"Which color sample do you like?" I asked my husband as we gazed at a color chart and the larger boards our contractor, PJ, had kindly produced. (Who knew stucco had so many options?)
"I like the medium grey sample third from the left and the smoother finish," Cliff opined.
"Me too," I agreed.
(Although between you and me, that smoother finish costs A LOT more money. Of course it does.)
"Not that it matters much," Cliff said, "I know this was just your way of making me feel like I get a vote." (OR what we laughingly refer to in our marriage (for better or worse) as the "Empty Magnanimous Gesture." For short, the "EMG!")
It's the disingenuous offer, offer.
Okay, maybe I'm guilty as charged, but after 25 years of marriage, this semi-transparent social tool has come in handy for us both on more than one occasion.
"Honey, we should invite your mother to join us for dinner."
"She can't, she's got that thing with my brother's family tonight, remember?" (Ah yes.)
"How 'bout we both sneak away from work at noon for a movie?" I"ll text my husband, knowing I really don't have the time, but neither does he.
"That won't work, I've got a mock court commitment in the city today. I told you about it the other day." (Oh right, I forgot, wink, wink.)
And so it goes . . .
Not that Cliff walks higher ground. (He doesn't.) In fact, Cliff considers himself the inventor of the "Empty Magnanimous Gesture," (along with the much-loved "Preliminary Dessert") if not by deed, than by name. (Cliff amuses himself to no end.)
"I can cancel tennis and go to the flea market with you this Sunday if you want me to," he'll kindly offer.
"That's sweet, but you know I'm meeting up with girlffriends this weekend and we are leaving VERY early."
"Oh right, have fun, " Cliff responds, knowing he escaped a bullet as he grabs his racket and heads for the door.
What can I say, the "Empty Magnanimous Gesture" has kept our marriage alive for nearly three decades. It extends a courtesy without having to do anything but extol one's good intentions. Hey, you are welcome to give it a try - my good advice comes at no cost to you.
Still, you'll want to tread lightly when utilizing this ace in the hole. The "Empty Magnanimous Gesture" isn't intended for every occasion and most especially isn't appropriate at the workplace, especially as it pertains to the world of REAL ESTATE.
When it come to Real Estate transactions, Buyers and Sellers should say what they mean and mean what they say, especially in a market that demands much and leaves both sides feeling a little used and abused, to say the very least. Despite the rapid pace (or more precisely, because of it) and precedent-setting results, instability and chaos of any kind tend to breed insecurity and fear . . . which, not surprisingly, can lead to second guessing and less-than-stellar behavior.
Did we sell too quickly? Should we have taken the first offer? Did we pay too much? Where will the market be next year? He wants what? YOU TELL HIM I SAID . . . !!!
In fact, I'd suggest that Buyers and Sellers should bend over backwards for one another to meet the reasonable requests of the other party. Forget common decency and politeness, OR the terms spelled out in the contract, OR the letter of the law, OR what your agent is pleading with you to do(!), Being fair and reasonable to one another just makes practical sense (and cents) when millions of dollars are on the line.
But even if we weren't speaking to six-figure results, the transfer of ownership flows much more smoothly when we extend ourselves to one another. While each party is typically (and ideally) represented by their own REALTOR, buying or selling a home should never be an adversarial process, or you're very likely to see the deal come crashing down around you and NO ONE wants that.
I'll never forget the Buyer who early on in my career, walked away from a purchase because the "vibe was bad" and she didn't want to live in a home with "negative energy." The house had been a difficult sell and once we were in contract, we certainly knew why.
OR the Buyer who walked away when his lovely offer was finally responded to . . . two days later. The Sellers had wanted more and the Buyer might have given it had they simply countered on time. (Folks, there's a reason we put an expiration time and date in an offer. Please pay close attention. )
On the flip side, I've known Sellers who had so endeared themselves to the new Buyers, that when a giant redwood tree needed to be removed almost immediately after moving in (to the tune of several thousand dollars!) the Buyers didn't blink at the unexpected costs, but took on the responsibility as the new stewards for the home. Certainly, this could have resulted in a law suit for "lack of disclosure," but didn't. No one even considered it.
Why not? Because when we behave kindly and respectfully towards one another, no one ever need feel defensive, taken advantage of, or worst of all, 'RIGHT' at any point along the way which makes the hurdles (and there are ALWAYS hurdles) that much easier to jump. When we work together, as opposed to against one another, lovely things can happen - and often do. Cliff honey, I can meet you tonight for that movie. Oh that's right, you're off to see the Yankees play the A's. Ah well, maybe tomorrow.
How can I help you?
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.