"Hey honey, remember my leather litigation case you threw out a few years ago?" my husband, Cliff, yelled from the bedroom as he packed his overnight bag. Typically, Cliff doesn't travel much for business but was headed to Seattle to argue a case the next morning before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In Cliff fashion, he was waiting until the last minute to organize his belongings. "The big square one that held my files?" he said.
"I remember it," I hollered back from the kitchen, "and I didn't throw it out - you did."
"Not true," my husband countered, "Why would I throw it out? I need it." (Lawyers are accustomed to arguing and my husband is no exception. Perhaps I was his warm-up?)
"It was falling apart," I replied, lowering my voice as I walked into the room. "You'd had it for more than 25 years and we were moving . . . Remember?"
"No, I don't remember," Cliff countered, rooting through the luggage closet for an alternative that might suffice. "Why don't you just admit that you tossed it," he said. "You throw everything away." (It's true - I'm the family purger, but I was holding my ground.)
"Because I didn't," I said (a snappy comeback if ever there was one). Okay, I was beginning to feeling a tad bit defensive. "We specifically talked about that briefcase, if you recall."
"No, I don't recall, but if it helps YOU accurately remember events, I'll confirm our conversations in writing from now on," my husband teased - a refrain I have often heard over the course of our 19-year marriage.
While confirming conversations in writing may be pushing it just a bit within the bounds of holy matrimony, confirming things in writing is a very smart idea with respect to real estate - where the consequences matter a whole lot more than whose turn it is to pick up dinner or who threw out a shop-worn briefcase (definitely not me!).
I am an e-mailer both by nature and by well-honed practice (you've probably figured that out by now). I value the ability to clearly answer questions, state a position, and track a transition from beginning to end - and in spite of my husband's good-natured ribbing, both he and I prefer to spell out our responsibilities in writing; often emailing each other throughout the day, as opposed to conversing on the telephone.
So it comes as no surprise that I follow the same course of action with my clients as well. From outlining a listing calendar to answering questions about strategy, to finalizing the deal, regardless of how important or seemingly inconsequential the issue, I find a written record keeps ALL of us on track and on the same page.
I won't discount that there is an important human element and connection to the art of conversation, but I find that memory, intentions and actions are best served in writing. While I am always available to assist you on the phone, chances are, I'll be confirming our conversation in a written format as well - be it, email, text or the good old-fashioned letter (remember those?). Now you'll have to excuse me, I'm off to the luggage store to replace my husband's ratty old briefcase (the one I didn't throw away).
For the record, this action does not now, nor in the future, imply, infer or impart a partial or full admission of guilt as to the tossing of the aforementioned briefcase. (Cliff, please print and file this email for your records.)
Working at an Open House in the Upper Oakmore last Sunday, I was struck by the number of parties that came through the home with NO designated agent in place.
The Internet has made it so easy for Buyers to search the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that for many of you, it seems more natural and much easier to shop on your own . . . However for most of us, our home represents our single largest investment. Add to that, the potential liability that surrounds every home sale and you have a complicated transaction at best.
Given the potential risk involved, doesn't it make more sense to research and select your representative up front?
Yet with real estate, Buyers often embark on the process alone, pulling in a REALTOR as an afterthought - once the property has been identified.
My point is this: Would you walk into the hospital and let the on-call doctor perform life-saving surgery without so much as a consultation? (I didn't think so.)
The earlier one connects with a qualified Broker, the better. Aligning yourself with an experienced REALTOR to oversee the entire transaction from beginning to end makes good sense (and good cents) with so much at stake.
From mortgage brokers, to lenders, to escrow officers, to title companies to insurance brokers, to home inspectors (the list goes on and on . . .) a successful outcome requires thoughtful and directed collaboration.
Since you will ultimately require a REALTOR to get into contract, aligning yourself with a seasoned professional from the get go, makes for a more symbiotic relationship; a relationship that is far more satisfying and successful when it begins early in the process!
Utilize your agent's skill set early on and you will be ahead of the game!
If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in the next few years - or have a friend who is considering a move - please feel free to give me a call.
Last week, while trying to negotiate a full-price offer, I was struggling with a listing Agent who kept insisting that my Buyers bring back a higher purchase offer before she would be willing to present it.
