I should have been suspicious when our Backroad's troop leader, Luca, explained "There are three kinds of fun . . ."
"There's the kind of fun you have in the moment."
"There's the kind of fun you have when you reach the top of the hill."
"And there's the kind of fun you have when you reflect on the trip afterwards when you get home."
To quote Scooby-Doo, "Ruh Ro."
"I don't mean to complain," I said to Paolo, the desk clerk at Hotel Plaza Lucchesi, (In fact, that's exactly what I meant to do.) "but my room looks nothing like the photos on your website."
I'd come to Italy alone to attend a writer's retreat with Lisa Clifford and Matthew Ferrera, (because, why not?) and had already changed hotels twice due to location and availability. In short, I was struggling to get it right. (Note to self, take a room in the suggested local.)
This wasn't my first morning in front of this crisply-starched young Florentine who was looking at me with a mix of bewilderment and compassion; it was my THIRD(!), and now I had become the proverbial "fly in the ointment."
"My husband is arriving by train early tomorrow morning," I said. "I'm afraid there's no way his things are going to fit into the small room I've been assigned." And then with my sweetest, most conspiratorial voice I added, "Is there anything we can do to make him more comfortable?
"I'll go just have some breakfast while you work it out."
WHEN IN DOUBT, BLAME THE SPOUSE.
My sister's little terrier mix, Bridget, has a funny way of showing up in our marketing photos. She's like, "Where's Waldo?" (The dog, not my sister.) If you carefully look at my listing brochures, you'll usually find Bridget tucked away on a bench or a sofa, or parked at the top of the stairs. She's not a dog, she's a ham. I'm definitely noticing a theme . . .
Makes sense, as Jill typically meets the photographer at the photo shoots with her loyal companion in tow, but from a marketing point of view, there's an emotional appeal to having a dog in the frame that absolutely works. Not that I'm an art director mind you, but I bet the same could be said of children as well. It's just that my children are grown now and Bridget works for milk bones, so there is that . . .
Last weekend Cliff and I traveled to Hamilton, NY to watch Tristan and his classmates graduate from Colgate. Historically, 2019 marks the 200th year for this prestigious university. As such, there were several multi-generation alums in attendance - grandfathers, fathers and sons - all extremely proud members of this elite group. (At one point, these hallowed institutions only admitted men.)
In fact, there was NO shortage of smart, successful and beaming individuals in the crowd - both male and female! Collectively, they represent the past and future generation of innovators, movers and shakers. To quote Spock (and prove just how truly geeky I am), "Live long and prosper!"
I'm off to upstate, New York this weekend to see Tristan graduate from Colgate. He's the younger of our two sons and his diploma marks the end of a long journey for us all - not to mention the end of costly tuition payments. (Hallelujah!) Two boys, eight years of college expenses, several cross-country flights, and countless years of love and devotion have added up to this highly-anticipated celebration. Needless to say, I'm an extremely proud mama.
Happily, Tristan has already set up his first "post-college" job at BIRD scooters down in Santa Monica on the "Reliance Team." I'm not sure what he'll be doing for them exactly (I'm not sure he knows either), but after four years of residing in the East, I'm thrilled to have him back on the West Coast once more. For me, New York was just too far away, while LA is a weekend trip. Note to parents, California has some great college campuses to consider. (I'm just sayin'.)
I've been on several listing appointments in the last few weeks and at some point in the meeting, the prospective Sellers invariably want an answer as to the cost of staging and whether it's worth it or not (Yes, it is.) followed by, "Will you pay for it?" (No I won't. Good staging directly equates to a better result and more money in your pocket.) This discussion typically happens before we negotiate the sales commission; a topic that's worth a frank discussion as well, but one I'll save for another column and another day . . . suffice it to say that I believe Realtors earn their keep!
Whether it's the fees associated with paying an experienced Broker, or the costs of preparation - BOTH are smart investments that can add up to BIG returns for the Sellers and why I'm going to firmly encourage you to spend the dollars required to make your home truly stand out. Given that nearly ALL Buyers begin their search on the INTERNET, the presentation of your home via photographs and video has never been more important!
"But it's expensive to fully stage a home."
On Wednesday evening, I met with new Buyers. Like many of the families I represent, they were darling, had two young kids in tow and were eager to find a house. "We probably should have bought in 2013 when we first arrived in the Bay Area ," he said, "but we weren't sure we would stay. "Now with two kids, we really feel the pressure to settle in." (Hindsight is always 20/20.)
That's a common story. The addition of children are often the impetus for a move, just as when these same children leave the nest years later to form their own separate lives (deserters). As our lives evolve, we often discover that our homes are either too small, or conversely, WAY TOO BIG!
Yesterday, I received a text message from a neighbor at one of my listings, "There's a rope tied around the electrical wires in front of your property that's been there for years. Can you please remove it?" (He's right, it is unsightly, but no, we can't touch the PG&E wires due to liability but will certainly put the company on notice.)
Last week it was a repeated demand to prune some trees at yet another listing. Evidently the expanding foliage has been bothering the neighbor across the street for years. "These were small shrubs when he moved in ten years ago," she complained, "now they're BIG!" (Yes, they are. Plants have a tendency to grow and the Homeowner's intention WAS to screen his property.) She'd approached me more than once, then my assistant, then our gardeners, but wasn't getting the desired result. (I'm sorry, but the Seller wants them left alone.)
Some 13 million people visit Notre Dame a year; one of the world's most iconic and beloved Gothic cathedrals. Not only a notable architectural landmark, Notre Dame also lays claim to countless religious artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns, believed to have been worn by Jesus himself. In spite of its elevated status the world over, it's still very much a working parish, hosting a daily mass, baptisms, weddings, and Easter Sunday services for the citizens of Paris and for anyone who is attracted to its collective history from around the globe, regardless of their religious affiliation or subscribed faith (or lack thereof).
Cliff and I visited Notre Dame just a few years ago. We stayed at a quaint hotel on the island just a few blocks away so this stunning church and sacred monument was part of our daily landscape and view. Quite literally, the centerpiece of Paris and surrounded by the River Seine, Notre Dame has stood as witness to the divine for more than 850 years.
So with the unexpected and tragic news that Notre Dame was on fire on Monday (Notre Damn!) the world watched and waited with bated breath while thousands of Parisians gathered behind the police barricades and sang hymns deep into the night in honor of this magnificent structure and architectural treasure.
It's early Wednesday morning and I'm where I often am - in the kitchen, news on the TV, laptop open and engaged on the counter, and cookies baking in the oven. Today, I'm making chocolate-dipped macaroons for my neighbor's Easter Tea on Friday morning. Next week, I'll make them again for Passover. (In my experience, good macaroons are non-denominational.) My dog, Riley, has been fed and he's sitting at my feet waiting for Cliff to take him on their daily morning hike.
On Sunday evening, we hosted dinner for Lior, our Israeli tour guide who's now visiting California for the next few weeks. This potluck gathering included several couples who'd been on the trip and wanted to return his hospitality with dinner and dessert. We sat around our antique Irish farmhouse table and enjoyed one another's company as we reminisced. We didn't sit at the beautiful, highly-polished round table in the formal dining room, or on the comfy sofas in the living room - we gathered in the kitchen. (And to give credit where credit is due, Cliff cooked the chili while I tended to my Open House at 45 Lane Court.)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 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.