"These are the rocks of King Herod," Lior our Israeli guide pointed out.' "They're distinguishable by their large size and shape . . ." With all due respect to the painstaking and labor intensive process of uncovering and preserving past civilizations, AND at the risk of sounding terribly sacrilegious, one rock pretty much looks like another to my untrained eyes (no matter how sacred) whether it's from the Byzantine era or the Ottoman (but maybe that's just me).
Having just returned from the "Holy Land," I can tell you that Jericho is the oldest continually occupied city in the world, dating back more than 8,000 years (give or take a few) so no matter where you look in these walled cities, there's something of historical significance to see - and ALL of it matters; wars have been waged over these sacred sites.
Moreover, Israel, is essentially one large mass of limestone, meaning there's no shortage of "sacred" ruins to explore. In fact, like modern day Legos, these chiseled blocks were constantly being reused every 600-700 years as one monument was destroyed, only to be replaced by another. Given the massive weight of these stones, it only made good sense to leave them put.
Along with aqueducts, recycling was invented by these early builders long ago. I'd wager that there are more churches, mosques, and synagogues in Jerusalem than in other place on earth. Dubbed the "Land of the Bible," Jerusalem is not only the place where Christianity was born, but where Judaism and Islam took root, so when visiting this small nation, one gets a much better sense of what and why these rocks are so darn significant and as importantly, why, thousands of years later, they remain very much so.
"What's holy, remains holy, " Lior patiently explained to our group and by "group," I mean "me." I was touring with some intellectual heavyweights who had done their homework prior to boarding the plane. Luckily, you don't have to be Indiana Jones to understand that even back then, Real Estate played an important role in the life of its inhabitants - and still does . . .
When archaeologist and geologist dig, they don't just uncover one site, but often, several generations (those crusaders weren't kidding around with their pillaging and what not . . .). While I don't profess to be a religious scholar by any means, renovations are something I know a thing or two about. (Now you're talking my language.) So how's mine coming along you ask? In a word - S L O W L Y!
Like the Romans, Cliff and I might have been better off leveling the place and starting from scratch. Certainly, it would have been easier in many respects and I suspect, less expensive as well, but we wouldn't have honored the home and that's important to us both. As it turns outs, we're preservationists.
So what have I learned through my half dozen renovations and home improvement projects that might be of importance to you?
1) Renovating is always more expensive than you think and takes longer than you thought so leave room in the budget for some flexibility AND be ready to make some compromises along the way. Staying anywhere close to your budget is largely going to be a matter of compromise and staying sane - a matter of patience.
2) The more ambitious the project, the more likely unwelcome surprises are going to manifest. While unwelcome to be sure, roll with the punches. It's too late to go back so the only way through, is forward. Onward, there will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel. (I promise.)
3) A reliable, trustworthy contractor is worth his weight in gold so select your team carefully. Not only will you be spending an inordinate amount of time together, when it comes to construction, you truly get what you pay for. Like good lawyers, you're not necessarily looking for the cheapest bargain in town. Experience typically costs. Do the work correctly the first time and you shouldn't need a second pass for many years to come.
4) Demo happens quickly, the rebuilding takes quite a while. Don't let those first few weeks set unrealistic expectations for the timeline. You won't actually see real forward momentum until the foundations, rough plumbing, HVAC system, and new electrical gets put into place. "Form follows function" is absolutely true with respect to home improvements.
5) Remodeling is a mess! There's no way around this. If you have to live through it, prayer (or drink) may be in order. If you have another place to stay, do so and come back after the painting has been applied and the floors have been finished. The drywall dust alone is worth the inconvenience of moving twice.
6) Renovations require 1001 decisions. From where to hang lights, to the selection of stone, tile, cabinets, flooring, windows, knobs, etc., etc., etc., it can all be a bit overwhelming. If you aren't working with a professional designer (and yes, they can save you thousands of dollars in mistakes so consider a designer as part of your team) you'll need to learn the art of decision making in short order. If quick decisions aren't your forte, consider selling and buying a "turn-key"property instead.
7) Establish a design theme and stick with it throughout the house. Don't make the mistake of thinking every room needs to be different. Schizophrenic homes are unnerving and they don't necessarily add value; they detract. While there's too many interesting finishes from which to choose, let your home's architecture guide your choices. An ultra modern kitchen in a turn-of-the-century home is going to look out of place, just as old-world finishes are going to chafe in an uber contemporary residence.
