Buying or selling a home is one of the most important financial decisions of your life–no pressure. There’s so much you need to know to do it right and there’s no guarantee your guide will be an expert on every step of the process.
Fortunately, you can educate yourself with Ben Walkley and Kevin Wasie’s new book, REAL Experience: The Tactical Field Guide for Buying and Selling a Home.
On Author Hour today, Ben and Kevin share advice on how to evaluate properties and prices, how to negotiate, and how to cultivate a beneficial mindset from the start.
Jane Stogdill: Hi Author Hour listeners, I’m here today with Ben Walkley and Kevin Wasie, authors of REAL Experience: The Tactical Field Guide for Buying and Selling a Home. Ben and Kevin, thank you so much for being with us today.
Kevin Wasie: You’re welcome.
Ben Walkley: Excited to be here.
Jane Stogdill: First of all, can you tell our listeners just a little about who you are and why you decided to write this book?
Kevin Wasie: Yeah, Ben and I, we’ve been friends for a long time and we spent a lot of time with people buying and selling homes. Ben has experience on, I think we counted almost 10,000 transactions, working with families and individuals buying homes. I own a real estate brokerage here in Northeast Ohio and we spent a lot of time over the years working with people and seeing all the mistakes they made, seeing all the successes they make, and we have a lot of good information.
People were asking us to put all this in a book and it seemed to have helped a lot of people over the years. So, this was our opportunity to do that.
Here we are, it’s just about to come out, and we’re really excited about it.
Ben Walkley: I would just like to add to that. Kevin was the real ringleader on this. He has had it in him for years to write a book, and he asked me to join him on it, which I was super honored to do, as he really understood the value of having things written down for people. It’s really been fun to get all of this information out of us. Hopefully, it will bless somebody.
Finding the Right Guide
Jane Stogdill: Well, as someone who has been through the process of buying a home, there is a lot of information to be learned. It’s so overwhelming and most home buyers are not experts in this. You really need to be able to trust the people you’re working with, your guide so to speak, and you guys write about that. Tell us a little bit about the importance of finding the right guide.
Ben Walkley: It’s funny, whenever you add money and large sums of it to something, it always opens up the opportunity for human nature to kick in and for people–I don’t know, everybody wants to do well for themselves. I think in real estate, there are so many variables and most people don’t buy houses every single day like they buy eggs or something. It’s just a great recipe, lots of money, and lots of people who don’t really understand what’s happening. Not necessarily for there to be foul play, but just for opportunity at someone else’s expense.
I think for Kevin and me, I don’t know if it’s a journey in our lives or we just love seeing people make informed decisions, whatever it is that they want to make. We have seen how that brings so much freedom and joy to people’s lives when they are making accurate decisions, and we’ve also seen the opposite of that when people think they’re doing something and turns out poorly and how stressful that is.
As we’re approaching all of this, our work lives are an act of service, it’s impossible for somebody to become an expert all of a sudden, but to simplify things down in such a way that somebody can understand how to progress through a difficult transaction with some certainty, hopefully, will lead them towards the right guide for them.
If you get the right real estate person, you get the right person in your life, it makes everything a lot easier. Discerning who that is, is what we’re hoping that this book will help people with. It could help anyone, anywhere in the US do this if they understand what all the factors are for them to look at when they’re buying or selling a home.
Jane Stogdill: Okay, you have all sorts of things that your readers can get prepared for, and can learn about. I’d love to go through some of them, and you don’t start with it but I want to start with the importance of mindset.
This was interesting to me, some people evaluate property because they want to live in it, others want it as an investment. How does that affect the kinds of properties you want and the way you go into the process of purchasing?
Ben Walkley: Yeah, I think when somebody is primarily looking at a property as a home, their primary focus is maybe the aesthetic. What does the house look like, how did it feel when I drove up the driveway, or what would it be like if my kids lived here?
Somebody that looks at a house primarily through the eyes of investment are thinking, “Am I buying this for less than it’s worth? What’s the quality of mechanicals and what repairs am I going to have to do to this house? Did somebody make that look nice and they did a bad job or did a really good craftsman put this house together?”
They’re looking at it more functionally than the person who is homeowner-oriented and who is hoping they create a certain experience for their family.
We believe the combination of both of those is the best way to actually approach buying a home because what we don’t want to have is somebody thinking they’re buying this perfect house for their family but they’ve overlooked all of the poor craftsmanship, and then they get stuck with a bunch of problems and repairs–things that they could have easily avoided if they were thinking more like an investor. We also want people to understand the joy of having a beautiful home and how you can achieve both.
They make TV shows about this stuff, you know? Chip and Joanna and their gang, they’re seeing all of the beauty that they can put into a house but they don’t really focus much on how difficult it is to get there, so it’s a little bit misleading. People want that.
