In our first interview with Showcase graphic designer Heather Lenemier, she had just made the decision to sell her longtime home and buy a new one at the same time – a complicated and somewhat intimidating prospect. During the process of preparing the house for a listing and tours, there were some surprises and challenges – some she expected, some she didn’t. It was a process she learned to navigate as she went along, with the able assistance of her indefatigable agent, Erin Freel and her team. Once the house was ready for listing, Heather took a deep breath and plunged in.
Now it was just a question of showing it to the ideal buyer.
SHOWCASE PROPERTIES: The last time we talked, you were getting ready to push the button and go live on the MLS. You were nervous!
HEATHER LENEMIER: Oh my gosh, was I ever. It was nerve-wracking, because of course I didn’t know when the house would sell – was it going to be fairly quickly, or was I going to have to wait a few months or longer? I felt a little bit like I was jumping out of an airplane.
SP: But you got an inquiry almost right away, didn’t you?
HL: Yes! It was hilarious. We had a showing that very first day, literally minutes after we listed the property. Good thing I had the house ready!
SP: That was fast. You sure don’t waste time, do you?
“When I’m writing those property descriptions, the most important thing I always keep in mind is that every single property is unique. You can get some things down to a general flow, but no two are ever the same. So it’s important to write them that way.”
— Lacey Weber
Creative Director with Showcase Properties
SP: That’s the MLS listing, right? They worked on the language for that pretty extensively.
HL: It’s the first thing most people see about your house, so it’s super important to be thorough and make it as comprehensive as possible without overwhelming the prospective buyer. You want to give the important details about the property and make it interesting and compelling, but you can’t get too wordy, because you might bore people. It’s a tricky chemistry. Thank heavens for Lacey and Erin. I think the way my listing was written and the photos that we used made a huge difference.
LACEY WEBER, CREATIVE DIRECTOR: When I’m writing those property descriptions, the most important thing I always keep in mind is that every single property is unique. You can get some things down to a general flow, but no two are ever the same. So it’s important to write them that way.
SP: You do a fair amount of research on the property when you’re writing that, don’t you?
LW: I do, yeah. I look at the photos, the property appraiser details, the MLS input sheet – where you find so much key information about the square footage, amenities, acreage and the like. I read the REALTOR® notes, because that gives me a lot of insight as well. But nothing beats hearing directly from the seller – in this case Heather herself. I want to know about the little things that made her fall in love with the home in the first place. That’s such a personal, familiar touch to the narrative that really helps someone get a feel for the place before they even step foot inside it.
SP: Again, a lot less stress than if you had tried to write it yourself, Heather.
HL: Oh, big time. So much easier. And Showcase just handled everything marvelously; just speaking from a consumer/client point of view and not someone who works for them, Showcase was just amazing. They were so professional and comprehensive. I was super impressed with them.
“In general, the best selling or buying experience is a little bit of luck and a lot of preparation, and the agent should be prepared for obstacles; every transaction has them. So the buyer should let whatever fears and worries they have transfer to their agent and have the trust to let us handle them; that’s our job. We’re there to do the work so you don’t have to worry about it.”
— Erin Freel
Broker Associate with Showcase Properties
SP: I know the MLS was also an added bonus for you in terms of showing the house, too, because of the notifications.
HL: Oh yeah, that was great! We got messages from the MLS whenever someone wanted to look at the house, and that made the showing process really easy. I just typed in ‘Yes’ when I would get a request, time and date, and it would send back a confirmation. I loved that part;it was really handy and convenient. The actual showings took about twenty minutes to a half hour, so I’d just duck out and go to a coffee shop or something while they looked around.
SP: That always feels a little weird, doesn’t it?
HL: It was, a little. I’ve lived there so long, and it’s an odd feeling thinking of people wandering through your house like it’s an exhibit or something. But it was fine. The only inconvenience, if there was one, was leaving every time someone wanted to show it. But in the scheme of things, it wasn’t a big deal. Like I said, I’d just go to a coffee shop, or the park, or a friend’s house nearby and hang out.
SP: After making sure the candles are lit and the counters are clean. It is kind of like setting up an exhibit, isn’t it?
HL: (laughs) I was always in staging mode, you know, making sure to keep the house tidy and stay on top of how everything looked – the candles, flowers, turn on the fireplace app on the TV.
EF: Enough really can’t be said about ‘staging’ a home. That doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars; it just means simple things, like making sure your home smells good. We love our pets, but they can be noisy and smelly. So you might want to consider asking a friend from outside the home to come over, take a sniff, and tell you honestly if it smells bad. I’m not even kidding. It’s a simple thing, but it could make a huge difference.
LW: I think a lot of people underestimate the power of smell in first impressions, but it really adds a lot more than you might expect. Smells are one of the senses that can trigger memories, and you’re more likely to have a good memory associated with say, the smell of fresh baked cookies instead of dirty laundry. That positive association can make someone immediately feel a lot more comfortable and welcome.
SP: Pets can be an issue, too; they can sometimes intimidate people or make a lot of noise. It’s not enough to just say, “Oh, they’re friendly!” Plus, you don’t know who might be allergic and have a bad reaction to dander or pet hair.
EF: Exactly, and you don’t want a prospective buyer to walk away with a skin rash and a bad memory. Or with their ears ringing from constant barking – which is understandable from the pet’s point of view. They’re just protecting their home territory. What I suggest is finding a place to put them during a showing so guests can take their time viewing the rooms without distractions.
