Last Sunday Cliff, Tristan, and I met with a college counselor my good friend, Andrea, had highly recommended, to explore Tristan's post high school options come 2015. We hadn't done this with our older son, Case, but in retrospect, probably should have. (Happily, Case will graduate from college this spring just the same.) It's just that Tristan's hoping to play college ball and as a result, may have several more options from which to choose. As it turns out, MORE choices don't always make the decision - or the journey - any easier. Let's back up just a few decades - or three . . . . My husband, Cliff, attended private school on the east coast, where the exalted "Ivy Leagues" were an attainable part of the equation, while I was the product of public education in Sacramento, where it was assumed that those moving onto higher education would be well served by the UC, state, or city college system (period). With the exception of a very few legacy families, I didn't know any kids who were heading east . . . north . . . or south, for that matter. That's not true anymore, where even the brightest and most talented seniors are all too often being turned away by the UCs of their choice and looking outside the state to other more welcoming institutions that want what our Piedmont graduates have to offer (thank you very much). It's a brave new world - and a highly anxious one (both for these kids and us doting parents). "We need a road map," I explained to Retta over coffee. "Something that outlines what we should be doing, when we should be doing it, and how to go about it." Nodding empathetically, she pulled out her yellow pad, began taking notes, and started asking pointed questions: "What's important to you, Tristan?" "Where do you see yourself going?" "Do you want a large, medium, or small experience?" "Would you prefer an urban environment or a closed campus?" "Do you want BIG sports including a football team?" "Is a Greek system part of the equation?" "How rigorously academic would you like the program to be?" And so it went . . . "I don't know. "Not sure." "It depends." "I hadn't thought about it." "Probably." "I guess." "Hmmm . . ." (Well, that narrows the field considerably!?!) "That's okay. you don't need to know the answers right now," Retta kindly explained, "but you're essentially in sales (we all are to some extent) AND at this stage of the game, HOW you sell yourself is going to be incredibly important with respect to your choices moving forward. Which means, I want you to think about your intentions from here on out." ("Now that's what I'm talking 'bout Willis!") Buyers take heed. Clarifying what you want and what you can afford are really critical to the home buying process (as is understanding what you DON'T). Where would you like to live? What can you afford to spend? What is your timeline for purchasing? Do you want or need to be near public transportation? Are good public schools part of the equation? What style of home do you prefer? And so it goes until we refine and hone your intentions. So here's my 'road map' for Buyers as you navigate the murky waters of our highly competitive marketplace . . . 1) Define your timelines, goals and expectations. 2) Speak with a Lender and get pre-approved (you'll need to circle back periodically as interest rates change).
3) Meet with an experienced LOCAL REALTOR (your cousin in San Jose isn't local unless you're planning on moving to San Jose.)
4) Visit Open Homes regularly and familiarize yourself with the different communities and neighborhoods in your price point.
5) Refine your search (style of home, neighborhood, price point, etc.) and provide detailed feedback to your Realtor on Monday mornings.
6) Track the available comps and the closed transactions in your preferred neighborhoods to better understand the going rate.
7) Request a Disclosure Package and highlight any concerns or questions you may have.
8) Pre-inspect when possible (but only with the Sellers' or Agents' permission).
9) Write a brief biography about you/your family and include a photo to have at the ready.
10) Be prepared to write an aggressive offer that can compete in the current marketplace
Once in Contract:
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.