Location, location, location

It’s the oldest real estate cliché there is. The three factors in the price of a house are location, location, and location. That isn’t totally true, of course. Condition has a lot to do with it as well. But …
Lately, the old cliché has come back to me. Big time. 

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I got my real estate license five years ago in November, and landed in a market that had lost its mind. My first attempt at a deal started on December 26 with a call from a friend who had seen a new For Sale sign that afternoon and wanted the house. I was coming down with the flu and losing my voice, but I helped her write an offer the same day. We didn’t get the deal because there were five other offers within 24 hours. My client offered asking price, but most of the others were higher.

And so it went for several years. If you wanted a house priced under $500,000 you had to be ready to jump into the game immediately. And bring your biggest, boldest offer.

In the past 18 months or so, our market has cooled a bit. Inventory is up a little, prices – or price increases, at least – have eased. And yet …

Right now, I’m working with a couple shopping in the $800,000 range. In the past three months they have lost out in three multiple offer situations. In one, they offered $50,000 above asking and still did not get the house.

Over the same time period, I’ve worked with several buyers whose budgets top out at $350,000 and they’ve had plenty to look at. We’ve made offers and gotten deals.

So, what’s driving this upside down situation? The only thing that matters it seems – location.

My $800K clients are looking close to town, between the Vanderbilt campus and Belle Meade/Green Hills. Inventory is low, demand is high, and things are nuts. My other clients have looked in a variety of neighborhoods, and in most of them the action is a little less intense.

So, what do we learn from this? With location, flexibility is the key to happiness.

I’m sure, sooner rather than later, my $800K clients will be living in their new house and the long, hard search will be fading into memory. It’s a matter of time and patience.

But those with less time and patience will have it easier if they are happy looking in a variety of areas. If you have your sights locked on one specific neighborhood, it’s a pretty good bet others do as well, and the competition is going to be fairly stiff, regardless of the price point.

There are lesser-known neighborhoods all around us, still convenient to town, that offer interesting, livable houses at reasonable prices. Bordeaux, Glencliff, and Madison come to mind.

So, look around with an open mind.

I can help.

How to Win at Real Estate

How do we win? That’s a good question, and a lot of people I work with have it in their minds if not on their lips.
The answer, of course, depends on how we define win. 
To some – both realtors and their clients – a win means beating the other side. Taking something away. Scoring all the points. If there is a winner, there has to be a loser. I see it differently. And glad to say, most of my clients so far, do as well. A true win is a win for everybody. Neither side gets everything, and everybody gets something. 
So how do we go about winning?

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My approach echoes the excellent life advice contained in the concept: everything you need to know about life, you can learn in kindergarten.

Play nice with others
I always try to use my best manners as I navigate a deal. Getting testy (and I do now and then!) is one thing, but letting it show is another. Direct and firm, sure, but always pleasant! And it goes beyond this. I always try to see things from the other side’s perspective. It helps me see what might be motivating attitudes and actions of the other party as we negotiate. And it helps me explain things to my clients who can get anxious – and even testy – if things don’t go smoothly.

I try to share the burden with the agent on the other side if I can do so without derailing my life. Why not? Doing something to move things along, even if it’s the other agent’s responsibility, can go a long way toward a win for everybody if there’s a snag in the process later on. All parties – buyers, sellers and their agents – want to get to closing. Lightening the load for the other side might get my side closer to the goal.

Finish what you start and pick up after yourself
I try always to keep everything tidy. Meet contract deadlines. Return paperwork promptly. Let the other side know what’s going on. Carry the deal all the way to close, leaving nothing dangling, nothing strewn about, nothing unfinished. I’m not perfect in this regard, but I work at it every day.

Generally speaking, this approach results in smooth negotiations, closed deals, and happy clients. It also results in other agents who’d be happy to bring me a deal the next time. Win, win, win.

If this approach to life and real estate appeals to you, I’m your guy.

How to buy a house in a crazy market

Eight months ago, right here in this email blast, I quoted a broker speaking about the Nashville market. His prediction: by the fall of 2019, we will have shifted from a sellers market to a market tilted slightly in favor of buyers. 
I don’t think this is happening. 
True, inventory has loosened a bit, but interest rates are holding at historic lows, and some buyers are still having trouble getting what they want. The general idea usually is that the higher the price, the slower the market. It stands to reason. But …
I have clients shopping in the $600,000 - $800,000 range who recently lost out in two multiple offer/over-asking-price situations in the space of two weeks. On the other hand, I have a client who is shopping in the $200s and has many good options to choose from right now – so many that choosing may be a little difficult.
Makes sense. Not!


So what do we do? We remember Four Ps.

