August 9, 2018

JF1437: Here?s What You Can Do To Increase Equity In Any Property with Julia Nyman

Julia started as a realtor in 2015. She is on track to sell over 100 homes in her first three years. Along with doing the normal listing agent duties, she helps sellers with some renovations that will help them get more money on the sale. This really helps residential sales, but also helps us as investors to get top dollar on our properties when we sell.


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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Julia Nyman. How are you doing, Julia?

Julia Nyman: Hi, I am good. Thank you so much for having me. I am grateful to be here today.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, grateful that you’re on the show as well. A little bit about Julia – she is the CEO of Homes With Julia. She’s a listing and buyers specialist; she’s mostly focused on residential retail, but she also helps clients with remodeling projects to help increase the equity in their homes. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, and her website – There’s also a link to that in the show notes page.

With that being said, Julia, can you give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Julia Nyman: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m born and raised in the Baltimore Metro Area. I originally went to college in the health focus; I went into non-profit work pretty quickly, I realized that I loved the mission, not quite what my specific role was… I had a friend who knew a small residential-based property management company up in Hartford County, which is probably 30 minutes North of Baltimore City… And they were looking for a bookkeeper; they brought me on anyway, brought their bookkeeper back probably 2-3 weeks later, and kept me on as marketing and admin for them.

They never really trained me, so I kind of developed my own role as executive assistant to their main property manager, I networked for them, marketed for them, listed all the properties for rent, met all the tenants, signed all the leases… And really just realized after about a year of working with them with no real growth opportunity (because they were a small company) that everything I loved to do was really what a realtor does full-time.

So in September 2015 I broke out, gave my one month’s notice, got a part-time waitressing job to pay the bills a little bit, and jumped head first into real estate. It took me six months to sell my first house; year one I sold 23 homes, year two with my husband that I brought on and a buyer partner that we had, we sold closer to 35, and I’m on my track for about 45 myself this year, in year three.

It’s been an amazing journey, I am so grateful for each and every one of the clients who has trusted me with this, and we really try to specialize on client experience and customer service… And I know that you’re excited to talk about remodeling and how I help clients build their equity themselves… And I feel like part of that is really engulfed in the listing process, because when a home seller goes to list their property up for sale, there are usually a list of things that they can do that are fairly simple to build the equity back into their home, instead of selling for a lower price and therefore giving that equity away to the potential buyers who write offers and get that property.

So I’ve really developed a system for that and I’ve got some great contractor partners that I’ve been working with to help me carry that action plan out… And it’s been awesome.

Joe Fairless: Oh, you piqued my curiosity, that’s for sure… So what are some things on that list of things to do that we can easily – or not as an involved process – do to build equity in our home(s) prior to selling?

Julia Nyman: I’m more than happy to after this call give you a link to 1) my Facebook page, Home Transformation and Renovations, where I really post regularly in there and have a lot of interaction with people about some of those things… But also an article that I’ve written with my top 10 tips for home sellers out there, or renovators, to make sure that that checklist has really been completed.

But one of the major things, and the top couple of things that we focus on, honestly, are paint, deep cleaning, simple curb appeal, and maybe some slight updates to really kind of streamline the approach – maybe new cabinet fixtures, or a new faucet, or new paint to some cabinets… But we find when we go into homes, a lot of people have really (how do I say this…?) designed the property for their very specific taste…

Joe Fairless: Right…

Julia Nyman: …and when you list a property for sale, you wanna focus on reaching as many potential buyers as possible, which really means neutralizing and making everything more simple. So decluttering, depersonalizing, a deep, deep cleaning of everything, and freshening up some colors is really what we focus on (step 1). Then sometimes the kitchen is outdated, the bathrooms are outdated, maybe the house could use a power-washing, and those things will have a whole action plan list afterwards… Because we really find buyers are going to come into a property and double the cost of what those things would actually be when they visually see them and think about what they’re gonna have to spend to take care of it themselves.

So for sellers to do that ahead of time, they’re actually building in equity for themselves, instead of selling at a discounted rate because buyers feel like there’s so much more to do when they get in the home than there really is.

