"Thank you for your patience. We are experiencing a high volume of calls. Please hold . . . Thank you for your patience. We are experiencing a high volume of calls. Please hold. Thank you for your patience. We are experiencing a high volume of calls. Please hold. Thank you for . . ." Were they kidding? I'd been on hold for forty-five minutes and I was feeling anything but patient. In fact, I was feeling downright irritated. Had it not been a call for jury service (and a speaker phone) I would have hung up forty minutes ago. Last night I had been able to check my status online, but today I was required to "phone in." "Thank you for your patience . . ." UGh, with this kind of inefficiency, I wondered how the county seats twelve willing jurists at all - or ever?
Ring, ring, ring, CLICK! "Your number has been selected for jury duty. Report to the Hayward Courthouse at 1pm." (That's how.)
Don't get me wrong, I think jury duty is one's civic responsibility. Moreover, jury trials are a unique instrument for distributing justice, enjoyed by few other systems throughout the world. "Only the United States and Canada make routine use of jury trials in a wide variety of non-criminal cases . . . while true civil jury trials are almost entirely absent elsewhere in the world." (Wikipedia 5/22/11). Cool, but I fail to understand why the process is so utterly time-consuming (or why I'm selected on an annual basis?)!
"Fill out this form, drop it in the box and wait over there," the bored clerk instructed me. Scanning the room, I made my way to an unoccupied seat among a sea of strangers - all of whom were waiting to see if their names would be called for voir dire (and hoping that it wouldn't) . . . tick, tick, tick. (Okay, my patience was being stretched thin . . .). Finally, the court clerk began: "Adams, Anderson, Cotton, Delano, Fredrickson . . . Hobson, Jackson . . . The rest of you are excused." (Whew, Thank you!) Grabbing my briefcase, I nearly sprinted out of the Hayward courthouse before they changed their minds; a sense of relief flooded through me and my patience was quickly restored. Ahhh . . . .
Patience is a difficult topic to discuss with buyers or sellers, when I strain to practice it myself. Were it my choice alone, I would have every single buyer I represent in their dream home within a few weeks, and likewise, every listing sold within 14 days.
Alas, it's rarely ever up to me! Aside from buyers or sellers being totally primed, prepped and ready for a sale, circumstances and timing are the "intangibles" few of us ever get to control. In short, the market is the market and it works in its own time and fashion - regardless of what one wants or needs.
The simple truth is, your buyer may or may NOT be in the market presently, OR your future home may not yet have hit, OR your budget and your desires don't align, OR your asking price and the market realities don't intersect. Try to be patient. IF your expectations are realistic, there's a realistic result waiting to happen. Now that inventory is finally offering more choices and buyers have arrived in force, I believe your time is coming. Let's get to work!
"Thank you for your patience, we are experiencing a high volume of demand . . . " .
I love the look of fresh mulch in the garden. Proudly surveying my hard work last week as I was obsessively preparing my home for the Piedmont Neighbors and Newcomers Annual Progressive Party, I suddenly thought, "mulch is the Botox of the garden!" (Profound, right?)
Hey, I know, that you know, that it's only ground cover, but that thick carpet of fresh loam makes all the difference in the world. While mini bark is a whole lot cheaper than Botox, it works pretty much the same way - it beautifully hides flaws and smoothes out the imperfections (um, not that I would personally know anything about that).
And let's not underestimate the value of smoothing out the imperfections in the sale of a home - or of addressing minor flaws for that matter. I'm not talking smoke and mirrors here, just a little bit of effort, a good deal of muscle and some well-orchestrated touch ups!
So aside from mulch, here's a list of some of my other easy suggestions for getting your home in good order and in quick measure, prior to marketing it for sale - or when having a hundred of your new friends over for sangria and wine (nothing says "organize and clean-up" quite like an impending party . . .) .
After all that gardening (and company), I could use a good manicure - and I am probably overdue at the dermatologist's as well. (At my age, I need heavy mulching. . . ).
"You have to come over and see my peony," Lisa exclaimed,"it's enormous and absolutely stunning!" Damn, she was right, the thing was the size of a small dinner plate. I could only stare with peony envy . . .
In fact, I was positively peony-green with envy, AND there were more buds on the bush, just waiting to bloom (salt in the wound)!
Lisa and I are both avid weekend gardeners and blessed to own BIG, lush gardens that we tend with loving care in our spare time. Her's is serenely punctuated by Birch trees, while mine is largely canopied by giant Redwoods, but both are teeming with hydrangea, Japanese anemone, Daphne and mature rhododendrons that are really lovely, but pale when compared to the majestic peony; a flower unlike any other.
Not that I haven't tried to coax a peony or two with good measure, but without the cold winters that the east coast delivers in abundance, I've had no success with blooms of any size, much less, dinner ware. (Lisa really knows how to rub it in). Even with determination, I've had no luck.
This would never do!
