"Can you turn everything into a Real Estate column?" friends have often inquired . . . (Why yes, I pretty much can).
However, I was truly stumped after returning home from the Grand Canyon last week as I sat down to write this week's piece. As many of you know, I had been invited to join a group of 10 incredibly dynamic women who were determined to trek to the bottom and back in a 36-hour period. Like many of us, I had only seen the Grand Canyon in picture postcards, and I certainly had never contemplated making the round trip on foot prior to receiving my friend's unexpected gift: "This has been on my 'Bucket List' for years," Jan's e-mail began, "please join me . . ."
This was an opportunity too good to pass up.
Still, I had nagging doubts . . . . Truth be told, I was concerned about my ability to keep up, in spite of several challenging, warm-up hikes here in the hills of Oakland and Berkeley that had proved otherwise. But between a painful, recurring foot issue and a persistent, hacking cough, I had begun to question my abilities (not to mention my health) and had even considered bowing out of the trip altogether.
"Go," my husband had gently and lovingly encouraged me, "You'll regret it if you don't." (Thank you Cliff, you were right.)
The thing is the Grand Canyon is so vast, so awe-inspiring and yes, so very "GRAND" that words prove to be woefully inadequate. Perhaps Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th President, said it best after seeing it for the first time: "Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."
How true. So how could I possibly take such a profound experience and turn it into a light-hearted column about Real Estate? (Hmmm . . . ) But after a few days of reflection, here is the lesson I took away from this AMAZING journey that I am ready to now share with you (and yes, there IS a "Real Estate" parable; bear with me): No matter the challenge, the solution begins with a single step.
There, that's it.
It's not earth shattering by any means and nothing that you don't already know, but it remains forever true. We make headway by steadily putting one foot in front of the other, OR as my sister, Jill, often reminds me, "Set your intentions and then proceed." In otherwords, it's not enough to move forward without good intentions as well.
Sometimes that's easier said than done . . . .
By mile eight of the return leg to our oh-so-comfortable hotel and comfy bed, and with the toughest part of the trail still largely looming ahead of us, I would have welcomed a well-placed mountain tram, a convenient chair lift, or even a rustic-rope tow to take me the rest of the way up (no such luck). Forget all this painful walking; aren't we there yet?
While the morning miles had leisurely woven their way along a stunning, picturesque canyon stream, artfully dotted with autumn leaves and a family of deer so tame you could quite literally reach out and touch them, the afternoon was proving to be downright grueling as the unrelenting switchbacks continued up, up, and UP (!) the sheer walls of the canyon with NO respite, save for the occasional pause to catch one's breath, peel off a layer of clothing, or take a cool drink of water. (There, that's better.)
It's at this point that I began to pray, "Grant me grace, grant me grace, grant me STRENGTH . . ."
Never mind the magnificence of it all, the layers of rock had lost their charm hours earlier and I was now ready to finish. The only consolation was that I had more trail behind me, than ahead; however, IT WAS FAR STEEPER!
For several of you Buyers and Sellers, that may be your journey as well.
After months of being in the hunt, you may be more than ready for the end. You may even have grown incredibly weary (that's only natural; hang in there) and certainly, I understand your "pain." It can be downright exhausting. Perhaps you have written on many houses, only to find the climb steeper than you might have imagined. OR, you are preparing to sell your property and the amount of work involved seems to be rather grueling (it can be). In both cases, it's about clarifying your intentions and then setting one foot in front of the other as you complete the necessary tasks.
Here's my best advice:
DO meet with a Mortgage Lender, schedule your inspections, purge the attic and garage, give away stuff you no longer need, repair items you've put off or neglected, paint and refresh your kitchen cabinets, woodwork and walls, organize your closets, find the light: wash the windows and remove old drapes, plant the garden, stage for photographs, set a marketing plan, define a timeline, etc., etc., etc. (Yes, the list can be endless, but you'll have better results, and of course this is where a Realtor can be incredibly helpful - we are very familiar with this terrain.)
DON'T put off until tomorrow what you can do today. (Our mothers were right.) Get started right away as time has a way of becoming very limited. Before you know it, the Spring Market will be upon us.
As previously mentioned, it's about putting one foot in front of the other until you achieve your desired goal and doing it with the best of intentions! No matter the climb, take it from me, it absolutely can be done.
In fact, our group of four emerged at the head of the pack and in very good time as it turned out (5 hours, 20 minutes - thank you very much.) More importantly, I DID IT despite my reservations ("Don't" psyche yourself out.) AND it was so much more than I had imagined it would be. (Ain't life "Grand?")
Go ahead, take the first step.
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.