My dog Buck has had a visitor all week. While studious clients of mine are busy readying their home for sale, we've been happily babysitting their dog, Tango. He's an Australian Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix and perhaps the sweetest dog I have ever met (I'm sorry Buck, but that's the truth). Buck's happy to have the company and we have plenty of room on our property which truth be told, is pretty much, dog heaven.
We've really loved having the second dog around and I'm hoping Buck will pick of some of Tango's more gentle traits. (Is that too much to hope for? Probably.) After some hearty play, both dogs love to lounge and I've watched a pattern develop as they move from room to room, eventually landing outside onto the brick patio in search of the sun.
It's not unlike the Buyers that have hit town recently now that the rains have finally subsided. With little inventory from which to choose, they're flocking to the same few good opportunities. Sadly, only one winner will emerge from these multiple-bid situations and then, the flock will move onto the next darling home - in search of the sun. And so it goes . . .
Each house seems to be building a stronger following than the last, resulting in a higher selling price as well. Fueled by a lack of good inventory, HUGE pent-up buyer demand and historically low interest rates, good homes are flying off the market in strong competition and often, after only one Sunday Open (or even before!) which certainly speaks to the overwhelming desire and interest well-qualified buyers are bringing to the table.
What a difference a few weeks make. It's a quick turn around from where we stood a few years, or even a few short months ago. I met a woman at an open house on Sunday in her mid-forties who is in the market for the first time ever. More remarkably, her mother, who is in her seventies, has just bought her very first home as well. So whether you are a first-time Buyer, or a repeat offender, sales activity seems to be growing healthier by the day as Buyers of all ages step in to take advantage of a housing market that is clearly on the rise.
"So what's my first step?"
Define your goals. Speaking with a friend last week who was in contract on a condo on the Peninsula, it was clear that she hadn't defined her goals Buyer's remorse had set in and she phoned me in a near panic. Once we defined her goals, the purchase didn't seem so scary and her vision became crystal clear. Ahhh.
So before purchasing, you should establish whether this home is your entree into the marketplace, is a transitional short-term investment, is the last home you will probably ever own, or is somewhere in between. Each of these distinctions has different ramifications and mitigating circumstances to be sure.
It matters little in the grand scheme of things if you have to get extremely competitive on a home IF you will be living in it for the next 20 years. However, if you think you are going to outgrow the home within five, you may need to be far more conservative.But if the goal is home ownership, then meet with your mortgage lender post haste, get quickly pre-approved and be ready to write a strong, competitive offer; one that makes you a legitimate contender. (There's absolutely NO advantage to writing a weak or even a luke-warm purchase offer; you'll only raise the bar of each successive sale and push the "comps" ever higher.)
Finally, try to keep it all in perspective. When the market really heats up, it begins to get a little crazy. Keep your wits about you and remember you will only get to control your intentions and your actions. Then do your best. (That's all any of us can do.)
And if there are two of you buying the house together, as is more often the case, you will want to make sure your goals are aligned. When spouses don't agree, it can be a rocky road on the way to home ownership. Make sure you are on the same page.
So now that it's sunny, let's go get a house!
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.