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.

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

3 Good Reasons to Interview Brokers before Choosing the Best

Contributed by:
(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.

4 Reasons to Work with a Real Estate Specialist

Contributed by:
(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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Contributed by:
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com

What’s all the Fuss about ADUs?

Seattle is just one of the many ADU-friendly areas* in the U.S. and was a factor in one of my recent listings on historic Capitol Hill.

You’re probably wondering – what’s an ADU? An ADU is an accessory dwelling unit, a legally permitted, rentable, self-contained unit that may or may not be attached to the main home on the property. It provides, at a minimum, all the basic requirements for living – a living area, bedroom area, kitchen and bathroom often incorporating universal design.

Even though government zoning authorities use the official term ADU, individuals commonly give these residences other names like private apartments, guest cottages, in-law suites or income units. As a rule, they generally fall into 3 broad categories:

Interior ADUs – Created by converting existing space inside a primary dwelling usually in a finished basement or attic space.

Detached ADUs – A separate structure built on the same lot as the primary dwelling like a cottage or converted garage.

Attached ADUs – Independent living space built, either out or up, as an extension of the primary home.

Seattle is just one of the many ADU-friendly areas* in the U.S. and was a factor in one of my recent listings on historic Capitol Hill. For younger buyers, the fact that this home, a recent listing of mine, located at 732 17th Avenue E., already had a permitted, finished and well-appointed income unit with a rental history of $2,000/month brought in over 300 people to view the property over 4 days. An offer was accepted after just 7 days on the market. It came from a young couple who considered how this extra income could significantly assist with the payments on their jumbo mortgage loan.

Exterior Rear, Deck, GarageI knew that this Accessory Dwelling Unit could readily provide an avenue for additional income by leasing the apartment to a tenant or play an essential role in solving older individuals’ housing challenges, potentially providing options for aging in place and/or multi-generational living while retaining privacy and independence.

For these reasons – and others – it’s important for a Seniors Real Estate Specialist® to be aware of recent developments concerning ADUs. I make it my mission to understand the needs of older homeowners so that we can create the best plan together.

We never know who will be moved to place an offer on a home, but the added benefits of an official ADU make properties much more attractive and more valuable for new homeowners.

*Other ADU-friendly areas include Portland, Oregon – Asheville, North Carolina – Austin, Texas – Santa Cruz, California – Vancouver, British Columbia and the entire state of New Hampshire.

Contributed by:
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com | markjacobs.coldwellbankerbain.com

Credentials May Matter in a Changing Real Estate Market

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:
(206) 683-9088 | markjacobs@cbbain.com

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