Home Sale Know-How

Working Floor duty earlier this month

The whole reason I took my real estate agent license a few years ago was because I had never really understood all of the paperwork we signed each time we have bought and sold homes.

Our real estate and title agents have always been great (except that one who blurted out, “I just have to ask you…. how old ARE you?” 20 years ago when she first met me after having already showed Alistair some homes…. for starters, you don’t “have” to ask anyone anything and next, take that horrified look off of your face). They have always explained each page of the stack of papers in front of us but I never completely understood the whole process.

Even the whole confusion around a Home Inspection versus an Appraisal is very real. I didn’t differentiate the two and a lot of my friends and clients are the same. So I thought I would walk you through the deets that go down when you decide you might want to list your house with a realtor!

A listing I took for friends/clients a couple of months ago… we are under contract!

These days, the real estate market is crazy. Depending where you live, inventory is low and buyers are on the hunt. Competitive offers come in on most “move-in-ready” homes for buyers who may not even see the listing in-person for a few days. Most buyers have all been burned at least once or lost out on a home because they moved too slowly or their offer wasn’t competitive enough. Sellers get burned, as well, when they accept an offer and their listing goes off the market until a home inspection digs up something unexpected that scares buyers off.

This is one reason I’m recommending pre-listing home inspections right now. This is the exact same inspection a buyer would purchase when they go under contract for your home. It is a great way to unearth any potential surprises like high radon levels or bathroom vents that don’t vent to the outside in your attic. Many inspection results can frighten buyers, especially if they are from another state and don’t understand radon in western Montana, for example. (Its there, its not a big deal, it can be mitigated, its an odorless, colorless gas, its not a difficult thing to test for.)

Wouldn’t it be great to know your house had elevated levels before you listed, though, so you can mitigate ahead of time? Boom- one less surprise on home inspection!

Shameless promotion of the local gang who are most excellent with radon and a bunch of other things. Bo is friendly, professional, very knowledgeable, and an all around good guy!

Fixing questionable things that come up on inspections before you list eliminates the potential for your home to disappear from the market when its under contract only to keep reappearing when buyers back out for whatever reason. When agents and buyers see this happen more than once we start to question, ‘what is wrong with that house?’

Not all home inspectors offer pre-listing inspections but talk with your real estate agent ahead of time. Most of us have about three inspectors we will recommend. We all have one we try to use the most but they might not always be available so we are happy to give our clients a few names to call on. I have had a lot of success with Ian Cooke of Pillar to Post out of Missoula.

Concrete countertops in my UC listing here in Seeley Lake… I absolutely love these!

When you do get around to actually listing your home, your agent will come over and take a bunch of photos of the inside and outside of your home as well as the surrounding area if you have some fun landscape or waterfront that we want to highlight.

Decluttering ahead of time is definitely something I recommend.

“What do you mean by decluttering?” one of my sellers asked after I mentioned it. That would be the 3 full storage units and 2 trips to goodwill plus over 20 trips to the dump they completed before we got new photos taken and their home under contract within 24 hours of re-listing.

Not everyone has that much furniture and artwork around their home but the main thing is that potential buyers want to walk around your house and imagine their furniture in the rooms and their photos on the walls. Ideally, address any staining or painting issues as well as landscaping hiccups before photos are taken.

Your realtor will have you sign some forms that I call Agency Forms. These establish everyone’s contact information, our duties in how we represent you (as a buyer or a seller or a potential dual agent) and how long we will all commit to working together. The actual Listing Agreement is a multi-page contract establishing your asking price as well as our commissions and what we offer to other agents representing any buyers. In Montana, buyers do not pay commissions to their agent. We agents all disclose on our mls member listings what we are going to pay a buyer’s agent out of our own earned commissions.

Examples of said forms.

Your agent will also have you fill out and sign various disclosures as you list your home. Be honest about any known liens against your place or any knowledge of negative or adverse material facts- most of these things will show up after inspection of the home or your title anyhow and at that point you may risk losing the deal if you didn’t disclose them beforehand.

