Heather's beautiful kitchen.
You might think that working for a Real Estate company gives you an inside edge on knowledge about buying and selling a property, even if you’re not an agent or Realtor — and to a point, that’s somewhat true. There’s a lot non-agents/Realtors learn by osmosis just by working with professionals in the industry, but when it comes to actually selling a property, there’s an immense amount of information, logistics, and work that goes into successfully putting a home on the market.

Heather Lenemier has worked for over 20 years as a graphic artist and designer and has been with Showcase going on 4 of those years. It wasn’t until recently, however, that she found herself needing to not only sell a home for the first time; she needed to buy a new one. We thought it would be interesting – and maybe even illuminating – to explore the challenges and experiences as she navigated the process.

With this limited series, we’re going to follow Heather through the journey from putting her house on the market, showing and selling, negotiating and closing. Turns out that even someone who has worked with and around real estate professionals for a fair chunk of her career can have a few surprises, and find out things she never knew about home buying and selling. It’s been an enlightening experience that we hope will answer questions you might have, too.
Heather's Home – Ready for prospective buyers to visit.
Heather took a lot of time staging her home to look its best when photographed.

Heather's home in the process of being painted and readied for prospective buyers.SHOWCASE PROPERTIES: Okay, so let’s start at the very beginning: When did you make the decision to sell your house?

HEATHER LENEMIER: I thought you were going to start singing Sound of Music there for a minute.

SP: The thought had occurred to me. I do love me some Julie Andrews. (Heather laughs) But that could take us down a whole other rabbit hole. We’re supposed to be talking about your house. Maybe in a future blog we can talk about Austrian schlossen and the real estate options in Salzburg.

HL: Right. Where were we? Oh, when did I decide to sell the house. Well, I was kind of preparing for it the last week before my husband died. I knew it was something I was going to have to do, because I couldn’t manage the payments on my own. The bank is a business, and although they were extremely kind, sympathetic and patient, they couldn’t hold off for long. I understood that.

SP: That must have been a little overwhelming, with everything else you were dealing with.

 

“I knew I needed someone I trusted and who knew what they were doing, so of course I chose Showcase. I’ve worked there for four years and I know how professional they are, and the standards and skills of the staff.”

— Heather Lenemier,  Seller
and Graphic Designer with Showcase

HL: To me it was like this mountain I had to climb.

SP: (singing) Ford Ev’ry Stream…

HL: Oh my lord, we just can’t get away from that, can we? Yes, and like the Von Trapps escaping Austria, it seemed very scary and monolithic. I knew I needed someone I trusted and who knew what they were doing, so of course I chose Showcase. I’ve worked there for four years and I know how professional they are, and the standards and skills of the staff.

SP: How did you end up working with Erin Freel as your Realtor? Obviously you knew her from the office.

HL: I felt something of a connection with Erin; I had worked with her several times already on her collateral materials. And another company I had done some work with had also worked with her; I knew more about her than anyone else. So I immediately called her and told her what was happening and said, “This is what I have; what do I do? Please help.” (laughs)

ERIN FREEL, SHOWCASE BROKER ASSOCIATE : As a Realtor, people come in and out of my life; I work with clients intensely for 45-60 days, then they close and a new phase starts. I felt very honored to be able to work with Heather during a difficult period in her life. I think of myself, my sister or my mother in that situation, and I would want someone compassionate helping them.

 

Candles burning warmly on the dining table, the home looks welcoming.

SP: Well, you sure had the right person in your corner. There were a lot of things to consider for you, weren’t there? What things did you and Erin talk about that you felt were important to consider going forward?

HL: Well, I knew not only did I have to find and purchase a new home, I had to sell the current one at the same time. So it was doubly daunting and intimidating for me. It was a huge relief to have just one REALTOR® to work with on both.

SP: Yeah, it could have been even more confusing and stressful if you’d had two different people, one working on the sale and one on the purchase. Or if you’d had no Realtor at all.

