"Mom, you'll never believe what I'm doing," the young man earnestly said into the telephone. "I'm gardening at The AIDS Grove in San Francisco with my friend, Cory."
Beat . . . "No I didn't get arrested, I volunteered!" he shouted back in exasperation. I chuckled, imagining his mother's incredulity on the other end of the line, her mouth hanging wide open. We don't necessarily expect our teens and young adults to willingly give up their weekends to pull weeds and spread mulch when they would undoubtedly prefer the warmth of a bed and a few extra hours of sleep instead.
No wonder she thought her son was fulfilling some mandatory community service requirement imposed by the courts. Who volunteers on Saturday mornings without so much as a gentle (or a firm) push? So much for assumptions.
"Assume nothing," a very wise mentor once told me, "and you'll never be disappointed."
That's a heavy bill to fill and probably unrealistic, but I get her point and it's valid. The "assumptions" we make often lead to expectations that usually aren't, or can't, be met. (For example, I assume my son, Tristan is going to unload the dishwasher and he assumes it will eventually get done by itself. Hmmm . . . ) Moreover, our "assumptions" often aren't true. So, the less we assume and the more we explicitly define our expectations, the better off all parties will be. Agreed? (Agreed.)
Lately, I've been running into a LOT of assumptions with respect to Real Estate from both Buyers and Sellers. Buyers expect the market to make good sense and Sellers expect to get what they want. In both cases, they are often disappointed while I'm left to explain that not every house is receiving multiple offers; that negotiation is part-and-parcel of every transaction; that the winning bids don't necessarily align with the rest of the marketplace; that Bay Area sales don't reflect the rest of the nation (or even the state); and that it is the exceedingly rare escrow that goes off without a hitch.
Suffice it to say, that if you EXPECT a blip along the way, you will be much more likely (and willing) to roll with the punches as they come (that's the ONE assumption I'll concede.) This isn't to say that every transaction is fraught with unexpected difficulties, but the truth is that most home sales require quite a bit of work that needs to be navigated beyond the accepted offer.
For every email, text, or phone call you receive from your Realtor, chances are, several others have been generated between the relevant parties behind the scenes. We aren't just working with you, we are coordinating the responsibilities of your lender, the appraiser, the inspectors, the Agent on the other side, his or her Broker, our individual transaction coordinators, the escrow & title officers; etc., (just to name a few). If there are "fixes" to address prior to the close of escrow, add in vendors and contractors as well. Phew, it's a lot to juggle!
In addition, we are often dealing with misunderstandings, complaints, and surprises, after the close of escrow that require tremendous diligence as well. Our jobs don't stop once the final papers are signed. (Often that's the most challenging part of our jobs.)
Try and understand that to a certain extent, those spinning plates are NORMAL. Both Buyers and Sellers have "expectations" that they would like met, especially if the Buyer feels they paid a premium for the property and the Seller feels they got less than they anticipated. (Market realities can be a real disconnect for them both.) It all goes back to assumptions once again. In other words, set aside your expectations and assumptions and you'll be better served.
Try not to get attached to what doesn't work and instead, focus on what does. The more amenable we make ourselves to the changes that come about and the more we focus on solutions as opposed to obstacles, the more likely we will be to reach the close of escrow in harmony and with a positive result.
That being said, "Tristan, this is your mother speaking. Please unload the dishwasher and start a load of laundry before you leave." How's that for harmony? (I'm done making assumptions.)
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.