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Real estate investor’s Chattanooga house disappears suddenly. The house was lost forever but the land remained. Let me tell the story from the beginning.

An investor came into my office (circa 2004) rather exited and said “the house I bought is gone!” This statement is not the usual way a broker starts his day. I invited him in to discuss the case of the missing dwelling. He started his story from the top…

I went into this house which was in rough shape close to downtown Chattanooga. There was bad damage to parts of the structure,but it was not too much for my construction crew. I planned to repair the place within weeks and rent it out. The electricity was on, I made assumptions that it had been lived in recently.

“A reasonable plan, although thorough inspections are best”, I said. “Continue”

The investor said, “A carpenter I was planning on hiring lived down the road. He called me and said “I thought you were hiring me to work on the house down the street?” …”I am ” he told the carpenter. “Then why is a bulldozer and loader taking the place down?” “%#$%(12***”,,,I don’t know! .. was the owner’s reply.

Confronting the workers, the owner found out the City of Chattanooga had condemned the property. The tear down had been scheduled for months. Even prior to his purchasing the property.

Not only did the City tear down the building, they sent him a bill for the cleanup and disposal.

After digging into the details, we found out several facts. The seller lived in another state. He had a received the notice of condemnation and hatched a plan of deception. He took down any of the condemnation notices, spruced up the property a bit and put it up for sale with a Realtor. His master act of cover up was bribing someone to get electricity to a property that had been condemned.

How did the property transfer with a title search and insurance? Turns out that condemnation, at the time this happened, is not recorded at the courthouse. There are no recorded liens or encumbrances placed on the property for a condemnation action. The seller acted fraudently. The seller had not lived in the property; therefore, was exempt from filling out the long form of the Tennessee Property Disclosure.

The investor could have sued the seller and the agency representing him. He chose not to pursue that action because of the expense and time to win.

Moral of the story? Always dig to find out as much as you can about a property. A “great” visible deal may turn out to be like this real estate investor’s Chattanooga house suddenly disappearing.


Smart Chattanooga Home Buyers Purchase Boundary Surveys

Smart Chattanooga home buyers purchase boundary surveys. Surveys are great tools. They are great representations of “real property”. What is a real property or boundary survey? It is a legal document…here is a definition from LegalMatch.com. I am not a surveyor. So I am not qualified to speak to the merits of different types. I do know that some lenders require a “mortgage” survey or I have heard it called a “windshield” survey. That type of survey does not require corner markers. It’s primary function is to protect the lender and insure that an improvement actually does exist on the land that is being conveyed.

The buyers that I have the most professional respect for always purchase a boundary survey that requires markers. The most savvy have the title insurance exception for surveys removed. A couple of stories to help explain:

Early in my sales career, I sold an older home on Signal Mountain to a developer/builder. The home was for his personal use and not development. It was a turn of the century model and perhaps just over an acre of land. The home had traded about 5 or 6 times. He made a condition of the purchase and inspection a full boundary survey with markers. This was somewhat new to me and I asked him why. He said there are so many easements, variances, closed roadbeds, etc. that he ALAWYS purchased a boundary survey prior to closing. This was not a lender requirement. When the survey was done it showed the driveway of the neighboring property actually ran over the lot line 20 to 30 feet. The driveway was not asphalt or concrete but pea gravel. It turned out the previous owner allowed access across the property so they could save a tree. The agreement was never made in writing. When we went to closing, the survey was presented with language to the affect of “This survey is for the Benefit of Acme Title Underwriter, Acme2 Title Company, Acme 3 Lender and Dave Developer.” This way the title insurance policy will cover you in case of a boundary dispute. **(Important Note: Always ask the closer or closing attorney what are the “Exceptions” on your Title Insurance policy).