Then you have a lot of people that want to invest in real estate and make lots of money but if they lose sight of the fact that someone’s going to live there and it’s going to be their home, they’re tempted to take shortcuts and not do things as well, and then somebody else’s family pays the price. When you get them both working together, you can really have something great. It’s helping people see both sides of the coin and how important both sides actually are.
Jane Stogdill: That’s interesting, about tempering the impulses on both sides, you can’t let your investment strategies be clouded by how much you’ve fallen in love with some homey aspect of a place, and you can’t let your desire to make money cloud your ability to make a home a home.
Kevin Wasie: Yeah, Jane, where we really see this play out a lot also is between husbands and wives or people buying a house together. You’ve got two people showing up to probably one of the largest financial decisions they’ll ever make in their life, and everybody has years and years of living in homes. So, everybody shows up to this transaction with a whole lot of background and experience in it but oftentimes, that’s really difficult to talk about and to even find the words for.
You might have one person in the transaction and the sale when somebody is buying a house that really has an investor mindset, and so they’re always looking at, “How am I going to make money from this, are we buying this at an okay price, are we going to be able to make money when we sell this?”
Then you might have somebody else in the sale that’s like, “I just want to feel really good in the house, I want to raise my kids in the house, I want to build memories, I want to have family over, and celebrate Thanksgiving.”
When those two people come to the point of buying a house together and they haven’t talked about those things, it can get really dicey really quickly and it can lead to a lot of stress, and it can lead to arguments.
So, if you go into the sale, with all that on the table, and when you recognize how you think about buying a house, then you can show up more prepared to actually make it a great journey instead of one that could be full of stress, and potentially make a bad decision.
Ben Walkley: Yeah, if the husband or wife ends up getting their way–let’s just say somebody went all aesthetic and just way overpaid for a property, the other spouse, if financially it comes to some real difficulty, let’s say they overlooked that there was bad craftsmanship and then they have to spend a bunch of extra money doing repairs, that actually causes marital discord. Because they weren’t together, they saw two beautiful different things, and their ability to work together actually would protect them in the home buying purchase versus them not seeing their differences as an asset.
Sometimes you’ll get two people that are just straight homeowner mindsetted, and they just go and they’ll buy something without thinking and then their dream actually turns into difficulty because they’re now trapped, they overpaid, they have big repairs. You will have two people that are investor mindsetted and maybe they got a good deal on the house but their house is never very beautiful. It’s rundown or they just are always trying to save and it’s not actually very fun to live there.
It’s like two sides of a coin, they’re both equally important, they’re just different. That willingness to be humble and the journey really does lead people to actually great scenarios. Kevin and I both believe that human beings are environmentally sensitive. If you grew up in a very bad home scenario, your view of home has now been tainted. If someone else had an awesome home life it spurs them on. The environment that you are raised in does affect a lot of the rest of your life.
People can go back to when they’re 10 years old and remember, were mom and dad fighting, were they together, what their room looked like. It matters what our home life is like, and especially if mom and dad are working together, it’s just a beautiful thing for the kids.
Jane Stogdill: In addition to lots of great real estate advice, there’s also some marriage counseling in this book, it sounds like.
Ben Walkley: Well, it’s not intentional, it is our viewpoint.
Jane Stogdill: Speaking of multiple angles involved here, I should make sure our listeners know half of this book is for people looking to buy a house, and half of it is for people looking to sell a house. But ultimately, if you’re doing one or the other, you’re probably going to be doing both at some point. It’s good to have all sides covered.
There’s lots of great advice in here about financing, which is something that I knew absolutely nothing about before I bought a home with my family.
I also want to ask you about your advice around evaluating properties because, of course, that happens later in detail with an inspector but what can people look for earlier in the process?
Kevin Wasie: The tool that you select when it comes to financing a property or paying for it, whether it’s cash, a loan, a loan from a friend, a loan from a bank, private financing, whatever tool that you choose when you purchase that property is going to affect the future of how you’re living in it, your payments, how much you need to sell it for later, all of that stuff is ultimately going to be determined by the tool that you choose today. There are thousands and thousands of options out there as financing becomes more sophisticated with new technologies.
I think you can even buy a house with Bitcoin nowadays, and so as all of that advances and people are trying to figure out what makes sense to them, the chapter in the book that goes through financing will at least give people the opportunity to see what their options are, so that they can make a good decision for their particular scenario. There’s no right option for everybody, and a lot of people don’t even know what all the options are available to them, we find.
When they at least have the options in front of them, then they can choose what’s going to be best based on their scenarios.
Ben Walkley: I think a lot of people look at financing a home pretty one-dimensionally, and if they were to put their investor hat on for a second and evaluate the property for what it is–we use the example of a Ferrari, if there was a Ferrari for sale for $5,000 and someone couldn’t buy it, let’s say you didn’t have $5,000 but you had the opportunity to buy one, you would borrow the money at whatever rate you needed to get it because you know that tomorrow you could sell it for 250,000. That makes sense.
