Sleepwalking Around Change

Anonymous real estate advice overheard at Gayles this week: “Never plant cactus. My son did a statistical study showing that homes with cacti sell for 3% less than homes without them.”

Ok.  Make of that what thou wilt.  Be it pearl of wisdom or prickly pear.

Meanwhile,  let’s plunge back into the subject of contingent offers.  People trying to sell and buy at the same time.  Certainly an interesting challenge in a marketplace already intimidating enough – even under the best of circumstances.

When people begin considering doing both things together, simultaneously, a simple arithmetic progression of logical cause and effect,  based on putting one foot in front of the other,  getting from point A to point B,  suddenly feels like it could slip exponentially out of control and go over the edge.

If one is prone to recurring bouts of analysis/paralysis, it can blossom into a full blown logarithmic nightmare.  A confusing mental juggling act of infinite complexity. Where each choice becomes dependent on every other choice to the nth degree.  Then it’s almost impossible to figure out what to do first.  Or second.  Let alone envision how to keep all the balls in the air once starting down the path.

We’ve been trying to wrap our minds around the multi-faceted subject of contingent offers for eight straight weeks now.  Circuitously exploring some of those quirky little nooks and crannies of real estate that have a tendency to slowly widen themselves into larger cracks and crevices of doubt.  Being careful not to let them graduate into gaping holes or bottomless pits of fear – ideal places for boogeymen to reside in.

Our winding path has wound us around to one pretty simple conclusion: The average person can’t and shouldn’t try to buy a new house first, get settled in and then try to sell their old house after the fact.

Maybe in other markets.  But not in this place.  Or in this time.  Real estate and the mortgage lending landscape have changed.  Everything we knew is wrong. They aren’t giving easy-qual refi’s or handing out equity lines like Halloween candy anymore.  So even if most of you wanted to –  you can’t leverage the money to buy first and sell second.

And those that are wildly creative and stupid enough to beg, borrow or talk yourselves into the process should read my lips – Don’t take the risk.   The rearview mirror of real estate is littered with good intentions. Stories about people who ventured onto the mean streets unknowingly addressed for distress. We don’t need anymore crash test dummies on the road to default.  Don’t become another statistic.

Almost every promise of financial gain and every ounce of intelligent risk-aversion is weighted in favor of selling first and then buying these days. Why would anyone consider doing it the other way?

The answer? We’re human beings.  We fear change.  We feel incredibly uncomfortable leaving the familiarity of what we know to move into the unknown of the future. Even though we all do it unconsciously every day when we walk out the front door.  And every sleepwalking moment after that.  There aren’t any guarantees. Even though we pretend there are.  Buying first and selling second is a way of avoiding risk of change – even when there’s a much bigger risk and price to pay for it.

So here’s the deal. Next week I’m going to tell you the right way to sell and buy a house at the same time. The safe way. The most expeditious way. In turn, you are going to have to leave your comfort zone. Buckle up and face your existential fears. Make the hard decisions and the smart ones.

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