Did you feel the chill in the air this week as the fog descended and fall made its presence known? BRRR . . . I pulled out a heavy black overcoat and threw it on prior to heading out my door to the Educate Our State luncheon in San Francisco, where I anticipated the weather would be colder still (it was). That dusty coat has been idly sitting at the back of my closet for months, thanks to our glorious California sunshine and fantastic autumn temperatures. (Hey, it's already snowing in other parts of the country. Give thanks.)
Here's the thing, I'm a gal who's all about the pockets and whenever I put on a jacket, I usually find a nice surprise (or two) tucked away, that has been long forgotten. On Wednesday, it was a handyman's business card (always useful), a fabulous lipstick (ohhh-la-la), and a twenty-dollar bill. Eureka!
"Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize . . . that's what you get in Cracker Jacks".
Don't you love these kind of surprises? (Yes, I do.)
On the other hand, there are those kind of surprises that are far less welcome. Fortunately, with respect to Real Estate, many of these "glitches," such as poor inspections or ambiguous easements, can be somewhat anticipated AND corrected before they turn into ugly negotiating issues down the road. (Don't wait for the Buyer to conduct inspections once in contract. Do these proactively!)
However, some surprises aren't so quickly accommodated or rectified. This week, Brady Thomas, of LaSalle Financial, popped by The GRUBB Company's Tuesday morning office meeting to give us a little POP QUIZ on personal credit scores; the significance of them to you - the borrower - and how they are established and managed over time . . . (Think of these as your own personal, grown-up SAT'S!)
And for those of you just wondering: a "Perfect Credit Score" is 840 points; 760 is considered "excellent;" 720 is "on par;" a score below 700 becomes much more difficult and costly to the borrower; and lastly, a score below 640 doesn't stand a chance of finding legitimate funds anywhere in the banking world. (How's your relationship with with your mother?)
So there you have it. Your Credit Score might not be the most exciting topic on which I've ever spoken, but it's likely to have the biggest impact on your ability to borrow throughout your lifetime. Protect your credit score, nurture it, and honor it, the way you would your children.
On second thought, protect your credit history MORE; your children will have to find their own way eventually. In fact, maybe it's time for them to establish their own credit and get on with it.
Now where'd I put that twenty-dollar bill? I'm going to need it to pay for parking in SF . . . (For more information on credit clarification, click here!)
Did you feel the chill in the air this week as the fog descended and fall made its presence known? BRRR . . .
I pulled out a heavy black overcoat and threw it on prior to heading out my door to the Educate Our State luncheon in San Francisco, where I anticipated the weather would be colder still (it was). That dusty coat has been idly sitting at the back of my closet for months, thanks to our glorious California sunshine and fantastic autumn temperatures. (Hey, it’s already snowing in other parts of the country. Give thanks.)
Here’s the thing, I’m a gal who’s all about the pockets and whenever I put on a jacket, I usually find a nice surprise (or two) tucked away, that has been long forgotten. On Wednesday, it was a handyman’s business card (always useful), a fabulous lipstick (ohhh-la-la), and a twenty-dollar bill. Eureka!
“Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize . . . that’s what you get in Cracker Jacks”.
Don’t you love these kind of surprises? (Yes, I do.)
On the other hand, there are those kind of surprises that are far less welcome. Fortunately, with respect to Real Estate, many of these “glitches,” such as poor inspections or ambiguous easements, can be somewhat anticipated AND corrected before they turn into ugly negotiating issues down the road.(Don’t wait for the Buyer to conduct inspections once in contract. Do these pro-actively!)
However, some surprises aren’t so quickly accommodated or rectified. This week, Brady Thomas, of LaSalle Financial, popped by The GRUBB Co’s Tuesday morning office meeting to give us a little POP QUIZ on personal credit scores, the significance of them to you – the borrower – and how they are established and managed over time . . .
(Think of these as your own personal, grown-up SAT’S!)
And for those of you just wondering: a “Perfect Credit Score” is 840 points; 760 is considered “excellent;” 720 is “on par;” a score below 700 becomes much more difficult and costly to the borrower; and lastly, a score below 640 doesn’t stand a chance of finding legitimate funds anywhere in the banking world. (How’s your relationship with with your mother?)
