Realtors and real estate agents can learn a thing or two from a home remodeling expert when it comes to increasing their sales. For one, it does help if you can make your potential clients see the home you’re selling not in terms of what it is, but in terms of what it can be. As an architect at Auriemma Design, Emma Auriemma McKay helps homeowners achieve the house of their dreams through imaginative solutions that bring out the best living environment that bears their personal signature. Through her real estate sales mastery course, she also teaches realtors, real estate agents and loan officers these things too! Chatting with Jen Du Plessis in this episode, Emma tells us how realtors and real estate agents can train themselves to see properties from an architect’s point of view, help potential clients build an emotional connection to a home and increase their sales as a result.
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I wanted to let you know that we are holding a virtual summit, Thursday and Friday, November 12th and 13th. It’s called Who Moved My Business? If you’ve ever read the book Who Moved My Cheese?, we’re taking a little spin on that and talking about how to position yourself best for 2021. Given the fact that we’re still going to be in COVID and more importantly, things are not going back to normal. They are going to be like this for the future because everyone has realized how valuable it is to be able to do virtual events. I wanted to let you know that we are having that event. It’s a free event. It’s complementary. We’d love to have you join us for two days as we talk about everything and anything to help your business grow in 2021 by talking about Who Moved My Business? What are you going to do? Are you going to sit back or you’re going to plan for the future because the future is a series of nows? What you’re doing right now affects your future. Come on over and join us. Spend two days with us and learn as much as you possibly can to get yourself a great launch and jump-start into 2021. I can’t wait to see you there.
I have a great guest with me, Emma Auriemma-McKay. She is the author of Homeowner’s Guide to Stress-Free Remodeling. Let me tell you a little bit about her. After going through her own home remodels and experiencing firsthand how overwhelming it can be on the other side of the drawing board because she is an architect, Emma realized how important it is for homeowners to have a guide. She brings a unique perspective and understanding of your remodel project that allows you to avoid expensive mistakes that homeowners make all too often. She educates realtors and that’s why we have her on the show. She walks her client on the entire process and finished with a beautiful new home that they can be proud of. She has over 25 years in the architectural space and we’re delighted to have her here. She and I were talking on the phone the first time we met and said, “We should have recorded this because it could have been its own show.” Emma, welcome to the show. I’m happy that we finally made this happen.
It’s a pleasure to be here.
We’re going to dive in and I want to make sure that everyone understands why I brought you on the show because most loan officers are going, “I’m a loan officer. How come I have an architect who’s talking to us about remodeling and all that?” We have real estate agents that read as well. This is a unique perspective. I’m going to have you talk about that perspective on how loan officers that are reading can share this with the real estate agents, and how the real real estate agents that are reading can provide this and share this with their clients as well so they don’t take away all their sales. As homeowners, every one of us is going to read. If you could give us a perspective on how we could use what you’re about to tell us about remodeling to move our businesses forward.
It’s having the perspective of an architect because I can see possibilities in almost any property. My course that I’m teaching for realtors is helping them see those possibilities. Especially now, there’s a limited amount of properties on the market and people may be settling. They’re not happy with the houses they have to buy. I’m giving value to the realtor so they can help their clients envision that this house is perfect for them. It may take some fixing up and my other programs can help them do that. It’s helping the realtor help their clients.
The other thing I get into with my programs too is as we talk about those changes and modifications, I also give estimates for the projects. These aren’t to be quoted as we know. We don’t want to get anybody in trouble but it’s an idea. When you’re talking to your client, you can give an idea of how much it’s going to cost to do certain things and what the return on investment could be, and that could be helpful for sellers as well. That’s where the mortgage people can come in. Getting this idea of what a budget’s going to be, they can have an idea of what they’re going to have to apply for their mortgage. There are other products available for remodeling. It helps both ends of the spectrum there.
I teach and coach real estate agents as well. One of the courses I teach is Real Estate Sales Mastery, RESM. One of the things that we talk about in there is how do you sell a house? A lot of times it’s, “This is a 3-bedroom, 2-bath. Go ahead and go on in look, and then we’ll meet back outside or I’ll walk through with you.” They go, “I kind of like it.” Then the agent says, “Let me see if there are other houses available. I don’t know. There’s not a lot of inventory,” and not offering solutions to them. It can increase the number of sales even if you had 1 or 2 more sales a year because you put in the extra time 5 to 10 minutes to say, “What if you did this? What if you could do that?” Looking at the different angles so that people do take action on homes that they maybe don’t like on the surface. You and I talked about this before. It’s like the Property Brothers show, “It looks like this but let me tell you what it could look like.” If we can pull that down into the everyday realtor, that could make a big difference.
