Monday, 30 December 2013

Christmas 2013

Let's dust off this thing....
I've spent the last few months thinking about my career and in which direction I want to go to get to the goals I've set for 2014.  I've come to a point in my career where change is inevitable in order to take the next step.  Believe me, they aren't kidding when they say that the first step is the hardest.  There have been a lot of questions, a lot of discussions and stress.... and I'm finally ready to move forward even though it will be difficult after 15 years of 'status quo'.  Big changes coming in the next little while for me.  I'm excited.  Very excited.  And more than a little nervous.   Stay tuned...
Christmas has come and gone for another year.  Wow, how 2013 flew by!   I know they say time goes by faster when you get older but this is ridiculous.
I got more into the Christmas spirit this year than in recent years which was wonderful!  I got a little bit of baking done, and I actually enjoyed Christmas shopping this year which is a pleasant change.  I think it's because I ordered most of the "bigger things" online and had them delivered instead of traipsing around a mall.   Because we all know (as my niece says) that during the Christmas season they may call it a mall and it looks all innocent and "mall-ish" from the outside but inside??  Well, inside it's a scene straight out of the Hunger Games arena.  Not many people I know have the patience for that, myself included.
Picked up my oldest son from university after his last final exam on the 13th.   It was nice to have the boy home.  I was able to get the tree up and the house decorated a bit before he came home, which was nice.  I love sitting in the mornings (and evenings, but mornings especially) sipping a coffee and waking up to the glow of the Christmas tree lights.
This year, for some reason we have this straggler of a tomato plant that just won't die.  We've moved it inside and it has taken up residence in our living room in front of the window.  I jokingly decided to hang a few ornaments on it as well.
This year we bundled up all the presents and headed to Shelburne to spend the holidays with the folks.   We didn't get to stay until New Years like we usually do as our youngest had a volunteer shift at Hope for Wildlife over the holidays.
Blurry picture of my parents' Christmas tree!  And Santa hadn't even arrived yet!
My sister's boyfriend arrived one evening with a gift of lobster!  Yum!  We spent a while the next day shelling all the lobster to use the meat in lobster sandwiches/rolls.  Oh gosh they were good!
The parental units shelling lobsters. We filled that plastic bowl with lobster meat.  It was enough to feed us lunches the whole time we were down there.  :-)
So Santa arrived and spoiled us all.    Hubby and I decided to treat each other to an upgrade on our TV.   A 60 inch 3D, smart TV by Sharp.   We ordered it as part of the Boxing Day sales online and can't wait for it to arrive. 10244680_2
The one that we have now is about a dozen years old, and while it works just fine, it's huge and cumbersome. Not to mention, when the boys get gaming on the XBox or have friends over, we lose our TV for the duration.  Most times that's fine...sometimes it's a bit inconvenient.  So, this house has 5 bedrooms and only 3 people living in it regularly.  We are going to move the big TV to one of the downstairs bedrooms and convert it into a gaming room/hangout for the boys.  Best of all, no more sharing the TV.  Score!
So, this is a bit of a weird gift... but my oldest has always been fascinated with swords, since he was little...a toddler really.  He never really grew out of it.  Lately, especially since he's become a fan of Anime, he has started buying his own swords.  So for Christmas,  we got him one that he's been wanting.
It's not super sharp, although it does have an edge to it.  Certainly no toy.   This one came with a nice gift case and display stand.  He was really happy with it.   Really, it was so much easier when they were kids and we could buy them Lego!
My youngest wanted a few video games (of course!)  and a watch that "you could see the gears working".  This was my biggest challenge.  Most of the skeleton watches like that are waaayyyy out of my price range for anything approaching decent quality.  I finally settled on this:
It's a Swatch Irony Body and Soul.   Beautiful.  Reasonably priced.   No Swatch stores east of Toronto.  No online ordering  on the Swatch Canada website.   Grrrr... Anyway... I managed to find one for a great price with an American company and had them ship it up to me. With taxes, exchange and duty, it was still cheaper than what I could have bought it for on  My son LOVES it.  It's such a great looking watch. much as he loves his watch... it was this quirky gift from his Aunt that stole the show on Christmas morning....
The hat is just about as goofy as the kid wearing it!
That's all the news from me!  Like I said, lots of changes coming up soon, can't wait to share it all with you!
Take care everyone!  See you in 2014!

