When the Stars Align 💫 – TBG Update 2/21
I find it absolutely fascinating how often it feels like the stars align to pair buyers and sellers’ houses together so you see fate in the transaction. We see it so often over and over again and each time I marvel at the uncanniness of it.
At a house we have in escrow right now, turns out the buyer husband and the seller husband were both members of the same 1600 person Harvard graduating class of their year. The buyer wife is a cardiologist, specializing in heart failure and transplant care, the exact same sub specialty as the seller husband’s father. The Harvard connection was discovered by the diploma hanging in the seller’s home office and the occupation was discovered in a letter that the buyer wrote to the seller to accompany their offer. No one knows each other but how interesting the similarities are!
At another house in escrow, the buyer’s agent lived in the backhouse at this property around 20 years ago for several years so he knows the property well. As the agent was walking his client though the house for the first time, the buyer walked into a bedroom upstairs and she saw a menorah sitting on a shelf and she burst into tears because it was the very same menorah her parents lit on Hanukkah when she was a child and it brought back such vivid memories for her. The menorah is artsy, rare and specific. It’s gold speckled clay stocky human figures, all with raised arms, and the 8 arms hold all the candles of the menorah at all different heights. The seller asked me to find out if the buyer would like for him to leave his custom breakfast table that was made specifically to fit the breakfast area right off the kitchen. When I asked, the buyer’s agent asked if it would be overreaching for me to ask the seller if he would be willing to leave the menorah in the upstairs bedroom for the buyer at close, since it was the menorah that made her positive that this was her future house. The menorah was the one the seller’s parents lit when he was a child too, and he said YES to passing it along to the buyer with the house at the close of escrow and she’s so touched.
I was moved this week by a property owner who bought a co-listing of ours in September 2019. He called me to say that a package arrived for the previous owner and he thought maybe they’d want it. It was very fun to pick up that cardboard box and to drop it off for the previous owners who live in the neighborhood. We very often pick up mail for sellers for a few weeks after close until the change of address kicks in and mail starts to arrive at the owners’ new house. A full year and a half after a sale closes it’s unusual to get a call for the previous owners’ mail. It always makes my day when people are so kind to each other!
I find a sale we closed this week fascinating. Both previous owners, husband and wife, lived at the house until well into their 90’s. The grown kids sold the house once they inherited it. The only upgrade to the house was putting in air conditioning. Otherwise, the kitchen, baths, and systems were original. We had fun preparing the house for sale and the sellers were completely awed at the way we transformed their parents’ house on a tight budget to look super pretty and welcoming. As soon as escrow closed, the buyer drove over in his antique mustang….and he moved right in! The buyer’s only request was that we move the original stove from the garage back to the kitchen so he could fire it up and cook himself some dinner. We often hear sellers push back on our suggestion to paint, fix and clean up a house for sale, especially one that’s original. Most sellers correctly assume that buyers will want to upgrade the house to bring it to current standards both in systems and in cosmetics before moving in. It’s unusual to find a buyer who moves into any house without doing anything at all…let alone one that’s pretty much completely original. It’s gratifying that our preparations were so worthwhile!
We’re in the throws of real estate on steroids. In almost 15 years of doing this work, never have I seen so many buyers so eager to buy. Interest rates are at an all time low. We have a buyer in escrow getting a 30 year fixed loan with a 2.6% interest rate. We have a deal in escrow representing the seller where the buyer is putting 10% down and borrowing 80% on a first and the last 10% on a second with a 14 day loan contingency and a 30 day close of escrow; the lender said there’s so much 80-10-10 happening today. We have a deal in escrow representing the seller where the buyer is borrowing cash from a private lender with no loan contingency. We have a deal that’s all cash with a 14 day escrow period. With all that activity is also so much emotion all around. It feels like everyone is asking for just a little bit more out of their deal on all sides. This week I saw a seller who wished to take all her light fixtures, a buyer who wants to keep all the seller’s old tv’s, a seller who wants the buyer to pay her transfer and city taxes, a buyer who wants another 10,000 after the seller already agreed to a credit of 100,000, a buyer who asked for the seller’s childhood menorah to be included with the house. It feels like so many people are eager to tap into today’s historically low interest rates and then even once they’re so excited to buy their house, so many people on both sides of the transaction wish for just a little bit more from the other side too.
Many buyers are frustrated because they’re writing so many offers and losing houses. An agent on our team wrote more than 10 offers this week and not even one was accepted. To win the competition, buyers are writing contingency free offers, releasing deposits, and going way over the asking prices for properties that are desirable in order to get their offer accepted. The hottest properties with the most offers are under 2,500,000, in move-in ready condition, in a great location.
I called an agent to follow up after a showing this week and he was sick in bed with Covid. I called another agent to follow up after a showing this week and he said his head was “discombobulated” from the second Covid vaccine he got the day before. People speak of creative ways they figured out to get the vaccine, like driving to predominantly minority neighborhoods if they’re of the same minority. People are waiting in line for an hour to pick up their box of free food of milk, eggs, bread, and frozen mango cubes. My hair stylist set up her barber chair, mat, and supplies on her front porch right in the neighborhood and she cuts hair in the sunshine surrounded by hedges.
It’s interesting that we keep seeing buyers and sellers’ houses going together like puzzle pieces that fit just right. At a time when all of us are trying to figure out our place and our way in the world, when the stars align and we happen upon clear fate, it hits the spot more than ever before. Low interest rates and people happening upon their spot makes real estate to most the one area where for the moment everything feels right with the world.