"How are you doing?" I said to my neighbor as she passed by my garden, children and dog in tow.
"I'm living the pandemic dream," she said, "and like everyone else, doing my best trying to keep it together."
I hear you.
We're eight months into the pandemic, and it's been an interesting market to say the least. (It's been an interesting moment in history.) What seemed to be a precursor for a housing correction, has, thus far, resulted in just the opposite as well-qualified Buyers fleeing the City in pursuit of greener pastures (quite literally). If I hadn't already teamed up with Sarah (a match made in heaven), I'd be looking to do so now, given the amount of work that's come our way.
My garden is a reflection of every mistake I've ever made. You wouldn't know it to look at it, but it's true. Most people come to my home and are immediately impressed by the garden in particular, which encompasses lush, blooming beds, rose-covered arches, winding pathways, flea market finds, an outdoor kitchen & fireplace, mounted mirrors, and a drive-through portico. The hydrangea bushes that wrap around the porch, coupled with the Sally Holmes roses winding their way through the white-picket fence put on an amazing show throughout the spring and summer, and they alone are enough to stop passersby on a daily basis.
"Your garden is beautiful!" (Why, thank you.)
What they don't see are the MANY plants that have failed to thrive, the ones that were decimated by deer or disease, and anything that's struggled to gain a foothold.
I didn't know this until I had kids and they were old enough to attend the school fairs and win goldfish at the pingpong toss (a prize they were excited about for a day or two before I had to take over their care), but it seems that goldfish will grow to the size of their bowl. The BIGGER the bowl, the BIGGER the fish!
Not that I'm a minimalist, mind you, I've spent years accumulating decorative cake plates and Stoneware pitchers at the flea market to artfully display on my kitchen shelves, but I'm always a little taken aback when I see how much "stuff" people hold on to, and just how quickly their storage spaces FILL UP. In my role as a Realtor, I've noticed the bigger the house, the more homeowners collect. . . .
As you all know, I rarely invite guest authors to this forum as I consider it a bit of a cheat, but when Alex Capozzolo, of Brotherly Love Real Estate in Philadelphia, contacted me out of the blue (or should I say brown, given the wildfires?) to contribute to his blog, The Roundup, I happily complied to his request knowing just how difficult it is to publish regularly.
Here was Alex's question: "What are the biggest Real Estate buying and selling mistakes?
That's a hefty topic to answer in a few sentences (which is all I had) but gratefully, Alex extended his invitation to several other Agents around the nation, and so today's Perspective is more about what they had to say . . . . So listen up! It's full of good, practical advice and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Cliff and I closed on the cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake earlier this week and it's been both exhilarating and nerve wracking to finally realize the dream we've aspired to for more than 30 years. The thing is that when you buy a vacation property, it typically comes with the furnishings, accessories, dishes, and the linens inside - lock, stock and barrel! That's all well and good, but what we hadn't expected was 20 years of accumulated "stuff" that the Sellers (and their renters) had left behind . . . cabinets, and cupboards and closets, OH MY!
"We're not convinced the price-per-square foot comps out to other sales in the neighborhood," the text said, "but we know that comps are usually hard to parse, and often bear no relationship to what the market will bear."
Thank you, I couldn't have said it better myself.
If price-per-square foot was all that was required to sell a home, Realtors would have gone the way of the Dodo long ago . . .
"We refer to the time before the fires as the 'good old days' when we ONLY had the pandemic!" Sharon's text message said. "We thought we bought a view; we want our money back . . ." (This photo wasn't filtered - it really looked like this!)
And so they did. In fact, their condo in Hiller Highlands has SPECTACULAR City and Bay views, but you sure wouldn't know it based on the apocalyptic skies we've been experiencing this week. (This photo was taken on their balcony.) Who'd have thought that California's spate of bad news could get worse??? And yet, it did. I think we're all ready for a break.
"Write this down," I said to the Seller, as he was dutifully filling out his Seller questionnaires, "Oakland is home to many animals, including but not limited to: deer, wild turkey, opossum, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rodents, hawks and many other birds and insects."
"That's ridiculous," he said. "I've never seen turkey in my yard and I'm not writing that down."
"Just do it." I said, "I guarantee you that the new owner (or their dog) is going to cross paths with some of these animals and you're going to want it in your seller disclosures before it comes back to haunt you. (Trust me on this one.)
"So I know you don't have a crystal ball," Monty said, "but if you had to guess, what do you think is going to happen with the market? (He meant housing, not stock; I don't pretend to understand what's going on with the stock market, or why!?!)
Monty Stott, a gifted structural engineer, is my first line of defense whenever I need an expert opinion on a home's foundation. We met on Monday at a historic Victorian in Piedmont and like many Bay Area homeowners, he wondered what the future of Real Estate is going to look like in the coming months? (The foundation got mixed reviews.)
While it's true I can't read the future, here's what I've culled from several reputable sources (and no, this is not "fake news" . . .)
"Part of what makes this house so great" said Greg, "is the indoor/outdoor flow and you gotta admit the weather today is perfect. Can you promise me this exact weather year round?
"Absolutely," I said, stone faced. "Because as we all know, I control the weather. . . " (NOT!)
Nor do I control the housing market, the stock market, the interest rates, the number of Buyers in the market, Sellers' expectations, competing properties, competing interests, or how other Realtors conduct their business. (It's not always pretty.) In short, Agents don't control other people, places, or things (although that would be decidedly easier).
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 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.