Well, in real estate it’s the same thing. When you’re able to evaluate property properly, you can begin to see that sometimes houses, somebody is moving across the country, there is an estate or some reason that somebody’s selling something at a price that is less than what it’s actually worth.
If you have the ability to see that, you can then apply a financing tool to it. Mainly what people do is just say, “Well, whatever the price is, the price is,” or they can’t tell if it was a good deal or not and they just apply one tool, which is, “I hope that this house appraises, and I get my loan and away we go.”
They’re completely subjected to the current market, the ups and downs of the real estate market. We’re trying to give people an understanding of the different kinds of tools so that they can wield them correctly.
You can use a great product for the wrong reason very easily, or you can just think you can’t buy a house, or can’t make a good decision easily if you don’t understand that there are other things available.
The Importance of Self Education
Jane Stogdill: Okay and how can someone go about determining whether the price makes sense and whether the risk whether is going to go up over time? Again, this was something I just totally relied on our realtor for. But as we discussed earlier, if you don’t have the right guide, you really need to know how to do this yourself. You mentioned things like understanding interest rates and comparative market values.
Ben Walkley: I think it is pretty common for people to lean on their real estate agent, exactly what you did. I think that is wise for some people. But most real estate agents don’t function as that type of guide. They function more as a procedural guide. They are not trying to guide people to make that wise financial decision. I think that might be an industry-wide misnomer. They are taught not to do that, but people believe that they are going to do that.
They’re actually walking around saying, “Well, it’s not my responsibility. If the bank appraises it, then it was okay.” If the bank doesn’t appraise it, it’s not okay. What they’re not looking at is what is it actually going to look like for someone to purchase this thing, maintain this building, and what’s it going to cost them to update it the way they want it, and under current circumstances, if they needed to move quickly would they be able to sell it? It’s a lot of factors.
Their finances, their flexibility, it’s on accident that people get stuck in their homes instead of having freedom in their homes, which is the opposite. You want to be able to go home and feel this level of safety and security and flexibility if your family had to move. I think a lot of people actually end up in the opposite of that on accident, and it’s not anybody’s fault. I think we assume more than we should.
Kevin Wasie: For you to assume that your real estate agent is doing that for you is a really big assumption with one of the largest financial decisions of your life. It’s not that every real estate agent doesn’t do that. There are phenomenal real estate agents out there who do that, and then there are real estate agents who have no idea what we’re talking about here about how to correctly evaluate the parts of a home.
If you assume that because they’re a real estate agent, because they have their real estate license, that they are going to protect you there, that can lead you down a path that you weren’t intending to go on. What we’re advocating here for in this book and what we give the information for you to be able to do is to be able to look at all of that yourself, to look at a house, look at the factors that are going to affect what the sales price should be, and at least give the reader of the book the information to be able to make an informed decision. You know what’s really great is if we know about something, we can evaluate if our guides are doing a good job.
With having some cursory knowledge about how to do this, you typically find out if your real estate agent, by asking the right questions, is doing this for you. But a lot of people just show up to that line and they may not be able to even determine if their guide is able to do what they’re wanting them to. The book and talking about the pricing and evaluation will give people the tools they need to do it themselves, and to evaluate whether the people they’re talking to are experts at their craft in this area.
Ben Walkley: This isn’t to knock against real estate agents, but I don’t know if most people know that in order to get your real estate license, you have to go through almost nothing. The barrier to entry is almost at zero, versus someone who’s a portfolio manager at a stock account, they’re required to go through all kinds of stuff to get those licensures. Real estate agents are on a few weeks, a couple of tests, with no real educational requirements, and can jump into real estate, and now, people think they’re an expert at this giant financial decision and they’re not.
Some of them are, but many are not, and the ones that are not, they feel that but they’re not sure what to do about it because they only get paid if they sell a house. They’re incentivized to go against the grain of the fact that I don’t know if I am actually qualified to do this but my family’s got to eat so I need to sell you a house and it’s a bit of a conflict in my opinion.
Jane Stogdill: All the more reason to self-educate before moving into the process.
Ben Walkley: Absolutely. The agents aren’t doing anything wrong. It is just the way it’s been done to date and that is why we wrote this book because if you read this book and then go to hire a real estate agent, your chances of success are through the roof. You’re going to find the right person.
Jane Stogdill: Well, I feel like I’m also learning from this conversation that my real estate agent was great, so that’s been affirming, thanks.
Ben Walkley: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Jane Stogdill: I got to ask about negotiations. I live in a city where that wasn’t really an option, whoever comes in with the most cash wins. This is especially interesting to me, of course, these are houses, these are people like you said, they associate so much more with it than just an investment. How do you know which way to negotiate with which kinds of sellers and buyers?
