I've got a crush on Ed. Nevermind that's he's in his eighties, is happily married to a stunning woman named Mary, has grown children, several grandchildren, and I suspect, a few great grandchildren . . . I consider Ed to be my boyfriend.
When we run into one another, he quietly ambles over to me for an obligatory hug and a peck-on-the-cheek and then I watch him settle down with his coffee and some cookies and wait for whatever pearls of wisdom his years have bestowed upon him. My evening is truly not complete without this affectionate exchange.
Here's the part that really gets to me and melts my heart . . . Ed always smuggles a few cookies into his pocket for later on. Perhaps he's taking them to his beautiful bride, or maybe they are consumed on the car ride home prior to his arrival. No matter, it's an endearing action; this desire for a little treat after the fact. Or as my mother would say, "sweets for the sweet." (Ed definitely qualifies.)
Here's how "treats" translate into the world of Real Estate and can really "sweeten" the deal.
Currently, I am in the middle of a transaction; one in which my Sellers received several offers and are now in contract with a lovely family from San Leandro. (Great news!) Even better, these aggressive Buyers quickly moved through their inspections and met their contractual obligations in quick time, releasing ALL of their contingencies within a few short days. As you might imagine, this kind of integrity always makes the Sellers very happy and in return, they responded by "gifting" their trampoline, the lawn mower, and a few other incidentals at NO CHARGE to the Buyers. Now that's generous, not to mention very smart on the Sellers' part.
One Buyer I represented several years back, referred to these courtesies between Buyers and Sellers as "throwing in the mats;" a term I've never forgotten and relied upon often. (Michael is a partner at BMW, SF and Mini Cooper so it was a natural analogy for him to make, but thank you just the same for an astute observation.)
In my opinion, "throwing in the mats" is always a wise move in a market where Sellers are typically seeing results far beyond their expectations and Buyers are feeling a bit battled and bruised before, during, and AFTER the offer date. (Sellers, take heed, Buyers are beginning to drop out and push back in response.) BTW this holds true even when (especially when) the successful Buyers have the winning bid that undoubtedly required UPPING the ante. Despite, or because of the pace, it has probably never been more important to finish off your transaction on a "sweet" note.
The last thing a Seller wants is for the Buyer to move into the house after the close of escrow and start nit-picking at every flaw and defect they now discover (no matter how much disclosure, there will be unknowns) OR worse yet, come back to the Sellers with a formal demand by way of a lawyer. (Say what?)
So take the few extra moments to meet with the new Buyers and familiarize them with the sprinkler system and the other components of your former home, leave behind your garage door openers and keys, the numbers for the gardener and the handyman, as well as the warranties on your appliances and hot tub, AND take it from me, a nice note and a bottle of champagne are never a bad idea . . .
When Cliff and I took possession of our house in Piedmont several years ago, the previous owner left a long list of contacts, from dry cleaners to the dog walker to the furnace repair man and ALL of it was appreciated as we were new to the area and hadn't a clue. They'd also left a beautiful bottle of wine and a card. (They'd wisely ended the sale on a "sweet" note.) A week later, when we discovered that a large redwood tree on the property would need to come out immediately or we'd lose the out-building that was destined to be Cliff's home office, it never occurred to us to double-back around to the Sellers (or the agents) and ask them for the money. There was no blame to assign and we now owned a house in an incredible setting (yes, with majestic Redwood trees and all that entails). Forget real estate, in life, it's important to recognize the gift.
Conversely, I've witnessed Sellers and Buyers become so polarized during a transaction over the smallest of perceived offenses that they never make their way back to a cordial working relationship (You're irrevocably damaged because someone sat on the bed or turned on the remote control? Really?) In these cases, both parties invariably feel slighted and upset and you better believe both sides start looking for reasons to walk away from the deal, negotiate on price, or in the worse case scenarios - drum up a lawsuit designed to teach a lesson.(Eww, that hurts.)
I ask you, isn't a little treat a lot easier? Aren't kindness, courtesy and good intentions a better way forward? They've certainly served Ed well. (Take as many as you like, Ed, your secret's safe with me.)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.