What Makes a House a Home

home /hōm/ noun – the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

By the time I was 9 years old, my family had lived in seven different houses in three different states on two coasts. To this day, when people ask me where I grew up, or where I am from, I don’t really know how to answer their question so I just say, “I was born in California but I lived all over the place.”

The meaning of Home is surely different for everyone. A quick google search of “what makes a house a home” reveals this to be true, returning over 2.5 billion responses. Experts in the design world say making a house a home can be accomplished by adding design elements to your rooms; adding candles and meaningful photos, hanging art or placing throw blankets around seating areas. Life and style experts explain that home embodies how we live and see ourselves, and creating a home requires deep reflection and thoughtful choices. But as a seven year old, I never deeply reflected and made thoughtful choices regarding why my house was my home, it just was. Pottery Barn suggests a home is a healthy, relaxing space.

While I don’t believe a home requires fancy bed linens and $280 throw blankets to be healthy and relaxing, I have to admit that I really like the way Pottery Barn defines a home; a healthy, relaxing space.

When I try to remember some of the houses that have served as my home, I can’t remember the placement of the walls, the furniture, or the location of my bedrooms. But the memories I can recall are fundamental parts of my childhood; family gatherings around the dining table for the holidays, the smell of dinner as my dad cooked in the kitchen, doing crafts with my mom in our craft room, the pools where my brother and I swam for hours every day every summer, our four legged friends, and the love and comfort of feeling at home. Everywhere we laid our heads at night, no matter where we happened to be living at the time, it was in a healthy and relaxing space, made so by the people who occupied it.

Being a parent myself now, I realize how dependent my children are on my husband and me to be happy, healthy, and secure. For our family, home is a place to retreat to and recover from what the day handed out; be it a tough day at work for my husband or a stubbed toe for our three year old. Our home is a place of stability and safety.

My mom and stepdad’s house and literally everything they owned burned to the ground last year.  It was devastating and horribly unsettling for them; suddenly, they were homeless.

The things they were most upset to have lost were not their most expensive and rare belongings. The things they miss the most are the books my mom read to us as kids and planned to read to my kids, the knife my stepdad used to carve the holiday roasts, and the garden that my mom spent years of hard work cultivating.  The things they miss the most were the reminders of the memories we made in their house over the last 18 years.  

As my mom’s home was burning down, they were in their car driving here, to our house. Our house was their temporary home until they were able to start anew. I am well aware of the fortune I have been dealt when it comes to always having had a safe, comfortable, and dignified place to call home. Needing to provide the same under such circumstances for the people who once provided it for me, my parents, was something none of us would have ever imagined facing. There are many people who face homelessness, but often they have nowhere and no one to turn to.

Regardless of circumstances being what they may, addiction, mental or physical health challenges, strained relationships etc., I believe no individual should face homelessness on their own. While there are many folks who choose to resist housing assistance for various reasons, there are also some who don’t know what to do or where to go for help getting off the street.

In Reno, we as a community have a ton of resources for our homeless population. The Reno Police Department Community Action Office targets long term problems, such as homelessness, with outreach services that build relationships in the community. Additionally, the Reno Housing Authority provides housing vouchers for rent assistance for homeless individuals who meet basic compliance criteria, and Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada provides food, clothing, and other assistance for those in need.

One of my favorite programs in the Reno area, which I previously wrote about, is the HUD-VASH program. HUD-VASH is a joint effort between the Veterans Administration and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides housing for homeless Veterans. Providing housing for HUD-VASH recipients is the reason I started Homeward Bound NV, and the reason every dollar I earn from my real estate business will be reinvested into the purchase and maintenance of safe, comfortable and dignified homes for homeless Veterans. To find out more about Homeward Bound NV and how you can help our business to support homeless Veterans in Reno, contact me here any time.

Somebody Has To Fight For What Is Right

I ran into constant roadblocks when I began my journey looking for properties to provide housing for homeless Veterans.  The issues I faced were the catalyst to me getting my real estate license, instead of contracting with a third party to represent me. I realized the full value of having my real estate license this week and exercised my ability to go effectively fight for what I believe in. 

