What exactly do we do?

#212 in a series of true experiences in real estate
September 1997, Hills Newspapers

A number of people who read the column call us, sometimes to give us information, more often to ask us questions.
If they reach one of us directly — a live voice — almost always they ask, “Is this the answering service? Or is this one of ‘them’?”

“This is Anet,” we answer, or “You’ve reached one of us — Pat.”

“Which one are you?” is usually the next question.

“I’m the one with the curly hair,” Anet says with a laugh. “Thanks for calling.”

“Are you just writers for the paper or do you do real estate?” we are often asked. Or, “I know you sell real estate but I don’t know if you cover my area.”

We say that we do “regular” real estate, represent buyers and sellers primarily in Berkeley, Albany and Oakland Rockridge. Occasionally we have a client for Glenview, Montclair or Trestle Glen; once in awhile, El Cerrito.

“But I’m looking for a buyer’s broker,” some callers say. “Are you a buyer’s broker?”

Yes. That is, we are either the agents for the seller or for the buyer — never both in the same sale. So, if we represent you as a buyer, we are solely your agents — your buyer’s broker.

“You do consulting for a fee, too?”

We do. For an hourly fee we help people figure out a plan, a strategy, help them get to where they are going.

These people include tenants wanting to buy their rentals (and those in the wondering-if-we-should phase); also owners who want our opinion on what kind of fix-up work to do on their homes.

Recently a woman asked us to look at her house which she thinks is in bad repair. She isn’t planning to sell but she’s concerned about the health of her house and what to do about it. We referred her to a termite inspector and to repairmen and we tried to reassure her that things don’t appear to be nearly as worrisome as she seems to believe.

As consultants, we do not write contracts but we are glad to offer an overview, discuss timing, go over the details of a typical transaction. Our very favorite part of real estate is talking to our clients, gathering all the pertinent information, then figuring out together what makes most sense for them in their situation.

For example, a newly-in-love couple came to us for advice. One of them was in partnership with a friend, 2 houses on the same lot, which is where he had lived for many years. Now he and his new love were trying to decide if they should propose buying out the partner which would allow them to move into the larger house, or if they should sell and buy something else.

There were many considerations: what it would cost them to own the entire property, what they’d have to spend to modify the property to suit their needs, and how much would be needed to buy a different property.

As is always true with real estate, emotional issues, as well as money, had to be addressed. Both of these people still had their own place to live. They traveled back and forth between them. They realized as we talked that they weren’t quite sure if they wanted to live together in the same house all of the time or if they should own property together.

There were also questions about structuring a partnership between them. One had equity in his house but little income; the other’s income was much higher. We spent some hours talking to them, sorting out the issues and looking at different approaches. It was a very interesting problem for us.

They couldn’t decide what to do. About a year later their conundrum was solved when one got a job transfer. They sold and moved.

Another question we are asked is if we’ll go look at a house and give our opinion of its value.

We’re always pleased to be considered for listings. If the house is located in an area we work in, one in which we are familiar with sales, and the owner is contemplating selling, we are glad to have this opportunity. We do not charge for this service in hopes that we may be chosen as the listing agents.

“Do you trade off writing the column?” other people want to know.

No, Pat writes the columns. In return, Anet does more than the lion’s share of everything else. Each of us has chosen the parts of real estate we like best and are good at, but we work together with every buyer or seller. Our clients get us both.

Another frequent inquiry: “You wrote once about a window-cleaning lady…” Also the company that removes skunks from under houses, our favorite title company, plumber and sewer repair people, etc.

We’re always more than willing to tell you who we hire and why we like them. We only give the names of people whose past work we personally know. But it seems only appropriate to add a disclaimer: We can’t, of course, guarantee that you’ll have the same experience with these people that we have.

“It seems like you really like your job,” callers say. “You really do have fun, don’t you?”

Yes and yes. We sure do. We meet great people in this job. Probably because we tend to be “project people,” we very much enjoy the concentrated time we spend with our clients. We get to know them, discuss everything from money to roof coverings, learn about their preferences and idiosyncrasies. We educate them (and they, us).

Whether they are selling or buying, it is a very big event we go through together, often in a fairly short period of time. Then it is done and we find it difficult to let go after such intensity. We often continue to talk, to update one another, for several weeks. Even after that, we remain friends who get together from time to time.

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