"Sudden death!" Scott emphatically declared when the score was tallied and a three-way tie emerged. (Games gets slightly competitive in my household, notoriously egged on by my mischievous husband Cliff.) We'd invited two other couples over for lasagna and cards on Saturday night and then proceeded to get rowdy as the lead changed hands several times. Three more rounds were dealt until I'd eliminated both my husband and Scott, in turn, and finally emerged the clear victor. "Winner, winner, chicken dinner! " I sang, jumping up from my chair in a little move I like to call "The Victory Dance." (None of this gracious winning stuff for me - I'm happy to rub it in!) At which point, Cliff proceeded to lodge a complaint. (He's a poor loser.)
"Sorry we didn't play better," came the apologetic email the next morning from our friends who had unhappily found themselves trailing throughout most of the evening. "That's to be expected," I replied, "the other four of us have been playing cards together for a very long time." Indeed, we have and while I don't get to play very often, like Bridge, this particular game, requires a good amount of strategy as you maneuver to acquire a set number of tricks (not to mention some lucky hands). Of course, it takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it. While "practice" doesn't necessarily make "perfect," it certainly improves one's odds.
That's true of every skill set I can think of. The more we do it, the better we become at it - a life lesson I try to impart to my kids as well. Certainly it's a mandate I've found to be especially true with respect to Real Estate. Given that each transaction presents new and unique challenges, Realtors sharpen and hone their skills over time and through a good deal of practice. After years of successfully helping buyers and sellers achieve their objectives, one constant remains - the market is ever changing, OR to put it another way: Real Estate is a moving target. Depending on where you live, on the other players at the table, on current market demand and taste, on falling or rising interest rates, and on the health of the economy as a whole, the sands beneath are feet are constantly shifting. How can we expect Buyers or Sellers to keep time? When it comes to novice Buyers and Sellers, there's isn't much opportunity to practice. Without years of cold, hard experience on which to draw, they tend to be uninitiated or in the worst case scenarios, out of step with the market realities altogether. While Buyers tend to go through a few dress rehearsals before finally getting into a deal that "sticks," Sellers typically don't have that advantage - they only have ONE house to sell. In the vast vast majority of cases, Sellers are returning to the market after years of being away, which doesn't allow much time to master the steep learning curve. Depending on their ability to quickly adapt and adjust, this is where my "years of practice" prove especially helpful as I try and bring some clarity to what potentially - and probably - lies ahead . . . .
Like cards, we can only play the hand we are dealt. Sizing up the suits, coming up with a plan of action, then strategically laying the cards down in order to achieve the best results are part and parcel of every transaction. In truth, we're not always dealt a great hand. Sometimes, it's a loser - no matter how skillfully we play the cards. Sometimes, the circumstances and the markets, DON'T work in our favor. And sometimes - in fact, quite often - we DON'T get to determine the outcome as much as we would like. (Remember, we don't get to control how others play their cards.)
Take heart, there's always another hand to be dealt. There's always another game to play. If you're not victorious this round, you are sure to make up for it on the next. Therein lies the mystery and the challenge.
Thankfully, there's no "Sudden Death" in Real Estate - just an attempt to play better than your opponents and trump the opposition. (Although I have to admit that I've been known to jump up from my desk and engage in an impromptu "Victory Dance" now and again.) Even after all these years, it still feels really good to win.
Shall I deal?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.