Another example of wise survey use was in a new subdivision. A concrete driveway was shown on a boundary survey drawing to encroach 3 feet onto the adjacent lot. The loan could not be made on the property until this was corrected. The correction was made through a boundary line agreement by both owners and the “line” was moved instead of the concrete driveway. The outcome would have been different if the adjacent owner wanted more big money for the 3 feet. The not so “minor” issue in this case was no sale would happen until problem resolved.

TVA or Tennessee Valley Authority has many power lines running through the Chattanooga Valley. The high voltage lines have restrictive easements deep into property lines. You may not be able to get a permit to build a deck or the addition to your home because of these power easements. Surveys should also show buried easements such as gas and sewer lines. It would be a sad day if your man cave garage would have to come down because you find out it sits on a utility easement that needs repair.

Country farm land, city slicker lot. (fences, pools, buildings, utilities, closed road beds, easements) Smart Chattanooga home buyers purchase boundary surveys.


Real Estate Sales Done Daily Wins

Real estate sales done daily wins. Winners in real estate awards used to get plaques. The certificates behind plexiglass would read how many in millions were sold. I remember certain sales people would stack their awards beside the desk because they did not have enough wall space. The consistent top producers did their activities daily. Diligence over time wins great achievement.

I just returned from a meal with family. 41 days ago, I felt called to write a blog post every day for 45 days about real estate. I had no idea what writers for newspaper columns faced when a deadline was coming up and the blank page was staring back at them. It is 10:02 on a Thursday evening. I need to print out a disclosure and covenants and restrictions for a showing in the morning. I need to complete another 6 hours of online continuing education, and I have two hours to complete a story. My commitment to this daily blog is haunting me. So I am fighting back resistance with some stories about daily discipline. Back you devil!

Allow me to tell you a story:

One of the Realtors I admired early in my career was Mary Ruth Cook. Mary Ruth had discipline and perhaps some type of special power. She had daily routines that were admirable, but the oddity that most intrigued me was what she did not have. She had nothing on her desk! I concede she had a phone, but nothing else! No awards, papers, magazines, nada, zilch. She did use these things at times, but when she left the area, the desk was clean.

Mary Ruth had been in the real estate business for 50 years. When we drove down the street on tours, she could tell you the history of families that lived in homes. She had an amazing mind for details.

I specifically remember one office agent home tour. We piled out of 2 cars and quickly went through a red 2 story near East Ridge. The house was cluttered and I remember thinking, how in the world will they sell without getting rid of stuff? I was more intrigued by the piles of things around the property than the old home.

When we got back to the office, I wanted to watch the habits of Mary Ruth and how she operated. She took out some notes and picked up the phone. I will never forget her phone call to the buyer. Mary Ruth acknowledged the buyer and went back through the what she heard the buyer wanted and said, “well let me tell you about the perfect home for you”. Mary Ruth painted the home to the buyer over the phone in detail. Like an artist she covered the entire canvas with details I had never noticed about the cluttered home. They met at 1pm and before the afternoon was out, a full price offer was submitted.

There are many lessons in Mary Ruth’s efficient style of working. The most important for the sake of this blog post is listening to clients daily, observing the details, and keeping all the other noise and clutter away from the process of showing respect and service to her clients. Doing this consistently and daily allowed her to prosper through the decades.

Well, it is only 10:44 now and hopefully I have encouraged you with 2 true stories. One of a diligent professional who kept the important things in front of her, and the other of a 2 decade Realtor that is learning the practice of daily discipline in internet marketing. Real estate sales done daily wins.


Young Home Buyers Are Wise

Young home buyers are wise. I am encouraged about our future because I have worked with young people buying homes. All three couples that I worked with are hard working and using good common sense. They are looking at the following things:

1. Their budget and not going “house poor”
2. Deals – 2 bought foreclosures, 1 bought an estate sale
3. Fix-up – All three were willing to jump in and repair
4. Location – Each purchased in areas close for commute and good potential future equity growth
5. Asked for help from friends, family and pros

The first young newlywed couple set up a long term rental situation with their parents. The parents purchased a HUD foreclosure and the adult children helped make repairs and set up a lease purchase plan between them.

