Despite the rainfall this week, spring officially arrived at 2:58 pm on Wednesday. Of course, here in the East Bay, we didn't need an announcement to tell us the seasons were changing, we could see it in the blooming Magnolias, the sunny daffodils, and the stunning cherry blossoms scattered throughout town. As an avid gardener, watching my roses, hydrangeas, and clematis seemingly sprout overnight and come back to life makes this my favorite time of year. Every day, it's a new surprise; a fresh unfurling, and a not-so-subtle reminder of the cycle of life.
Not only has the spring arrived in our gardens, parks and hillsides, it's also arrived with respect to the real estate "Spring Market" which is typically the most active time of year. Thus, every day, new listings are "springing" up, posting onto the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and then populating to your favorite search engines, whatever they may be. It's also the time of year when new Buyers arrive in force, hoping to establish residency before the next school year.
Working with these fresh new faces, I'm reminded that while Buyers are nearly fluent on searching the Internet for that "Pinterest-perfect" home, AND are surprisingly knowledgeable about the list-to-sales price many properties have experienced, they're often far less well-informed about the costs of buying a home (closing costs) or the ongoing costs of ownership (annual property taxes and maintenance)!
It's not unusual to receive a call from new Buyers moving from San Francisco, Redwood City, Marin, or in some cases, towns and cities much further afield, looking to buy a home in the East Bay. Comparatively, The East Bay is still viewed as highly affordable when placed against these much higher-priced communities (although Oakland's median prices continue to rise).
Invariably, we get around to their "wish list," which often goes like this: "We'd love a house near BART, in a good shopping district, with at least 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and oh, a little cottage out back or extra space downstairs we can rent out for extra income would be great." (Yes, it would.)
"What's your price point?" I ask.
I spent the first 15 years of my marriage in San Francisco where Cliff and I managed to buy and renovate four homes. I also gave birth to both our boys, and held down a busy sales job (not necessarily in that order). As an independent manufacturer's representative who called primarily on commercial design and architectural firms, I could pinpoint nearly every back street, alley and available parking lot in town, but that was then . . . this is now. NOW, I can easily navigate the streets of Piedmont, Oakland and Berkeley just as comfortably; in fact, even better. (That's not a Lyft driver passing by, that's actually me.)
In the intervening 14 years, San Francisco has changed dramatically, the Mission District is one of the hottest places to live, and whole neighborhoods have either undergone transformation or emerged altogether with new housing opportunities that didn't exist when I lived there. In short, there are entire neighborhoods in the City of which I know little to nothing about!
The property had barely been entered into the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), had been on the market for less than an hour, and had only just debuted when I received a phone call from a well-meaning, but slightly naive Agent asking if the Sellers would entertain a preemptive offer. A "preemptive" offer is an offer that comes in prior to the offer date AND only exists in a seller's market when more than one offer is anticipated.
"Thanks very much for your interest, but we'll be accepting offers a week from Tuesday at noon. Please join us then," was my polite response.
Valentine's Day arrived this week and while I'll be the first to admit that I'm not exactly Cupid when it comes to this holiday, I'd like to give a nod to the winged cherub nonetheless - especially to those of you who ARE romantically inclined, and better yet, who like to show it. Here's to love. . .
When it comes to love, our homes often represent LOVE'S physical manifestation; our love for what we know, our commitment to one another, and ultimately, our faith in what lies ahead . . . .
BANG! My car had just been violently hit and the side view mirror hung broken and shattered at my driver side door. As it turned out, the entire side was damaged from bumper to bumper and would need extensive repair.
I'd been parked at a meter on Mountain Boulevard in Montclair, minding my own business, deep in conversation on an email chain so hadn't expected this unhappy event AT ALL! I literally jumped in my seat, let out a few expletives, as in, "What the #$*&!?", and tried to quickly collect my thoughts.
Last week, I sold this stunning Piedmont legacy home at 334 Sheridan in an "Off-Market" sale - meaning that this fantastic property never had a Sunday Open, we didn't place a "For Sale" sign in the lawn, and it didn't hit the MLS until after the sale was ratified and nearly closed.
Coincidentally, it was one of two I sold in such fashion this month.
I should have known better than to get hooked on the new Netflix series titled "Tidying Up" based on the best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (I blame Jill for the suggestion.)
Nonetheless, Marie - who speaks mainly japanese and stands less than 5' tall and no more than 90 lbs - exerts her considerable charm and proven methodology with soft-spoken authority and grace. ("I love mess," she giggles in her lilting broken english.) There's no judgement here, just no-nonsense coaching, gentle persuasion and abundant compassion.
Cliff and I are both on health kicks, what with the advent of a new year and a potential bicycle trip in Italy in June. (I refuse to wear spandex shorts without dropping some serious lbs.!)
As such, bread, pasta and rice have regretfully, been eliminated from our diets, replaced by healthier habits we should have adopted long ago (like fruits and vegetables). Honestly, my system doesn't know what to make of it.
Like any good consumer, I tried to take advantage of the post-Christmas sales, but one look at the long lines and I quickly decided that there's no sweater on earth I want badly enough to fight the crowds. Some bargains just aren't worth the savings, nor are some discounts the deal you imagined . . .
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 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.