Saturday, 19 October 2013


Up before the sun again this morning.  This is turning into a habit!  Usually, I rather like it but this time it's just because I can't shut my brain down.  I know that sounds silly.

Had probably the toughest real estate closing of my 12 year career yesterday.   A week ago I met with my Buyers at the house and we identified some pretty major deficiencies still outstanding.  With a week until close and with assurances from the listing agent for the Seller that everything was being taken care of, my Buyers eagerly counted down the days until they could get the keys and move in.  Rightly so.  This is how it works when all the major players are actually checked in.  

Well, It was apparent during our pre-close inspection Thursday evening that the builder had run into difficulties as every single outstanding deficiency was still outstanding and not complete.  It had been inspected for occupancy and was not given an occupancy permit.  This resulted in calls to my Buyers lawyer for guidance on what to do. We decided to send a list of deficiencies to the lawyer and to the listing agent that night and in the morning, close as scheduled and request a sizable holdback ($15,000).  The upgrades tacked on to the purchase price (over and above list price) alone that weren't done totalled about $9,000.  Then there were many other little and not so little things that weren't done that we added the extra money for. 

Things went South pretty quickly yesterday.  Not only did the Builder not complete the house according to the terms of the contract, his lawyer felt a holdback of only a couple of thousand dollars was more appropriate.  Keep in mind that my Buyers paid over and above the list price of the house for agreed upon upgrades ( appliances,  electric heat pump, etc) that were not done, not to mention the other basic construction deficiences.  To say that my Buyers should only request a couple of thousand dollars to be held back to ensure the completion of these items by the builder was ridiculous.  My Buyers' lawyer and the Builder's lawyer went back and forth all day and finally settled on a more appropriate holdback amount.  My Buyers got the keys to their house at 4 PM after keeping their moving van on the side of the road all day at a pretty hefty hourly charge.  After a few tears, too much headache.   They had no place to go back to as the new Buyer of their condo was in the process of moving in.

 I was so glad that certain things were written into the contract along with quoted dollar amounts and that months ago I asked the listing agent to change the listing cut to reflect the updates and price with updates, it made our case with the deficiencies much stronger.   I had to step back and let the lawyer do his thing.  My Buyers were in good hands but I don't like that I had to turn them over and then step back and watch this unfold from a distance and not interfere.  I'd warned them the night before that according to their lawyer this is what I had to do.  But warning them and then actually having them go through it are two different things.  All I could do is sit on the sidelines, make myself available for comments or questions and return each and every text or phone call as promptly as possible.
I hated it.   And I felt helpless.   And I felt so bad for my Buyers that they were going through this.  And I felt betrayed by the Builder and the listing agent.  And then I just felt mad.   Lots of things were not disclosed to me that should have been, both concerning the status of the listing agents themselves and concerning the deficiencies and the situation in general.  Had certain things been disclosed weeks ago my Buyers would have had more options, such as extending the closing dates of both this house and of their condo, or even walking away and finding a new home.  This mess on closing day could have been avoided with proper disclosure.  I feel that they took away my clients right to choose and that just does not sit well with me.  

So I was on pins and needles most of the day yesterday and then in the evening and through most of the night I've been replaying everything in my head.  I can't shut it down.  I'm mentally tired and just need today to chill out and regroup and figure out what I can do in the future, if anything, to ensure this never happens to another one of my Buyers.  I am so thankful to their Lawyer and his paralegal,  and to my broker for all their guidance and help. 

I will not name names but I will do my best to avoid working with this Builder and these two agents in the future. And that upsets me as well....we as Realtors have to battle negative public perception all the time.  No wonder the public feels as they do.  I am discouraged.   And yet it makes me all the more determined to just do the best job that I can for my clients and protect them the best that I can and just be there for them as much as I can.  
And you can help too... it's so important, as consumers, to speak up through and to the proper channels when things aren't right.  Feedback is how we improve, grow and fix what's wrong.  On the other hand, when you encounter a product, service or professional that blew your socks off (or even just did a great job) let others know.  Word of mouth testimonials from friends and family carry so much more weight than any other form of advertising or marketing out there.  

