It's beginning to dawn on me that my family and I are probably NOT going to be able to live through the remodel of our new/OLD home - or as I've lovingly taken to calling it - the S***t Shack! (Yes, you can take the girl out of Sacramento, but you can't take Sacramento out of the girl).
Through six other home remodels, the boys and I have huddled in a room or two, subsisted on microwave meals for months, and put up with the dust and mess that invariably IS a construction site, but in our current case, I may have been a tad too optimistic . . .
I don't want to appear ungrateful here; we saw a "fixer" opportunity, seized it, and went in with eyes wide open (well, partially open). Moreover, we caught the market just right and sold our previous home earlier this spring for a healthy profit, which allowed this current adventure to come about.
That was ALL great!
But when I went downstairs earlier this week to retrieve the laundry (and can I just interject that washers and dryers have NO business being in the basement), I discovered a pool of sewage had seeped through an abandoned plumbing pipe and left a rather large puddle on the floor.
(Ewww, Yuck! I'll spare you the photos.)
Hey, I'm willing to camp through a remodel, but even I have limits.
Knowing that construction is, unfortunately, still a few months away, it's probably time to rethink our strategy . . . and move out! Like saner more rational folk, we'll downsize into temporary housing for the duration.
A thoughtful "strategy" isn't just an important component of life and the challenges we face day in and day out, it's also a HUGE component of selling or buying a home as well.
Certainly, it can't have escaped anyone's attention that Realtors have developed an unusual "strategy" here in the Bay Area that includes full disclosure, fresh paint and staging, and camera- ready presentation. These gold standards for selling one's home with the expectation of receiving offers above the list price, go hand-in-hand with advantageous market timing, full market exposure, and good old-fashioned know how.
But perhaps the most important "strategy" a Realtor employs is pricing a home appropriately from the start. Granted, this isn't always easy to do, especially when we are taking the listing prior to investigation and often weeks or months in advance of a home's actual debut. Nor do Sellers always greet our suggestions with unbridled enthusiasm and acceptance. (In fact, they often don't.)
However, if we misjudge this critical component and price higher than the market supports, based on our Sellers' insistence or worse yet, on our lack of understanding of the current marketplace, than the resulting sale will take much longer than it should have and likely, bring far poorer results. (I hate it when that happens.)
"Can't we just continue to market the home aggressively until we get what we want and need?"
Uhhhh, "No" (or rather, yes, you can, but it's a fatal mistake).
Unfortunately, Buyers neither care nor respond to what you want or need. The plain truth is that the best results come about rapidly (and in our market, that's typically no more than 14 days). Statistically, the longer your home stays on the market, the less likely you are to receive your list price.
Trust me, when Buyers find a property they believe to be of value to them, fits their family's needs in particular, and is difficult to replicate, they will step in quickly and make a serious offer. It's what I refer to as the "value proposition." Conversely, if it is perceived as overpriced, they'll stay away.
(BTW - the "value proposition" is as much at play for the $5,000,000 house as it is for the $500,000 house. "Value" is ALWAYS about perception and it isn't the same for everyone.)
"But my house is better, nicer, more special . . ." and so it goes.
I believe you and yet, it doesn't necessarily matter. The recent home sale down the street has set the market value and IS your home's comp moving forward. Remember, the market defines the "value" of any given home at any given time!
It may also be true that your home isn't as nice as you thought and suffers by comparison, which will absolutely affect its value. (Please don't shoot the messenger.) Which is another way of saying that the condition of your home is incredibly important so protect this valuable asset and don't let it fall into disrepair. We can keep our homes meticulous inside, but if we're not paying attention to the roof or foundation, it's likely to catch up with us come time to sell.
So take heed and be strategic about your home's care, pricing and your presentation. Come the offer date, you might be pleasantly surprised, and isn't that a happier ending?
(Which is a whole lot better than the surprise I received this week. I need a mop - and a new house!)
How can I help you?
I'll to try and keep this short and sweet as I've had a LOT of work on my plate this week and much more ahead. Yesterday, I spent the morning and afternoon gardening at my new listing at 8 Manor Drive in Piedmont (don't miss it!) and the day before I was hearing offers on my birthday for 16 Nace Avenue. (I'm pleased to report that 16 Nace Avenue went WELL above asking with five offers! What a gift and what deserving Sellers.)
WORK (!) is par for the course these days when nearly all of us in the Real Estate industry are churning round the clock to meet the demands of a market that has far fewer Sellers than Buyers and LOTS of anxiety and apprehension on both sides.
