There are moments, I will admit, when even I am more than willing to throw in the towel on homeownership. (Yes, even me!) Last weekend, was one of those rare lapses. Seizing upon a few hours of free time I decided to trim the camellia bushes that had grown above the roof line of our home. I retrieved the extension ladder from the storage shed and promptly set to work. With heavy garden shears and loppers in hand, I navigated the steep ladder and began to work from the underside of the shrub, which quickly proved to be both frustrating and inefficient.
"Wouldn't this be easier from above?" I thought to myself, climbing the last few rungs of the ladder and pulling my tools up and on to the shake shingles - never mind the rubber gardening clogs; they would have to suffice. Of course, once there, I discovered that the roof was heavily littered with oak branches, pine needles, acorns and a few errant tennis balls the boys had misfired while playing catch with our Labrador retriever, Buck. Moreover the rain gutters were completed impacted with debris. This just wouldn't do. (We've already had our first light rain of the season so there was no time to lose.) This is the point at which any sane person (or right thinking middle age woman) aborts the mission and calls in someone much younger (and more spry) to complete this daunting task - for instance, my teenage son who claims he wants to earn some "extra money." But NO . . . the aforementioned teen was nowhere to be found and clearly, I was looking for immediate results!
Grabbing the electric blower, I attached my longest extension cord to the plug and then spent the next hour and a half bent over those damn gutters, clearing out the gunk, while thinking some very unkind thoughts about my husband who had quietly sneaked off to watch the U.S. Tennis Open -names that can't be repeated here. (Cliff is either smart enough or oblivious enough to avoid my "most productive" moments and he often responds by making himself scarce.)
Here's the thing I discovered last Saturday afternoon (and I'm sharing it with you - free of charge) climbing UP a ladder is A LOT easier than climbing down! With evening falling, a huge amount of dirt and debris littering the patio bricks below, and no one at the bottom to hold the ladder in place, I was having a very difficult time figuring out just how to step backwards onto this deathtrap without slipping (I now regretted those clogs); visions of a broken leg, or worse yet, a broken neck, swirled prominently through my brain.
"Cliff!" I yelled.
"Cliff! I need help!"
"CLIFF, I'M STRANDED!!" (My volume was increasing exponentially.)
Cl-i-if!!!" (Now he was in BIG trouble; his name had gone from one syllable to three . . .) I was literally stomping on the roof, unsuccessfully trying to get his attention. The whole neighborhood had surely heard my desperate pleas - except my errant husband (par for the course).
Silence. Dead air. NO RESPONSE! (Here is where I began cursing under my breath, reconsidering the joys of homeownership - and to be quite frank - the joys of marriage.)
I had two choices: I could either stay up on that darn roof until my son discovered me long about dinner time OR make a decision to descend (this wasn't Mount Everest after all - just my roof). Nothing to do but take a breath, turn around and back down. And to my great relief, the ladder didn't move, didn't slide and didn't budge, and my unfounded fears of broken bones didn't materialize either. (And happily, Cliff arrived with barbecue in hand so while he doesn't sweep, he does cook!)
How's this all relate to real estate? Well, here's what I think. Many of you have tough decisions to make and the outcome is very often unknown. Whatever you are facing, whatever fears you are projecting, in all likelihood, the reality is something altogether very different. Sometimes, our fears are nothing more than our disjointed perceptions; they have little to do with what is really going on, or to be more accurate, what we think is going on. Take a breath and proceed . . .
The media excels at reporting stories full of doom and gloom and negative headlines almost always result in temporarily dampening any momentum the market has gained. But look behind most of these stories, put them into context, and you will find little real change in today's market vs. last year's. In fact, our activity is fairly typical for this time of year - and so is our market. Yes, you should proceed with care and diligence, but you should also keep the market in perspective. Certainly, before taking any risks (like stranding yourself on a roof) make sure to gather relevant and material information from sources you trust, create a plan that makes sense and meets your needs, listen to your inner voice, weigh the pros and cons carefully, and then put your ladder in place with facts - instead of assumptions or hearsay - and you will very likely, avoid unintended "risks" from the start. Whether the journey is up or down, a thought-out and well-executed plan of action is likely to hold you in good stead and keep you safe!
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.