Humbly crawling across the bedroom floor on my hands and knees -my lower back in severe spasms, I was forced to learn the meaning of real patience last week (not my strongest suit I'm loathe to admit) and true empathy for those who deal with health challenges. (In real estate parlance: I've got a "rotated foundation!" )
My oft-chided husband has suffered from recurring back problems for years and sadly, I never quite got it (feigned sympathy at best). Stepping into his shoes, or more accurately - slipping into his loafers (the shoe of choice for chronic sufferers) I finally understood why it's so tough for him to unload the dishwasher, nearly impossible to move the laundry and completely unrealistic to expect those same loafers to ever get picked up off the floor (light bulb moment)!
All these years, I thought he was "artfully dodging" these household responsibilities just to purposely irritate me when the truth is - my husband simply can't bend at the waist (and I thought I had it rough.)
Now that I'm on the mend (thanks to Piedmont Chiropractor, Dr. Alan Davis - my new best friend) the wise doctor is admonishing me to "slow down and have patience," when he knows that my natural inclination is to quickly move into overdrive to make up for the "down time."
With heavy rainstorms that have left my property in tatters, and an eager client list that is anxious to find a home, there is plenty of work to be done - both here at The GRUBB Co. and at my own humble abode. Having finally committed to the market, most of my buyers want to see results right away - and why shouldn't they?
And believe me, I want to deliver their next home to them in quick time. But the simple truth is that with a little patience and good diligence, you will have many more choices as we move further into the Spring Market (which typically hits AFTER Super Bowl weekend). New listings are already growing each day and inventory is on the rise here in Piedmont, Berkeley, Montclair, Rockridge and Crocker Highlands. AND I suspect we will see much more with each passing week - as is typical for this time of year.
I am religiously touring every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, YOU are prioritizing Sunday Opens (good job) and we are both scouring the Internet on a daily basis. I feel confident that together, we will find the right home for you in the right time. Remember, this is a collaborative process that often requires time; we need not only identify the right home, but the right community as well, the right schools, the right commute, the right location . . . (you get the picture).
In the meantime, use this opportunity (UP time, not down time) to solidify your mortgage options, to clear up any outstanding debts, to begin purging your household and to refine your "wish list" as appropriate. If you have a house to sell on your end, look at it with a critical eye and address any potential hurdles that prospective buyers might object to so that you can quickly bring your current residence to market should you find your next home - sooner, rather than later. (That's the dance - being patient enough to wait for the right house to emerge, yet prepared to charge the minute it does!)
Have faith, your next home is out there and it is waiting for you. With diligence, patience and preparation, I feel confident that we will find you the right property and I can attest to the fact that good things truly do come to those who wait. (I can almost tie my shoes now - Oh joy!)
As motivated buyers, you have finally found your "dream home," have been pre-approved through a reputable lender, have timed your daily commute and have carefully vetted the preschools for your toddler. You know the politics of the community, have met with the principal of the elementary school and have even knocked on the doors of your prospective neighbors to ascertain their objections to any future proposed remodeling projects. In addition, you have spent months eliminating and rejecting other potential properties along the way. Congratulations - you have become an educated consumer!
With preparation and opportunity (and not infrequently, a few near misses) you are finally ready to move forward. It's at this very important juncture that you look at me earnestly and ask the question not even my children dare (or care) to ask me (in case I should proffer my objections ) Drum roll please . . .
"What do you think?" Hmmm. . .
Not that I don't have an opinion (I'm rarely without one) or that I haven't carefully evaluated the marketplace, the competition, the comparable sales and your many options (I have). It's just that what I think - what I truly think when it comes to a home purchase (yours not mine) isn't nearly as important or even as relevant as what YOU think.
What I can support? Now that is entirely another matter for discussion . . .
Do the comparable sales support the list price?
Are you fully prepared to meet the market?
Does your offer meet the seller's expectations?
Can I qualify and quantify any demands should renegotiation be appropriate?
Perhaps most importantly in today's world of conservative appraisals, do the surrounding sales substantiate the accepted offer price?
As for advice? - where it is relevant and critical to the purchase of your home, you may count on it!