It's a crash course in Supply & Demand (and psychology) AND it's also a lesson in choosing your agent wisely. (Yes, your REALTOR can actually make a significant difference in your bottom line.)
Which is why I'm always stymied by naive Sellers who nonchalantly take, what is usually their single largest investment, and put it in the hands of an out-of-area agent, an inexperienced friend, or a newly minted relative. I understand the loyalty, but REALLY? This is your home. Maybe, just maybe, you'd prefer these agents would cut their teeth on someone else's property before you hand them yours.
A few weeks back I wandered, quite by accident, into an Open while on Broker's Tour and asked how the traffic had been. I'd followed the sign, but hadn't seen the property on my tour sheet. "Bad," the out-of-area agent dejectedly said, "almost no one has come to see it."
Of course they hadn't. This "team" from Pleasanton had failed to put the property into the AD REVIEW. (The AD REVIEW is the road map we agents use each Monday and Thursday to outline our tour.) Without proper notice, how could agents be expected to know the house was available - let alone their Buyers? Thus, the home had been missed and these poor Sellers had lost days trying to recover their market audience. Worse yet, the Sellers probably hadn't a clue about the misstep.
In a robust market such as ours, that's just unacceptable and it's also of little value to the Sellers when we serve an area we don't know, or understand well. Above all else, Real Estate is a local business so agents - REFER OUT!
Yesterday afternoon, I met up with a "referral" a retired colleague had sent my way. (Thank you Michelle; it's much appreciated.)
"I've been in my home for 45 years," the kind, but overwhelmed gentleman informed me . . ."I've got a mountain to move." (Sigh.)
"No worries," I replied. "That's what I'm here for.
Having expected the call, I had already driven by his address and noted that the yard is overgrown, the landscaping needs major pruning and the home needs power washing and as I suspected, it's going to need as much attention inside as it does outside. (Our homes store our lives.)
Again, that's what I'm here for.
The truth is, it's the rare home that is ready for a sign out front with nary a window washing or a closet to be sorted. Granted, most of us haven't collected 45 years of "stuff," but whether we've been residing in our homes for a little - or a long - time, chances are the property will benefit from purging, cleaning, staging, and gardening - and that's just for starters. Once in action, you'll need a committed team on your side and someone to manage it for you.
Or as my Broker recently commented, "You're a girl with horsepower!" (I think he meant that as a compliment.) Either way, the longest journeys begin with a single step.
From start to finish, a Buyer should expect inspectors, painters, housecleaners, gardeners, stagers, window washers, handymen, and whomever else is needed to fill in the blanks. It's simply pennywise and pound foolish to economize the presentation. Save your money elsewhere if you must, but don't scrimp on the marketing and preparation.
They should also expect to track down bank records, dig up blueprints, organize permits, spend hours on disclosures, sign title documents, and meet with their agent frequently. In other words, selling a property is a BIG job and you want someone who knows how to put all these moving parts in place while simultaneously marketing your home to achieve its highest and best result.
AND you want someone with whom you are entirely comfortable sharing your finances, your fears, your hopes, and your aggravation (trust me, it will rise to the surface). Let's face it, under the BEST of circumstances, selling is a MONUMENTAL task, so choose wisely. We will be spending a lot of time together.
And no, this expertise and experience doesn't come free, but in the end, the "value added" to your sale is well worth the investment in bringing a home to market fully realized and inspected and in the hands of someone who knows and understands the market well. FSBOS (For Sale by Owners) are you listening? I can't even begin to imagine what you are thinking???
Hey, I've gotta run. I'm off to buy more plants and meet the photographer. There are mountains to move . . . (one step at a time). That's what I'm here for.
How can I help you?
I'm not sure the parade has ever been so well attended as last week's celebration. Like the birds to Capistrano, the folding chairs began to appear on Sunday - five days before the bagpipe bands and Mop Brigade arrived to proudly march down Highland Avenue. Young kids seeking candy filled the street, teenagers strolled, and parties lined the block on nearly every front lawn.
Red, white and blue bunting draped windows and porches throughout town and everywhere I turned I ran into someone familiar. . . "Julie Gardner!" Dhira called out, "Do you remember my mother? We still plan to have you over for dinner to thank you . . ." (I'll hold you to that.)
Dhira, her husband, and kids (and mother) are new to the parade this year, having just moved into their home in Piedmont a few short months ago. I'd met Dhira and her husband, Kartik, at an open house on a Sunday afternoon and a few weeks later, they were successfully in contract on a terrific property here in town. That's quick work. (Believe me, it doesn't always happen that way.)
