When Grief Knocks: The Harmonious Center of a Churning Hurricane

Many assume real estate brokers are extroverts, outgoing, bar-hopping, dinner partying people. I’m not the expected social butterfly.

eye of the storm image from outer space
Grief can feel like a massive churning of emotions…old and new.

At Long Last, Hope
Last July, I had the privilege of listing a real, historic Capitol Hill beauty. It wasn’t a quick process but a thorough one with two people I’d come to respect and admire over many months, each for their discernment, proactive nature and a true positive look ahead to the next chapter in their lives.

Thankfully, their 17th Avenue East home was sold in just 7 days. Seattle’s market had already begun its slow-down, having reached its peak last May. Hindsight only confirmed my suspicions. Along the way, my clients and I shared excitement, frustration, disappointment and relief, and even though I wanted to pull out my hair (what little there is) more than once while working with the other side, closing day arrived and everybody got what they wanted…or needed.

The day after closing day is when it hit. It’d been 8 months since my father died, and while I gave myself a lot of space to grieve – and to feel or face all kinds of other emotions – the sudden and vast emptiness I experienced after such a busy few months was terrifying. Without additional prospects on the real estate docket, I decided it was time to just be terrified, lost, uncertain about the future and, as my husband noted, less than cheerful. The death of my father presented me with a whole new world, at once familiar and notably peculiar.

In that abyss, with appropriate support, hope emerged along with a bit of faith and some trust. Working to prepare and sell that home on Cap Hill restored a confidence in myself that had gone missing though I didn’t know it. Intuitively, I do know exactly what to do and how to do it or will find out. I’m ultra-careful, super efficient and very organized. I listen, gather or share information and respond effectively. There’s always much to learn in any one real estate deal, but, at the core, I care about the people I get to work with and work tirelessly to get them the best results possible. These are precious qualities I’d forgotten about, and, not only are they useful, I once again recognize their value, if to no one but myself.

Flash: I’m an Introvert
Dangling in the abyss allowed me to piece together some other truths. Here’s one: I finally started to embrace my introverted personality. I’ve never had trouble understanding I’m an introvert, but I’m not sure I ever owned it.

Something I recently read made it really click – “I don’t like small talk, but I can talk about life all day long.” I believe in the journey, the walk along the path toward the next pit stop. That path could include preparing for a month’s stay in Paris, saving for a long, winding train trip through Scandinavia, starting a new business, taking a language class or getting into a new home or shedding an old one.

Many assume real estate brokers are extroverts, outgoing, bar-hopping, dinner partying people. Actually, most people – in or not in the business –  will claim it’s better to be more of an extrovert, even citing it as a requirement for success. Honestly, it seems many brokers are naturally able to stack their calendars with one social event after another, mingling well wherever they are. That’s great for them…but it’s not for me.

I’m not the expected social butterfly infused with boundless energy often found in the real estate profession. I don’t drink or party (sober 29 years…coming up later this month), so I don’t go to bars, breweries or wine-tastings. We don’t entertain at home, so both Roger (also an introvert) and I, over time, find it less painful to be in small groups elsewhere. Forget about mingling in large groups with no particular purpose at hand.

latteDon’t get me wrong. I have a good time…in my own way. You’ll find me salivating with anticipation when a new bakery opens up or sudden free-time means a trip to Espresso Vivace. I don’t enjoy coffee just anywhere though I will try it everywhere. When it comes to local exploration, walking tours, museums, hikes, French classes and good eats, I’m all over it.

And, we also hang at home with our pooch, Sophie, binging the latest British detective show or trying new recipes by The Barefoot Contessa or recently, trying new bakes as seen on the Great British Baking Show. Afternoons, with nothing else going on, will pester me to take a nap…so I often give in. I endlessly try to find what makes Seattle (and me) tick, a pursuit that may never end.

