Monthly Archives: May 2012

Infinite Face Time

Congratulations everyone. Break out the noise-makers and party hats. Pop the champagne corks. Time to get giddy. Today is the first day of the rest of our real estate lives.

Yep. Gird those precious listings. Zip those zip forms. Charge those super-keys. Gas up the car. Grab a six-pack of red bull. Get revved up and ready to go. Time for business!

That weary, post-bubble, post-apocalyptic, address for distress, dystopian meltdown and miserable excuse for a marketplace we’ve been slogging around in for the last five years is coming to end. And all things real estate – at least in our sandy little beachhead along the broader shores of the Silicon Sea are about to change.

Facebook’s long-awaited, highly-anticipated, massively-touted IPO has arrived. And not a moment too soon – as the Fed’s optimism about a full-blown recovery has waned a whole lot more than it has waxed in recent months.

We’ve been titillated by a steady stream of apocryphal anecdotes about Mr. Zuckerberg & Friends since FB first announced last year. CBS Nightly News airing reports about the impending Peninsula housing boom. The San Jose Merc beating the drum with a barrage of headlines.

Private bankers rolling out the red carpet on random street corners in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Offering home loans to every 25 year old, dressed in jeans and tee shirt, wandering down University Avenue. Credit crunch? Difficulty qualifying? Not if you’ve got FB stock options for collateral. Can you say Super Jumbo Loan?

Supposedly anything with four walls and a roof within hailing distance of FB Headquarters has gotten snatched up with proper number of multiple-offers and overbids – befitting a white hot real estate market. Meanwhile, the Greater Bay Area Agent Grapevine is growing thicker with epic tales about fantastic sales and soon-to-be-stunning deals.

Here in Santa Cruz, we are sitting pretty. Occupying the tip of a desirable archipelago stretching southward from the heart of Silicon Valley. A welcome island lifestyle – just a short latitude adjustment away. Ready, willing and able to sign on to the Facebook phenomena and reap the rewards of the growing social network.

Local Agents have been poking each other behind the scenes for months now, trying to figure out who might have shown a beach listing or two to a prospective Facebook buyer-type. There’s been a number of reported sightings and fanciful rumors reminiscent of the good old days when it always seemed like Tom Selleck or Tom Cruise or Madonna were being spotted looking at pretentious homes or grabbing snacks at some unpretentious local institution like Piggy’s Market.

Is it a thousand Facebook millionaires? Or a million Facebook billionaires? I get it mixed up. All I know is that there are a lot of them. And their ranks seem to be growing quickly in my imagination. Almost as fast as the number of people logging on to Facebook.

Last Monday we saw the 2nd leg of the Amgen Bicycle Tour come across the Summit and race through Santa Cruz County. This Monday, I’m going to go up to the Summit again to watch as Facebook frenzy comes streaming over the hill and kicks the next wave of the buy cycle into high gear.

In fact, I’m going to share a little secret. Monday afternoon, a flash mob of a thousand local Realtors is going to show up at the Summit Shack on Hwy 17. They’ll form the largest-ever mass-human thumbs-up symbol that the Guinness Book of World Records has ever seen.

The Goodyear Blimp will circle overhead. A Google Earth Satellite will capture it all from space like a brave new meme for the entire planet. We’ll all instantly download the image on our I Phones and post it to our Facebook Pages. A resonating thumbs-up will sweep across the world like the ripples of a pebble dropped into an inexhaustible well.

Facebook. What’s not to like?

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Do I get a Mulligan?

Last week we were musing about Buyers Remorse. That torturous aspect of real estate that seems to take great pleasure in showing up like an unwanted guest in the middle of so many escrows.

I’m sure we Realtors use the phrase too much. Extend the fragile umbrella of its meaning too far into the twisting wind. But what else can we call “it”?

There has to be some way to talk about those clandestine meetings that arise in our clients’ heads when they’re navigating something as huge as buying a house. Not to mention all the other major life transitions that come along part and parcel with their shifts in home-ness.

There’s got to be some common term for the cascade effect that occurs when people’s worry centers start throwing “What-Ifs” wildly up into the air like ping- pong balls in the lotto game of life.

There has to be some language that captures those scary moments when buyer emotions ratchet up because real life is suddenly on the verge of becoming more real. When dreaming and talking get squeezed by events into the necessity of actually doing and deciding.

Swells of commitment approaching. Rogue waves that can’t be taken back. Tides of inevitability rushing past warning buoys towards a bridge too far and the tipping point of no return. Offer to Negotiation to Acceptance to Deposit to Inspections to Release of Contingencies to Sign-Off to Close.

Yikes! OMG! What if I make a mistake? Will God give me a mulligan?

Yep. Buyers Remorse – a staple of real estate. A dish found hanging around the table whenever the heat gets turned up in the kitchen and the escrow pot starts boiling. A daily special cooked and served up in all kinds of strange and interesting ways. Steamed. Grilled. Poached. And definitely fried.