I'd like to think that their quick success was predicated on my representation and that's partly true, but it also had a great deal to do with their fast learning curve and their desire to attain their goal before the market climbed out of reach. (We'd lost a house a week earlier in Montclair and they quickly rebooted and recalculated.)
Moreover - and I cannot emphasize this enough (!) - they stayed reasonable and even-tempered throughout the deal. Perhaps it's because Kartik, as a CEO for a high-profile company, negotiates deals all day long, or because Dhira, as a practicing MD, needs to stay calm and collected when speaking with her patients, but whatever the reason, they came to town armed and ready, but did so unemotionally and pragmatically. Even better, they quickly got up to speed on current market "value" and wrote accordingly.
Suffice it to say that there have been a few occasions in this heated marketplace where Buyers or Sellers were far more emotional in the course of the deal and turned to me in frustration: "Julie, we need you to advocate for US!" (Of course you do. That's my job.)
This typically happens when the transaction has run into an unexpected snag - or two (a very common occurrence during the course of escrow) and the Buyers or Sellers are highly charged. Their perception is that I am bending over backwards to lay out the other party's point of view and, indeed, I am.
While a person's divorce, job relocation, or family drama may not be relevant to you, it is to them and it absolutely colors the transaction moving forward. Moreover, the psychology of the deal is every bit as important as the financing. If we approach each hurdle as something to get through, as opposed to something that blocks our way, we begin to look for solutions, instead of problems. And as your "ADVOCATE," isn't that what you really want me to do?
At the risk of disappointing those of you looking for a Pitt Bull, it's just not my style. Not because I can't dig my heels in and draw a line in the sand (I can; just ask my husband, Cliff) but because I believe that even when we win this type of battle, we risk losing the war. Knowing where the other side stands and their motivations around their decisions, definitely informs our response and strategy.
In other words, it doesn't serve to polarize the other side, creating unnecessary resentments that typically come to roost, either in a quick exit or worse yet, in the form of a lawsuit after the close of escrow. Avoiding discontentment can save you BIG BUCKS down the road. So yes, the best deals always come about when the transaction ends on a high note.
In short, being accommodating and helpful isn't just the polite thing to do - it's the strategic thing to do.
So answer those questions when asked, accurately fill in your disclosures, invite inspections as appropriate, welcome your Buyers into the home with designers, architects and contractors (especially if they have given you a generous rent-back) and understand that overcoming objections is part and parcel to every home purchase and more importantly, that "the deal" is a two way street.
How we handle our side of it, is exceedingly important; our intentions, our actions and our words lay the groundwork for what's to come. This simply goes back to what our mothers taught us way back when: "Play nice!" (Thank you mom. As it turns out, mothers know a thing or two about negotiating.)
Speaking of streets (and mothers), I ran into so many wonderful families on July 4th, both on Highland Avenue and at my Open House immediately following, that I never made it all the way to the lawn parties I was headed to (my apologies).
No matter, it was so great seeing each of you with the knowledge that somewhere along the way, I had helped each family into (or out of) homes here in town, or nearby. What a gift!
Now please send your friends and family my way. I'd love to 'politely' help them as well.
It's time once again for Piedmont's annual Fourth of July celebration!
Like always, the day begins with a community Pancake Breakfast at the Veteran's Hall at 7:30am, followed by the Fourth of July Parade which starts promptly at 11:00. (I personally LOVE the bagpipe bands).
Music in the park spans much of the afternoon, accompanied by homemade picnics and dancing, much to the horror of our teens who wander off to swimming pools and gatherings of their own - sans adults!
The barbecues heat up after lunch, and the block parties extend well into the evening, capped by a stunning fireworks display at Jack London Square. (Oooh, ahhh!)
This is 'Americana' at its best - and no one does it better than Piedmont, in my humble opinion.
It's difficult, on such a patriotic day, to deny the many benefits of small communities such as ours or hometown hospitality (I've got Evites to three parade parties and I plan to attend them all; thank you very much.)
Perhaps no one is more welcome or more appreciated than our own Mulberry's Market purveyors, Chad and Laura Olcott; the "Grand Marshals" of this year's parade. They couldn't be more deserving. ( I hope this means I won't have to curtsey when I see you now.) Isn't it nice to honor these two extraordinary Piedmont citizens for a change? (Why yes, it is.)
Whether you'll be participating in the festivities, feasting from the sidelines, or sipping lemonade at a cabin in Tahoe, I want to wish you all a glorious red, white and blue celebration! On second thought, maybe just red and white - the day is too much fun to bring in the blues . . .
Happy Fourth of July!
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.