(Or, What Your Realtor® Does at Your Open House)
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Being somewhat new at the Realtor business, and still learning the chains .. er .. ropes, getting ready to hold an Open House at a seller's home can be smooth, or it can be fraught with myriad details of getting it all together before guests start arriving.
Worrying if you did enough marketing to bring people in. Wondering if anyone will bother navigating their way through the jungles of East Hawaii without getting lost. Doing an Open House at someone else's listing, not knowing what to expect when you arrive. Hoping you boned up enough on details of the house, the neighborhood, and market analysis.
They didn't instruct us how to do this particular activity in real estate school. You pick up a few tips along the way from friendly colleagues. But, who knew you should always carry a broom, dust pan, Windex, 409, a wad of paper towels, trash bags and probably a bunch of other stuff to someone else's house? A ladder? Yeah, even a ladder. But, I catch on quickly.
Despite a noon start time, your morning is busy with details and following up on details you already took care of to make sure you caught all the details.
Flyers printed. Business cards ready. Sign-in log. Map to the other Open Houses through my brokerage. Pens. Cookies, water, cups I didn't have to worry about, because my years-experienced colleague brought them.
A friend followed me to the home of other friends who've been borrowing one of my ladders for a DIY gazebo project. He helped me load the heavy beast into the back of my Flex. The open house had a smoke alarm with a near-dead battery, making a very annoying chirping noise. Yes, we might even sometimes have to change a client's battery.
But I’m not complainin'. I'm just remarkin'.
Before arriving at the home, I put Open House signs on the highway at the top of the hill, hoping interested lookers would keep their interest long enough to reach the turn, 3 miles down the road. (Note to self: extra Open House signs strategically placed might help so they don't lose their way .. or lose interest.). My colleague placed a sign at the last turn, but it's still another mile, at the end of the road.
Ahead of me, my colleague arrived at the unoccupied (but staged) home to find a flock of six of seven chickens, and at least one fat rooster. My chefery skills caused me to give a moment's consideration of Coq-au-vin for dinner, looking at that one. And scanning around the home gifted my colleague with three freshly laid eggs. Score. Ok, and maybe the cock serves his purpose in the harem. I'll spare him his demise in my pot.
We busied ourselves sweeping floors, patios, wall-clinging cobwebs and leaves from the last wind storm. It seems Hawaii's bountiful bugs, left without a food source, soon perish. One early arriving visitor refused to step over one such insect onto the back patio, until I scurried it way with my broom.
Can I just stop here, a moment, to inquire why those battleship-sized cockroaches, when found dead, always present their legs into the air? I've never watched a cockroach in the throes of death, but I'm imagining some Oscar worthy performance. One of it's six legs starts kicking, separate from the others, catapulting it onto it's back, while the others just wobble about, stop. Wobble some more, stop. Wobble a little more. You know, like Pee Wee Herman in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Yeah, I'm sure that's how it goes down. Pee Wee deserved an Oscar for that one.
(Next note to self: be sure to include a list of pest control companies on one of the web pages of our forthcoming website!)
"Oh no!" my colleague exclaimed. "I was shooing the gecko out of this bedroom's sliding glass door, and a chicken ate him! I was trying to save his life." Cluck, cluck. Yum, yum.
Chirp. Chirp. Oh, the damned smoke detector. Out comes the ladder from the back of the Flex and precariously set, straddling a corner of the dresser, abutting the bed frame, and hanging partially out the bedroom door. The detector was mounted high up the wall to the vaulted ceiling. That was a chore. The 9-volt battery compartment was persnickety and I neglected to pay attention to the way the old battery had been positioned. The warm air collected in the ceiling area made me sweat like a lady afraid to step across a dead cockroach.
But, I got it in, and the chirping abated. Ladder returned to the Flex (the back hatch of which I left open to access other cleaning materials.
Visitors came. Visitors went. The guy who's remodeling 10 streets down, a home he was flipping, refused to believe this home was 1500 square feet.
"It's too big. I don't believe it," he proclaimed. I showed him the county record online. "You should …" do this, do that, repaint, tear that out .. Offering helpful tips on how to sell it faster. The house had been repainted this past November, both inside and out. Maybe not everyone's choice of color. Colors?
When I noticed the back hatch of the Flex still open, I used the key fob to remotely close it, thinking it didn't look as inviting to visitors.
A few more visitors come and go. A couple just looking for ideas for their remodel. A fellow doing the same, for when he bought land and started building his own home. A retired couple from Idaho who've been caretaking a farm up north for an even older couple. One of Jason's clients happened by, inquiring of a few things. One woman drove up, sat in her car, then drove away. Maybe it was the chickens. I went to my car to return the bottle of Windex I'd used to clean glass coffee tables.