Funny, the more ways Buyers Remorse gets prepared. the more unprepared I seem to be when it rears its all-too human head. Call it an occupational hazard – the spectre of escrow-interruptus still lurks like a shadow around every corner.

Somehow, I’ve managed to stay sane and adjust my own frame of reference over time. Here’s an analogy that makes it all make more sense – at least to me.

Close your eyes. Let your imagination drift back to college. A memorable Friday night. Alone at the local watering hole having a few beers. Looking across the room. Making eye contact . Love at first sight. Brain chemicals racing to the heart. Fireworks exploding. And in some fashion (appropriate to a family newspaper) a magical weekend spent with your new-found desire.

Then….Monday morning comes. The alarm goes off. The real world calls. You return to that other life – where the rest of you starts to question the whole experience.

Now fast forward to real estate land. Look at how the process is designed. No wonder it scares the hell out of just about everyone.

Buyers fall in love with houses. Get swept up in emotion. Make offers that are accepted. So far so good.

But happens next? They hire the equivalent of several private detectives in the form of Home Inspectors and Termite Guys to come and tell them everything that could possibly be wrong with the thing they just fell in love with. They pay people money to test their resolve and break the bonds of emotion captivating them.

At the same time their Agent hands them thick dossiers of information about all the secret things about homes that could harm them. Asbestos. Radon Gas. Lead Based Paint. Floods. Earthquakes. Who knew there were this many horsemen of the apocalypse?

Buyers Remorse isn’t some awful aberration of the psyche. It is something that’s infinitely normal. Is there any buyer on the planet that doesn’t wake up at least once during the course of escrow plagued by tremors of doubt and at least the mild choking sensation of existential terror? If so, then they must be living life as an automaton, without benefit of the normal emotional chip the rest of us were born with.

 

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Chestnut Roasting

Good old Buyer’s Remorse. A dog-eared catchphrase in the well-worn lexicon of real estate. One of it’s grand old chestnuts.

Oft-experienced. Oft-invoked. Buyer’s Remorse is the staple we trot out of the stable when we don’t have other words to describe unstable weather (or whether not) conditions inside a troubled buyer’s head.

Deep down “there.” In the dark corners of the mysteriously thick skulls we all possess. Where rational layers of neo-cortex rub up against a Pandora’s Box full of inner demons residing in the lowly, sub-cortical regions of the brain. Tiny bottomless pits of adrenalin, emotion, survival instincts and ancient, hair-trigger, fright-and-flight mechanisms ready to go off at a nanosecond’s notice.

Moribund tales of Buyers Remorse abound. Every Realtor has their share. Etched indelibly onto the casualty rolls of hard to forget, crash and burn transactions. Decimated deals. Escrows that flew south when terror attacks came in the middle of the night. Skittish clients spooked and bolting out of their comfort zone. As the song says: Remorse is remorse of course of course. And no one can talk to remorse of course. Except maybe a house whisperer named Ed.

There’s the story about the offer that went along just fine until it came time to actually sign it. Or worse…write the deposit check. The one about the multiple offer situation where all ten would-be buyers panicked and ended up scattering to the winds. The one about the serial buyers who kept buying a new house every year thinking the next one was really going to fix their lives. The one about the buyer who was just as anxiety-ridden at the thought of getting the house as he was about not getting the house. Hundreds of stories about poor first-time buyers who turned tail and ran as soon as they got a gander at their first home inspection. And thousands more.

Suffice to say no one is immune. Buyers are only human. We all have boogey-men hiding in our closets. What better time to take them out for a stroll than in the middle of buying a home?

In the old days Buyer’s Remorse seemed simpler. More straight-forward. It usually camped out at the far end of the regret spectrum. Where there was no going back. Right after Close of Escrow (COE). When the Dirty Deed was already done.

My made up Latin name for this familiar garden-variety is Post-Rigor-Remorsus.

Buyers act diligently. Move steadily through escrow. Cross T’s. Dot I’s. Rigorously attend to each detail along the way. But some put their heads down a little too far. Focus so intently on small things, they don’t notice their own shadows following them. Walking like dopplegangers in their own shoes.

This kind of double-trouble lies in wait until the dust settles. When those powerful, brain-produced, mind-altering drugs linked to anticipation and excitement have vanished. Reality doesn’t always live up to realty’s staging. Be careful what you wish for…the saying goes. The other you just might get it.

What do Buyers do if post-rigor-remorsus strikes? One of three things: a) Kick their own butts unmercifully. Don hairshirts of self-blame for eternity. 2) Go through their inner rolodex and find someone else to blame. Or better yet, find everyone else to blame. 3) Move on. Get back to the bigger picture. Nothing is ever as perfect as imagined. Dream homes included.

These days more people are showing signs of Early-Onset, Pre-Remorsus-Remorsus. It won’t be listed in the upcoming fifth edition of the DSM due out next year – but it’s becoming endemic. Increasing numbers of Buyers are regretting all the regrets they might succumb to long before they’ve ever had a chance to get there and start regretting where they are at. More on this next week.

And after that? Seller’s Remorse…the other dark meat.

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