It’s the contractor, Jonathan, who sells the house, but the other thing is people have to connect with the house. It’s a very emotional experience. The other thing I talk about is when I do a project, I have to get intimate on how they live and what they do in the house. That’s what I try and help people understand too. If you know that they like to have coffee in a special sunny corner in their family room and you’re walking through the house and the orientation of the house, you can say, “Here’s that spot where can have your coffee.” They can say, “I can see that.”
Now everybody’s doing virtual house tours. How the owner tells their story about why they love the house and where are their special spots. By walking into a house, whether it’s furnished or empty, you don’t know those special spots in the house. I always love to give an example of my house. We didn’t build it, but in my bathroom when I stand in my shower, there’s a mirror on my closet door that reflects the mountains. There’s a window there. When I look the other way, I see out the clear-story window down the valley. I know nobody planned that, but it’s those special things that if I was selling this house, I could tell them that. We have a back deck and we have a front deck. When it’s hot, we go up in the morning and work on the top deck. To know how people have used this house and what’s special about it can start emotionally connecting people to that house. That’s what’s going to sell the house.
I love that because I teach it to the realtors. I’ve taught that for years because the listings are like, “This is a custom-built home and it has granite countertops.” It’s not virtual all the time. Ask the seller, what is their favorite part about the house? We have the same thing as well. We have a way a glass goes, and I love sitting out on the porch. We’re on 21 acres. I’m out in the country and I love sitting on the porch in the morning and listening to the animals, and the breeze is perfect. Those types of things are certainly helpful. I love that concept and I love that you’re sharing that with everybody too. Since we’re in the COVID challenge now, what are you seeing is happening? Are people more apt to remodel their own home? You’ve already addressed the challenge of there’s not a lot of inventory and they’re out looking. I know that new building is growing exponentially. Builders are busier than ever because there are not enough inventories. What are you seeing in this? Is it a little bit of everything or are you seeing a lot of remodeling from people?Emotionally connecting people to a house is what’s going to sell it. Click To Tweet
A little bit of both. People are looking for bigger houses. It depends on their situation. Adults, children, and elderly people are moving back into the nuclear home. In that instance, they would need larger homes, but people are remodeling like crazy too. It’s a little bit more financially economical to stay where you are and remodel rather than buy a new place. They’re looking for more space to have their conference calls, to have their kids have a study area. It’s finding new space in your old home, being creative and seeing if there is a big hallway. Maybe you could put a desk up there and things that are multipurpose. Maybe during the day if the kids are studying, you can have like a fold-up desktop that comes up and down. In the guestroom there’s a Murphy bed, so you don’t have to have the whole bed in the guestroom. It’s making minor changes.
I’m sitting in my office, technically it’s a formal living room. We’ve been in our home for sixteen years, for a long time and it’s been my office at home. When I chose to work from home and then when I retired, it became my full-time office. We did have an office upstairs and a bedroom but I felt disconnected from the house and from the rest of the family. I said, “I want it on the main floor. I want to be able to see outside.” I’m in a bay window so I get to see straight outside onto the property and I can see people coming into our long driveway and everything. We were talking about maybe we should convert one of those bedrooms, even though we need it when the kids are here because now my husband’s working from home and I’m sick of the kitchen table being his office for the past months now.
It’s just those minor adjustments. Sometimes a floor plan could be easily converted into a separate unit. In one of my presentation I have some examples of that. Just by closing off part of the hallway, put a door or a wall, it can be a separate unit. Depending on your situation and the floor plan, you can do a lot of things. I always advise having a professional look at it because we do that all the time.
I’m an HGTV junkie for beach and lake renovation. I’m not so much regular home renovations. I’m for the beach and whatever but when they finish, I’m like, “I wouldn’t have thought of this. I wouldn’t have thought of that.” Professionals are important. One of the things that you say in your book is about how remodeling can change your life. Can you share a little bit about how remodeling can change your life?
I have a story about a client. They had two early teens. They had 2 bedrooms and 1 bathhouse. We did a second story. Dad got an office, they had the master suite upstairs and the kids got their own bedrooms. They did share a bath and they said, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” That’s what happens. Everyone’s life, you have a life of ease. When you’re doing a project like that, you get to add your special signature on it, so it gives you pride. It’s a sense of accomplishment and you can enjoy your life. If you’re in a house where you have a big family coming to visit all the time and you’re cramped and you don’t have enough space, it doesn’t make it fun. When you get things working to suit your life and your lifestyle, it makes it so much better.
