home, real estate, sisters, Uncategorized

5 Tips for buying or selling a turnkey property

I have a secret. When I’m not writing blogs and speaking gibberish to my sister, I’m actually a respected Real Estate professional. That being said, please bear with with as I flex my brain muscle and give you the scoop, as any good sister would, to help you buy or sell the perfect house.

What if every home on the market smelled of lavender and lemon verbena, had a deliciously crisp, white, picket fence, and was in such pristine condition that even an inspector might take a minute or two to remark on what a good decision you have made in your purchase. I’ve seen it happen. A lot of buyers are looking for a turnkey home; a home that is fully updated and move-in ready.

Home ownership is never perfect, but we all do our best to create sacred spaces for our families that feel as close to ideal comfort as they possibly can. I’ll call my sister sometimes and cry into my cup of tea because the back fence of my property is falling. She, in turn, comforts me in complete misery over a harvest gold linoleum floor and why it even came into existence in the first place.

Being a homeowner can be frustrating and expensive, but being educated on what you are doing and knowing a few tricks along the way can make a huge difference in whether you are replacing a broken brick or an entire foundation. The price point of those sorts of repairs could really break somebody on a budget. Don’t be fooled by the home improvement shows. Wall-to-wall shiplap and fully renovated kitchens and bathrooms may not be within the budget of an Artisan Acorn Carver. A turnkey home may be just what they need.

Let’s say, for instance, the Artisan Acorn Carver wants to spend his time carving acorns, not worrying about a slow water leak out to the street that the utility company refuses to cover even though the previous owner stated they thought they would. While it provides the perfect opportunity to grow some water friendly foliage, he may want to consider looking for a turnkey home instead. Maybe this acorn artisan is exhausted after a long day of carving and would like to put his feet up and smell the clean air that comes from a house that has been fully updated and treated kindly. Yup, he is probably a turnkey buyer. Perhaps this artisan can even sacrifice 300 extra square feet and pay that higher price per square foot in order to walk into something that was crafted and cared for rather than abused and requiring rescue.

What I’m saying is that if you want to buy a turnkey home, don’t expect your agent to work a miracle, expect to make a few concessions, and usually those are in the price.

On the seller’s side, let’s be clear. A good seller deserves top dollar for top effort, and a buyer should be able to see value in paying a bit more for darned near perfection. While we all want a deal, maintaining a healthy balance in the market provides stability, and as my Grandpa always said, “You get what you pay for.”

I see subtle clues in listings that speak to me. My years in the industry have given me some obscure insight that I want to share with you as you begin your search for a home that is well cared for or your quest to make the most money on your investment when you sell. While they may seem insignificant, I assure you, they serve a purpose in the psychology of the sale.

  1. Flowers. (my favorite suggestion!) Charming pots and window boxes full of pretty flowers in the spring and summer or tiny evergreens in the winter. A simple bouquet from the grocery store is a great addition to a table or bathroom, but it is not adequate when creating a feeling of true attention. I’m talking about plantings that have taken a moment to grow and be nurtured by somebody who cares.
  2. Paint. When you look at the photos of the house, do you notice a tiny bit of exterior paint chipping here and there? Have the homeowners grown tired and refused to update the electric blue bathroom? A little paint usually equates to a much bigger issue. If they can’t take an afternoon to paint or hire a painter to update a bathroom, they are not likely taking the time to update fixtures, carpeting, and the whole host of other aesthetics that are about to just fall into your lap. Lets not waste our time.
  3. .Smell. Okay, I know what you are saying, “Robin, I can’t smell a photo.” Social media is a wonderful thing. I follow all kinds of real estate blogs as well as funny real estate photo sites. You wouldn’t believe how many agents say, “I can smell this picture.” Here are some subtle clues. Carpet in the bathroom, a giant dog crate with six bowls scattered around the kitchen, sticky looking floors, very old decor, dirty rooms, stained carpet, and the list goes on. Buyers need to look for these tip-offs and clues, and sellers, please make your pictures smell good. I want to see sparkling floors, vacuum marks, shiny trim and counters, fresh paint, and I want to be able to see myself living in this home without questioning why I suddenly have a cat named Sprinkles who is canoodling with our new dog, Slobber Face McGee.
  4. Sidewalks and driveways. Do you want to know if a home is pristine in its care? Look at the sidewalks and driveways. People with attention to detail are usually really good about power washing and repair. If a sidewalk is graying and old, that doesn’t mean it’s in disrepair, but if you are serious about finding a pristine home, it’s one of the details that will sing praises of the homeowners. If I’m looking for a turnkey home, I’m also likely looking for a seller that has an attention to detail beyond the norm and creates a clear cut picture of pride of ownership.
  5. Finally, my last and most important tip is to get an inspection. If you are a turnkey seller who expects to get the very highest price for your home, get an inspection! Then, if you find out it needs some improvements, you have time to move the heavens and earth to make those repairs. When you are already on the market, have received an offer, and your buyer has an inspection, you will have a limited amount of time to get those repairs done. With that limited time, comes limited ability to shop around for your best deal. Not spending the money on inspection may cost you thousands in contractor fees. Pay up now so that when your inspector says your have mildew on your rafters, you will have time to bring in a fully-qualified and bonded remediation company that charges three times less than the other guy. (Seriously, this happened to my own grandmother!) Don’t be victim to your own desire to save money. This could be one of the best investments you make, and it speaks volumes of the integrity of a seller.  On a side note, keep that inspection handy along with the receipts for repair.  Documentation goes a long way.

