"WE think we'll bid X," my clients anxiously said after conferring for a few moments, "so that we've got a little room to negotiate when the Seller counters." Ah yes; the elusive "call back."
Forget "when." How about "IF?"
Years ago, before moving to San Francisco, before meeting Cliff, WELL before babies, preschools, PTA meetings, baseball tournaments, soccer matches, dances, graduations, and long before a career in real estate, I danced.
To be honest, I waitressed, with an occasional paying gig on the side. Dance jobs were scarce in Hollywood in the early 80s (yes, I realize I am dating myself), MTV was just emerging, and New York was out of reach, but that hadn't stopped a young, naive, Sacramento girl from pursuing her dreams - "So I loaded up the truck and I moved to Beverly - Hills that is, swimmin' pools and movie stars!" (Actually it was Sherman Oaks, but this plays better.)
Between tap, ballet and jazz classes, my friends and I would pour over Variety; the trade paper for those in "show business," and then scramble to find someone to cover our restaurant shifts so that we could attend whatever dance audition has been published that week.
The big auditions like the Oscars or the American Music Awards might attract 3,000 would-be starlets, heavy dance bags in tow with tap, ballet and jazz shoes at the ready. For hours we'd perform in lines as cut after cut was made, hoping for the golden ticket - THE CALL BACK.
Call backs didn't come easily . . .
"Thank you, you're too tall." "Thank you, you're too short." "Thank you, we're looking for um . . . something else." (Those hurt the most.) "Dance ten, looks three, and I'm still on unemployment, dancin' for my own enjoyment. That ain't it kid, that ain't it kid. . ."
Unless you actually enjoy spending week after week (month after month!) looking at homes (Surprisingly, there are people who make a hobby of this!) you are better served NOT waiting for the CALL BACK, but spotting the opportunity and getting the job done. The "opportunity " may come in the form of an overlooked house, a less desirable property (aka a 'fixer'), or a narrow opening in the marketplace (holidays often provide such windows). Whatever it is, recognize the opening and SEIZE it!
But if your heart is set on the house that everyone else loves too and you are willing to compete for it in a meaningful way, DO NOT hold back, hoping for a counter offer. Nine times out of 10, it ISN'T coming! Sellers with multiple offers from which to choose, often don't renegotiate. If they are smart (and well coached), they'll take the best offer on the table and call it a day, rather than offend the Buyer who just arrived with "the gift" in hand. (Thank you very much.)
When Sellers do counter in today's world, it's typically because several offers have presented that are nearly identical. In such a case, a "multiple counter" will often be issued to see who's willing to come up with more dollars (blunt, but true). If everyone agrees to the counter, the seller will simply pick their favorite. Alarmingly, it's tantamount to a closed auction and a popularity contest all rolled into one. ("That ain't it kid, that ain't it kid.")
So if you have identified how much you are willing to spend on a popular home, be brave and ante it up! Remember, in the Bay Area marketplace, you are seeking the "value," not the "deal."
Amortized over thirty years, the difference is probably a fairly nominal amount on a monthly basis, and you'll kick yourself later on if you missed the winning bid by the $25,000 you were 'holding back.' While it may seen unkind, or worse yet, unfair, today's hot, hot, HOT marketplace makes no allowances for those that are hoping for, or counting on, the elusive "call back." Hey, I'm still dancing in a sense; it's just on a different stage.
As it turns out, Real Estate is its own form of dance as we gently tap are way through the transactions and the emotions that tend to attach to almost every sale or purchase. Ironically, all those years of training have proven to be very good groundwork for what lays ahead.
"Suddenly I'm getting national tours . . ."
(TRIVIA TIME: Who wrote the lyrics to the song I've been quoting and in what musical was it sung? Lattes at Mulberry's Market for every correct response!)
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.