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Take Your Realtor Seriously

I am a Realtor. My wife is a Realtor. Together we lead The Schuett Team of Keller Williams Bellevue Realty. Maria and I have had a long and deep passion for the real estate industry.

My passion didn’t begin until about 1994 when my wife, at that time, had earned a very large commission check at her job as a television station advertising and marketing specialist. She insisted that we should take that money and buy a home. We were both young and didn’t know what we were doing. But we found a home that suited us. We bought it. We improved it. And after only a few years we moved into a house double in size. And we did it without selling our first house. Instead, we kept it as a rental. We only sold it when we wanted to buy a new home in a new location only 8-9 years after buying our 1st home.

It’s important to note that after buying our first home we had almost no money at all. There was nothing left in savings. We lived paycheck to paycheck, as the old saying goes. But because we had bought a house, we started accumulating wealth.

The Realtor we used to buy our first house was a fast talking Filipino woman who was the sister of a co-worker of mine, a co-worker who was one of the most skilled salespeople I have ever known. It seemed she was from the same school, because she sold us, and not in the most honest manner. She convinced us to make an offer on a house…”before we lost it to someone else.” We hadn’t been sure about the house. But the idea of losing it propelled us into making an offer. The house had been on the market for three months. In negotiating our offer the seller demanded a 90-day close. We were not in danger of losing the house. The Realtor was just tired of showing us houses and wanted us to find something so she could move-on to someone else.

When we bought our second house about 3 years later we chose another real estate professional. This was a friend and co-worker who had just started his real estate career and was only doing it part-time. We wanted to help him. The house he showed us and we eventually bought was way outside the geographic area where we had asked him to look for homes. I still remember being upset as I followed him in our car to an unknown address. As we got further and further outside the area we wanted I was thinking, we might need to find someone else to help us. Then we saw the house and I loved it immediately. It checked all the numerous boxes I’d asked to be included in what we were looking for…except location.

Six-to-seven years later we were on the move again. For the sake of our children we felt we needed a more blue-collar neighborhood rather than continue to live with the the snobby, nose-in-the-air people in the community we had chosen. The former co-worker I hired for our second home search was no longer in real estate. So we chose someone with no referrals or references whatsoever. I don’t even remember how we found her. But she was located in the geographic area we wanted to consider. We ended up firing her after finding a house we liked without her help. She had repeatedly shown us homes that didn’t match our criteria and she didn’t find the one we did like, something I never understood, and understand even less now that I’m a Realtor myself. We ended up hiring a buying agent which came recommended to us by the house’s listing agent. Probably not the smartest move in the world. I don’t even remember their name. I think they were a woman. But I don’t even remember that.

At this point a the age of about 39, with my wife, I had bought 3 houses. The first two we kept as rentals for a period of time, before selling each. The first house was sold by a listing agent I have almost no memory of. They were chosen almost entirely because their brokerage office was close to the house we were selling.

Our second house and second rental was sold before we had to face the Capital gains tax for having lived outside it for three years. I do remember the listing agent. We chose him because he was a cut-rate agent and listed our home for only a 4% commission rate. I also remember this independent brokerage was out of business shortly after the real estate collapse of 2009. We did far more research in the choosing of a Realtor this time. Including the cut-rate guy two other agents submitted listing proposals to us. Each of the other two substantially underestimated the ultimate selling price of the house. The cut-rate guy submitted a proposal that would list the house at substantially more than the other two proposals. And even though we had to lower the price after a couple weeks on the market, we still sold it well above what the other two agents proposed listing it for. I don’t know what they were thinking.

Sadly, the third house was sold due to a divorce from my wife at the time. We hired a family member as our listing agent. And while they did a good job with some things, including the listing price, we weren’t completely satisfied. But being a family member we kept our concerns to ourselves.

As a divorced, single, self-employed man I was able to buy my own house less than two years after my divorce. I had one criteria in finding my buyer’s agent; I was looking for someone who would return the favor and do business with me and my marketing company. To make a long story short, this agent reneged on his promise to give me some business after my new home was purchased.

I was married to my beautiful wife Maria three years after my divorce. She was already a Realtor, and due to her urging I got my license too, in order to help her build our real estate business. Together we bought our current and what I hope will be my last home nearly 2 years ago.

In summary, through the purchase of five homes and the sale of five homes (Maria and I also sold our rental which had been her home prior to our marriage), I’ve made nearly every mistake in the book in hiring a real estate agent. I hired friends and relatives of friends. I’ve hired close family members. I’ve hired cut-rate agents. I’ve hired agents we’ve ultimately fired. I’ve hired agents that promised financial reciprocation. And I’ve hired agents having done almost no research on them or others at all. And in all cases (aside from the family member) I never heard from any of them ever again. Until Maria and I sold our two houses and bought our current one on our own I never got my house at what I thought was a particularly good price; and never sold a home for what I thought we should. In the case of selling the homes we have sold there was always an urgency that made selling them at less than best prices necessary. A good agent could and should have helped us with that.