I can see it because it could bring families together. I think about my own experience. My degree is in architecture as well. When I designed my mom and dad’s house, I had a footprint that had already been created and it was there. They were going to build a house. They thought there was going to be a nuclear something or other. They built the house into the mountain in Colorado and 8-foot walls high. These were concrete and there were 24 inches thick because they thought, “It’s going to happen.” It was like a soapbox in the mountain. That was the footprint I had.
I drew the house-plan up and stuff. They built the house and everything, and then we had kids, we had more kids, and then we moved away. When we came back, I was older. The only place for me to sleep was on a pullout couch. I was like, “We should have made an extra bed.” We got to the point where we wanted to stay at a hotel because it wasn’t comfortable. You lose all of those beautiful memories with grandma and grandpa when you stay at a hotel and you don’t stay at their house. The simple things in life if we’re talking about it. One of the things that you also talk about in the book is hard-one lessons that you don’t have to pay for. If you could share with us, what would be some of the lessons that realtors and loan officers need to be sharing with clients of what not to do as they’re thinking about renovation?
The first thing is understanding what the budget is. I stress this over and over in the book. There’s a simple rule of thumb to figure out what a budget can be. When you come up with that number, that’s not the construction budget. That’s not the total budget. That is what it’s going to cost the square foot, but there are permit fees involved, there’s an architectural fee involved, there’s the engineer, and other city fees involved. That can be up to 25% of the budget. I give a breakdown of all that. I can’t remember all those but that’s only 75% of your total budget. That’s an important thing to know. The other thing is when they’re doing a project is to evaluate, “Am I going to be here for a long time? Are we going to do this and sell it?” You want to know how much you want to invest in it and the return on investment. How long you should live there to reap it back? Although it’s the enjoyment factor too.
Let’s use us as an example. During COVID, we’ve done a lot of improvements and things like the white carpet here, which we bought or we had when we first moved in. We ordered wood floors, so we’re going to have wood all the way throughout the bottom. This leaves our forest green tile bathroom. It’s funny because I lease my house in an Airbnb but I didn’t take a picture of that room. A few people have said, “Can we have a picture of the master bathroom?” I’m like, “Here, you can have it,” but the big bad world is not going to have it because it is forest green. It goes up the wall because we have a walk-in shower and it’s a big beautiful thing.
We’re in that crux of saying, “Do we sell or do we not sell?” Because our house is too big for us. It’s just the two of us. The land’s a lot. I said, “Until we know whether we should sell because we were going to put it on the market and suffer through it. I know it’s green, make us an offer or we were going to just renovate it.” We’re now at the point where we’re saying, “We’re not going to sell right now.” That’s where we’re drawing the line in the sand. We need to do this renovation but what if we change our mind right after we did the renovation. How much emotion should be in this renovation?A house remodeling can change your life. Click To Tweet
Do I go the way I want it or do I go the way that it looks ten times better? We’re going to get it, but do I go the way of looking like, “Let’s make it look like it’s an updated, but let’s not put all the high-end stuff in it.” What is your thought on that without knowing how you’re going to end up? Part of some of the problems that I have as a challenge in remodeling is, I don’t know if I want to spend the money at all. I don’t know if I should go high-end. I don’t know if I should go right in the middle so I can somewhat enjoy a new bathroom, but it’s not all the stuff I would keep if I was going to stay here another fifteen years.
What I would say is the tile can be refinished. You could make it white or you could make it another color. That would save a whole lot of money. You’re going to redo the floor, that makes sense. Maybe change out the countertop and the lighting fixtures and that will make a big difference for starters. If you decide to stay then take that tile out and put some other solid surface or something.
I’m surprised you said that because I’ve been looking at my husband like, “You can’t paint tile. You can’t do that because then it’s going to scratch off.” You have a technique that we’re going to talk about. A couple of things also is you have a podcast as well called Stress-Free Remodeling. If someone’s reading to this, they can send their clients there, go there themselves, listen more so they know what it’s about. Tell us a little bit about what you talk about on the podcast and some of the guests that you have on your podcast?
What I try and do with that one is to introduce every aspect of remodeling you might come across with. I’ve had a contractor. I’ve had a feng-shui person, I’ve had lenders. There are all those different aspects to think about when you’re remodeling. I do also have the podcasts for realtors.
I was going to say that too, the Real Estate Professionals.
