I don't know about you, but the older I get, the harder it becomes to adjust to Daylight Savings Time, which means that here I am, writing this blog at 4:00 am in the morning. I'm an early bird by nature, but even I have to admit this isn't good. (I'm efficient at 6:00; at 4:00 in the morning, I'm of little use.) I'd like to get back sleep so that I can be at my best when morning dawns, but as the saying goes, "time waits for no man" (or woman).
When it comes to the contracts Buyers and Sellers enter into, time is a recurring theme AND one worth paying close attention to. Between an accepted offer and the delivery of the house keys, there are MANY actions that must take place in a fairly short amount of time, beginning with the earnest-money deposit which needs to be deposited into escrow within three days of the contract's ratification.
Tuesday was Cliff's birthday. (Happy birthday, honey.) Luckily, Cliff is a man of simple needs, desiring little more than chocolate cake with raspberry filling to celebrate. (He's already got everything he wants, and more importantly, he knows it.) Having met more than 30 years ago, I've been making chocolate cake for my husband ever since . . . .
The reason I bring this up (aside from the fact that Cliff cringes every time I mention him in The Perspective), is that Cliff wasn't my first love, nor was I his. We were 35 and 30 respectfully, when we married and as might be expected, we'd both had previous relationships before meeting one another. My point being that sometimes you've got to kiss a few (or many?!?) frogs before you meet your Prince Charming.
This is just as true for Home Buyers who often enter the marketplace with set expectations, only to find themselves drawn to something entirely different along the way. For some Buyers, it's not until they walk into the completely unexpected and find themselves "hooked" that the narrative begins to shift.
I finally did it. I walked into a Peloton store and signed up for their 30-day free trial. (I couldn't afford the Tesla in the shop next door and this seemed the second less trendy thing to do.)
So last Wednesday, two young men arrived to deliver not only the bike, but the mat it sits on and a couple pairs of fancy biking shoes for both Cliff and me. They then programmed the touch screen with my name, age, height and weight and showed me how to select classes. Shazam, even I can handle that.
Last weekend, Cliff and I stayed aboard The Queen Mary, now permanently moored in Long Beach, CA, in rooms once inhabited by Mrs. Wallace Simpson and the Duke of Windsor. Weren't we grand? (Not really.)
As the story goes, the newly-anointed King of England had abdicated his throne to marry the twice-divorced American and then essentially lived as an outcast from the royal family thereafter. According to our tour guide, he and the scandalous Mrs. Simpson often traveled back and forth across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary and always requested the suite of rooms Cliff, Tristan and I occupied last Friday and Saturday nights. (Tristan stayed in the maid's room, since I don't travel with a maid, and yes, he finished the marathon in good time; thanks for asking.)
On Sunday, our younger son Tristan is set to run the Long Beach Marathon; a race for which he's been training for the past several months . . . so like the doting parents we are, Cliff and I are flying down for the weekend to support him. We'll be staying on the Queen Mary, exploring the charming town of Long Beach, and rooting Tristan on as he makes his way through the long and arduous course.
We'll also be there at the finish line to drive him back to his apartment in Santa Monica, to feed him a good meal, and see him safely home. For a kid who only ever ran the baseball diamond in high school, Tristan is proving to have quite a bit of grit and determination and a fair amount of speed as well. (It helps that he's also 20 lbs. leaner as a long-distance runner than he was as a baseball player and that he's only 23.)
Grit, determination and speed are all excellent qualities for Buyers as well as they work their way through the marketplace, even as it seems poised to shift. With interest rates at historical lows and still limited inventory in many cases, savvy Buyers are jumping off the sidelines and running to the finish line. (I've put four houses into contract in the last 10 days.) For others, no matter what the market signals, no matter how straightforward the course, they cannot seem to complete the journey into home ownership and that's unfortunate. They may be missing a prime opportunity.
My house sits in the path of the local elementary school which means that between 8:00-8:30 am Monday through Friday, I watch darling young children and their parents parade by on their way to school. (Some of the parents are darling too). As it's October, I'm already beginning to spy some of these younger tykes trying out their fairy princess and Spiderman costumes in anticipation of Halloween. (I can relate as my son all but lived in costumes year-round at that age.)
In other words, Autumn has officially arrived, as has the fall marketplace.
"Hey Julie," my client said giving me a big smile and a hug while whipping out his phone and showing me the photos of his gorgeous, new master bathroom while simultaneously admiring the house I was hosting, "This house looks great; you should have no problem selling it. Where do you think it's going to go? (Higher, hopefully.)
And then came the question he really wanted to ask . . . "So what's my house worth now?" (The correct answer is "MORE!")
Aside from showing off a home to its best advantage, Weekend Open Houses provide the opportunity to meet the neighbors, to introduce myself to potential new Buyers and Sellers, to pass out cookies, and to entertain those who are just curious. (Everyone is welcome.) All in all, it's not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Reconnecting with past clients who are happy in their homes is the cherry-on-top of the Sundae (or should I say Sunday?). Honestly, besides witnessing my own children take flight, what could be more rewarding than watching these families thrive in houses I helped them successfully purchase? (Almost nothing.)
"So what's my house worth?"
My neighbor has a pot problem. I’m not talking about marijuana (what you do with your free time is your business), I’m talking about the small terra-cotta clay pots that seem to multiply and line his pathways, nose up against the fence line, and creep down the sidewalk as if they were reproducing on their own . . . like hermaphrodites. (They’re not.) I'm no therapist, but this man is clearly addicted to pots. ’(I'm wondering if there's a 12-step program for that?) I'm guessing he’s the guy that can’t pass up the “FREE” sign when neatniks (as opposed to beatniks) set these often-neglected plants on the curb.
Don’t get me wrong, pots have a place in this world, although I’m not sure it’s on the city sidewalks where every manner of pathetic geranium and common weed has taken root. I'll be the first to admit that placed strategically on a deck or patio, a kitchen counter or a front porch, potted plants can fill in the missing landscape, provide a pleasing place for the eye to land, and add a living element to the scenery quite beautifully. In fact, all things considered, I'm decidedly pro-pot! (That's not a political statement; it's a pragmatic one.)
After weeks of lukewarm drinks, the repairman finally showed up last week and replaced the ice maker in our freezer. The iceman cometh! I can't begin to say how happy that makes me (but VERY!) and I'm so grateful for this small, but significant improvement (ice is my thing). Since I'm a gal that drinks ice tea throughout the day, obviously, that requires ICE and LOTS OF IT!
Now that this long-overdue repair is off of my "To Do" list, I can begin to tackle the other things that tend to pop up every fall. I'm guessing that for many of you these tasks will ring a bell as well.
I spent last Wednesday afternoon at the Oakland DMV applying for a REAL ID card and California Driver's License - the WHOLE AFTERNOON! (DMV is the great equalizer; no matter who you are, it's gonna be a s**t show.) Even with an appointment, I waited in line behind a slew of others who, not surprisingly, had also booked their appointments weeks in advance. As my license had officially expired on my birthday in July, I spent the past six weeks hoping I wouldn't be pulled over, driving on borrowed time. (That's never a good thing.)
Luckily, I wasn't stopped (although I was denied a rental vehicle) and I've now got a "temporary license" in my glove compartment until the new ID arrives. BTW, getting a "REAL ID" requires you to jump through more hoops than securing a home loan (well, almost) but at least now I should qualify for the "TSA PRE" line at the airport, right?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 14 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.