I am most valuable to you when I bring my considerable experience to bear on the process. I have compared and evaluated thousands of homes for price and value, accompanied hundreds of inspections, navigated many tricky closings and have personally been both a Buyer and a Seller many times over.
But even with exhaustive research, years of experience, endless information, full disclosure, and a personal story that often aligns with your own, value is still largely subjective. What you are willing to pay, are comfortable spending and can afford is entirely up to you.
Even more, the architectural style you prefer, what neighborhood best meets your needs, what commute you are willing to accept, how long you will stay in any one home and what compromises are acceptable trade-offs . . . are choices only you can make. (I'll never forget the time a colleague came to my recently purchased home and said, "Geeze what made you buy this white elephant?" - a sentiment I'd rather she had kept to herself.)
This isn't my hard-earned cash, nor is it my risk - it's entirely yours. While it is my privilege to guide you in this journey, it isn't my place to push an agenda or to make these decisions for you. (Maybe you like the zoo!)
My role, as I see it, is to support you in your decisions (whatever they are) to thoroughly analyze the marketplace, to fully educate you, to judge any competing interest; to write a persuasive offer, to present you and your intentions to the best of my ability and to keep you in play as long as possible.
If I am successful at keeping you well informed and adept at making sure your options remain open, you can best decide whether or not to take the next step forward (white elephant or not)! Hmmm . . .
That's what I really think. Now how can I help you?
Spying a friend on the street in her cozy pajama bottoms and slippers, coffee mug in hand, as she protectively hustled her kids onto the big yellow Piedmont school bus before the winter break, I couldn't help but smile. "Cute polka dot pj's." I hollered, as I rolled my window down and poked fun (and indeed they were - cute!) "Whatever it takes," she cheerfully responded as she lifted her mug in a toast, "You do the best that you can ."
Little did she know how deeply her friendly response would resonate with me - "You do the best that you can." (That says it all - doesn't it?) Attempting one's best is as important to me in life as it is in business. The fact is that whether you are a stay-at-home mom (or a stay-at-home dad) a lawyer, a doctor OR your friendly neighborhood REALTOR for that matter (moi !) doing "the best that one can" is a prerequisite for ANY job - at any level.
I speak from experience, having worked from the bottom UP (truly). My father was a Real Estate Broker/Investor in Sacramento and from the time I was young, I learned how to clean, paint, wallpaper, garden and rent out vacant homes on the weekends - along with my four older sisters.
While others took on paper routes, my sisters and I received "rental routes" along with our drivers' licenses. Yipee! (and yes, we grumbled). Everyone was expected to pitch in (and did) with the family business and I take pride in having developed a work ethic that serves me well to this day.
Even so, I can appreciate just how difficult "doing the best that you can" is to achieve day in and day out. It's one thing to believe in good intentions and quite another to put it into one's daily practice - especially when our time seems so limited and our demands are so great. Still, I believe that "doing one's best" is a very noble endeavor as we progress, evolve and grow (even when our efforts fall well short of perfect ).
So how to translate that simple but profound message as I look ahead to 2010? To do so, I started by drawing up a list of my goals for the coming year - both personally and professionally. Happily this list gets shorter and shorter as I grow to recognize that everything I truly need, I already have: healthy kids, good friends, a happy marriage, a stimulating career, engaging clients, a supportive work environment and a caring community all top my list of what I already have. Serving my Buyers and Sellers to the best of my abilities, seeing my older son off to college, turning 50 with flair, finding more time to volunteer, more time for friends, and balancing family, community and work more selflessly are goals I would like to achieve in the coming year. In short, focusing more attention in the service of others is my vision for what lies ahead in 2010.
With your continued support, 2009 was my best professional year to date. In an economy where many struggled to hang on and many more moved on to other professions, I am truly grateful for your friendship, you trust, your faith, your referrals and your business and I hope to achieve even greater success in 2010 by supporting your success in return (there's truly enough to go around). That's one narrow definition of "doing the best that I can." (I'd love to hear yours as well).
Happy New Year! A toast to you and yours (coffee mug or champagne flute alike) and here's to an outstanding new decade.
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.