Desirability depends on many factors of course, but location is a biggie. There are certain areas of town buyers are clamoring for. And houses fly off the shelves. Find a similar house in a less desirable neighborhood, and you’ll get a better deal. You also might have a minute to think things through before jumping in with an offer.

It’s not so much how many dollars are being asked, as whether the asking price is right. Ask more than the market will pay, and the property will sit there until the price drops to the right level. Price it right and it will move. This is true at all price points. And this: buyers looking to avoid a feeding frenzy, can look for listings that were overpriced and have been stuck for a while. Sellers get hungrier the longer a house sits on the market, and a good deal could be had.

This has to do with attitude. In a market that seems to be going in several directions at once, buyers sometimes have to accept delays, derailments, disappointments, and other trials along the path. Keeping calm and carrying on is the only way to do it.

And this is about carrying on. Focusing in on the task and staying with it will eventually get you where you want to go. This means looking at every opportunity and being ready to roll when the right thing appears. Snooze and you might lose.

And another P might stand for real estate Professional – that would be me, and I’d love to help you get where you need to go.

Robert G., Contributor

I see Robert G. most weekday mornings about 6:00 o'clock on my way to the downtown Y. His spot is at the top of the southbound I-40/65 exit ramp at Church Street.

I buy The Contributor from him every time there’s a new edition.

Robert is cheerful, witty, and thoughtful/philosophical about all sorts of topics. He has a surprising, rather professorial, vocabulary and occasionally writes little poetic nuggets they publish in the paper.

He makes me smile every time I see him. Sometimes we laugh out loud. Robert is a gas!

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So what does this have to do with real estate?

Real estate has to do with having a place to live
Anyone who sells The Contributor is homeless, or has been homeless at some point. Robert is no longer homeless. He lives in a boarding house and he is grateful for that. As I work on deals with my clients, and with agents and clients on the other side, I sometimes have to remind myself how good it is to have a place to live – even if it isn’t the perfect place.

And it has to do with the value of work
I was struck the first time Robert mentioned “my customers” when we were chatting. He made it clear to me that I am not simply giving him a handout. This is his job and he and I are business friends. He works hard – try standing at the top of an Interstate ramp in all sorts of weather for several hours, five days a week. If he can work hard at his job, so can I. Work brings dignity.

And it has to do with commitment
Robert is consistent. Barring an occasional visit to his daughter in Mississippi, or a bad cold, or a blizzard, Robert is there every morning, rain or shine, hot or cold. If he can show up for his customers, so can I.

And it has to do with gratitude
Robert is grateful that he has a place to live, and he’s grateful for his customers – especially the ones who stop to chat. I’m grateful that he’s there every morning. He reminds me to be grateful for everything I have. Like a place to live. Like my totally swell clients – not a rotten apple in the whole barrel so far – and the competent realtors I’ve worked deals with. Like the fact that I have the best job in the whole world.

Going the Last Mile

We start. But we don’t always finish.

I’m as guilty as anyone I know. Start something and then  … I get bogged down, lose focus, get distracted by the next bright object, get bored … don’t finish the thing I started. I can run into the ditch with just about any project at all.

This is why, when I want to really get something done, or continue indefinitely with a good-life project, I recruit accountability partners. People who will help me stay focused and actually get the job done.

 It’s as true of real estate as it is in the rest of life. My friend, Anna, reminded me of this recently. We were chatting – about real estate, of course, because I’m always chatting about real estate – and she said “You need a realtor to carry you through that last mile to closing.” Anna is so smart!

And she’s right.


Anybody can find a house these days. When my son William was looking for his first house three years ago, I didn‘t have to look at all. I get up early. He goes to bed late. So, every morning I’d get up to find listings in my inbox he had sent me (very) late the night before.

The realtor’s major value kicks in once a contract is in place. Keeping the process moving along through inspections, subsequent negotiations, re-inspections, securing financing, title search weirdness, unexpected, uncooperative behavior from the seller… Things can go sideways in a million ways. Always good to have an advocate with you to go that last mile and finish the deal.

While marketing a listing still takes a good bit of work – helping set the price and get the house ready to show, photos, fliers, open houses, email blasts – as with buying, the realtor’s value comes into play once there’s a contract in place. The same hazards on the way to close apply.

And, when you’re in a real estate deal, not going that final mile to a closed deal is usually more serious than not showing up at the gym and gaining a few pounds. Or never finishing that cake-decorating course and consequently failing to become the next Martha Stewart. At the very least, you could fail to get the house you want. At worst it could involve tons of money lost and/or legal unpleasantness.

So, if you’re thinking of going it alone, re-think. A good realtor will take you all the way, through that last mile, to the close.

And, in case you were wondering, I’m a pretty good realtor. So call. We’ll talk …