Open House, Open Heart

How many times have you been excited to head out to an open house in your neighborhood (“I always wanted to see what that house looked like inside!”) or if you’re house hunting – get out there for a look around? A very important part of being a realtor is holding open houses on your seller’s behalf. Not only are you showcasing a home for your client, but it’s an opportunity to open up the home and yourself to the community, immediate neighborhood and potential buyers. When I first started my business, I sat at open houses almost every weekend for any broker who would let me, hoping to meet new buyers that I could represent. I thought that was what I needed to do to build my business. How wrong I was! I got really attached to some of the homes and began a cycle of being there every weekend until they sold – and I never did find anyone to sell that house to! But, what an amazing opportunity I had to sharpen my people skills and develop into the kind of realtor I wanted to be. I am so grateful that my mentors would let me sit in some really gorgeous homes and in fact, it was at one of these homes where I did meet my very first clients. Although I have have always been easily approachable, outgoing and talkative, there’s an art to making connections at open houses and it takes a lot of finessing to figure out what works. It took some time to get comfortable asking what I thought then was the most important question: “Are you working with a Realtor?”. But I soon found out – that’s not the only question to be asked. Approaching people and connecting with them on a very personal level is how I have built my business but I look back on my early days in the business and smile at how hungry I was to ask that question!


I absolutely love getting to know the people who live in the home I am selling on their behalf. It is so much more than four walls and a yard or a view that I want to tell each guest about upon their entry through the front door. I want to share with them why the people loved the home, that they had neighborhood parties on their patio every 4th of July, that there’s an amazing parade each summer or that there’s a terrific guy down the street that offers help with Christmas lights. Knowing the occupants of the home I’m representing means stepping into their daily lives so that I can be an extension of them from 1-4pm on the weekends. When I walk into an open house where the agent doesn’t get up from the table, approach me or my clients or even look up, I know that we won’t be leaving knowing any more about that home than how many bedrooms and bathrooms there are. Being an agent isn’t much different than being a therapist on open house afternoons. People come in with issues they have (“I don’t know if I can get over the color in this kitchen”) or they may come in thinking they want something specific only to be informed about something special the house offered they didn’t know about. Either way – I can make or break a potential life change for people – and it’s all in the approach.


Recently, I began thinking that Open House meant more to me than just sitting in someone’s home on a Sunday afternoon. When I moved into my house 4 years ago, I was thrilled to have something that was ALL mine. The independence I lacked since my college days was back and first on my to-do list: having my friends over regularly. I would pick a date and time to have the girls over and would write in a text or evite – Come As You Are – Open House. My tribe of women began coming by on beautiful summer nights to sit in the garden and grill, or gather around my large coffee table to pick at a massive cheese board (my claim to fame) and grab a good cocktail. We all enjoy the best part of my home – the view. Everyone shows up with a bottle of wine or some specialty they are known for and it has become something to look forward to. The term Open House means come when you want, leave when you want and wear what you want. It also means bring a friend or neighbor – the door is open. I love the casual vibe we have created.

July sunset. No filter from the deck of my home in Bellevue.

When I am telling potential buyers about all of the amenities they might find in a home I am representing, I often picture what one of my own girls get-togethers would look like in the fantastic kitchen or great room I am standing in. I often tell stories that are relatable to clients and I hope it opens their minds to the possibilities of what could be for them in that space. Applying my own life stories to each home I sell helps bring people closer to the space and gives them a kick -start on imagining themselves there.

Holding weekend open houses also has me thinking about my own home and its accessibility for my kids. Now that they are in high school, I love when they have their girlfriends and friends over. Often I will be sitting at the counter in my kitchen working when the door will open and in will walk Nate’s girlfriend Gabi. She just comes right in and says “hi!” – sometimes she’ll stop and grab a snack, and sometimes she will sit down and chat with me for a second – but no matter what, I am always so happy that she feels like she can come in to my house unannounced and feel like it’s her home too. This constant flow of activity is amazing because it keeps my kids at my house and I love that I get to see them even though they are all so busy with sports, school and friends. As my oldest son is preparing to leave for college in the fall, I am already dreading the quiet void that will come when my open house has a few less inhabitants.

