The Fourth of July is right around the corner and in Piedmont that means the smell of barbecues, well-attended block parties and the annual, much-loved Fourth of July Parade.
For the uninitiated, although the parade doesn't officially kick off until 11 am (after the pancake breakfast), the lawn chairs will begin to show up days beforehand - several days beforehand! Like weeds, they'll pop up all over the route, with ribbons strewn down the line, saving their favorite spots for those who plan to arrive the morning of, decked out in red, white and blue. Those in the know, will grab the shady spots first, and casually stroll in a few minutes before the official start time with drinks in hand, while those who wait too long will find themselves standing two to three rows deep, elbowing for a section of cement. No matter, there's room for everyone.
Me? I like to wander from front yard party to yard party the day of the parade, so I have willingly given up any claim to some small piece of the sidewalk. Still, this demand to claim our space makes me realize that commanding "real estate" is a universal desire, whether it's a blanket on the grass, a lawn chair on the parade route, or a chaise lounge at the pool (you know who you are.) It's the rare individual who doesn't want to own "a piece of the rock."
For many, that's easier said than done. With housing prices shooting up faster than fireworks, strategic planning and aggressive play have never been more important. You'll need to not only get preapproved for a mortgage prior to beginning your hunt, but you will also want to stay totally on top of the newest introductions and then make your move quickly and forcefully and that will require the help of a knowledgeable, local Real Estate Agent. Our current marketplace doesn't favor those who hang back. And if you are lucky enough to have well-heeled parents to help with those hefty down payments, treat them kindly. (They're your best friends.)
For those of us who don't sit in such rareified air; whose ancestors may not have found their way to "the land of opportunity" by way of the Mayflower, or didn't land at a start-up straight out of college, the summer may offer an opening you didn't have before. While others are on vacation, you may find fewer competing buyers in the market allowing you to make your move with less competition to contend with. (Wouldn't that be nice? Yes, it would.)
On the flip side, there may also be fewer homes to see as inventory begins to diminish. August presents especially lean before the market revs up again once Labor Day has passed and vacationers have returned home. This is the typical cycle of the summer market so use it to your advantage should opportunity knock. Here's the key component, you'll actually need to recognize such an opening instead of wondering where the crowd went? (They've gone to the beach. Give them a towel and happily send them on their way!)
With suggestions that the interest rates will finally rise come the fall, (they are already beginning to inch up) if you can find and secure a home this summer, you may avoid this costly correction when and IF this prediction comes to pass. Remember it's not so much about the sales price of a home, but about your carrying costs on a monthly basis that decide how "affordable" home ownership is for an individual. A single percentage jump in the interest rates will transfer to approximately $100,000 less in purchasing power! (Ouch.) So be ready to jump.
In the meantime, there's a parade to attend, bunting to hang, potlucks to cook for, and friends to bump into. Last year, I must have run into at least a dozen families during the parade whom I had helped secure homes in and around Piedmont, which was incredibly satisfying and heartwarming to say the least. Sure, the parade is fun, but watching my families expand and grow up is a whole other kind of kick. (I do love my job!)
Heck, maybe I'll even dig out a camping chair for my 89-year-old mother-in-law on Monday. This will be her first Piedmont Parade now that's she's come to live with us. There's no way she can stand for two hours and besides, there's something quaint and familiar about those darn lawn chairs; a reminder of what awaits I suppose and the willingness to be silly and unabashedly patriotic, if only for one day a year.
So bring it on. Summer has officially arrived. The days have grown long and we've all got more time to enjoy the sunshine, to hit the beach, and to spend time with friends. Let's celebrate our remarkable little town.
BTW- this year marks the 50th anniversary of the parade, so there's bound to be additional entries and special activities. Bring a few extra dollars for the Boy Scouts commemorative caps they'll be selling to mark the occasion before, during and after!
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.