Season 2, Episode 2 Transcript
Preparing to Sell Your Home with Carol Lehman
Listen to the podcast at: Purpose in Retirement
Carol Lehman: I always say when we go in to meet with our clients- it’s important that you click, that you get along, that you can trust the agent that’s walking you through the process because this is a relationship.
Scott Miller: This is a show where we’ll explore what it means to retire with purpose.
Juanita Fox: To make a difference, to invest in your family, your community, to live to your full potential and explore abundant opportunities to live with purpose in community.
Scott Miller: From Garden Spot Communities in New Holland, Pennsylvania, welcome to
Juanita Fox: Purpose in Retirement
Scott Miller: Hello. I’m Scott Miller, the chief marketing officer at Garden Spot Communities.
Juanita Fox: And I’m Juanita Fox, the storyteller.
Scott Miller: You know, we hear a lot of relocation stories, don’t we?
Juanita Fox: We do. You know, I was actually just talking to a friend who moved from a home that she had lived in with her husband for 30 years. She was talking about how valuable their real estate agent was to them through the whole process from the staging to taking the online photos, to when to sell the house, etc. It was really valuable to have that real estate agent walking with them.
Scott Miller: And you know what? Everything’s online now. In the past, you relied on your real estate agent to find you the homes you want to tour. Now, you find the home, and you ask your agent to get you on the list for a tour.
Juanita Fox: Exactly. And because everything is online, staging and photography are critical.
Scott Miller: Staging can actually transform a space.
Juanita Fox: Exactly. My friend said when they shared the real estate photos of their house with their family, their one granddaughter was like, “Wait, I don’t recognize that room.” And she said, when they went back and looked at the room, that it was the room the girl had slept in every time she visited, but because they had staged it and taken all the extra stuff out of the space, it was like a brand new space for her.
Scott Miller: Well, in this season of Purpose in Retirement, we’re going to be talking to experts who can answer some of the tough questions about the process of moving or relocating to a retirement community. Today, we’re going to talk with Carol Lehman, a local Lancaster County real estate agent.
Juanita Fox: Carol and her partner, Greg Hostetter, have more than 45 years of combined real estate experience. Carol has been through the highs and the lows of the real estate market. She offers solid advice on how to prepare to sell your home.
Scott Miller: After the break, we’ll learn more from Carol.
Juanita Fox: Carol, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s great to have you here.
Carol Lehman: Absolutely. Great to be here.
Scott Miller: So in this season of Purpose and Retirement, Juanita and I are going to be talking to a wide variety of people and we will be having conversations about the ins and the outs of moving to a retirement community. So we’re hoping that we’re going to be able to answer most of the questions that people don’t know to ask or they’re afraid to ask about moving to a retirement community. So in your case, you’ll be helping us to answer some of those questions about the real estate market.
Carol Lehman: Excellent.
Juanita Fox: So to help us begin, how long have you been a realtor?
Carol Lehman: Sure. I’ve been in real estate just shy of 20 years. I have just loved this industry, loved getting to know people and I’m from the local area. I got my license just shy of 20 years ago.
Juanita Fox: How did you become involved?
Carol Lehman: Sure. So it was a Sunday afternoon. Our family was really close, and we were sitting around, and my parents and my brother says to me, “You know, you should think about getting into real estate.” I said, “Hmm, what would that look like?” So a couple of months later, the journey began.
Juanita Fox: Wonderful. What do you love about your job?
Carol Lehman: Absolutely the people. The relationships and the people that I got to know through the years in this business are priceless. I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t a people person. I definitely wouldn’t be doing this business.
Scott Miller: And I’ll say this. I hope not to embarrass you, but I know people think very highly of you and what you do.
Carol Lehman: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Scott Miller: So many of the people who are thinking about moving to a retirement community, they’ve been in their homes for 30, 40 years, or more. So what does the real estate process look like today in 2021?