So, as you read our blog and dream and laugh with us, I wanted to share some sisterly words of wisdom should you ever buy or sell a home. What else are sisters for? We aren’t just tea and cookies, we have business brains, too! Don’t worry, as an honorary sister or brother who actually made it through this post, if I ever see you outside of the blogosphere, I promise to refer to you as some sort of silly, made up name, and maybe even pull your hair or pat your head before I buy you a coffee.

sisters, Uncategorized

“Lose Yourself in Wild Romance, We Going to… Party, Karamu, Fiesta, Forever….”

You probably don’t know this about me, but I have a bond with Lionel Richie. He doesn’t know it either, so don’t tell him. While growing up, I always knew the word Fiesta to mean dinnerware. As a child of the ’80s, I truly believed the song “All Night Long” gave a shout out to my favorite dishes. I guess I just assumed that his great-grandmother made amazing strudel and served it up on a multitude of wonderful colors, too.

We were very lucky to have our great-grandmother throughout most of our childhood. Besides being the nicest lady I’ve ever met, she made the most wonderful food and her house always smelled of fresh bread. As time went on, my mother inherited her beautiful dishes and continued to grow the collection, promising them off to Shelly and I when we were older. Until that time would come, she gave me the orange/red highly radioactive cake plate and a teapot to tide me over, and she gave Shelly some safer dishes. Basically, Shelly’s plate had less radioactive paint than mine and that’s how we can gauge our mother’s love for us. Well, that and which one of us would receive that amazing strudel recipe. (Still waiting, mom. But you could win back some points after the whole radioactive plate fiasco.)

If you don’t know about the radioactive Fiestaware, here is a quick lesson from thoughtco.com

Shortly after I purchased my first home at 22 years old, my mother gave me eight place settings of new Fiestaware for my birthday. It was 2001 Fiesta, so it was completely safe to eat off of the glaze. I was delighted.

I can’t help but romanticize my first home. It was a 900 square foot shotgun-style house built around 1840. It had gorgeous tall windows, tall ceilings, wooden floors, and it was pure heaven. I planted more than 100 tulips in the flower beds of that red brick wonder, and I pillaged the gardens of anyone who would share irises, butterfly bushes, or a Rose of Sharon. I was so blinded by its charm that I can still overlook a roach problem that I had to eradicate before moving in, and the neighbor who drank whiskey and stole water from my hose.

It was in this home that I would host my first dinners. I was gifted a 100-year-old table with creaky chairs. I would bathe it in vintage linen from the thrift store along with dollar store trinkets for decoration and my pride and joy of Fiestaware. I was still fresh out of college, so my guests were lucky to dine on macaroni and cheese with a side salad, but the company was good and the nightly shows from the neighbor were even better.

I wonder if Lionel (yes, I have decided we are now on a first name basis) actually had a neighbor that partied All Night Long too? I guess that’s just more conversational fodder for our inevitable meeting.

I don’t think another single piece of dinnerware exists that could bring me such pleasure and memories. Perhaps it’s the radioactive paint, but even when I notice a piece or two in my friends’ and family’s collections, it still warms my heart. Are you a Fiestaware nut? Please feel free to tell us about it in the comments. We would love to hear about your favorite pieces, too.