Joe Fairless: And they might not even get offers from those individuals who are thinking the “Pink walls with the purple backsplash is just too much trouble, so I’m not even gonna make an offer”, when in reality it’s pretty simple to fix, but they just don’t wanna deal with it.

Julia Nyman: Exactly, and that is really the masses. Some buyers wanna come in and build equity for themselves and get a great deal, but honestly, in my experience, when they actually look at what it’s gonna take to get that deal, they just wanna walk away and don’t wanna deal with it at all… So yeah, I find that that’s a great thing for my sellers, and I love when I can bring that full circle and really see the transformation that it makes in their experience.

Joe Fairless: Can you think of a specific example where you worked with a seller, and they were going to list it, or you, or they wanted to list it at X price, and then you did something and then you listed it at the other increased price, and you got it?

Julia Nyman: Yes, probably my favorite example — well, I feel  like the best example of this I will see transform and happen in real life probably in about a month or so, but in a past experience I had  a home in Catonsville, right outside of Baltimore City. This area has great schools and very unique, beautiful, historic homes in some of the blocks; I actually grew up there, so I was very passionate about this project…

I had a seller, and when I walked in, in my opinion, they needed fresh paint, the basement had water coming in, the bathrooms were from the ’90s, the roof was on the bridge of leaking… They had a lot of projects, so I basically laid it out on the table for them and I said, “Hey, buyers in this price range are going to be scared away from a lot of these things that they’re gonna feel that they need to do, that may be more expensive than how they actually are.”

So we talked about a 399k list price if they hadn’t done any of those projects and if they had just moved forward with the sale as is… But then we also talked about spending about 25k-30k to update the roof, do some bathroom updates, freshen the paint, refinish a little bit of the flooring, and… Water-proofing the basement was probably the biggest expense that they incurred… But we ended up listing right around 480k and getting a contract right around 475k, with two weeks on the market.

So I truly believe that we built in a lot of equity for them where they would have lost a lot by having buyers not actually see the full potential of that property.

Joe Fairless: Oh yeah, you made them $50,000.

Julia Nyman: It was awesome.

Joe Fairless: And then not that you’re thinking about this primarily, but when you do that, you also get an increased commission, so you make money along with them, which is great.

Julia Nyman: Yeah, we don’t talk about that all the time, but [unintelligible [00:08:47].05] a really hard time seeing what the market value is for their home (maybe they wanna list 20k-30k above) one of the most common conversations we have is exactly what you said – make more from selling your home for more. If I truly believed that you could get that value, why wouldn’t I want to list at that same price with you?

So our goals are ultimately the same, and it’s really awesome when we can make a true difference for people.

Joe Fairless: In the real estate world you started out working for a property management company… What are some lessons you learned there that you apply to what you do now?

Julia Nyman: That’s a great question… I feel like that real estate experience that I had that first year was really an internship on what this process looked like. I got to work second-hand with a lot of people who maybe wanted to sell and had to rent because of the market crash and the experience that they’re having with how much equity they have in their home, or how much they don’t have.

I learned a lot about exactly what I’ve said before – what fresh paint and a little bit of carpet and a cleaning can do, and I also learned how to really have those conversations with people… Because whether they’re looking to rent or sell, the conversations might be more severe and the stakes may be higher, but it’s relatively a similar process… So I got to kind of start on the ground level with some of the more basic processes and build up from there.

Joe Fairless: When you have those conversations, what are some pointers that you’ve picked up on?

Julia Nyman: With my clients and comparing them…?

Joe Fairless: Yeah.

Julia Nyman: So over the last couple of years we’ve primarily — yes, I’m the CEO of Homes With Julia LLC, but I work with [unintelligible [00:10:21].23] Real Estate in Columbia; we are a very small boutique brokerage, and I joined them back in December because we have a couple top agents and I have a goal of “How do we perfect client experience and the customer service experience in real estate?”

Some of the things that we do at the very beginning that I find that not many other people do or have the experience with is real preparation for what the process is going to look like from start to finish. On the buy side, before we meet with our clients we are sitting down for a full buyer consult and talking about the market in which they’re looking to buy a property, and what that process is going to look like, how much inspections are going to cost, how quickly that process will take, any road bumps that they may get in, so that once they ask those questions moving forward, they’re  more memory joggers and they’re more prepared and have less fear about the overall experience.

