My sister, Jill, and I are guests at The Landing Resort and Spa on the south shore for a 2-day Luxury Homes seminar and house tour. Yesterday morning we set out to view several fabulous lakefront properties, ranging from $29,000,000 estates (that's twenty-nine MILLION!) to much more modest condominiums within walking distance of the lake (even the condos here are easily more than one million dollars).
If you thought Bay Area real estate was expensive, it pales in comparison to some of these extraordinary properties, which for the most part, are all vacation homes and not primary residences, but second, third, or fourth homes.
The first house in Zephyr Cove was a dilapidated property on the lake with NO access to the beach, no dock, no buoy, and no key evidently, as the panicked agent waited for a colleague to bring it "soon" while agents came and went without going inside. NEXT! List price: $4,250,000.
The second, was more in keeping with our Tahoe expectations. A block off the water, it had 4-poster beds, leather couches, chandeliers made of antlers and big wooden beams, but was chock-a-block full of mounted deer, elk and ram heads, and smaller taxidermy pheasants, armadillo and the like staring down from nearly every wall.(Note to homeowners - this is just plain creepy. Take down the petrified zoo.) List Price: also, $4,250,000. Huh?
Evidently, here in Tahoe, the home value - no matter its conditions - is only a small portion of the real market value, which lies in the lot and access to the lake. That's the opposite of our homes in Piedmont where the physical building is assessed as the majority value of the property and the lot is only a very small portion. House number one will be bought, torn down completely, and a new multi-million dollar home will be built in its place. House number two has an empty lot directly across the street with the expectation that whoever eventually builds there, will block the view of the lake from this home. (Bummer.) Therein lies the rational.
With a full day ahead of us, we'd only made it to the second cabin when Jill's car engine began to shut off at will (a real problem when there's a big-rig on your tail.) At which point we quickly limped into a mechanic's garage and waited for a painful diagnosis that includes a 24-hour waiting period for the new part and an $80 cab ride back to the hotel. The repair for her wagon is going to be a whole lot more. (Ouch.) The best laid plans . . .
"Plans" are something we Realtors know a thing or two about as we get ready to bring a property to market. In a perfect world, my "plan" for your home includes inspections, overdue repairs, gardening, painting, staging, marketing, advertising, Sunday Opens, (homemade cookies of course), follow-up, and then a quick sale. If only it were that easy . . .
More often than not, Sellers aren't willing to just hand over the keys to their house and give their Realtor unfettered access and a blank check with no questions asked. Having lived in the home for years, if not decades, they often have their own ideas about how their home should be marketed and what they are willing to spend after years of living in, often overlooking its many defects.(What defects?)
"We lived with that rotted carport for years, no one is going to care." (They will.)
"The flood in the basement happened so long ago, it's no longer relevant. (It is.)
"People are going love my hunting trophy collection!" (They won't.)
But it can be the surprises on the other end with which we have NO control, that really throw a monkey wrench into our best laid plans - no matter how carefully orchestrated.
I currently have a charming house in escrow and while the sale went off pretty much as planned, we should have closed more than three weeks ago, but are still waiting for loan docs to arrive (evidently, we're in the queue)! Like Jill's car, stalling out at every intersection, this loan has sputtered more than once, due to the complicated nature of this particular asset-based loan and some overseas money that took longer than expected to clear. Still, the reassurances from the bank, good communication from the Buyers' Agent, collaborative problem-solving on both ends, and a very flexible Seller have combined to keep this deal on track. With any luck, the Buyers should be signing this weekend and should fund early next week. "Should" being the operative word as we wait with baited breath. (All's well that ends well.) If you're one of those people that wonder how Realtors earn their keep, this is how. . . selling a house is often much easier than actually getting it through escrow and closing the sale!
What's the moral of this story?
Patience? Perseverance? Problem solving? Driving a different car?
Pick any of the above. They'll all do. In any case, how can anyone complain when they are looking at a stunning tourqouise lake? Lake Tahoe really is a multi-million dollar view. I'm heading out now for a quick walk before today's seminar begins. it'd be a shame to waste the opportunity.
How can I help you?
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.