Folding socks has always stressed me out.  It’s my least favorite household chore, and I can only muster the courage when the rest of the house is clean, all other laundry is folded and put away, and I have no other ways to distract myself.  So it rarely happens.  But when it does, here’s how I roll.  I want to know I have all socks washed, dried, and together.  I go through drawers and look for loner stowaways, and add them to the socks that have accumulated from the mainstream laundry.

 

When I’m sure I have them all in one pile, I sort them from biggest to smallest, also by colors and patterns.  My daughters help me, and we try to make it fun like the card game Memory, or we have races to see who can make the most matches the fastest.  But inevitably about half of them end up mateless.  And here’s where it turns difficult, as I have a mound of decisions I now have to make about which socks to keep and which ones to pitch.  Thoughts like these start running through my head:

 

“I think the partner for this one is in the Lego bin.  Better hold on to it until we dig it out.”

 

“This cute ruffled sock was left by a kiddo at last weekend’s slumber party, and she probably wants it back”.

 

“We’re down to three remaining hard to find chartreuse soccer uniform socks, and we’re only halfway through the season.  Let’s keep this one as a spare.”

 

“They say that socks go missing in evil clothes dryers and reincarnate as extra Tupperware lids.  Maybe if I run all my Tupperware through the dishwasher, I can reverse the process.”

 

“I spent $50 on these ultra cushy, favorite, discontinued hiking socks.  I can’t stand the thought of throwing that much money away, so I’ll keep it as a souvenir and pray its mate shows up soon.”

 

“This one is soooo cute…it would make a great sock puppet someday!”

 

So although I toss a few grungy repeat offenders, my decision fatigue always sets in and most of the orphans go back into a bag to be dealt with at the next sock folding “party”.  I’ve tried to avoid these dilemmas by:

 

  1. Making the entire family wear exactly the same socks, same size, same color, all the time.
  2. Avoiding socks altogether:  “Hey kids!  Let’s all just wear flip flops or have stinky shoes and feet for a while!”
  3. Declaring that mismatched socks are a wonderful fashion statement, the envy of all.
Alas, none of these plans have worked.  Turns out we really do need socks in different sizes and colors, they’re great for hygiene, and flip-flops are darn cold in the winter.  And sadly, wearing one tall pink sock with one short green one has never been and never will be en vogue.  So I still have my pile of sock orphans.  Ughhh…

 

Why do I share this in a real estate blog?  Because sock folding is a metaphor for so many other things we do in life.  It offers insights about the way humans find peace and like to make educated decisions in the Information Age, and I believe it shows us where the real estate industry is headed.

Just as I like to have all my sock candidates spread out neatly and sorted before making pairs, home buyers and sellers want to know all their options up front, side by side for transparent comparison. And just as throwing a sock away is an irreversible decision warranting careful consideration, so is a real estate transaction.

In this era where information is so easily gathered and shared, buyers and sellers expect and deserve efficiency. They want accurate, constantly updated search engines with powerful filters to quickly, exhaustively explore the inventory of homes for sale. They want to avoid wasting time on showings of properties that should have been identified as nonstarters from the get-go.

Homes should be so thoroughly described online via photos, virtual tours, floorplans, and videos, that visiting in person is simply a confirmation that it looks as expected. It’s frustrating for buyers to tour a home and fall in love, only to find out it is about to sell to someone else and the listing agent forgot to change status to pending. Or to have to wait weeks to see a home because the seller or one of the agents is out of town or non-communicative. Sellers don’t want to prep their 2-story house for hours and leave to accommodate a showing appointment, then have the buyer not come, or leave immediately saying “Oops, I had no idea it was a 2 story house, I want a single story.” Virtual open houses available online 24/7 will become the norm as technology expands and tolerance for inefficiency and misinformation fades.

Besides streamlining home tours, the loan and escrow processes will also improve along with data science. Buyers can shop lenders online for low interest rates and closing costs. With a little effort and math they can quickly understand financing products and effects of loan terms on cash flow and overall cost of ownership. Expectations are for loan qualification and underwriting to be fast, thorough, and free of surprises. Appraisal practices have become standardized, and market trends are becoming easy to find and track with all the data slicers and dicers sharing their work online. The overall health of the market and high volume of sales have made appraisals increasingly predictable as well. Title companies are required to post their fees and stick to them, so buyers can make informed decisions when choosing an escrow company to enforce a contract. Homeowner associations and hazard insurance providers are also following suit and making impactful financial information readily available online.

Helpful vendors like home inspectors and repair contractors can also be found and vetted online. Technologies in their industries have improved, resulting in more thorough, less invasive inspections than ever before. Infrared heat detectors, drone cameras, and waterproof scopes are a few examples of tools used to help buyers and sellers understand property conditions and minimize the threat of both patent and latent defects.

Savvy buyers and sellers are also exploring their representation options. They want to know whether they’ll save more money by working with agents, going the solo/FSBO route, or using iBuyers like OpenDoor or Offerpad. They are willing to have fierce conversations about commissions and interview multiple agents, and who can blame them?! There is a full spectrum of buyers and sellers with varied motivations to save time and money. Along with other decisions made during a real estate transaction, agency and negotiation options and fees are becoming easier to discover and compare online.

Until real estate deals can be conducted entirely from sleek online dashboards (which I do think will eventually happen), there is still some hard physical and mental work involved. Buyers and sellers should at least seek a la carte help in areas where they lack expertise. It is wise to have an advocate in the form of a Realtor, or at least a close friend or family member who has bought and sold properties, to help gather information, guide the process, and avoid pitfalls.

Whether it’s a small choice like keeping a sock, a big move like buying or selling a house, or a monumental, far-reaching decision like picking a spouse or career, my advice is to not be in a rush. Take an appropriate amount of time to research and compare options, risks, and opportunity costs. Use technology when appropriate, and start with a list of questions you think you should be asking. Share your list of questions with sage, respected advisors and try to come up with answers and more questions together. Leave no stone unturned. And in the end, make the decision with your eyes wide open and hopefully a deep sense of peace.

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