"Hey honey, remember my leather litigation case you threw out a few years ago?" my husband, Cliff, yelled from the bedroom as he packed his overnight bag. Typically, Cliff doesn't travel much for business but was headed to Seattle to argue a case the next morning before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In Cliff fashion, he was waiting until the last minute to organize his belongings. "The big square one that held my files?" he said.
"I remember it," I hollered back from the kitchen, "and I didn't throw it out - you did."
"Not true," my husband countered, "Why would I throw it out? I need it." (Lawyers are accustomed to arguing and my husband is no exception. Perhaps I was his warm-up?)
"It was falling apart," I replied, lowering my voice as I walked into the room. "You'd had it for more than 25 years and we were moving . . . Remember?"
"No, I don't remember," Cliff countered, rooting through the luggage closet for an alternative that might suffice. "Why don't you just admit that you tossed it," he said. "You throw everything away." (It's true - I'm the family purger, but I was holding my ground.)
"Because I didn't," I said (a snappy comeback if ever there was one). Okay, I was beginning to feeling a tad bit defensive. "We specifically talked about that briefcase, if you recall."
"No, I don't recall, but if it helps YOU accurately remember events, I'll confirm our conversations in writing from now on," my husband teased - a refrain I have often heard over the course of our 19-year marriage.
While confirming conversations in writing may be pushing it just a bit within the bounds of holy matrimony, confirming things in writing is a very smart idea with respect to real estate - where the consequences matter a whole lot more than whose turn it is to pick up dinner or who threw out a shop-worn briefcase (definitely not me!).
I am an e-mailer both by nature and by well-honed practice (you've probably figured that out by now). I value the ability to clearly answer questions, state a position, and track a transition from beginning to end - and in spite of my husband's good-natured ribbing, both he and I prefer to spell out our responsibilities in writing; often emailing each other throughout the day, as opposed to conversing on the telephone.
So it comes as no surprise that I follow the same course of action with my clients as well. From outlining a listing calendar to answering questions about strategy, to finalizing the deal, regardless of how important or seemingly inconsequential the issue, I find a written record keeps ALL of us on track and on the same page.
I won't discount that there is an important human element and connection to the art of conversation, but I find that memory, intentions and actions are best served in writing. While I am always available to assist you on the phone, chances are, I'll be confirming our conversation in a written format as well - be it, email, text or the good old-fashioned letter (remember those?). Now you'll have to excuse me, I'm off to the luggage store to replace my husband's ratty old briefcase (the one I didn't throw away).
For the record, this action does not now, nor in the future, imply, infer or impart a partial or full admission of guilt as to the tossing of the aforementioned briefcase. (Cliff, please print and file this email for your records.)
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.