Ingrid Singer taught me to whistle the summer before eighth grade; a talent which has proven infinitely more useful than when I learned how to blow smoke rings the summer before. (Thankfully, smoking never appealed to me the way whistling did.) Sitting on my parents front steps, on a warm June evening, Ingrid showed me exactly how she placed her thumb and ring finger together under her tongue to produce a loud enviable sound. Not some sweet, melodic, Broadway tune, but an ear-piercing, dog-calling, cab-stopping shrill; the kind of whistle that commands attention and makes others take notice.
Last week, a mother turned to me at my son's baseball game after a less than lady-like display and enviously said, "I've always wanted to do that. How do you whistle so well?"
Whistling didn't come easy at first. Sitting there with Ingird in our faded cut-offs and tank tops, bubble gum lip gloss at the ready, my first attempts were pathetic little wheezes compared to Ingrid's deep magnificent trumpet. Dang! She made it seem so easy and here I was, producing little more than spit. I spent most of that summer dizzy from lack of oxygen, but kept at it until by fall, I could whistle at the football games with the best of them (and still can).
Like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I often whistle while I work. However, nowadays my whistling is more metaphorical. Today whistling is about creating an inviting and welcoming environment and getting agents and buyers alike to stand up and take notice! With a good amount of inventory from which to choose, buyers are pickier than ever. If I am not making them take notice of YOUR home, I am simply not doing my job well enough.
Making sure a sellers' home is memorable is both my goal and my responsibility as your REALTOR. Pricing your home to meet the current market value is YOUR part of the bargain. If we harmonize . . . together, we'll "whistle a happy tune - fa,la,la,la,la."
Remember, no one ever learned to whistle by watching others do it. It takes patience, practice and a certain amount of determination. (So does buying or selling a home.) It also takes skill. Not only can I command attention at this point in my career, I've also learned the nuance of the softer tune.
Still, it's the BIG whistle that continues to attract the most attention and one I'm not afraid to use as needed - especially when hailing a cab in New York City! (Thank you Ingrid.)
Bang! I quickly looked up from my feeble attempts at cooking dinner, to the large plate-glass window in my kitchen and saw a bird falling to the ground. Rushing outside, I picked up the tiny Finch and watched as it struggle to breath, its little beak gasping for air; its tiny wings testing the air.
"What happened?" my younger son Tristan asked, standing beside me and looking down at my cradled hands? "I think it flew into the window and knocked itself out," I responded, hoping it hadn't done more damage than that.
Flap, flap, flap . . . after the last few years at a more reasonable and determined pace, recent sales activity has stepped up to a near harried level in the last several weeks. Suddenly, buyers are feeling a lot like that little bird crashing headlong into the marketplace and feeling every bit as dazed. In spite of stricter appraisal guidelines that confirm that values have softened considerably (or more likely, because of it) buyers are swarming to the market and intensely competing for the same few good homes. With inventory well below buyer demand and affordability UP, competition is stiff and well-priced homes are selling quickly and often - in multiple offers!
Aware that their purchase offers may likely surpass the appraisal results, buyers are often waiving the appraisal contingency altogether in order to strengthen their terms. In the face of tougher lending requirements that stipulate an appraisal, in order to fund the loan, many well-heeled buyers are coming up with enough cash to render this particular contingency in the contract moot. While banks are proceeding cautiously, motivated buyers are straddling caution and desire in equal parts - with desire to own often winning out.
For those less willing to compete at this level (or unable to) their comment is "What happened? I thought the market was soft."
Hmmm . . . That depends largely on where the market is. Modesto? Soft. Sacramento? Soft. Fremont? Soft. Piedmont? Berkeley? Rockridge? Not so soft as headlines would have you believe.
With inventory low, demand high and close proximity to The City always at a premium, these neighborhoods are enjoying much stronger sales than many neighboring communities nearby. So get your bearings, check your flight plan and look straight ahead - not behind. You'll need to adjust to the market we are actually in if you wish to reasonably compete.
And why shouldn't you?
Rates aren't expected to remain this historically low forever and home prices have yet to return to the highs enjoyed a few years ago. This healthy combination may make NOW the best time to buy for several years to come.
Sellers - with so many motivated buyers at hand, NOW may be a terrific time to sell - AS LONG AS you price your home appropriately. (While sales activity is indeed UP, it isn't necessarily reflected in higher selling prices.) Don't mistake the increased interest for unrealistic results.
So avoid flying head first into glass. No need to be stunned with so much good information to be had. I'll get you back in the air.
How can I help you?
It's spring time (in spite of the rain) and love is in the air. Do you recall the first time you ever held hands with someone you liked, those stolen glances, and the first sweet kiss? I do (what girl doesn't?).
Strange as it seems, I get some of those same feelings when I work with new buyers and sellers. While it isn't exactly love at first sight, there is often a lovely infatuation period that ensues while we get to know one another and a familial affection that grows as we proceed together through the journey - and well beyond.
Realtors work so intimately with their clients that we quickly become close friends, trusted allies and confidantes. We often develop very meaningful short-term and hopefully, long-term relationships with you.
Like all new relationships, adjusting to one another and refining the partnership is a part of the process as we each come to understand one another's work habits and perspectives. When everything goes according to plan and the goals are met or better yet, surpassed, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. However, every once in awhile (very rarely) the collaboration can be less productive.
When that happens, it may be time to start anew. Should a relationship fall short of a seller or buyer's expectations, a decision to work with another agent may become a consideration. As difficult as this is (breaking up is hard to do - especially if we've been working together for many months as opposed to just a few weeks) sometimes working with someone else may be the best course of action.
