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10 Easy TTD's as you prepare to list your home

by Colleen Lawler

When I show a home, little things can mean a lot.  Consider addressing these easy little things to make a great first impression:

Front porch - sweep it, clean it, and make sure the exterior lighting is shining inside and out.

Air Return Vents - use a vacuum attachment to clean these of dust bunnies.

Ceiling Fans - clean the tops of those fans! 

Window Sills - open the window and clean between the window and the screen

Inside plants - get rid of brown leaves and overgrowth - if they don't look great, give them a decent burial.

HVAC - have your furnace and a/c serviced, then use that vacuum attachment to clean the top of the appliance, and if you have something "gucky" where the condensation hose drains, clean it.  Purchase a pack of furnace filters and change every 30 days.  For the rest of your life.

Water Heater - clean the top of the hot water just sits there collecting dust for years.  

Linen Closets - PURGE!  get rid of all the mis-matched towels and linens.  Pull everything out, and put on your OCD to put it back together again.

Decks, sidewalks and patios -  Power wash all these surfaces, everything will look 5 years newer.  Guys love to power wash things so if you are woman, go find a man, hand him the power washer and let him have that fun.  

Basement - Go to the unfinished part of your basement and look up.  See cobwebs? Go on attack with your vacuum attachment.  

Some of these chores will take less than 15 minutes.  All of them will help your buyer see your home as cared for.  It's not like buyers are going to stare at the water heater and marvel that it's the cleanest one they have ever seen, but they will come away with an overall impression that is positive.  

Remember that you are in competition with other sellers,  Some of them will be tooth brushing the lint out of the dryer vents and replacing dirty light bulbs!

Transitioning from home to retirement communities

by Colleen Lawler

Today I had the pleasure of closing the sale of a home for Dick and Nancy.  They lived in the same home for over 30 years and successfully transitioned into a retirement community, Friendship Village,  in the Chesterfield area.  


Getting a home ready to sell, and trying to figure out how to squeeze 2800 square feet of "stuff" into a 1000 square foot apartment can be both mentally and physically challenging.  Some folks are lucky to have children that can come to the rescue.  For those that do not have friends and family nearby, there are resources available to help.  


Professional organizers can assist in sorting what will stay and what has to go.  Where do you find that sort of person?  Many retirement communities can help by referring incoming residents to professionals that can help sort, pack and move.  A good real estate agent should have those contacts in their rolodex.  


One of the most important things to do is allow a lot of time.  Any move is stressful, but long term planning will make it so much better.  Today Nancy told me she is surprised that she's not missing her home...she's excited to meet her new neighbors, and is glad to be relieved of all the responsibilities that home ownership entail.  I first met Nancy and Dick over a year ago, and we used every bit of that year to make this a smooth move.  They are thrilled to be someplace they will enjoy.  


If you are a family member assisting your parents in this sort of move, start early!  Keep your sense of humor about you, enjoy the time you spend with them sorting and packing.  It can be a fun walk down memory lane with them.  Call in the reinforcements if you need to...enlisting other family members or professionals.  There certainly can be a lot of emotions involved.  Be supportive and set a good example for your own kids...they will be helping you with that same sort of move someday!

Life Lesson #2 Don't Judge

by Colleen Lawler


In the course of my life in real estate, I have walked over the thresholds of literally thousands of houses, into the homes of complete strangers. (I should stop here for a minute and point out that literrally thousands of people have let a complete stranger (me!) into their homes as well).  We all deserve a medal for bravery or a slap upside the head for being foolhardy, I guess.

So I get to meet a lot of people.  I meet them when they just got a promotion and are moving up, when they have just retired and are moving closer to grandkids.  I meet them when their parents have entered a nursing home or passed away, and I meet them when a marriage is coming to an end.  I meet them when they are racing to beat the stork to a house that fits their growing family.  

I have a lot a respect for all of these people.  They are faced with change, and even when change is for the good, it's not easy.  They let me see their basements and closets and garages...things that people they have known for years have never seen.  They most likely are a lot more anxious about having me come into their home than they let on, and I remind myself that most of the time, most of them would rather be going to the dentist.

Once I was on my way to meet someone who was an engineer.  And a lawyer.  Big reputation.  I prepared with great diligence.  I printed charts and graphs and I knew every thing about every home I was using as a comp for his house.  I studied days on market, list price to sale price ratios, month over month and year over year trends.  I know most of that going forward, but this time I knew it forward AND backward!.