So there you have it. Your Credit Score might not be the most exciting topic on which I’ve ever spoken, but it’s likely to have the biggest impact on your ability to borrow throughout your lifetime. Protect your credit score, nurture it, and honor it, the way you would your children. On second thought, protect your credit history MORE; your children will have to find their own way eventually. In fact, maybe it’s time for them to establish their own credit and get on with it.
Now where’d I put that twenty-dollar bill? I’m going to need it to pay for parking in SF . . .
(For more information on credit clarification, click here)
I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in bed, having come down with a bad case of vertigo and distracted myself with marathon TV, waiting impatiently to regain my equilibrium (I'm now caught up on EVERY serial program ever made). Frankly, I think one should never walk into walls unless there are massive quantities of tequila involved, and I retired those days LONG ago (gratefully)!
As I fumbled through the channels in the wee hours of the morning, I came across Broadway Idiot; the documentary on Green Day's journey to "The Great White Way." This engaging and honest film charts the band's collaboration (specifically, Billie Joe Armstrong's collaboration) with director and playwright, Michael Mayer, and orchestrator, Tom Kitt, to adapt Green Day's highly acclaimed album, American Idiot, into a full-fledged rock opera for the Broadway stage.
Given the top-notch talent of everyone involved in the project from actors, to set designers, it isn't surprising that the successful adaptation received two Tony Awards in 2010 and a Grammy for Best Show Album in 2011; impressive accomplishments from one of our most gifted native sons, AND a fantastic result. That's not a bad day's work (or two or three . . .)
BUT what really resonated with me (since I'm not a rock star) was the willingness of Billie Joe to trust others to have a vision as equally valid as his own and to believe that this talented team would serve his objectives with respect to the songs. Even in my semi-conscious, spinning state, the lessons of collaboration came through loud and clear.
Now that's a lesson we can all use, no matter our trade or vocation.
Without comparing the sale of a home to an award-winning Broadway show (although it's not a stretch to say that most home sales involve a fair amount of drama) the need to trust others is often the case with Sellers as well, whenever they invite a REALTOR into their homes to offer up a marketing plan. No matter the number of years one has lived in their home, or one's level of willingness, collaboration is always going to be a large part of the process. For some, this means surrendering almost entirely, while for others, the process may take much longer before they develop enough faith to finally let go . . . (I get it.)
Last week, I had the opportunity to sit in my clients' shoes as I helped my aging parents (now both in their 80s) explore the very real possibility of selling their condominium in Sonoma next spring; a move brought on by their desire to pare down and simplify their lives (and say goodbye to stairs).
"The objective is to sell their home for as much money as they can get and as quickly as possible," I stated (duh) to their prospective Realtor, "How do you propose to do that and what is the timing you suggest?"
Not surprisingly, the accommodating Realtors my folks had identified, suggested many of the same steps I recommend to my clients as well: inspect, repair, paint, stage, prep, and when possible, move out, in order to make showings as easy as possible . . . They arrived with sales comps in hand, spoke clearly about the market realities in Sonoma, and followed up with a detailed marketing plan and calendar of events (thank you, much appreciated).
In black and white, this all sounds fairly straightforward, but it rarely ever is. The fact is, people tend to be emotionally connected to their homes and giving them over to others . . . is quite honestly, a difficult task indeed. How can a third-party opinion matter more than your own? (It doesn't; it simply serves as a reality check and a spring board.)
But here are the steps my parents are taking today, and what you should consider as well - IF a sale is in your future:
1. They are beginning the process NOW, in order to sell in the Spring of 2014. (Don't wait until after the New Year to connect with your Realtor. It's never too soon.)
2. They are preparing their house and garden, purging closets, and donating items they no longer use or need. They are planting for spring blooms (by "they", I mean my mom) to coordinate with the timing of the listing and repairing any red flags that come up during the course of inspections.
3. They are visiting nearby Sunday Opens to get a better sense of the existing competition and Buyer expectations. (How are other homes presented in the neighborhood?)
4. They are tracking the sales of "like-kind" properties to better align themselves with a realistic sale's outcome. (What was the final sales price and level of activity?)
