By DahlELama and The_Obvious
Everyone remembers their first time—the fear, the anticipation, the excitement, the feeling of having no idea what you were doing but praying it wouldn’t matter. How many of us prayed for guidance in those dark and confusing times?
Well, your prayers have been answered, in the form of Sandra Rinomato, host of HGTV’s Property Virgins. If you haven’t seen the show—and shame on you if that’s the case—the gist is that Sandra takes prospective first-time home buyers on a search for their very first abode, talking them—and us—through all of the drama that comes with it. If you have, you know that Sandra’s advice and experience are invaluable. Fortunately for us, she’s graciously agreed to let us interview her and share some of that expertise with us!
What are some signs to you that a Property Virgin’s going to be great (or terrible) to work with?
When they give me a wish list that $1,000,000 wouldn’t even buy, and then once I explain that to them they giggle and say, “but you can do it Sandra!” Thanks for the vote of confidence but I can’t perform magic. People like that have a bigger learning curve than others. I actually like working with them, because I can really dig in and feel like I am helping them make some big decisions that will get them closer to their dream of home ownership. Without some tough love they won’t get anywhere and will eventually just give up on their dream.
We’ve noticed that people go crazy for double sinks in the master bath and stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen. Why are these features so desirable, especially when the latter has such a tendency to attract smudge marks?
A lot of these people are moving in together for the first time and just can’t imagine having to share one sink in the morning while they get ready for work. I mean, how can you live like that?! Ha ha. It always makes me think of post war homes that housed families of 6 or more, with one bathroom, 3 bedrooms and a tiny living room. They managed quite nicely, but our expectations are higher now. For some reason we feel that we need 1,000 feet per person, and at least one bath per. Oh, and don’t forget 1.5 cars each as well. Ok ok, I may be going off track here, but the reality is that we are very wasteful, very spoiled and want what we want, and we want it now. Luckily, builders have been able to turn this dream into reality with suburban sprawl. For the location focused person the double vanity won’t be as big an issue if they are looking at an area in the city or with older homes.
The love affair with stainless steel began maybe 20 years ago with the introduction of commercial type appliances. The very high end homes had the stainless gas ranges with 6 burners and a grill, the commercial hood fan, the big stainless frige. As with every trend, the more common it became the less expensive it became. And vice versa, the more affordable, the more common. I am not big on the stainless and I prefer other stone products to granite, but the general public is still attached to them. Some of my fans have a drinking game and every time someone says granite, hardwood or stainless steel they take a drink. Those are buzz words that some people equate with success. As for the finger prints, most of the new appliances are treated so the prints don’t show like they did on the original stuff.
Obviously Toronto’s the place to be in Canada, but what’s your favorite American city to do shows in and why?
Actually, Canada has some amazing places to live, from coast to coast and I really wish we could do a cross-Canada tour on PV. In the US I went to some really nice places. I had the most amazing time in San Diego because of the sunshine, the landscape, the plants that always seem to be in bloom, the ocean and the laid back way of life. I saw people in business wear park their car, don a wetsuit and go surfing at their lunch break. That was amazing to me. It’s just 2 hours south of LA but it may as well be on another planet. People were even nice on the roads! Driving was a pleasure there. Maybe I it stands out because it is so different from my native Toronto. Toronto is the 4th largest city in US/Canada. Philly, Boston, DC were cool too, but very similar to Toronto in many ways with regards to attitude. That’s not a bad thing, but I like San Diego because of the west coast vibe. That’s why I love Vancouver too. Talk about gorgeous!
We’ve seen Property Virgins get sold on everything from granite counter tops to fenced-in yards, but what are some of your favorite home features?
I like a nice walk out to the yard, with either a gorgeous stone patio or deck. I love to entertain at home so this is really a selling feature for me. I also love to think that the people I sell homes to will enjoy the home, and will love bringing family and friendsinto their space. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
I am big on using local stone in gardens. I love the look, either really modern square lines or a nice traditional look with the moss growing between the stones. It cuts down on the watering too, so that is good for the environment. With a little planning the look you achieve is so “finished.” Great landscaping can really make a house stand out, and add some landscape lighting and you get a real WOW factor.
How do you go about choosing which house visits will be featured on-air, and how many houses do you actually typically go to with each couple?
We go out and preview homes based on the client’s wish list and try to find homes that represent “as good as it gets” for them. It can be very difficult because we have to deal with what is on the market at that time, and we need to get permission to shoot in peoples’ homes. Sometimes we shoot in homes that are not our first choice, but that too is an important part of the process. You have see what you don’t like before you realize what you really love.
One of the reasons that Property Virgins is so great is that it really teaches potential homebuyers that finding a house you like is only one battle in what is often a larger war. What are some of the biggest red flags Virgins should look out for during the negotiation and inspection stages to ensure that they’re not purchasing a gigantic moneypit?
When negotiating don’t let a seller hold you hostage. Know what you are prepared to pay before you start the process. Knowledge is power. Study the comparables and hold your ground. It’s important to be rational though. There is no use low balling without the proper comps to back you up.
We did a great episode where they loved the first house which is not unusual, but I like to show them some others just to be sure. They offered on it right away and the negotiations did not go well. The Seller was being irrational and wanted my clients to overpay for the house. I convinced the buyers to walk away and to see more homes. It was really tough for them to walk away from their ideal home. We searched and searched, but of course each home was compared to this idyllic one. We finally found one that they were going to offer on, and the listing agent from their dream home called to say that the seller was prepared to negotiate now. So off we went and got a fair deal for everyone. It doesn’t always work out that way but I really hate to see people get taken advantage of so I pushed them to see more homes. What we accomplished was it gave the Seller time to realize he had a qualified buyer and he needed to treat them with the respect they deserved. It also made the buyers realize just how much they really loved the very first house they saw, so we were satisfied that they should buy it.
What I love is when the home inspector gives a binder full of info on the home itself and home maintenance. The information in there can save you major bucks—like redirecting your downspout to avoid water in the basement. It’s inexpensive and can save you thousands.
On the summary page you may find a statement, “this home is average for the area and for its age.” If you get one that is below average you should think twice.
Don’t be afraid to ask your home inspector questions. He works for you and you need to understand the magnitude of the problems he identifies. Get contractors in to see what their quotes are to fix major issues before you sign off.
There’s ample opportunity for bad puns to be made with the show’s title being Property Virgins. What’s the best–or worst–you’ve ever heard?
I remember when the show first aired there were online chats about how disgusting the title was. Hey, the word Virgin is in the bible and I’m catholic and we pray to Virgin Mary, so I don’t see what the heck the issue is. It simply means, the first time for something. I think those people were just letting off steam or something. Anyway, I hear the opposite being cited as a new show, Property Whores. I guess that would be for a different network ; – ) At any rate, Property Virgins is a catchy title and perhaps enticed a few “virgin viewers” to tune in for the first time and hopefully again and again. And there you have it, great marketing at work.
And finally, what are your thoughts on Poutine?
Listen, poutine is a Quebec thing and it is something to be revered. I recently tried a lobster béarnaise poutine and I have decided to marry it.
Property Virgins airs on HGTV most nights at 8 p.m. EST with new episodes airing on Mondays. If you just can’t wait to see her on TV, you can also follow Sandra on Twitter: @SandraRinomato. For more of her great tips, pick up her book Realty Check through Crasstalk’s Amazon store.
DahlELama and The_Obvious both ignore their significant others every Monday night so they can watch Property Virgins and get irrationally angry at first-time home buyers who have preposterous personal demands. They are currently working on their audition tape for Property Whores.