relationships that are built here, with clients and with my fellow agents. For me, virtual simply isn’t the answer.

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“Gathering Love”–an Epiphany

A week ago my husband and I headed up to Tahoe to spend a few days. It got us out of the smoke in the valley caused by the #CampFire in Paradise, California. The massive wildfire wiped out the town and well over 10,000 homes.  Thousands have been displaced and many lost everything. For a few days we were above the smoke that created health hazards and made breathing difficult in the valley. It was pure luck that we escaped to a higher elevation—we had made the reservations several weeks earlier.

There is a delightful art gallery that I love to visit when we go to South Lake Tahoe. The Marcus Ashley Gallery has many wonderful artists that it showcases, including a Dr. Suess collection that will take you back to your childhood. Now don’t think we are some sort of one percenters, we are middle class hard-working people who occasionally go out of town and even less frequently we purchase a piece of art. As we walked into the gallery that day, I told my husband that under no circumstances would we be buying anything this trip. We didn’t need any art and with the holidays coming we shouldn’t spend the money on it.

"Gathering Love" by Mackenzie Thorpe
“Gathering Love” by Mackenzie Thorpe

And then I saw it. “Gathering Love” by Mackenzie Thorpe stared at me as I approached. The figure in the piece is plucking hearts from a field. The faceless character had no color, no gender and no age. It was clothed in a simple heavy overcoat. The sky in the background reminded me of the smoke-filled skies of Paradise and beyond. The hearts spoke of love being plucked up, harvested from seeds planted previously. I admit tears came to my eyes. It represented everything that was happening at that time. My niece and her family lost their home in the fire, as did some of my real estate clients and some good friends. We all seemed to wander a bit in disbelief. So much destruction, so much devastation, so much pain, yet there was also an outpouring of love. Our communities came together to help, to serve and to give from our hearts and our bank accounts. The people of Paradise, Magalia, Concow and Pulga were reaping the love that had been sown by so many in the surrounding towns. They were literally gathering love and we were mourning alongside them. This picture came home with me and it will forever remind me of the loss of so many homes and businesses, the loss of so many people, and of the love that it takes to rebuild homes and lives. Our hearts and prayers will continue with those who lost everything in the #CampFire. We love you friends, neighbors and family. And we are here for you.

Be Smart About Your Summer Move

Moving Day!
Moving Day!

The Spring selling season is well underway in the Yuba-Sutter area, and that means that the Summer moving season is just a few weeks away.  According to Military Program Analyst Deloma Miley, more than 65% of the moves of military members take place between May and August. Those families don’t get to pick when they move, but for those not in the military it is still the most popular time to pack up and put down new roots.  Many families want to wait until the school year ends, and most people prefer to move during good weather.

No matter what time of year you move, it is hard work.  Here are a few tips that can help:

  1. Declutter, again! Perhaps you have prepared your house for the market and you already decluttered once, or you are renting and skipped that initial step, declutter again!  Make piles to donate, piles to sell and piles to take to the local landfill (try to keep this pile as small as possible).  Don’t plan to pack anything you don’t need.  There is nothing like paying for boxes and space on a moving truck for those old wire hangers and your kids homework from the first grade. Be brutal, and only pack what really matters.

    Happy sellers!
    Happy sellers!
  2. Make a plan. From packing boxes to picking out the size of the truck, start with a list of what you need to do and put those tasks on a calendar.
  3. Make sure to rent the right size moving truck and reserve it early. Many people choose to save money by moving themselves.  There are plenty of options for rental trucks so make sure you know how much stuff you are going to move and how large the truck needs to be.  I have had clients who were giving away their things on moving day because they simply ran out of room.
  4. Start accumulating boxes. Whether you are stopping by the local market to get their cast-offs or buying boxes at a discount store or moving company, start accumulating boxes early and store them broken down.  Pack a little each day, and start by packing the stuff you rarely use.
  5. Buy packing paper. It’s inexpensive and can protect your valuable and important possessions.  Bubble wrap can help too. In a pinch use towels, pillows, or other soft materials.
  6. Label your boxes well. Sometimes it just works to put some family photos in with the contents of your bedside table, but make sure you label it so you can find those photos again.
  7. Arrange plenty of help. Friends help friends move, but they usually offer pizza to go with it.  Ask plenty of people to assist on moving day—it will go faster and make the heavy lifting a little easier.

Few people love the idea of moving, but planned well and done right, it can get you to your new home with a minimum of stress and hassle.

I Found the Home of my Dreams…!

You really can buy your dream home!
You really can buy your dream home!

You have finally found the home of your dreams, but how much should you offer? Without a doubt this is the question I am asked most frequently when working with buyers, especially first-time home buyers. It isn’t always an easy question to answer but there are a few tips to help you make that decision:

1. Ask your agent how much comparable properties in the neighborhood have sold for.  The best indicator of value is the selling price of homes that are similar to the one you are hoping to purchase. Your Realtor can run a search and show you exactly which homes have sold, when, for how much, and generally show you pictures so you can compare condition, location and amenities.
2.  Ask yourself how badly you want this home. For some people, it is just a house, for others it is THE house. If this home is the only one that you believe will meet your needs in the next 5-10 years, you will probably want to make an offer higher than if it is just one of several that will work.
3.  Are you going to ask for the seller to contribute toward your closing costs? If you are, you should factor that into your offer. The more you ask for in the form of seller credits or seller-paid inspections, the more appealing that offer should be. Anytime a buyer is asking for concessions, the offer becomes less and less appealing to the seller. You can compensate for that in your offer price. Ask your Realtor what costs are typically paid by the seller and which are paid by the buyer. This can help you structure your offer to be more enticing to the seller.
4.  Can you afford it? Just because a lender tells you that you can borrow a certain amount doesn’t  mean that you are comfortable at that payment. Look at your budget and decide how much you can manage each month and still put a little into savings for the future. If you have to offer more than that amount, it might be wise to keep looking. Buying a home is probably the largest financial investment most of us will ever make. It is important to do your homework and seek the advice of a licensed real estate professional. Working together with your lender and your Realtor, buying the home of your dreams can be a reality. Happy house hunting!