I'm back from New Zealand after visiting our younger son in Dunedin who was studying abroad at the College of Otago (and by "studying abroad," I mean that Tristan was exploring the Kiwi lifestyle with far more gusto than he was attending classes.)
"That's okay," a client reminded me,"I did too, and it's one of the absolute best things I've ever done. Classes weren't always my highest priority either, but wow, that's where I learned to really stand on my own, travel and explore as a responsible adult, and feed my curiosity about other cultures."
Thank you, Kim, for the timely advice. It's important for me to remember that education come in all forms, especially as I get ready to write that BIG check for next semester. (Tuition costs are truly painful.)
Far from pricey private school opportunities, most of my education came through the school of "hard knocks;" an unaccredited program that while incredibly informative, I wouldn't necessarily wish upon my own kids - although I'm quick to point out to them that failure taught me much more than success ever did. (Not that I'm knocking success mind you. Success paves the way to our visits to "other cultures" with way more style these days.) Still, it's the hard-won life lessons that shape our character and provide the "teachable" moments. (Get it, boys? Good.)
However, this week's educational moment came far more easily (and gracefully), by way of prospective Sellers who had done their homework prior to our meeting and then shared a thoughtful list of questions they had neatly prepared and organized. While I've often talked about (and published) my top ten questions Sellers should ask prospective Realtors in previous columns, their inquires were very specific to their home and their immediate neighborhood and actually improved upon my template. (Well done. I may have to steal this list.)
"How many homes have you sold here and what was the list price to sales price?"
"How many days does it typically take to sell a home?
"Would you recommend we stage our house?"
"What are the challenges you see with our property in particular?"
"When is the best time to sell?"
And so it went . . .
And finally, "What haven't we asked you that we should?"
"You haven't asked me how much your home is worth and how much you're going to get for it?," I said, steeling myself to explain why that question ISN'T something I can necessarily answer (but am always asked when interviewing for a listing).
And then came the gift . . .
"Why would I ask you that?," Mr. Seller responded logically, "I don't expect you to tell me what the market will deliver."
Okay, that may be a first. (Blimey, Bob's your uncle.)
But of course, he's "right on the money," (pun intended). No matter how prolific our list of sales, Realtors don't set the value of a property - a willing and able Buyer does. It's a concept that doesn't necessarily sit well with anxious Sellers, but as much as we'd love to be able to see into the future, any "sales"number a Realtor throws out is a guesstimate at best, based essentially on last week's sales figures and whatever experience we bring to bear. (And I'm not discounting experience.)
Sure, I can tell you what the house down the street sold for, how much the average price per square foot is in your neighborhood, how your house fairs by comparison, the overall feeling in the marketplace, projected expectations and a dozen other barometers that help us set a starting point, but I most definitely CANNOT tell you where your home will sell - nor can anyone else.
The market plays out as it does, often with surprising results and just as frequently, without. But if I give you an over-inflated number just to secure the listing, regardless of what's really at play, I'm not doing either one of us any favors - least of all you. Because when your Realtor isn't honest about the result you might reasonably expect, it's not only unfair to you, it can have dire consequences moving forward.
As I see it, my job as a Realtor is to position your home in its very best light, to leverage its interest as firmly as I can, to walk you through the journey with as much grace as possible, AND to be thoroughly transparent throughout. If I can deliver the home run, so much the better, but once my work is done, the outcome is up to the Real Estate gods.
Of course, the main objective is always to get you the highest and best result. That's a given, and believe me, no one will work harder to do so, but our goal is also to help you transition from one home to the next with as little stress and angst as possible. (Moves are never easy things.) I'm certain you'd expect nothing less - nor should you. (See how much smarter I am already?)
Cheer's mate! (I now speak Kiwi.)
How can I help you?
Check out my Instagram at: piedmontrealtorgirl
P.S. My new email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.