My kids and their friends: Nate, Natalie and Gabi trying to get Lily to join in the fun.
Gabi showing off her quick reflexes. Notice the scrumptious dinner awaiting them.

For the next 6 months, I am going to keep making extra cheese plates, double the pancakes at dinner (yes sometimes we eat breakfast for dinner!) and always be ready for a crowd. I want my house to be just as open as the homes I show on the weekends: An easygoing environment where all are welcome, and a warm and inviting place for friends and family to gather. Being accessible to my kids and my clients is my number one goal. You never know what conversation will start next!


Use Your Words (correctly)

Have you ever wanted to correct someone’s grammar, interject in the middle of an argument to let a friend (or worse, a co-worker!) know they’ve used the wrong word, or call someone to let them know there’s no apostrophe “s” after their last name (hey there – got your Christmas card, but…)? These are the things that plague me. Words (and grammar) are SO POWERFUL. We use them to soothe or we can use them to hurt. I write to describe a home to a potential buyer, and I choose my words carefully to make a point to my kids. The words we use, say or write, can make or break our point. And, a misplaced punctuation mark can change a sentence completely. A simple comma mistake turns this sentence into something entirely different: Let’s Eat Grandpa! Yikes! But, “Let’s eat, Grandpa!” is perfect when summoning a loved one to dinner as opposed to eating them.


From 1999-2000 I took a job as an assistant development director at a small private school in tony Atherton, CA. My job was to work with a committee of parents (who happened to be some of the biggest names in Silicon valley) to roll out a huge capital campaign. I had left my job in construction management to follow my heart, doing something I really loved – fundraising. I found myself in the enviable position of working alongside an incredibly smart, talented woman named Wendy with a knack for coaxing donors to open their wallets without asking and a penchant for choosing just the right words.

About midway through our first year working together, I submitted a writing piece to Wendy for her approval. She gave it back to me with a few notes and I returned it to her with a sticky note with one word; alright. Now, we all say this. A LOT. But, many do not know (or don’t care) – “alright” isn’t a word – it’s two words. Much like “a lot”, it has a space between words and I had either forgotten this, or had chosen to use my slang alright. Wendy pointed out (not too gently, as I recall) my inaccuracy and we had a very lively discussion on the subject for… the next year. She made her point clearly by opening her dictionary to show me. I will never forget that day – I can tell you what I was wearing, where I was sitting, and that I was crunching on a Snyder’s hard pretzel. It was a moment in time and an incredible lesson that I still carry with me about using the English language. Fast-forward 18 years, and that particular slang is used constantly via text, and every social platform you can think of. There’s even a show called “The Kids Are Alright” – which just kills me every time I see the commercial. Wendy is no doubt wagging her finger at the television.

From my own personal Webster’s Dictionary

This has been on my mind a lot recently as I have been proofreading my son’s college essays. I have never stopped correcting people on this subject because Wendy was right. If you want to make your point, you say it correctly. And, if you’re submitting something in writing – make sure it’s right! (As I write this, I am hoping my grammar in this post is all right!) See what I did there? One of my favorite traditions is receiving holiday cards and posting them on our kitchen cupboards. When I open a card with the last name printed incorrectly (there’s always a small handful!), I immediately take a photo of it and send it to my sisters – the other two grammar police in my squad. “Happy Holidays from the Smith’s!” earns you a spot on the lower cabinets out of our direct line of sight (the grammatical horror!). *This is a generic example! If you’re reading this and your last name is Smith – I am not talking about you!

A few years ago, I visited a client and spotted a plaque they had made affixed to a post in the backyard – their family name including an apostrophe “s” with the year their family had been established. Now if it had been their name with an apostrophe and the word “garden” below it – it would have indicated that it was their garden. No problem! While it hurt, there are times when you can say nothing. I did say a grammar prayer for them. Never give up hope.