HL: Oh, some of my friends said I should list the house myself, and I was like, “NO!” I knew that wasn’t a good idea. Having a company behind you with resources makes all the difference in the world; there are so many pieces and elements to work with. A lot of people don’t realize what’s actually involved and the kind of tools you need to have. And for me, it wasn’t just “Hey, you have to move”, it was dealing with grief, and working and figuring all this out simultaneously. Plus I just didn’t have the time or the bandwidth to sell a house on my own.

Ed. Note:  As we discussed in an earlier blog, there’s a difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR® – and what this means for a seller.

“I think one of the benefits I can offer is having a team in place. Not just Showcase marketing and admin, but my personal team of Joel, Noris and Riley. They’re instrumental in ensuring the customer is never left needing anything if one of us has other obligations or is out of town. Responsiveness is how you show you care, and that’s important to us.”

— Erin Freel,  Broker Associate with Showcase

SP: You had never sold a house before this, right?

HL: I’ve seen and worked with Realtors for 24 years, but I’ve never been in the process, you know? It’s a whole new world. Totally different. You have to think differently and protect yourself. Erin was really sensitive and knew it was a rough time for me emotionally. She was incredibly patient and she was so great at explaining things to me, telling me what I needed to do to get the house ready, which at first I didn’t understand. “Get the house ready”? It’s clean, what else do I need to do?!

SP: Ah, the staging.

HL: The staging.

Ed. Note: Before a listing is made public – particularly in Heather’s case – a professional photographer is out to the property to get clear, high-resolution photos. Just as important as working with a REALTOR®, having a professional handling this aspect is extremely important – especially when first impressions on homes these days are almost always online. Check out our blog about the MLS system and how it works here.

HL: My husband and I used to watch those home shows all the time, and we saw how people dressed things up and made them look pretty. I mean, you want to make money from the sale; that’s obviously part of the goal. So you have to put yourself in the shoes of a person looking at the home as an outsider, not as someone who’s lived there for years.

SP: Okay, so a quick vacuum and a few candles isn’t what we’re talking about here, but also not a whole renovation, either.

HL: No, not at all. I learned to ask myself, What do I look for in a home when I go online or go to see a house? Well, clutter and mess make it hard to look past the debris and see the house. You have to entice the person to imagine themselves living there. Fresh paint and accents matter, too. I realized it was important for them to see how I lived there and know that the bones of the house have been taken care of. I want them to feel confident investing money in it and that they’re getting a good deal. Those are things I talked about with Erin; stuff you might not think about initially when you’re getting ready to sell a house. I certainly hadn’t really realized it until then.

SP: What did you learn about how that affects pricing and value for the house? Was it all just for cosmetics and show, or do you think it serves a real function other than beautification and optics?

HL: It’s definitely valid; a thousand dollars is like a penny; it all adds up and it shows the buyer what’s been invested in the property. For every thousand dollars where they don’t see a value, that’s less they’re going to invest when they make an offer. If they realize and know that the value is high, their perception and perspective will reflect that.

The front of Heather's home.
An invitingly staged room in Heather's home.
The bathroom in Heather's home.

SP: That brings us to the next, very important step in the process: Deciding on an asking price for your house. Again, you had never done this before, so how did you and Erin approach it and figure it out?

HL: Erin did a market comparison of homes in the area. She looked for houses that were similar to mine — same square footage, yard, home elements, and what they had sold for over the past several months. That way we were able to figure out what range we should go for. Then she ran across one house that was almost exactly like mine, right down to the layout, and it sold in just a few weeks. We looked at all those factors and the numbers and said, ‘Well, I have a really good location and other advantages by comparison’. So we decided to stay in the same price range as that one.

SP: And of course you had a baseline of what you could take as an offer, right? That’s something you must have worked with Erin on as well.

HL: Yes, we talked about how sometimes a buyer can make a higher offer than the asking price — depending on location, the market — and how badly they want the property. It’s sort of like an auction; you have to aim high, but not too high. At the same time, you don’t want to list a price that’s too low and have people wonder what’s wrong. It can be tricky.

