It's my last column of the year and I'm wishing you all a safe and happy holiday wherever, or whatever, you'll be celebrating.
Christmas came early for me this year by way of our FINAL & LAST(!) payment on Tristan's college education. After eight years of costly tuition bills, we will thankfully, no longer be footing those costs. . . BIG sigh of relief! (I should clarify that the eight years encompassed TWO kids; it hasn't taken Tristan eight years to graduate.)
As their mother, it's incredibly gratifying to know that both our boys have successfully navigated four years of higher education and that Cliff and I have done our duty as their parents, at least where their education is concerned. (I'm certain they'll find their way to a therapist's couch for other transgressions.) But with respect to any future financial outlay . . . Tristan's march down the aisle come this spring, will be akin to receiving a BIG, FAT pay raise!
Happy, joyous & free? You betcha!
Which leads me to the photo above. On my way to my weekly Saturday morning gig, I stopped to take a snapshot of this incredibly cheerful house in Montclair, which gets a little more over-the-top each December and never ceases to put a smile on my face. It's clear from their robust holiday display that these homeowners go "ALL IN," and as someone who usually sticks to more understated holiday decor, I've come to really appreciate their TOTAL commitment to the cause. (Christmas cheer, of course.)
"Commitment" is an important concept in the world of Real Estate as well. So much so, that last week, I mutually parted company with new clients by giving them back their listing after just a few weeks together. (That's not a decision Realtors make easily as we only get paid when, and if, we close a deal.)
Why part company? Because these Sellers couldn't fully commit to the scope of improvements that was, in my professional opinion, necessary, and frankly, I wasn't interested in taking the listing under any other circumstances. (I've learned this lesson the hard way.)
"Could we do this, this, and this?" the Seller asked, but not that, that and that?"
(Of course you can, as long as you don't expect the same outcome. It's your house and you may do whatever you like. I'm simply offering suggestions and guidance based on my experience.)
Let's be clear, every house will eventually find a qualified Buyer IF it's priced correctly and not every property benefits equally from a substantial makeover. What's more, I have successfully sold many homes where we strategically did little more than clean up and clear out the clutter and yet, they still received multiple offers with fantastic results. (Typically, it's because these "fixer opportunities" have great bones, fantastic upside potential and coveted locations, as opposed to inherent defects that are impossible to correct.) So let's agree that not every listing needs a full-fledged production. (Okay, agreed.)
BUT if your home objectively HAS inherent challenges that are difficult to overcome, such as freeway noise, poor curb appeal, a difficult floor plan or an undesirable location, we're going to need to fix what's fixable in order to help potential Buyers overcome those other, less-than-stellar components. In short, I may direct you to go "ALL IN," and that kind of commitment involves a certain amount of capital, trust and faith you may not have, or care to invest. (It's a BIG ask, I know.) It's also proven to be the surest way to get top dollar for your home.
But here's the thing, you're not on this journey alone; I'm going "ALL IN" with you. You've got my full attention, my team's support, and my many years of experience, AND you may count on me to give you my ALL as well, in order to achieve your goals. In other words, the home improvements I'm suggesting aren't just for show; they're designed to elicit an emotional response from potential Buyers, to tell a story, and to craft a winning game plan. Absent that, half measures tend to fall well short of your expectations. (BTW - Compass has a program to lend you the cash to prep your property for sale called Compass Concierge! Check it out here.)
Even so - and for whatever reasons - if we can't find our way onto the same page of the playbook, it's time to quickly disengage, without judgement, animosity or ill will.
Out of respect for both of us, I've learned that when I ignore the early warning signs - reasonable or not - there's always a price to pay and that does neither one of us any favors. Ultimately, it's not about the pretty package (although I won't sell short the production piece of the equation), it's about a mutual understanding and alignment. Failing that, it's time to say goodbye and to move on.
In the meantime, send me a photo of a decorated house that's gone "ALL IN" in your neighborhood and let's be "happy, joyous and free" together. I've still got a few boxes of English toffee in my car waiting to be delivered. (Yum!)
(Not just a Realtor, but a consultant in all things house and home, I'm here to educate, explore, examine and refer . . . In short, you may count on me to take care of your home as if it were my own and anyone who knows me, knows I take pretty darn good care of my home.)
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.