Corn Dogs, Ding Dongs, and the Boogie man

When I was little, I called my sister Shehwee. Shehwee was an excellent sister. She was always available to make a fluffer nutter sandwich for me or to play with Barbies. Sometimes she even allowed me to sleep in her room if I heard a bump in the night, even though the cat liked to sleep on my hair. Ok, he liked to chew on my hair.

I remember when we were just old enough to stay home alone and we heard somebody scuffling around on the porch. I became frantic, since mom and dad were 3 houses away, and we didn’t want to call them for fear of never being allowed to stay home alone again. Shelly, being quick on her feet, burrowed through her closet of homemade quilts and fluffy pillows and created a space for me to hide. She handed me a ding dong covered in silver foil and told me to sit quietly until she returned. There I sat in the coziest nest of downy freshness one could ever imagine, eating chocolate, while she battled the boogie man behind the door, which turned out to be a bat in the vaulted portion of the porch.

Now that we live a couple of hours from each other and we are adults, we no longer have cocoons of blankets with chocolate cake when the bats come calling. Instead, I have fine-tuned the skills Shehwee taught me, so that I could use them should I ever encounter another boogie man.

Well one day, not so long ago, I did.

Prepare yourself, I’m not going to piece together the pretty parts of life for you today. One morning a few months ago, after a long night with a sick pet, and while still in my pajamas, (a combination of a couple of pairs) I put on a long coat, stood on the front porch and waved goodbye to the children rather than walking them out to the bus. You see, it was raining, and when it rains, my hair tends to fly away and give me the distinct look of a crazy cat lady. I could blame the years of the cat licking my head for this, but we all know their is probably a genetic component as well. Also, I may still have had makeup on from the day before. Basically, I have really nice kids and I didn’t feel like embarrassing them at the bus stop.

After they were safely on their way, I went back into the house and got ready to clean floors. I put all of the chairs on the tables, picked up the rugs, and put the dogs in their crates so they wouldn’t leave footprints when I mopped. Then I thought, “I’m going to eat breakfast first”. After looking around and finding that we were fresh out of crepes and mimosas, I opted for a microwave corn dog and black coffee. I gave my sister a quick call so that she could enjoy hearing me chew over the phone, and just as I took a bite of my corn dog, one of the door sensors on my home security system rang.

“Let me call you back, I need to go check on something.” I casually mentioned as I hung up the phone.

That was my way of saying, “crawl into the blanket cocoon and have a ding dong.” so she wouldn’t worry.

I froze.

Surely, if I just sat there at the kitchen bar eating my corn dog in my pajamas, surrounded by obscurely balanced furniture, hair going every which way, whoever was in the house would decide they had made a mistake and calmly bow out, right?

I begrudgingly stood up and tiptoed to the basement door, opened it quietly and listened.


Then, I grabbed my phone, made sure I had a clear path to an exit and yelled in the loudest, toughest voice I could muster “who’s there!”.


I paced a little and thought about how glad I am to have these two big dogs. I have heard that they really shine when given the opportunity to protect their family.

I released the hounds.

They appeared to take their jobs very seriously. I cracked the basement door again and encouraged them to go investigate. They put their noses in the air and my heart began to race as they had obviously picked up the scent. Then, they looked at me as if to say “I didn’t know we had corn dogs?” and promptly investigated my breakfast instead.

After a few more minutes, I was fairly certain it was safe, but didn’t feel like being murdered, especially in this outfit, so I called my friend up the road to ask him if he had a second to do a quick walk-around of the house.

When he arrived, he kindly overlooked my pajamas, said nothing of my furniture towers, and bravely went to the basement to probably die.

While he was likely being ax murdered, I went outside and checked all of the doors. Luckily, everything was secure. I also noticed that the service door was slightly ajar. I’m guessing the heat kicked on and the suction of the air made it move and trip the sensor. The heating system was my boogie man. Phew!

Surprisingly enough, my friend emerged from the basement in one piece and headed home to probably remove me from his contact list. I know I mentioned that I had discovered the source of the boogie man before he emerged, but between you and I, I once found a spider the size of a Chevy in the basement and I knew there was a slight chance my friend wouldn’t make it back.

After it was all over, I called my sister back and let her know it was probably just the heat kicking on and tripping the sensor. I was grateful for her keen sense of calm that washed over me rather than my inclination to hide in a pile of blankets with a ding dong. Besides that, what would the neighbor have really thought if he had shown up to find me in mismatched pajamas hiding in a pile of blankets with a ding dong among a fort of furniture piled up on the tables? Really, he was already being pretty cool about the whole thing.

