If You Build it They Will Come
Updated: Mar 30
With housing inventory at an all-time low, the idea of building your dream home is a hot topic. It makes sense, right? If you can’t find the home you want, build it! Even in the million dollars plus price point, most homes end up needing at least a bit of upgrading so it makes sense that it’s becoming main stream to go all the way. Last weekend I was in Bird Rock, my favorite little niche neighborhood between Pacific Beach and La Jolla, and I couldn’t help but notice more construction than ever before. I mean it was like every other home had a construction fence up getting a face lift for summer ( or was that the owner…okay I shouldn’t have ).
I’m not going to lie, construction to a home seemed super scary to me ever since I purchased my first condo. I brought a contractor into my new home and told him all my big ideas. I want this wall knocked down, I’d like my closet expanded, shelving galore, etc., etc. One by one this man crushed my dreams. I mean stomped on them. Sigh.
I’m someone who doesn’t like the word ‘No’ and I realized recently that I don’t really ever say it. In this business I feel like everyone has a real estate dream and no matter what it is, I give options instead of dead ends. Where there’s a will there’s a way, right? Well this man didn’t get the memo because he wasted a half an hour of my time with his Debbie downer excuses like; “this can’t be done because of the piping” and “this will cost a bundle” and “the building won’t allow this to be changed because it’s structural”. I think hearing the word NO ignites this uber determination in the depth of my soul almost like a reflex. So, because of that when someone tells me they have a budget of $1,000/month and they want to live in the village of La Jolla, I guide them to an area they can afford and maybe buy them lunch because who doesn’t love a dreamer?
Flash forward to 2016 when there were no homes for sale so I went right to the source- the biggest builder in San Diego – and sold homes as quickly as they would build them. Now the track builder is also a world of NOs. “That can’t be done because it’s past cut off”, “that’s going to incur a late fee”, “that isn’t in the options”, etc. Basically, they don’t cater to the client but to the timeline they gave their investors at the beginning of the year. It’s all about staying on time so the money comes in when they promised it would. Most people don’t know the difference between a custom builder - one that caters to the buyer on the buyer’s time, on the buyer’s dime - and a track builder such as the one I worked for -a mass production builder that offers a few set options that are already specified and caters to itself, as the work is paid for by the builder and they don’t collect payment until the home sells. To be fair, this confusion may stem from the fact that many big track builders advertise themselves as a custom builder by saying that or some variation insinuating that they will build you your own home to your taste. If they have preset choices and you can’t vary from those, they are a track builder and now you can decode it. Knowledge is power!
Tip: If you’re creative and want to dream a little, get a custom builder, it’ll be about the same price. Another tip: An empty or referred to as “standing inventory” home that’s finished but not sold is the best chance you have of getting a deal on a big builder home. They are literally losing money every day it sits unsold. Grab a Realtor and negotiate the you-know-what out of it.
I had a real hard time telling buyers “no” ALL DAY LONG. Hence, I’m back in resale and loving my life! But I did learn a TON about construction during these new home sale days and it really did make me a more well-rounded Realtor and for that I’m eternally grateful. I’m no longer afraid of construction and I realize, like most things in life, it’s all about working with someone who is like minded, or at least gets you and supports what you’re trying to do. And might I add that making someone feel crazy or unreasonable or uneducated – basically anything other than respected and empowered – is just never okay. Not everyone is an expert in everything and certainly not in real estate – though everyone’s a realtor these days haha – it’s part of everyone’s job to explain the issue in their chosen field of expertise. If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know if well enough. I love that. It’s so true. You should be able to explain your job to a toddler. And sometimes it feels like I am haha. You know what I mean.
Just the other day my sister, who has a masters from NYU by the way, asked me what escrow is. “It’s a purgatory, or safe third party, for the buyer’s money until the home transfers from seller to buyer at the end of the sale.” Knowing her and knowing she knows what purgatory is from our years at church, I knew she’d get it. When my even younger sister asked me, what is was though I said “It’s like when I collect money for a Mother’s Day gift and you trust me not to spend it on myself-I’m your escrow but I’m sorely underpaid.” Know your audience.
Excuse me as I step off my soap box (did people really stand on soap boxes or why is that a phrase? I feel like soap boxes aren’t that tall…) and tell you that these days, when a buyer’s need is not listed on all the usual suspects ( MLS, and all the other inaccurate third-party platforms I won’t name because they are sooooooo misleading ) I just see the whole world as my oyster. Literally I just act like any home can be purchased. I go to the area the buyer likes and just look for what they want. Some Realtors do what’s called “yellow lettering” but I feel like that’s so overdone. Mass lettering isn’t successful because people know you just offered to buy 1,000 other homes too and you can’t possibly have looked at the details of all of them. It’s lazy. I don’t like lazy.
So, I go by foot, by bike or my new fav, by Bird haha. Have you tired those little Bird scouters? Warning, they go super fast and you feel like a total idiot. But how fun! Picture it, your Realtor on wheels scouting around house by house, street by street, to actually check out the homes. The view, not the google maps view, but the real view. The space the size everything tangible. And when I find one that fits, I literally knock on the door. I told you I’m nothing if not creative. It’s funny that we’re in a time when doing the basics is called creative. Full circle moment!
Let me forsake my own here and tell you that this takes up too much time for most Realtors ( or any that I know ) to do. If you tell a Realtor what you’re looking for, I bet you they’ll do the following: search in the MLS, if it’s not there, they will put you on search alerts so when something does come on the market meeting your criteria, you’ll be emailed. And that’s fine except we are in a time when not everything gets listed and many people don’t really have it on their mind to sell until they are asked and told how much someone will buy their home for. Many sellers tell me, “if the price was right” they’d sell. Everything has a price, right? That’s the basis for the method behind my madness and also why I am motivated to go the extra mile. Also, I’m a sucker for getting my workout in while working. Let’s walk more America! It also circles back to my ‘never say no’ thing that’s just embedded in me. I don’t want to go back to Mr. Buyer and say, it's just not on the market. I’ll go on my little bird, find 3 homes meeting the given criteria and ask the owners if they want to sell and then PUT IT ON THE MARKET. I make my own market. I live in my own world but it’s okay, they know me here haha.
And of course, if you can’t find it, build it. I found THE HOUSE of my buyer’s dreams last weekend. I mean THE HOUSE. It had a little park next to it where they did free yoga classes overlooking the ocean. Let’s pause and all have real estate envy. Okay, so this owner wouldn’t sell. I mean it was just a no. Trust me I tried. While I was soliciting them last Sunday, I met the neighbors who turned out to be renters. Lightbulb! Yep, I looked up the owners and asked if they would sell. I mean if they’re renting they must have an interest. And they did. The home had the view, the location but not the look. But I bet we could fix that. So right now, we are in the process of getting a contractor over there to tell us what it will cost to take the aesthetics that the buyers like from THE HOUSE and recreate it on the house next door. Stay tuned but I have a good feeling about this.
So, they say if you build it, they will come which definitely was the truth I saw first-hand in the builder world. But don’t be afraid to go off on your own and be in control of your own upgrades or build your entire home. Having a Realtor with these resources and contacts makes it all way more obtainable and if you have one that rides a Bird Scouter, I mean that is just too cute to turn down! Until next time, scoot on to a wonderful day!
May all your assets appreciate,