Whether you believe in Roman Gods, astronomy or other celestial forces at play, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that you’ve probably experienced a strange and frustrating January. Moving forward has seemed impossible, projects all left incomplete, travel anywhere has been trying with the move “back” to mask mandates. I tried to blame this feeling of distraction, an inability to articulate thoughts, or directives, a total lack of focus, on Covid Brain, but I never did have Covid, or I didn’t as far as I know. This makes pointing the finger at Mercury Retrograde incredibly satisfying, comforting even.
I wanted an explanation and I got it in Mercury. While it’s doing laps around earth, it actually appears to move in reverse, though it actually just a trick of the eye. I suspect it’s the same phenomenon that makes the tires on cars in movies spin in reverse is to blame. Mercury was attributed to trickery and travel so it makes perfect sense, and sense is what I am after.
What I did Saturday morning, at the on-set of a blizzard, did not. I found myself in New Hampshire for a book launch party, just a few short miles from a town I had spent a lot of time in over the years. I wanted to go back and visit it, and I very much wanted to pop into one of my favorite antique stores in Bellows Falls, VT, and I did what you should never do during retrograde, I went.
While I did get caught in the blizzard, stuck on a hill in my tiny mini, I made it to the shop, and back to my destination, with a relatively small amount of drama, so I couldn’t stay in the house that we’d rented to stay in. So my hotel was sold out and I thought I might have to sleep in the business center, which had no door. As long as I had a pillow I thought I would be fine, turns out I got a room at a neighboring hotel.
I didn’t sign any big contracts – thank goodness someone else put in the winning bid on Chandler Street, it could have been a total disaster – I did see some darn fine furniture, some amazing lamps, the most fanciful fun merry-go-round of a horse in a bowler hat, and my heart filled with nostalgia for a place. That should keep me going until we get out of this mess on the third.
Rising interest rates are looming, inflation is inflating the cost of everything, and limited inventory is putting the Boston buyer in a pricing predicament. A pickle if you will, and not the sweat and sour kind that I adore with a turkey stuffed sandwich. This pickle is the prickly kind that warns you not to make an emotional decision. It would be so easy, and understandable, to attend an open house and run into swarms of other would be buyers, and think to yourself, this will be the only property. Look at all these people, they are validating my belief that its a good one, one that I shouldn’t let slip through my fingers. That’s emotion talking. It’s the evil voice in your head that has you placing offers that are overblown, on properties that you may, or may not, even like that much. It’s the voice that responds to the “Best and Last” offer request with an increase in your price.
That voice must be silenced. Try asking it: “What if I am only bidding against myself?” How stupid would I look then. It’s the voice that must be silenced with reason, with data, with an understanding that there is no more powerful a place to be, than to be in the place you are willing to walk away from. I am not suggesting that you don’t have any emotion at all. That wouldn’t even be possible, would it? A little passion, a little desire, is necessary to ensure you bring your best to the home, the investment, the property. You owe her that. She’ll likely have had lots of owners before you came along. Many will have neglected her, cheeped out on renovations, deferred her maintenance, when attended to it was what she really needed. There would have been bad design decisions for which she had no input. Some owners might have treated her better, but left her to start a family, and what she needs is someone that will both invest in her, and be invested in her. Emotion, you can’t get away from it, but you can’t let it rule you either.
Run the numbers, consider the supply chain issues, the cost of labor, if you can in fact get that crew to show up for you, and remember that inflation will make even the most mundane materials astronomically more expensive. You’ll long for the early days of the pandemic when you were only dealing with increases associated with the bottleneck when those inflationary costs start to land on your renovation spreadsheet. This is real, and I hope that you are a fan of Mies van der Rohe, because you will be getting a whole lot less for a whole lot more.
I’m not saying don’t bid. To the contrary, bid away. You’ll get so much more insight into the market by playing in it. I love putting bids in on properties. I put one in just this week. I looked at it once, went back again to take a harder look, to evaluate the cost per sf, the location, the amenities, the necessary renovations in the next few years, and put in a price that I was certain wouldn’t result in a win, but was more than fair for the property. I lost, but learned that there were eight bidders, and that an over ask, no finance contingency, and no inspection contingency wasn’t enough to seal the deal. That’s good data. It will make my next offer that much better.
