"I like the house," my client said, "but I wish we were both doing cartwheels over it. That would make the decision a whole lot easier." That's true, it would. I hear you - a back flip, a handstand, or even a small summersault might suffice. "Yoo hoo - this is the one!" Take it from me, it almost never happens like that.
Thinking about the five homes my husband and I have bought in the last 20 years, there hasn't been a single one over which either of us have enthusiastically jumped for joy (although we were thrilled to be in a position to purchase - I don't want to sound too ungrateful). The truth is, I didn't like any of them much and one house, I absolutely hated.
From our first flat on Seventh Avenue in San Francisco, which was in real disrepair (a recurring theme), to our current home on Littlewood (which we bought for the setting, the garden and the gazebo - not the house), Cliff and I have never had the luxury to buy a "turn-key" home or to just follow our hearts. But to be fair, they all presented a "solution" in the moment and they all turned out to be profitable. Instead, we steered a course and followed a path - which eventually landed us here, in Piedmont (not too shabby)!
However, every single home held tremendous "potential," which got me to thinking that most people don't really buy the home of their heart's desire - they buy the promise of a home; or the promise of what it can be. (Oh and btw, the same is true for marriage. We embrace the "promise;" yes?) But first it begins with a starting point.
This is just as true for the $400,000 buyer as it is for the $4,000,000 one. As evidence, just look at the big, BIG homes here in town that are currently undergoing construction. One was recently rebuilt from top to bottom and rumor has it, that the new owner intends to gut it and start anew. (Really?) The point is, regardless of how much one spends, all homes evolve into what we want and need them to be with some effort and intention. They become ours over time, and often, they become better for it.
A wise and wonderful friend summed it up when he said his motto in life is "expect good," which I love and wholeheartedly agree with, but mine would have to be "aspire." Aspire to goodness, aspire to kindness, aspire to dream . . . With all of the gymnastics the banking industry has experienced and the flip-flops that housing has endured these past few years, purchasing a home in today's world takes real courage. Instead of "jumping for joy," we are often asked to "jump through hoops." (What a drag.)
So in the face of housing gymnastics and all that we risk, of course we want certainty. We want "value" and above all we want to know we have made a good decision. (Wow - that's an ambitious bill to fill.) No wonder buyers are often tentative and fearful. Who could blame them? (Not me.) Buyers are often walking a tightrope and yes, that can be scary, if not downright paralyzing.
But here's what I've discovered along the way (just my two cents) - one can never buy a home in fear, one can only successfully complete this transaction in hope. You have to "aspire" to the dream of home ownership and then deal with each challenge as it arises (and count on it, there will be challenges aplenty). Whether you are facing a multiple bidding situation or you are alone at the negotiating table, you need to progress with belief and with faith or you will be looking for an "exit strategy" from the moment your offer is accepted.
An experienced Realtor will help you outline the pros and cons, encourage you to thoroughly inspect the property, arrange for any specialists to weigh in with their opinions, outline a strategy for purchasing the home, and thoughtfully walk you through the entire process from beginning to end. But even with ALL that information to be gained, at the end of the day the decision to buy must be based on "hope" or you'll look back with regret.
So how's the tale end? It's still very much a work in progress. My current home has come a long way in seven years and I like it a whole LOT better now then when we first purchased it - at very near the height of the market (no, you weren't alone). Still, it isn't perfect by a long shot AND I'm still "hoping" to remodel the kitchen at some future point. Curious readers ask me if I've finished the remodel? The truth is, "yes and no." I joke that "I'm out of money so I must be done" (at least for the foreseeable future) and that's the reality for most of us. Isn't it? That's okay, I've got time on my side.
Still when I focus on the solutions, as opposed to the problems, I find the answers come.
If I am not yet doing cartwheels, I'm warming up for them. I might even jump for joy a little.
Expect good and then "ASPIRE!"
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.