Last week, before retiring to the bedroom to binge watch The Crown, Netflix required me to reset my password prior to signing in. (I hate the world of passwords.) No sooner had I typed in the new code, then my cell phone rang. Shock and dismay . . . it was my son, Tristan, on the line.
"Hey Ma, Netflix just locked me out. Did you change the password by any chance?
(Wow. Hello to you too.)
I should preface this story by saying that a live chat (remote or otherwise) with either of my sons is rare. Unlike my twin sister's daughters, who phone their mother almost daily to regale her with stories of their colorful lives (or to talk about shoes???), my boys call so infrequently, I begin to wonder if they ARE still alive. (They are, they're just not phoning to let me know.) And while I hate to admit it, about half the time they're not responding to my text messages either. Buehler? Buehler? Buehler?
"If this is what it takes to hear your voice," I said, "I guess I'll need to change the password every Friday from here on out."
"Still wouldn't work," Tristan replied, not missing a beat.
My point is that when faced with a challenge, Tristan jumped right in and engaged, even if it meant a call home . . . to his mother!
In what has become my busiest fourth quarter of my professional career, Buyers are doing the same (No, not calling their mothers; they're engaging and stepping up to the challenge!)
Perhaps it's the historically low interest rates, OR perhaps they are worried about next year's election and how that might impact the market (or the world), OR perhaps life circumstances have changed requiring a bigger home (or a smaller one), OR perhaps they've come into a windfall and can now comfortably afford to buy, BUT whatever the reason, Buyers are seizing the Fall opportunities and in some cases, are proving to be the only Buyers come the offer date.
HINT: "Transparent Pricing," "Offers Accepted as they Come," or "Price Reduction," are all code for "Come and get it!"
Once Buyers move beyond "Why isn't anyone else making an offer?" there is often good opportunity to be had. ("Good opportunity" being a relative term in the land of one-million-dollar-plus starter homes.) More importantly, if you are lucky enough to be the the ONLY Buyer who steps forward, it changes the dynamic tremendously, putting both Buyer and Seller on an even playing field. (In point of fact, it often favors the Buyer.)
For those of you on your first round of house hunting, you might not know that there was a time not too long ago (in a galaxy far, far away), when Buyers routinely put "terms" into their purchase agreements. Such "terms" included negotiable items like inspection periods, loan conditions, and an appraisal caveat.
These safety nets allowed for Buyers to conduct their due diligence and for lenders to do the same; thus, providing a level of assurance that no longer exists in today's rapid-fire marketplace.
Unfortunately, as the market continued to tighten over the last decade, and multiple offers became the norm, Buyers who wished to legitimately compete were forced to write offers that gave them little time for consideration, no time to inspect, and no ability to negotiate once in contract. Worse yet, Buyers had to write at numbers that often couldn't be supported, meaning each new sale set a higher bar, making the home's ability to "appraise at value" a risky proposition.
Still, with the choice between writing aggressively or having virtually NO chance at the house, well-intentioned Buyers stepped up to the plate and swung for the fences. (You've got to hit the ball you're pitched.) Which meant that often, with no more than a few visits to a house, Buyers were offering WELL above the asking price and conceding every possible advantage in order to secure the property.
So what's the password?
If only it were that easy.
In other words, instead of relying on a password to deliver you the keys to the castle, you'll have to master the learning curve, you'll need good preparation and an education about the marketplace. You'll need super-human stores of diligence and tenacity. You'll need to approach house hunting as if it were a full-time job. You'll need to jump when the opportunity presents and more importantly, recognize opportunity when it does. You'll need sure-footedness and willingness. You'll need thick skin (for the houses you lose) and never-ending optimism (for the ones right around the corner), AND you'll need to trust your Agent as much as you trust your mother.
When it comes to Real Estate, "faith and courage" are as close as we are going to get to a pass code: F8th&Courag3! (and BTW, a little support from your mother never hurt).
That reminds me, I gotta go change my Netflix password; I'm expecting a call from my son this evening. (See how I did that?)
How can I help you?
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.