“Endeavoring to purchase something we think beautiful may in fact be the most unimaginative way of dealing with the longing it excites in us, just as trying to sleep with someone may be the bluntest response to a feeling of love.”
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?’
—from Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads
“Same As It Ever Was” is just one work on display (and available for purchase) at 2222 15th Street, a delightful “secret garden” condo that shows like a veritable art gallery, thanks to an abundance of natural light and smart staging. Represented by Lance Fulford at Alain Pinel, the spacious one bedroom is listed for $699,000.
It’s double-extra-super tough being a buyer in San Francisco right now. But if you’ve written six offers without winning a property, it’s time to reexamine your strategy.
Ask your agent to ask you the “hard” questions about your motivation and your goals. And ask your agent about his/her batting average in multiple-offer situations. Re-think your approach. Maybe call in a relief pitcher.
This post from February 2012. (Perhaps you, too, are tired of silly lists like “10 Ways to Do Such n’ Such” or “5 Top Reasons for This n’ That” but I’m told numeric list-making is supposed to catch readers’ attentions. Well….did it? Catch yours? Let me know.)
This week I heard of several first-time buyers’ plans to shoot themselves in the proverbial feet, so I thought I’d offer just a smidgen of advice. Here are seven things that make it hard for a so-called buyer to actually buy.
1.) “All my agent cares about is making a sale.” It’s possible that you are indeed working with an agent who only wants to make a sale (see #3 and #4). However, the smart agent knows that ensuring a client’s happiness is the key to continued success. A satisfied buyer brings return and referral business to the agent who cares.
2.) “I’m going to work with a family friend.” There’s a teeny chance the family friend is qualified to represent you, but more likely he/she is either: a.) Part-time b.) Semi-retired c.) Completely unfamiliar with SF inventory, contracts, customs, or pricing d.) Responding to the wishes of the buyer’s family, not the buyer themselves. Saving money is usually the true (unstated) motivation for this choice, but the kickback of commission seldom compensates for poor service and bad advice.
3.) “I don’t need an agent, I’ll just look on my own and have the listing agent help me.” Typically, the seller has already contractually agreed to pay buyer’s agent’s commission. Why wouldn’t you avail yourself of free expertise from a professional whose sole purpose is to please you? (Also see #2 and #4)
4.) “I’ll have the listing agent write my offer.” You think the person who has a fiduciary obligation to get the very best result for the seller is going to serve the buyer best as well? Buyer can buy anything currently listed for sale in his/her price range. The listing agent has a vested interest in selling this one property. Ever read Aesop’s fables? I’m sure there’s one that applies to this scenario.
5.) “I’m in no hurry, I don’t have to buy now.” Then why are you searching the internet, going to open houses, getting preapproved for financing, asking for disclosure packages, contemplating writing an offer, writing an offer, writing a counter offer? We know you don’t have to buy now. We can’t and won’t wrestle you to the ground and force you to pay cash for a place you don’t want at a price you can’t abide. Why, then, are you going on about how you don’t have to buy now? Do you think that inspires us to pull out all the proverbial stops? What’s really on your mind?
6.) “I’m going to work with a high-profile agent, not a rookie.” It’s true that most high-profile agents are hardworking and devoted to their clients. That’s how they achieved their current status and success. However, despite their best intentions, Top Producers may not have a whole lot of time to offer first-time buyers. A hungry, relatively new agent may be a better bet.
7.) “My agent wants me to pay more so they’ll earn a higher commission.” First, revisit #1 above. Second, consider that the individual agent’s take-home commission is going to be somewhere in the vicinity of 2% of the purchase price. On a $1,000 price increase that’s $20 (before taxes) more for the agent. Yet, that same $1,000 could determine whether or not the seller accepts your offer. You do the math.
To conclude, if you’re a real buyer and you’re not a liar (as the crude saying goes), start acting like a real buyer. Find your agent, get your financial ducks in a row, and buy something.
Usually it’s orchids, or budding twigs, or ficus trees: Plants that beautify a home but don’t require a lot of water or maintenance. Yesterday these drying lilacs caught my eye at a property in Laurel Heights. If I knew who the stager was, I’d give him or her credit.
Then, a little later, at Dona Crowder’s beguiling Queen Anne on Masonic, I stopped in my tracks to admire this stained glass window. My wimpy cell phone camera doesn’t do it justice so check out the website here — though, trust me, this is one of those houses you must see in person. (I’d be happy to arrange a showing!) Up close and personal, the beautifully preserved wood in the (truly) light-filled home is warm and sweet as honey.
And while I’m on the subject of things stopping me in my tracks, check out this closeup of the granite atop one of the bathroom vanities at a 53 Wilder condo in Glen Park. It put me in mind of the river stones in the South Holston back home in Appalachia. Neutrals are all very nice, but it’s fun to see something with a little life in it for a change.
Finally — don’t judge me too harshly — I noticed that my outfit for tour day “matched” the decor at Travis Pacoe’s and Ron Abta’s listing on Eureka. So I snapped a selfie in the big master mirror. Not too bad!