HL: Basically, the more pleasant and serene you can make the space, the better impression it has on the buyer. It wasn’t a lot of work; you just had to maintain it and keep on top of it, and it really made a difference. We had a couple of snafus here and there, but nothing too distressing.
SP: Snafus? What kind of snafus? That sounds a little alarming.
HL: Well, I’ve worked with and for REALTORS® for a long time, and sometimes I think they forget that while it’s for sale, this is still somebody’s home. People still live there. I’d come back and find one had left the door unlocked when they left. Another time they left all the lights on in the house, and one of them showed up WAY too early for the showing, and I wasn’t ready for them yet. They were anomalies, but it was still the kinds of things you notice and that stick with you. You notice who’s being professional and who isn’t.
SP: It’s a good thing you stayed fairly close, though. Imagine if you had candles burning or the lights were on for hours on end. At least you were able to get back home right afterward and check everything.
EF: It’s better if the seller isn’t there during a showing; even if everyone is friendly, it can make potential buyers uncomfortable. You don’t want them to feel like you’re hovering over them. But that being said, Heather’s method is a good idea: Leave the property, but stick close by so you can get back fairly quickly.
HL: Yeah, I would recommend that in any case. Like I said, it’s still my home, and I’m actually still living there. I want to make sure it’s safe, nothing is damaged – which isn’t a major concern I had, really, but it’s not a bad thing to be careful and vigilant. I’m protecting my home and my investment, and that’s a smart thing to do. And as it turned out, I didn’t have to show it very many times. We didn’t even need to do an open house, because it actually sold really fast.
SP: It really did, didn’t it? Less than a week, wasn’t it?
HL: We listed it on a Wednesday, got an offer on Friday, and I accepted the following Monday.
SP: You could get whiplash with that kind of turnaround.
HL: I was flabbergasted. Overjoyed, of course, but flabbergasted. The gentleman who actually bought it was responding to Erin’s sign in the yard. He called her and asked for a showing that day. He was my neighbor from a few doors down, but I only knew him by sight. I might have said hello to him a couple of times.
SP: That’s one of those kismet moments, when you’re going, Is this actually happening? You almost have to pinch yourself at something like that.
HL: I know! He came right over, saw the house, and made an offer that night. Him buying my house was contingent on selling his house – very similar to my situation. He hadn’t actually intended to sell his home, but mine really fit the bill for him, and he didn’t want to leave the neighborhood.
“It’s been a really good experience; it was really smooth for me, and I’m grateful to Erin and her team (shout out to Joel, Noris, and Riley!). As you know, I was already dealing with emotional stress and the challenge of packing and buying another house. Erin and Joel were immediately available for me, all the time, whenever I needed them, and that was a huge relief.”
— Heather Lenemier
Seller and Graphic Designer with Showcase Properties
EF: It sounds like it, doesn’t it? But believe it or not, it’s actually not unusual in this market to sell so quickly – if, and it’s a big if – the home is ready to sell, it’s tidy and clutter-free, the photos are professional so you attract the Zillows and Realtor.com networks that MLS sends it out to, and IF it’s priced right. That’s the big one. In this market, sellers are tempted to “test the waters”, and that can backfire. Heather listened, and the system worked exactly the way it should and the way it was designed to work.
LW: Fun fact: In Marion County, the median time getting to a contract is 12 days. In Lake County, where Heather’s house is located, it’s 9 days, according to the Monthly Market Detail report provided by the Florida Association of Realtors.
SP: I’ll bet that’s a lot faster than people thought it would be.
HL: But it gets even better. You’re not going to believe it.
SP: Really? I can’t wait to hear the rest of this.
HL: So, the neighbor made the offer for the full asking price I wanted, but I waited until the weekend was over, just to see what other activity might happen. As it happened, I got an offer for a lot more money from a development company, which financially would have been a nice windfall. But I really didn’t want to sell it to one of those, or some investment firm. I really wanted the house to go to a family who would make it a home, and this man had a family, and he works from home.
SP: Sometimes money isn’t the sole motivator; that’s valid. You lived there for a long time, so it makes sense you’d want that. The house would be in good hands, and you were still going to get the sale price you had originally asked for.
HL: Exactly, and both things were important to me. So I accepted, and he ended up working with Erin on the sale of his house. He got an offer within a week, too. Guess who bought it?
SP: John Travolta?
HL: Stop, of course not. My house didn’t have an airstrip. No, really, try to guess.
SP: Your neighbor’s neighbor?
HL: (laughs) Nope. The development firm that wanted to buy my house bought his.
SP: No way.
HL: It was perfect! It was like the planets aligned and everybody got what they wanted.
SP: You really couldn’t ask for a better outcome, or really, such a quick, relatively easy sale process. Who could have expected that?
EF: The only thing an agent can wish for is a client that cares and is responsive to timely questions. Heather was all of that. It was the biggest domino effect chain with the buying of her home, selling of her home, selling the buyer’s home of her home…! It went on and on, but in the end we had the perfect formula of luck, preparation, and responsiveness. It was really gratifying for me personally, and I gained a client and a friend in the process.
HL: It’s been a really good experience; it was really smooth for me, and I’m grateful to Erin and her team (shout out to Joel, Noris, and Riley!). As you know, I was already dealing with emotional stress and the challenge of packing and buying another house. Erin and Joel were immediately available for me, all the time, whenever I needed them, and that was a huge relief.
Part III Closing the Deal – Heather takes the final step of Closing and Title, handing over the property to the new owner and preparing to move on.
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