There's no end to the wisdom my readers impart week after week. In fact, you all are so insightful, I've been forced to create a very scientific method just to catch these "pearls" before I forget them. It involves liberal use of Post It Notes and my desk top computer. To the untrained eye, the border of scrawled handwritten notations might look chaotic, but each yellow scrap is a "Perspective" just waiting to be born!
Last week a new client shared his life's motto: "Eat Dessert First!" which is pretty clever and lots of fun but more importantly, I knew I had found my literary soul mate. Dessert before dinner is a concept that more than resonated, it often defines me!
My husband will tell you that I'm a gal who always scans the dessert menu first before ordering from the main course. Just as the hot dog is merely the means to sauerkraut, mustard and relish, for me, dinner is just the necessary segue into dessert. If there's a lava fudge cake with vanilla bean ice cream or a vanilla creme brulee on the page, I am totally rethinking the first course and saving the calories for later in the meal. In fact, if I wasn't quite sure that my sweet tooth and utter lack of discipline would only embarrass my dining companions, I might just forgo dinner altogether and move straight into dessert!
"You're making me hungry but how's this relate to Real Estate?' you ask.
Here goes: Buyers who venture forth on Sunday afternoons, without benefit of a REALTOR are in essence, doing the very same thing - they're eating dessert first! Not that I have anything against dessert before dinner mind you (clearly, I don't). It's just that even the sugar fixated, 5-year old in me knows that it's probably not the best or healthiest course of action. "Eat those vegetables - they're good for you - and have a little protein while you're at it." Words every mother has spoken since time began and with good reason. Those moms knew what they were talking about!
For buyers who choose to go it alone, you run the very great risk of stumbling on to your "dream home" but then being too ill-prepared to quickly compete for it. OR you miss the "off-market," "in-house," "pocket" listing. OR you naively find yourself in the world of "duel agency" with an unknown listing agent whose fiduciary responsibility contractually lies with the seller - not you! OR you may as yet be unfamiliar with the marketplace and the current market demand. OR you inadvertently buy in the wrong school district (it happens). OR you miss the opportunity to thoroughly investigate and negotiate, as is your right. OR, OR, OR - get the Picture? This Lone Ranger routine isn't such a sweet deal after all, is it?
With the infinite amount of information now available to the general public on any subject, is it any wonder many of us fall prey to the idea that we are instant experts - regardless of our lack of training or experience? This is especially true for Real Estate, where information is more than plentiful - it's often downright misleading - and therein lies the problem. (Think Zestimates.)
Hey, I make a pretty decent chocolate-chip cookie but that doesn't make me a four-star pastry chef, does it? But in the world of Real Estate, a little information can be a dangerous thing. Buying or selling a home is a much more complicated transaction than one imagines. It involves patience, timing, determination, knowledge, marketing expertise, skilled negotiation and above all else, EXPERIENCE! The kind of experience that comes over time, through hard lessons, in battles won, and with a rather steep learning curve. (Real Estate ain't for sissies!) While I may never master the souffle, I've gotten pretty good at mastering the art of the deal - so put me to work. (It never hurts to work with an area specialist.) In return, I will develop your Real Estate IQ and market health. I will send you an Ad Review each week, go over the available listings, analyze the marketplace, investigate the comparable sales, refer you to the appropriate lenders, create a winning strategy, write a seamless offer, accompany you on inspections, manage the escrow and title process, and work diligently to achieve your goals. Can you do that all by yourself? No, you can't - nor should you have to. (That's what I'm here for.)
So while it's quite tempting to eat dessert before dinner, it isn't very healthy or very good for you. We both know you will be better off with a full three-course dinner, but save room for dessert. You've definitely earned it.
Now that's sweet!
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.