5. The are hiring locally! (A move I wholeheartedly encouraged and applaud). Having visited several opens, they have a keen sense of who their "market specialists" are and who can deliver the best result.
Listen, we've all got a friend, a cousin, or a family member with a Real Estate license, but it doesn't necessarily follow that they will be your best choice come the time to sell (or buy) your home. Working locally, is the single, smartest choice you can make, which is why with respect to my parents, I am more than happy to consult from the sidelines and hand over the reigns to others I trust implicitly. In other words, collaboration is the key.
In short, surround yourself with those whose vision you can trust, AND then trust the process.
You're much more likely to end up with a fantastic result. (Hey, we can't all win Tony Awards or a Grammy, but the outcome should still be noteworthy, no matter the journey.) No need to walk into walls when there's so much well-intentioned help to be had.
How can I help you?
I spent last Monday realizing my worst nightmare. (Okay, there's a bit of hyperbole here, but just the same . . .) Having been talked into participating in the annual PHS Booster's Tennis & Golf Tournament at the fabulous Claremont Country Club in Oakland, I was certain I would prove to be the weakest link on my team. Regrettably, that was true.
I love tennis. I grew up playing tennis, and I used to play it well, but not last Monday (in truth, I haven't played well in years). Last Monday, I let anxiety and self-induced stress get the best of me and performed rather poorly. Double Fault. (Boo-hoo, first-world problems.) It wasn't until the third and fourth rounds that I actually redeemed myself enough to win back some much-needed points (although it helped immensely to have a PHS tennis coach as my doubles' partner in the last two rounds - Ringer!).
If I'm being totally honest (and why not?) "match play" has never been my forte, even when I was at my best. (Who performs well when they're in the midst of a panic attack?) As all of us have learned at one time or another, ANXIETY, and STRESS rarely work in anyone's favor - regardless of the forum.
Not surprisingly, there is a bit of anxiety, and stress that have crept into our markets as of late as our representatives in Washington DC struggle to pass a budget and avoid defaulting on the National Debt Ceiling. (Really? Let's suspend Congress' pay until they can reach an accord. Then, we'd very likely see some REAL movement.) With predictions of dire, global reverberations, it's an easy jump to project catastrophic, economic, world-wide consequences.
Please don't panic.
Unfortunately, we seem to be at the juncture far too often. (I suspect that's NOT how most of us operate at home with respect to managing our own finances.)
Although I have no answers as to how the gridlock will ultimately play out in our nation's capital, I can politely suggest that if you are currently in escrow, funding might well be delayed until the offices of Social Security and the IRS are up and running.
While several major banks are relaxing income requirements until after the close of escrow, many are NOT, so it IS imperative to ask the questions upfront: "Will there be a delay in funding and if so, for how long?" For Jumbo borrowers (loans above $625,500) stricter guidelines remain largely in place. In such a circumstance, CASH really IS KING - as are reliable lenders who can deliver funding in a timely fashion. (BTW - a missed financial deadline, given the current market conditions, isn't the Buyers' fault, NOR is it the agent's fault, NOR is it the mortgage originator's fault (let's play fair)). It's simply circumstances beyond our control.
While the wait for funds may be difficult to bear, (especially if you need these funds to close on the next property) it is unlikely that a Buyer in second position will fare any better. Unless there is an "ALL-CASH" offer at the ready, starting over, is still starting over.
Better to work with the party currently in contract, than to begin again.
NO ONE likes delays, especially the Buyers, who may very well have to pay extra to maintain their "loan lock," OR risk paying higher interest rates a week or two down the road when the loan finally funds. In short, delays costs both sides time and money and both parties are likely to share the pain in equal parts. Put another way, we are all in this together.
Assuming reasonable minds will come together, the backlog of requests will soon be filled, and loans will undoubtedly get funded as we return to "business as usual" in Washington. In the meantime, if we give everyone a bit more time, our expectations will better align with the current market realities.
Note to both Buyers and Sellers: this isn't the time to be punitive or impatient. Renegotiate price and terms ONLY if warranted, but DO amend - in writing (!) - any extensions to the timelines or changes to the contract.
