Sitting at my Brokers' Tour last week, I couldn't help but relate to a colleague as he spoke to his manager on the cell phone. "I don't know what to do with them," he emphatically explained. "Should I or shouldn't I? Will I or won't I? Can I or Can't I? They're a combo platter of indecision!" (Is that all?) Add a mixed bag of opinions from "well-meaning" friends and relatives and it's a trip through the buffet line for sure. How do you come to a conclusion when there's so much at stake?
For many: "'To Buy or Not to Buy," "To Sell or Not to Sell," is a gut-wrenching decision. Next to a wedding dress, few purchases are fully front-loaded with so many expectations. And given that our homes often represent our single largest asset, the desire to "get it right," can prove down right paralyzing. (I get it. I do!)
Let me put you at ease. The best you can do, is to get it "mostly right." (Ahhh, don't you feel better already?) No matter what you anticipate, chances are you won't be purchasing your "forever" home. A condominium gives way to a "starter" home which gives way to a "family" home, which in turn, gives way to a "significant" home, which gives way to an "all-level" home, which eventually leads to "downsizing" and then possibly, a "condominium?" (We're back to where we started.) And rest assured - none of them is going to be "perfect." (If we waited for "perfection," none of us would ever attempt a bathing suit.) But aside from "perfection" (or the lack thereof) my main point is that today's decision - in all probability - is NOT nearly as permanent as you think it is going to be .
All this flip-flopping got me to thinking about a reality show I'm semi-embarrassed to admit I watch (but hate to miss): "Say Yes to the Dress," which follows an expectant bride as she searches for the "perfect" dress among thousands. It's clear that these nervous brides-to-be have spent their entire lives dreaming of their wedding day and more specifically, their wedding dress! Dare I say that for most of these young women, it seems to have been easier to commit to the groom than to the frock . . .
Thankfully, it has been a few decades since I walked down the aisle and I'm not planning on revisiting the altar anytime soon, so wedding dresses aren't exactly my radar. Still, I'm fascinated by the emotional tug-of-war this "dream acquisition" involves. Watching these girls' (and quite often, their families') struggle, I'm struck by the profound similarities between committing to a wedding dress and committing to a home. Here's what I've learned from watching the show and how it applies to Real Estate . . . let me know if you agree.
1.) The price of wedding dresses has gone up substantially in the last twenty years. (That's true of homes as well.)
2.) Your mother's dress is rarely ever the right fit for you. (Likewise, it's tough to make your parents' home, your own.)
3.) Weddings are seasonal. The Spring season is the most popular by far while winter weddings are less desirable. (The same is true for available housing stock. Spring represents the high point, winter, the low.)
4.) Keep your bridal party small! More opinions don't help provide clarity as to which dress to buy - they provide confusion! (Too many opinions only muddy the waters. Listen to your own voice - it's the most important one in the mix.)
5.) Regardless of your body type, ALL dresses benefit from good tailoring - a skilled tailor is a bride's best friend! (True - your home will fit you better when you customize it and make it your own.)
6.) Once a decision is made - stop looking! There's always another dress to see. Embrace wholeheartedly the dress you've chosen and stop second-guessing the decision. (Sound familiar? Recognize the solution and enjoy "the gift" when you find it. There will always be another home around the corner. It's inevitable - just as there will always be another dress.)
7) The dress shouldn't wear the bride. The bride should wear the dress. (Likewise - homes don't define you - YOU define the home.)
8.) Finally, no matter how beautiful the dress is, it won't make you 20 lbs thinner! At the end of the day - no matter how special it looks on you - it's just a dress. (Listen up - a home is simply a backdrop for the lives we live in it. Don't overwhelm the decision with unrealistic expectations a house can never meet.)
Here's my two cents (now that I've got your attention) - a home won't make your kids perfect, your marriage, perfect, or your lives, perfect (no matter how "perfect" the home). However, a home will provide security and a steady place to land (not unlike a solid marriage). If you are lucky, (as I have been) your home will be a creative journey; one that brings timeless memories, loads of laughter and great joy to your family - and that's not such a bad trade off.
So buy the home if it serves a purpose, meets your needs, and presents an elegant solution. A home is a noble and fine acquisition - and isn't that enough?
Say "YES" to the house" (and I'll provide the bouquet)!
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.