Rushing down to the Ace Nursery on grand Avenue, I was determined to try once again. "I need a peony," I said to the nurseryman. "How much sun do you get?" he asked. "Not a lot; how much do I need?" I replied. "About six hours," he answered, "and good drainage to boot." Shoot! My dream of peonies was fading as quickly as the sun in my garden, save for a few miniscule patches of light.
"Unless . . ." he started (Unless what???) "We have a new hybrid that collectors are snapping up. That might just work."
"I'll take it!" I said, grabbing the last one off the lot (Lisa wasn't getting the best of me). "I'll make it work."
That's kind of how I feel about real estate in general. Sometimes, given the budgets, the limitations, or the pressing time tables, buyers learn to "make it work."
At other times, given the offers (or lack thereof), new discovery, or the variables of the marketplace, sellers are forced "to make it work."
In both camps, understanding that every deal doesn't come easily, serves both buyers and sellers in equal parts. (In truth, in this more conservative marketplace, very few transactions come easily.) BUT if we are open to the possibilities, we can often meet our end goals with ingenuity, patience and some well intentioned give and take.
As for me, I've given my new peony a prominent place in my garden and some well aerated soil. Now if the peony will only give me some love in return in the way of BIG, BOLD flowers large enough to make Lisa envious, I'd be down right thrilled and able to claim bragging rights - "Look at the size of this one!" In the meantime, I'll make do. . .
Sigh . . . (Peony envy can get a girl into real trouble).
I'm falling back in love with my home once again. Thanks to a fantastic renovation that has virtually doubled the way my family utilizes our space, along with a sensational Spring bloom that has featured magnolia, cherry blossoms, lilac, dogwood and now two varieties of clematis that are prolifically climbing their way up the gazebo, I am actually quite smitten once again (our payoff after all that rain!). Even after viewing the "selected properties" on the CSL Home Tour last week, I still feel that I would rather come home to my house at the end of the day, than any other (warts and all) and that's pretty darn special.
That's not always how I feel about my "home-sweet-home," especially during the dark days of winter when heavy rains periodically flood my patio (too many pine needles blocking the drains) and the redwood forest I call my front yard has deposited 30' branches that require a hacksaw and some real muscle to access the driveway once again. With rubber waders and manual labor, Cliff and I manage to tackle most of these jobs in good stride, but the shortened days (I don't "get" Daylight Savings Time and never will) adds to the gloom and doom. During those times, I'm slightly less enamored and frankly, ready to sell. (Make me an offer - please!)
Welcome to Home Ownership. It's a Love/Hate Relationship.
Let's get real, no matter how wonderful one's home, owning (as opposed to renting), isn't always a "bed of roses." No one enjoys paying property taxes for instance (%^##^!) and spending hard-earned dollars on improved drainage or a new roof can hardly classify as "fun." When you rent, a clogged sink is the landlord's problem - not yours.
But when I am entertaining on my patio on a balmy evening while hosting a birthday party for my mother, and the twilight is filled with the scent of night jasmine and lively conversation, I can hardly imagine being anywhere else - and therein lies the magic!
I'm not a "Pollyanna" by any stretch of the imagination - I am actually quite pragmatic by nature. Given our limitations, my husband and I have bought every home with an eye towards "value" first and foremost. We've had to. In fact, it's taken Cliff and I many years to get to the point where we could begin to create the home we envisioned when we first purchased our current property several years ago. It hasn't been a quick fix (a promise I made to Cliff when we "stretched" to buy a home we could barely afford at the time) but it's been rewarding just the same. Like many of you, we didn't factor in the economic meltdown or "softening" values, so by circumstance and timing, I have had to adopt a completely new philosophy about home ownership and here it is: "A home doesn't have to pencil out - at least not in the short-term."
That's a fairly radical statement for a girl who bought, renovated and sold four homes in the space of twelve years to get to the bigger, better "prize." But with hindsight, I've abandoned that concept in favor of stability. Bigger isn't necessarily better, and all of us have learned that living within our means is a very good idea indeed.
And here's the real reveal . . . had I sat on the very first flat Cliff and I purchased in San Francisco (when we were young newlyweds) we would have reaped the same rewards with respect to appreciation, without the dust, inconvenience and higher property tax base we have accumulated along the way. (What a concept!) As it turns out, TIME is a homeowner's best friend.
So I am done moving and I am staying put (at least for now). Rain, or shine - bring it on. I am finally learning to accept my home - flaws and all (my husband too!) - and I'm appreciating the fact that we have earned every square inch of it (and then some). I know eventually, I'll get around to addressing some of the imperfections (or I won't) and that's okay too. I'm truly grateful in the moment.
In the meantime, I am building memories in a community I love and that value, may just be immeasurable! What's Happening?
Unbelievably, interest rates have dropped again! If you missed out on the re-fi boom earlier this year, jump, jump, JUMP to it. With the price of gas moving UP (I knew I should have bought that Prius last year) why not take advantage of rates that are adjusting down? At least that's within your control. www.lasallefinancial.com
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.