"What did you think of the Prius?" the young Toyota salesman eagerly asked me after our test drive last Saturday morning. "It's quiet and it handles beautifully and I know it's the smart choice ," I thoughtfully replied, "and if buying a car were just about making the 'smart' choice, hands down, I'd be excited about the Prius and we'd be signing a deal right now."
But I wasn't.
The very un-PC truth is that I felt as excited about that Prius as I feel about my old washer and dryer - which is to say, uninspired! My first car was a beat-up Toyota Celica that my dad helped me purchase for $3,000 from his friend's used car lot in Sacramento when I was just 17 and about to head down to Great America for my first 40-hour a week dance job in The Bugs Bunny Review. (Now that was exciting! ) I'd spent my entire senior year working the McDonald's drive-through to save up my half and its purchase represented my first real independence (Yes!).
My current car is an Infiniti G35 (slightly used) for which I paid substantially more and when I get into it each morning, I know what I have worked for. Having suffered through a dozen economy cars and "mommy vans" in the intervening years, I've earned my leather seats and burl-wood dashboard. For a low-maintenance gal who thought I simply wanted an automobile to safely move me from point A to point B, I have to admit that there's more than a bit of vanity in this decision. As it turns out, buying a car is largely emotional!
For most of us, so is buying a home.
Intellectually, we know that we need four bedrooms and two bathrooms but what we want, is often, unspoken or even unidentified until we walk into a house and suddenly, it speaks to us on an emotional level. The sweeping staircase, the big bonus media room downstairs, the panoramic San Francisco Bay View, the scented garden, the warm inviting kitchen, the leaded glass windows or even the street outside may all trigger emotional responses that feel very comforting. Suddenly, we've found "home."
I joke that I bought my current residence for its pretty white gazebo and big brick patio but that's not too far from the truth. I hadn't even gone inside yet, when the decision was practically made. I imagined my boys' garden weddings (mind you, my kids were nowhere near marriage age and its unlikely their future brides are going to supplant their wedding dreams with mine but nevertheless, it was the notion that set me in motion) and I was hooked!
A few months later, when a colleague came down to drop off some papers and skeptically said, "Jeez, what were you thinking buying this place?" I'm not sure I could have articulated my reasons why. Homes are truly personal choices.
That's especially true here in Piedmont, Rockridge, Crocker Highlands and Berkeley where no two homes are exactly alike and even if they were at one point, time and ownership have undoubtedly specialized them into unique commodities. In a day and age where more than 90% of Buyers now begin their search on the Internet, it still remains true that Buyers must actually walk into a home to know if it's "the one" and it's also why we continue hold Sunday Opens in an increasingly INTERNET world. Do all the research you want, there's still "old-school" legwork that must prevail. You still have to get inside, envision your life, move in the furniture and fall in love . . .
Give me a call. I am always available and happy to show you around!
(And if you have any car thoughts, I'm still open to suggestions. BTW a BIG thank you to Piedmont resident, Michael Greening of San Francisco BMW/Mini Cooper, who generously donated the "hole-in-one" automobiles for the Piedmont Highlander's Golf Classic last Monday. bmwsf.com. Now that's something to get excited about! )
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.