EF: My title actually should be ‘relationship manager’. Many times, I’m making people’s dreams come true – but often I’m involved because of divorce, or as in this case, the loss of a loved one. No transaction is ever 100% smooth, but my job is to limit the bumps in the road, because the buyer or seller is usually dealing with much more on their end. So I was really happy to be a resource Heather could use and help figure these things out.

Ed. Note: We did a blog about this, too! “The Art of the Asking Price” Nov. 2021

The spacious backyard of Heather's home.

SP: It’s good you didn’t decide to do it yourself after all!

HL: Oh gosh, yeah. There’s so much to think about and consider; I can’t take lower than X amount; I have to pay bills and closing costs, taxes, fees, title — so by the time you take all that out and satisfy the loan, you want to have something left over. If I had listed it myself, there’s no way I’d get a high enough price after everything, so what would I have left to live on?? No, thank you, I’m going to list it with a Realtor who knows what they’re doing so I can get the best price and walk away with something to start over. It really helped to have people on the team who knew how to take all the information and write it in such a way that it was both descriptive and concise. Lacey was a wizard with that.

LACEY WEBER, Creative Director: I handle the majority of all property descriptions that come through Showcase in order to make sure everything is accurate and up to standard. I write a base, and typically work with the agent to edit it as needed. In this case, I was able to speak directly with Heather, who was able to point out some important bits that we didn’t have on-file to contribute to the final piece. If photos are a first impression for interest, the description is the details that get them to call and ask questions.

HL: A big plus with that was that I was part of crafting the listing. I was comfortable with it, and it covered the things I felt were important to mention. Again, these are things I would never have been able to do all on my own. Or if I did, I don’t think they would have been done as well or as professionally.

LW: It was a big help for us, too, because it went a long way to really personalizing the listing; it’s a home people lived in. It’s a loved place where people created memories, where certain spots hold a certain meaning. You don’t necessarily know that unless you talk with the seller – in this case Heather – and get a sense or understanding about the personality of the place.

“I was dealing with so much more than just logistics – I was moving out of a home I had shared with my husband and working through a really emotional process. It would have been too much, and the peace of mind that I had someone there who would protect me and take care of my interests – that was invaluable.”

— Heather Lenemier,  Seller
and Graphic Designer with Showcase

SP: When your friends were suggesting you sell and list it yourself, were they thinking it would save you money?

HL: That was the reasoning I heard most often, but ultimately it really doesn’t save you anything. You may have to pay REALTOR® fees, sure, but it’s worth it. I don’t have the tools and resources, the access to contacts and information Erin has — not to mention the experience of buying and selling houses. And I was dealing with so much more than just logistics — I was moving out of a home I had shared with my husband and working through a really emotional process. It would have been too much, and the peace of mind that I had someone there who would protect me and take care of my interests — that was invaluable.

SP: Yeah, it gives you the space you need to process your personal life without having to worry about the technical and logistical things.

HL: Oh, yeah, and I needed that. I think everyone does; it’s a lot, selling a house. Erin has been a really big help, and not just in the business side of it. She’s been a real cheerleader, giving me confidence and pep talks.

EF: I think one of the benefits I can offer is having a team in place. Not just Showcase marketing and admin, but my personal team of Joel, Noris and Riley. They’re instrumental in ensuring the customer is never left needing anything if one of us has other obligations or is out of town. Responsiveness is how you show you care, and that’s important to us.

SP: So you’ve done all the preparation, gotten the house ready, and determined your price. Then it’s time to push the button and put it on the market, right? The big moment!

HL: Ha! I was terrified. I must have called Erin at least four or five times right up until we listed it, I was so nervous. But it was also a feeling of ‘Okay, here we go. It’s time to do this’. You know what you’ve been getting ready for and now it’s finally here. Time to leap out of the airplane. And you know what? It wasn’t even four minutes after my listing was online that someone texted, asking to see the house the next day.

SP: Wow.

HL: I know. It was that fast. That’s the power of working with a reputable realty company.

Coming Soon!

Part II: Selling it – Heather and Erin navigate open houses, home tours, and collaborate on what buyer pitches the best offer to accept.

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