Vol 198 - The Keys to the Castle
"Thanks for getting back to me so quickly," the email said, "and at midnight no less."
Let's be honest, I'm not usually awake at midnight, but I was catching a plane early the next morning and the sad truth is, I'm not the easiest, nor the breeziest of travelers. Of course I was wide awake. What else would I be the night before a trip? There's always an undercurrent of nerves running through me prior to any trip.
I worry that the alarm clock won't go off; that I'll sleep through it even if it does; that I'll forget my plane ticket; that I'll miss my flight; that I won't have packed correctly, etc. Never mind that I rarely ever sleep past 6:30 am under any circumstances (what's up with that?), haven't needed an alarm clock in years, and in this case, would have ample time to prepare the following day.
Still, I dream of being that girl who casually rises, tosses a few essentials into a designer leather carry-on, applies some lipstick, and skips through security with nary a care in the world. (Oh, and while we're fantasizing, I'd also like to look like Christy Brinkly while doing so.)
Alas, that's just not me. Before going on any trip (business or pleasure), I can be found running around deep watering the beds, folding laundry, paying bills, cleaning out the refrigerator, hitting the bank, and organizing a dog sitter - and that's just at home. At work, I am getting my Sunday duties covered (thank you Jane) answering ALL my correspondence, placing advertisements, checking in with clients, and scheduling the week ahead so that I can get a jump start when I return. For me, there are a million details to attend to prior to any departure.
Thank goodness, I happen to excel in the details. In fact, if I could just convince the majority of my clients to hand over the "keys to their castle" and let me handle the details for them, I can usually get a property to market within a few short weeks - even those that require extensive painting, staging and landscaping. (Really? Really.)
With very little notice, I can arrange a painting crew, direct landscapers, hire window washers, meet with stagers, schedule inspections, calendar the photographer, set up the "Brokers' Tours" and "Sunday Opens," write a compelling marketing campaign, order postcards, customize signage, get a preliminary title report, and put together a disclosure binder for prospective buyers - if you'll let me. In reality, the toughest transactions are those in which a seller fails to trust the process and micro-manages the deal. (I haven't as much control over the nerves of others as I do with respect to my own.)
"People buy homes - but they sell houses," my boss, DJ Grubb, is fond of saying. That's true, but when it's reversed, and people are emotionally attached to the sale of their homes, it can be extraordinarily difficult to navigate. Frequently this happens when people have held their properties for many, many years, are really conflicted about moving, unable to let go, unrealistic about the market, or like many of us, a bit of a control freak. (May I suggest real estate as a profession for you?)
Sometimes, the only course of action is to step back and let these whirling dervishes have their way before they decide to relinquish control and let me do my job. While the ride is typically a bit bumpier when we take the long route, we usually get there - even when it involves a few false starts along the way. The bonus to the seller who allows me unrestricted access, is twofold: you get to offload your anxiety (on to me) and it typically proves more productive as well. (Consider it a win-win.) Instead of a lengthy, tension-filled transaction (aka, root canal), the process moves rather swiftly and smoothly - and believe me, quick and painless is preferable.
In a year that's once again fraught with market volatility, it is critical to get very clear about what your goals are and what you hope to accomplish once you place a home on the market - then it's my job to deliver them to you (keys please).
For now, my immediate goal was to get some sleep before the next day's journey. Now where was that phone charger anyway? I don't want to forget to pack it!
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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.