I was out in the garden yesterday evening mulching the beds, pruning bushes and generally just decompressing from the day. The air had cooled a bit and the pine needles were landing all around me - a sure sign that change is in the air. It's getting darker earlier, the kids are back at school and the celebrations are definitely more seasonal. We're a year beyond the worse financial setback in decades and things are slowly beginning to improve.
The legacy of the recession is a common sense approach and a return to middle-class values by and large. Let's not forget that purchasing a home is typically driven by family values, but strong emotions are part-and-parcel of almost every home purchase as well. The desire to secure a "deal" combined with the need for "home" and all that title entails, has created a yin and yang of sorts for the majority of home buyers with whom I work each day.
From cautious pessimism, to cautious optimism, buyers are definitely more plentiful than they've been in quite some time and it's palpable. It's also tangible! Several recent sales have had multiple offers as a result of increased interest, coupled with incredibly attractive interest rates and some homes have received offers well above their asking price!
I'm not sure what creates this emotional "tipping point" for buyers, but I am sure that "perception" has a great deal to do with it and that "perception" often has to do with what the mainstream media tells us to believe.
So how does one judge "real value" when it's subject to seasonal changes and media hype? That's a good question.
I'm often asked, "How much is the house really worth?" and the short answer is "What is it worth to you?"
I am happy to provide clarity in the form of nearby comparable sales, market patterns and specific interest on a given property, but at the end of the day, I can't tell you a home's intrinsic or emotional value - only you can decide that. I can predict a home's probable selling price, based on facts, figures and experience, but I can't tell you with certainty where it will ultimately trade. It's divination on a professional level, but as always, the market determines "market value"- not the agents, nor the sellers.
Sometimes a home is so special that a buyer fearlessly jumps in with full abandon. He/she comes to the table bearing "the gift" - an offer so powerful that it clearly leaves the rest behind and often, makes little sense (or cents) to the rest of us from an economic perspective. In that case, there's little to be done with respect to your common sense approach. Purchases based on "emotional value" will always trump those based on "market statistics." In short, value is relative and you'll have to discover your own truth with respect to value and perception.
Here's a quick and favorite story of mine about "perception." Many years ago when my husband Cliff was at law school, he and his good friend and law school classmate Greg we're nervously anticipating their final grades on an important test. (Before the advent of computers, scores were posted on the door by social security number and a student's grade was based entirely on the semester final.)
Scanning the test scores, my studious husband shook his head in disappointment while his more carefree law school buddy breathed a sigh of relief and gave a hearty cheer. "
What'd you get?" my husband asked Greg.
"I got an 83," was his happy reply. "What'd you get?"
"I got an 83," responded Cliff with an ironic laugh.
Perception! (BTW, an 83 was the top 10% of their class.)
We each carry our own truths; our own perceptions about life and where value lies. Is there a baby in your future? Are the kids off to college? Are you changing jobs? Changing lifestyles? What's your own personal truth? What do YOU value most?
Find it and let the rest fall where it may. It's your home. It's your life. You decide. I'll be here and ready to help when you do! P.S. - You can always reach me right away by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling me at (510) 326-0840. I look forward to hearing from you!
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.