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Sally Baker Knows How to Move

If you are thinking dance moves - well actually, that’s also accurate - she loves taking Zumba classes, to the surprise of many of her clients. However, in this context it’s about moving house, as in from home to home; she knows about relocating and all that comes with it. Her husband, employed by the Army Corps of Engineers, would be transferred to different locales a great deal, so off they went - but she always remembered how seamless the real estate agents made the whole process.

Originally from Rochester N.Y., Sally and her husband moved to the eastern coast of N.C. in 1987, then to the mountains in 1988, so she has seen a lot of change and growth in the region. She remembers - perhaps not so fondly - when downtown Asheville did not offer too much in the way of fun and variety. She also remembers not knowing much of anything about what to expect after she moved here - was this well water safe to drink? What is this septic tank business? She had to learn a lot, and she was grateful to have had professionals to help. With a degree in social work and often working with kids, she became skilled at relating to all different kinds of people, which served her extremely well when she decided to pivot to real estate. She initially practiced in the Wilmington area, and although WNC is similar in that it’s a tourist destination, there were many differences between the two in terms of selling real estate. The houses are in general newer to the East, where it is also less expensive to build. Here in WNC, the lots have to be bigger, and the diverse topography often means more specialized knowledge is needed. She began to cultivate a love of selling land and being a part of new construction.

1. What do you love most about working in real estate - do you have a favorite part of the process?

“My favorite is new construction - I love it.”

The first home Sally bought came with a bright orange carpet. She hated it, but this house was in a great location and good neighborhood, so she elected to put up with the garish shag. Once she was made aware that it could be replaced - that she had options and could actually choose what she liked, she leaned right into the process and never looked back. She also always tried to buy new construction after that.

Sally loves to see a construction plan on paper, then envision it on the land, helping her clients step by step through the process - one she has gone through numerous times over her many moves. As a result, she offers an in-depth point of view to her clients, particularly those who may have never been involved in the design and planning process.

2. Do you work with both buyers and sellers, or do you have a preferred niche that works best for you?

As she focuses primarily on new construction, Sally works with buyers most of the time. She has a special niche in the Billy Taylor-developed Carriage Park Community in Hendersonville. After many years of selling new construction through another Beverly Hanks office (now Allen Tate/Beverly Hanks), she took some time off and was semi-retired. When Billy approached her about joining his office and getting involved with his developments, Sally did not need too much convincing. She likes to work and, as she says:

“Billy Taylor’s team works hard, we also have a lot of fun, they always keep me laughing.”

3. Technology has created far more resources than ever before for both buyers and sellers who think they can ‘do it on their own’ - what do you say to folks who think they don’t need a real estate agent anymore?

“The whole real estate process is people-oriented.”

Sally explains that even buyers looking at new construction still need agents. They need someone who understands the different types of houses and the different communities. “People are really looking for a lifestyle first.” An agent will do the work to help you find what you want.

4. Real estate is considered a fairly competitive industry in the greater AVL area, with numerous agencies and a steady stream of new agents - what differentiates you and TBT agents from the rest of the WNC real estate crowd? What is your favorite thing about working with the TBT team?

Having known Billy Taylor for years, as well as his industrious developer father Billy Taylor Sr., Sally knew the work ethic of this team would be top-notch.

“Billy has a lot going for him. He produces tons of leads. I don’t know anyone who works as hard as he does, or is so accessible in terms of support. He picks up the phone - he actually answers!”

Sally adds how unusual that level of communication is, especially for real estate developers. She also loves that everybody on the team is ready to work hard, yet keeps it lighthearted. She adds that agent access to the network of contacts that Billy has vetted over the years - from inspectors to legal counsel - is an incredible resource. And one more thing…

“We are so lucky to have Ally Howell on the team, and with her marketing - it’s the icing on the cake.”

5. Takeaways from what you’ve learned in your industry: What is the most important piece of advice you would give to prospective homebuyers? And to home sellers?

Sally encourages buyers to really hone in on what they want in terms of lifestyle, in addition to what areas they like:

“Do you want neighbors? Do you want to join things and meet people? Do you want to be able to hike? Do you just want to be left alone?”

For that selling, she emphasizes how critical it is to price correctly based on the condition of the home; she even developed a formula to help sellers take the emotion out of the process so that they could better decide whether to sell as is, or fix it up before putting it on the market.

6. The WNC real estate market is certainly booming - any predictions on where it will go next, or new trends you are seeing?

Sally says she is seeing a shift in supply and demand. Although home market pricing is not as inflated as last year, interest rates are higher. The buyers are still here, she explains, but the current interest rates will likely narrow the affordability range for many, leading to less competition in the market. As a result, homes will likely stay on the market longer and see price reductions. Sally also senses people’s apprehension and fear around global events, inflation, and dips in 401K accounts. Many people just don’t want to take on high-interest loans right now. Sally also notes the trickle-down effect of this on new construction:

“Builders may pull back some, depending on what price ranges and markets they normally serve.”
“Investors will still be looking for rental homes, as rental returns remain high, making it harder for young families to save for down payments on their first homes. Flippers may pull back some with the market uncertainties.”

Regarding investors, Sally adds:

“The investors are all about the money. They don’t care for the properties the same way as regular people living there.”

7. Can you share the funniest or most memorable moment - anecdote or experience - you’ve had during the course of a real estate deal (positive or negative)?

Sally decides to share a funny anecdote from early in her career, along with a not-so-funny one.

“I was showing a house, and there was a prominent ‘Do not let the cat out’ sign on the door. It was an indoor cat, and the owners were very concerned about it getting out and being in danger. Later, after going through the home, there was a cat meowing outside the door, really begging to get in. I thought we’d mistakenly let it slip out, so I let the cat in - well it turned out to be the neighbor’s cat!”

Another time, Sally was showing a home to a couple, and the husband announced he’d go walk around outside the property - he had some concerns about the roof - while the wife and Sally toured the interior. Those concerns turned into a major debacle when he escalated the issue by actually climbing on the roof - which then gave way when his foot went right through it. His impromptu inspection created 10K in damage which had to be repaired.

8. Do you have a favorite hobby, pursuit or interest that might surprise your clients - or that has worked to your advantage in connecting with clients?

In addition to her moves in Zumba class, Sally is often making moves in her gardens. She’s often found digging holes, slinging compost, planting new specimens and moving perennials around her property.

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