At some point in the not too distant past I came to realize that none of the people I was working with believed in my mission, providing housing for Veterans, as much as I do. I realized that no one was going to fight for this as hard as I would; with the exception of my husband.  We sat by and watched as property after property we wanted went to other buyers.  We had deals fall through left and right due to technicalities that could have been avoided.  I was ill advised on the proper routes to take to successfully accomplish my mission.  In my experience, my agents operated in their best interest, instead of representing mine. 

We have been fighting for years, trying to negotiate business through a third party with sellers who do not follow the rules, only to realize after the fact that no one was really fighting for us at all.  We are finally in contract for a property for our Veterans that we refuse to lose, and the transaction has been going poorly at best.

I know with certainty that this was the week that this property would have been lost if I wasn’t representing myself.  But the great news is that I am.

My dad taught me a lot as a child, but there are a few lessons that stand out.  The first thing he taught my brother and me was that you never start a fight, but if someone else does you finish it.  As a kid I took that to mean; don’t punch your brother or he’ll knock you out.  I now realize, his advice applies to grown-ups too.  When you travel through central Reno and see one disgusting, disastrous property after the next, there’s a reason; were letting it happen.  I refuse to stand idle as one more property that could be put to good use exchanges hands into the ownership of another uninterested landlord; taking money out of our community and leaving trashy properties in their wake.  

Secondly, he taught me; if you can’t step around someone, you step over them.  This one used to seem a little harsh to me, but it now makes sense.  As soon as we turned up the heat on the sellers of this property to comply with simple contractual obligations, they started side stepping, making excuses, and shirking responsibility; taking on an “if we ignore them maybe they’ll go away” attitude.  This is where the transaction would have collapsed, but that’s not how we do business.   Having a direct line of contact with the sellers agent became a vital part of this transaction being executed successfully and if I weren’t representing myself I may not have had that option.

This situation takes a real estate professional into scary territory, opening them up to a lot of liability and risk.  I can understand why other professionals without a vested interest in my mission shied away from the fight, but I can say with certainty that I will not.  I have come to realize there are many people who don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to real estate transactions, and as such they are often misguided, given poor advice, and taken advantage of.  I am happy to be able to share my passion for real estate and the impact it has on people’s and the community’s lives with my clients. 

Entry Level Home Investing Reaches 20 Year High

According to a report by CoreLogic, over 11% of homebuyers are investors.  While it could be speculated that conglomerate investment firms such as Blackstone and American Homes 4 Rent account for a large portion of these sales, data indicates that is not the case.  CoreLogic’s research indicates that most investors in real estate properties have purchased between one and ten properties in a ten year period.  Their data indicates that 61.6% of investment properties are owned by “mom and pop” investors vs just 15.8% being owned by institutions, with professional investors making up the other 22.7%.  Many houses purchased by investors are bought to diversity their investment portfolio, to function as a landlord, or by someone who will fix the home up and flip it to an owner occupier.  

It is important to note that CoreLogic only considers buyers who use a corporate, non-individual identifier on the deed at time of purchase. What that means is buyers who use their names when purchasing investment properties as opposed to that of an LLC, corporation, or other business entity, are not included in this report.

Home purchasing activity of investors has been on the rise in the US, and in 2018 it reached its highest level in two decades.  CoreLogic’s research indicates that most investor activity is being seen in the entry level home tier, also targeting areas with higher than average rents.  What this does to potential owner occupant homebuyers is create a shortage of available houses, and drive rental prices even higher. 20.3% of investor purchases were in the entry level housing market in 2018, compared to 6.3% of upper end homes.

So what does this mean for renters and potential homebuyers in the Reno housing market?  It means that there is more competition now to get into an entry level home that there has been in 20 years. What I have personally witnessed in Reno is great number of out of state investors who have purchased properties in the downtown Reno area, and either use them as rentals, or simply let them fall into disrepair, waiting for their value to increase for resale.  

Many of these properties end up boarded up and condemned.  These investors take the money they earn in our community elsewhere, leaving blight in our city with very little short or long term benefit to our city.  