The truth is, while we all know I survived a brush with death that day, I protected my sister from the scary truth, so we are even now, and the only real casualty was my breakfast corn dog and my pride.

Food, sisters, Spring, Uncategorized, Winter

Spring Dreams, Winter Themes, and the Best Ice Cream This Side of the Mississippi.


As the snow begins to melt and the ice dwindles from off of the roads, another day of cold Indiana rain is upon us. It’s days like this that make me grateful to hide away in our cozy home in the woods. Puddles abound on our property during the rain and make for a mud infused stomping fest for my children as they wander out to the bus stop. Today, after sending them over the river and through the woods to catch a ride to school, I made my usual phone call to my sister. She’s been spring dreaming and grocery shopping.

With Shelly living just two hours south in Kentucky, I will soon get to hear about her crocus making their first appearances and the daffodils already dying off before mine have even come into full bloom. I imagine her kitchen will beckon me with the smell of lemon cleaner and fresh open-window air.

She’ll sit in the little green chairs at her kitchen table, considering which herbs to plant and how much longer she must wait to break out her strappy shoes, while we wait patiently for that 5 or 10 extra degrees and brew another cup of coffee.

My blood may be a bit thicker as I’m still in the mood for fires in the fireplaces, giant snowflakes, and wrapping myself up in a homemade blanket with a good book. We still have a few days of building snowmen and sledding left in us.

Truth be told, she’s a spring and I’m a fall, she’s a summer and I’m a winter, she’s the sunshine and I’m the breeze. Can one possibly be all of those things? I’m curious, does anyone else even classify themselves in this way? Oh Shelly, we may be weirdos…..

Did I mention today was a grocery shopping day? Shelly’s grocery list for Trader Joe’s, Louisville.

  • oranges
  • grapefruit
  • basil
  • rosemary
  • parsley
  • mint

Doesn’t it sound divinely fresh? “Shelly, why are you buying these fresh, springy things, it’s February!” I say to her over the phone.

“Because it reminds me of summer.”

You see? I told you she was sunshine.

All right, it’s time for brutal honesty. I know, you are all very tired of hearing the finer points of the loveliness of our lives. Here it goes.

After hearing this list I became quite concerned. I heard nothing of chocolate and I don’t believe I have ever once exited a grocery store without a handful of extra dark chocolate to get me through the day. Shelly pacified my concerns by letting me know that she had also heard directly from the clerk that Trader Joe’s has the very best chocolate ice cream this side of the Mississippi. Confession: I may have embellished the “this side of the Mississippi” bit, but I really imagine Kentucky folks to be incredibly quaint and full of country charm. So perhaps, in my wildest dreams, they would actually say that. Excuse me while I appease my own imagination.

Anyway, as I said, I was concerned that my sister had exposed her fatal flaw. Did she just get this little tidbit of chocolate information for my benefit in case I should stop by Trader Joe’s in the near future? Perhaps she even purchased strawberry ice cream. It feels sacrilegious, but it wouldn’t be the first time she skipped chocolate for strawberry.

When we were little girls, she always chose Frankenberry and I chose Count Chocula. It was sort of our thing, and it still is, even though we try to veer from the path a little to keep our palates in check. Was this, perhaps, the beginning of these refined palates? Most certainly. While we seemed like strawberry and chocolate kind of girls, we literally had a box of Booberry stashed in the closet for the secret tea parties we hosted during nap time. It doesn’t get much more refined than Booberry, folks.

Most importantly, can anyone validate these claims of the best chocolate ice cream being located at Trader Joe’s? Do you have an ice cream that is the crème de la crème? If so, please let us know in the comments. One shouldn’t keep such valuable information to themselves.

For now, I will have to settle for warmer alternatives. Around our house you can usually find a pot of turkey noodles or a hearty chili simmering on the stove. My husband’s grandmother had the very best turkey noodle recipe (they were turkey farmers) and although it has been forbidden that I ever share the recipe, let’s just say one of the ingredients rhymes with felery and another is rhymes with pream of sticken. I’ll never tell and don’t try to make me.

So as I look ahead to more snowy days and muddy shoes….

…..my sister will be planning lettuce gardens and tulip harvests. I’ll be nibbling on rich dark chocolate, while she uncovers the strawberry patch in anticipation of the first white blossom. When the day comes that we finally have a little visit, rest assured, I’ll bring Neapolitan, so that we can both be satisfied, and we will discuss with disdain why the third flavor is vanilla rather than Booberry.