"There's chicken in my car!" I exclaimed to my colleague.
A damn chicken had flitted into the back of my Flex when the hatch was up. When it saw me approach the car, it started flapping around hysterically, probably squawking at the top of it's little chicken lungs and figuring I had in mind to put it in a pot for dinner.
All I could think was "Oh great. All kinds of fresh chicken manure throughout my car."
The chicken didn't take the hint when I used the remote to open the back hatch. It sat agitatedly in my back seat, looking for it's way out. Not exactly the smartest bird from the nearby jungle forest.
I opened the back door to shoo it out the hatch. It obliged.
"An egg!" I exclaimed, and started laughing like I'd just heard the punch line from the best comic at the comedy club.
Looking down at a black cloth laying on the floorboard of my back seat was a perfect hen's egg. I picked it up and felt it still emanating warmth from its mother's body. I laid it on the console in the front seat and regretted thinking the chicken dumb.
My colleague left to grab something to eat. I'd taken time to make a fritatta for breakfast, so didn't need anything.
Between visitor's, I sat down on a love seat in the living room. I had a view out the French doors to the back patio, and its cushioned chairs at the table with cat food dishes atop it. I was enjoying the quietness surrounding the random wild bird noises and occasional clucks.
A hen flitted atop the table and pecked at the cat food. Then it settled onto the cushion of the chair. It scratched at it, settled onto it, stood up, pecked at more cat food, roosted on the cushion again.
I recall when I was little more than a toddler having to collect eggs from the hen house on the wildlife management area in Texas where my father was a biologist. A Dalmatian twice as tall as me (so it seemed at the time) was temporarily in residence with us, and it was a not always successful effort to get the eggs to the house without the giant dog knocking me and the eggs to the ground. I wouldn't be surprised if those chickens feasted on horny toads, or maybe even baby rattle snakes.
I'd seen chickens getting ready to lay an egg. I recognized this little dance the cat food-pecking hen was doing. I'd learned unnoticed eggs hidden in bushes near the hen house might have been there long enough to reach their expiration date.
I started videoing the dance in shorter segments so I could upload it somewhere. I hoped I'd catch the egg falling from the cloaca, like some moment in a natural history documentary. Distraction being the only moment I had, I missed the actual split second, catching only the pre- and post- moments of this miracle thing called an egg. Sigh.
Four things I learned or was reminded at this Open House:
First. Chickens will eat just about anything, with or without legs.
Second. A verifiably fresh egg in the hand is worth two suspicious eggs in the bushes.
Third. There can be unexpected bonuses to spending your day showing houses on a sunny, three-day weekend's Sunday.
Fourth. If I don't make it as a Realtor®, I can probably rent out my Flex as a hen house.
So, thank you Miss Henny. Breakfast today was eggs over easy, atop homemade potatoes O'Brien and Spam. (Oh, come on .. You know Spam is a thing in Hawaii, right?)
Eggs, and houses, are cheaper in the jungle.
©Aloha Boys Properties, the real estate team of partners in life and business, Jeff Calley RS-79890 and Jason C. Larsen RS-79888. They are Realtor® Agents at Clark Realty LLC, based in the jungles of East Hawaii, and appreciate your sharing of their experiences with appropriate attribution! Mahalo, and as always, warmest Aloha.
Listen or download the podcast version of this post by clicking the audio file below.
An example of what you could, but probably shouldn't, bring a 45' shipping container.
You Can Buy It Here
In May of 2012, when Jason and I relocated to the Big Island, we didn’t really know anyone here to give guidance on a few things. Looking back, we spent a lot of time and money, and depended on many friends to help shove us off the mainland toward our new home.
Taking a look around our home, there’s not a single piece of furniture we brought with us that remains here today – except my grandmother’s 1920’s Victrola. And some art.
We literally shipped almost everything we owned.
I really cannot recommend you ship even half of what you own. You’ll get here and ideas will spawn, aesthetic will change. Artists and new friends will influence. Had we to do it over again, and for what we spent, I think we could have used the money in ways far better.
It’s a fresh start. A blank canvas. You’re an artist and this is your chance to embrace your new home.
How To Arrange Shipping
First, figure out what you cannot live without of your current possessions, divide everything by two, and leave it behind. Great grandma’s bronzed baby booties are likely to be crowded off your shelf by an interesting piece of driftwood and relegated to a box in storage. Leave them with a loved one on the mainland.
