"Do you still make your bed every day?" Molly laughed, poking fun at me after a crisp morning walk along Crissy Field a few weeks back. (Molly and I met when our 17-year-old sons first entered the same kindergarten class many years ago and we've only grown closer over time.) Having garnered the well-honed reputation as a bit of a "neat freak" back then (doesn't everybody arrange their children's toys by alphabetical order and animal phylum?) it didn't surprise Molly in the least when I answered that I did.
"Training from my dad," I replied, taking a sip of tea, "He didn't allow us downstairs until our beds were made."
With six active kids under one roof, I suppose it was my folks' way of keeping some small (very small) semblance of order in the house. You made your bed every morning or you didn't eat breakfast!
Some habits are indelibly ingrained. Thanks to my dad, I never leave the house without tightly tucking in the sheets, pulling up the comforter and neatly ordering the pillows. The rest of the house might look like the epicenter of an earthquake, but I always make the bed (which is slightly problematic when my husband is still in it . . .) To me, making the bed each morning is a sacred ritual.
The sacred ritual in real estate is what's commonly known as "Broker's Tour." Broker's Tour takes place every Monday and Thursday mornings. In the East Bay, it geographically encompasses Oakland, Piedmont, Montclair, Rockridge, Berkeley, Albany, Kensington and El Cerrito. At The GRUBB Co., we also preview each other's listings every Tuesday mornings as well. (Whew, that's a lot of ground to cover).
Broker's Tour is an agent's opportunity to see any new listings that have recently hit or are about to enter the marketplace. This critical "sneak peek" allows us to view many properties in a condensed time period and it is the best way to stay on top of the inventory. It isn't atypical for me to visit between 10-15 homes on any given tour day (that's approximately 30 homes a week and 120 homes a month for those of you who are counting).
While touring is the surest way to stay current, it isn't the only way. Many agents rely instead, on The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to provide daily analysis and updates. While the MLS is an extremely valuable tool, to me, a "virtual tour" can never replace the importance of physically visiting a home.
Experiencing a home in person is the surest way to define whether or not a property meets my clients' criteria and needs. It tells me about the particular style of a home and its surrounding neighbors. It shows me where the sun comes in and how the garden grows. It informs me as to the quality of the craftsmanship, the age of the home and its care. It gives me the opportunity to question the listing agent as to the Seller's motivation and needs. Touring, tangibly highlights a home's specific story and it allows me to see a property through my Buyers' eyes. By previewing a home, I know what it has to offer and just as importantly - what it doesn't.
Here's the piece that's significant to you (oh good) - not every agent tours.
In fact, I can say with assurance that only a small minority of agents do! If you are counting on an agent to be your first line of defense and your eyes and ears, doesn't it make sense to work with a representative who tours on a regular basis and makes it part of her weekly practice?
The obvious reason is that those of us who tour religiously know the inventory better, but the less obvious and more important piece for you is that we understand the bigger picture and how it affects your potential outcome.
We know which properties sold quickly and why; which ones faltered and needed to be reduced; which ones compare favorably to recent sales and which ones are vastly different or unique. We know the area's geography, its nearby shops, parks and schools and its closest BART station or freeway on ramp.
In short, we've done our homework and are better prepared to save you valuable time and money as a result (or did you really want to see 120 homes in person?).
So before aligning yourself with an agent, it might benefit you to find out if he or she tours regularly; which areas does he/she tour most often, and which homes has he/she recently seen? Ask him/her if he/she has bothered to preview the property before taking you to see it and if not, ask yourself, "what value does this agent actually bring?"
For top professionals, there is a time-tested reason why the weekly Broker's Tour is considered one of our most sacred rituals. While admittedly, touring is time consuming (which is why many agents skip them altogether) it is simply one of our best and most important educational resources.
Now whether or not it's important if we make our beds is entirely up to you!
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.