Mood of the Market
Mood of the Market
Editor's note: This is the final column in a four-part series.
I recently signed up to use a virtual assistant service for a couple of small online research projects. These particular projects are simple to do but I never have time for them. They don't take much subject matter knowledge, but they do take a soupcon of good judgment and discretion.
Done correctly, they have the potential to save me a whole lot of time. But you know what? In the past, I've actually hired on-site assistants and paid them for hours' worth of work on these projects before, and have never really seen them be done to my satisfaction.
Yet the other day, I logged on to a new assistant service I'd heard about, described the project and put it up for bids. I had about eight "runners" bid on the project within the first hour after I'd posted it. I reviewed their bids (the dollar amount they said they would do the work for), and their backgrounds.
I selected a runner and dropped her a line with a little more descriptive information about what I wanted and needed from her, and I gave her a deadline several days out. Three days early, I had the completed first project in my hands -- done to perfection. For less than one hour's wages to one of my former assistants.
So, what gives? It's not so much that my former assistants were lacking. The problem was, they were smart people, and we were pretty friendly, too, so I expected they would know what I wanted. So I just gave them a vague idea of what I was looking for, and, as a result, I got a vague approximation of the result I was looking for.
With the virtual assistant (and a couple of years more management experience under my belt), I didn't know her from Eve, nor did she know me. And I wasn't paying her to get to know me -- just to do a simple, finite research project.
So, I gave her extremely explicit instructions for what I needed, what I planned to use the outcome of her research for, and even prepared a spreadsheet for her with headers she could just drop the information into.
I briefed her on what the next step of the project would be, and told her very precisely what I felt a successful outcome would be. And voila -- no questions asked -- she was able to deliver precisely what I was looking for.
The final column in this series of four fundamental elements of being a successful real estate consumer -- whether a homebuyer, seller, owner or investor -- is to set yourself up for success by knowing with clarity what outcome you are aiming for, and then holding your decisions and actions to account against that aim at every step along the way.
Know what you want, and make sure that it's personal to you -- not something you think you may want because someone said you needed the tax deductions that come along with homeownership.
If you want to buy a home, know why: How is it you want and need your life to get easier or better out of the deal? Are you looking for a solid financial investment, or to create a lovely sanctuary, or to better accommodate the activities you want and need to do on a daily basis?
It's the same with selling or refinancing -- ask yourself, "What's in it for me?"
Your answer may even change your course of action. I've known homeowners who were freaking out at being upside down and called up wanting to sell, stat, who calmed down and course-corrected back to staying in their homes when they realized that the home and mortgage payment all still worked well for their lives.
There was really nothing in a short sale or move for them that would make their daily lives noticeably better than it already was.
This is about accountability -- holding yourself to account. To yourself, that is. This is how you'll make sure that your life actually gets better every time you buy, sell or move, and not worse.
Sounds basic, but you can bet your bottom dollar that there are a bunch of your fellow Americans out there that wish they'd had a better system for holding themselves and their decisions accountable to some standard around life enhancement before they did that last refinance or moved up to the bigger place.
The dark side of rising home prices
What's Your Home Worth?