As for me, was I really hoping to play tennis as well as Sharapova, or on a more modest scale, as well as my dedicated tennis friends who play religiously? (A girl can dream.) The reality is that age, injuries, and lack of practice have ALL taken their toll on my disappearing tennis game (we all have to work with life's limitations). If I really want to play better, I have only to commit the time and effort and put in the work!
The truth is, it takes practice and repetition to maintain consistency. Next time, I will either politely decline the invitation, OR better yet, decide to enjoy the day for what it is - an opportunity to socialize with my peers, get a little exercise, and have fun while supporting the Boosters.
And truly, if my greatest nightmare is that "I will play tennis poorly," than I really need to rethink my priorities (Ya think?) Hey, maybe it's time to take up golf . . . (A BIG thank you to my incredibly kind team captain, Nick Levinson. Now there's a guy who's got game . . .)
Thankfully the BIG BASH is behind me. Can I just say, "I'm bushed!"
Every few years I decide to open my home and my garden to clients and friends, AND clients who have become friends, AND friends who have become clients, AND potentially new clients, AND . . . (well, you get the picture). It's both an opportunity to personally thank my network for all their unwavering support, and a reminder that I still exist!
This year, I specifically targeted families with young children as I had decided to rent a GIANT move screen for a private showing of Pixar's, The Incredibles at my first ever - Camp Gardner Starlight Cinema.
Unfortunately, I had picked a weekend jammed packed with other conflicting events here in town, including a tri-school fundraising party, so the "no's" were coming fast and furious with barely a "yes" among the crowd.
"Nobody likes me," I complained to my twin sister over the phone, "I don't think anyone's coming to my party and I'm way too old to feel like I'm not one of the 'popular kids' in school . . ." (Really? Someone call this girl a whaaambulance.)
Jill politely listened to my high-octane neurosis for a few moments and then compassionately (but firmly) said: "Drop the rock, get out of your way, trust the process, and have faith in the outcome . . . it will be fine; it always is." (Jill's ALL about tough love. Maybe she should consider a career in Real Estate?)
Mind you, this isn't just good advice from one sister to another, it's good advice for life - and as it so happens, it's really good advice for Real Estate - in particular.
In what is, truly a unique marketplace; one where sustained disappointments are often part of the drama (believe me, multiple bidding wars aren't the norm in Dallas, Texas) TRUSTING in the process and believing that everything will work out in the end, can be very difficult to master. Or as another friend so eloquently put it, "If it's for you, it won't get by you." (Okay, I LOVE that kind of faith and certainty.)
Whether you are "Zen" enough to truly embrace such a philosophy is another matter altogether (admittedly, I'm often NOT), but I have learned that when I let go of expectations, it takes a tremendous amount of anxiety OUT of the equation and opens up a whole new world of possibilities. (What a relief.)
AND although the market has definitely favored Sellers as of late, it doesn't necessarily follow that Sellers are immune to feelings of anxiety as a result. In fact, I might argue that Sellers actually often exhibit MORE anxiety than do Buyers, especially if they lost a great deal of equity in their homes over the past several years and are now counting on this much-improved marketplace to make them whole once again. (Depending on their level of debt, this may or may not be possible.)
The truth is, that while Buyers tend to feel gratitude for their agent's guidance - no matter the outcome - Sellers can, and often do, feel far more conflicted as they struggle to let go of "the dream", even when the result has positively outperformed their expectations. (Drop the rock.)
"Trust the process - everything will be fine; it always is."
As it turns out, my anxiety-producing shin-dig ended up being far better attended than the RSVP's would have lead me to believe, and WAY more fun than I had possibly imagined (Whew, I'm still recovering). It was a joy to host friends, neighbors, and colleagues in my home for a change and to share what turned out to be a truly magical evening under the stars. In a word, it was simply "Incredible."
Thank you to those of you who came and to my faithful sister Jill, not only for her emotional guidance, but for all the physical help by way of cooking, cleaning, serving . . . (I owe you MORE than one.)
Maybe I'll make this an annual event (that's just crazy talk) but whatever the function, whatever the challenge, I will ABSOLUTELY try to have more faith in the outcome. Isn't it just easier that way?
How can I help you?
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.