Realtor: "A Real Estate Broker or Real Estate Agent is a person who acts as an intermediary between sellers and buyers of real estate/real property and attempts to find sellers who wish to sell and buyers who wish to buy."
That's the definition for "Realtor" as defined by Wikipedia, but it doesn't begin to scratch the surface. My client and good friend said it best:
"Hey Julie," came the request, "I need a 'house coach.' We're considering some improvements. Can you come over and talk us through them?"
YES I CAN!
I have written pieces in the past that describe my profession as part designer, part psychologist, part financial planner . . . (The Butcher, the Baker, The Candlestick Maker!) but 'House Coach' may be the best and most appropriate description I have heard to date. (I wish I'd thought of it myself.)
In a world where people think nothing of hiring a fitness coach, a nutritional coach, or a LIFE coach for goodness sakes, why not a "house coach?" In a very practical sense that's exactly the role we Realtors assume. (After all "improvements" can be very subjective! Your turquoise bathroom might not be the advantage you thought when you go to resell.)
Like a coach, a Realtor whips your property into shape, engages the right specialists, builds a reliable team, thoroughly investigates, creates a winning game plan, critically analyzes the competition, communicates the plays, and makes quick decisions - often under very stressful circumstances.
We also recruit Buyers and Sellers from other areas and states, "sell" them on the community and what it has to offer, and "cheer" on the sale, as we securely guide it - and you - through the escrow process.
Occasionally, we will even have to sideline your sale until the market responds more favorably and it can better deliver your expectations. At other times, we may have to reset your expectations altogether OR look for other solutions that meet your needs in a more pragmatic way. So while I had previously described myself as a "cheerleader," upon further reflection, my duties and skills go well beyond simply cheering you on and acting as an "intermediary" in the sale or purchase of a home. "Intermediary" doesn't begin to adequately describe the many hats I wear, nor the fiduciary responsibility I have to you; one I take quite seriously.
However my duties are defined, there are MANY more that are undefined, but equally, if not more important to the process. These include empathy, intuition, deductive reasoning (a bit of Sherlock Holmes), organization, negotiation, and hopefully, humor. (Because if we're not at least smiling, what's the point?)
The fact is, I often come into your lives at very critical junctures (your own version of the Super Bowl) and developing faith and trust quickly in one another is not only crucial, it's critical. (Bringing some levity to the process is my own personal bonus.) There may be a new baby on the way, OR one or both of you are being transferred, OR there's been a death in the family - and so it goes. Life has a way of delivering unexpected interceptions!
With respect to your Realtor, adjusting to whatever life brings your way is more easily done when you invite us into the process early on, are completely honest with us about your financial profile (that's a tough one for many), and deliver feedback on a regular basis that helps us refine the process, communicate with you more effectively, and meet your needs on both an emotional and a financial level. When you wait until the last minute to include us in your buying or selling process, you haven't really gotten your money's worth now, have you?
Please don't worry about "bothering" me. IT'S MY JOB and I love hearing from you. After weeks, months and sometimes, years (yes, years!) of working together, many of you have become family. (In some cases, I hear from you more often. That's a hint son, CALL YOUR MOTHER!)
Over time, I get to watch your kids grow up, grow out, and move on . . . such is the nature of our relationship. So feel free to call or email me with your questions, whatever they may be:
"Does my master bathroom need a tub? (Not necessarily if there are others in the house.)
"Do you know of a good window specialist/plumber/contractor? (I do!)
"Do I need to get pre-approved for a loan before buying?" (Yes!)
:Can I adjust my property taxes?" (Possibly.)
"Remodel or move?" (It depends? How much do you like your location?)
Whatever your questions, I am happy to respond and if I don't have the answers, I'll find someone who does. So let's work together. I'll "coach" you through it. Game on!
"Yes, I'd like to hike in the morning. How's 9:00am?" came the late night text to my earlier inquiry from a co-hiker and good friend.
"Too late." I replied. "I'll be back by then" (and indeed, I was).
Sundays are working gigs for me. The more I get accomplished EARLY in the day, the better my running start. On any given Sunday, I'll put out Open House signs, make copies of the Ad Review and bake cookies prior to the actual start time of 2:00pm. On the home front, I'll also typically make a batch of waffles for my family (a long standing Sunday morning tradition) water the garden, start the laundry, and begin work on this week's "Perspective," so a hike in the hills has to come at the crack of dawn - or not at all . . . .