Once all of these are signed and we list your house, if its in decent shape and move-in-ready then most likely it will have showings within days, at least around Seeley Lake right now!

During showings plan for all humans and pets to be out of the house. It can be a drag to do this over and over so plan in advance where you can take your pets. Cats can often stay because, for the most part, they will likely hide someplace they feel safe but most dogs are too curious or friendly (or protective) to leave home during showings. And not all people love animals so it really is best to have everyone out of the house.

Once offers begin to come in your agent will advise you on what features of the offer make it more or less attractive than others. Buyers who are already pre-approved for the offer amount and ones who are putting a larger down payment down (or ones who are paying cash) are definitely more attractive and than ones who haven’t even begun looking for financing.

Some buyers are even waiving home inspections to be more competitive in this crazy market. I, personally, do not recommend skipping this important step to buyers I am representing.

Hanging out on floor duty at the office a few weeks ago.

Once you accept an offer you get to decide whether to continue showing your home for potential back up offers or if you want your listing to go Pending. Some sellers don’t want to keep packing the kids up and having a bunch of day-to-day things hidden in cupboards in case of potential showings so they go Pending. I sometimes recommend that if an offer is solid and buyers are pre-approved for the amount offered; it gives buyers some confidence that you are satisfied with their offer and won’t continue to show your home in order to get back-up offers.

The home inspection is usually scheduled soon after by the buyers. Inspectors don’t want sellers in the house for the inspection but if your pets aren’t going to attack them then they usually can stay, as long as they aren’t going to be crawling all over the inspector!

A buyer’s agent will submit any things they want fixed/replaced/removed to your agent and everyone can negotiate how they want to address this. Hopefully the buyer’s agent has educated their buyers that a home inspection is not a fix-it-list and that inspectors are hired to point out any and every adverse thing found, including light bulbs that don’t work and a lack of gutters, which may or may not be pertinent to where you live.

Assuming you all come to an agreement, the next most common thing to happen is for the buyer’s bank to schedule an appraisal (if they are financing their purchase.)

Again, this is different from the inspection and I can honestly say I have seen appraisals happen in very different ways. Some have been done completely on the outside of a home, where we were never contacted ahead of time. More commonly, though, the appraiser needs access to your house to complete a thorough appraisal. Appraisers aren’t going to care if you are home but please respect their need to get things done and don’t be chit chatty.

The hubs, helping me put signs out for my super-cool Beaver Creek listing that just closed earlier this month!

During this process the agreed-upon title company will work on getting all aspect’s of your property’s title put together and submitted to both parties in the transaction. Generally speaking, most titles are clean but sometimes an easement through your property or a long-lost cousin Vinny are discovered and may affect the sale moving forward. More negotiations could happen because of this but, again, this is not overly common.

Our office has successfully partnered with First American Title Company although there are others who are great to work with, too. FATCO, as we call them, has offices all over in a variety of states so we can usually handle transactions for buyers who aren’t in our immediate community.

At this point you are pretty much set to coast into your anticipated closing! While I learned right off the bat that “nothing is closed until its closed”, you tend to have a feel for transactions once you’ve got a few behind you.

Buyers can close in a different state and overnight paperwork to wherever you are closing. Your title company will be communicating with your bank and your real estate agent the entire transaction to make sure this all happens. The title company will pro-rate things like taxes, Home Owner Association dues, propane and other things and they will also handle everything you have negotiated regarding the home and title inspections. They will also arrange paying-off any outstanding mortgages or liens on the property you are selling.

A fun showing that turned into The One for awesome buyers I represented a couple of years ago!

When its time to close, bring a photo ID and a blank check or deposit slip for where the funds are to be deposited. Don’t plan on writing a check for a brand new truck after you leave the title company because it can take another day before funds are deposited. In fact, in most cases, the closing isn’t even complete until the title company records the deed that you just signed over.