When making one of the biggest decisions of your life, hiring someone to be your Realtor just because they are family, or a friend, or because they promise something they won’t put in writing is not the best approach. Wisdom and experience should be your measuring sticks for who represents you in deciding to buy or sell a home or investment property. When you look into a Realtor’s background and judge their knowledge you will make a better decision than by just having a friendly connection.

San Diego versus Seattle

Shot from the Cabrillo National Monument, this shows downtown San Diego and the San Diego Navy Base.

A couple of years ago I was blessed to meet and love and earn the love of a woman who calls San Diego, CA her home town. In the nearly two years since we started seeing each other my girlfriend, Maria Elena, has told me repeatedly of her love for California’s most southern major city. She has repeatedly expressed her desire for us to travel there for a visit and to consider it as a future home when the day comes and should we ever marry.

Many happenings in my life have prevented us from making that trip, including the saving for and recent purchase of my new home in Federal Way, WA. While I always wanted to accommodate Maria Elena’s wish to visit San Diego and meet her family that lives there. I just couldn’t make the time or spend the money; until finally buying my house 2 months ago. We almost immediately scheduled our trip to her home town. And last week we spent a wonderful 6 days there.

Given where I am in life and my circumstances the possibility of moving away from my home state and city, Seattle, is a consideration I’ve long given thought to. As such making some comparison is interesting for me.

First, the most obvious, the weather. While Seattle and the Puget Sound has just endured the worst rainy season in its recorded history San Diego weather is much as advertised. It’s SUNNY! And being right on the ocean its comfortably warm nearly all year-long. Temperatures were in the mid 70s the whole time we were there…and for those reading this at some later time…we were there in late June 2017. Compared to Seattle’s typically dreary June San Diego was a much-needed bit of Wx relief. However, go only a few miles inland from the coast and the heat hits hard. Temperatures were in the mid-90s when we made such a trip our last day visiting and we were only 15-20 miles from the airport in downtown San Diego. Inland from San Diego is desert heat. And it can be oppressive.

The beach at Coronado was beautiful and right across the bay from downtown, a mere 15 minute drive.

The other most noticeable characteristic of San Diego was the lack of traffic congestion. Despite being in and around town all through a busy week during all times of day the closest we came to a traffic jam was nothing more than a traffic slow down…and it was short and brief. We never stopped moving, and very seldom stopped driving at the legal speed limit. This in spite of the fact that 2014 census data shows San Diego with an in-city population more than double that of Seattle. In Seattle, I-5, I-90, and especially I-405 can be clogged to a stand still at nearly any time of the day or night or day of the week. You are literally not certain of a full speed trip unless you’re on the road at 3am. And even then…things happen. I’m telling you it was heaven.

Lastly, like Seattle and all major U.S. cities San Diego has a homeless problem. But unlike Seattle the trash and the filth left by those who CHOOSE to live on the streets is nowhere to be seen in the downtown core. The comparatively minimum amount of street living was only on the downtown’s outer limits. Again, its remarkable given the huge difference in total in-city population.

Whether San Diego, or some other sunny locale will be my future home remains a BIG question. But from my one visit I can say confidently that San Diego’s placing high in nearly all the “Most Livable City” rankings is easy to understand. It’s easy to see why. I shall return.

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I LOVE April!

IMG_8755I have said for years that April and October are my two favorite months of the year. They just bring so much of what I love.

Sure I love Christmas and the whole Christmas season.

Snowy Renton Street

Snowy Renton Street

The parties and the love shared between people is like no other time. The busyness doesn’t bother me. It energizes me. But December doesn’t make my top list because of the weather. In the Puget Sound, where I live, temperatures in the 30s and 40s and a near constant drizzle or grey cloudy days are the norm. No. I want sun shine. Even if its cold, I want sun shine. So, sorry December you don’t make it.

July and August are very high on my list. It’s frequently sunny. I often enjoy BBQ parties with friends. Sunset at Birch Bay, WA And the baseball season is entering its second half, with pennant races looming. The good weather makes outdoor activities that I love more frequently possible. I love fishing. I love camping. I love driving in my convertible with the top down. It’s all good. But in terms of sports…baseball is the only thing going. I love baseball. But there is no college sports. NFL football is only in training camp and exhibition games that no longer interest me like they did when I was a kid. And basketball is fortunately only limited to the women’s game, which I only tacitly pay attention to. Sorry, all you Storm fans. I’m just not there. And sorry Sounders and MLS fans. I don’t hate Soccer like some who complain of its boring low scoring matches. But they have so many, boring low scoring matches. And I still don’t understand what games count, what trophies count, and how you can play in a tournament in the middle of a season that is completely unrelated to the league in which you play. So, July and August are close, very close. But they fall just a tiny bit short.