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Ramblings on Saturday Oct 12, 2013 early morning and a steaming hot cup of coffee.  Pure joy.  I actually slept in a bit this morning, if you count getting up at 7 sleeping in.   So I've been rambling around the house for a bit, got some laundry on, coffee made...watched the sun come up.  And now the bluejays are fighting each other at the feeder outside my window.

I've played around a bit more with that new database/customer relationship manager program that I downloaded.  It's called RealtyJuggler.  I currently use Top Producer with my team but I needed to get a program of my own and I wanted to compare the features of both before I made up my mind.   Top Producer has more bells and whistles.  To be honest it has so many that it's a bit overwhelming and I just don't need them all.  It's also not as user friendly.  Putting in reminders for a client's birthday, anniversary, house purchase anniversary and other special dates is rocket science compared to how easy it is to do on RealtyJuggler.   However, RealtyJuggler has two major drawbacks for me.  It just doesn't look as good.  I know that sounds odd...but when I sign in to Top Producer the page I land on is a dashboard that shows all my important business at a glance.


As you can see (or maybe not) by the screenshots I land on a dashboard page that shows my "to-do's" for the day, my listings, my closings, and my prospects and a contact list all on the main page.
By contrast when I sign into RealtyJuggler, I see this:


So, I can get to the information but it's buried a bit in comparison to Top Producer.   I know, it's a little thing but it is a bit of a time saver to have it all there laid out for you at a glance.

The other major advantage Top Producer has over RealtyJuggler for me is the ability to input my income and expenses and have it print out reports.  I use that a lot at income tax time and for calculating my quarterly HST payments.   To be fair, I haven't played around with that function in RealtyJuggler but at first glance it does not seem as comprehensive as Top Producer does in what it can do tracking income and expenses.   So the jury is out on that right now.

However,  RealtyJuggler is so much more user-friendly.  Entering clients and contacts and their information is a breeze compared to Top Producer.  I can enter showings on listings and have the program automatically send Thank you emails to the showing agents with a form to complete and submit online requesting feedback.
I think what it comes down to for me will be the money right now.  Top Producer is approx $500 a year.  RealtyJuggler is $99 a year.  I just have to decide whether having all my info at a glance and financial reporting is worth the extra $400 a year.  Or I may take the time to seek out an alternative financial program and learn that.  No biggie.

A small group of REALTORS from my office got together last week and went over things in our own personal businesses that we'd like to improve on or have been procrastinating on or need to do.  It's just a little "support" group, for lack of a better name, designed to encourage each other and bounce ideas off of each other and to hold each other accountable.  My thing that I wanted to get done before the next meeting was to get my client database provider figured out so I'm well on the way for that.   In fact that was pretty much the goal for all of us, so it will be interesting to see how the other agents did with deciding what program they want to use.   There is one agent, a woman long-established in the real estate industry, who  has all of her clients on index cards in a little box.  And that has worked perfectly fine for her.  I think it's just about getting your own system down and sticking with it, be it recipe cards in a box or a big brand name software program with all the bells and whistles.

On the home front, today my 17 year old son, Ben, starts his first day volunteering with Hope for Wildlife.  He's so excited and I'm excited for him.  I dropped him off this morning bright and early.  I hope he has a great time and takes some pictures of the critters.

Matthew came home from university yesterday for the Thanksgiving weekend and we took him out to dinner last night.  It's good to have him home again.  I'm lucky he chose to go to university so close to home that I can see him so often.

After dinner we went to do a bit of grocery shopping.   I needed the fixin's for Thanksgiving dinner so we arrived home with a turkey and pies and the works.  I've invited one of my sisters over for dinner but I don't know if she'll be coming, she's so busy at work...which for her is a good thing.     Regardless, I'm looking forward to the day and the dinner and spending time at home with the family.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Saturday October 5, 2013

Another early morning.  I'd love to be able to sleep in.  However, as long as I'm up I'm trying to make better use of my time and channel some of it towards back-end stuff with my real estate business.  Unfortunately this morning all I've been able to muster up so far is a hot pot of coffee and a little bit of Facebook time.   I did acquire a new contact manager program yesterday though that I want to play around with a bit more.  It is called Realty Juggler.  Up until now I've used Top Producer but have been looking around at other options.  If any of my readers have had experience with either, comment and let me know your thoughts.