Where personalities and emotions are involved, not every relationship is bound to be the perfect match and that's okay. However, sometimes it has less to do with the agent and more to do with a buyer or seller's unrealistic expectations of the market in which case, it matters not with whom you choose to work.
Let me break it to you gently: if you are writing too sharply, listing too high, expecting more than the market will bear, making difficult demands, or trailing the market by months or even years (as many buyers and sellers do) the problem may not be with your Realtor.
On the other hand, let's give good old-fashioned chemistry its due and say that even when everything is going right, sometimes the relationship has soured for reasons beyond our understanding. If trust has left the building, then it is definitely time to change your representation. In which case, let me refer you to a colleague that's a better fit and let us part professionally and on good terms. (We'd both prefer to use the time more effectively.)
Switching agents is appropriate as well when geography comes into play. While a licensed CAR agent (California Association of Relators) may represent property anywhere in the state of California, that scenario rarely benefits you - the consumer. If you are buying or selling in San Francisco, work with a San Francisco agent. Likewise, if your goal is to buy or sell in the East Bay, it doesn't make sense to work with an agent from The City, or one from Marin - does it? (No, it doesn't.)
I am currently working with one motivated buyer who has a Marin agent, a LaMorinda agent and a Piedmont agent because she is unclear where she'll eventually dock and she wants all her available oars in the water. That makes perfect sense to me (and I appreciate knowing that I am not the only rower in the boat). If it's all out in the open, everyone understands their role and proceeds in good faith.
On the other hand, working with three agents who all cover the same territory is more likely to prove ineffective than beneficial. Why? Without some sense of loyalty to one another, you are very likely to be passed over for clients that are more firmly committed and engaged. With time at a premium, housing stock in short supply and incredibly strong buyer demand, the responsive player is bound to get attention before the client who is pitting one agent against the other.
So if you are working with an agent with whom you have great faith and trust. Stay true! If not, then it's probably time to break up - even when it's hard to do!
How can I help you?
"Pick up your things," I hastily reminded my son as I paused in his doorway and scanned his messy bedroom, "the housekeepers come today."
"Already did it," Case said, throwing his comforter over his balled up sheets.
"You call that clean?" I pressed. "You've just moved your clothes from the floor to the bed." "
So?" he replied, gesturing at his less than stellar efforts, "you said to get my stuff off of the floor - and it's off."
Hmmm. . . That wasn't exactly what I had in mind. When it comes to the house (and the associated chores therein) it's no surprise that my son and I rarely see things the same way.
"Jeepers, creepers, where'd you'd get them peepers? Jeepers, creepers, where'd you get them eyes?"
In the world of Real Estate, it's not uncommon for people to see a property differently as well. Lately, I have spent a fair amount of time meeting with clients (and friends) to render an objective opinion about an upcoming renovation. Having toured thousands of homes, most Realtors (including myself) have a finely-tuned sense of the market trends and buyer expectations. (Currently, temperature-controlled wine rooms, large master suites and favorable "walk scores" curry strong interest.) Before undergoing the expense and inconvenience of a major makeover, it makes good sense (and cents) to bring in another set of trained eyes. (Happy to do it!)
"Should I landscape the garden?" (Yes!) "Should we add a bathroom?" (Yes!) "Should I remodel the kitchen?" (Yes!) Should we gut the house and totally renovate?" (Gulp!!!) That depends. How much do you plan to spend and how long do you plan to stay?
If you are inclined to move every few years (or your projected budget exceeds the GNP of a small island nation) you may well be spending more than you can quickly - or ever - recoup. For a few lucky lottery winners, that matters little but for most of us hard-working folks, it factors in quite heavily. Which makes this expensive decision worth exploring and investigating - before excitedly moving forward with your architect and designer's every suggestion.
On the other hand, if your the kind of homeowner who stays put, has already made plans for your newborn's garden wedding, and will retire in the same home - with grandchildren in tow - you have time on your side. Go ahead and create your dream castle. In fact, you are very likely to renovate more than once and why not? You aren't going anywhere and you're not selling. Renovate to your heart's content.
In the end, the decision "to renovate or not to renovate," might ultimately come down to how much you love your home (or its potential); how desirable is its location and its setting? Perhaps most importantly, will the coveted improvements be supported by the value of the neighboring homes AND ultimately, will they make you and your family happy? If the answer is yes, yes and emphatically, yes (!) it probably makes sense to stay put - even when you might spend dearly to do so.
If however, you are likely to still feel dissatisfied with the home or the location once the renovation is finished, it might be better to consider what the same amount of money might buy you in another neighborhood and in another home and leave the renovation to the next ambitious owner. Hey, it's your money and you may spend it as you like, but I am often amazed at the less-than-favorable choices homeowners make (pink bathtubs - really?) The truth is, that it is often more costly to make the wrong choices - so best to avoid making them in the first place. If my experience can help to clarify some of these decisions, that's all in a day's work for me. Please feel comfortable giving me a call.
I jokingly refer to myself as a serial renovator (and it's true). Having remodeled four homes in twelve years, I am once again weighing the pros and cons on yet another home renovation and collecting bids as we speak (I actually like looking at blueprints and architectural renderings). Dust and inconvenience be damned, I like selecting travertine and tiles. I like window catalogs. I like wood moldings, lighting fixtures, floor coverings, faucets, fabric swatches and new appliances. I like it all (except the costs)!
"Jeepers creepers, where'd you get them peepers? Jeepers, creepers, where' d you get them eyes?" I earned them - one house at a time.
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 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.