I'm not a fan of the current administration, much less the inappropriate behavior displayed by so many of our political leaders, on either side of the aisle, so imagine my surprise when the President's protestations of "fake news" actually hit home last week and I had an opportunity to experience the concept of 'false claims' up close and personally.
For the last month and a half, my COMPASS colleague, Sarah Abel, and I have been marketing a beautiful property here in Piedmont and we were thrilled when it went into contract on schedule with a professional young couple buying their first house together.
We were less thrilled when we received an email 10 days later from their Realtor, saying that the Buyers had decided to back out of the purchase based on an engineering report that recommended substantial improvements to the seismic and drainage systems of the house, adding up to a fair amount of additional costs. (Who wouldn't pause and take note?)
"No!" the instructor screamed at the flustered woman who had unknowingly volunteered for the afternoon's literary exercise and was struggling to figure out what - exactly - this New York literary agent was asking?!?
"I'm not interested in hearing how your character's mother felt about it. I want to know how Lottie feels" he said. "Do any of you care what I had for breakfast?" (Not now, we don't.)
"Let me understand this, you want me to pay you for representing YOUR INTERESTS on the purchase of this home?" I said, frankly dumbfounded.
"I've got a gal in Lafayette that will work for 1%," the Buyer said. "Your answer will affect who we choose to work with."
"Where is that Agent now?" I asked, wondering why I'd spent the day working on his behalf.
"I don't make her schlep me from house to house," he said. "Our deal is that she writes up the offer once I do the work."
Correction: ONCE I DO THE WORK!
"I refuse to overpay for this house," the skeptical Buyer said. "I bought in San Francisco in 2007 and then rode the market all the way down until I sold for a substantial loss."
I feel your pain; I do, although I take issue with the concept of "overpaying for a house." You are not 'overpaying' for a house, you are paying 'what the market will bear.' "
"What's that house you sold worth today?" I asked.
"About a million more," he said.
"Then I respectfully submit that the problem wasn't when you bought the house, the problem was when you chose to sell it."
I should have been suspicious when our Backroad's troop leader, Luca, explained "There are three kinds of fun . . ."
"There's the kind of fun you have in the moment."
"There's the kind of fun you have when you reach the top of the hill."
"And there's the kind of fun you have when you reflect on the trip afterwards when you get home."
To quote Scooby-Doo, "Ruh Ro."
"I don't mean to complain," I said to Paolo, the desk clerk at Hotel Plaza Lucchesi, (In fact, that's exactly what I meant to do.) "but my room looks nothing like the photos on your website."
I'd come to Italy alone to attend a writer's retreat with Lisa Clifford and Matthew Ferrera, (because, why not?) and had already changed hotels twice due to location and availability. In short, I was struggling to get it right. (Note to self, take a room in the suggested local.)
This wasn't my first morning in front of this crisply-starched young Florentine who was looking at me with a mix of bewilderment and compassion; it was my THIRD(!), and now I had become the proverbial "fly in the ointment."
"My husband is arriving by train early tomorrow morning," I said. "I'm afraid there's no way his things are going to fit into the small room I've been assigned." And then with my sweetest, most conspiratorial voice I added, "Is there anything we can do to make him more comfortable?
"I'll go just have some breakfast while you work it out."
WHEN IN DOUBT, BLAME THE SPOUSE.
My sister's little terrier mix, Bridget, has a funny way of showing up in our marketing photos. She's like, "Where's Waldo?" (The dog, not my sister.) If you carefully look at my listing brochures, you'll usually find Bridget tucked away on a bench or a sofa, or parked at the top of the stairs. She's not a dog, she's a ham. I'm definitely noticing a theme . . .
Makes sense, as Jill typically meets the photographer at the photo shoots with her loyal companion in tow, but from a marketing point of view, there's an emotional appeal to having a dog in the frame that absolutely works. Not that I'm an art director mind you, but I bet the same could be said of children as well. It's just that my children are grown now and Bridget works for milk bones, so there is that . . .
Last weekend Cliff and I traveled to Hamilton, NY to watch Tristan and his classmates graduate from Colgate. Historically, 2019 marks the 200th year for this prestigious university. As such, there were several multi-generation alums in attendance - grandfathers, fathers and sons - all extremely proud members of this elite group. (At one point, these hallowed institutions only admitted men.)
In fact, there was NO shortage of smart, successful and beaming individuals in the crowd - both male and female! Collectively, they represent the past and future generation of innovators, movers and shakers. To quote Spock (and prove just how truly geeky I am), "Live long and prosper!"
I'm off to upstate, New York this weekend to see Tristan graduate from Colgate. He's the younger of our two sons and his diploma marks the end of a long journey for us all - not to mention the end of costly tuition payments. (Hallelujah!) Two boys, eight years of college expenses, several cross-country flights, and countless years of love and devotion have added up to this highly-anticipated celebration. Needless to say, I'm an extremely proud mama.
Happily, Tristan has already set up his first "post-college" job at BIRD scooters down in Santa Monica on the "Reliance Team." I'm not sure what he'll be doing for them exactly (I'm not sure he knows either), but after four years of residing in the East, I'm thrilled to have him back on the West Coast once more. For me, New York was just too far away, while LA is a weekend trip. Note to parents, California has some great college campuses to consider. (I'm just sayin'.)
I've been on several listing appointments in the last few weeks and at some point in the meeting, the prospective Sellers invariably want an answer as to the cost of staging and whether it's worth it or not (Yes, it is.) followed by, "Will you pay for it?" (No I won't. Good staging directly equates to a better result and more money in your pocket.) This discussion typically happens before we negotiate the sales commission; a topic that's worth a frank discussion as well, but one I'll save for another column and another day . . . suffice it to say that I believe Realtors earn their keep!
Whether it's the fees associated with paying an experienced Broker, or the costs of preparation - BOTH are smart investments that can add up to BIG returns for the Sellers and why I'm going to firmly encourage you to spend the dollars required to make your home truly stand out. Given that nearly ALL Buyers begin their search on the INTERNET, the presentation of your home via photographs and video has never been more important!
"But it's expensive to fully stage a home."
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 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.