So that’s listing and selling your home in a nutshell!

No two transactions are alike, however, and what is currently happening in your community may affect how you negotiated various things. For example, it is really challenging finding a builder right now in Seeley Lake so while you might be able to get electrical or plumbing issues sorted out post-inspection, you may have to offer funds back at closing for things a building contractor would fix.

As licensed real estate professionals, it is our job to explain these things to you and try to find the best solution for everyone. We want our sellers to be happy and we also want a buyer and their agent to be happy as well. It makes for warm fuzzies all-around and it also makes us more likely to want to work with another agent down the road if we have shared a good transaction that closed with all parties content.

The view from that closed Beaver Creek transaction. Buyer’s agent and I shared a positive, professional experience on this and I am more than happy to work with him again!

I recommend using a licensed real estate agent when listing your home. Most of us won’t “just do the paperwork” on For Sale By Owner (FSBO) listings- it isn’t worth our license if something hinky goes down. We will generally steer you towards a lawyer who can handle everything for you if you want to list or purchase as a FSBO. Online sale sites do not have actual humans running some of the listings so there can be a lot of variance and not much accountability.

If you have questions about real estate, please ask! The market is hot if you’re a seller right now but make sure you have somewhere to move into ahead of time if you’re going to list a decent home in Seeley Lake!

Not where I wanted to find Jockey just now!
And, yes, this is what I mostly do but I enjoy helping my real estate clients make their dreams come true, too!
This isn’t new news but the twitter post from the Book Excellence Awards happened this week! Just another of the versions of Me!

The Truth About Small Town Veterinarians… at least, this one


I had some pretty high hopes when I opened Seeley Swan Veterinary in our tiny little town several years ago.

I figured it would be something akin to the lives of James, Siegfried and Tristan, without the cows. I was game.


There are things, though, that weren’t quite the same about the community I lived in and the foggy, rainy one where All Creatures took place.

After our first 2 years here, for example, I was the only doctor of any kind. My husband had tried working here but there wasn’t enough volume to keep him busy.

You would think that would have been a clue but I kept going. Remember, I was game!

I knew I was in for something whenever a client would glance left and right then ask me in a serious voice if I was just like a real doctor… “like, I can ask or tell you anything”….


Had I wanted to listen to human problems I would have applied to med school. I wanted to play with cats and dogs and ponies and ferrets.

And yet…

“I have this lump. Down there,” said a client as he started to unbutton his jeans. Apparently the lump didn’t affect his “performance” (his words).


I had a few people show me their rotten teeth, asking whether or not I thought they should see a dentist.

I think, in general, if you’re asking your veterinarian about your lumps and smelly teeth then, yes, you should see someone who deals with those things regularly.


There are some amazing perks to being the only vet in a close-knit community. Like my buddy, Rocky, who I would see walking on the streets with his folks as well as in my clinic.


And Spike, the happiest pittie in the world, who would bound into the clinic and sit looking up at me like this every single time he came in.

I miss our Dog Days of Summer celebrations that incorporated a walkathon fundraiser for the local shelters, agility trials and dog shows.


Knowing just about everyone allows for some fun events, like puppy parties, holiday open houses, summer celebrations and school or Brownies tours.


I miss those things.

The smiles on kindergarten faces as they rode my hydraulic tilt surgery table.

The looks of astonishment on first or second graders as I showed them roundworms preserved in a little jar of clear fluid.

The wide-eyed Brownies viewing radiographs of a little dog’s bladder that was full of obvious stones.

The joy, relief and love on the faces of grown-ups as they picked up their healthy seniors after another anesthetic procedure went very well.


I miss going to my cute little clinic in Big Red, my ’96 Dodge Ram with the vet box and humungous snow blade on the front, waving at every one, knowing everyone’s story.

I would tell Alistair something about just about every car on the road as he would take me to lunch.

“That’s so-and-so, who has one of the Great Danes.”

“Oh, that’s the couple whose older lab we just had to say goodbye to.”

