On Tuesday morning I took BART over to San Francisco with a couple of girlfriends for the Edible Excursion's Ferry Building Tour. This isn't my first food tour with this smart, dynamic company, nor will it be my last. The opportunity to walk, talk and eat, while learning a little bit about SF history (and meeting others from other countries) is a combination that makes for a near-perfect outing. What's more, few companies do it better than Edible Excursions. (Thank you, Tori, you were a wealth of knowledge!)
Our jaunt through the Ferry Building - once San Francisco's tallest landmark - provided ample opportunities for sampling the delectable fares that put each vendor on the map (quite literally), and as we progressed from storefront to storefront, I couldn't help but think about the characteristics each of these highly successful businesses share:
1) They are local.
2) They strive for excellence.
3) They focus on what they know.
Whether sampling triple-cream cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, French baguettes from Acme Bread, Spring Rolls from The Slanted Door, curated coffee from Blue Bottle, or seasonal macarons from Miette, each of these purveyors focused on delivering niche, instead of trying to appeal to the masses.
What's the moral of the story?
If you want to do something really well, SPECIALIZE! If you want to be mediocre, try being all things to all people.
Don't get me wrong, I know there are REALTORS that sell anywhere and everywhere, and legally, their license doesn't preclude this chaotic practice, but as Real Estate markets tend to be micro - not macro - I believe it's a disservice to those who trust us, to dabble in what we don't know. Thus when asked, I comfortably refer out requests to sell an empty lot, an out-of-area home, or a condo on the peninsula. Likewise, I do the same when asked to represent Buyers on a vacation property in Tahoe or Sonoma.
Why? (Hint: It's NOT because I couldn't use the extra cash.)
Because there are other professionals who do it better; who know the lay of the land, and who understand the transfer requirements of each municipality. With no apologies, what do I know about septic tanks or dock allowances? (Nothing.) Ditto for commercial properties and leases. So while I'm happy to research other Agents on you behalf (and accept a referral fee for the nod), I'm happier still when I hear back that you had an exceptional experience with the Agent I referred your way.
Let's remember that selling or leasing a property isn't just about posting pretty pictures of your home on Instagram; it's about protecting Buyers and Sellers in a transaction that can be worth millions of dollars, but is also highly susceptible to litigation. Therefore, understanding the local laws and the customs isn't just good practice, it's critical to your results.
Moreover, of the 60 new and amended CAR forms put out by the California Real Estate Board for the year 2020, 30 of them specifically have to do with changes in lease laws. If I make a mistake with respect to a protected class of citizen or if I give you the wrong information regarding "just cause" (aka: how to legally evict a tenant), we're both in hot water, and that's of NO value to you. Just as plastic surgeons shouldn't deliver babies and general practitioners shouldn't attempt a rhinoplasty (Have you seen Botched?I?), Realtors shouldn't practice buying and selling in areas in which they are not highly trained and specialized.
What are we trained for? (I'm glad you asked.)
Jill, Sarah and I sell high-end Real Estate in Piedmont, Oakland, Rockridge and Berkeley. We oversee work crews, assist in all aspects of design and preparation, create an effective marketing and listing strategy, hold open houses, hire inspectors, review reports, break down contracts, act as advocates, work in a fiduciary capacity, show properties, analyze the marketplace, expertly negotiate, manage expectations, and find creative solutions to unexpected problems!
We also sweep, mop, dust, vacuum, haul, dump, plant pots, water, wash windows, pick up trash, bake cookies, arrange flowers, forward mail, post signs, and do a number of other things that aren't exactly chic, but ARE, nonetheless, required on an ongoing basis to keep your home looking fresh and appealing. (Nobody said being a Realtor was glamorous.)
Aside from the tangible tasks we bring to the transaction, we walk Buyers and Sellers through a highly emotional process and assist them on all manner of intangibles as they enter the next phase of their lives. Whether a welcome change, or not, buying or selling a home is often an exhausting and scary unknown that can cripple and paralyze even the most capable of adults among us. No worries; we're here to help you navigate whatever comes up.
So here's the deal . . .
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.