I'm not sure the parade has ever been so well attended as last week's celebration. Like the birds to Capistrano, the folding chairs began to appear on Sunday - five days before the bagpipe bands and Mop Brigade arrived to proudly march down Highland Avenue. Young kids seeking candy filled the street, teenagers strolled, and parties lined the block on nearly every front lawn.
Red, white and blue bunting draped windows and porches throughout town and everywhere I turned I ran into someone familiar. . . "Julie Gardner!" Dhira called out, "Do you remember my mother? We still plan to have you over for dinner to thank you . . ." (I'll hold you to that.)
Dhira, her husband, and kids (and mother) are new to the parade this year, having just moved into their home in Piedmont a few short months ago. I'd met Dhira and her husband, Kartik, at an open house on a Sunday afternoon and a few weeks later, they were successfully in contract on a terrific property here in town. That's quick work. (Believe me, it doesn't always happen that way.)
I'd like to think that their quick success was predicated on my representation and that's partly true, but it also had a great deal to do with their fast learning curve and their desire to attain their goal before the market climbed out of reach. (We'd lost a house a week earlier in Montclair and they quickly rebooted and recalculated.)
Moreover - and I cannot emphasize this enough (!) - they stayed reasonable and even-tempered throughout the deal. Perhaps it's because Kartik, as a CEO for a high-profile company, negotiates deals all day long, or because Dhira, as a practicing MD, needs to stay calm and collected when speaking with her patients, but whatever the reason, they came to town armed and ready, but did so unemotionally and pragmatically. Even better, they quickly got up to speed on current market "value" and wrote accordingly.
Suffice it to say that there have been a few occasions in this heated marketplace where Buyers or Sellers were far more emotional in the course of the deal and turned to me in frustration: "Julie, we need you to advocate for US!" (Of course you do. That's my job.)
This typically happens when the transaction has run into an unexpected snag - or two (a very common occurrence during the course of escrow) and the Buyers or Sellers are highly charged. Their perception is that I am bending over backwards to lay out the other party's point of view and, indeed, I am.
While a person's divorce, job relocation, or family drama may not be relevant to you, it is to them and it absolutely colors the transaction moving forward. Moreover, the psychology of the deal is every bit as important as the financing. If we approach each hurdle as something to get through, as opposed to something that blocks our way, we begin to look for solutions, instead of problems. And as your "ADVOCATE," isn't that what you really want me to do?
At the risk of disappointing those of you looking for a Pitt Bull, it's just not my style. Not because I can't dig my heels in and draw a line in the sand (I can; just ask my husband, Cliff) but because I believe that even when we win this type of battle, we risk losing the war. Knowing where the other side stands and their motivations around their decisions, definitely informs our response and strategy.
In other words, it doesn't serve to polarize the other side, creating unnecessary resentments that typically come to roost, either in a quick exit or worse yet, in the form of a lawsuit after the close of escrow. Avoiding discontentment can save you BIG BUCKS down the road. So yes, the best deals always come about when the transaction ends on a high note.
In short, being accommodating and helpful isn't just the polite thing to do - it's the strategic thing to do.
So answer those questions when asked, accurately fill in your disclosures, invite inspections as appropriate, welcome your Buyers into the home with designers, architects and contractors (especially if they have given you a generous rent-back) and understand that overcoming objections is part and parcel to every home purchase and more importantly, that "the deal" is a two way street.
How we handle our side of it, is exceedingly important; our intentions, our actions and our words lay the groundwork for what's to come. This simply goes back to what our mothers taught us way back when: "Play nice!" (Thank you mom. As it turns out, mothers know a thing or two about negotiating.)
Speaking of streets (and mothers), I ran into so many wonderful families on July 4th, both on Highland Avenue and at my Open House immediately following, that I never made it all the way to the lawn parties I was headed to (my apologies).
No matter, it was so great seeing each of you with the knowledge that somewhere along the way, I had helped each family into (or out of) homes here in town, or nearby. What a gift!
Now please send your friends and family my way. I'd love to 'politely' help them as well.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.