If you are a first time homebuyer, or a homebuyer looking to get into an entry level home, there are things you can do to help your chances of getting into an affordable home.  Working with a licensed real estate agent to closely watch the market will give you an advantage over home seekers simply using the internet to find homes. Agents have access to more up to date and accurate listing information.  Additionally, working with a qualified and competent lending institution can give you an advantage over other buyers.  Sellers in a competitive market can be more picky about the sales contracts they choose to accept, and having a reputable lender backing your offer with a financial pre-qualification letter makes your offer much more likely to be accepted.  As always, if you need help, get in touch with me here any time. I am here to help. 

The Importance of Hiring a Professional

“It’s much easier to stay out of trouble now than to get out of trouble later.” Warren Buffett

In today’s DIY climate, there are countless opportunities for consumers to take business and personal matters on themselves without the help of professionals.  With in home tax software for personal and business taxes, who needs an accountant?  But, maybe you didn’t realize you qualify for a tax credit that will save you thousands, because you haven’t read the entire latest tax code and your accountant has. If you don’t consult with a tax professional to learn about it, you may never know about it.

Need to sell your home? Why not just throw a sign in the front yard and put an add up on Craigslist; houses are basically selling themselves in this market right? The reality is that in addition to listing your home for sale and facilitating the appropriate state mandated legal process to complete your real property sale properly, a REALTOR® can help you with so much more. They can guide you toward down payment assistance for your new home, professional photography, staging, curb appeal, marketing, moving resources, escrow assistance, and so much more. They can save you money by advising you on where you should spend your money before listing your house, and where you should not. If that doesn’t convince you, the National Association of REALTORS® reports that agent sold homes sell for an average of 18% more than for sale by owner homes.

When you hire a professional, that individual takes on the liability of your transaction and has the education and resources available to prevent potentially devastating mistakes. Many homeowners are not aware that there are federally required disclosures that must be filed when you sell a home. Failing to submit any one disclosure can come with fines up to $10,000. We all try to save money where we can, but when there is as much at stake as there is when you’re filing taxes, buying, or selling a home, it is important to truly understand what is at stake before you disregard the advise of professionals. A well trained and educated REALTOR® can help you avoid devastating and costly mistakes from becoming a part of your transaction.

It is also vitally important to consider the source of information you are relying on to make a decision.  As such, a REALTOR® is not a financial or tax-adviser and should not be considered a reliable resource to advise you on how to file your taxes.  Hiring the right professional for the job is the most important thing you can do to protect your financial future.

If you are considering buying or selling a home in northern NV consider supporting our business, Homeward Bound NV. All earnings we receive from our work representing you will be reinvested into housing for Veterans in the Reno metropolitan area. To find out more about our services contact us today by following this link:

Contact Homeward Bound NV

The Most Lucrative Business Deal Isn’t Always the Right Deal

I recently read a post by Jamie Anderson, Why Surrounding Yourself with Positive People Isn’t Always the Best Choice, and the piece spoke right to my soul.  Anderson argues against the idea that we are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. Studies often suggest that we are wise to select our friend group based on what they can provide for us; social status, professional status, positive attitudes and the like.  Anderson counters this idea, asserting that there is nothing wrong with being the positive force when others are weak, inspiring others and building them up instead of expecting them to always do so for you.  I think her ideals are commendable.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but see a likeness in Anderson’s ideas about friendship and my own ideas about my business.  I find myself having to constantly defend some of my business motives and decisions, to people who have no vested interest in my business. It’s hard to explain to money minded people that maybe always doing the thing that makes the most money, solely because it is the thing that makes me the most money, isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. 

I feel very fortunate to have found a brokerage to partner with which shares my values. Doing the right thing, not the easy thing, and serving remarkably is the foundation of everything that we do.

The right thing for me, is doing what is going to have the most positive impact on the largest number of people and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices supports that.  Maybe that “‘thing” is personally financing a property for someone who has tried to save up a down payment their whole life to no avail, due to circumstances out of their control.  Maybe it looks like paying for a client’s home inspection, so they don’t have to put the charge on their credit card, or buying a distressed property and putting enough money into it to change the course of an entire neighborhood.  It may not be the most immediately lucrative financial decision, but whether or not it’s the right decision is for me to decide.

