While out on rounds last week, I stopped at a lemonade stand and bought, perhaps, the worst glass of lemonade I've ever had. Fizzy, warm, no ice, out of a can, and not much flavor, but that's beside the point. I NEVER pass up a lemonade stand if I can help it, having both manned such booths myself as a little girl in Sacramento (of course I did), and then helping my boys and their friends much later on, when I had kids. Lemonade is about the principle, never mind the product.
The thing is, these little girls didn't stand much chance at success even if their lemonade had been the BEST I'd ever tasted as their stand was in the middle of the block on a quiet residential street in Berkeley. Had they been thinking strategically, they would have moved their table down a few houses and placed it in front of their neighbor's listing on Brokers' Tour, thereby acquiring a highly-captive audience. (I'm not the only Realtor with a soft heart and an open wallet.)
Years ago, when my boys sold lemonade (and chocolate-chip cookies), we lived in the City, a block from Golden Gate Park. On steamy weekends, we set up business where runners and walkers entered and exited the greenbelt and I'm here to tell youY, those boys made BANK and always, ALWAYS sold out!
Location, location, LOCATION!
This well-worn adage holds true for nearly every brick and mortar store, for any popular food truck or kiosk, for every bus-stop advertisement, and certainly for lemonade stands as well, BUT it also rings true for our homes. Still, not all locations are created equal; thus, when I shop with Buyers, I'm asking them to not only consider the house in question, but to carefully consider its location as well.
BTW, let's not assume that everyone wants the same things with respect to location. They don't. Some Buyers are shopping schools, some want easy access to public transportation, some need to be near the airport, while others seek a view, vistas, cafes, shopping, coffee, walking trails, or a house near their sister's, and so it goes . . . .
A few weeks ago, I helped a dynamic young family get into contract on a home on the lagoon in Alameda. Before our introduction, I had never sold a property on the lagoon, nor given its location, much thought. But after spending several hours at the property, I'm a convert; a house on the water, within walking distance to lively Park Avenue seems like an idyllic retreat. Certainly, it is to them.
Which brings me to my next point with respect to locations: some locations are highly-coveted and always hold value while some areas are more remote and prone to greater market fluctuations. Some neighborhoods are in "transition," and some communities still have a long, looong way to go. Even so, it's often in these more neglected neighborhoods where values have doubled, WITH the caveat that these properties typically require some serious renovations in order to realize their appreciation. However, if you're on a tight budget and willing to put in the work, these less popular locations might suit your needs just perfectly - depending on what your needs are, and your end goals. Certainly, there's bound to be less competition to get in.
Cliff and I bounced from house to house in the early years, building equity and using each sale to take us to the next step. "Building equity" as quickly as humanly possible was our goal then and the only way to get from there . . . to here. Among our goals now is to provide housing for Cliff's mother, Zee, who at 93 is holding steady but needs a bit of added support. (Life on life's terms. We've come full circle.) In short, we're not moving any time too soon.
Finally, in a market where Buyers are spending a premium for nearly EVERY home, location is more important than ever and often the buffer against a softening marketplace. In other words, buy the worst house on the best block you can afford and then get to work improving the property. (Make lemonade from lemons.) It's always much easier to control your own home than to bank on the neighborhood improving on your time frame. (Consider it a bonus when both elements rise together.)
On that note, I think I'll get something to drink. All this talk of lemonade has made me rather thirsty.
How can I help you?
BTW, I'm often looking for ambitious lemonade entrepreneurs to set up a stand at one of my Sunday Opens so feel free to reach out. There's nothing that says "hometown" quite as nicely as a lemonade stand. (I'll even supply the cookies!)
(Not just a Realtor but a resource with respect to all things real-estate related.)
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.