With every book, piece of pottery, and pillow I return to its rightful place in my home, I can feel the wheels click into place and a sense of calm returning to my little nest.
Last week I had literally taken up parkour - the French discipline of scaling buildings, jumping fences, and flipping through the air - while trying to maneuver my way from my front door to the bedroom, without stepping on the newly refinished hardwood floors; a feat that involved climbing through the casement windows and squeezing between armoires and stacked tables, without disturbing the delicate balance and sending everything tumbling to the floor. (I hadn't twisted and turned that much since learning double trapeze back at Great America when I was nineteen years old - but that's another story . . . .)
What a difference a few weeks make.
With just a few final details to finish off, my husband, our younger son and an unsuspecting friend of his, spent last Saturday actually moving furniture into the new family room downstairs and hanging art. Ahhhh! (That's me breathing again.) With a newly renovated lower level that better integrates the up and down stairs floors, I am excited about the increased space and light the home has now gained. (Thank you Tecta Associates for a stunning job!) Umph! (That's the sound of me hefting couches over the banister.) After six long months of dust, displacement, and discomfort, everything is finally clicking into place.
Our market too, suddenly seems to be clicking into place - as tentative buyers become enthusiastic ones. The result being more escrows, more sales and more successful stories to tell. With the exception of a few homes that are still perceived as "over ambitious," (Translation: "overpriced" - DON'T make that mistake!) we are seeing almost every recent sale go into heavy competition in a bustling Spring market. The market is in full bloom!
"Here comes the sun, do, do, do, do.
Here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right,
da, do, do, da, do, do, do . . ."
It's a trend that plays out year after year with few exceptions, so I am not surprised when the seasonal January stall is followed by the April/May frenzy. After counseling buyers to take advantage of lower interest rates and "corrected" values with lukewarm response, I am truly excited for my Buyers when the emotional and psychological tables turn and results begin to happen in very real and tangible ways. (Everyone's happier when goals are achieved!)
Stay tuned, stay primed and stay aggressive. The buyers who are having the most success are quick to commit and decisive in their actions - no hemming and hawing for these willing folks. Remember, it isn't "luck" that achieves your goals, it's good planning and preparation! You have to know what you want, act immediately and write to win!
And don't get discouraged if it hasn't happened for you yet - it will. Your turn is coming up soon. Ahhh . . just breath and then act, and watch the wheels click into place!
How can I help?
My older son, Case, called home last week to say he and some of his schoolmates had found an apartment to rent for next year. While Case's desire to move off campus seems appropriate at this stage in the game, I am struggling with the increase in housing costs it might mean closer to home. (Heck, I'm still struggling with the cost of tuition!)
"Your dad and I currently spend x dollars a month for your room and board," I matter-of-factly stated, "If you can find a 'furnished apartment' near campus for the same amount - with a lease that allows each boy to sign individually - we'd consider it." (There's NO way I'm going on a lease with four boys - none of whom, I assume, has any working knowledge of a mop!)
"We already found a house," Case explained, "but it's more than that."
"How much more?" I said.
"A little bit," came the response (which, roughly translated into teen- speak, means "quite a lot.")
"Then you'll need to keep looking and come up with some alternative solutions, " I advised, "or take a job on campus to cover the difference."
SILENCE! (That went over like a lead balloon.)
Looking through the beautiful three-page color flyer the university had sent me the previous week, I can understand Case's disconnect and sense of "entitlement." "The Lifestyle You Deserve!" is what the tag line read. In addition to 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths on this particular model, the complex also provides a tanning bed (Would you expect less of Arizona?) a health club and a pool. "The lifestyle You Deserve?" Are they kidding? These kids are eighteen and nineteen years old. Exactly, what "lifestyle" do they deserve? More to the point, what "lifestyle" have they earned?
At nineteen, my tiny Hollywood apartment sat on the edge of East LA and consisted of a used sofa, a table and chairs, a castoff TV, and a futon. The shelves of course, were standard issue concrete blocks and plywood. I had left school after my Freshman year to pursue dancing and my parents' largesse didn't extend to paths that were less scholastically directed. As a result, I shared the apartment with a roommate and we both waited tables and took catering jobs on the side. It would be years before I progressed to the place where I could afford "built-in" bookshelves or my own bathroom.