On the listing side we’re doing a very similar thing – we’re going through all the steps about what that process is going to look like, what is their action plan from the day that they say “Okay, I’m ready for pictures”, what is their move-out strategy… When sellers sell a property, they may have another property locked up, ready to move into, or they may have to purchase something else and be contingent on that sale. What does that process look like for them? Are they going to have to stay in a hotel overnight and move in quickly the next day? Are they going to be able to rent back? Are they gonna be able to stay with friends and family until they really find the house of their dreams? Or is it an investor, and  what does that process look like of inspections, and making sure that licensed contractors are doing the repairs while we’re under contract… I know that your podcast is everywhere; some of these things I’m mentioning are really specific to our Baltimore Metro market, but I’m sure a lot of these things also apply to the general area.

Joe Fairless: Have you always been proactive and methodical with your client, or has that been an evolution?

Julia Nyman: Great question. I was really lucky to start my career where I did, with Keller Williams and with the mentors that I had. I felt that I got a lot of education on some of the ways that I can really add value to my clients’ lives, so I feel that some of it  really started there. I had a couple awesome mentors that showed me what they do, and I kind of perfected my own system as such… But some of it is just — I’ve been in customer service since I started working when I was 13-14 years old in the restaurant business, so I’ve always had a customer service background… And like “Okay, this is a problem that we face”, and talking less about the problem, but more of what is the solution to that problem and how can we avoid that problem in the future.

So everything is just building and growing and making sure that we’re learning from our experiences.

Joe Fairless: Earlier you mentioned the list of things to do to build equity in your home… What are some things that people do unnecessarily that does not build equity in their home?

Julia Nyman: Great question. Probably the biggest thing that I find is that people start making updates to their home and getting it ready in the way that they see fit, before having a conversation with a local real estate professional that knows the specific market and what they can get for their home.

So I’ve walked into some properties when a client has already felt that they’ve completed that list, and they’ve spent an extra $30,000 that I will never be able to get back for them because they spent too much money and over-updated their home for the current and the current value of a specific neighborhood.

So that’s probably the hardest thing I come across, because there’s honestly no way of coming back from that. They’ve already spent the money, they already have the perception that that’s the value, and it’s a very hard conversation that we have to have about the real market and how things are selling in their specific area.

My recommendation would be have a professional out before you make those executive decisions.

Joe Fairless: And when you take a look at the most challenging aspect of your job, what is it?

Julia Nyman: What a loaded question, Joe…

Joe Fairless: [laughs] I like loaded questions, that way you can take whatever direction is top of mind.

Julia Nyman: So I am a perfectionist at heart; I love what I do and I always wanna make sure that everything is absolutely perfect from start to finish… So I think the hardest part of my job is not being in control of the entire process or knowing what is coming down the pipeline in reference to the other portion of a sale.

When you’re working with a seller, you can prepare them all day long for the process and what’s gonna happen, but you have no idea what is going to be important to that specific buyer who’s gonna make an offer on that property, the buyer’s agent on the other side, the title company… So a lot of the issues that come up are really just situational, and making sure everyone is on the same page. That’s probably one of the most difficult things I deal with – encountering the problems and the situations that come up, and getting everyone on the same page moving forward.

Joe Fairless: What’s a way that you now do that to the best of your ability?

Julia Nyman: The reason that this is one of the biggest problems is because — besides preparing and learning from the experiences and just growing as a professional and having more experiences to help you if those ever come up again, I feel like in every single real estate transaction there’s something new that comes up. There’s an easement agreement between a neighbor that has never been created, or an estate that blocks you from getting to that easement agreement, or a basement that floods a couple days before the settlement, and the parties involved want it taken care of one way, where the other parties involved want it taken care of another way… So some of it is just the nature of the beast, and one of the reasons that I feel that the Zillows and the Redfins out there who wanna take this process completely digitally will have a really hard time doing that, because it’s a living, breathing transaction where you need real people involved, who understand that specific market there and how to work with people.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience, what’s your best advice ever for real estate investors?

