It’s the holiday season so visions of sugar plum fairies are dancing across the TV announcing the Nutcracker as one of the season’s brightest traditions. With all due respect, that depends on your traditions . . . .
Years ago I took my son, Case, to see the Nutcracker Ballet in San Francisco. As I'd had a short-lived career onstage, I was certain that when I became a mother, my kids were going to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, and love theater! So when complimentary tickets for front-row seats fell into my lap for the highly-respected SF Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker, I eagerly jumped at the chance to take Case to his first live show; one that didn't involve a creepy 6-foot-tall, purple dinosaur or a 3-ring circus.
Last week, before retiring to the bedroom to binge watch The Crown, Netflix required me to reset my password prior to signing in. (I hate the world of passwords.) No sooner had I typed in the new code, then my cell phone rang. Shock and dismay . . . it was my son, Tristan, on the line.
"Hey Ma, Netflix just locked me out. Did you change the password by any chance?
(Wow. Hello to you too.)
I should preface this story by saying that a live chat (remote or otherwise) with either of my sons is rare. Unlike my twin sister's daughters, who phone their mother almost daily to regale her with stories of their colorful lives (or to talk about shoes???), my boys call so infrequently, I begin to wonder if they ARE still alive. (They are, they're just not phoning to let me know.) And while I hate to admit it, about half the time they're not responding to my text messages either. Buehler? Buehler? Buehler?
You sell real estate?” Alina quietly asked me before the 6:30 am morning hike at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. “I know you probably want to get away from work, but my husband and I just bought a house in San Diego and we’re scared to death,” she said. “We’d lost several others prior to this one and then had to bid more than we wanted . . .”
Sounds about right.
Alina, a stunning, young, athletic woman who was acting as the resort's docent last week, has a fast-paced career away from the ranch the other 51 weeks of the year, travels extensively to exotic locals with her globe-trotting, BIG-wave surfing husband, and is easily conversant on many topics - in both Spanish and English - but it was the thought of a new home and the work that lies ahead that was keeping her up at night. Now that they were in contract, she and her husband weren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye on their plans for their new home. Where excitement had ruled the day, now fear and second-guessing stepped in to offer an unsolicited opinion.
Sounds about right.
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?"
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.