Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When I die, spread my ashes at Chateau Domingue

My friend Ruth Gay opened a small shop a few years ago and man has she taken it to a whole new level. The place is huge now.  She is very hush-hush about her clientele, but I will tell you, I was in there when I spotted the person I would leave my husband of 28 years for. (sorry Mark) Don Henley of the Eagles!!!   I was shocked when he gave Ruth a big hug and knew her on a first name basis. How could my good friend be holding out on me!!!
Ruth has amazing taste.  You might ask yourself, “Wouldn’t someone with an amazing sense of style and innovation go to France or at least somewhere in Europe to buy a unique mantel or interesting flooring?”  Where the answer once was, “yes.” it is now, “not anymore."
I met-up with Ruth in France for only a few days while I was on vacation, but I needed a vacation after spending just 3 days with her.  This girl wakes up at 5:00 am to be the first at the markets. Every vendor knows Ruth. Her ability to communicate with them in their native French makes it simple for her to negate the often- overwhelming market scene. Ruth painstakingly selects every piece that goes to Chateau Domingue as if it were going into her own house.  For five hours she makes her way through a field of rubble that is actually a stone yard all while sweating in 95-degree weather and that was only one of the several visits.
{Ruth and I way to early in the morning and she's got a boot on! Nothing slows her down.}  

She can instantly distinguish what is quality and what is not.  She can look at a mantel and recognize authenticity. That is why her clients and designers trust her. They know their product is unique. They will not see it in another home and it is what she says it is. She is often contacted before the architectural elements are even removed in most countries in Europe.  I have seen her fly to Europe for 3 days to look over flooring and fly back and go straight to work and then do it again in 2 weeks.
What I love most about Ruth and Chateau Domingue is how she takes just as much time with the customer who may be buying only a few tiles for a kitchen back splash as she did with Don Henley.
{ all images taken from }
Chateau Domingue is an architectural boutique carrying distinctive, impeccably curated, antique found objects. You can learn more here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To Cabo, or not to Cabo?

Ever since taking my daughter on her senior-spring-break trip to Cabo I have debated whether or not to embark on the wild excursion again. Recently this has been a huge point of debate and discussion in my household. Enjoying a thousand-dollar vacation should be turmoil and stress-free, but this trip is anything but.  The trip is considered to be a right of passage, but a passage to where/what???
I did the senior trip 2 years ago with my daughter and it was quite an experience!!!  I will never forget the quiet plane ride home where none of the parents were talking to their senior, including me.
First of all, let me share with you the particulars. The hotel catering to the senior trip is the Pueblo Bonito. It is not a bad hotel but definitely photo shopped to an unrealistic perfection. The photos made it look like paradise on a Greek Island with beautiful cool blue water. In reality, it was at best a 3 star hotel, but someone very generous gave it 5 stars.  I think the hotel might have done some self-rating. Continental / United must have a special calendar with an alert on all the spring break vacations because what is normally a $400-$500 ticket jets up to an $800 ticket that week. The 5-star hotel is around $250 per night and you definitely need to do “The All Inclusive”.  Not because you will be eating every meal there, but because the bar bill when you go to check-out is more than the actual hotel bill.

I knew my daughter wanted to do something fun and adventurous. I was always so proud of my sweet, angelic, unknowing, naïve, and perfect daughter. These were adjectives I once believed to describe her! After Cabo I realized just how well she new how to navigate the party scene!
I imagined snorkeling and long walks up and down white-sand beaches, not long walks up and down the sleazy nightlife scene. Have you ever seen the advertisement for Girls gone Wild and thought, “where did those parents go wrong?”  Well, you’ll realize you’ve become one of those parents when you visit the popular bar, El Squid Roe! I would even go as far as to say that this trip is the audition for GIRLS GONE WILD. Every value you have taught your child is long-gone out the window- I kept thinking why did we ever go to Sunday school!!! With signs all over the place like “Poke smot !” (the tricky slang version of saying “smoke pot”) The whole place was basically one big grinding-convention with glow-in-the-dark jello-shots as the tapas!!

Despite all of this craziness there was some structure. One of the more experienced parents  (thank you John Walker) set up some boundaries indicating that the kids had to be at the door by 1:00 am to leave or you did not get to go out with the group the next night.  I could not figure out why the parents from the previous years did not think the clubs were that bad and then I realized they did not go to El Squid Roe every night. Let this be a message for you.  “Just say no to El Squid Roe!”
During the day sitting out by the pool was entertaining and enjoyable, but to my dismay there was also a wet t-shirt contest every afternoon. The Kids would race down the beach to decide the winners and sometimes participate. On the beach they sell these cute sunglasses with two cupcakes for the frames. I bought a pair for my friend’s birthday only to find out that the cupcakes were not cupcakes, but actually boobs!! I should’ve known better having bought them from a vendor right by the wet t-shirt contest. I was just relieved that my child didn’t enter and win the contest. Every year, someone knows one of the girls that wins! Does this go on their college resume under “Honors and Rewards??”

I was determined not to go back on this trip not because I did not enjoy the days by the pool but the nights almost killed me! 2 of the nights I had to take home sick girls (who’s mothers stayed back at the hotel) and the 3rd night I saw 2 teenagers having sex on the stairs at El Squid Roe. One. Word. PURELL!!!!

Now, much to my own surprise and disappointment, I have caved-in and I am letting my son have his “right of passage” to Cabo.