Julia Nyman: To prepare as much as you can and really have mentors going in that you can go to when you have questions. We just purchased our first two investment properties last year, renovated them and refinanced them, we placed tenants… We’re in the process of actually selling one of them, but if we didn’t prepare in the ways that we did or have the connections that we had it would have been a much more difficult experience.

For example, I always recommend, even if you’re gonna use hard money and find money somewhere else, it’s great to have some money built up for that investment to start out with, because you’ll need some of your own cash in the transaction, or issues come up…

In the Baltimore Metro Area there are some great Facebook groups and online groups that meet regularly, with education and things like that… So we have the Baltimore Real Estate Investors Network here, and people are posting daily, with deals, or solutions to problems, or problems that they’re facing, asking questions… And my husband has really been taking the front of that for us, and he has learned a lot from that page.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Julia Nyman: Oh man, I hope so…

Joe Fairless: [laughs] I’m sure you are! First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:17:54].07] to [00:18:54].10]

Joe Fairless: Okay, best ever book you’ve most recently read?

Julia Nyman: You’re a Badass.

Joe Fairless: Well, thank you for that — no,  what did you get out of that book?

Julia Nyman: I love that book because it’s all about motivation and your mindset in life. I find that mindset and the way that you carry yourself really depicts your reality, no matter what happens to you and what comes down the pipeline… So I’ve found that book to be extremely useful in just starting each day on the right track.

Joe Fairless: Best ever transaction you’ve worked on?

Julia Nyman: Honestly, I’m probably going to say my personal real estate transaction. Anyone who knows me or this situation that we are in would probably open their eyes wide on that one, because it’s been the most difficult one of my life, but it’s also been the most educational and eye-opening experiences of my life.

I’ve learned a lot about the type of people out there, I’ve learned a lot about how important it is to have representation even if you are a professional in the industry, and how emotional that experience can be and how much that can cloud judgment when you’re in it yourself instead of working with a client.

Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction?

Julia Nyman: Representing myself in my personal real estate transaction this past year.

Joe Fairless: What happened with that transaction? Just high-level.

Julia Nyman: High-level… When you have a big emotional stake in a purchase or a sale or anything, there can be a lot of things that will cloud your judgment and say “Oh, I can just deal with that later” or “Oh, that’s not a big deal” when you would really be fighting to death to get something taken care of for a client of yours… Just like you don’t diagnose yourself when you have an illness, or you don’t represent yourself when you go to court; you hire an attorney.

In real estate I think it’s very important to hire a professional. We also have a pact in my office that we won’t represent ourselves, or we have the best 2 out of 3 rule… There are a couple professionals and I, and we make sure that everyone is one the same page about decisions, so that everyone has their say and can help each other make the best ones possible.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Julia Nyman: We built a system for giving back at our brokerage this past year, and what we did was we created a system where we have five non-profits that we work with on an annual basis, and we take a portion of our proceeds from every transaction and donate it to one of those organizations, and we let our clients choose who on that specific transaction that they’re working with.

So it’s a way to involve our clients in our own system for giving back, and everyone has really loved it.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you?

Julia Nyman: They can contact me on Facebook, or Instagram, or shoot me an e-mail at

Joe Fairless: And what’s the title of the article on the list of things to build equity in a home?

Julia Nyman: I will have to find that for you. I can shoot you an e-mail after here… I think  “Top 10 ways to get your home list ready” was the rough title of it, but I will e-mail that for you for your records.

Joe Fairless: Alright, we’ll put that link in the show notes page; Grant on our team will do that. Julia, thank you so much for being on the show and sharing your insight into how you help your clients get more equity in their home prior to sale, doing some relatively inexpensive things… But ultimately, who cares how much they cost, as long as we focus on the bottom line ROI? That’s really the case study that you mentioned earlier, the 399k list price, and then they did some roof, bathroom and refinishing the floor, and then basement water-proofing – all of it fairly light, with the exception of the basement water-proofing… Put in about $20,000, so they went from basically 400k to 420k (they put in 20k more), but then they got 475k under contract… A really cool case study.

Some things that you mentioned that we can do to build equity in our home – paint, deep cleaning, simple curb appeal, maybe some slight updates, declutter and depersonalize it… Those are kind of the two themes.

Thanks again for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Julia Nyman: Thank you so much for having me, and I will talk to you soon, Joe.

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