Ben Walkley: It’s funny because right now, real estate is booming and it doesn’t appear as though negotiating is a part of the equation but it is as much a part of the equation as ever. I’ll give you just a simple example. Let’s take a home that is in excellent condition. The seller has done everything, they’ve kept up with everything. Would it be wise to negotiate anything with that person in this market? The answer is simply no, give them their price. They’ve done everything, right?
Then you have these other people that are, let’s just say their house is outdated, and those houses are selling. Those are selling maybe for a lesser price, but they are selling just as fast, so the negotiation point for that house is no longer if you’re going to give them their price, it now becomes, are you going to do a bunch of inspections? If two offers come in at the same price and one says, “Hey, I see that you didn’t do all of the work on this and I’m not going to hold your feet to the fire for that because I’m handy and I’m willing to do it, I’ll take it without any inspections.”
Well, now all of a sudden, the seller who knows that they did not do all the work is super incentivized to take that offer because they know if somebody else is going to inspect it, the price is going to go down. If you are buying a house that’s beautiful and you say, “Hey, I don’t want any inspections,” well that seller thinks, “I don’t care. Everything is awesome. I did everything,” so that’s the wrong way to negotiate with them. You might be better to negotiate with them on the timeframe that it’s going to take for you to close, or if you’re going to give them an incentive too.
How do you learn how to do this? Reading our book is going to help you, finding someone who has years of experience and actually understands these nuances that we’re talking about. You really have to understand people and their motivation, so that you can meet them where they’re at. Everyone is motivated by something different.
I bought a house the other day, it was that second category, a beautiful home, and the house needed cosmetic work.
Our offer was cash, with a large earnest money deposit that was non-refundable, and no inspections because I already knew I was going to need to renovate it. I have bought many homes. I believe that they could have taken a much higher offer than mine. They took it because it was an estate, so they were motivated to be done, to not have to deal with it, to move on. I knew it was an estate from doing a little bit of research. We spoke to them in the language that they wanted to hear.
I would not have done that if it was an all fixed up house, it would have been a totally different negotiation.
Kevin Wasie: Yeah and Jane, even in a scenario like yours where you may live in an area where cash is king and it appears to be whoever can put as much cash towards this is going to win, I will tell you, from lots of lots of experience that there are always other factors that people care about. It could be a matter of timelines, possession dates, who are paying for different things, and all of that goes back to understanding who the seller is and what’s important to them. So, that way you can craft your offer to meet those desires that they have, whether it’s in a seller’s market or buyer’s market.
Particularly as Ben said, it is more important than ever right now in a seller’s market, to find out what’s really important to the seller and to write your offer accordingly, so that you can not only get the price that you want it for but so that you can get the house in the multiple offers that we’re in today.
Ben Walkley: We go over those, something like I think about seven or ten of those kind of motivated sellers. I don’t know if maybe we’re just interested in it, but we have paid attention over the years how people make decisions.
Jane Stogdill: Like anything else in life, you need to know what the person you’re talking to wants.
Ben Walkley: Yes, because you’re talking about a sales agreement. The keyword being agreement. If you are in line with what they are already looking towards, you’re going to have unity or an agreement. I think that oftentimes, people think that the only factor is money and it’s just not. Everybody is not motivated by top dollar. I will tell you this, for the seller who has made their house perfect and has done everything, they want top dollar, and they deserve it because they’ve spent top dollar to keep their house the way it is.
For someone who has not kept their house in top shape, they may want top dollar, but I’ll tell you what, they’re more motivated by moving their house because they don’t want to deal with all the problems that it still presents that they’ve been putting off for years.
Kevin Wasie: Yes, Jane, in the book, we walk through the steps of the negotiation. I’ll just give you a totally anecdotal scenario. We just posted a property a few days ago for sale and we received about 10 offers on it. One of the first things that you’d think you want to do is find out what’s important to the seller like we’ve been talking about here but out of those ten or so offers, only three people called us about what was important.
That means there were seven offers just submitted on the property by people just throwing a dart on the board and hoping that it hits. It might seem totally simple, but this happens every day in real estate, and again, it goes back to the thing we talked about earlier, having a great guide who knows how to do that, find out what’s important, and then negotiate accordingly. The book will help people walk through those steps.
Jane Stogdill: Great. Ben and Kevin, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Again, listeners, the book is REAL Experience: The Tactical Field Guide for Buying and Selling a Home. Guys, in addition to reading the book, where can people go to learn more about you and your work?
Ben Walkley: This is Ben, people can go to smallerproblems.com if they would like to reach out to me.
Kevin Wasie: My website for our company is exactlyusa.com and this is Kevin. My email is [email protected].
Jane Stogdill: Thanks so much.
Ben Walkley: Thank you.
Kevin Wasie: Thank you.
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