So much of the downtown area in Reno is owned by faraway landlords.  Of the properties I look into that are vacant, in disrepair, or condemned in the downtown Reno area, I would put a number of around 75% being owned by people all over California. Many of these out of state owned buildings have the highest calls for police services in the city.  These are disinterested investors, sitting on these properties waiting for them to increase in value enough to turn a decent profit, then they sell.  Often times another investor is the buyer, who then sits on the property for years, again waiting for it to appreciate in value only to be resold as is. Sometimes they use the properties as “weeklies” and rent the rooms out to fixed income individuals.

The craziest thing about these run down motels in Reno is this; they’re bringing in $300 per week per room. In the case of a 40 room motel, like the Desert Sunset on 4th street, that amounts to over $600,000 per year to the owner; for people to live in a filthy motel room without a kitchen, linens, or cleaning service.

The problem in Reno is not just out of state investors.  I tried to buy the Desert Sunset Motel in 2017.  The place was a disaster; mold, squatters, hypodermic needles everywhere, boarded up and condemned. I wanted to buy the Desert Sunset and fix it up so badly. At the time, I intended to clean up the property, modify it for ADA compliance, and provide housing through HUD for senior citizens who were being displaced by the expansion of the Sand’s Casino.

But it was bought, for double fair market value, by a local politician’s son.  The buildings are still boarded up to this day.

My hope is that more people who care will start buying these properties and rebuilding the character of the areas surrounding downtown Reno.  If they do, it may not be the most immediately lucrative business decision they ever make, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do.  It is easy to see that these investors don’t care about our city. But if they don’t, and we don’t, then who will?

My First Hero; Why I Care So Much

I’ve shared a few stories now about why I’ve taken such an interest in the Veteran community on my website, and my blog.  The truth is, I would consider caring for Veterans part of the fabric that makes me who I am.  I was born into a family of Veterans. Grandpa Bob’s submarine arrived in Pearl Harbor the day the US entered WWII, and Grandpa Pop, who flew overseas in an era when Veterans were not valued the way they are today. When I was a child, my grandpa Bob warned me never to marry a man in the military, but I did anyway.

When I was 14 my grandpa Charles, or “Pop” as I knew him, came to stay with us for the summer while his wife traveled to her native Whales.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I will be forever thankful for the time I got to spend with Pop that summer. This was a visit that would leave a lasting impression and photographic memory for me, and heavily impact the course of the rest of my life. 

Up until that visit, I knew my grandpa as a quirky outdoorsman. He was just a guy who attended the University of Nevada, Reno, right after high school; a fact I was unaware of until I decided to attend UNR myself. 

During Pop’s time at UNR he grew to love the slopes and remained an avid skier for the rest of his life.  He was a lover of wine and dogs; just like me. As an old dude, he got up unnecessarily early every single day and religiously made the same breakfast; a freshly grated potato for hashed browns, two eggs, and toast so hard even the dogs wouldn’t eat it.  He enjoyed wandering around the desert in Moab Utah, photographing the beauty of nature around him, then coming home and forcing everyone to watch slideshows of his photos during the holidays. 

You would never catch Pop outside without his hat, unless he was removing it momentarily to balance a beer bottle on his head at lunch.  He carried his camera everywhere he went, and he always made sure we got to enjoy some ice cream at the end of the day. He let us play in the mud when mom said not to.  He was the coolest; he was my hero.

Aside from Pop’s love for nature, dogs, and wine, what I believe he loved the most was jazz; listening to it and playing it.  There wasn’t a wind instrument he didn’t excel at playing, another trait we had in common. He eventually settled on the trumpet as a favorite and played in a Jazz band out of Santa Cruz for all of his retired life.  He would sit for hours, sometimes the entire day, and zone out to the tune of his favorites.

I decided to sit with him for a time During one of these jam sessions while he was visiting that summer.  For some reason, that day he decided to open up to me; it was the one and only time I ever heard him speak of war.