The second couple purchased an estate sale. The house was cosmetically challenged because a lifetime smoker stained the sheetrock walls with cigarette smoke. They jumped in and worked on the house before they moved in. Yet, another wise move. I will never forget the first home that Dee and I purchased in Franklin, TN. We put the bed under the dining room chandelier because I was “working” on the hardwood floors in the bedrooms. “Piece of cake”, “It’ll be done in a week” For the next few months I woke up in the morning and hit my head on the glass pieces of the dining room fixture. Dee would glare from under the covers each time.

The third couple purchased a one level ranch that was smaller than most all the rest in the neighborhood. They had the luxury of having a parent who is a professional handyman. They actually moved some doors and walls to make good floor plan changes. I am looking forward to seeing what they have accomplished.

I am encouraged that our young people are making good decisions. I am happy to serve them and give them some pointers from my perspective as Realtor. After all, they may be calling me soon and asking for help in selling their house. I want them in the best possible position to gain from their investment. I am glad that young home buyers are wise.


Realtors fake it till you make it because buyers are liars and sellers are too. Why do real estate agents embrace these quotes? Why are they perpetuated years in the industry? At the foundation of the words is blame shifting. Something happened because I am not willing to take personal responsibility for the outcome. My encouragement to you and myself is to be bigger than that.

Keep asking the question “What can I do to make a difference?”

How do you take responsibility when many individuals depend on each other? Keep asking the questions “What can I do ?” What could I have done differently?” “Can I go to someone for help or training?”

It may be the loan officer’s fault that the loan fell through. What could I have done differently in the process to insure that it will not happen again?

Real estate agents owe a responsibility and duty of care to their clients. It may have been another person’s fault the showing information did not get to the seller. But ultimately the “buck has to stop somewhere”. Let it be with you.

Shifting blame may seem to make you look better for a moment, but in the end you are destroying a bit of your own soul when you play the victim to circumstance.

Please understand that this is a difficult post to write because I am seeing me in the mirror as I write this. This is a wake up call to myself and all fellow Realtor professionals.

Let’s make our industry better by raising our level of performance. We can do this by asking ourselves “what can I do to …” because
the weak and the blaming are the ones that encourage Realtors fake it till you make it because buyers are liars and sellers are too.


I am a Realtor Server not a Born Salesman

I am a Realtor Server not a Born SalesmanI am a Realtor server not a born salesman. My first cut at sales was at Thrasher Elementary school on Signal Mountain, TN. Each year the students sold chocolate bars. We raised money for classroom window air conditioners. I still remember the first house in Skyline Drive subdivision I walked up to. The older lady came to the door, and with my best pitch “I stammered, ‘You don’t want to buy any chocolate bars do you?'” Turns out she didn’t. I don’t remember getting any award prizes for most sales. Funny, I don’t remember selling many, but I do recall the chocolate was pretty good with almonds.

Fast forward, to my junior high days and a desire for a Schwinn ten speed. The stakes were higher for personal gratification and a need for travel. Instead of buying a bike, my parents bought boxes of commercial grade freezer bags. They said. “Sell these and with the money you raise we will match funds to buy a bike”. Brilliant idea on my parents part. I like to quickly get things done, so I loaded most all the cardboard boxes onto hand trucks. After all there are only 10 sets of bags each box and 4 boxes, how long should this take? One half mile later the only thing I had attracted was a thunderstorm, and zero sales. Lack of first day success did not deter me. I wanted a 10 speed. It took much longer than I first thought, and many more doors, but I did sell all the bags. I learned to help demonstrate how special the bags were, what a great deal they were and the story of why I was doing this. Funny thing was, looking back, I had folks calling me a year or two later asking if I was still “selling” them.