Carol Lehman: Right. Excellent question, excellent question. You know, this is such a very valued and important part of what we do at Hostetter Realty. We have taken great pride in meeting with people transitioning into retirement living. And most of our clients that we’ve worked with have been in their homes for 30, 40 years and they are, I would say, more overwhelmed with what they are going to do with all of their personal items. That usually trips people up more than anything. And so the process is, you can’t start that process too soon. So we go in, we sit down and we talk about what their goals are and where they’re looking to move.
And then, we basically tour their home. I like to spend a lot of time listening to what might be stressing them out through the process. And then we go room by room and we talk about those personal items. Do you have family that would be interested, or are you going to pass along this or that, and what are you going to take along with you? And then, from there, we just basically gauge if we are going to need to bring in an auctioneer to maybe take the items away. Are we going to donate the items to maybe some local causes? We have resources and connections for our clients at that point. And that seems to be enough to just take a load off their backs and shoulders. And then from there, it’s a process.
Juanita Fox: So what does the process look like? I know that you can do all of your real estate shopping online now, right? What does that look like compared to what people were maybe dealing with when they bought their first house?
Carol Lehman: You mean as far as marketing?
Juanita Fox: Yeah. Like, what’s involved?
Carol Lehman: Well, we help them with the process of the personal items and then we start talking about their home. We say, okay, these are some items as far as mechanicals that you may want to have serviced. You may want to have somebody come out and check this or that so the house is ready to hit the market. And at that point, they prepare and they get a phone call. We’re moving. We’re next. We’re in line to go. And they call us. And at that point, we basically come out, sit down, list the property and have the house on the market as soon as within days if they’re prepared and ready to go.
But again, there’s that process before getting that phone call. It’s so important that they work through all of the items and personal items in the house so that they’re ready to go. You don’t want to get the call and think, what am I going to do? So we have that completed, and from there, we get the house on the market. Another big part of it is in the market that we’re in today, and maybe I’m going to ask the question that you have coming. Being in the aggressive market that we’re in today, depending on where the home and price range are in, we could have a flurry of 10, 20, 30, 40 showings within the first three days on the market.
We coordinate that timing so that the homeowner, or client, can maybe leave the home for the weekend. We may put the house on the market on a Friday morning, and they say they’re going to go away for the weekend. We then basically have a go and show all weekend for clients and buyers to come through. And a lot of times in the current client climate that we’re in, come Sunday night or Monday morning, we have offers on the table and the property is sold.
Juanita Fox: Wow.
Carol Lehman: But, just backing up again, presentation is crucial. It’s very important that we prepare for that marketing of the home and that the home is ready to be shown. We work with them on staging- and we’re not decorating again. Keep in mind, staging is not decorating a house. Staging is taking items away and creating space. That’s what we look to do with the clients prior to actually marketing the home.
Juanita Fox: So when I’m looking for a real estate agent, what are the types of qualities that I should be looking for?
Carol Lehman: Great question. I love this question because, through the years, Greg Hostetter and I have worked together. If anybody knows Greg, and anyone knows me, we’re two different personalities. I always say when we go in to meet with our clients, it’s important that you know, the relationship, you click, get along, and can trust the agent that’s walking you through the process.
Whether it’s us or somebody else, make sure that you interview that agent and have a conversation with them. Ask just see if you click because this is a relationship that you’re going to go through. You want to be able to know that that individual is available when needed and we have systems in place. We have a lot. We have a team that works together with us. You’re not always going to have me answering the call depending on what it is, but we have a support staff behind us.
It’s very important that you’re trusting the process and you lean on the professional and allow them to walk you through, but the relationship is so important. In addition to that, be sure that you’re hiring someone that is working full time in the business and is experienced as well. Those are just some tips that can really help the process.
Scott Miller: You know, one of the things that I have heard over and over again when people are thinking about selling their houses: “Oh, my niece just became a real estate agent and I’m going to list the house with her or him.” What do you think about that?
Carol Lehman: That’s a great question, Scott, because I love my family and I love my friends. It’s such an honor to get that phone call when someone you know reaches out to you and says, “Would you like to help me out with my home?” I’m very confident in that position and I have no problem with that at all, but it is scary. I will say, it’s a bit scary when you have that situation where an agent is not experienced or someone who may be outside of the area.