Curiously, I can be IN FRONT OF a group of people, even an auditorium brimming with bright faces. I’m not afraid of the microphone or camera, making a video, being a guest on the radio or showing up on tv. I confer easily in private consultation about your real estate desires and am completely comfortable one-on-five when it comes to conversations about the home we’re standing in during an open house or while bantering about real estate more broadly. In these interactions, there’s clear purpose, making it much easier to be a part of rather than apart from the group. Ultimately, because I’m an introvert, fully loaded with all the qualities that come with it, you’ll have a really smart, thoughtful, thorough, competent advocate – and broker – on your side when it comes time to find or sell a home.

space needle seattle

Be the Curator: Your Seattle Life
Being a Realtor® isn’t really about selling real estate. For some it is – and that’s fine – just not for me. I’ve tried to make it about capturing a sale, but it leaves out the juicy potential for a greater experience. For me, it’s about living in the Pacific Northwest, navigating Seattle, discovering our diverse neighborhoods and connecting with place. While visiting the new Nordic Museum in Ballard recently, one of the mantras seemed to center around an astute “awareness of place.” That awareness, I believe, opens the space for real, human connections, too.

Being a real estate broker is about discovery of another, of place, of self. It’s about being a caring ear and a guide. It’s about gently prying open possibilities or thinking stuck in expectations. It’s about being an advisor and a consultant, an advocate and a manager. It’s about being a part-time curator, a path-builder toward the next story you want to tell.

The next time somebody tells you that you have to be an extrovert to be a “successful” or “good” real estate broker, remember that this life-long, self-embracing introvert advocates for the quality – over quantity – of life’s experiences.

Related:
Mother with Dementia, Father in Denial | A Late Boomer’s Journey

3 Good Reasons to Interview Brokers before Choosing the Best

Contributed by:
MARK JACOBS, REALTOR®, SENIORS REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST®
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com

Mother with Dementia, Father in Denial | A Late-Boomer’s Journey

Boomers and their parents are facing these transitions now.  Some will be proactive, most will be reactive to changing conditions.

old couple kissWorking with aged 50 and older clients to meet their housing needs requires an expert understanding of their lifestyle and financial needs, and my SRES® designation means I take that understanding seriously. But it’s more than that.

My personal experience with my folks, who are both well into their 90s, was filled with anxiety, confusion, frustration, uncertainty and exhaustive energy surrounding a decision to move them into a new residence for optimal safety and health.  It was a profound but necessary endeavor that was literally years in the making because they didn’t want to face their eventual reality…they were getting older…much older.  Their refusal to seriously consider better options ended with our biggest concern.

My mother had another, very serious fall when she was home alone for a brief period of time.  She hit her head on the furniture after losing her balance and then smashed her cheek on the hardwood floor.  She lay face down bleeding profusely, unable to move let alone get up.  We were all shaken to the core.  Coupled with her rapidly devolving dementia, she’d passed the point of no return and could no longer be cared for safely in her own home.

Even in the face of such catastrophic circumstances, my father continued to stall for several months.  I decided to build a 12-month spreadsheet showing their income, regular household expenses, home maintenance needs as well as the astronomical costs for 24-hour home care.  My father was a businessman before retirement and continued to keep meticulous financial records, budgets and projections.  This spreadsheet was a factual black and white study for him to fully understand their situation, if not from a health perspective, then from a financial standpoint.  I knew he would be able to see that home health care, regular daily maintenance and the ongoing expenses associated with their home far exceeded their current annual income.  They had planned very well for a very comfortable retirement, yet their income could only support them in regular circumstances; it could not support well over $17,000 per month in expenses when intensive health and care were needed.

That spreadsheet, with all its undeniable facts, was the instrument that paved the way for my father to see that they only had a few short months before using up all of their available cash.  After that, they would have to begin liquidating investments and it wouldn’t take long to deplete those either.

