Last Thanksgiving I wrote a piece that received an overwhelming response about my 17-year-old son's seemingly indifference to the college hunt. I wouldn't be exaggerating much to say that almost from conception, I had quite literally been dreaming about my first born's college experience (Harvard, Yale, Cal . . . the unfair expectations we place on our children).
I wondered what it would take to spark an interest, much less light a fire under my son with respect to higher education (and many of you responded in kind).
So imagine my shock when, last week, Case handed his father and me two large white envelopes with college admission addresses plainly printed on the front! Inside were his printed application forms, his most recent SAT scores and three neatly organized essays (and no, I hadn't helped him at all; not one word - not even a punctuation mark)!
Moreover, he's already organized a trip to and scheduled a tour of Chico State with a few senior classmates and most surprisingly, earned the money for the hotel reservation! Catch me, I think I may be having a heart attack!
When exactly did Aliens abduct my child and where is he now?
Clearly this is not the same boy who suggested just last year, that all schools were the same and that he didn't care where or even if he went to college as I determinedly dragged him from campus to campus.
What a difference a YEAR makes!
This is true in our own backyard as well.
It was just last September when, as a nation, we collectively experienced the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression sending both Buyers and Sellers into an uncertain tailspin. Frankly, we all took the hit in very personal and costly ways - from our stock portfolios, to our 401k's, to our kids' college funds, to our home values ("Say it ain't so Joe " - not our precious home appreciation!) almost everyone felt the shock on a very profound level.
This hadn't hit just a select group of dot.com millionaires and billionaires, but everyone we knew. The financial loss included our parents, our neighbors, our husbands and wives, our siblings, our employers, our local vendors and shop owners, etc. - everybody was humbled a bit (uh hum, more than a "bit").
And while we are by no means out of the woods, I think it's fair to say that the worst may be behind us - at least here in Piedmont. (Remember that I work on a "micro" level and don't pretend to report the economy on a greater global plain). And at the risk of going out on a limb, I see great evidence that buyers are once again "engaged" in the process, which represents a huge step forward. If we are more cautious, more frugal and more thoughtful as we proceed, that's to be expected (and was probably overdue). As it turns out, premeditated action is not such a bad way to purchase a home.
Moreover, once in contract, buyers are looking to "perfect" the sale and negotiation after inspections is becoming the norm. Expect to credit back the buyer some percentage of the purchase price, depending on what follow-up investigations show. New discovery has always been subject to renegotiations but buyers are taking that to heart in today's more prudent marketplace - and why shouldn't they? It's fair and reasonable to expect some give and take. To quote one savvy buyer's analogy, "I bought the car, I'd like the seller to throw in the mats!" (For some very tough buyers, they're not only expecting the mats, they want the CD player and the fancy rims too!) Sellers, stay flexible and you will get through whatever negotiation is required.
Yes, it has been an interesting year and while the market may still experience some ups and downs, a firmer, more moderate middle ground seems to be emerging. Like many of you, I am encouraged to see movement, reason and value returning to the marketplace.
I am also incredibly excited to see my son's new found determination. I guess when he told me to "Stop worrying, it'll be fine," he had a better sense of his timing and his capabilities than did I. Good job, son. I think there's a valuable lesson for me in there . . .
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.