Class Reunion

Looking at 50 years, and as always, thinking about real estate …

I’m just back from Atlanta and my 50-year high school reunion. I remain shocked that I’m actually as old as I am, but aside from that, it was an excellent weekend. And there was a big insight … Life is now! 

Nothing I didn’t already know, but the weekend really drove it home. Time changes everything. And nothing. 

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I and my classmates are heavier, grayer, more wrinkled, and less steady on our pins, but we are still “us”. The nice kids are still nice, some of the snooty ones, still snooty. And some of the snooty ones turned into nice people – likely what they were all along, just paralyzed by adolescent angst. We were pretty smart, and we stayed smart. At the party, despite a good bit of drinking – can you blame us? – there were substantive conversations aplenty. I’m impressed by how we have deepened and matured. Despite many of us beginning retirement, as a group we remain interested and engaged. 
 
The conversation did veer into nostalgia here and there, but it stayed amazingly current. We talked to each other about now. “What’s up these days?” “What’s your next step?” “What are you reading?” “What are your kids doing?” 
 
So, does this apply to real estate? Of course! There’s always a connection …
 
If life is about the present, so is residential real estate. 
 
Buyers can get derailed by the past, obsessing over what a seller paid for a property, assuming they are getting hosed if the seller paid a lot less than the asking price. Totally beside the point. That was then, now is now. 
 
I’ve seen buyers get derailed by the future, too, with toop much focus on potential appreciation. If you are buying a primary residence, and plan to stay more than a couple of years, appreciation is a secondary consideration. 
 
And there’s age. There’s usually absolutely nothing wrong with new construction, but sometimes older is just as good – or better. With appropriate care, a good house is a good house, despite its age. It may need updates (no question there’s been a facelift or two among my classmates) but if the fundamentals are sound, the house is sound. And character can accumulate with the years (again, witness me and my classmates).
 
As with the rest of life, a real estate deal is much more pleasant, and usually more effective, if done in the present. If you like a house, and it meets your current needs, and it looks like it might do for a few more years, and you can afford it –

Buy it!
Live in it!
Love it! 

Life Lesson from Midtown Manhattan

It really is about service.
 
Recently, I was in New York helping a friend celebrate a milestone birthday. The birthday boy hosted a group of us for dinner at Le Bernardin, a Michelin 3-star restaurant that perennially lands on top 10 lists. We had a wonderful time! If not the best restaurant experience I’ve ever had, it was among the best two or three. 
 
The room is beautiful, and the food was beyond merely delicious. That’s all good, but the factor that put the experience over the top was … the service.

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From the moment we set foot in the door to the moment we left, we were treated with the quiet warmth you reserve for a good friend – one you haven’t seen in a while and are delighted to see again. Everything was low-key, relaxed, and quietly fun. We couldn’t ask a dumb question. We couldn’t make a mistake. We were eating frightfully expensive food, using art-quality dishes and flatware and starched white linens in a totally luxurious setting, and yet it was … relaxing. 
 
And it was a lesson. Not the first time I’ve had it, but reinforcement always helps.
 
When I landed at Village 4+ years ago with my brand-new real estate license, I trained – as we all did – with our broker, the fabulous Bobbie Noreen. She insisted that real estate is a “helping profession” not unlike nursing or social work. It’s all about service to others.
 
In that moment, I was skeptical. But over time, it has proved true again and again. The properties that are bought and sold as I do my work are, of course, of central importance. But if the service that wraps around the transaction isn’t first rate, the luster of the property itself is dimmed. If Le Bernardin had been noisy, or uncomfortable, or if the staff had been snooty or sloppy, paying several hundred dollars a person for dinner would have been a miserable experience – no matter how good the food was. 
 
As it was, we floated out to the taxi on a cloud of bliss, remarking that we’d like to eat like that every day for the rest of our lives. In fact, if I could be taken care of in the style of Le Bernardin every day, I’d eat McDonalds and be happy. 
 
So, a lesson – for me, and for you, and for everybody in the world: give the client, or anyone else you run into, the best experience you can. Treat them as you would a good friend. Not only is it good for business (you’d better believe I’m going to save up a few coins and return to Le Bernardin) it’s good for the whole planet. 
 
Bliss begets bliss.