Forgive me. I know it's not particularly "green," but can I just state for the record, that I am NOT a big fan of "drip irrigation?" (Yes, I am aware that it conserves water and that it is highly efficient.) Still, I prefer soil damp enough to welcome "volunteers" to my well-loved, but often chaotic garden. (How else would Foxglove magically reseed each spring?) Besides what barefoot kid ever ran through a drip system on a warm summer day? (In hot, hot, HOT Sacramento, we not only played in the sprinklers, we joyfully splashed in the gutters too - much to our mother's dismay!)
Moreover, I need to know that when I move a wilting hydrangea from a sunny location to a shadier spot, the sprinkler system is broad enough to accommodate my every gardening whim. (Some people move furniture - I move plants. Heave, Ho! ) Unfortunately with drip, I only realize there is a problem when thirsty shrubs begin to die off and by then they are often so stressed, there is no coming back.
Every Realtor I know has a client or two that kind of "drips" slowly along as they judiciously tend to their garden. (In fact, we typically have several simultaneously in the pipeline.) They check in every once in awhile when something really interesting catches their eye or when a neighbor's home comes up for sale on their block. These low-key buyers are not truly committed to the marketplace just yet, but if the right property should come along at the right time, they are liable to make a move. Then just as suddenly, you may not hear from them for months. Que sera, sera - there's no rush so it's easy to accommodate their more laid-back style. (The difficulty here lies in unexpectedly discovering a home that strikes their fancy, but then not being prepared enough to actually compete with real strength.)
More motivated clients require full saturation. Like the golden poppies liberally sprinkled along my garden paths, they are looking to germinate as quickly as possible, are working within a specific timeline and have set goals firmly in place. The more attention and information I send them, the better. They not only attend the Sunday Opens with regularity, but frequently head out on Monday and Thursdays as well for Broker's Tour. They meet me for private viewings whenever I call and align themselves with an experienced mortgage broker as quickly as possible. (NOT an online lender.)
If they need to sell their current home before purchasing the next one, it is already on the market or ready to come on with scarcely a moment's notice (they are purging as you read this). In some cases, they may even sell first and rent a temporary residence until the right home presents itself. When it does, they are more than ready to compete; they are primed for quick and decisive action! Heave, ho!
Whether slowly assessing the market, or coming at it full speed, whatever your style, it is my job to meet your goals in the time frame that works best for you. Not ready yet? That's ok too. I can help you prepare today, should you wish to make a sudden impromptu change down the road. Whether dripping along or moving at lighting speed, it's never too soon to construct a road map as you consider a move.
Some of you will require months, if not years of planning before you commit to moving UP (or down) while others will engage for just a few short weeks before plowing full steam ahead. Some clients come and go . . . and come back again and all of it works with good communication. (Great gardens grow over time. . .)
Remember that the more feedback you give me with respect to how you wish to proceed, the type of communication and frequency you require (or desire) and the immediacy of your intentions, the better I am at meeting your needs and helping your garden grow. Whether it's clarifying your goals, refining your search or reassessing your dreams, I am here to help you plan a viable strategy that makes sense for you now - and later. Heave Ho!
Let's plant the seed!
"Summertime and the living is easy. Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high . . .
Were it only so. While my two dreamy boys lounge in sun kissed sheets, I've barely stopped to catch my breath. Certainly the need to focus only on myself in the mornings makes for a much easier start to the day, but once I step inside The Grubb Co. offices, the pace is entirely different than the more relaxed atmosphere at home (I miss being a kid in summer). With the July 4th holidays just around the corner, many new homes are hitting the market this weekend and they are aggressively priced to sell! That's great news for buyers (and for sellers as well).
Opportunity and affordability, coupled with the extension of the Federal Homebuyer's Tax Credit should make for a brisk summer. Where will you be in that mix?
Certainly, you will want to take advantage of the increased interest. (School is out and graduation is behind us. Now is a great time to move!) But don't "test" the market - instead, compel it to respond. In other words, it's all about price (irrespective of whether you are the buyer or the seller). Only serious players are welcome in a more conservative marketplace. The GRUBB Co. started our summer with a field trip to the Award Winning Margarido House* in Rockridge where we met with a LEED certified designer of Amato Architecture. Rebecca spent several minutes explaining the sustainable systems of this particular house and encouraged us - both as Realtors and as consumers - to think "green" in our own design choices. (Heads Up! "CALGREEN" building codes will be mandatory in the state of California beginning in 2011. If we aren't thinking "green" by now, we certainly will be soon.)