This time I have rules for the trip:
  • Have a set time to meet at the door of the club.
  • Only take your child, do not volunteer to take another’s child, even if they are staying at the same hotel.  (You don’t want to end up in my situation where the child the parent sent you with, gets sick and you have to take them home and leave your own child to fend for themself and get home safely.  The sick child has vomited and is sober by the time you get them back to the hotel meanwhile the mother has enjoyed a relaxing evening reading her book back at the hotel!! )
Parents-we are all in this together, there are no chosen ones who get to call this a vacation-it is work!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The 9 Big Deal Breakers in Real Estate

1. EXCLUSIONS: As a seller, you need to make it clear which furnishings and fixtures come with your house and which don't. You should disclose these items when you show your house, or remove them beforehand. These days, wall-mounted TVs seem to be causing an overabundance of disputes. Don't let the deal fall apart over a TV or a chandelier!
2. FAILURE TO DISCLOSE: In relation to deal breaker number one when in doubt, DISCLOSE IT, and the earlier the better. A problem will seem much bigger to a buyer when they have discovered it on their own or are already under contract.

3. APPRAISAL: The days when a home always appraised for the contract price are gone. Sometimes the appraisal comes in "short," and this can be a dealbreaker.

4. SURVEY: As you approach closing, you might get your survey back only to find out that your fence stretches 5 feet into your neighbor's property, marking your lot short of the 7,000 square-feet your buyer desired. Know your boundary lines! Many contracts call for a survey 3 days prior to closing, but you should have the buyer order the survey when they order the appraisal. Don't wait! If you take care of this in advance, you'll have time to work out a solution.
5. INSPECTIONS: Most inspectors call it like it is. Sometimes your buyer will want you to fix every single potential problem that your inspector sees. You don't have to do this! You both have choices.
Your buyer has four basic choices after the  inspector report. The buyer can:
  • Ask you to make their requested repairs
  • Ask you to reduce the sales price in lieu of repairs
  • Request no repairs at all
  • Decline to buy the property
They can't force you to make repairs, but they do hold the ultimate power of walking away from the sale if they can't live with the decision of your repairs.
As the seller, you have three choices. You can:
  • Agree to the buyer's request and make all of the repairs
  • Agree to part of the request and make some of the repairs, or create an allowance for the repairs and stipulate in the contract, "the house is being sold 'as is'"
  • Agree to make no repairs or credits at all
6. LENDER CHANGING THE DEAL: This is a tough one to avoid, since this falls in the buyer's court. Still, you can emphasize to your buyer the importance of working with reputable and reliable mortgage broker, not someone's cousin or a friend of a friend.

7. SPOOKED BUYERS: Today it's very common for buyers to get spooked by cocktail-party-talk. Jealous friends and relatives (who typically bought real estate at the peak of the boom and are suffering) tell buyers what a terrible time it is to buy a house. Enough of this information will spook any buyer. Never forget that in real estate the best advice to follow is: "When the news is the best, sell it, and when the news is the worst, buy it."

8. LENDER DRAGGING THE BUYER OVER THE COALS: Today's lending environment is very different form the environment even a couple of years ago. Chances are good that your buyer will get scared by the everything-but-the-rectal-exam approach that lenders are taking these days. Many buyers take the lender's tactics as a sign that they shouldn't be buying a home. They fear that they will not get approved and do not want to go through the humiliation. Reassure them that it's normal to feel that way and they will just have to get through it.

9. WAITING TOO LONG TO RESPOND: Always get back to your buyer within 24 hours. Procrastination is a deal-killer.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The 3 Golden Keys for Pricing

There are three things I keep in mind in every single one of my transactions when I’m evaluating a home and setting its asking price with the seller. Using these three concepts is the secret of my success and the reason why countless other realtors and customers have called me over the years to ask, “How did you get that listing to sell?”

The three concepts (I call them the three “-tions”) are simple and vital for anyone who wants to understand how real estate pricing works.

1. COMPETITION. A home seller might try to inflate their home’s price, thinking that they need to set the bar high before they negotiate. Or they might have a real estate agent who wants the listing so badly that she’ll tell them whatever they want to hear. But in doing this, that home seller is putting himself at a severe competitive disadvantage.

It’s like a football game: you simply must know the competition. How many homes in your price range are on the market? If there are several homes in your neighborhood waiting to sell, you must price your home aggressively—read: a little less than you might have liked—in order to get the buyers.

Keep in mind, the amount you come down in price is probably equal to or less than a month’s worth of carrying costs, which is the amount you’ll pay if you hold the home for longer.

If there are fewer homes in your neighborhood for sale, then you can shoot for a price that’s right on the market.

2. ATTRITION. So now that you know how many homes in your price range are available, find out how many of those homes have been selling per month for the last three to six months. This will give you what is called the “absorption rate” or rate of attrition. With this number, you can get a clear picture of what to expect as far as the time it will likely take to sell your home. It’s no guessing game; it’s a business calculation.

3. CONDITION. How does your home’s condition compare to other homes on the market and to those that have sold? Be realistic. What is the condition of the landscaping? How about the exterior paint or updates? What’s the condition of the carpet, flooring, appliances, roof, and interior paint?

In a buyer’s market—and today’s market is certainly a buyer’s market—updated homes sell faster than those that need updating. “Updated” means that your house has been redone in the past five to six years and the updates should be comparable to recent construction.

Evaluate your home the way a picky buyer would and have realistic expectations.