Green Bay Packers v Seattle SeahawksOctober is great because the weather at the start of the month is still pretty decent. We have FOOTBALL! Both college and NFL football are well underway, promising fun and excitement every weekend. And Major League baseball is conducting its playoffs and World Series with nearly daily intrigue. I can still go fishing. And, while I don’t do it much anymore…I can go hunting and enjoy a weekend with my dog. October also is the start of the NBA season. Since the Oklahoma Raiders stole my beloved Sonics from Seattle, the start of the NBA season means considerably less to me. In fact, it means almost nothing. I am still a bitter Sonics fan. But…I do love October.

And then…there is April. April is the first month since October or even September some years, when you can expect daily temperatures near 60-degrees. ! YEA! Warmth! I’m a fair weather fisherman, so April see’s me out on my canoe on local lakes.

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

And in terms of spectator sports for the sports nuts like me? It’s a plethora of enjoyment, a cacophony of choices, a riches of experiences. It all starts with the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball championship. And in years like this when a local team, Gonzaga, is playing deep into the March Madness tournament it’s even better. Baseball’s opening day dawns in the first week with every year promising championship dreams…even when those dreams are irreconcilably impossible. I seldom watch golf or play it. But The Master’s this week and every year is not so much golf as it is an event and tradition and history. It’s often high drama. And for others, as I’ve already mentioned this doesn’t really apply to me…much…their is the soccer season underway with the Sounders here in Seattle and there is the start of the marathon NBA playoffs, the only major sport that takes two months to finish the season after having finished the season. Seahawks logo Lastly, us NFL and Seahawks lovers are given the gift of the NFL Draft in April, with the promise of new stars coming to your team to help take you to the promised land by filling the wholes you perceive your team has.

And I haven’t even mentioned the blooming of flowers and their scents and colors, and the return of leaves to the trees and birds and little animals scurrying about after a winter in hibernation. Life begins again in April. I LOVE IT!

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My Incredible Morning Run

IMG_8755In my on going efforts for fitness, health, and continued youth I woke this morning, dressed in my sweat suite, grabbed my cell phone and ear plug headphones and embarked on a morning run. After I was done I realized what an extraordinary start to my day I experienced.

It was a cold March morning with temperatures in the upper 30s. As I left my Renton home through my garage I zipped up my jacket all the way to my neck. I plugged my headphone buds into my ears, plugged the cord into my phone, and turned on the music. I like up-beat music as I run, and classic rock is my up-beat music of choice. Journey was the first band I enjoyed.

At 51 years of age with arthritis in my hips and a slightly torn right labrum loosening up for anything physical takes a little more time than it used to. The darkness of pre-6am enveloped me as I awkwardly began running out of my driveway. The first few hundred yards of my runs see me looking quite geeky as I shake off the cobwebs of a nights sleep and free-up my muscles and joints. I’m flapping around like a fish out of water, and my legs are rotating as a wheel with no lug nuts.

After the first song had played Led Zeppelin was in my ears and head. Good Times, Bad Times. I wasn’t feeling great. My hips were growling at me and the cold was nipping at my ungloved fingertips.

I then looked up from the sometimes dangerous cracked sidewalk and saw a beautiful full moon through the Douglas Firs setting in the west. It shown through the trees and was hallowed by a cloudy mist. It was my beacon lighting my dark path on my journey. It inspired me. Between looking down to watch for missteps on the uneven sidewalk I would look up at the glowing orb. Sometimes I had to search for it as it ducked behind a tree or apartment building. Cars whizzed by at 40 mph when I finally grunted my way to a main road with a smooth level sidewalk, the moon still glowing in the west, descending over the Olympic Mountains.

I run a route that’s about 3.5 miles. It takes me about 30-35 minutes. I’m not fast, just steady. As I rounded the Fairwood shopping center I began the journey home. That would take me east. No longer fighting to keep running or feeling stiff from old age and a thorough nights sleep I am quickening my pace. And a funny thing happened. Dawn had broken.

Rush, Seal, and Pink Floyd sang in my ears as the sidewalk became more easily visible in the growing light. As more hills, and the start of a side-ache begin to challenge me I begin reciting the Hail Mary, over, and over, and over again asking the Mother of Jesus to bless me in my efforts and carry me through.

The final 2-300 yards to my home is the steepest hill on my route and a real struggle as I’ve already run over 3-miles. But not this morning. My eastward trajectory and up hill slant had me peering into a glorious sunrise. Pink skies and some blue clouds inspired me to sprint. It was a beautiful morning.

Sunday, daylight savings time begins. So my next run will be in what is now the 5am hour. It’ll be dark, and I won’t see a darkness and a full moon followed by a beautiful sunrise in the east. I realized and asked myself how often, in the Pacific Northwest, will I run on a clear sky morning, with a full moon, and clear starlit skies followed by sunlit blue, and biting and exhilarating cold all during the same 30 minute run.

Is it pessimistic to say I may never experience this glorious combination again? There are only 12 full moons each year, the number of clear skies in Seattle are notably few, I only run 2-3 days per week and because of my age and my arthritis that amount is going to decrease as time moves on.

My morning run was extraordinary, special, inspiring, fun, and possibly one-of-a-kind.

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