I woke up and checked the clock - it was 6:30am. I glanced out the windows and spied a thick blanket of fog. Shoot! Maybe I could stay in bed instead? No, I quickly got up, grabbed a sweatshirt, threw on my hiking boots, and whistled for our dog, Buck, who is happily indifferent to time frames - or fog. (He NEVER needs prompting.) Me? I was a little less sure. The down comforter looked a whole lot warmer, but the day beckoned and as the car
climbed, the mist stayed well below the trails and Buck and I were rewarded with clear blue skies and stunning vistas.
It's not always so crisp and clear, or awe-inspiring, but it was last Sunday, reminding me once again how lucky we are to live here in the Bay Area. ("Is this heaven? No, it's Oakland.")
A few days later it was a different story. The thick mist draped the hills, while the sun did it's best to peek through with very little success. The only view worth noting that morning was Buck's wagging tail and the path in front of us. In fact, I got a little turned around for a minute or two on the loop back. Some days are just like that.
If I'm being really honest (Why not? We've already shared so much) that's a bit of the journey with respect to Real Estate as well. Sometimes the path is crystal clear and at other times, it's downright foggy at best.
As happens, whenever I find myself at a crossroads and struggling with how to help others over the same hump, along comes a bit of clarity to balance the equation and set the world right. This time, it was imparted by John Glynn of LaSalle Financial, who was asked to present at GRUBB Co's weekly Tuesday morning meeting, and held our attention (Of course, it doesn't hurt that John is a dead ringer for Brendan Frasier.)
"You and your clients focus on the purchase price," John began (how true!) "I focus on the COST to finance that purchase."
In short, John was speaking to the "Affordability Index" and here's what he had to say that was even more eye-opening . . .
"Although the overall median price in Oakland has dropped 44.91% since the high of 2007 (a figure that is skewed by foreclosure and short sales), the average mortgage rate has also dropped 43.57%, the monthly payment has dropped 59.87%, and the TOTAL INTEREST OVER 30 YEARS HAS DROPPED A WHOPPING 71.87%!" (Wow!)
"It's not just the PRICE you pay for a home, but what it COSTS you over time to finance it that really makes a BIG difference. Most of you, as well as your Buyers, are focusing on the wrong numbers!" (Thank you John, I couldn't have said it better myself.)
So grab your hiking boots and join me on the trail. Whether its clear skies, a bit of fog, or even a walk into the great unknown . . . the reality is that you are going to be okay. Remember that homeowners are the lucky ones. You have the luxury and the coveted opportunity of owning a home (not everybody gets that chance).
And if John's assurances weren't enough, then let's turn to the master of phraseology, Yogi Berra, who put it best:
"When you arrive at a fork in the road - take it!" You may just have an amazing journey! (I added that part.)
(John Glynn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (510) 339-4300.)
At the risk of sounding like a neophyte, I have to admit that when watching football games, there are certain plays and strategic calls about which I'm unclear time and time again. (I can see Cliff cringing now.)
The truth is, that while I've got a reasonable understanding of the basic mechanics (For example, I know there are four downs before the ball is turned over or punted away, I know that a gain of ten yards becomes a first down, I know that touchdowns are worth six points while field goals are only worth three . . .) it's the pesky nuances that easily pass me by. (What exactly is a "screen play" anyway and how is "encroaching" different from "off-sides?")
These are the questions that stymie me and make my husband volunteer to keep stats on the sidelines, rather than sit up in the stands with me. Thankfully, there are other husbands more patient and more willing to explain the yellow flags that seem to fly on nearly every play. (What's up with those darn flags anyway?)
I get the sense that I am not alone with respect to "nuances" and trying to understand a language that might as well be Latin (and in some cases, is). This isn't just true of football, baseball or other sports I watch my children participate in, it's true of just about every other activity or profession I can name. (What exactly is a "derivative?" What's "heresay?" And how does one "souvee" a chicken for goodness sakes?) Whatever your interests, there's a specific terminology that takes some practice and familiarity in order to accurately play the game. Agreed?
This is true with respect to Real Estate as well. Without practical experience, one can't begin to understand how each side lines up, what plays to execute, when to pass or when to run, and how to successfully reach the end zone. Moreover, the game of real estate changes not only from state to state, but from county to county, region to region and even neighborhood to neighborhood (as do the players). Real estate, almost more than any other profession I can think of, is incredibly LOCAL (!), as are the specific understandings with respect to the nuances of the deal. (Are there transfer taxes and who pays them? What are the point of sale ordinances? Is an attorney involved? Etc.)