* If you'd like to gather some ideas with respect to GREEN building and enjoy your own field trip, The Margarido House will be open this Thursday evening (that's tomorrow) for a wine and cheese reception from 5-8pm! Please join the visionaries there and experience a sunset like no other: 5950 Margarido, Oakland, CA, 94618. We followed up our breakfast lecture with a tour of this spectacular LEED certified home
www.5950Margarido.com then visited brand new construction at 6201 Ruthland Road in Montclair, wrapped up our tour with old-world charm at 324 Sea View Avenue in Piedmont and then hit the offices in quick fashion. "Green," newly constructed or time-tested charm, whatever your desire, the values are abundant. Let's get out there and take a look! (Guess what? I am available.) "Summertime and the living is easy . . .One of these mornings, You're bound to rise up singing. Then you'll spread your wings, And take to the sky . . . So don't get lazy now. If it's easy living you are hoping to find, it is time to take advantage of timing and opportunity. Trivia Time: Who wrote the song, "Summertime?" I have beautiful red GRUBB Co. canvas Farmer's Market Bags for the first five correct respondents (courtesy of my generous colleague Tricia Swift).
I took a field trip with my mother-in-law, Zee, yesterday (which explains the tardiness of this week's Perspective) and was reminded once again, that homes come in all shapes and sizes. Zee lives in a very sophisticated all-level condominium in Petaluma, which she has eclectically decorated (that's more easily done when you've spent a lifetime collecting and working in antiques). I adore everything in Zee's home, which compasses "his and her" slipcovered wing back chairs, a painted English postal box and an eight foot library table, above which hangs a massive antique clock. Zee innately knows how to put a home together and has always done so beautifully.
This trip; however, was to introduce me to her friend, Pat, who lives in Calistoga (an equally talented and powerful woman). Pat had lived outside of Paris for many years and like Zee, she too has spent the better part of her life collecting and dealing in antiques. Since I am planning my first trip to Paris this summer with my twin sister, Jill, Pat had some tips to share with me about navigating my way through the stalls and vendors while we are there.
Pat and her husband have crafted an intimate Tuscan Style home complete with lavender gardens, pink rose covered balcony, French pebble courtyards and even a sweet rental cottage out front. One very large room essentially makes up the entire first floor which holds a Parson's table, several gorgeous armoires, an Irish pine dresser, a group of pen and ink sketches and an inviting linen couch. Well-loved books and magazines are earmarked and stacked on side tables and foot stools throughout the house. It is old-world perfection and absolutely charming.
My own home is a rustic red shingled farmhouse (with the emphasis on rustic) that holds a combination of Flea market finds, store bought furnishings and fresh cut flowers in old dented silver trophies. But what really attracted me was the stone and wood gazebo out front on which I have planted several clematis vines that bloom prolifically in spring. (Is it crazy to buy a house for a gazebo? Maybe.) With expansive gardens surrounding the home on all sides and majestic Redwoods that stood long before Piedmont was officially formed, I can putter in the soil to my heart's content (and do!). Homes come in all shapes and sizes - and so do gardens.
This year I have helped clients buy smart starter condos, sophisticated Bay view homes and large family estates in styles that have included everything from cottage bungalow to Spanish Mediterranean, from Storybook Tudor to Modern Contemporary. Each has been as unique as the buyers themselves. Given that we live in communities where very few homes are identical (and if they were at one point, time and renovations have left their indelible mark) every property I sell is different from the last, which makes my job endlessly fascinating and rewarding.
No matter the price point, the specific "wish list," or the internal or external motivations of each buyer, it is an honor to shepherd my clients into their next home (or their first!) the next transition, the next opportunity, or the next phase of their lives. Now how great is that? (pretty darn great!)
Desperately scanning my garden for anything blooming to take to my newest listing in Montclair (6537 Heartwood) I finally spied some colorful (but thorny) roses hiding on what I jokingly refer to as "my lower forty." Grabbing my gloves and clippers, I waded through the beds (in heels no less) battled the angry thorns and managed to quickly cut enough branches to fill an attractive ceramic pitcher for the impending Sunday Open. Tick, tick, Tick - just in the nick of time! (And speaking of "nicks" I've got a few scratches to show for my efforts - never mind; there's a price for beauty!)
For gardens (and the gardeners who tend to them) we're in the "in-between" - that time between spring and summer where very few plants are actually in bloom. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of healthy new foilage, but fewer flowers than any self-respecting gardener would prefer. The spring cherry and magnolia blossoms are long gone, as are the rhododendrons, azales and camellias, and the summer flowers have yet to come into full swing. That's ok. I spotted plenty of newly formed buds on my hydrangeas that should begin to pop within the next few weeks. Color is on its way!
I think the real estate market can be a little like my lackluster garden from time to time. We have prolific weeks, followed by calmer, quieter periods. There's a natural rhythmic ebb and flow that occurs, right along with the seasons. Busy families distracted by graduations and the end of school year parties are less inclined to bring their homes to market until after the school year ends and many buyers simply aren't making the time to tour for many of the same reasons. (Throw in the first real hot days we've seen this year and you may have a few buyers MIA at the beach!) That's ok, give it a week or two and we will see a newly committed parade of motivated buyers and sellers all hoping to move over the course of summer!
