"I am never planning a vacation again," my husband exclaimed. "There are too many moving parts!"
(Tell me about it. I'm sure it's nothing like renovating an entire house and running several crews simultaneously, while maintaining a very busy practice.)
Ironically, we'd chosen a Bay Area Backroads Bicycle Tourof Normandy and Brittany precisely because they make all the plans; they supply the bikes, set the hotel accommodations, reserve the fine restaurants and the private tours of the battlefields and you simply have to show up prepared to peddle. (Uhhh, right. I'm not sure I'm "road ready" but here we go . . . )
But it's the before and after that have sent my husband sideways. The bicycling adventure and all of the hand holding only lasts five days during the middle of our trip. First, we have to fly to Newark, rent a car, drive four hours, and drop our son off at college in Hamilton, New York and then we've got to make our way back to the city, where we'll spend a few days with our older son, Case, before jumping the pond to France (admittedly, it's a nice problem to have.) After Paris, we make our way by train to the coast to meet up with the rest of the riders and our guides and on day six, we're back on the train headed to Amsterdam. (Poor moi.) All kidding aside, Cliff's been amazing at pulling this together. Honey, thank you. I'd marry you all over again.
With respect to Real Estate, there's always a fair amount of"before" and "after," that takes place as well, as you prepare to plunk down your hard-earned dollars on a new home. Today, I'll focus on the "befores" as the "after" hopefully involves champagne and a sense of relief and success. . .
Before you even begin to work with your local Realtor, you'll want to have a conversation with a mortgage lender to determine how much you qualify for. What you are willing to spend is entirely up to you as everyone has a different comfort level, but understanding what the current lending conditions require and how much money you may borrow, is absolutely key to a successful purchase. In fact, in heavy competition, our lending partners are often the deciding factor between one compelling offer and another.
It should come as no surprise that you'll need to be gainfully employed for more than a few months and have a strong credit history in order to borrow large sums of cash (your FICO score is everything as I remind my 23 year old), but before you meet with a lender, organize your financial papers and gather your old tax returns. You're going to need them.
Other "befores" include: understanding the marketplace beforeyou purchase; reading the disclosures before you sign off and remove those important inspection contingencies; making sure the underwriters have approved your loan before releasing the loan contingency; and moving in before you buy new furniture! (Yikes, don't run up ANY BIG EXPENSES on your charge cards before the loan has funded!)
Before selling, you'll want to purge, paint and prep your home in order to receive top dollar. (That's where I come in.) For many, this is an overwhelming task, especially if you've lived in the home for many years. DO let your Realtor guide you before you decide to paint the master bedroom forest green or navy blue. We'll steer you in the right direction, even if it isn't necessarily yours.
You'll also need to disclose whatever underlying issues may await the next owner before you place the home on the market. If there are glaring issues, you may want to address thesebefore putting the "For Sale" sign in the ground, or savvy buyers will very likely quantify those issues and negotiate them off the price.
Finally, before you begin working with a Realtor to either purchase or sell a home, you want to have a frank discussion about your expectations and your needs. As buying or selling a home is a very personal journey, you should feel comfortable with the person with whom you are placing your trust AND have confidence in him/her before doing so. Remember, we're here to serve your objectives - not the other way around.
In case you haven't noticed, there are more than a few of us Realtors in the game (we're a dime a dozen) and we each have our own style, but we're not necessarily all created equal. As with any profession, there are many different levels of service and care. Chances are you haven't bought or sold a property in several years so you may not even know what your expectations are, or the pertinent questions to ask. That's okay too. There's a definite learning curve to being a Buyer or a Seller and whatever the marketplace, we are here to help. Lay out your concerns and ask away. Before you sign a contract, understand exactly what you Realtor will do for you!
Gosh, I gotta run and pack a bag. Planes, trains, automobiles and bikes? I'll need to take just about everything, including padded shorts before I commit to a bicycle for five days, but I should have some good stories to tell when I return . . .
P.S. I'll be returning on September 8 so will be taking a break from writing The Perspective for a few weeks. In my absence, my assistant, Jill Shortley, will be covering my desk. Jill can be reached at (510) 520-5048 or at email@example.com
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.