Next, contact a shipper in your area who can handle the arrangements. You can manage some of this yourself, but it requires research and other time you can spend better hugging friends and family goodbye (and sparing their backs helping you pack).
Note that if you plan to ship a car inside a container, and you’re doing it yourself, with all your other things inside the container, you’re going to need someplace that has a loading dock. It’s impossible to load a car into a container that sits five feet above the ground without one. You’ll also need some serious and expensive tie-downs to keep vehicles from shifting in transit. Grandma’s Victrola loses a lot of meaning in kindling form.
If you’re a DIY kind of person, here are two of the primary West Coast to Hawaii shippers:
If you live inland, your local shipper can help arrange through-shipping to Hawaii.
If you insist on schlepping, er, shipping everything you own:
Really? You’re not listening. Let me tell you the tale of our misguided adventures in greater detail.
We got the biggest shipping container available from Matson (ocean shipping) and stuffed all 45’ x 8’ x 9’6” of it full. Granted, we had inside it a 1912 Ford Model T Speedster and a Saturn Sky that was too low to the ground to do RORO (roll-on, roll-off). And, we’d planned to bring a 1947 Ford Farm tractor inside it as well, but it decided to not cooperate at the last minute and missed its opportunity to live the good life in Hawaii. We hired a carpenter to build a mid-level platform inside the container, under which went some vehicles, and above went shipping boxes. The utility trailer made it via RORO means. But, all in all, it was serious overkill.
And, by overkill, I mean, we brought everything, including a kitchen sink – surely we did? Didn’t we?
Don’t do what we did. For the next 4 years, we very slowly purged almost everything that took up two entire bedrooms and the storage locker under the new house.
We bought a 5 bedroom home. We brought one bed. That seemed dumb at the time, but finding 4 more beds wasn’t very hard, and there are a handful of furniture stores on the island who primarily import from Asia. Even if mainland style furniture is important to you (and limited selections area available in furniture stores here), consider whether or not you want to shop and ship before you head to your new home. Better yet – shop and have shipped after you get here.
Friends here on island have also had good luck ordering furniture online at Pottery Barn, Wayfair, and Amazon, many of which will ship to Hawaii for free!
Big box furniture stores exist on Oahu, and some people have things shipped from there. On the Big Island, we have Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, WalMart, Macy’s (limited). Many of these will let you order and have items shipped to the local stores.
Pressboard and particle board furniture is very common, both here and on the mainland. But the humidity of our climate makes them like a sponge, and they don’t last very long. Hardwood furniture (a lot of which incidentally is imported here from Asia), will last you a lifetime.
One thing we learned after a couple years here is that Amazon Prime will pay for itself over and over just in their free shipping alone. It has made life a lot easier on the island, despite some mainland partners of Amazon still not having a clue that USPS (most vendor’s primary shipping method) costs the same whether shipping from Los Angeles to San Diego, or New York to Hilo. A handful won’t ship to Hawaii, but someone else sells the same thing who will.
Here’s a list of local furniture stores on the island:
Bamboo Teak (in both Hilo and Kona)
Costco Kona (furniture on their website may or may not be in the warehouse, but you can order)
There are many other independent furniture stores you can discover.
About Shipping Vehicles
It might make sense to ship your vehicle, particularly if it’s reasonably new and in good condition. If it’s an exotic car, you might have more challenges with service and repair. But most brands have an island representative. For example, Toyota in Hilo is contracted by GM to provide warranty service, while the Nissan dealership wasn’t able to service their own electric vehicles without flying a service tech in from Maui.
You can ship your vehicles as “roll-on-roll-off”, not inside a container. But, if you’re shipping a 1912 dandy, you might want it inside a container. Matson charged us per vehicle, whether inside a container, or outside a container in the hold. But, they also charge for the container. If you’re bringing a vehicle with less than 6” clearance above the ground, it cannot be driven onto the ship and into the hold. If you must bring it, plan on a container.
If you buy a brand new vehicle to bring with you, Hawaii will charge sales tax on delivery here. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at licensing and registration costs for new vehicles.
Jeff Calley is a Realtor® in East Hawaii, whose background also includes work and management in varied industries, such as travel and tourism, electrical contracting, health care, and on-air broadcast, producing and content management for radio stations in Seattle and Palm Springs. When he's not helping people realize their real estate goals, he keeps busy with website management for AlohaBoysProperties.com as well as other websites. And if there's enough time left over, he photographs and makes video content for real estate websites and Multiple Listing Services. He's presently working on acquiring his commercial drone pilot's license (though he finds it funny that his helicopter pilot's license doesn't qualify!)