Being a Realtor “sales” person was no easier for me. I worked in the family real estate biz. First I worked for Mom in relocation. That was fun. We set up a room for counselors to help parents understand the schools, get acquainted with the city, etc. Next on my list was setting up tech stuff. Being a nerd, I became the first I/T guy. I set up telephone and computer systems. Being on salary bored me, so I got my license to sell homes. At the time we belonged to a Better Homes and Gardens franchise. My first sales event was an Open House. My first “salesy” thing to do was call people (this was before the “Do Not Call Laws”) that lived in the neighborhood and “invite” them to visit the Open House. I was very nervous. The first lady answered and listened to my invitation. I nervously asked her to the big event, and she starts scolding me for not doing a good job with her landscaping. I do not think she ever believed me that Better Homes and Gardens sold homes and yards instead of maintaining them. When I realized that people need help not a salesman, I felt more at ease.

How can I serve my clients and customers to help them is my job. I am very comfortable with that role. God gave me skills to quickly jump into helping and researching. That comes naturally. So the more experience I gained and understanding, I realized I am a Realtor server not a born salesman.


I Didn't Mean To Be A Real Estate Agent

I Didn't Mean To Be A Real Estate Agent

I want to be an astronaut

I didn’t mean to be a real estate agent. It just seemed to happen to me. Here’s my version of the story.

In first grade at Thrasher Elementary in the 70s, I had three occupation choices, 1. Policeman, 2. Fireman, or 3. Astronaut. My decision at the time was Astronaut. I remember watching Neil Armstrong step on the moon in 1969. We are at my grand parents house. Wow, just think, travel to outer space and drink unlimited Tang drinks! Our principal, Mr. Wheeler, did his level best to encourage us to consider the Navy. I must admit it was never a temptation. There was not much water around our home. Tennessee has plenty of trees. Acorns make great ammunition in yard battles – if Military I was going Army. (funny how future events unfold)

Going through school, I changed my aspiration from Astronaut to fighter pilot. Not only was that really cool, it seemed a bit more practical. Dad encouraged me to get a military scholarship. I did win a scholarship, but alas my near sightedness was a handicap for flying, so I chose the Army. (Acorn experience comes in handy).

I took the Army scholarship to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. By this time I was thinking businessman or preacher. I decided to take the technical business route believing that God needed Christians in the computer field.

I wrestled a computer science degree from Vandy’s Engineering School. When I finished in 1986, I was faced with a choice. I could choose the Army Reserves for 8 years or infantry for 4. God lead me to Ernst & Young in the manufacturing systems consulting business.

In 1990 Desert Storm and a new born son (my wife was 8 months pregnant when my commander called me to active duty) snapped me to attention. I was a new Father and realized that a traveling job was not good for my family. I decided to move back to Chattanooga and jump into the family real estate business.

This was the beginning of my journey to becoming a Realtor. I wanted to be an astronaut. I didn’t mean to a real estate agent.


Give a Realtor a Personal Referral and with Social Media He Will Sell the WorldGive a Realtor a personal referral and with social media he will sell the world. Play on the Archimedes quote “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth”. Archimedes was talking about a lever. The new leverage today is social media standing on the internet. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ give everyone long levers. Sales are won with relationship and trust. Communication and relationship are facilitated by social media. The price of admission is time, consistency, and a little money (when you figure out who you are looking for and how to advertise).

Experienced real estate agents operate on past customer relationships. Trusted referrals will always be the most powerful force for buying behavior. When was the last time you asked about a restaurant or movie? Probably not long ago. How was your experience with that car repair place? Before you spend your money you get references.

Some date nights at home, call for a movie at Redbox. Before I spend a couple of bucks and more importantly an hour or two of my life, I check a few movie rating app sites for other opinions. Once you trust a source you keep going back to that well.

