Buying April 19, 2012

Êtes-vous prêts? Partez!

25 years ago I was a proud member of the Villanova University rowing program. You might know it as Crew, and we reviled the redundancy of those who would say “Crew Team.” I was a coxswain all 4 years, and my job was not to row, but to be the one crew member who sat in the stern, steered the shell (the boat), and cajoled the rowers down the course. I was the coxswain. And I never said “stroke, stroke,” that is a fallacy. As a matter of fact, much of what I said will remain on the water between me and my guys.

Our home course was the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, one of the more notable venues in the USA, and there was a regatta (race) virtually every weekend of the spring. To this day, 23 years since my last race, the words “Etes-vous pret? Partez!” get my adrenaline going like few others. The term means “Are you ready? Row!” and those were the words used to start every race. Once those words were spoken, the die was cast for me as a coxswain; The boat needed to be pointed perfectly toward my mark, my rowers needed to be sitting ready with their oars set right in the drink, and their minds needed to be ready to check into The Racing Zone for the next 6 minutes of hell until we crossed the line 2000 meters downstream, hopefully in first place.

In short, once the referee got on the bullhorn and was finished asking “Temple? Set. Penn? Set. Villanova? Set… etes vous pret?…” we knew there was no turning back, no mulligan or do-over, and we had to execute. Like I said, few words get my attention like those to this day.  All our practice, training, missed parties, burning lungs, sore legs, calloused hands and wet socks were meant for that moment. It was go time. Batter up. Hike. Go. There was a moment of time standing still after the question, and when we heard the “P-” of the “partez!,” my guys pulled in synchronized fury.

Every endeavor has that moment when it is time to execute. Stop talking, start doing. In real estate, there are times like that as well, and few embody that go moment like the Spring when there are multiple bids on a well appointed, well priced home and the seller asks for all parties to submit their highest and best. Even in a down market like ours, the circumstance does arise on some special homes. They could have a view of the Hudson that no contractor save God could add. The kitchen could be superior to those of even more expensive homes. Whatever it it, when the listing agent calls for highest and best, the buyer agents know that there will be no second chances, no do overs, and no turning back. It is now or never.

For any buyer who is involved in such a transaction, I have two things to advise:

  1. Suspend your disbelief. Not every house is one where the seller can’t exert leverage. Multiple offers do happen, especially in the Spring.
  2. Your highest and best is your highest, and your best. Bid a number that if you don’t win, you are at peace that you gave it 100%. Don’t offer something that is so high you’d regret acceptance or so low that you wished you had another chance. You probably don’t get a second chance.

To the buyer agents out there, the same advice applies. Sharpen that pencil and advise the client to give their highest and best such that they are at peace with any outcome. It is indeed go time, and there is no turning back. Don’t get bogged down in what happens in a few steps because those you are competing with are going to get their clients prepped and revved.  Our best outcome in college crew was a first place finish, and I as coxswain would be tossed off the dock into the water to celebrate. The best real estate outcome is a happy long term home.