Now that I have one child that’s gone through the college essay process, another one about to start his college prep journey, and a freshman-aged daughter that loves to write but isn’t so skilled in that area yet – I have whipped out my favorite book. The best people to ask about grammar, writing and punctuation are William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White – co-authors of the 1957 edition of “The Elements of Style”. The original was written as a class companion by Strunk when he was a professor at Cornell and it has been reprinted countless times and still holds up in today’s world. White wrote the introduction (for his old professor) and edited the book for a 1957 reprint. White wrote in the Introduction: “It was Will Strunk’s parvum opus, his attempt to cut the vast tangle of English rhetoric down to size and write its rules and principles on the head of a pin”. And that is indeed true. The book is a slim bible everyone should have – especially my high school-aged children.

When I’m writing, I ask myself often, what would Strunk and White say? This book was thrust upon me in 6th grade by the most memorable of all teachers I have ever encountered – Ann Esselstyn. Her claim to fame was that Carl Sandburg was her relative and she cared about the ladies of her class never ending a sentence with a preposition (this is argued among many!). From a very lengthy song about every preposition out there, (aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, around, at, as…and on alphabetically until the last available letter in the alphabet) to a terrific and often recalled sentence about “i” before “e” exceptions: “Neither leisurely foreigner seized either package of counterfeit money on the weird heights of Raleigh”. It worked. 36 years later – I still remember most things she taught us. Thanks Mrs. Esselstyn! I use what I learned then as a tool to catapult my business. It gives me a sales advantage because I write interesting remarks for my listings and have the ability to color a picture with words for my clients when shopping for a home. When I speak at my networking group or in a meeting in the office, I’m confident of my use of the English language. I’m always trying to improve my writing skills, but with little helpers like The Elements of Style, teachers and co-workers that also love language, I have a leg up. There are a ton of great books out there including a more updated version of the original Elements book, but there’s something about my yellowed copy that really makes me smile. Check out Amazon for lots of fun books!

“It is an old observation, that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules.”

William Strunk Jr.

When I left my job at that private school in June of 2000 to have my first child, Wendy presented me with what would become one of my most cherished treasures. It’s huge and clunky, and it’s been to 4 houses and made it to Dallas and back to Seattle. It’s an enormous unabridged second edition Webster’s Dictionary (it’s okay that there’s an apostrophe there!). The note Wendy took the time to write inside is so special. I really appreciate the things she taught me and I always think of her when I correct my daughter’s texts with: “It’s all right Lil!”.

Rachael,

Just a little something to send you on your way in your new adventure, so you will never be at a loss for (and always manage to choose) the right WORDS. With much appreciation for your lively, vivacious and encouraging words and in friendship,

Wendy

Real Estate: The Report 2019

Published by the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® program, “The Report: State of Luxury 2019” analyzes the latest trends and data provided by leading influencers from The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, Wealth-X, Unique Homes and in-the-field real estate specialists. Want a hard copy of this report? Comment below and I’ll send you one! You can also follow my Facebook page for real estate news on the daily!

This annual report includes the following:

  • Luxury in Review 2018 – A look at four key trends driving the market
  • Landmark listings
  • Annual “Power Markets” List
  • Luxury Buyer Markets
  • Luxury Seller Markets
  • Domestic Spotlight: A review of what’s happening in 12 marketplaces across four different categories.
  • Global Spotlights: Canada, Mexico and six new ultra-wealthy meccas
  • Luxury by the Numbers

Welcome to the Blog

If you’re reading this, then I must have posted correctly!

Welcome to my blog. I hope to bring some great information to you on a few different levels. Real estate is what I do for work (and I love it!), but being a single mom and the foibles that come with that job, are the stuff that make for some interesting reading! I also love to read (catch my girlfriend’s favorites under A Good Read) and helping my friends navigate the path that a lot of gals I know have taken – starting over in their 40’s with a new career, new responsibilities and figuring out life as an independent woman – otherwise known as “reinvention”. It’s an important topic and I will touch on some things that might come in handy for you if you have found that you like what you’re reading! I have split the blog into areas of my life that make up, well…. me!

I have three kids in high school, one graduating this year – and I also have a great partner that you will see here sometimes. We take some fun trips to our happy place – San Jose del Cabo in Mexico. I love to share pictures and great food that we get to enjoy. My Instagram feed and Facebook page have amazing tips on everything real estate from decorating to the colors of the year (see the blog post about that under Interiors) and you can get to those feeds from my home page.

I’m sure it will evolve along the way but thank you for reading, following and commenting. Happy Monday!

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