Armchair real-estate-shopping can be immensely pleasurable. Like traveling to Paris via the pages of Travel + Leisure, it’s fun to tour a la internet through a $15 million Pacific Heights mansion.
When fantasy moves closer to reality things get trickier.
As a friend and client lamented about her partner who spends several hours each week trolling Trulia: “She’s always looking at places just a little more expensive than the house we bought. Like she’s just wishing we could have spent a tiny bit more. And meanwhile, I’m like, ‘Hey, honey, we still have boxes to unpack! Help me!’ ”
In Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton writes, “Wealth is not an absolute. It is relative to desire. Every time we yearn for something we cannot afford, we grow poorer, whatever our resources. And every time we feel satisfied with what we have, we can be counted as rich, however little we may actually possess.”
This is one reason my kitchen is extremely non-updated and likely to remain so. I’d rather focus on being content with its “as-is” funkiness than on planning, executing and paying for a remodel I hope will make me happier. (Besides, my depression-era Blue Ridge Pottery dishes match the vintage chartreuse cabinets and I adore the 1940s O’Keeffe and Merritt range.)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for renovation and decorating. I believe the aesthetics of our environment have a profound impact on our health and well being. We just need to be mindful of why we’re visiting and revisiting the photo of that $5,000 Art Deco sofa on Houzz.com.
Desire – for more, for different, for better – is essential to all human commerce. If we didn’t buy and sell real estate, the world would keep on spinning. But it’s unlikely I’ll be out of work anytime soon. Buyers will be buying and sellers will be selling and brokers will be brokering so long as people keep on switching jobs, getting married, having children, divorcing, dying, remarrying, downsizing, retiring or moving.
What matters – before, during and after these transitions – is the presence and acceptance we bring to every moment of our lives, regardless of where we sleep, where we hang our flat-screen TV, and whether or not we have parking or low HOA dues or directly-accessible outdoor space.
To quote Alain de Botton again, this time in The Art of Travel, “The sole cause of a man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”
Study the listings carefully and make a note of any houses that look right for you, so your broker can confirm that they were all sold just that morning. This is actually good, because it will help to get you into the proper highly desperate frame of mind where you will do almost anything to get a house, including paying large sums of money you really don’t have to people you really don’t know for reasons you really aren’t sure of. Which is the essence of real estate.
Beautiful, wonderful, great—also known as the three weariest adjectives in Realtorland…
Of these, “great” is the most worn out because it fits so conveniently in so many places. When in doubt, throw the word “great” into your copy.
Note, for example, the Brief Property Report I printed from Multiple Listing Service (MLS) yesterday. My intent was to refer to it during a meeting with buyers. But it works nicely as a random sampling of Realtors’ MLS comments for my investigation of the over-exploitation of the word “great.”
Here’s what it revealed:
Property #1 is listed at a “great price”
Property #2 is a “great property for the first-time homebuyer”
Property #3 is a “great value”
Property #4 skips the word ‘great’ (as well as ‘beautiful’ and ‘wonderful’), so extra points for the agent for Property #4
Property #5 uses great twice, as in “great light” and “great room,” the latter describing the type of room not the quality of the room
Property #6 has no comments at all (aside to agent for Property #6: Come on, you can do better than that!)
Property #7 points to the “great weather” in the neighborhood
Okay, so you’re asking, “What’s the big deal? Who cares whether an agent uses the word ‘great’ one time, fourteen times or not at all?”
And I’m answering. Or I’m starting to answer and then shutting my mouth. I’m thinking. What IS the big deal? Who DOES care? Why AM I railing about the verbiage in MLS comments?
It has only to do with my interest in words and writing. It has nothing to do with real estate or selling real estate. I can use the word “great” as much as I want, but in the end no buyers are going to take my word for it. They’re going to see the property themselves and decide if it rates a “great.”
Meanwhile, it’s another great day in San Francisco. What a great place to live. What a great place to work. What a great place to sell real estate.
During brokers’ tour yesterday, real estate agents were melting all over San Francisco.
We were blasting our car air conditioners. We were panting up two flights of Victorian stairs. We were showing (for better or for worse) not just properties but huge swaths of our flesh.
I had to dig deep — beneath the wool sweaters and boots and long underwear — to find my “hot days dress.” I only have one. And I only have one pair of dress-up high-heel sandals.
Wobbling across a Presidio Heights street en route to a colleague’s listing, a pair of tourists stopped me. Did I live here, they wanted to know. Could I point them toward a store where they could buy some sunscreen and water, they wondered.
I was so damn hot I had to stop in order to think straight. Which was fine because it gave me a minute to fan under my armpits.
“Water? Sunscreen?” I scowled — confused because normally tourists ask where they can buy a sweatshirt or a jacket because it’s like 45 degrees at Jackson and Presidio.
“That way,” I managed, pointing south toward Sacramento Street.
“Are you okay?” they said, looking worried in their shorts and t-shirts.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I replied, “We’re just not used to this weather. This is San Francisco, not California. Stay cool.”
They thanked me and moved away quickly. Still resting in the puny shade of a sidewalk tree, I watched them as a half a block away they stopped another agent to ask for directions.