Good Intentions Aren't Enough
We are a baseball family which mean like many excited Bay Area fans, we're in the thick of it. With the Giants now headed to the World Series, we're watching a lot of baseball these days. (Go Giants!)
Of course, we don't just root for baseball, both our sons have played on teams for years (ranging from mediocre to great) so it's not just love from afar, it's part of our family's culture. Our older son, Case, started in T-ball at four and has now aged out of rec ball (sniff, sniff) but our younger son, Tristan, still joyfully plays both Spring and Fall Ball and my husband, Cliff, has pulled every duty from field prep to coaching. Such is a loving parent's roll.
We're not so crazed that we have opted for the traveling team route (those parents are FAR more dedicated) but between the two boys, we have certainly had our share of carpools, weekend tournaments and baseball coaching sessions.
When I consider the range of experiences the boys have participated in, it isn't about whether or not the teams have struggled or dominated OR whether they have won or lost - it's more often about the coaching they've encountered along the way. Don't get me wrong, whether professional or volunteer, I certainly appreciate every coach's good intentions. Nobody who commits their time, does it for any other reason than the fact that they love the sport and care.
But there are significant differences that overlay the coaching experience (from a mother's point of view) and they have to do with knowledge and inspiration - good intentions really aren't enough.
While cluelessly chasing the ball around the field is extremely endearing at four, it's quickly counterproductive much past that age. Understanding where the appropriate play is and developing a winning strategy, makes a significant difference between "mediocre and great." A thinking player and a strategic coach are a formidable team - in sharp contrast to uninspired players and coaches that are simply hoping for the best. You can't just love the game, you have to know it too.
Real Estate agents can love the game as well, but to be really effective, your agent also needs to be knowledgeable. Good intentions really aren't enough - it takes action! Top agents tour religiously, analyze the market weekly, and write offers often. They communicate easily, negotiate confidentially, and facilitate sales with regularity. They are available and they are experts in their local market. Moreover, they act with integrity, know their limits and work collaboratively with others. If they need to refer a client out, they do so. In short, they take action!
Like coaching, there is a huge difference in the experience a buyer or a seller has with an agent. All agents are not created equal. Which isn't to say that one is necessarily better than the other, but does acknowledge that different styles work for different people. Whether you prefer an analytical, numbers driven agent, or one who is warm and fuzzy (or a combination of the two) you still need an agent that truly understands the game inside and out and can go the full nine innings! (Go Grubb!)
So inquire as to your agent's track record and take the time to make a good choice. (You'll be spending a lot of weeks and months together.) Interview him or her, ask lots of questions and decide on a course of action that makes good sense. If the "fit" isn't right, request that your agent refer you to someone else that meets your needs more effectively (we don't want an unsatisfying experience any more than you do). If you think of your agent as a coach, you'll want to align yourself with one that helps inspire you and creates a winning game plan.
(When it comes to inspired agents, I think there are fewer better than the team I work with here at The GRUBB Co. www.grubbco.com. How can we help you?)
Volume 158, Step-By-Step!
It's been an active Fall season for me, both personally and professionally, and one filled with exciting changes. Our high-school graduate headed off to college in Arizona. (He's adjusting to Freshman life at the U of A, while I'm adjusting to a quieter home life back here in Piedmont - thank you very much!) His absence has given me license to gut the entire downstairs and make long overdue adjustments to the existing floor plan. (A too funky bathroom had begun to resemble a science experiment - sound familiar?)
In both cases - departure and renovation - there is an audible disturbance to the force, and although I miss my elder son (just a wee bit) I am extremely excited about his new journey - as well as my own. (Not everyone gets turned on by a construction site, but I do!) It's a fresh start and a reinvention of sorts - for both Case and for me.
As a Realtor, the magic of "reinvention" comes in handy whenever I help sellers prepare their homes for market, which typically includes fresh paint and carpets, purged closets, updated lighting and primped gardens, BUT may also evolve to encompass entire kitchen and bathroom remodels as well. Not infrequently, once the workmen have left, the Sellers will invariably turn to me, and say, "Gee, I wish we had done this while we were still living here!" (So true!)
Heeding their observations, I am seizing upon my son's absence (and input) in order to execute some badly needed changes to the house that will benefit my family now. If we wait much longer, Tristan will be off to greener pastures and Cliff and I may find that A) our home is larger than we require, OR B) we are too broke to make the improvements. (Both likely scenarios in light of the expense of higher education!)
While we remodel downstairs, we will also earthquake retrofit the home, address some termite damage, replace an inefficient and outdated furnace and water heater, insulate the exterior walls, and put in new windows. Will these items add significant value to the home? Not likely, but they will certainly take away several objectionable hurdles that would likely be negotiated against the selling price when we do eventually decide to move on.
