On Wednesday night I met a friend at Miss Ollie's at Swan's Market for some overdue "girl time" and we ran into a third friend at the bar who joined us for tea (a perfect presentation). While we dined on delicious fried chicken (gluten free no less) and a Creole salad with mangoes (yum), we began to reminisce about our early days as young adults and our respective wish lists, as in, "When I grow up . . ."
"It might sound strange," Sharon said, "but as a single mother, I just wanted to provide for my boys, go to the grocery store, and never worry about what I could afford."
"Me too!" Debbie chimed in, "good produce was a luxury."
"What about you, Julie? What did you wish for?"
"There were six kids in my family and five of us were girls," I joked, "we were forever out of the basics, so when I grew up, I swore I'd never run out of toilet paper or toothpaste!"
My "wish list" was pretty basic back then (it's less so now), but to my point, Cliff and I trolled the aisles of the grocery store when we first moved in together, for what we excitedly referred to as "the purchase of the week!" which typically meant a potato peeler, a whisk, or when we felt really flush, a muffin tin. (Life was decidedly simpler back then.)
"We've come a long way baby," but to be totally honest ('cuz why not?), I carry the "wants" of my childhood with me; thus, my bathroom drawers are always stocked with double-ply toilet paper (never single) and I rifled through every cupboard last night in search of the last tube of Crest. In other words, I'll be making a Target run today - fo' sure!
Still, the idea of what we value and how we quantify it, remains illusive at best. What I do know is that what's important to us (aka: our 'unique value proposition'), is an entirely subjective matter, depending on 1.) who we are, 2.) where we are in our lives, 3.) what we care about and 4.) who we care for. (Children change the equation entirely.)
What's more, what we value changes over time. So with respect to Real Estate, a condo gives way to a house, which in turn, gives way to a bigger house, then a suburban house, than a weekend house, to a downsizing house, and so it goes. . . In fact, most of us won't live out our lives in our current homes; statistically, we'll be moving every 10 years, on average. (I'll probably move more often than that.)
So what does that mean for Buyers and Sellers? (It means we are constantly in flux.)
Last week, I wrote about what Sellers really want (How much is my house worth? How much will it sell for? How much will I get?) so now it seems only fair to turn the conversation toward Buyers . . .
I'll preface this by saying that in my day-to-day practice, it's not uncommon for a Buyer to turn to me and respectfully ask, "How much will this house sell for?"(I'm the expert after all, and I should know. Right?)
Here's where it gets tricky . . . (come in closer, so I can whisper it).
I don't know!
Apart from last week's sales comps and the number of interested parties who plan to write, I can only give you the lay of the land. I can't tell you how much someone else will step in and offer, or how much the home you covet may be worth to your competition . . . . So in the end, I'm often forced to throw out a suggestion as to an anticipated sales price; which is my best guess, based on recent sales activity, but it's still a guess, nonetheless.
Often, I'm right (which makes me look like Nostradamus), but there have been times when my estimation has been too high, or too low; when there's no rhyme or reason for the outcome; and when I'm off by more than I should be (which makes me look like Gilligan instead of the professor) and that's not much fun for anyone involved. (In fact, I've been fired over it a time or two.) In short, when it comes to home sales, there's no science to "value" unless you're an appraiser, and even then, there's a fair amount of opinion involved. With respect to what a home will fetch (???), there's only what you want, what you need, and how much you are willing to pay for it. (Did that answer your question?)
Unfortunately it isn't up to me, (or anyone else) be it your mom or dad, your financial advisor, or your best friend; it's up to you to decide the value of a given property. Within the confines of what you can afford, (and affordability IS the scaffolding for everything else that follows), here are the questions to ask yourself:
And then we throw in the variables: What is the cost of waiting? How much will the market continue to climb (or correct)? AND are we missing an opportunity by waiting for something else? Regrettably, these are questions only you can answer.
Once you decide what's really at stake, there's far more clarity in the destination, which isn't to say that you're not going to have to fight for a house you like (you are), but at least you'll better understand what you are fighting for, and that's more than half the battle.
Okay, my work here is done. I'm off to Target now. I'm headed to the toothpaste aisle; last night was way too close for comfort. I may eve get some paper products while I'm there.
How can I help you?
Check out my Instagram at: piedmontrealtorgirl
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.