M&D&Me Cropped
My folks & me about ’67

Sitting with my father, talking through the numbers, was one of the most intimate moments I’ll remember with him.  He was awash with a spectrum of emotions – resignation, sadness, grief, anger and self-blame for not having done “enough” to financially provide for them to stay in their home until death.  He’d done extremely well, but with the cost of home care at unimaginable levels, their investments couldn’t generate enough to keep up.  Aside from the financial realization that he was coming to grips with, he finally understood that my mother’s well being was dependent on an appropriate residence where household assistance, nursing, feeding, bathing and mental stimulation could be provided at all hours.

While my mother took a couple of days to adjust to the inevitable move, she made a positive turn toward the new chapter ahead.  I believe it was easier for her because the house she lived in – my childhood home – was no longer familiar.  In her dementia, she didn’t often know how she got there and she frequently wanted to “go home.”  She grieved the loss of her faculties and ability to be super-active unlike my father, who showed his grief by expressing anger at the thought of leaving their things behind.

IMG_3610We decided to keep the home unoccupied once they moved to their new place because it provided a sense of security during a transitional period. But once my parents were settled, we began the process of going through the closets, sifting through the attic, combing the garage and pulling out everything from under the furniture.  We unpacked every drawer, box and envelope.  It called forth an even different set of emotions from tears to laughter to wonder to relief.  A full 2 weeks later, ceaselessly organizing some 70 years of married life, it was time to interview and hire an estate sale professional who would respect years of collecting beautiful things and building a lovely home.

Any stress or uncertainty I felt when considering the sale of their home was alleviated once I was unexpectedly referred to a friend of the family who was a realtor.  Because he was a generational peer and understood the delicate circumstances, I felt I could trust him to help me every step of the way.  For both professionals, trust was the thing I was looking for and they each delivered exactly that.

The facts are these.  It took catastrophic events for my parents to get fully organized legally by putting updated, appropriate powers of attorney in place as well as creating new wills.  When we thought my mother was on the edge of death a full 3 years before moving from their home, I insisted on purchasing cemetery plots so that such decisions wouldn’t have to be made in the middle of agonizing emotions.  As their financial power of attorney, I simplified and organized every aspect of their financial lives so that I could manage their day-to-day affairs easily.  I made several visits to different assisted living and continuous care residences so that, when the time came, I could present preferred choices according to environment and cost.

As organized and prepared as I became over 3 years, when the day arrived to make the decision to move, it was still extraordinarily stressful, painful and emotionally draining for all of us.  The ensuing process created angst, confusion and intense sadness while demanding long periods of time away from my own life and family.  I can only imagine how a family moves through such a process when not so organized or because of an unexpected life event that forces immediate changes in living circumstances for a parent or a spouse.

Boomers and their parents are facing these transitions now.  Some will be proactive, most will be reactive to changing conditions.  It’s my own unrelenting experience alongside my parents, brothers and family members that caused me to secure my SRES® credential.  As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist®, I consider it a privilege to pay it forward by navigating, in part, such difficult transitions for other elders and their families while establishing trust in facilitating their current and most important needs.  Let’s travel this journey together…you’ll need trusted professionals in your corner.

Put our knowledge™ on your side through Coldwell Banker Bain.

Related:
4 Reasons to Work with a Real Estate Specialist

Contributed by:
MARK JACOBS, REALTOR®, SENIORS REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST®
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com

Survival Kit for Moving Day

Thinking ahead alleviates so much of the stress that accompanies moving day.

A lot happens before the keys to any new place are delivered.

After the car is gassed up and you stop for a little “just in case” cash, down some caffeine and a healthy bite of breakfast before jumping into the long day ahead.  Whether moving across town or down the street, doing it yourself or having it done, the following list of must-haves should already be set aside in a basket, bucket, box or bag:

  • toilet paper
  • aspirin and other medications
  • boxcutter and scissors
  • bandaids
  • trash bags
  • mobile phone and other device chargers
  • power strip
  • toothpaste and toothbrush
  • hand soap
  • household cleaners and sponges
  • bottled water and snack bars
  • note pad and pens
Be sure to look out for the little ones on moving day and in the days following.

