This is the time of year when I start gearing up for next season. I'm not exactly hanging out early Christmas decorations like most retailers already have . . . (are stores just skipping Thanksgiving altogether now?) but I am certainly preparing for what lies ahead in the New Year, Real Estate wise.
In some cases, I am meeting with bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Buyers, newly entering the marketplace for the first time and wondering what they will be facing in 2014? (In a word: Competition!)
In other instances, I am consulting with long-time Sellers who are prepping for the Spring Market and preparing to finally let go. (Shall I introduce you to some of my Buyers looking to find a way in?)
Not surprisingly, both Buyers and Sellers are wondering what's in store as they move ahead? (Good news, the Spring Market looks to be incredibly robust.) AND in both cases, there's a bit of "Speed Dating" going on as Buyers and Sellers meet with REALTORS to decide if both parties are a "good fit," and how and when to best proceed . . . (Match.com?)
While I like to think that I have been married long enough to have bypassed the adventurous world of Internet dating, I might be fooling myself. In fact, I'd venture to say that shopping for a REALTOR is a lot like dating online. According to industry experts, I've got only four seconds to catch your attention before you move on to someone else. (Oh dear, how's a girl to make a good impression?)
In ALL cases, there's a fair amount of trust and chemistry that needs to develop in short shrift. (Love at first sight? Not always, but that doesn't mean we can't still be very good friends.) Still, the idea of speed should never be far from our intentions. Both when it comes to selling your home, or when it comes to buying one.
The simple truth is that the sooner we get on with the business of the day, the better your outcome is likely to be. As much as we enjoy one another's company, you really don't want to remain in a long, drawn out affair with your REALTOR (although I did once have a client who I'm pretty sure thought we were dating and found it impossible to commit to a house. Eventually, I had to break up with him.)
Early this week, I met new Buyers and explained the buying process like this: Choose a REALTOR, meet with a Mortgage Broker/Lender, set a price point and timeline, visit Sunday Opens regularly, narrow and refine your focus, identify a home, revisit it with your agent, write an offer, negotiate on price and terms, ratify the contract, open escrow with a Title Company, undergo inspections, renegotiate when appropriate, establish homeowner's insurance, remove inspection contingencies, remove loan and appraisal contingencies, sign escrow papers, fund the loan, record title, and pick up the keys!
Congratulations, you are a new homeowner! (Whew, try saying that in one breath.)
For Sellers, it goes more like this: define your goals, your timeline and your expectations, gather information pertinent to the sale of your home, purge closets, attic, and the garage, pre-inspect the property, repair where indicated, install smoke and CO2 detectors, strap the water heater, paint and professionally stage your home, power wash decks and patios, clean windows inside and out, landscape the garden and freshen pots, AND hire a LOCAL REALTOR to guide you through these many steps and to thoroughly explain the costs of selling your home. ( BTW - your agent shouldn't come last on this list; he or she should come first. Remember, we are here to help you navigate these murky waters, not drown in them.)
Whether Buying or Selling, may I encourage you to commit to ONE REALTOR - unless you are looking at several different geographical locations (San Francisco, Marin, the East Bay). In that case you just may be better served by meeting with a neighborhood specialist in each community - with the caveat that you let them all know you are playing the field . . .
Listen, no one wants to waste anyone's time here; time being a commodity of which there never seems to be enough of. But if you are looking for quick results, the more preparation and clarity upfront, the better I can meet your needs and expectations.
Plus, you've probably got a bird to stuff, or some decorations to hang. Yes, the holidays are definitely upon us.
(Hey, I'm coming up on Volume 300. I don't know if that's commitment or crazy! Look for a celebration of sorts.)
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.