Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I've got another birthday coming up.
I'm old enough now that such news isn't met with immense pleasure. (Who really likes getting older once you're past the age of 35?) As too often happens, the fifties bring their fair share of unexpected loss in the form of friends or family members who just yesterday, were walking beside you, and sadly, no longer are. (Sigh.)
So, in spite of the wrinkles and crow's feet, I'm going to try and embrace 55 with grace and gratitude, and with the recognition that getting older beats the alternative of not getting older. Here's where I'm luckier than most; I share the day with my twin sister, Jill. She's my birthday gift and in honor of the occasion, we're headed to Los Angeles to visit her two daughters, where the four of us plan to hit the "Magic Kingdom" for the day. After all, it's "the happiest place on earth" (or so the tag line tell us).
Whether true or not, the famous moniker is beside the point. Disneyland is merely the backdrop for the opportunity to pass some time with the girls reliving our youth and catching up. I've learned that time together is a rare gift, especially as our children grow up and move on (sniff, sniff). So if reuniting requires a trip to Disneyland, I'm all in - bring on "the gift."
Recognizing "the gift" is a concept that isn't generally wasted on Realtors but unfortunately, often gets away from our clients who don't always understand the nuances of the deal, or the market openings, especially as the market becomes tougher and tougher to comprehend.
The plain truth is, that one must respond and react to the market as it is - not as we wish it to be - which requires some objectivity that can be incredibly difficult to find 'in the moment.' (Truth be told, Buyers and Sellers haven't much practice as they only enter the market once every decade or so.)
But in its simplest terms, "the gift" is the offer that exceeds expectations. (Wow!)
In the multiple-offer scenario, it's not unusual to receive an offer that stands head and shoulders above the rest. (Congratulations.) Typically, such offers are proffered by the Buyer who either recognizes the value of the property and is willing to step up and pay for it, or by the Buyer who's lost several bids and has now mastered the learning curve. In both cases, the offer is intended to definitively "win" the house - not head back for a second round.
But "the gift" may also be in identifying the house in the first place, that, for whatever reason, has been passed on by the herd, due to unfortunate timing or other unexpected conditions that may have caused it to be overlooked. Opportunity knocks!
The "gift" also comes for those who quickly discover their 'perfect' home and act upon it with good speed. A few weeks back, I sold a home to Buyers who had come over to the East Bay to purchase a painting and ended up detouring to an Open House. True to form, the selling agent was taking offers two days later. Rather than talking themselves out of the deal, they phoned me instead and by Tuesday night, they were in contract.
(Note to Buyers: quick decision makers will always trump those who are more conservative by nature; however, "the gift" in this case, may have been mine. It's truly a blessing when everything goes according to plan.)
"The gift," also comes in the form of acceptance, as in "Thank you for your lovely offer, the Sellers have signed the purchase contract and I'm pleased to inform you that your Buyers got the house." Having your offer accepted and not second guessing this windfall, is indeed, a "gift." Take it and call the movers - quick! This isn't the time to start looking for an exit strategy.
Sometimes, "the gift" comes by way of a "preemptive offer." "Preemptive offers" are those that arrive as soon as a house hits the market, OR in some cases, even before a house has been formally introduced. Typically, a preemptive offer comes from a highly-motivated Buyer who also often brings the BEST offer to the table - at any point in time. Because the house hasn't yet been "market- tested," these early offers are as equally tough to dismiss as they are to accept which, understandably, can leave the Sellers at an impasse (who can blame them?) but also, at a loss should the market fail to deliver more. . . (Only time will tell.)
My point is that "the gift" comes in many forms, but we have to recognize them as such, be open to the possibilities, engage in the process, and work the opportunities that come our way.
Because we're human (ergo imperfect) and we live in a culture that often rewards "one upmanship," it may be our natural inclination to counter back and question the outcome. (Believe me, you have more to lose than to win.)
"But do you think they'll give us more?"
They might, but please understand the risk, which is considerable! When Buyers have offered in the neighborhood of 25 %, 40% or 60% (!!!) MORE than the list price, chances are, they've come to the table with their best and final offer. Moreover, they may be easily offended by such demands and walk away altogether. More often than not, the next offer in line, represents a significant drop in price and yes, that actually happens when greed overtakes common sense.
Keep in mind that buying a home isn't a business transaction - it's an emotional one - and therefore, far trickier to successfully navigate. Remember, the end goal is to sell or buy the home, not beat the opponent. If you avoid turning the purchase into an adversarial process, you'll be far better served, because a happy ending for everyone is ultimately a real "gift!"
Speaking of which, I've got cookies to make for the potlucks tomorrow so I better get baking. Maybe the "happiest place on earth" is no further away than the red, white and blue celebration on Highland Avenue in Piedmont. Hope to see you on the parade route.
Happy Birthday America! (And happy birthday, Jill. I'm ready for our road trip.)
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.