I placed a picture of a home on Pinterest. The details intrigued a person who called me and eventually purchased for $340,000. The only cost of the Pinterest post was my time. Was it worth the effort? Was it a lightning strike never to happen again? While you keep asking “what is Return on Investment”, I will keep posting pictures on Pinterest. (or for the lightning strike analogy, I will keep dancing in storms with a golf club above my head)

Social Media is a product of our desire to connect. Reaching out to care about your customers in relationship is the very essence of real estate. It is the perfect lever in your hands. Social media is a powerful tool to move people and homes, while standing on the internet using email and blogs. Give a Realtor a personal referral and with social media he will sell the world.


Chattanooga Real Estate Reflects National Trends

Chattanooga real estate reflects national trends. Chattanooga is like many mid-western tertiary markets. We do not see the big booms or the steep falls that coastal or some primary markets tend to experience. Chattanooga is a mirror of the national economy. Chattanooga home sales under $100,000 fell in 2013. The national first time home owner market is down. Chattanooga home sales over $200,000 is up. The U.S. luxury home market is doing well. I noticed late summer Chattanooga home sales slowing. Two weeks later I am reading a National Association of Realtors report that U.S. sales are slowing.

Real estate franchises reflect the same. I grew up in a real estate family. My Dad was an agent in the 70s. Both of my parents are brokers and have owned a company since the early 80s. I have observed closely the real estate franchises of Century 21, Better Homes and Gardens, GMAC, and Prudential. Keller Williams is a brokerage model that has been on the rise nationally over the last 5 years. It has been that way in Chattanooga as well. Real estate may be “local”, but overall national trends seem to play out in Chattanooga.

Another trend I see is independent real estate firms sprouting. They are growing alongside the wave of technology changes. As I drive down the road I notice more Facebook business window ads. Creative entrepreneurs are serving customers with less overhead. Technology is allowing them to be more direct.

The change in trends reflects a shift in how we “package” and “market” trust. As an example, the franchise Better Homes and Gardens conveys a message of trust because of its well established magazine and cookbook. Keller Williams (is not a well known household name brand) but it packages bits of ownership to its member agents. It is a way of conveying “trust” to its teammates. I believe technology changes are a result of people demanding more honest and trustworthy personal interaction. Brokerage firms will follow because agents and customers demand it. People are creating new forces to mold the real estate business. The Scenic City is not immune. Chattanooga real estate reflects national trends.


Why God Asked Me To Blog Real Estate 45 Days Straight

Why God Asked Me To Blog Real Estate 45 Days Straight

Brian Kelly Blogging

Why God asked me to blog about real estate 45 days straight. To Change me. He is changing my heart and wringing out future “orders”(for the military minded) or business plan (for the entrepreneurs). This is day 35 and the vision is coming into focus. The focus is my heart surgery. It’s all about me. (Keep reading… it may not be what you think) My Maker is asking me to respond. The broken pieces needing attention are the following:

1. Relationship: The primary being the one with my Maker. I trust Him alone. Like King David, I have proven I cannot trust my own heart. He will always encourage me, heal me, discipline me, love me. Who doesn’t need that Papa in their life? My response is a constant race running to Him.
2. Responsibility: It’s all about me! No blame on anyone else. It is my deal.
3. Becoming trustworthy: Three things here are A.) walking the talk, B.) demonstrating care through connectedness, and C.)dependability.
4. Using gifts: My gifts are quickly initiating action and research. Those gifts need to be used inside a framework of…
5. Diligence: Words are critical. Jesus is the Word! Reading Isaiah 30 this morning “Words streaming from his mouth, searing indicting words! A torrent of words, a flash flood of words sweeping everyone into the vortex of his words.” Words are powerful. Putting them into universe filtered through hearts is his pleasure. So every day, I search for them and blog.

There was once an selfish leader who focused on business for business sake. Being number one was a focus regardless of the cost, personal and human. “Business is business”, was his worn phrase applying to recruiting, hiring and firing. He listened to some who promoted positional power and fear to cover personal weaknesses. Sadly and regrettably that flawed man was me.

Graciously my Maker did not give up. Neither did a few encouragers in my life. So my response? Watch and see, why God asked me to blog real estate 45 days straight.