We are well into the holiday season, which means that many of us are frantically baking, decorating and going just a wee bit overboard to meet the childhood ideal. Although I voluntarily traded a Christmas tree for a Menorah several years ago, I'm no less immune to tinsel and tidings. Twinkling lights, festive gift wrap and bows, and freshly baked treats, all take me back to warm afternoons spent in my mother's kitchen when the Christmas season was central to my upbringing.
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose . . ."
My five siblings and I excitedly crowded around the wooden table with bowls of brightly-dyed icings, multicolored sprinkles and tiny silver balls for decorating our sugary concoctions (Silver bells are you listening?) With Christmas carols playing in the background, we worked like Santa's elves singing, creating, and carefully packaging Christmas tins full of fudge, peanut brittle and smiling gingerbread men, to be delivered to teachers, friends and neighbors alike. It's a family tradition I'd expected to carry on with my own sweet children . . . "Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow . . ." even if Christmas is no longer the star attraction in my own home.
Except that I have boys . . . and as it turns out, boys (at least my boys) aren't so interested in baking and decorating cookies. (Eating them, yes - baking them? Uh, not so much). Moreover, stuffing boxes and tagging them with gold-lettered salutations and pretty metallic string doesn't really appeal either (go figure).
"Follow me in merry measure . . . While I tell of Yuletide treasure . . ."
Not that the boys don't pitch in (with some heavy coercing) it's just that there's far less good cheer and fa-la-la-la-ing along the way. At the risk of stereotyping boys and girls (or men and women for that matter) there is a distinct difference in our respective approaches to these annual festivities. What I think of as 'traditions,' my boys (and my husband) think of as 'chores!" "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Tis the season to be jolly . . ." (Is it too late to adopt a daughter - or borrow my neighbors'?)
The same is true for house hunters as well. Men and women seem to have very different criteria when considering and examining a home. While initially, both genders look at size and location, when it really begins to get serious, women start to hone in on closet space, kitchen and bathroom utility and proximity to schools, while men tend to turn on the water and check the pressure in the pipes (no kidding).
"Silent Night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright . . ."
Far be it for me to say that one is necessarily better than the other. I just think it's fascinating to note the stark differences. As a general rule, most men don't tend to get excited over hardwood floors and leaded-glass windows, but throw a GIGANTIC flat screen TV, a potential media room, and a 2-car garage into the mix and we are talking a whole new level of interest. Add a backyard with a lawn large enough on which to throw a baseball or kick a soccer ball and it's "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way . . ."
Okay, I'm quite sure I owe an apology to some of you more refined aesthetic types (Chad, even you must know you're in the minority) but the fact remains that I have shown hundreds of properties and this is invariably the way it goes down. Moreover, I think it's beneficial to the house-hunting process to have differing opinions. Someone should care about the electrical components in the house, the foundation and the roof - it's just that it usually isn't the woman. At least, that's been my experience thus far.
Let's face it, men and women often approach home shopping (or any shopping) quite differently and my personal belief is that it improves and rounds out the experience . When it comes to buying a home, two minds are definitely better than one (unless of course, you bring ALL of your friends to chime in).
"Up on the housetop reindeer pause, out jumps good ol' Santa Claus . . ."
Whatever criteria you use, opinion you seek (or carol you sing) the best outcome is when both parties come to the same conclusion and agree that this home is the 'right choice' for everyone involved. "Wrap it up, We'll take it."
"May your days be merry and bright, and may all your 'holidays' be white."
Black Friday meant long lines as hoards of bargain hunters shoved and pushed their way through the masses of shoppers vying for "one-day only" deals. Ugh! I don't know who's idea of fun this is, but it sure isn't mine. Consumer optimism aside, I'll probably join the millions online this year just to avoid all that impolite elbowing.
Unless you're a linebacker, what's all the pushing about? Prodding, pushing, pleading - doesn't belong in anyone's tool belt as far as I'm concerned. In fact, the greatest skill I have acquired over the last couple of years (both personally and professionally) has been learning to let go and STOP pushing!
Of course, I'm highly motivated to find you a home (let' be clear, sales are how I earn a living and more importantly, I truly believe in the marketplace) but I have also learned to give you permission to pass on a property and to walk away (it isn't my choice, it's yours). I have faith that we will eventually find the home that is right for you and that time will take its course. (For a gal who's big on control, that's no small evolution.)
Ironically, I've discovered that the less I push, the more you pull. What I've lost in aggressiveness, I've more than gained in your trust and a new found commitment (and that's a more than equitable trade-off).
So if you are expecting me to convince you to buy a home, you may be waiting a very long time. If permission is what you seek - by all means, go forward, you have my blessing. However, if pushing is what's required to take advantage of this opportune Buyer's market, I have to tell you upfront that your chances of finding a home with me, are infintely reduced.
Not that I won't be guiding you (I will) or justifying your purchase with strong market analysis (I will) or pointing you towards viable housing options (I will!) but the truth is that with the advent of the Internet, you are just as likely (more likely, in fact) than I am to find the elusive "dream home" that best meets your needs. In short, you have a specific goal in mind and you are best suited to achieve it.
Morevover, having now found the "perfect" home, you are more likely to make an offer on it and see it through the close of escrow than you are when I find and present a home for your consideration. Often, when I suggest a property, Buyers feel compelled to search for objections, whereas when you find the home, you are more apt to support your choice. In other words, when the choice is yours, there is nothing to push against; you're swimming with the current - and that's always easier.
So if that's the case, why use a Realtor at all?
Because truthfully, the best use of my skill set isn't in "finding" you the perfect home (although it's the icing on the cake when I do!). It's in negotiating and securing the home for you once a property comes into play. (One BIG caveat - off-market homes or "pocket listings" as agents often refer to them, will only come to you through a relationship with a REALTOR. So while you can hunt on your own, you won't necessarily know everything that may actually be available to buy. . . think about it.)
Where my skills matter most is when I present an offer on your behalf. Negotiating the price, ratifying the purchase agreement, inspecting the property, addressing any financial concerns, renegotiating after inspections, clearing title, following the money, protecting you from future law suits, closing escrow and delivering the property in good order (whew!). These critical steps are all part of a standard transaction. Ironically, the better I perform my duties, the more invisible I tend to be (smooth transactions should be virtually seamless). Go figure. But this kind of attention to detail is where the rubber meets the road.
Real estate involves a complicated skill set, but you - the consumer - get to decide who to hire as a project manager to navigate the maze. It's why one's reputation within the real estate community matters. It's why one's experience matters. It's why one's level of professionalism matters . . . There is a difference between a full-time agent and a part-time player.
Heck, a four year old can now search the Internet with relative ease but it takes real skill and due diligence to follow through with time-tested results. It isn't about pushing you, it's about guiding you on a journey, hand-in-hand, as we work collaboratively to attain your goals.
Leave the pushing to Black Friday shoppers (or professional linebackers) - that's the only time it's likely to prove profitable or to come in handy. Don't you agree?
But if it's "pushing" you still crave, here's the best I can do . . . 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.