QUESTION: Ben and his wife moved from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. about a year ago. They’ve been renting their old house, but now they want to sell the property. They’ll be asking around $140,000 for the place, and they ask Dave’s opinion on whether or not they should consider professionally staging the home. Dave is joined by Chris Brown, a member of Ramsey Solutions Speakers Group and host of Chris Brown’s True Stewardship, as they answer Ben’s question.
DAVE RAMSEY: I doubt it. You start talking about a million-dollar house, and it makes lot of sense to stage it.
With a less expensive home like that, I’d make sure it’s very clean and spend a lot of time and care on the front sidewalk and the front bushes from a curb appeal perspective. When someone gets out of the car with a realtor, what are they seeing as they walk up to the front door? That’s like your first impression on a job interview. The door needs to be clean and painted, with no handprints. There doesn’t need to be any bad smells in the house when you open the door, and everything inside needs to be crisp and clean. But I wouldn’t spend money to stage it. Do you agree, Chris? You’ve owned a bunch of real estate, too.
CHRIS BROWN: Yeah, I think you hit on it with the smell. The smell is huge, and maybe the front porch. Then, if you want to do some minor staging just don’t pay for it. There may be some things you can put in the house. Maybe if you’re renting, or whatever you’re doing now, you can pull over some of your best furniture. But you definitely don’t need to spend for staging at that price range.
DAVE RAMSEY: An old realtor trick is to take vanilla extract, and sprinkle it on the eye of the stove while it’s heated. It will fill the house with a smell like you’ve been baking cookies. But no, I wouldn’t pay to stage a $140,000 house. I really wouldn’t.
QUESTION: Michael and his wife got really serious about Dave’s plan, even to the point of selling their house to become debt-free. Now, they’re trying to help his parents get back on track financially. Here’s the twist: his mom and dad taught Financial Peace University at their church, but now they have begun doing everything Dave warns against. They leased a car, bought a new car and got several credit cards — saying Dave really does all this, too.
ANSWER: I’m not sure if you can help them. I mean, how do you go teach Financial Peace University and then come back and say Dave uses credit cards? How do you do that, and then go lease a car and buy a new car, and then argue against what you’ve been teaching in a class? That’s so inconsistent that it’s hard to grasp.
I don’t know. It’s not only powdered-butt syndrome. You’re actually doing the stuff we teach, and they’re not. That generally creates a situation where somebody doesn’t want to talk to you about it. It’s like, if you’re eating healthy and I’m not eating healthy, I don’t want to talk to you about eating. That’s what’s going on here. Your very life is shaming to them right now.
They’re not really asking for your opinion. So, I don’t think they can be helped until there’s some kind of an opening. I think the mistake you’re making is continuing to discuss it with them. Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still. So, when he sends a text about it or says something, I’d just write back, “You know, I had pimento cheese for lunch.” Or I wouldn’t answer him.
I’d just tell him that we’re on different pages about this stuff. You’re going to do what you’re going to do, and I’m going to do what I’m going to do. You’re still my dad, and I still love you, but I’m in complete disagreement with all the stuff you’re doing. I’m not going to discuss it with you because you’re trying to trash what I’m doing and I don’t want to get into that. Sometimes you see people who are wrong and you just can’t convince them. So, when you love them and you’re around them, you have to bobblehead. You know, just kind of nod your head.
There are things you disagree about in families. He’s not going to convince you, and I don’t think you’re going to convince him. They went on a financial bender, and when they wake up with a hangover, you might be able to help them. But right now they’re just drunk. They’re just financially drunk off their butts — I mean trashed. They’re buying everything in sight, and they’re rationalizing it and justifying it.
I don’t think you can do much to help them at this stage. Just pray for them, love them and be in their lives. Continue to do what’s smart, and try to avoid arguments. See where it goes from there. Maybe, when they sober up financially, they’ll ask for some help.
QUESTION: Gordan has a small business in Milwaukee, WI, and he specializes in cell phone repair. Sometimes he buys cell phones and cell phone parts on Craigslist and eBay. Gordan says he can make sure the phones themselves are not stolen by running a check on the serial numbers. He says he cannot, however, be sure about the parts. He asks Dave if there’s a way he can ensure that he’s not dealing in stolen parts.
ANSWER: Well, you certainly don’t want to intentionally buy or deal in stolen goods — for a number of reasons.
I would try to only deal with reputable sellers. eBay, I believe, has a ratings system, and you have power sellers and so forth. Try to find someone who has a steady stream of cell phone parts, someone who’s a reputable seller and doesn’t appear to be a fence. eBay doesn’t tolerate that kind of stuff if they can find it. They’ll dump people who are doing this pretty quick.
If you’ve got a guy on there who has only done like five transactions, and by the way he has parts for other stuff, too … I’d probably stay away from him. You don’t want that spirit on your business.
I’m going to do a reasonable amount of due diligence to try and avoid all that. But at the end of the day, you can’t completely guard against that unless it’s a serial-numbered item. I wouldn’t say I’d never buy something on eBay because one out of every how-many-hundred might be stolen. But I would try to use some common sense and judgment about the people I’m dealing with and make sure I’m not accidentally dealing with a fence.
There are few things I use when looking at business ethics — one would be the Moccasin Rule and the Golden Rule. Walk a mile in their moccasins, and also treat everyone like you want to be treated. Two, when in doubt, I don’t. I used to say I had a bad gut feeling. Then, a good pastor friend of mine, who’s 85 years old, told me not to call the Holy Spirit a gut. It’s a gut feeling, it’s God’s spirit, so listen.
So, if you’ve got a “check” in your spirit? When in doubt, don’t. But that wouldn’t cause me to rule out an entire thing like eBay. It would be a particular eBay-er that I don’t feel good about.
QUESTION: Jeremy and wife are recent graduates, and they have almost $300,000 in student loan debt. He asks about purchasing some rental property, thinking they can handle it after recently selling their house and paying off about $10,000 in debt. They have advanced degrees, and the plan is to have a $400 mortgage on the property, charge $800 a month rent, and have an extra $400 to help pay off debt. Dave leaves no doubt in the caller’s mind that he thinks it’s a bad idea.
ANSWER: You’re broke! You’re $300,000 in debt, and you call me up wanting to buy a rental property? No, no, no, no, no!
You have a crisis. You’re like Congress, and you have a mess. No! You are on beans and rice, rice and beans. No vacations, and you will not see the light of day. You will work like an animal until you get this mess cleaned up!
No, you do not buy rental property. Even if you did, this plan assumes that it’s rented and the renter pays. Those are two pretty big assumptions. You have $300,000 in student loan debt, dude. Don’t talk to me about buying a rental house, please. Use your money to get out of debt, and keep your life simple. Quit trying to borrow your way through all of your dreams. You’re going to turn them into nightmares. Pay off the debt!