Wow, is it ever getting crisp outside in the morning.  As nice as the weather has been for this time of year, Fall is definitely in the air.  It seems like a week ago I was wondering when the leaves on the maples on my property would start to shine their reds and oranges...and I looked out yesterday and there they were, like they'd changed overnight.  Now, we both know that's not how it happens but there you have it.



There are still the odd strangler of the flower variety (aka Weed) left but I imagine they will soon be giving up the ghost as well.


We have this bird feeder that is suctioned to the outside of our living room window.  We fill it daily and our regular visitors seem to be of the Blue Jay variety.  They aren't neat eaters, putting it mildly.  They'll sit at the feeder and take big swipes at the pile of seed looking for "the one" good enough to eat.  They seem to think it's a game to shove the rest of the seeds out onto the ground.  It's frustrating as we never intended to feed the Blue Jay population but they seem to have bullied all the rest of the birds away.  Not sure what to do about that.    The one perk of the Blue Jay's bad table manners is that we seem to have attracted a few pheasants who are more than happy to help themselves to the table scraps.


I think it's funny that he keeps looking up at the living room window to see if he's being watched when all the while I'm downstairs at one of the basement windows snapping away.


We have a few flocks of pheasants around the neighbourhood.  They make the rounds, probably other neighbours are feeding them as well.  We've seen many babies.  This year there seemed to be a bumper crop and we thought for sure most of them were female however over the past couple of weeks the males have been starting to show their colours.  I think they are gorgeous.

On the family front, I was able to see Matt a couple of times this week which was nice.  I'll take it.   I'm glad he chose to go to university in Halifax instead of further away.  It's looking likely that Ben is leaning towards Saint Mary's next year as well, but it's early yet and time will tell.  The universities are just starting their open houses and Ben is showing more of an interest in his future schooling so I'm hoping he will want to attend a few of the open houses.

Speaking of Ben, he is going to start volunteering with Hope for Wildlife.  For my readers outside of the Halifax area, Hope for Wildlife is a wildlife rescue center in Seaforth just outside of the City.  They take in sick, orphaned or injured wildlife of all types and nurse them back to health and otherwise care for them until they are well enough to be released.  If it sounds familiar to you, yes they are the same Hope for Wildlife featured on the TV series.  Anyway, he applied as a volunteer for credit in his high school Leadership course.  He finally got a call back earlier this week from them and he is to go in next week to start training and to take a bit of a tour.  They think that since he's a high school student that they probably won't train him on the animal care but I think he'll be happy just being there and being able to see the animals, even if he is just cleaning up or helping with tours and birthday parties.  He has such a soft spot for animals and critters.  He pretends to be all gruff but he's a pretty caring guy.  I thought that he'd make a great nurse or a vet but those don't seem to be career options that interest him.  Maybe having this exposure to wild animals at Hope for Wildlife will light that spark I see inside of him.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Monday September 30, 2013

Another Monday morning.   I'm wondering what the work week will bring this week.  There is a possibility of two new listings for Bruce, which will keep me occupied for a time with the background admin work.   One is a lakefront home on Joyce Court in Lake Echo and the other is an ocean view lot on Conrad Road in Lawrencetown.   The owners of the lakefront home seem very nice, and they have the cutest little boy.  I'm hoping the place sells quickly for them.   

I spent my Saturday moving this...


There are 3 cords of wood there.   Enough to heat our home over the winter on a normal year.  It sure didn't look like 3 cords to me but after it was all moved and stacked inside the woodshed (that building behind the pile of wood in the pic) I measured it and there is definitely 3 cords + there.   This morning my left arm is all sore and bruised from the wood.  

We brought the boy home for the weekend from University so that he could lend a hand moving and stacking the wood.  So in between carrying armloads of wood I was putting through loads of laundry.