"We don't want to offend the Seller," she warned.
Frustrated by this tactic, I calmly explained, "This is a full-price offer in a 'challenging marketplace' by very qualified and motivated Buyers - they are not bidding against themselves. Take the offer to the Seller and let them counter if they are so inclined. That's the appropriate process."
As professionals, it is not our job to get "offended" by an offer or a counter offer. It is our job to present any and all offers without opinion.
Do we often have insight as to how the Seller might respond to an offer? Yes, we do.
Are Sellers often offended when the purchase offer doesn't match their expectations? Yes, they are.
Are Buyers often insulted when their well-intentioned offer is abruptly rejected? Yes, they are.
Do real estate transactions often become too emotional? Absolutely.
Do personal feelings belong in the negotiation process? No, they do not.
While emotions can run very high between Seller and the Buyer, emotions should never overshadow the Agent's negotiation process. To the contrary, our job is to "depersonalize" the sale of a home; to remind the Sellers (and the Buyers) that any disagreement is merely a disagreement about the value of a property between two competing parties. The Seller wants as much money as possible for the home and the Buyer wants to pay less.
That's all. No offense or insult is meant.
The good news is that the goal for both parties is identical - to transfer ownership of the property. To the extent that each party can find the middle ground, this mutual goal can often be accomplished.
Objectively defining that middle ground is where good Agents often earn their keep. Employing an experienced REALTOR to handle third-party negotiations to separate fact from fiction is a smart decision when the stakes (and the emotions) run as high as they often do in real estate.
While it feels VERY personal to you, it shouldn't feel personal to us. As seasoned professionals, we recognize that it is the rare transaction that takes place without some back and forth and the less emotional we make this process, the better the results.
As empathetic professionals, are we aware that your feelings are important? Yes, we are.
Are we often entering into emotionally delicate, highly charged situations? Yes we are.
Are we attuned to your hopes, yours needs, your desires and your concerns? Yes, we are.
Are we working for the best possible outcome in spite of them and because of them? Absolutely.
Should OUR personal feelings come into play? No, they should not!
That isn't to say that as people, we don't understand your frustration from time to time. The Seller did counter back my Buyers' full-price offer - he asked for $80,000 above asking! (Now maybe that's just a wee bit offensive . . .)
As the mother of two very active baseball players, I have spent the last decade watching my boys play this quintessential American sport on numerous spring, summer and fall ball teams. Having now clocked too many games to count, one would think that I would have become an expert at "America's favorite pastime" - WRONG!
My exasperated husband still marvels at my lack of knowledge with respect to the subtleties and finer points of the game. Sitting in the bleachers, he'll overhear me questioning the coach's call for a bunt or worse yet, a "pick off" - a play that from my untrained perspective, invariably results in an overthrow - advancing the runners an additional base. Ugh!
"The pitcher and catcher have to attempt the pick off," my husband, Cliff, not-so-patiently reminds me, "or the runners will assume they can steal every base and will easily do so!"
Oh, now I get it! (light bulb moment.) In spite of my remedial progress with respect to baseball, I have come to learn that on a well-coached team, every player is moving on every play to collectively manufacture runs, secure outs and produce a successful outcome for the team! Cliff has been teaching me to place as much importance on what's going on AWAY from the ball, in order to better appreciate how the game is actually won!
Don't get me wrong, the ball is clearly important, but the game is much more complex than what meets the eye!
In real estate, finding a home is akin to focusing on the ball - Experienced REALTORS (like experienced managers) know that what happens between the plays and in the dugout, often influences the outcome more. Yes, I'll admit it's a home run when I direct you to the house of your dreams, but my real value comes into play by knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the other players, staying on top of the market, understanding the inspection reports and how they affect the value of the home, successfully negotiating the transaction, and following through to the last inning.
Here's my point: if you are only watching the ball; you are missing the majority of the game!
Understanding that your REALTOR is often working diligently between innings, may help you comprehend his or her role a little better - as well as your own. Given the mass availability of information on the Internet, it stands to reason that Buyers often seek out and find their own homes, but that doesn't discount the importance of their REALTOR'S involvement.
Once a property has been determined, securing and obtaining the home and protecting you from potential liability, is where the REAL work begins!
OH! (light bulb moment? ) Now, let play ball!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.