Broken Hearted

I’ve been going back and forth for the past few days about whether or not I would write about this here, and ultimately I’ve decided that this space is here for me to be a multifaceted and dynamic human with personal heartbreak and struggles behind my professional persona. As humans we bond through the common ground of our imperfections and our struggles, not our perfectly-curated social media lives. Isn’t it odd that we spend so much time stressing over perfection when it isn’t what brings us together in support of one another?

I’ve known for some time now that I would soon be losing Snoop Dog, my beloved Italian Greyhound that I’ve had since I was 19 years old. Knowing that a loss is coming doesn’t make it any easier to handle. On Sunday, the day I had been dreading came true and things moved much quicker than I had anticipated.

I thought that I would have control over timing and saying goodbye, but I didn’t. At 11am with him wrapped in our favorite blanket, laying next to me in bed as I made one of a million different phone calls of the day, Snoop stopped breathing and my world came to a crashing halt.

Snoop has been the constant presence in my daily life for over 15 years. Since picking him up from the breeder at 12 weeks old, he has been connected to me at the hip, usually quite literally. He has been my stage 5 clinger, best friend, cuddle buddy, partner in crime, chief invader of personal space, bed warmer, blanket stealer, the list can go on and on. He was the unwavering emotional support as I walked through the good and the bad of my life. I thank him every day for watching over me as I battled the most difficult depression of my life as I lost myself and my marriage, to then stand alongside me as I built myself back up again piece by piece. He was the only one with me each day and each moment in a little downstairs apartment in Asheville as the deepest, darkest emotions took hold of me and all I could concentrate on was continuing to breathe in and then back out again. He was the one thing that I brought from my old life in Rochester to my new life here in Charlotte.

Anyone who knew Snoop, knew that he was so much more than a dog. He was a feisty ball of energy that would make sure I knew his feelings on everything and everyone that we encountered. He had a huge personality and he always stood his ground. He knew how to joke and be silly, and always made me laugh. He loved a good puzzle but would only perform tasks for treats, and even then they needed to be good ones. If they weren’t up to par he would let me know. He was the only dog I’ve known that could be passive aggressive when he didn’t get his way and it cracked me up. Every. Single. Day.

Last year as I noticed his physical decline I got him his very own pitbull. He was NOT happy about it and he let it be known until he realized 1- she’s soft and warm to cuddle with, 2- he could boss her around and 3- she came into our lives to takeover as my canine caretaker. He no longer had to push himself to keep a close eye on me and make sure that I was ok. She took over as my shadow as I worked on projects at my home, became my hiking buddy and my protector from fierce predators like the Amazon delivery guy and any man who dared to take me on a date.

Words cannot begin to describe how much I miss my guy and the vast impact he’s had on me and my daily routine. Even the simplest task of opening the fridge door to make breakfast has ended tearfully as he would’ve been right under-foot letting me know that he was present and ready to steal anything that he could possibly reach out of the deli drawer. It has only been a few days, but I know that this sadness will be lingering. I miss my guy and I miss the joy he brought to our home.

Rest peacefully Mr. Man, until we meet again.

Know Thy Neighbor… and Neighborhood too

When searching for a home it’s great to shop online, and honestly, that’s the only way to be successful these days for the average homebuyer. While you can find out many details about the house you’re interested in, it’s almost impossible to learn about the area and the neighborhood unless you KNOW the area and the neighborhood. In Charlotte, one street can make all the difference between luxury living and “wouldn’t walk my dog there on a dark night,” so what can you do?

Many of my clients will ask my opinion, which I am always hesitant to give out for two reasons: one, anything I can say can be construed as trying to steer you one way or another (which is illegal), and two, I don’t have a good baseline of what you consider “safe” or “good” so any opinion I have might not align with what you’re looking for.

Case in point: I had a friend live with me for a few months and after the first week she said that she couldn’t believe that I lived in such a “rough” area. For context, I do live on the edge of two distinct neighborhoods, if you turn one direction out of my driveway you will see new homes ranging from 600-800k, and if you go out the other direction you will see questionable characters standing on street corners. I generally understand where my friend was coming from, but I also don’t agree with her. Alas, this is why I am so finicky about sharing my personal opinion, and instead I offer some options for my clients to make their own best decisions.

Safety

As with my friend, one person’s “safe” is another person’s “no way” so there are tons of online resources that I give to my clients including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department website, CrimeMapping.com and AreaVibes.com. It’s important to know that negative reports will always outweigh the good and it’s equally important to see what a rating would be for a city you know and are familiar with. You might just see that your lovely hometown doesn’t fair as well as you thought it did in these website ratings.

What’s most important, and something I stress that all of my clients do, is to drive around a neighborhood that they may be interested in. And I don’t just mean a quick drive on a sunny Sunday afternoon. What I actually mean is go there around dusk on a Friday night, drive through at midnight, take an extra few minutes one morning and drive what your commute to the office would be from that neighborhood. You would be surprised what you can find out about a neighborhood by taking a few extra minutes there.

Also, during your drive through I recommend taking a walk down a few streets during a time when people have just gotten out of work and will be the most active outside. This gives you an opportunity to say hello to the neighbors. While it can be a bit uncomfortable to speak to someone, most people are happy to talk about their neighborhoods and to connect over the mutual interest. They will also tell you the good and the bad, and will be much more candid with you than the sellers or their agent will be with me.

Fun example: in that 600k-800k part of my neighborhood there are a few older homes sprinkled throughout. One of those homes illegally keeps chickens on the property. This is a well-known detail within the neighborhood, they’ve been there for eons but how would you feel if your first Saturday morning in your new half-million dollar home started with a rooster crowing at 6:30am? While I’m certain it’s against city ordinances to keep farm animals within the city limits, there’s also something to be said for getting grandfathered in because you’ve been around for the last 25 years living your best chicken-keeping life in the same house, on the same block. Who are we to stop them?

Schools

A parent’s choice for their child’s education is deeply personal and has a hefty impact on that child’s future, so it’s a big deal. I have had appointments on the same day with different families, and one family thinks school X is absolutely amazing but only a few minutes later I hear that school X is absolutely terrible and this second family only wants their child to go to school Y. Both sets of parents are right. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone is entitled to pick their child’s education. Do not give me or any other real estate professional the power to tell you otherwise. Again, jump online and look at some school ratings, find the PTA and parent groups on social media, and talk to someone who has their kids in that school. You can ask all of the questions and get the unfiltered answers from the people who really know, and then make the best decision for you and your family.

It’s also important to note that school districting lines change every few years around here, so if there’s a school that you would like your child to be in it’s imperative that you go the extra mile. I can confirm with the seller’s agent and call the school district to double-check, however, there may be changes in the future that I’m unaware of. Parents and students that are going to be directly impacted by a change are the best to know details, so again, talk to your school’s PTA and parent groups for any pending details.

Here are some additional school resources, and of course there are more out there depending on where in Charlotte you’re interesting in buying:

  • Greatschools.org – widely known for rankings
  • MeckEd – shows some additional statistics for rankings in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and where they’re expected to go over the next few years
  • SchoolDigger – includes data from National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Census Bureau and the North Carolina Dept of Public Instruction
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District