I walked over the threshold ready for a proper grilling, confident, but a little anxious nonetheless.  And what to my wondering eyes appeared?  A human being, just like me.  John had a lovely dog, and a lovelier wife.  And a nice home that he needed to sell. He not only respected all the data, and charts, and graphs, but he respected me, and the time that I spent preparing to meet with him.  

He gave me the privilege of selling that home, and as I got to know John and Mary, I learned that they had children north and children south, and they intended to share their time and their lives with them by having a small home near each of them.  Mary had been through a couple of successful battles with cancer.  They knew how important it is to live the life you want to live, each and every day.  Because life is precious, and the people you love are precious.  That's a very important lesson, but not the first one that John taught me: engineers and lawyers don't just have brains, they have hearts. They can be very special people that make the world a much better place.

Never judge a book by its cover 

~George Elliot

Life Lesson #1 Be Kind

by Colleen Lawler

I have been helping real life people buy and sell real estate for almost 25 years.  Recently I've been thinking that there are about 8 billion blogs floating around wherever blogs float.  And since I get so busy doing what I do, it's always nagging at me that I haven't made a blog post since forever.  Probably all things real estate have been discussed, so what to write about?  

Well, it came to me as I was driving this week (real estate agents are almost always driving, btw)!

Lately I have come to realize that each person we meet either has something to teach us, or something to learn from us.  That didn't just's been happening since forever, and I am just now, 50-some odd years later, figuring that out.  Duh.

So, once or twice a week, I am going to try to explain something I have learned, or something someone has learned from me, as I've gone about the business of moving all these folks.  

The ground rules for these posts are simple.  I will refer to the people in these stories as John and Mary, and I reserve the right to change things up a bit (literary license?) to respect everyone.  Some stories will be funny, some will be  poignant, some will be sad.  I hope I can tell them as they deserve to be told.  

So, Lesson # 1 is a hard one to write about.  I met with a man who happened to be a fairly busy, well regarded long time real estate agent.  He lived in a beautiful home with his dog, all alone. I think he had been divorced a couple of times.   He looked like he worked out every day, dressed well, and his home was filled with all things beautiful.  He had been trying to sell this home without success, so he interviewed a couple of agents and asked me to list his home.  

This was near the middle of the downward crash in real estate, and he wanted to get out from under the debt of the house, and may have had some other real estate investments that were not doing very well.  At all.  We only met twice, and both times he was chain smoking.  I could tell he was stressed about getting this house sold, but he was a nice guy, no doubt about it.  

I listed the house.  We had a couple of showings.  Then one day I got a phone call from one of the agents in his office.  It went like this: "Colleen, you are going to want to stop showings on this house and cancel the listing.  John took his life yesterday."  

I heard that he left a note, and that it did not mention anything about how if the house had only sold, everything would have been fine. He was lonely and did not feel loved.

I only knew him for about 3 weeks, but I will always think of him.   Every time I drive past the road that leads to that house, I say a prayer for him, and for his family, and for me.  Every time, forever.  

He had so much more going on in his life, and he must have been so sad, and felt so hopeless.  He never, in the couple of times we met, or the times we spoke on the phone, gave any indication of the turmoil he was going through.

Lesson #1  



This is as important a lesson as I can think of.  Please practice it.  

Until next time...


A Day in the Life of a Buyer's Agent

by Colleen Lawler

I recently polled my team and asked them about some of their most interesting experiences showing property.  The following are in no particular order, and the names have been obliterated to protect the innocent!!

1.  "I showed a house that reeked of marijuana...there was almost smoke billowing out the front door.  I am not sure how my buyers' felt about the house, but they were pretty mellow the rest of the day..."

2.  "I was showing a house to a woman with two children.  As I opened the front door to a home, the children ran through the house and out the back door to the swing set.  A dog that was in the house followed them out the door and just took off running.  There was not a fenced yard, so I was chasing him through neighbors' yards in's kind of hard to call a dog when you don't know his name, but I managed to get him back in the house eventually"

3.  "I've lost count of the number of times I have walked in on sleeping teenagers"

4.  "there was a pair of lady's underwear on the steps leading to the master bedroom."

5.  "I was driving down a road with a buyer in my car, and there was a fire at a gas station.  A man was running around, actually on fire.  I pulled in, jumped out and another passerby and I rolled him on the ground and got him moved away from the fire. When I looked up, my car was gone!  My buyer had moved to the driver's seat and moved my car, because she was afraid the car was going to catch on fire." (Oops, next time, do not scare or endanger your buyer while trying to do a good deed!)