What my son is blessed and lucky enough to "receive" is a college education at a Pac-10 University. At the end of which, he will hopefully emerge with the requisite tools to go out and seek "the lifestyle he so richly deserves;" a lifestyle that will depend entirely on his own actions, intentions and efforts - and not on mine or on his dad's generosity.
When working with new buyers, I often ask them to create a "wish list" of sorts to clarify and define their needs and goals. Then, I ask them what they can compromise on - or live entirely without.
While we all might "deserve" a palatial estate on Sea View Avenue or a Brown Shingle Traditional in the heart of Piedmont, what we can actually afford, might be dramatically different and that's important to define from the get-go.
So if location is non-negotiable for you, perhaps bedroom and bathroom count is. If size drives your decision, perhaps location is more flexible than you think.
Conversely, the same is true for sellers. While you might legitimately deserve (or need) two million dollars, what the market is willing to pay, may be significantly less. Remember, the market isn't necessarily inclined to care about what you want or what you need and that's the difficult truth (sorry to be bearer of bad news!).
While my son and his friends might "want" a 4 bedroom/4.5 bathroom house, what they actually "need" is significantly less and what Case "deserves," is still up for debate.
It may just take a college education to figure that out . . . but I'm counting on him to get there. Case is a smart boy. (He takes after his mother.)
In the meantime, I think I'll work on a new tag line and send it off to Arizona. How about "The lifestyle your parents provide for you until you get a diploma and can provide for yourself!" (Admittedly, it needs work.)
Send me your thoughts and I'll treat you to a latte and scone at Mulberry's Market and I'll publish the best of them next week!
A few weeks ago, I had a really festive time enjoying a friend's fiftieth birthday party with more than a hundred and fifty of her closest friends, coworkers and relatives, at the Veteran's Hall here in town. These large social gatherings always offer an opportunity to reconnect with people you don't get to see as often as you'd like. High heels on and dressed in party attire, I was ready to dance the night away. (Yes, I've still got it!)
Talking, giggling and holding court with several friends and their respective mates, a girlfriend discreetly leaned over and said, "Um, Julie, I don't know if you meant this to be a fashion statement or not, but your shirt is on inside out." (Or maybe I don't !)
Oops! (What was in that soda water anyway?) Mortified, I slunk into the coat closet and quickly made things right, but I'd been wearing my shirt inside out for at least half an hour before someone had the nerve - or the grace - to inform me. (Thank you Dale!) AND to make matters worse, I hadn't even had a cocktail to justify my fashion faux-pas!
I suppose that's what comes from hurrying. I had taken a long walk with the dog prior to getting ready and as a result, had found myself with only a few minutes to shower, wash and blow dry my hair, apply make-up and get dressed - all while simultaneously nagging my husband and son to do the same (if not me, then who?). Clearly, fifteen minutes wasn't adequate for the job at hand . . .
When I show up at a client's home with a stack of disclosures big enough to rival the Encyclopedia Britannica, sellers frequently want to hurry through this time-consuming task. Having made the decision to sell, they are down to business and are often anxious to get their homes to market as quickly as possible (I can appreciate that) but rushing through these important disclosure documents can only hurt you in the long run. Take it from me, slow down!
Designed to protect you from buyers seeking to renegotiate their offer price based on "new discovery" or worse yet, suing you after the close of escrow over "undisclosed information," these seemingly redundant questions about insurance claims, dog noise, water intrusion and how long you were in labor, seem like overkill (they're not).
Sellers often ask, "Do I need to mention ___ (fill in the blank) ?" Let me stop you there. If you are asking, you more than likely need to disclosure. Offset pipes? Yes. Backed up drain? Yes. Death in the home? Absolutely! Visiting raccoons? Of course. Visiting mother-in-law? Umm, let me think about it. If it's a material fact, you need to disclose it!
