"How was the anniversary weekend?" Ed sweetly asked me. "Was it all that you expected?"
Umm, yes, and no . . . After watching our son's baseball game at Witter Field, my husband and I hit the highway on a warm Friday evening and made it down to the Carmel Valley Ranch in good time. Cliff had been asked to speak at a professional seminar of appellate lawyers and I was tagging along for a rare weekend off, with intentions of strolling Ocean Avenue and the beach, stopping at the nurseries in the valley, and meeting back up with Cliff for lunch and tennis; the perfect day. We'd elected to drive down in his mid-life crisis convertible (but who's judging?) to take advantage of the weather and the fact that we would be childless for the weekend, eliminating the need for my much roomier wagon. Truth-be-told, I've never much liked that car, but Cliff does and indeed, it was a gorgeous "top-down" kind of evening for which convertibles were made. On Saturday, we woke early, sunshine streaming into our room, and as Cliff finished his early morning gig, he tossed me the keys and I headed off to Macy's for a quick errand, while he stayed behind to attend another session. When I emerged an hour later, I discovered a nail in the wheel and a very, very FLAT tire. What? No worries, a call to AAA would set things right.
Three hours later I was still wrestling with the unexpected detour, having made it form the parking lot to a nearby gas station where I was told that the wheel was too badly damaged to be repaired. (Evidentially, the car doesn't like me either.)
Sigh, the best laid plans . . . In the world of Real Estate, good planning constitutes the bulk of any agent's duties. Personally, I start with a calendar outlining inspections, marketing deadlines, open houses, Broker's Tours, Sunday Opens, advertisements, cleaning, window washing, gardening, etc., etc., etc., and build from there.
Nonetheless, even with good intentions, a carefully crafted marketing schedule and day-by-day planning, there's rarely a home that doesn't surprise along the way; a conclusion that often comes to the surface as inspections get under way.
"We fixed that." clients will adamantly state as they read the recommended reports that frankly, leave the Seller often feeling very vulnerable and exposed. Indeed, you may have fixed the problem, but perhaps the repairs only mitigated the issue, instead of eliminating it entirely. (Note to Sellers, please don't hire your "relative" unless he/she is licensed.) It's important to understand that all Inspectors must take a fairly neutral stance when writing reports - as they should. Therefore, if they see something suspect, they WILL call it out. So knowing that, why exactly, would one invite criticism to the party when the goal is to show the house in its best light? (Good question, I'm glad you asked.) I've often referred to this as "controlling" the information, when in fact, we don't "control" the findings, as much as we provide them. In fact, we should welcome them. Any "control" that follows, comes in the form of either correcting the issue prior to marketing, OR fully disclosing any defects so that the Buyer knowingly and willingly assumes the responsibility. To that end, we want to fully inform prospective Buyers as to the condition of the house so that they don't "discover" the information on their own and then hold the Seller accountable by way of a MAJOR price reduction once in escrow! Make sense? I hope so. (Truly, I'm on your side.)
Although many of us like the idea of surprises, the truth is, we are really better served with good preparation. Thus, I'll encourage you to inspect, disclose, and inform so that all parties have a good understanding of the condition of the home. NO ONE, absolutely no one, like surprises once they get into contract. Thus, my best guidance after years in the business, is to avoid surprises and then prepare to roll with the punches. As carefully as we try and construct the outcome, none of us has that much control over the future.
As it turns out, I didn't much like being surprised either, and I suppose it's the last time Cliff will ever let me drive his Jaguar (which was kind of fun if I'm being totally truthful). However, if one has to suffer a flat tire, the Carmel Valley is a very pretty place to be stranded. In fact, I was hoping we'd have to stay another night. No such luck, I've got too much work to do. (I think I'm owed another weekend.)
Back to planning . . .
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.