More importantly, these upgrades should significantly reduce our monthly utility bills and dramatically improve the way we actually live in our home today and that's really the end goal and the smarter choice to my way of thinking.
Gone will be the dark stairwell and long hallways, better suited to vampire bats, to be replaced by a sunny open family room, a brand new bath, a more convenient laundry area, a handy mud room and two bright new bedrooms (yeah!) While I believe each of these changes is ultimately practical (and will add tremendously to the home's appeal) I'm not necessarily expecting them to be profitable. Yes, our home is an investment, but it's first and foremost, our home - not a bank. Like many of us, the aesthetic choices I make regarding my home may not always be practical (a new duvet cover is nice but it doesn't add value) but they are, more often than not, justifiable.
So embrace change! These are indeed, interesting times and change (hopefully for the better) seems to me, to be a natural progression. I for one, am looking forward to it. Whatever comes up, I know that Cliff and I (and Case and Tristan) will handle these transitions the same way we address all changes - by simply placing one foot in front of the other and moving forward.
Reflecting on how far we have already come, it is amazing to me to contemplate just how far we can still go . . . and we will do it step-by-step.
Now isn't that exciting? I think so. . .
Volume 156 - Supreme Justice!
Poor Cliff - my husband didn't know that when he proposed to me, I would eventually be taking our marriage public and chiding him on all manner of topics - virtually on a weekly basis. (For better or worse?) In spite of my good-natured ribbing, Cliff's ego and his sense of humor remain, remarkably intact. Call it grace, call it confidence, it is more likely, that his sanity results from just plain ignorance. (My husband rarely reads my musings and that's a very good thing for both of us!)
Having made Cliff the scapegoat so often, I am now going to balance the scales ever so slightly and brag about my extremely gifted mate for a change of pace. Cliff is headed to the Supreme Court of the United States next week for an oral argument. Yes, THE Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (the BIG Kahuna). This isn't his first time there and I suspect it won't be his last, given the nature of his law practice, but it is the first time our son Tristan, will accompany us to see his dad argue on such a grand scale (our disagreements about household chores notwithstanding). I am supremely proud!
Anyone who knows my husband well, won't be surprised that Cliff is exceptionally adept at advocating a point of view, but this easy effortlessness doesn't come without heavy preparation (it's neither easy, nor effortless). He would be the first one to admit that his impromptu responses are usually honed and practiced for weeks and months in advance.
In fact, last week he flew to the east coast for a set of mock trials designed to anticipate any and every question the Justices might throw at him when it counts. (There are no 'soft balls' when it comes to the Supreme Court; those exalted few have earned their glorified robes with heavy artillery.) The stakes in Cliff's cases, are quite literally, life and death so anticipating and understanding every possibility is not only necessary, it's critical to the success and to the outcome of the case.
Thankfully, Real Estate isn't life and death (although it can feel like it in the moment) but the stakes are HUGE, good preparation is important and anticipation is critical to a successful outcome. Make no mistake, buying or selling a home can be a battlefield, to be sure.
Be that as it may, the best arguments, my husband might suggest, are the ones that never need to be made in the first place. As professionally fulfilling as it might be to argue a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Cliff has already won this case in the Ninth Circuit Court below. Having to reaffirm the win in a higher court can potentially result in a reversal, which isn't good news for the clients. Thus, arguing with nine Supreme Court justices is delicate business, indeed!
In truth, arguing with anyone is delicate business and rarely ever productive. Whether it's over a price, the value of a property, or the timing, in my experience, heated arguments are rarely a winning recipe. Arguing with your clients, your Broker, or another agent, is likewise, a lose/lose proposition. Being "right" for the sake of being "right" (even when you ARE right) isn't helpful either and typically sends even well-intentioned negotiations sideways. Let's face it, buying or selling a home is emotional enough without fanning the flames of the fire.
Of course, it isn't always possible to avoid an argument when working through the finer points of a deal. After all, the buyer and the seller are in a natural conflict from the start. The buyer wants to pay less and the seller wants more (go figure. Of course they do!) These opposing positions are frequently going to create inherent conflict and tension. (It's an interesting dance to say the least.) However, conflict doesn't give any of us a license to misbehave.
Still, it's reassuring to remember that both sides of every home purchase seek common ground - transfer of ownership - which should bridge any reasonable divide between opposing sides (the operative word here is "reasonable.") Achieving that goal - with the absence of malice - is always the most prudent course of action (play nice!).
So with respect to Real Estate (and life), be principled, be reasonable, be fair and avoid arguments at all costs (you never know when your paths may cross again). Whether or not you ultimately achieve the grand prize of home ownership (winner, winner, chicken dinner!) you are very likely to have a much smoother journey along the way. Instead of an adversarial stance, shoot for supreme justice!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.