If your move includes Fido or Mittens, keep them out of the way and safe in a pet crate or a separate room while furniture and boxes are being transported on both ends.  Set aside these items so your pet is also ready to go:

  • food/water and bowl
  • medications
  • litter box or crap bags
  • treats
  • leash

Thinking ahead alleviates so much of the stress that accompanies moving day. With a few essential supplies at your fingertips, everyone – even the animals – can stay calm when nature calls.

Related:
Generation Condo: Advantages for Every Buyer

Contributed by:
MARK JACOBS, REALTOR®, SENIORS REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST®
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com

4 Reasons to work with a Real Estate Specialist

A broker who’s earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES®) designation made the choice to assist people who may be unsure about how to navigate life’s transitions.

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Older homeowners often face tough choices about where to live.

You’ve probably heard the saying “all real estate is local.” It’s never been more true than in our current changing market in Western Washington. Though home prices can vary dramatically in our new climate, still from street to street, demanding a broker’s expertise to be VERY local.

No matter the dynamics of the market, real estate decisions are also extremely intimate and personal as unique needs arise for every buyer or seller. This is especially true for letting go of or purchasing a home later in life, which may include distinct challenges like floor plans that accommodate aging in place, estate planning or fulfillment considerations or special financing requirements.

If you’re over the age of 50 and making the decision to sell or buy a home – or are assisting someone who is – here are 4 distinct reasons to pick a real estate specialist who chooses to work with older clients:

WE MADE THE CHOICE
A broker who’s earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES®) designation made the choice to assist people who may be unsure about how to navigate life’s transitions. Many enjoy the process and have first-hand knowledge about the typical steps involved because they’ve helped parents, neighbors and relatives make similar real estate decisions. It’s all about using a wealth of skills to help others steer down a new path.

WE HAVE OPTIONS
Newly retired? Empty nester? Divorced? Spouse has died? Any of these monumental changes can precipitate a huge adjustment in lifestyle which often leads to ‘where to live.’ An SRES® will closely listen to your concerns and share potential solutions and resources to help make some decisions. Real estate brokers who make it part of their business to work with seniors already understand the challenges and know which properties come closest to meeting current needs. You can rely on such a broker to have a toolbox of ideas and resources for every step of the transition.

WE ARE EMPATHETIC
A senior specialist understands that major life changes are never easy, but they don’t shy away from the difficult topics or emotions that often accompany these decisions. There’s no hurry, no need to make a plan by sundown, no pressure to move quickly. Sometimes we don’t know what the priorities are or how the plan will go, and it often changes as you roll along. A caring broker will stay attuned to unexpected challenges and unusual opportunities while often checking in on your state of being.

WE ARE ENGAGED
Brokers who work with older clients don’t just talk about the issues, they get involved, whether it’s volunteering in the community’s senior-centric activities, developing relationships with vendors or meeting with new care residences, agencies and relevant individuals. It’s all about building the rolodex with other empathetic partners who can also assist clients with their new, transitional goals.

You can count on an SRES® to guide you through the process of buying or selling your home, making the transaction less stressful and more successful. For brokers who choose to work with older clients, a passion for helping people naturally comes with the package.

Related:
Hands-Off or Hands-On? When Selling a Home, it’s All about the Plan

Contributed by:
MARK JACOBS, REALTOR®, SENIORS REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST®
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com

Ballard | A World of History NOT a World Away

I’d been waiting for an “excuse” to get over to Ballard because it always seemed so out of the way.

Version 3Lately, I’ve taken steps outside my comfort zone. On purpose, and, it’s been pretty neat.

After a lengthy afternoon visit to MOHAI, Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry standing squarely on the south bank of Lake Union, I discovered, among many stories of our region’s past, that European influence was significant. Because Washington was a U.S. territory until it reached statehood in 1889, it surprised me that Spain, Great Britain and Russia had laid claim to land so late in our history. Of course, Native tribes and American interests were well entrenched, too.