8) Don't scrimp on lighting or windows. If your home doesn't have a natural abundance of light, add it through smart placement of recessed lighting, sconces, chandeliers, new windows and skylights. Good lighting reaps its own rewards, but also overcomes the objections of any future buyers who typically respond to the desire for "good light." Light ranks at the top of the list for most home buyers.
9) Ditto for exterior landscaping. While it's tough to come up with the extra money for outside improvements once the interior renovation has broken the budget, excellent curb appeal should never be underestimated. If you haven't the dollars to do the work this year, budget it for next. The first impression of your home happens from the curb.
10) Even if you think this if your "forever" home, chances are it isn't. While you may choose to have a black toilet and metallic tiles; it's unlikely that the next owner will appreciate these design elements the same way. The "classics" are classic for a reason. Make timeless choices, and you'll be much better served in the end.
11) Finally what we can't see in the renovation is undoubtedly more important than what we can, but it won't necessarily reap large financial dividends (sorry). New sewer laterals aren't necessarily sexy and they certainly aren't visible, but they're important nonetheless, and honestly, there's no point in creating a masterpiece up top if the home is sitting on crumbling foundation down below. Get the basics in order first and then address the aesthetics. That way, your home will still be standing for generations to come.
Jet lagged, but certainly wiser for wear, I'm home and ready to "rock" and roll.
How can I help you? (P.S. -You can follow my ongoing renovation on my new Blog: Renovation Riptide. I invite your comments and stories. )
It's official, baseball season is here at last and I couldn't be more excited . . . or more heartsick. It's Tristan's last year at Piedmont High School and if he doesn't elect to play at the college level, this may be the twilight of his baseball career (sigh).
As a baseball mom, I've loved watching both my boys run the bases and swing the bat; although admittedly, it's been an easier journey for Tristan than it ever was for Case. (Many big league dreams have ended on the curve pitch alone. Ask every adult male in America and they'll tell you the minute that came true for them.)
In fact, short of muddy uniforms, I've loved everything about the game; loved the wins and losses, loved the camaraderie, loved the coaches (most of them), loved the parents and grandparents on the bleachers (my homies) and loved the tough lessons learned. Baseball is a microcosm of life. . .
Last year, in an attempt to keep me focused on the action on the field (instead of my phone) my husband taught me to keep the official box score and an amazing thing happened along the way. I not only got pretty good at following the runs, hits, and errors of the players on both benches, but I began to see the nuances of the game. (Ah yes grasshopper, she can be taught!)
"You know baseball so much better than you used to," Tristan said the other night at dinner. (Um, I think that was meant as a compliment.)
He's right, I do. Sadly, it only took me 20 years to get there and as much as I hate to admit that my husband might have been onto something, the simple truth is that I do now know the ins and outs of the game far better than I ever did before. As it turns out, baseball involves more than just keeping your eye on the ball. (Who'd a thunk?)
So as your Realtor, let me share a few nuances of the game . . .
How can I help you? (P.S. -You can follow my ongoing renovation on my new Blog: Renovation Riptide. I invite your comments and stories. )
Piedmont's kids came out in their finest last Saturday night and my good-looking son, Tristan, was among them. (Yes, a mother can brag just a little; it's in the parenting handbook. He's the handsome one in the vest.) Dressed in formal attire, our children gathered for group photos before breaking off into excited pairs and heading to the dance. From all accounts, the evening was a BIG success (not that teenagers tell you much, but a smile is worth a thousand words).
As parents, we've watched these kids grow up, so it's a kick to see them blossom into smart young adults; perhaps even a bit bittersweet as they'll be graduating from high school soon and navigating travels and adventures beyond our little haven - and our safe homes.
How they pair up and arrange the "dates" is beyond my pay grade, but suffice it to say, there are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes and the "asking" is a bit more complicated than it was in our day. (Evidently, it's got to be Instagram or Snapchat worthy.) Perish the young lad who doesn't at least strive for a little creativity in this department.
"Choosing a date" in Real Estate needn't require social media (although it can), but it's important nonetheless. At the risk of offending your friends or family members who have their real estate licenses and are incredibly well intentioned, let me give you a few reasons why you may want to politely decline their offer to help you purchase - or sell - a home, especially when it's an out-of-area endeavor.