I hope you’ll be my guest soon too. What would I do with that one is as I’m teaching a new technique to realtors, I get people who are offering different techniques on things about marketing, how to voice who you are in your marketing message? There’s going to be a feng-shui person on that too talking about staging, and all those different aspects that normally you don’t get in your typical classes. It’s been a guess.
I know that you also have a couple of gifts for our readers as well. I know you have a home remodeling checklist and then insider secrets for selling homes fast. If you’re a realtor, that’s what you want. If you’re a loan officer, what a great gift that you could be giving to your listing agents as a means for working with them because that is something that is important on how to sell them a home fast. A lot of times when a house sells quickly, it’s because it was underpriced and everybody’s proud of that. I’m going, “If it’s sold that quickly then it was probably underpriced.” That’s one thing that bothers me. You also have a Realtor’s Success Kit. Can you tell us a little bit about that? That probably goes in line with maybe one of the courses that you offer as well.
I’ll mention the gift too. There are tons of information on that. It talks about those three insider secrets. It talks about light quality, floor plans, features. I mentioned about the return on investments. There are some charts in there. There are some estimates of costs on things like changing a window into a door. It’s valuable information and it talks about the psychological why the quality is so good, and how it can help sell a house. The checklist is great for someone thinking about remodeling. It goes through the flow chart how a project should progress.
I talked about being fit to remodel, having your finances in order, having clear ideas of what you’re going to do, and then finding your right contractor and professionals to help you. The course on Realtor’s Success Kit, I’ve bought that course accredited for continuing education classes in Nevada. Online, you’ll see it’s only $25 and a no-brainer. I am hoping to get it certified in many other states, but it’s great resources. It’s a three-hour class. It dives deep into all that we’ve talked about and so far, people are loving it.
It’s $25. Go get it and watch it. Who cares if you don’t get the CE for it? It’s just three hours for a great price. You’ll learn a lot of things that you could take to grow your business again. That’s what we’re talking about here all the time. I want to leave with a tip. One other tip that you have that is just gangbusters on remodeling.The biggest thing about a remodeling is getting to have a space that is truly your own. Click To Tweet
The big thing is having a space that is yours and that’s the only way you can make it, whether you’re building from the ground up or remodeling. There are many little features and details that usually aren’t existing in a place. It’s making your space your own and making it feel the way you want. That is enriching for ourselves. We spend 90% or probably more than that now of our lives indoors and in our homes. We want our environments to serve us and make us feel good.
I call that the Fuzzy ROI. It should feel warm and fuzzy because there’s fuzzy ROI in everything. We’re in the process of looking at another boat selling one and buying another. Emma, thank you for sharing the time with us. We appreciate it. I want to encourage everyone who’s reading, everything that I talk about is taking things into action. Get the $25 course and learn something from it. Share it with your realtor friends. If you’re a realtor, share it with your loan officer friend because you’re working together to help clients. This will make your business much better. If you’re thinking about remodeling, go out and grab her book, Homeowner’s Guide to Stress-Free Remodeling.
You’re going to love the book. I’m a big highlighter. I go through books and I highlight everything. That’s why I knew I wanted to talk to you about a couple of things because they were chapters that I thought were good and simple read. I love how you’ve blended architecture with the remodeling in a way that I’ve never seen an architect do before. They do their job and drop plans. Here you’re out there reaching into the mortgage real estate space and also consumer space to help them not go through so much havoc and stress. Thank you for doing that and for giving us your wisdom.
That’s been wonderful. Thank you.
We will catch you next time.
- Who Moved My Cheese?
- Homeowner’s Guide to Stress-Free Remodeling
- Stress-Free Remodeling – Apple Podcasts
- Real Estate Professionals – Apple Podcasts
- Realtor’s Success Kit
About Emma Auriemma-McKay
Emma Auriemma-McKay is an architect and interior designer who has gotten her hands dirty in the trenches working on property flips. She realized how overwhelming remodeling a home can be for a person who is not in the building industry doing it all the time. Because she believes everyone should live in a home they love Emma helps them get there with the program she created- the Ultimate home Remodeling Blueprint and wrote her #1 Best Seller Homeowner’s Guide to “Stress-Free Remodeling”. Doing the flips she got into the realm of real estate, buying and selling. She realized many processes she does as an architect could benefit a realtor such as envisioning the possibilities of a property. She now teaches realtors this skill so they can help their clients envision how any home can be transformed into their dream home. As a result Realtors can sell more homes faster for maximum commissions. She also hosts two podcasts Stress-Free Remodeling for homeowners to learn about remodeling and Real Estate Professionals to help them increase their property selling tactics.
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