My time in MOHAI made me want to learn more about how the Pacific Northwest, and specifically Seattle, grew out of a melting pot of natives, immigrants, cultures, work ethics, commerce and opportunity. With a renewed, piqued curiosity, I know there’s so much that goes into our history – Chinese and Japanese immigrants, the Klondike Gold Rush, Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe and the arrival of many of our city’s recognizable families.

I zeroed in on Ballard, where many immigrants from Scandinavia landed after first arriving on the east coast. Feeling more at home because of the Evergreen landscape alongside vast stretches of water, seemingly in all directions, many saw the area as ripe for timber production and fisheries.

The new Nordic Museum popped into mind (current exhibit: The Vikings Begin). I’d been waiting for an “excuse” to get over to Ballard because it always seemed so out of the way. All that traffic, the unpredictable raising of the 15th Ave bridge to allow taller boats through Salmon Bay…and, oh the parking…it’s so hard to park “over there.” Spontaneity won the day.

I make it my mission to find all the good bakeries around Seattle, and I just read about Cafe Besalu in Ballard. Just up the street from the Nordic, I stopped in for a mid-morning pain au chocolat and an 8 oz. latte…my favorite combination. All I can say is that Besalu did not disappoint. More on my passion for local bakeries another time.

See more on Cafe Besalu

The Nordic Museum has quite the presence on NW Market Street, the main drag through the center of Ballard. Architecturally, it’s a clean but stark design with minimal landscaping. Plenty of free parking is available along street but ample paid parking behind the museum (really, the front entrance) is nominal.

Nordic Museum ExtAs I approached the entrance, I’m struck even more by its sturdy simplicity and lack of windows, transported, by imagination only, as to how this building was engineered to protect visitors and contents alike from the harsh winds and winters of Scandinavia.

I couldn’t help but notice the bustling Freya café as I walked in. The menu offers excellent presse coffee (imbibed on a return trip a week later…and so good!), fresh salads or other light Nordic favorites. Already satisfied by my stop at Cafe Besalu, I paid the $15 entrance fee and immediately became mesmerized by the towering, all white, wall map of the Nordic countries. The display offered a simple introduction to this part of our world, prompting such questions as “Do you know which countries make up Scandinavia?” Hint: Only three. Answer below (1).

I continued to admire the clean lines of the Nordic’s interior design, the the exhibits taking center stage throughout. I’d no idea just how much the Nordic people had contributed to the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Ballard.

Slowly walking through these new halls of history, displayed in a straightforward, interesting manner, I became enthralled by their journeys, contributions and innovative spirits. Nordic values – openness, social justice, connection to nature and innovation – are identified as persistent threads throughout their ancestral culture, values that trailed these courageous people across the Atlantic, the American West and into our Emerald region as they settled among the trees or along the banks.

Explore the Nordic Museum

As Ballard’s Nordic settlers proclaimed, all of my renewed interest in regional history has created a deeper appreciation for these noble values that are obviously ingrained in local culture today, but also, they acknowledge an intense “awareness of place” whether in Northern Europe or in what they found in the PNW.

The experience I discovered inside the Nordic Museum moved me to consider not only the countless stories of place itself, but to ponder what my place is in the thread of Seattle’s story.

(1) Scandinavia includes Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The Nordic Countries include Scandinavia + Finland and Iceland. The Nordic Council includes the Nordic Countries + Greenland and the Faroe and Aland Islands.

NEAT FACT | Celebrate Chief Seattle every year on August 25th.

Related:
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Contributed by:
MARK JACOBS, REALTOR®, SENIORS REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST®
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com

Fall | How Seattle and its People Change Overnight

Walking around in the rain while never utilizing the protection of an umbrella is a local phenomenon I’ll never quite understand.

Brief rain storms sweep in temporary cool fronts, but our first real dip in temperature later this week is right on schedule. November is here and seemingly overnight, the Pacific Northwest is finally shrouded in red, gold and auburn. And, Seattleites, always seasonal chameleons, have changed their colors, cloaked in quilted coats, hands in pockets, heads down against the mist.