In the meantime, use your agent's eyes and ears (and connections) to keep you well-informed and Internet websites (www.grubbco.com) to view things remotely - just in case the perfect home "blooms" while you are busy with life! With real time information, you'll be in a better position to judge good value when you move back into the game in full force. (Avoid the mistake of pulling out 2006's appraisal report as an indicator for where to list your home.)
What's that you say? You don't have an agent yet? You're definitely a disadvantage. You are better positioned with an experienced local representative who is committed to the process and to your success. Not to worry, we can help! (There are many fantastic agents here at The GRUBB Co. - (510) 339-0400.) So here's to warm summer evenings, family barbecues, graduations of all sorts and life transitions! Let's enjoy the "in-between" pauses - they create necessary breathing space and perspective . . . in, out, in, out and . . . ok, that's enough!
Now let's get back to selling or buying you a home - even if there are a few thorns to battle along the way (remember, beauty has its price.) I'm ready to go and here to help!
"Can you believe this schedule?" my son incredulously asked at last week's U of A orientation. "My first class starts at 8:00am . . . who goes to college to get up that early in the morning!?!" he moaned. No worries, by the afternoon gathering, Case has successfully transferred out of every early computer-generated classes and replaced them with others more in line with his educational goals (a later starting time). Since his assigned dorm is a few block off campus, he'll need those extra minutes to make it to most of the big lecture halls. Ah grasshopper, so much to learn and so little time!
Not surprisingly, this was a conversation being repeated by nearly every incoming Freshman and their accompanying parent in last week's session. It seems that early morning hours aren't favored by these young college bound kids. Get real; as the "low man" on the totem pole, they were quickly learning that Freshman have very limited choices. It seems that every student wants a schedule that runs between 10:00am and 2:00pm - preferably on Tuesday and Thursdays only! Hmmm . . . as these naive students were being reminded, that's what's better known as "being a Senior." Until they've earned their dues, these kids may have to settle for less than perfect.
So too, do many first-time buyers. With limited budgets, they often find out that they cannot afford to get everything their hearts desire. Guess what? Even those with relatively BIG expense accounts, rarely get every amenity they require either. (In life, we all make choices.) You can afford a coveted location, but must settle for a smaller home than you currently own. You may purchase that recently renovated Queen Anne you truly adore, but forfeit a guest bedroom. You may acquire a spectacular panoramic Bay view, but have virtually no usable garden space on what's sure to be a downsloping lot. (Get the picture?)
Regardless of how much money buyers can afford to spend, it is likely they will need to concentrate on those items that are most essential to them and prioritize their "wish list" accordingly. Community? Check. Schools? Check. Transportation? Check. New appliances? Not so much. Whatever your needs, you will very often have to pick and choose.
The truth is, I have yet to help a buyer purchase the "perfect" home at any price point, although that's always my intention going in. ( Perfection only exists in airbrushed photos on the cover of men's magazines.) In a strange twist of irony, it is often the "fixer" buyer that demands the least from a home. Why? Because they typically are the only buyers with ZERO expectations! Head's up! ALL homes, whether new or old, big or small, traditional or modern, typically have their share of unique challenges - every single one. (For the record, It's worth noting that these small imperfections often turn into the most interesting aspects of a home over time.)
Some challenges will be apparent going in and others will be discovered only after taking title, but let me prepare you from the start - your new home won't be perfect (and neither will your kids - college bound or not). Some imperfections will be "inherent," as in stairs to the front door and others will be "fixable," such as outdated kitchens and bathrooms. Regardless of a property's attributes or detriments, every home requires some adjustments along the way and to be perfectly frank, a bit of a "reality check" from the start. Remember, homes have histories and depending on those histories, they often have stories that carry forward - to you . . .
The important thing is to discover what you can (or cannot) live with (or without) and adapt your search to these clearer guidelines. Investigate, assess, refine and keep an open mind (you may need to expand your "box" in some cases) and you will be ahead of the game. With clear expectations and real perspective, you should find that most of the perceived flaws with respect to your homes, are truly "gold-plated problems." (They are.) Moreover, once you actually take possession of your new home, you are more likely to meet any unforeseen surprises with grace; as part and parcel of home ownership, instead of second-guessing your decision. (For me it was a massive redwood tree that required removal within two weeks of moving in and an overdue remodel that has yet to be tackled.)
Here's the good news - you are happily ensconced in a home! (Yeah - you're one of the lucky ones.) It may not be perfect, but it's progress (kind of like my son's new schedule.) While you may not get everything you want in this first, second or even third home, you are very likely, getting everything you really need. (Got that son?) Congratulations - Go Wildcats!
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.