Aside from the fact that not everyone can successfully sell real estate (it only seems that way), the sale or purchase of a home is a highly-specialized, LOCAL venture composed of many micro markets. It may all look the same on paper, but in practice, the transfer of property is extremely nuanced and insular.
Question: If your family friend/agent doesn't live or regularly work in a particular region, he/she isn't going to know:
a.) the inventory
b.) the local protocol
c.) the other agents involved
Answer: ALL OF THE ABOVE!
"Inventory" doesn't just apply to what the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) publishes; it also speaks to those homes that trade "off-market." Surprisingly, even in a Sellers' market, there are a fair number of homes that sell this way. Why? Often it's for reasons of privacy or security, but convenience is a highly compelling factor as well. Frankly, not all Home Sellers want to put themselves through the paces of coming to market. Not only is inviting strangers into your home highly disruptive and work intensive, it's also emotionally taxing. If you can quietly achieve your goal without the pain and pressure of a public sale, then a discreet approach may in fact serve all parties best.
"Local protocol" has everything to do with the etiquette and professionalism agents extend to one another. It also includes a working knowledge of the mandatory disclosure requirements and point-of-sale ordinances that are required on the sale of any property in the state of California. Misstep here and you might find yourself paying for closing costs that aren't typically yours to pay, or omitting some important documents that leave you vulnerable to future lawsuits. Who pays for what, changes from county to county so mistakes in this area can cost your dearly - and unnecessarily.
"Knowing the other agents" within a territory isn't just helpful; it's critical. All things being equal, when it comes to the multiple offer scenario, I am going to encourage my Sellers to accept an offer from an agent I have typically worked with in the past. Since I most definitely cannot control the other parties involved, I'm left with limiting the risk within the transaction, which means (drum roll please . . . ) that I will likely bank on a known entity.
I'm specifically looking to engage with a Realtor that can close the deal with minimal drama and a strong track record. Even if your out-of-area Realtor is a top performer in their neighborhood, they aren't a top performer in mine. And as your friend/relative/bff (fill in the blank), they should do you the favor of referring you out to a local Realtor. A Real Estate transaction is too large a risk to gamble on the unknown. That's the blunt and honest truth. So please, work locally if it's a home you seek and not an exercise in frustration.
(BTW - I don't just recommend this course of action, I live it; having referred three close relatives to local agents in their respective cities last year alone.)
"But my sister (aunt, uncle, father, college roommate . . .) has offered to take less commission. " In other words, your friend will credit you a percentage of the sale if you work with him/her. Ah ha! I hear you.
That's not unlike a few national discount brokerage houses that do the same thing. In essence, they are incentivizing you to work with them. (Sounds good, yes? NO!) I understand the appeal, but you'll pay a heavy price. If at the end of the day, you are never successful at securing the home, then 1% of nothing is still NOTHING. OR if you sell for less than you might have because the out-of-area agent missed the Brokers' Tour dates, didn't place the home in the Ad Review or the correct MLS, overpriced the property, or didn't leverage the interest to your advantage, you will have lost far more than the 1% you hoped to pocket in exchange.(Hmmmm, that's food for thought.)
At the risk of playing the devil's advocate, may I politely encourage you to think long and hard about what best serves your intended goals? In a market where homes are usually sold within 14 days and typically involving multiple offers, you can't afford to lose a minute - or an opportunity - because of a misplaced obligation, no matter how well intentioned.
"We lost five houses last year working with our agent from the peninsula," a discouraged buyer lamented.
Yes, I've heard that before and no, it doesn't surprise me at all. Worse yet, the market is shaping up to be MORE competitive this year than it was last, so while you were being polite and loyal to your out-of-area agent, the house you could have had last year for "X," will now, undoubtedly cost you "Y." In an UP marketplace, time truly is money.
Luckily, this hurdle is easily correctable. Ask your out-of-area agent to refer you, or better yet, align with a local agent who is happy to issue a referral agreement to your previous agent in exchange for your business. Yes, your 1% may get cut out of the equation, but better that than going into another competitive season two strikes down. Good agents understand the value of the referral and want you to have a successful result. In short, GREAT agents put your interests ahead of their own - and that's as it should be. Are you ready to date?
How can I help you?
(P.S. -You can follow my ongoing renovation on my new Blog: Renovation Riptide. I invite your comments and stories. )
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.