I was just so glad to see the Boy that I'd have gladly done twice that amount of laundry!  I know that I pushed him to move into residence for his first year of university instead of commuting from home but I think I was unprepared for just how much I'd miss him.  The first week was awful, but then he came home over the weekend and when he went back to residence on Sunday I was fine from that point on.  I think I just needed that reassurance that I would be seeing him periodically.  I think I'm pretty lucky that way.

It's been two weeks since the Ignite real estate training and I notice a definite cooling of excitement from some of the other office attendees who were so fired up.  We'd planned on getting together to exchange ideas and support each other but so far no one has done anything towards organizing this.  I am hoping that it is just because they are busy and not that they are losing their steam.  I think we need to share our energy, share our ideas, support and help each other.  I'll give it a bit more time, but I can't afford to wait for another year. I may have to consider other options in terms of companies I work for afterall and that is a decision that is stressing me out to a degree.   I love my career but I have sold out my listing inventory and have found a home for my last buyer which is closing in a couple of weeks and so far there are no more clients or leads for me to follow up on.   I'd welcome some new clients, especially buyers... I love helping buyers.   There is a saying in the industry that to be wildly successful you need to have listings and I suppose that is true, however if I was forced to choose between buyers and sellers for the rest of my career, I'd pick buyers.   I just get such a warm fuzzy feeling when they are tickled pink to be into a new home that they love. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

September 25, 2013

Up and at 'em.

I dread the time of year that my "get up time" is earlier than the sun's!  Waking up to darkness is a bit of a downer, isn't it?  Oh well, my new routine can be a cup of coffee and a sit down in front of the window to watch the sun come up.... it's all in the attitude.

It's been an interesting few days at the office.  I am still on a bit of a mental energy "high" from the Ignite conference and it's been very quiet in the team office lately which translates into not very much work.  Sometimes it feels like a bit of a brick wall.  Last year, the entire team went to Ignite and we were so much busier afterwards.  This year the rest of the team decided not to go so it was just me.  My team lead told me after the conference that he had hoped I would pick up the energy and then come back and give them all a motivational kick in the ass.  However, I'm understanding...that the  kick in the ass needs to come from within.  That energy needs to come from inside each one of them...I can't do it for them.  I feel like we are on different pages and I don't like it.

There are, however, a couple of other agents in the office that attended Ignite that seem to be as excited about growing their business as I am right now.  I've suggested to them that we start a "support" group of sorts... hold regular get togethers to bounce ideas off of each other, help each other out.  I'm thinking that was well received, so hopefully soon we can get that started.   I've set some personal/business/financial goals for next year that I want to reach.   And because I need to keep myself accountable, here they are:

1)  Make enough of an income so that we can refuse the next military transfer
2)  Make as much as my husband, if not more.
3)  Develop a new business plan and become better organized with my business
4)  Develop one or two new business/client care strategies that I can do consistently and do well.

I'm not asking for the moon.  All of these are perfectly attainable with some effort.  I know that this needs to be a slow process for it to work.  I need to develop behaviours/actions towards my business and client care that I can maintain consistently.  I need to be a crockpot, not a microwave.   :-)

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Early Saturday Morning Ponderings

They say that the early bird gets the worm and I'm certainly testing that theory out for the past few days.   Since I had kids I've never really been able to sleep in (what parent can??) however my kids are adults now and I still found myself getting up ungodly early (6:15 ish AM) while I envied my hubby who could contentedly sleep in for hours longer.  The Bastard.
This week I attended a real estate training and motivational conference called Ignite put on by talented speaker, motivator and real estate guru Richard Robbins and his Team.  At one point Richard said that successful people get up early and use the extra time to their advantage.   Suddenly the early mornings for me seem like an opportunity to concentrate on myself instead of a missed opportunity for more snoring.   So, for the past couple of days I've been getting up at 5:30 AM.  I tell you, if nothing else, it gives me a new appreciation for that first cup of coffee!
So what am I going to do with that time?  To be honest, I have no idea right now.   I'm using it to check Facebook and email which I usually did at the office, so I guess I'm saving time that way that I could better spend on business.   I've also used the time to resurrect this blog, which I think I am going to enjoy.  So, I plan to use the time to get myself more productive...whether that be in a business sort of way, or a personal sort of way or just a mental's all up in the air.  Right now I'm winging it until I find what works.  And I'm good with that.
I'm also using it to think.  I've got some decisions to make soon and I am not sure where to start.   Who I work for, which company I represent, which direction do I want to head.  I've put off those decisions for a long time...years...because I am getting a steady paycheque and there is a certain amount of safety in that.  But it comes at the expense of getting up in the morning every day and knowing that you face a work day not being completely satisfied with the work you are doing.   I've also been waiting for the perfect opportunity to stumble at my feet and it never really has.  Do I want to continue working for some one else, or do I want to work for myself?   I need to figure it all out and take a Leap of Faith....and soar.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Back in the Saddle

