In an attempt to squeeze in one more day of summer and put off the inevitable, my husband and I, our younger son Tristan and his buddy, headed over the Bay Bridge to Pier 39 last Saturday. Experiencing rare San Francisco sunshine, the four of us joined thousands of other excited tourists and headed over to Pier 39 to explore the shops and enjoy the street performers.
Within an hour, the boys and I had settled comfortably in front of the juggler's hilarious act and Cliff had wandered into a sports memorabilia store (which is as close to shopping - or to jugglers - as Cliff ever gets). Everyone was happy and in his element. (Yeah!)
Cut to: laughter, frivolity, applause and the tip hat . . . too late, I realized the meter was about to expire on our parking space! Hurriedly shoving some bills into the open bowler, I grabbed the boys and rushed into the store in search of Cliff, who had already left and was in all likelihood, scanning the crowd for us. Guessing he would meet us at the car thereby avoiding a ticket, the boys and I took off like Usain Bolt (humor me) and dropped several coins into the meter - just in the nick of time. (Yeah!)
No Cliff. (Drat!)
Thinking quickly (I can be inspired under pressure) I handed the boys a wad of crumpled bills and shoved them towards The Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. "Don't leave this place until I come back," I firmly instructed the boys. "I'll find Dad and return in a few minutes." That's what I said to the boys, but inside I wondered how in the world I was actually going to find my husband among the throngs of people.
Like a salmon swimming upstream, I bumped and jostled my way through the crowds, and wondered (not for the first time) why my husband never carries his cell phone??? Looking through the seemingly endless swarm of people, my radar on high, I started to panic and doubted whether I would actually find him before the boys had explored every freakish oddity Ripley's has to offer.
Then I saw it! Like a beacon, I saw my husband's bright red baseball cap. (Yeah!) Among thousands of heads, I spied his red hat!
In my experience, homes that sell quickly have two things in common. First, they are all priced correctly (yeah!) and second, they all have a "red hat" - that one thing that distinguishes them from every other home on the block.
Your "red hat" may be an architectural gazebo, a soaring cathedral ceiling, a stunning view, a gourmet kitchen, a reading nook, a bank of French Doors, a fragrant interior courtyard, or an enchanting garden where one envision's family celebrations. Because a home often represents dreams, people tend to buy their homes viscerally and emotionally. Play up the "red hat" and you are sure to attract qualified buyers in a hurry!
Don't have a "red hat?" Create one. Staging often provides the "red hat" a property may be lacking. (It also typically adds value to any home sale. )
So here are today's lessons:
1. Find or create the red hat in your home.
2. Carry a cell phone!
While waiting for the "muse" to hit (and waiting and waiting . . .) I got to thinking about the waiting process altogether. Many Buyers have been playing the "waiting game," hoping to time their purchase at the exact moment the market "bottoms out."
While this strategy makes sense from a practical standpoint, it rarely ever pans out the way one plans. Here's why: You may already have missed the bottom! (Have I caught your attention? I thought so.)
This week, two major indicators point to the conclusion that the market is currently on the upswing!
The first significant indicator is that foreclosure sales are up 42%, creating real affordability in the marketplace for first-time Buyers. Keep in mind, that entry-level Buyers traditionally drive the marketplace. These Buyers become the next generation of "move-up" Buyers that keep the process healthy and strong. Cheers to the entry-level Buyer!
The second indicator is that inventory has been very scarce. While this sounds like bad news, it's actually very good. The scarcity of good homes has created tremendous pent-up buyer demand!
Here in Piedmont, homes on Sea View Avenue, Manor Drive and York Avenue all enjoyed multiple offers with terrific results in the last week alone. With fewer homes from which to choose, Buyers are competing for those that are available, but more importantly, the Buyers that have been waiting on the sidelines should be pouring into the fall market in high numbers!
Will you take advantage of this opportunity or will you sit on the sidelines and miss your chance?
Standing in line at my favorite local doughnut store in Montclair Village (I can always pass up the tiramasu, but never a fresh-baked doughnut!) waiting to order a maple old-fashioned, I couldn't help but think about "Mr. Selective" - a special client of mine who had spent a year and a half diligently searching for a home before he successfully landed in contract on a wonderful property that met all of his criteria and then some.
As often happens during the inspection process, the realities of home ownership became heightened - and so did Mr. S's anxiety - instead of focusing on the doughnut, he began to focus on the doughnut hole! His initial excitement about the property evolved into concern and Mr. S. began to think of his lovely new home as a potential problem . . .
Understanding a first-time Buyer's process (his feelings are not atypical) but having gained perspective from the numerous home inspections I have witnessed over the years, I said, "Let's turn this around and remember that the purchase of this home isn't a "problem" - it's a solution!"
Relief spread across his face and he laughed. "You are right," he said, "this is a solution and I do love the house! " (Light bulb moment!)
How did I get so wise? I didn't. Luckily, I crossed paths on one of my very first listings with "Mr. Trustee" who was much wiser than me . . .
Building on an entire career of more than 50 years of experience, he brought a calming civility to a transaction that could easily have become complicated. In what proved to be a very challenging and protracted negotiation, Mr. T remained unfazed, regardless of the hurdle, returning again and again to his mantra: "There are no problems, there are only solutions."
Zen? You bet! But what an epiphany: one can choose to find the solution, instead of focusing on the problem!
As a real estate professional, I try to remember this example whenever I feel challenged. Even when the solution isn't easy, there is always a solution - as long as the problem has been well defined.
Identifying the objections, examining the options and helping the client determine a solution, is part of a good agent's repertoire.
Now let's all have a doughnut - I'm buying!
Working at an Open House in the Upper Oakmore last Sunday, I was struck by the number of parties that came through the home with NO designated agent in place.
The Internet has made it so easy for Buyers to search the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that for many of you, it seems more natural and much easier to shop on your own . . . However for most of us, our home represents our single largest investment. Add to that, the potential liability that surrounds every home sale and you have a complicated transaction at best.
Given the potential risk involved, doesn't it make more sense to research and select your representative up front?
Yet with real estate, Buyers often embark on the process alone, pulling in a REALTOR as an afterthought - once the property has been identified.
My point is this: Would you walk into the hospital and let the on-call doctor perform life-saving surgery without so much as a consultation? (I didn't think so.)
The earlier one connects with a qualified Broker, the better. Aligning yourself with an experienced REALTOR to oversee the entire transaction from beginning to end makes good sense (and good cents) with so much at stake.
From mortgage brokers, to lenders, to escrow officers, to title companies to insurance brokers, to home inspectors (the list goes on and on . . .) a successful outcome requires thoughtful and directed collaboration.
Since you will ultimately require a REALTOR to get into contract, aligning yourself with a seasoned professional from the get go, makes for a more symbiotic relationship; a relationship that is far more satisfying and successful when it begins early in the process!
Utilize your agent's skill set early on and you will be ahead of the game!
If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in the next few years - or have a friend who is considering a move - please feel free to give me a call.
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.