Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pikes Peek 10K

Of all the wonderful places to play in this area the last place you'd think of is Rockville Pike, unless you enjoy heinous traffic, fast food and strip malls - except for today. Today was the Pikes Peek 10K which begins at the Shady Grove Metro Station and ends at White Flint Mall. There's hardly anything more fun than being able to run smack down the middle of one of the busiest roads in the region. Besides, it's a net downhill race so it's fast and easy to PR, which I did, which is sweet.

Highlights of the day: Meeting Margaret Valega, a fellow Poolesville resident who runs just a bit faster than me and is also doing the First Time Marathon Program through MCRRC. New running friends are priceless! Seeing my family at the finish line was the best! I do know what it takes for them to get up at the crack of dawn to stand in the cold waiting to cheer me on for just a few seconds and I'm beyond grateful.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Top 5

It's no secret to anyone that I absolutely love my job. Even the most routine transactions are immensely satisfying. There are, however, certain very special houses and special clients that stand out in my mind for very specific reasons and I thought it would be nice to walk down memory lane.

In no particular order I present to you my all-time top five favorites.

Jennings Road, Kensington
This is a very small cottage on a lovely lot in Kensington. It's most amazing because of what an utterly perfect fit it is for the woman who bought it. The house is warm and earthy with beautiful wood ceiling and trim. The kitchen is rustic yet fully functional with every modern amenity you could wish to have.

I recall the look on her face when she walked in. It was magical. She is a kayaker and the natural elements, clean, easy feel of this house... well, it was love at first sight.

Bayard Boulevard, Bethesda
This house is special and a sure favorite because it was owned by a woman who died and left it to her daughter who left it to her daughter. Three generations of wonderful women lived in, raised their families, and loved this home. They meticulously cared for it, rarely updating it, and the end result for the buyer was a home that was much the same in 2010 as it was in 1938 with most of the original finishes and fixtures. It's a time capsule ready for a new line of strong women.

Springfield Road, Darnestown
Mrs. Buyer called me to inquire about homes in Darnestown that were colonials, with finished basements, renovated and updated and within a very optimistic price range (which is to say she wanted to spend far less than the market would bear for a house that met her criteria). A quick search of homes and I found one in her price range - a rambler, on a slab, no basement, an estate sale, in miserable, dated condition. I told her about it and gave her the address and promised to keep an eye out for something that would be a better fit.

Later that day she called me from the drive way of this wreck and was very emotional. She said she knew this was the perfect house. She'd called her husband and he was en route from Bethesda. She asked if I could come show them the interior. They both loved it. They made an offer on the anti-ideal house that night (despite my urging that they sleep on it).

An inspection revealed, among other huge problems, a massive termite infestation - so bad that there was significant structural damage that would be difficult and very costly to repair. Furthermore, the house needed just about everything, including a new kitchen, bathrooms, appliances, and cosmetic repairs. Not to mention that a finished basement, which was so important to them, was an impossibility. I tried desperately to convince them to move on but they would not be deterred.

A few months after settlement Mr. Buyer stopped in my office on his way home from work. He invited me to come see the house now that most of the repairs were done and the kitchen had been remodeled. Walking in to the house I could see and feel how much this family loved it. I was very happy that they ignored my advice and followed their hearts. I would still try to talk them out of it - knowing that ultimately they'll be glad I cared and that they'll do what's right for them anyway.

Masonwood Drive, Darnestown
This house is hardly a favorite because the house was so beautiful or the clients were people I was drawn to personally. Quite the opposite, in fact. The house, while very beautiful, is not my cup of tea and the buyers were lovely but we did not connect personally. It was very much a professional relationship.

The reason this house is a favorite is not a squishy, warm story. My former boss's wife was about to ratify an offer for $1.4 million which would have been a record for our small company which routinely sold luxury homes around a million. At the same time I was working on selling this to-be-built home which had a base price of $1,152,500 and looked like it would sell for about $1.25 million. At the 11th hour the buyer decided on some options and customizations I'd suggested that brought the final price to $1,557,473. The boss's wife had to settle for second place when she ratified her contract a couple of days later. Yes, I am that competitive.

Park Overlook Drive, Bethesda
This house was listed for $749,900 - slightly more than my buyers could afford and in 2005 homes were generally selling within minutes of being listed with multiple offers, often for much more than the asking price. At $749K it was a steal and surely would generate multiple offers.

This was a FSBO so offers were presented directly to the owner - a 90-some year old German man with a heavy accent. The buyers made an offer for $734,000 and I had them include a handwritten personal note telling the seller about themselves and explaining their low offer in such a competitive market. They did just that and the seller accepted their offer. He would say later that he saw his young family in them and that he wanted to give them the same wonderful life he'd had raising his family in Bethesda.

I'm convinced he could have gotten close to $800,000 if he'd entertained other offers. In a market with escalation clauses and rabid greed this kind man sacrificed a good bit of his children's inheritance in order to provide total strangers the opportunity to be in the school district they wanted but could not afford, the commute that would allow them time to eat meals together in the evening, and the life they dreamed of. Pretty sweet.

Over the years I've met the most wonderful people and helped them buy and sell some pretty fantastic homes. My latest projects include a handful of very distressed houses in up and coming areas. I'm looking forward to seeing these houses restored and returned to the community. It's a beautiful thing to look back on such a rewarding career while also looking forward to the many more great opportunities to come.