When it gets to be around the holiday time, we like to take a break from the numbers, charts and deep dive we usually take on the Realities of Real Estate, and look to the softer side of buying and selling homes.
People buy or sell real estate for all kinds of reasons, but basically their primary motivation will fall into one of three areas. First, would be the desire to make money. Everyone wants to do that; however, real estate investors are a unique class of buyer or seller, where financial gain is pretty much the only consideration. For them, it’s all about the numbers. The second reason to buy or sell is born out of “necessity.” A fairly large number of real estate transactions fall into this category, with divorce and death being the primary impetus for such sales. The third, and what we believe is the most important reason for buying or selling, is to fulfill a basic need to love where we live.
Over the course of a year, we are able to witness a wide variety of real estate deals. As agents, our primary responsibility is mostly with respect to the financial considerations and terms associated with a contract. The more personal aspects of why someone is buying or selling are largely just that, personal. Nevertheless, we do get a glimpse into the emotional component of why buyers buy and sellers sell. It is through that insider viewpoint, as well as our own homebuying experience, that we bring you our take on what to think about when contemplating a real estate sale. For now, we’ll limit ourselves to the process of buying. Plus, so as to not betray the confidence of past clients, we’ll use the recent purchase of our own personal home as a way to illustrate our point.
‘Labor of love’
About two years ago, we moved from our home in Annapolis to where we are now in West River. The two homes couldn’t be more different. The Annapolis house was a huge, highly styled Victorian. It had 6 bedrooms, 4 ½ baths, 3 fireplaces, and was almost 6,000 square feet. Over the course of 20 years, we had substantially remodeled and improved the property, and being real estate agents, we knew exactly what the place needed. By the time we were finished, it had all the bells and whistles that anyone would want, everything from the Sub-Zero, to the Wolf stove, a huge granite-topped island, a wrap-around porch, a near perfect layout and much more. Additionally, we were careful to maintain the home’s historical charm as the Doctor’s House in Eastport and preserved all the gorgeous heart of pine woodwork, along with the character that made such a house so special. It was a true labor of love.
Our new house in West River is the polar opposite of what we left in Annapolis. The West River property had been on the market a couple of times, failing to sell; and whereas our Annapolis house was the lap of luxury, the one in West River was, frankly, a wreck. It was waterfront, and on almost 2½ secluded acres, but to say it needed a little TLC was a gross understatement. Virtually everything needed to be painted, repaired or replaced. The home, which was nothing more than a modest 2-bedroom, 2-bath rancher, had gone without any maintenance for many years. The basement walls were buckling, water ran across the floor, the roof sagged and the grounds were equally in need of more work than you could imagine. There was a pool that no one other than frogs had been swimming in for about a decade, a greenhouse with mostly broken windows, a dock where nothing worked and the creek had been silted-in for years. The grounds had gone wild with Mother Nature taking command, indiscriminately growing everything you don’t want and killing off everything you do.
It was no wonder the place had a hard time selling. Everyone who looked at it didn’t see much more than a tear-down and/or an endless expense. We looked at it and saw paradise!
Two years later, we’ve made some progress. The basement is dry, the creek is dredged, the pool is fixed, the greenhouse has glass, and after literally more than 200 trips to the brush pile at the local landfill, there’s finally some semblance of order to what now looks a little bit like landscaping. And along with a big ding to the pocketbook, the sheer physical exertion of it all also put a big hurt on a couple of people that aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore. Ticks, Lyme disease and a case of poison ivy that left a scar all took their toll. Plus, we’re far from done. As I’m sitting here writing this column, a bucket is next to me, collecting rain water that drips through the ceiling light fixture, our trailer is full of brush and debris, awaiting another trip to the dump, and about a million other project need to be done.
So, why would a couple of people who are real estate experts buy such a place? Will we ever make any money off it? We doubt it and really don’t care; we probably won’t ever sell it. Did we need to buy it? No, that nice big Victorian in Annapolis was pretty comfortable. The real reason we bought it is because it makes us happy, and despite all its flaws, it felt like a home. Contrary to public belief, paradise isn’t perfect and neither is our place. But, all the parts of it that are man-made can be fixed. It was the parts that God made that couldn’t be duplicated and why we saw it as paradise. Every morning that we see a spectacular sunrise, watch the bluebirds play in the yard, are surprised by an eagle as it swoops through the trees or enjoy the light of a full moon glowing on the creek at night, we’re thankful for the miracle that allows us to spend our time here.
What makes you happy?
Therein lies the point we wanted to make for people looking to buy. In our experience, people focus way too much on either finding the “perfect” house in terms of how it’s built or finding one that they think will make them money. In reality, most people will never remember the little imperfections their house had when they first bought it, nor will they ultimately care about how much they paid for it or what it’s worth today. What they will remember are the times they had there with family and friends, how their children grew up and played in the yard and all the other things that make a house more than a piece of property, the things that make you call it home sweet home.
Also, everyone’s paradise is different. For us, it was the house on West River; for others, it might be a townhouse on West Street in Annapolis. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you don’t get sidetracked by the more material things that probably won’t have lasting value. Keep your eye on the prize. Regardless of what style, size or location, buy a house that makes you happy.
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