Listening to a colleague on the phone explain this to her client, I could hear her frustration as her seller insistently argued with her about a property line dispute he didn't want to include. BIG MISTAKE! While worried he'd be "tainting" his property, he missed the much bigger picture, which was that his conscientious Realtor was trying to protect him from unknowingly stepping on a land mine. Listen up!
For your own sake, disclose everything you know or suspect about the property. While it's likely that you won't remember every repair or even know about previous conditions prior to your taking possession, it's hard for fully informed buyers to argue with the truth - especially if their love for the property - or for the seller - has worn off six months down the road.
So slow down, take your time and be as thorough as possible. Then check the mirror. You don't want to attract attention for all the WRONG reasons (much like wearing one's shirt inside out).
It's so not cool!
Last week a colleague at work said her client had given her permission to do "whatever" in order to sell their wonderful home. "Karen" she said,"in our minds, we don't live here anymore. Do what you need to do." Wow! Now there's a seller who "gets it," - and one that's likely to have a very favorable result.
Sing it with me, "You've abandoned me, love don't live here anymore . . . just a fantasy, love don't live here anymore . . ."
Don't get me wrong, it's not that sellers who can more easily disengage, don't love their homes - they do. It's just that they are typically ready to move on - more than ready - which makes our jobs as Realtors, infinitely easier when we come together. In addition, these detached clients are more inclined to defer to our expertise, let go, and clear the way for whatever unfolds. (Thank you.)
So what about the rest of you? It's been my experience (both good and bad) that the vast majority of clients can't help but micromanage the sale process - in part or in whole (they truly have good intentions). While you want and need our help, the move is just too large to entirely trust a Realtor with it. I get it, I do. (Been there, done that but you know what they say about "good intentions")
In the interest of full disclosure I am now going to share my past transgressions . . . While renovating and selling my own homes in San Francisco, I had a bad habit of "helping" my realtors market my properties. Having put my blood, sweat and tears into each project, I really believed that the sale would benefit from my personal supervision and enthusiastic input. (Control issues? Just a bit.)
Despite great agents, seasoned agents and well-respected agents, I just didn't completely trust the process and when the plan didn't exactly unfold in alignment with my own rigid agenda, I was quickly on to the next Realtor to reset the clock. You might imagine that results (favorable or not) had less to do with what any one particular realtor brought to the process, and more to do with my own unrealistic expectations for it - and you'd be right. (Ooh!) It' true , NOT all agents are created equal; however, at the end of the day, price has more to do with the successful outcome of your home sale - than any other single component. (If it's blame you seek, blame the market.)
Looking back, I kind of cringe on how my "help" was really interference and in the worst examples, unfair to the agent I had entrusted to sell my home (I'd misplaced the "trust" part.) Here's my public apology to each of them - I am sorry. (Whew, I feel better.) Of all the attributes a good agent brings to the transactions, trust is perhaps the most critical. If you don't trust us completely, we can't do the job to the best of our abilities and if you don't tell us the full story, we are only playing with half a deck - and that certainly doesn't serve you in the end.
While I have said it before, it's worth repeating; bringing one's home to market is an incredibly invasive and disruptive process. Emotions can't help but be stirred up as buyers invade your private sanctuary and worse yet, make comments on the home you have lovingly created. (How dare they? How dare their Realtor?) I painfully remember overhearing a buyer's agent criticizing my home during the Broker's Tour. "Whatever you do," I said to my agent, "don't sell my house to that jerk!" Hmmm . . . I may have been a wee bit too invested in the process. I certainly would have benefited from a little distance.
Here's my best advice; "Get out, leave or better yet, go away on vacation." By the time you come back, the hoards of prospective buyers should have dissipated and you'll be far less stressed. If you can begin to emotionally detach from the start, the rest of the transaction will run more smoothly. You won't be abandoning ship, just taking a minor leave of absence.
So while I suspect love is still very much a part of the process, allow yourself a little room for the sake of achieving the goal and trust that your agent wants the very best for you. Their comments aren't personal, they are designed to bring you a positive result. As agents, we need to be able to objectively price your home, make suggestions and negotiate on your behalf and that's extremely difficult - if not downright impossible - if you are still emotionally attached and overly involved.
So let go . . . and let me help. That's what I'm here for!
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.