You have to be careful that you’re hiring a professional that’s familiar with the location where the property is being sold. If I have a relative two counties away from here and they want to sell their home, it’s not that I wouldn’t do it, but I would want to make them aware that I’m not familiar with that area. We’re going to lean on some professionals there and maybe refer it out, but that’s a good question. It happens all the time. I respect people that use family because I love my family, but I also think it is important that you make a wise business decision as well.
Scott Miller: That’s a good approach. So when people are getting their house, ready to sell, do they have to repaint their whole house? Do they have to put all new carpets in or repair the roof? What’s your advice?
Carol Lehman: It’s funny you say this because I’ll go into a house and they’ll say, “I know I have to replace all the flooring in the home, I know I have to do this, I know I have to do that.” I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. You don’t necessarily have to replace all the flooring in your home.” What we do is we look for neutral colors. Even if it’s an older carpet and it’s not a bright, fluorescent green, or something like that, that’s okay. We assess every situation, and no, you do not have to totally remodel your home.
Some of the nicest homes that I’ve been in are homes that may be dated, but you see the quality craftsmanship of the home. I was just in a house this morning like that, and I was like, “Wow.” They had it staged, meaning they had pretty much everything cleared out, so you could see the space because a buyer is looking for space. They’re trying to visualize, “What will this be like to have my dining room furniture in here?” And they’re not necessarily saying, “Oh, man, that’s ugly.” I don’t hear those comments, they’re looking for space. So in some cases, yes, we’ll say, “Hey, buy a couple of paint cans of paint. It’s pretty inexpensive. We should probably get rid of this bright purple on the walls or whatever.” You do not have to go through that in every situation.
Back to the beginning, we meet early on in the process and those are the things we’ll address. Wallpaper is a challenge. Let’s just say there is some wallpaper on the walls and you’ve been in your house for 30, 40 years. If you have someone come in and get a quote to have that wallpaper taken off and the wall painted, it will pay for itself.
There are a few things that buyers will walk through the house and go, “Wow, I’m so overwhelmed.” The goal for us is for the buyer to walk into the home and not feel overwhelmed by a lot of things to fix up. Famous words I hear all the time are, “You know what? I’m not doing the thing. I’m going to leave it for the next homeowner because I’m not going to pick what they want anyway.” It doesn’t pay. There’s a couple of things, and we can walk you through that, that will receive value and the return of the money that you put into it.
Juanita Fox: So here in Lancaster County, the housing market is really hot. You kind of alluded to that a little earlier. I have a colleague that I’m working with, and he and his wife were looking for a house. He routinely comes in and says it went for $30,000 more than the asking price. Do you know how long this is going to last?
Carol Lehman: Oh, boy. Great question. Yeah, let’s just… you know, I’m not going to answer that question. How’s that?
Scott Miller: I wouldn’t either. (laughter)
Carol Lehman: I follow several different people I respect out there in the real estate world, Dave Ramsey being one of them. He recently had a short clip, one of his YouTube clips. It said, “Are we in a housing bubble or something like that? “What’s the housing market like with that?” And he said, his thoughts are no, we are not. He said it’s a great time to sell your house, and it’s a great time to buy. His theory is, if you get out, you may try to get back in and still pay that same amount.
Back in 2007 and 2008, what I heard a lot of the professionals saying, is they were experiencing that anybody could get a mortgage. So, there were a lot of people being loaned a lot of money that they really could not afford. Today, it’s interesting because there are a lot of people with cash. They find a way to purchase those properties with cash, or they’re waiving a lot of contingencies that typically come from home inspections to their mortgage contingency. Of course, they’re paying over the asking price.
Yeah, we’re in a really difficult market.
Juanita Fox: So what’s happening right now?