Pop was a well decorated combat Veteran.  He had been awarded six times over for heroism and meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight, and extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy.  He flew in WWII and the Korean war and went on before he retired to teach the next generation of Navy pilots out of Pensacola FL during the Vietnam War. 

Something in Pop wanted to talk about war that day, but not in the way I would have ever expected.  He spoke to me that day with a great deal of sadness in his eyes.  He reminisced of the exquisiteness of Asia in particular; their culture, the craftsmanship and superiority of their goods, the beauty of their people and their art.  He had collected a great deal of art while in Japan, which sadly was all lost with my mother’s home in the Paradise Camp Fire in 2018.  Pop got emotional talking about war, how it destroys the people who reluctantly become a part of it, both members of the military and citizens alike.

I had always known that my grandpa was a war hero, but what I didn’t know about was the sadness he had carried with him for all those years.  I was too young to respond appropriately to Pop that day, but I figure maybe that’s why he chose me to confide in.  It wasn’t too long after this visit that Pop started to suffer severe complications of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and we lost him before I finished high school.  As his mental health failed he clung to his jazz and his ice cream. I like to hope the disease that took him from us helped him to forget some of the sadness that burdened him all those years. 

My grandpa was a very hard working and fortunate man.  He was intelligent, classy, and educated, and he had a successful career both during and after his military service.  After retiring from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander in 1963, he went on to work at Stanford Linear Accelerator and retired comfortably in Aptos CA. 

There are many Veterans that served long arduous careers and were unable to cope with the lasting effects of their war time wounds, both physical and mental.  Many Veterans from Pop’s generation and the next were alienated and ostracized for their participation in war, regardless the fact that many were not there voluntarily.  From my own experience, I have come to find many of these Veterans to be service resistant, meaning, they do not trust that governmental support services align with their best interests.  The system once rejected them, and they have not forgotten.  Some self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and fall into homelessness to support their addictions.  

I can now see a flicker of the sadness I saw in my Grandpa Pop’s eyes that day in the eyes of every troubled Korean and Vietnam era Veteran I meet. Every part of me wants to help give them a glimpse of the amazing, dignified and accomplished life my grandpa led. They gave everything to make sure I had a safe place to call home, and now it’s my turn to do the same for them.

Is it Cheaper to Rent, or Buy?

I have come to realize that many people believe, in the current real estate market in Reno, it is less expensive for their family to rent a home than buy one.  In fact, Freddie Mac recently conducted a study that revealed 82% of renters believe they are saving money by renting. While everyone’s circumstances are different, in the long run it is usually not less expensive to rent if you are in a position to purchase a home.

Although it may seem less expensive to rent, if you are looking to contribute to your long term net worth, home ownership may be a valuable path for you to consider.  The typical wealth of the average homeowner in the US in 2018 was $231,420, a stark contrast to the $5200 average wealth of a renter.

So, while you may think it is less expensive to rent because you avoid major maintenance costs, taxes, and insurance, the truth is that your landlord has factored those costs into your monthly payment.

According to Bankrate, in cities with the highest populations of renters, home ownership would cost about the same as what they are already paying monthly for rent.  Assuming you have financed with a conventional fixed rate mortgage, owning a home gives you peace of mind that your monthly housing expenses will never increase, you will not be forced to move, and the money you are putting into your investment will stay yours and be returned to you when you decide to sell.  Utilizing first time home buyer assistance to get into a home and putting the same amount you are already paying for rent toward your mortgage, could have you well on your way to financial security.

On average, millennials today are spending a whopping 45% of their income on rent, with 25% spending at least half of their income on rent.  When you own real estate, you are able to grow your net worth by building equity in your home, instead of paying off someone else’s mortgage and maintenance expenses.

It is certainly true that home ownership is not right for everyone. For example, some require the flexibility of moving for their profession every few months.  In cases such as this, real estate may not be the best or most convenient investment.  

It is always wise to speak with financial professionals and loan consultants to get an accurate picture of your financial situation. If you need help sorting through the different options for home ownership, renting, buyer assistance programs, or finding professional financial resources, I am here to help.