“Whoop, don’t get too close to that one, he’ll be coming home from his noon bender. He has that nice lab I like so much.”


I miss the cuddles, the kisses, the Easy Cheese fan club and the satisfaction at being able to provide care in a cozy, safe environment when needed.

I even miss the beautiful goodbyes we were able to provide, often on a lovely rug with an angel on it.

Many tears were shed and many wonderful stories were shared during those quiet, tender visits.

For Hunter, Chessie, Snooksie, Tilly, Chase, Kodiak, Cybil, Scooter, Thelma, Koopie and Andi.

And so many more.

I am glad I was there when I was there.


But I’m glad I made the choice to close my little vet clinic last fall. The decision took me 2 years to make because I was proud of what we had built. I wasn’t ready to accept defeat.

Despite the no-pays and no-shows.


But they started to really add up.

Which is one of the things I don’t miss.

“I don’t have any money.”

5 words that I heard way too often, especially after we had gone over the amount individuals would owe after a planned spay or neuter with vaccinations.

I hand over your animal in excellent condition, having had a safe, warm surgery done where you won’t even see the sutures after, where they were taken care of as if they were my own pet, and you say you can’t pay?

And its a very small town where I have to see these people regularly.

“That’s the guy who stiffed me for 2 cat spays and won’t return our phone calls.”

“We can’t eat there- 2 of the servers are in Collections.”

“One of the waitresses there owes me a hundred bucks and has disconnected her phones.”


I had a lot of good folks make payments and I always appreciated their efforts. I know that accidents happen and you aren’t always prepared.

Many people are eager to tell me I was too nice.

Or a soft touch.

Or a sucker.


But then how would you handle it, knowing you were perfectly capable of saving an innocent animal’s life even if the owners were out of work?

Or they were rip-roaring drunk, slurring about their beloved dog they just drove over? (That one was a classic- as I stabilized the big lovable pooch and took radiographs of his beaten-up chest, the ‘dad’ fell down on my waiting room floor as he was making a phone call to get a ride.) The dog survived after a week in the big city. Never saw dollar one from them, myself.


I would hear about almost everything animal-related in our tiny town and it started to tear me apart.

Like the lovely lab puppy who I dropped everything for when the owner brought him in for a ‘dangling leg’. X-rays showed a clean femur fracture. Easy fix, especially on a young, vibrant, healthy pup.

Only I didn’t do orthopedic work here so we sent him off to the big city.

Apparently they could never come to terms on payment plans ahead of time so the guy brought his dog back home and shot it.

I would have taken that dog myself.

Clients who sat here while we fit that emergency in would have taken that dog.

“That’s the guy who shot his puppy.”

“That’s the dad who told me a bullet was a heck of a lot cheaper than a cat spay.”

“That’s the wealthy family who turfed their pup to the shelter because they didn’t want to deal with him anymore and they didn’t even leave a donation.”

I didn’t like where my conversations went and it was eating me up inside.

And I still had to see and mingle with these people in town.

The only answer, for my mental and financial health, was to close.

And yet, I miss bringing Cleo and UB to work as “shop dogs”.


I miss seeing my good friend, Lynn almost every day and sharing our lives and views with each other.

I miss seeing Fireman Frank and sharing our days and war-stories about drop-off kitties and neglected animals who will get their own blog someday.


I miss the great clients and friends who are out there and the summer people who always brought their pets back to me.

Sedona, Kula, Bruiser, Lucy, Ruby, Crosby, Duncan, Malcolm, Mackenzie, Cooper and many more.

But now I get to see these clients on the golf course and when we talk about dogs and cats and horses it is nostalgic and still happy.

I feel healthy in my mind and body and I’m not allowing myself to carry everyone’s burdens.

I’m a better person, wife and friend now and nobody asks me to check their lumps.

Or feel their lymph nodes.

Or look at their fungal infections to see if I think they are healing.

And that is the truth about this small-town veterinarian.