Carol Lehman: What is happening? So today, if I were to say, it’s still extremely strong, I think when inventory increases, we’re not going to see values dropping. I think values will stabilize and stay there. In Lancaster County here, we’re in a really conservative area where we’ve never really seen the highs and lows. I think we’re going to see a stable market continue. I checked with my mortgage lender, and interest rates are excellent right now. They don’t see them going up anytime soon at this point. Through, you know, into the fall this year, we may see more inventory coming on the market, which will allow more options. But again, I don’t see values dropping from what I’m hearing from everyone else out there.
I could go on and on about stats. We get all the reports from Realtor.com, Redfin, and of course our local association, but I’m very confident. I feel like as far as future residents coming in here if they have some anxiety, like, “Oh, my goodness, I’ve got to get my house on the market! I’ve got to get it sold because I don’t want to miss this aggressive real estate market!” I would say that they should not be fearing at all at this point. I would encourage them just to allow the process to take place with their timing. I don’t see that anyone will be disappointed.
Scott Miller: You sort of touched on the next question that I was going to ask, so we’ll see if you have any further thoughts on that. If someone comes to us and they say, “Oh, I know that I’m going to be probably moving in the next year, and I really don’t want to miss what’s going on right now and take advantage of that. Somebody just offered me $30,000 on my house, more than I thought it was worth.” What are their options?
Carol Lehman: Yeah, so, you could you could sell and you could rent. You know that is an option if you’re up for it, and people are doing that right now. They’re selling and trying to capitalize by selling their home. I had a client back in the fall of the year that did that, and it was interesting. This past year, they had sold and went into a rental situation. I think they could have gotten a little bit more for their house, but not much. I’m just saying, it continued to go up, so I go back to what I heard Dave Ramsey say, it’s a great time to sell, to buy, and you’re coming into a retirement community. So, I would say, yeah, that’s not a bad idea. I always ask the client if they are up for that because I know not everybody wants to move twice and if you get into a rental situation, typically you have to commit for a year. I would say, wait. Just wait for the process, go through the process, wait for your call, and you’ll do well. If you maintain your home well and you present it well when it’s time to sell, you’re going to do really well. You really will.
Juanita Fox: So what are some of the frequently asked questions that you get as a realtor?
Carol Lehman: Exactly what you asked me. What’s the real estate market going to do? I think we get that almost daily, definitely weekly. I would say a lot of the questions I get are what do I need to do to sell my home? What’s important? And I always go back to responding to that question by saying presentation is so crucial. You know, years ago, we would say, “50% is price and 50% is presentation.” Today, I’m here to say 85% is probably presentation. When that home shows well and has those finishing touches to it and is cared for, those are the homes that we’re seeing selling for a lot over the asking price. And again, I just want everyone to be aware that if your home is listed at market value, yes, it may sell for more and you may see a higher price. Sometimes sellers list their homes considerably higher. It’s the market that establishes the value, not you and me. So it’s what two buyers or one buyer is willing to pay for it that determines the value of the property.
Juanita Fox: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. It was great to hear your perspective on the real estate market. And I thank you for all of the wisdom that you shared with our listeners.
Carol Lehman: Absolutely. Thank you as well.
Juanita Fox: Wow. Carol offered a lot of really solid advice.
Scott Miller: Yes, selling your home can be really overwhelming.
Juanita Fox: Especially if you’ve lived in it for 30 or 40 years.
Scott Miller: So we summarized the five main ideas from our conversation with Carol in a PDF. The PDF is entitled Five Things to Know as You Prepare to Sell Your House, and the link is in the podcast description. The PDF lists important advice. Number one: Downsize your personal stuff early. Number two: Create a plan of action. Number three: Ask an expert about renovations. Number four: Be aware of the real estate market. And five: Know that the value of a property is ultimately determined by the office.
Thank you for listening to Purpose and Retirement. I’m Scott Miller.
Juanita Fox: And I’m Juanita Fox.
Scott Miller: And a special thanks to Carol Lehman for joining us for this podcast.
Juanita Fox: Our senior producer and host is Scott Miller.
Scott Miller: Our co-host is Juanita Fox. Our producer is Gavin Sauder. And our audio engineer is Jen Miller.