I was reminded of that last week while answering several emails from a new Buyer I'm working with, who resides out-of-state. He's not naive by any means. At this point in his life, he and his wife are comfortably retired, they are well traveled, articulate, motivated and incredibly well researched, but buying Real Estate in the state of California is clearly a different animal from where they currently reside - as his pointed questions made very clear.
The difference between this client and many others, is that he's willing to admit what he doesn't know and seek the answers. (Good for him.)
So here is the game plan I shared with Mr. R and his wife that might help you as well; 30-days siphoned down to a few very basic paragraphs. Huddle up! "Hut!"
Buyers identify a property they are interested in pursuing. Buyers get preapproved with a mortgage lender. (This could easily be your very first step!) Buyers' agent requests a "disclosure package (discovery). The disclosure package is received, read, understood and signed off on by the Buyers. The Buyers write a competitive offer that outlines terms and price to be presented by the Buyers' agent("Consideration," or what's known as a "good faith deposit" MUST accompany the contract for a purchase offer to be valid. Good faith deposits are usually 3%, but are negotiable). Sellers accept, reject or, in turn, counter the purchase offer. Buyers do the same until BOTH terms and price are agreed upon and the contract is "ratified." The ratified contract is then sent to the title company (along with the good faith deposit) and to the mortgage lender and escrow is opened. A title search is ordered. An appraisal is ordered. Inspections take place. (Renegotiations may occur at this point, based on findings and the price may be adjusted or repairs may be requested.) Contingencies are removed. Homeowners insurance is put in place. Buyers have a final walk-through. The lender guarantees and underwrites the loan. Monies are wired and Sellers' loans are paid in full. Title is transferred to the new owners and escrow closes (typically 30-days). The keys are delivered. The moving truck arrives!
Touch down! (Now we're all on the same page of the play book.)
Any questions? (I promise not to leave you in the stands all by your lonesome.)
School has officially begun which means the "Fall Season" is here. For my son, Tristan, the "Fall Season" means time spent at the football stadium, where he is proving to have good hands and quick feet and is showing early success by way of touchdowns and yardage gains. Go Highlanders!
For me, I admittedly have more in common with the cheerleaders in their purple and white uniforms, than I do with the football players, having never learned the art of throwing a spiral. But I was head yell leader for three years during high school, which means I still lose my voice on Friday evenings as I cheer for our hometown boys. Go team!
"WHAT ABOUT, WHAT ABOUT, WHAT ABOUT OUR COLORS? . . ."
I'm still cheering (both professionally and personally) a role that seems to suit me well, whether it's in my capacity as a mother, a booster, a board member or as a REALTOR. I want you to succeed and I am going to do my best to see that you do, all while cheering you into the end zone and through the close of escrow. And because I truly believe in the concept of home ownership - aka the "American Dream" - it's easy for me to get behind it. "WE'RE SU-PER, SU-PER, WE'RE SU-PER, SU-PER, AH, OOH, SOCK 'EM TEAM!With respect to Real Estate, the "Fall Season" means the countdown to Thanksgiving. In other words, there are only 10 weeks left before the holidays.
"L-E-T-S G-O! LET'S GO, LET'S GO, L-E-T-S G-O, LET'S GO!"
It's also when we see the final push of listings hit the market in full force and when some of the best opportunities arise. If you are prepared to move quickly, this may prove to be the very best time to buy. Sellers aren't typically "testing" the market this time of year as the days are extremely limited. In short, they are REAL sellers, so take advantage of their desire to sell.
"S-U-C-C-E-S-S THAT'S THE WAY WE SPELL SUCCESS!" If you haven't yet spoken with a mortgage broker/banker, it's time to do so - post haste! Plan on turning over your last few years of tax returns at the very least, several months of bank statements, w-2's, and any other documentation they may require. The more complete you are with your paperwork upfront, the fewer loose ends there will be once you find a house you feel committed to (always a plus). If you rely on a BIG bonus to round out your annual income, you will absolutely need verification so get that ball rolling right away. (If you haven't identified a lender, I have a few favorites I'm happy to refer. Give me a call.)
"OUR GREAT TEAM IS READY TO GET DOWN . . ."
So without further ado, shake those pom-poms and let's move on down the field. There's a lot of ground to cover. Huddle up!
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.