Market News March 18, 2010

Lessons From The Mountain

Last summer I had the opportunity to climb Mount Rainier. At just over 14,000 feet, Rainier is iconic in that many world-class climbers practice on it to prepare themselves for the really big ones like Mount Everest. Since I’m an amateur climber, I relied on a professional guide to help me up and down the mountain.

Climbing a mountain isn't easy. Getting to the top is an exhilarating and rewarding accomplishment – and humbling, too. As I trudged up and down the mountain over three days, I had a lot of time to think, and I was struck by some interesting parallels to the more grounded world of real estate.

Prepare Well

You don't just get up one day and decide to climb the mountain. It requires weeks and months of conditioning to prepare for the incredible test of strength and stamina the mountain demands. It also means planning: What gear should I take? What weather conditions should I prepare for? How much weight can I carry and for how long? How much of that awful carb gel will I need?

The application here to real estate is obvious: buying or selling a house requires careful planning.

Embrace a "Slow and Steady" Mindset

Climbing Mount Rainier was a three-day experience. Day one is getting to base camp at Camp Muir, and that's a four-hour hike to a bunkhouse at about 10,000 feet. Day two is on-snow training. You are taught how to stop yourself in the event of a fall, how to "read" the snow, and how to work with your group on a rope. Day two-and-a-half and day three are devoted to the ascent. It starts around midnight, to the summit in about eight or nine hours, then, the hard part, back down in about six hours. It requires a great deal of stamina, careful pacing, and a surprising amount of patience.

The housing market these days also demands stamina, pacing and patience. The combination of economic variables and market conditions requires a thoughtful and smart approach – with the knowledge that patience and timing are everything.

Use the Best Guide

As proud as I was to get to the top of Mount Rainier, I absolutely could not have done it without our experienced guides. The best guides have a combination of expertise, enthusiasm and keen judgment earned over many years. Being familiar with all the pitfalls, they helped us avoid big mistakes. They prepared us, instructed us, managed our expectations, and boosted us when we were tired and discouraged.
Experienced guides have seen it all. They are accustomed to ever changing conditions, which in the mountains can literally mean life or death. The best guides track the weather scientifically, but they also use their intuition. When they say go, you go. And when they say the timing isn't right, you stay put.

In the world of real estate, the best full-service agents really are the best guides to help you navigate some tough and tricky terrain. They've got what it takes to lead you to the top of the mountain – and they'll be there with you every step of the way. So while the parallels of mountain climbing and real estate aren’t always obvious, it’s nice to know that a rewarding accomplishment can be achieved in both.