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."
"So while you're with us this week in beautiful Sicily, have fun and don't worry; you're going to have as much support as you need along the route."
For those of you unfamiliar with Backroads, it's a remarkable Berkeley-based travel company that provides world-class biking and hiking experiences for both novices and serious athletes alike. The day typically begins with a vigorous morning ride that includes several quick cultural stops along the way (cappuccino, gelato, olive-oil tastings, etc.) followed by lunch and more riding in the afternoon, should you so choose. OR you can head back to a historic, 4-star hotel in the Backroads van for a lazy poolside afternoon. (Hello!)
This isn't your standard run-of-the-mill trip with the expected touristy stops along the way, but instead, features winding country roads, quaint family-run farms and bistros, and picturesque small-town villages that provide some insight into the area, its culture and its time-honored customs and traditions.This was our third trip with Backroads and as with previous outings, Cliff and I couldn't have been in better hands or more thoroughly charmed and supported along the way - just as Luca promised!
Still, I hadn't prepared for the riding this time around. In fact, I hadn't been on a bike since last summer, nor did the sudden Sicilian heat wave help, topping out at 99 degrees Fahrenheit on day three.This is my long way of saying that I was beginning to understand Luca's introductory remarks, and hoping that some of the more trying, heat-baked moments would feel more "fun" after the fact.
Because Cliff was coming off a 90-mile hike, having walked Hadrian's Wall with Tristan the week before, and I was arriving with ZERO training, I had secured smart e-bikes through Backroads which proved to be well, smart, as we easily flew past the other riders while they huffed and puffed their way up, up, UP the steep and unforgiving inclines. (I like to think of myself as a down-hill specialist.)
And while Cliff had initially balked at my suggestion that we take this less strenuous option, we both discovered that the battery-powered assist allowed us to take in the scenery in a way that struggling on a manual bicycle never had before. In short, the e-bikes were fun, fun, FUN and to be perfectly transparent, if there's an easier, softer way, at age 58 (soon to be 59) I'm all for it.
in the world of Real Estate, as with life, there's often an easier and a harder way in which to accomplish the same task. What's surprising is how often Sellers and Buyers insist on taking the harder route, despite my best advice and years of experience. (That's true of our kids as well, but I digress.)
Thus, "I"ll refer to your judgement," becomes an all out tug of war as I offer suggestions, only to be rebuffed time and again.
"I know staging is expected but why can't we sell my house as is?" (We can, it just won't fetch the same interest or price.)
"I know the report called for additional inspections, but there's really no need." (Except for the big question marks it now leaves open to interpretation.)
"I don't want any public open houses, signs out front or a lockbox on the property; the neighbor's don't need to know our business." (Sure they do. You want your neighbors coming to the Sunday Opens; they add desirability and urgency to the process. Real Buyers are driven by the level of interest - real or not.)
"I know you said the house will probably go for X but can we offer less?" (You may offer whatever you like. It's your money, your risk and your call, but based on the information at hand, it's unlikely you'll prevail.")
"Our Realtor is a family friend in who lives out of area, but she's great." (I'm sure she is - IN HER AREA - but to buy or sell a house in this community, you should work locally. Ditto for your lender.)
Think of your Realtor as if we were the Backroads Wahoo devices installed on the handlebars that quite literally mapped out every kilometer of our trail and quickly let us know when we had made a wrong turn. So smart were these little GPS contraptions that it was virtually impossible to make a poor decision - except for those based on free will of course. Lemon granita or cherry? (Lemon - trust me.)
Years ago, before Wahoos, our biking instructions were spelled out on cards that we flipped as we pedaled, often debating where exactly the correct turn lay, only to backtrack a time or two before we got it right. That's no longer the case. Science and smart technology have made the journey so much easier. Still, it was the tried-and-true support of the team leaders and the vans along the route that ensured that there was always cool water in our bottles, air in our tires, and snacks in our packs. (As if we needed more food.) These talented young leaders also became our confidants, interpreters, cheerleaders and friends along the way.
So while smart technology is quickly changing how Buyers search and how Sellers sell, the Realtors role as advisor, planner, and negotiator have never been more important, especially as the production values have ramped up considerably, prices have continued to rise, competition has increased, inventory has become more scare, and liability has become ever more problematic.
And while I might not be able to convince you that buying or selling a house falls under the category of "fun," the way a bike ride in the romantic Italian countryside does, the journey should be no less supported and secure. If we become your confidants, interpreters, cheerleaders and friends along the way, so much the better.
How can I help you?
(Grazie mille Luca, Laura and Emma; it was a joy to spend time with you in Sicily. Let's do it again but with slightly cooler temperatures. Ciao.)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 14 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.