Seattle twists slightly into focus a bit earlier after last weekend’s “Fall Back” while low-lying clouds hover over all things. There’s been a noticeable late afternoon chill in the air that when it lands on my skin, I shudder and utter a silent brrrr. I think, “it’s just the beginning of 6 months of this.”

Still not cold enough for a fire, our windows are shut tight at home, the street noise dulled just enough to make it my favorite time of year. A bit quieter, it almost seems like I’m in the rural country for a few fleeting seconds, but then I sadly realize we’re still in the urban jungle. Regardless, I like this annual passage.

Daddy's Coffee MugI feel holed up, suddenly needing a blanket across my lap in the mornings as I sip steaming coffee from my favorite mug. It’s a speckled white and navy blue earthenware mug that was my father’s favorite for years before he died in January. Each morning, he looked forward to Café Francais, an International Coffee from Maxwell House. We grind and brew a bracing Italian roast from Starbucks. Add a dollop of whipped cream and it’s almost like my dad’s.

Soon, city folk will proudly hold their heads up through high-necked sweaters to meet the cold raindrops. Walking around in the rain while never utilizing the protection of an umbrella is a local phenomenon I’ll never quite understand. I don’t like to be wet. Taking a long shower or anticipating a soak in the tub isn’t ever high on my list.

City life, in all its buzz and busyness, continues, of course. It’s just darker, wetter, and perhaps more deliberate with less joviality tossed around. Summertime used to be my favorite season, and I’m still very fond of it because I get to wear thin cotton t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. But, as I get a little older, I like moving inside more as the temperature falls, where I feel insulated from so much randomness on our streets.

November, for me, is a welcome retreat, a time for quiet assessment, an opportunity to reshuffle scattered priorities. I also get to spend more time with my husband because the weather often forces us inside, our little Sophie curled tightly against either of us for warmth. She switches from one to the other through the evening. It’s comforting, tame, peaceful. Everything slows down. We can all fully exhale.

Related:
Running Through the Pacific Northwest | Charly Tate

Contributed by:
MARK JACOBS, REALTOR®, SENIORS REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST®
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com

Listening is often the Missing Ingredient

My job with any client, or potential client, is to guide, be honest, be respectful, hold hands when necessary and nudge a little when things seem insurmountable.

Canal Cottage

As we completed part 1 of a 2-part process for the privilege of listing a really adorable home in Northern Washington, I was reminded once again just how much is immediately required from the homeowner to get ready for that first day on what continues to be a brisk seller’s market.

My job with any client, or potential client, is to guide, be honest, be respectful, hold hands when necessary and nudge a little when things seem insurmountable.  Most of all, though, besides the obvious legal responsibilities I carry as a licensed broker, a larger part of my experience is to listen to any client.  True listening is a developed skill but an invaluable one…and I would argue, the most essential asset I bring to kick off any relationship.

Our meeting last evening went through all the necessary steps – touring the home, taking diligent notes and discussing the course ahead.  The conversation really wasn’t about the preparations beckoning so much as it was about preparing to let go, sharing excitement about a new chapter in a new home and experiencing the sudden feelings of stress that come with such a big decision, one that requires action, tough bargaining with oneself and others and compromise against what was once entirely personal space.  No longer.  Life has now entered a new reality.

We also spent a lot of time talking about how the rapidly changing real estate market in Greater Seattle affects price, days on market and lingering expectations for multiple offers. Those times appear to be over for the most part. Multiples still happen depending on property, condition of home, location and price point, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. How quickly times change!

I look forward to seeing these lovely friends again on Sunday as we lay out our “listing presentation,” the ways in which we’ll show off their home in person, online, in print.  We’ll also decide together a price and the timeline for how we want it all to go.  And, I’ll continue to listen; hopefully, have a few more laughs.  The sound of laughter truly eases the stress.

Contributed by:
MARK JACOBS, REALTOR®, SENIORS REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST®
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com

Related:
The Shift Toward Balance: 6 Factors Reshaping the Local Real Estate Market