My younger son's baseball experience this Spring has been fairly anticlimatic. One of only five sophomores on the high school Varsity team, he's spent more time on the bench this season than I've come to expect, both as his mother and as his biggest fan. (Okay, his father might fight me for this honorary title.)
Not that I haven't been here before - I have. My older son LOVED the game of baseball and never missed a practice, but wasn't as naturally predisposed. Which meant that I often watched uncomfortably from the stands, wondering when - or if - his coaches would put him in (if only passion could have made up the difference). Clearly, coaches aren't mothers or all the kids would have equal playing time. (What's with them anyway? You'd think that "winning" was a priority.)
But for Tristan, it's been an entirely different journey; a gifted athlete from the start, he's always batted at the TOP of the order and has often made magic happen at the plate. Now, he's been relegated to a few late innings, or worse yet, none at all, as he adjusts to a quicker, more mature game and the reality that as a sophomore, he'll have to earn his stripes all over again. Wow, it's been a lesson in humility (for us both) and a dramatic learning curve - from star player to designated whatever. And just between you and me, I have to admit that it's much easier to watch the game as a parent, when your child is actually playing in it.
Last week; in a show of great power, Tristan CRUSHED the ball at Witter Field sending the pitch sailing over the left field fence and beyond, into the Wildwood playground for a rare home run that ignited the Piedmont crowd. Unfortunately - or fortunately - I arrived just in time to hear their cheers and see my son cross home plate with a grin on his face that ran from ear-to-ear. At long last, vindication. (Put that in your pipe and smoke it.) By Saturday, Tristan was back on the bench, again. Sigh . . . (Sometimes life just ain't fair.)
Buyers know the feeling all to well. They come up to bat, swing their hardest, and often fail to get on base. With multiple bids on nearly every home, the odds are suddenly stacked heavily against them as they face curve balls, sliders, and sinkers at every turn. A few short years ago, they could have casually walked up to the plate, put in a bunt, and likely make it safely to base. Not so this Spring, where even the offers that should be clear winners, are coming up just short of the fence. "You're out!"
So in the game of Real Estate, what exactly constitutes a "home run?"
Obviously, a "home run" begins with a compelling offer price (I'm talking 25-40% over asking in many cases!) and then heavily relies on aggressive terms. "Terms" are items like inspections, financial contingencies, close of escrow, and rent-backs. The easier you make it on the Sellers to go - or stay a little longer if they so desire - the more attractive your offer becomes.
It's actually not uncommon for higher priced offers to get passed over in favor of more secure ones - such as the "ALL CASH" play, a very short-inspection period (or none at all!), a quick close of escrow, or a generous rent-back, if that's what the Seller really needs. Note to Buyers: don't assume; however, that the "All Cash" offer automatically translates into a discounted price; it doesn't. It merely moves your offer to the head-of-the-line. Sellers will happily wait the few extra weeks for significantly more dollars. Put the best price and terms together, and you've just created the "home run." (Congratulations.)
A few disheartened Buyers have gotten so discouraged, that they've actually taken themselves out of the game entirely (player fatigue). I get it, I do, but I can't in all honesty, predict that next year will be much improved for Buyers who have elected to wait it out. (Last year's savvy Buyers were ALL homerun hitters in hindsight.) All I can do is tell you that the more pitches you look at, the better you'll become at anticipating the speed and the curve. You'll also get better at sitting on the bench when circumstances warrant it (some homes may just be too competitive for your financial limitations). That's okay. Like my son, I believe that with enough practice, you'll better understand the timing and the nature of the game. Pick your pitches.
The truth is, in baseball; in life; and in Real Estate, there's always a learning curve and we each, in turn, go through it. (Is there another way?) As a result of this year's tough lessons, Tristan is going to be better prepared for his Junior and Senior years, and hopefully, for any challenges down the road as well (as will I). That's growth.
"Batter, batter, swing!"
Let's get you 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.