I have to admit, I've been a lousy blogger.  

I think I approached it totally wrong.  I've actually been a blogger for nearly 14 years but up until I started this blog I was writting on another site and not many of my "real life" friends, family and acquaintances knew about it.  I was free to express, rejoice, vent in just about anything with a certain amount of anonymity.   I was writing for me.  Then the "powers that be" kept spouting that I needed to write a blog for my business.  And I fell into that bullcr*p and started writing more for my readers and less for me.  And it all fell apart. 

I'd like to start again.  I hope it's not too late.  However if I'm writing for me again...I don't care as much if I have an "audience" or a "following" or not.   Join me on the journey, or don't.   If you decide to pop in from time to time, please leave a comment now and then.   'Cause notes and comments makes my world go round. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Back on the Wagon

There are no excuses or explanations so if it's all the same to you I will just carry on.

I learned a valuable lesson about not judging a book on it's cover over the past few weeks.  About two months ago I received and email from a gentleman in a city in the United Empire Emirates expressing casual interest in buying a home.  Of course, all of the much warned about  red flags immediately went up and were flapping around in my head. We all get those emails about being a beneficiary of some silly will, or the pleas to help a stranded traveler on the other side of the world, or even that you're related to some long lost King and stand to inherit all the gold in Dubai (I might have paid attention to THAT email).  So...I deleted the email from this gentleman.  And the next one, and probably the one after that.  Until one day I got an email that said simply, "I'm a real person, please don't delete my emails".   Long story short, the gentleman in question was real, originally from NS.  He flew in from Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, we showed him a house that he'd had his eye on for awhile on Thursday and we wrote an offer for him on Friday.

He will move into his new home at the end of the month.  So, when I said "valuable" lesson, I meant financially as well as the old life lesson of looking deeper than the stereotype. Thank God, he didn't give up on me and go to another agent.  If it were me, I might have.  And that is a wake up call for any agent who relies on commission.

Busy weekend around the house.  Our new washer and dryer arrive today.  Sometime today.  you would think as a dispatcher that you would be able to narrow down a delivery time to a range of a few hours instead of saying "they could be there anytime between 8 AM and 6 PM".  Really?   Good thing we arranged delivery on a weekend.  At least if I have to go out with a client hubby will still be home.  Sometime this morning we need to get the old pair out of the laundry room and clean in there before the new ones arrive.
The new ones are shiny "stainless" high efficiency pretty boys from Samsung with lots of bells and whistles.  Who knew that someone could be so excited over a steam cycle?

While the new dryer has only a slightly better Energuide rating than my 22 year old dryer, the new washer will use less energy in a YEAR than my old one used in a month.  I'm hoping to see some $$ savings on my power bill.  I will say one thing against the pretty boys though...they don't make warranties like they used to.  1 Year.  That's it.   When I bought my old laundry pair (Inglis machines, 1991) they were guaranteed for 15 years.  It's been nearly 22 and, although showing signs that they are tired, they still work and I've never had to have them repaired.

I am hoping to be able to take in some of the Home Show this weekend.  I haven't gotten to one in probably 4 or 5 years.  We need to start considering replacing our roof and our deck needs to be rebuilt, sooner rather than later.  Plus, it's always fun for me to go poking around at all the booths and to just see all the STUFF that is out there for homeowners.  Schedule is looking a little dicey for today thanks to Leon's not being able to narrow down their delivery times and I have an Open House tomorrow.   Hopefully I can fit the Home Show in there somewhere.