6.  "I tripped over a dead mouse going down the basement stairs..." "There was a dead bird in the kitchen."

7.  "A man called and wanted to see a house that was listed for about a million dollars.  When I returned to the office, his parents called the office and apologized for him wasting my time...he had mental disabilities and would do things like that when he was bored."  (Oops, next time, be sure to qualify the buyer, no matter the price range, and double oops, don't show a house to a total stranger!!!)

8.   "Sometimes the showing instructions are a little daunting, like this: 'bring a flashlight and use caution!'"

9.  "My buyer and I were in a nice home, which happened to be vacant.  By the time we left, our shoes and socks had fleas all over them.  Seller had it fumigated, and the buyer bought the house...still lives there 19 years later!"

10.  "The bedroom of a house I was showing had a bunch of men's suits laid out on the bed with something dark and greasy poured all over them...turns out his soon to be ex-wife had poured motor oil over all of his work clothes."

11.  "I showed a home where we walked out into the back deack, the door blew closed and we were locked out on a deck with no stairs to the ground.  I had to lower myself down off the deck, jump down, walk around the front and rescue the buyers off the deck."

12.  "While I was showing a house, the neighbor across the street backed into my car.  I heard a crash (I was in the basement), and then I heard the doorbell ring...I knew that wasn't going to be good..."

This is all "in a day's work" for most buyer agents.  If you are looking at homes with a buyer agent, they have typically spent time prior to your appointment researching the homes you want to see, setting the appointments to see those homes, and after your appointments they gather answers to questions you may have about some of the homes you saw.  They also either email or call the listing agent to let them know whether or not you have any interest in the property, and make constructive recommendations (such as "remove dead mouse, underwear, sleeping teens...") for the listing agent to share with her sellers.  

A great buyer specialist does their homework, before and after showing you a home.  They should be able to provide you with the resources for any and every demographic you might want, and they should be able to help you determine fair market value on any home you see.  They should be professional and courteous.  They should be someone you don't mind being stuck in a car with, someone who bravely chases down dogs, steps over dead things, and lets sleeping teens lie.  Most of all, they should have great listening skills so they can hear what you are trying to tell them when you describe exactly what you are looking for.  

You should tell them what you like, and what you don't like about the houses you are seeing.  If you see 3 or 4 houses and you feel like they are not at all what you are looking for, don't let that agent keep dragging you house to house!  Speak up!  You won't hurt their feelings, and you won't make them mad.  Maybe you and the agent need to have a conversation sooner rather than later about what you are looking for.  Together you can reset the compass and get on track toward finding that new home!

Many agents will require you to have a signed "buyer agency" agreement when you look at homes.  If you aren't ready to commit, you can certainly sign the agreement for that day, for the houses that agent shows you.  Some agents might want you to make a longer commitment.  From my point of view, if I do a good job and serve a buyer's interests (before my own!) I'll earn that commitment, and I'm good with a one day agency agreement so that a buyer can get to know me and determine if I have whatever it takes to be their agent!





I Can't Make This Stuff Up!

by Colleen Lawler

When listing a house, I advise sellers to contact me if someone knocks on their door and wants to see the house.  I caution them that they should not let strangers in the house in this day and age.  But we live in the Midwest, where people are friendly and trustworthy.  Sellers humor me by pretending to follow my advice.

One of my dear sellers told me a nice lady from Kansas City wanted to see her home, and her husband obliged and showed her the house.

My dear seller was quick to point out that I shouldn't worry about her safety.  After all, the potential buyer was from Kansas City, a fine place full of fine people.

2 days later I received an email from the same dear seller.  It read:

"Hi Colleen,

We need a chain for the lockbox on the front porch.  The neighborhood kids were carrying it around last night and pretending it was buried treasure.  We found them, beat them severely and locked them in the basement.  Don't look behind the furnace if you come over.  They are next to the Kansas City lady that my husband let in the house."

I love my job!



Displaying blog entries 1-6 of 6

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Contact Information

Photo of Colleen Lawler & The IrvineTeam Real Estate
Colleen Lawler & The IrvineTeam
Coldwell Banker Gundaker
111 Chesterfield Towne Centre
Chesterfield MO 63005
Office: 636-391-2100
Toll Free: 800-791-3276
Fax: 636-536-3018