On Wednesday evening, I held a staff-appreciation party for our GRUBB Co. colleagues in my recently completed garden (and by recently, I mean the exterior lights were going in that very day)! With contributions from many of my co-workers, including DJ and John (our Brokers), there was plenty to eat and drink and the evening could not have gone better. It's events such as these that remind me why we work so hard to create a place to call "home" and why sharing it with others is even more rewarding.
For me, the garden is an extension of my house - and my sanctuary - whether alone or with friends. BUT for others, a garden represents flower beds that need weeding, trees that need trimming and lawns that need mowing. Not that my yard is immune from such requirements; it's just that I don't mind these chores. Like good chefs who enjoy the process of cooking, I enjoy tending to a garden (preparing dinner, not so much). So when looking for a home to replace our last beautiful setting, a yard was high on my list. In fact, it was non-negotiable!
When working with Buyers, figuring out what's "non-negotiable" is the second place to begin. (Ascertaining what they can afford is the first!). Whether it's a garden, a view, an in-law unit, walk-to coffee, or something else, each Buyer should have a sense of what they are looking for and what is important - specifically - to them. But knowing what they want isn't enough; I need to know what they don't want as well so we can eliminate those rejected candidates and begin to refine the hunt. In short, the more direction I receive, the better.
Given that Bay Area's housing is as diverse as its population, unless you are looking in a cookie-cutter development (and those are rare), no two houses are the same, thus the job of finding the perfect "fit" isn't as easy as selecting from one of four model homes. Nor do you pick from one of three options the way Buyers do on nearly every real estate show on HGTV (if only it were that easy). No, in the real world, you may spend weeks, if not months, searching, bidding, losing, and starting all over again, until you find the house you are unwilling to lose. For most people, it's a fairly lengthy and often, emotional, process. (That's to be expected, so keep the faith.)
And because it's a process, each Buyer approaches it differently. Some are very clear on their goals, while others are all over the map. Surprisingly, while it might seem that the most flexible Buyers are the easiest to work with, they can be like the bride who looks great in every dress. Unless we narrow down your search, there's always going to be a prettier one that comes along. And because the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is now available to everyone online, Buyers are inundated with new choices almost daily. No wonder you're confused. It can be one shiny object after another.
I often counsel clients to create a list of their desires and then put it in order from most important to least. Is it location? Is it size? Is it style? If there are two people involved in the decision making, their lists should transfer onto a Vendiagram. What ends up in the middle is obviously the shared characteristics and the most important desires. From there we being the search in earnest . . .
Not so fast, there will still be compromises along the way. This is just as true for the 5 million dollar Buyer as it is for the $500,000 Buyer; all of you will make choices. While we are all hunting for the "perfect" home, let me save you the trouble and assure you that it doesn't exist. Again, this is where understanding what's "non-negotiable" for you is going to be critical to finding you a house in short-order.
BTW - it's not for me to tell you what should or should not be "NON-NEGOTIABLE!" Each of us has different dreams about what our house should be and how it will take shape; how we are going to live it it, how we are going to share it, and how we are going to grow old in it (or not). It's my job to honor your dreams and get to work to achieve them.
So now that you've got your list in good order (and your finances secure), let's go find you a house!
How can I help you?
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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.