I passed on two others that I took hard looks at. One needed the type of work that comes with a thirty year tenant, and nary an upgrade during that time, and the numbers didn’t pencil out. Too high a price for the assumed risk, for a property that I never intended to live in. You’ve got to be willing to live in it, or rent it, until you can sell it for a profit, or fish and cut bait so that you can free up your cash to make a smarter decision the next time.
The last property was dreamy. Needed the kind of love I could have given her, but was out of my price range. I knew it when I looked at it, but feel better knowing that she had three offers at over ask. How do I know, I asked. It was on the sunny side of the street, but if you are stone cold broke, no amount of sun will warm you up if you’ve made a decision that leaves you house poor.
The year is off to an exciting start. Stay warm this weekend.
There is something romantic, intriguing, and comforting about small spaces. They are the warm womb of security that is often missing from the cold expanse of our global existence. They are economy and ingenuity, they are the hostess that makes you feel seen, special, attended to, despite the room full of other guests. They are the double take, and smoke and mirrors of a master illusionist. They are the embodiment of Mies Van Der Rohe’s old addage: “Less is more.” – = +
Done right, a small space invites you to climb aboard and stay a while. Done poorly, it can leave you in a cold sweat, shallow breaths that never get past your collar bone, oxygen deprivation causing a charcoal smear on the perimeter of your lens of vision. Throw down the sash of that new/old Art Deco Orient Express cabin window and inhale the cool night air. Even a 30sf cabin aboard a train can be made to feel palatial with thoughtful detailing.
I think it started with I Dream of Jeannie’s bedroom in a bottle. What little girl wouldn’t want to climb up that ladder and alight on that plush velvet boudoir of a bed. As my sister would say: “purple promise”. We’ll leave it at that. I was hooked. Then came the Merimeco curtains my mother made for the Curlew, our 54′ Slip Jack Catch, my very own first apartment with its hidden doors, secret compartments, and furniture on invisible wheels, it was part of the fixed cabinetry one moment, and serving up cocktails to the guests in the middle of the living room the next. Surprise and delight, surprise and delight, surprise and delight.
Whether you are building a set on a stage, an apartment on steel wheels, or jetting passengers half way across the globe, it truly doesn’t matter the size of the space in which you do it. It matters how you make “them” feel, and by “them”, I mean YOU.
As I search for a fresh take in this new year. I return to some of my old favorites, find new jaw-dropping inspirations, and offer thanks to my mother, and the universe for never allowing me to get a Barbie Dreamhouse. It is the unmet need that fuels my real estate ambition.
They are stories in silk, woven with the wondrous, and fantastical, the realistic, and the magical. Of the moment, of the mythical, of the mountain majesties, the desert plains, the soundless ocean floors, and royal castle doors. They are imagination gone wild, splicing worlds together, blending and blurring and ever obscuring boundaries. The thinnest of barriers sit between night and day, childhood and adulthood, between East and West. It’s a cacophony of carefully curated chaos, so artistically and intricately executed that to be lost in it, is to find yourself enchanted.
For those that track color trends, they offer the fullest expression of the hues of twenty-two, with their moody blues, and saturated shades. There are earthy tones, warm creamy neutrals, and muddy greens, browns, and roses. They hint at depth and texture, and detail, all of which will play starring roles in the new year. While they are unadorned, the images they depict are anything but. There are flowers and feathers and fringe and finery. The “more” of the maximalist methodology that will dominate the year. There will be layers of texture and pattern that don’t even try to hide their playful abandon.
Embrace the contradictions in action. Like the eponymous brand, Hermes was a thief and an athlete, a soul guide and a shepherd. The God of boundaries, music and speed, wit and sleep. He was a protector of travelers, and a source of good luck. His winged feet are emblematic of his role as messenger, which seems fitting for a year that is likely to be filled with Yes-No directives.
Get lost in the details. Confusion, such as it is, is just another way of letting you know that you can never be wrong for long. Let the experimentation begin.