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It is not because I was raised in California in the 60s, vote Democratic, eat granola or need a job. (I don’t. I have two, thank you) It’s not because I’ve made or lost a fortune in the stock market, am I anti-American, anti-corporation or want to bring capitalism to its bloody knees. I do not want to share my personal story of loss, health insurance, rate-jacking on credit card rates or banking fees here, I take responsibility for the decisions I’ve made and their consequences. And I’ll leave the commentary on the inner-machinations of who/how/why we got here to the pundits and those far more adept at these things than I.
Most of my professional life has been spent working in television and as theater artist; actor, director & playwright, and I’ve made a living doing what I love. I am at home with the dramatic expression of ideas, comfortable with change and used to the variables of a 1099 income. Suffice it to say Occupy Wall Street is not my first drum circle jam. But that’s not why I’m speaking out. Six years ago, when the prospect of single-motherhood was looming, I got my real estate license, worked my ass off in a difficult market and for the most part it has been good to me (I’m used to the variable income, remember?). I’ve worked the luxury market, helped buyers find their first homes, move up to larger spaces, and have numerous investors who’ve increased their cash flow with rental and fix & flip properties. I find it very gratifying and I’m good at it.
I support Occupy Wall Street because as a Realtor©, I have worked to save clients from foreclosure, spent hours negotiating with banks over short sales, sat around kitchen tables listening to frustrations with loan modifications, and spent as much on tissue as I have on champagne. (Okay, I exaggerate, but you get the idea.) I have seen this at all income levels and from clients who did not take out loans they could not afford, use their homes as ATMs or over-purchase. When they bought the future was bright and the payments were manageable. When the bubble burst and a few of life’s bumps hit (illness, divorce, job loss or downsizing) they tried valiantly to keep their obligations and pay the mortgage…until the day they couldn’t and their homes were worth less than they owed.
We may not all share an aching drive to be rich, but I’d bet that most of us want to work hard, prosper and live comfortably enough to invest in our futures, save for our children’s college and be prepared for retirement. We’d even like a vacation or two. For years we’ve trod along hoping things would get better and worked hard to make that a reality, even if the price of our hope was the depletion of our savings. At last we are exhausted. Too many Silverado, WorldCom and Goldman Sachs sagas played out on the nightly news, followed by stories of bailouts and bonuses for those who’ve shamelessly played fast and loose with our lives.
The tide has turned in America and around the world. The tsunami is hurling us forward faster than we’ve ever collectively moved before and there is no turning back. The social/political, dare I say… evolution is upon us, the old ways are outmoded and there’s no point in retreating to their ice age. It is time to start the conversation. We’ll figure out what the next best step is, but for now… shut up and listen.

Today an unusual thing happened, I received two offers on two different listings. That in itself would not be unusual in the Denver real estate market, but it’s what came with the offer I found odd and amusing. This morning, two emails hit my inbox. One was the offer, $110k below the list price, and the other was a letter from the potential buyer to the seller. This afternoon, the same thing happened: 20k under a list price that had a generous price reduction on Wednesday, and a lovely card to the seller. Now I am the queen of the hand-written note and I know it’s value, but in both of these instances it was as if the “I really love your house, we are the perfect buyers” missive was going to somehow cover the insulting offer. If you really love the house, you should pay what the house is worth. A letter that says in essence, “I found the house I love, now can you please give it to me?” does little to sway the seller away from his or her profits.
Buyers buy homes with their emotion first and practicality second, sellers are just the opposite. I know this is a sweeping generalization, but most of the time it holds true. A home is an emotional commodity and yes, most sellers would love to see their home go to that sweet young couple of lovebirds with the 20% down, the golden retriever and th 850 credit score. Chances are very good that the seller has had his own emotional roller coaster ride long before you set your showing. Ready to make that move, they’ve called their Realtor, had the listing appointment and swallowed hard when their agent told them what they could expect to sell their beautiful home for in today’s market. When they’ve lowered their price twice in 60 days, is it realistic to expect them to take another 20 or 100k off the top because you love their home? I’d love a new Mercedes for the price of my used Saab, too.
In short, be reasonable. Be fair. Don’t believe everything you read about the “Buyer’s Market”, assuming every home is on the clearance rack. And save your letters. We know you love the home and felt all warm and fuzzy when you walked into it, that’s what writing an offer means. Now write the offer that will match that value, and don’t expect the seller to pay for your dreams out of their retirement.