It's August which is typically when The Perspective takes an overdue summer break. Besides with so many of you away on vacation, I have a feeling that readership drops dramatically. . . (Beuhler, Buehler, Buehler???)
But as I was running errands yesterday, I stopped in at Target in Emeryville, and ran smack dab into tons of kids and parents getting ready for the new term beginning in just a few weeks. Their baskets were full of pencils, paper, binders, highlighters, school clothes, and all of the "must haves" I bought my boys for years. Clearly, not everyone's in Tahoe; they're in line at Target!
When I approached the register, I tucked in for a long wait behind two excited, young men who graduated from college just last spring and with help from mom (and her handy debit card!), were stocking up on the items they now need for their first household: pots, pans, knives, hot pads, a spatula, cookie sheets (tater-tots I'm sure; those boys will not be baking cookies), glasses, etc., etc., etc., and a broom and dustpan that, I'm certain, mom had optimistically shoved in last minute with the hopes that they'll sweep from time to time. (Good luck with that.) They were smiling like it was Christmas morning.
"Where are you boys going to be living?" I asked. (I know an opening when I see one.)
"We've got an apartment in the Dogpatch," they proudly proclaimed. He's got a real job," one of he boys laughed, pointing to the other," and I'll be working on my PHD in nuero-science." (Excellent, I'm going to need that soon.)
"How much are rents now?" I inquired.
"It's expensive, one of the young men continued, "but, hey, it's The City!"
Mom gave me a knowing wink and a thumbs up; her bird is successfully leaving the nest. (I know the feeling.)
It's this kind of enthusiasm that keeps me firmly entrenched in real estate.Not that rentals are my jam you understand, (I happily refer those out to Andrea Day of Andrea Rentals), but I DO often work with first-time home buyers and that definitely IS in my wheelhouse. Like these two boys, young Buyers often arrive with glee and joy in their eyes and drunk with the desire to take the next independent step that full-fledged adulthood affords.
Then I have to break the sobering news:
"Buying in this market is highly competitive," I begin. "We may write several offers before you get a house." (Geeze, thanks Debbie Downer!)
No, it's not my intention to kill the mood, but to set a course that does, in fact, result in a successful outcome.This means not only diligently staying on top of new listings, but it also means bringing all of our respective strengths to bear.
There's no doubt that these committed Buyers will scour the Internet, but without an aggressive lender in place, they'll stand little chance of beating out the heavy competition. Without a local Agent, they'll miss the 'off-market' opportunities that never make it into the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). Without experience and connections on their side, they'll undoubtedly fall between the cracks.
I then have to caution these bright-eyed Buyers about things like 100-year- old foundations, aging roofs, knob-and-tube wiring, out-dated plumbing, asbestos-wrapped ducts, failed sewer laterals, seller disclosures, natural hazards, and all of the "unknowns" that despite inspections, are sure to emerge after they take ownership.
I have to gently counsel them about the realities of carrying a house; that homes and gardens require ongoing maintenance and that properties are constantly evolving entities that are going to require their time and attention - not to mention their hard-earned cash. I have to give them realistic figures (not HGTV fictional dollars) around what it costs to improve and renovate the bathrooms and kitchens that often need a fresh new beginning.
And then we begin our search in earnest.
Some Buyers are quick to grasp the concepts, while others have a lengthier learning curve. Some are holding out for the "deal," while others understand that what we are really in search of, is the "value proposition," (There are few "deals" in a Sellers' marketplace.) Some are overcome with doubt, while others can more easily take the leap . . .
Then, I have to give them permission to buy.
No, not literally (I'm not their mother) but a Realtor's approval does seem to be critical in these instances. Because while Buyers don't need my approval, they do need validation that their choice is sound. SO important is this validation, that few Buyers will buy a house that's been passed over by the crowds. In other words, Buyers need the herd to tell them that the home they've fallen in love with is worthy of their interest.
Still, when all is said and done, when we find the house, when the bid is accepted, when the closing papers are signed, and when I get to hand my darling home Buyers the keys to their very first home, I feel as joyful as those two young men I met at Target yesterday. Heck, I'll even throw in a broom. (It could happen.)
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.