As we were driving down I-95S on our way to visit colleges the old-school briefcase size car phone rang. It was my Dad on the other end. I don’t remember the specific mile marker but the conversation went something like this, “Let me guess, son. You are at Mile Marker 43 in Virginia?” My response, “Wow, Dad. We passed 43 about 5 minutes ago, we are passing Mile Marker 37 as we speak.”
On this particular trip, my cousin Zack, my best friend Mac (Brian McClellan), and I we’re driving in Mac’s white Mazda M 3 as were going to visit a couple colleges in the fall of our senior year of high school. We visited JMU, Elon (where my cousin and Zack’s brother Justin was a freshman), Chapel Hill, and we even drove over to the University of Tennessee. None of us ended up going to any of these schools, and I’m not even sure if we were serious about any of them. It was just a teenager’s excuse for a ‘road-trip’ and to see Justin. The weekend trip was a blast and gave us a little flavor of what to expect during our own college experience.
My dad and I started the “guessing game” when I got my license, and we have been playing for 20+ years whenever either of us goes on a long-distance trip. My Dad has an ability to know my location give or take a few miles on such trips. And since I’m older with kids of my own and my parents now travel more often, I do the same when they go on trips. I’ll call him and guess his ‘mile-marker.’ I must say, he doesn’t drive as fast as he used to as I now regularly guess that he has traveled further than he actually has.
Frankly, now that I’m actually writing about this… and with kids of my own, the reason he probably did this was to check in and make sure that I was ok.
But, you know what? It wasn’t until I was 38 years old and actually thought about our ‘game’ that I realized there was a deeper (parenting) aspect instead of him just calling and guessing my location. It never seemed like he was checking in, and I’ve always had a great relationship with my parents anyway, so it was never an annoyance.
I’ve since started playing this game with my brother-in-law when he goes on long distance trips and also my in-laws when they are either driving to Maryland from South Carolina or vice-versa. It’s a fun way to keep track and to ‘check-in’ on loved ones to gauge their progress.
Why do I tell you all this?
Well, when I started dating Susan in 1999 (and her grandparents, Aunts and Uncles lived in South Carolina) and especially since her parents retired in 2002 and moved to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina, I’ve been making this 8ish hour trek 2-3 times a year. We’ve made this trip 50+ times. Some smoother than others. Some longer than others. And when we made this journey before Anthony was born in 2006, we didn’t have to plan our departure time as much as we do now. We could leave whenever Susan got off work, or wait til after rush hour and leave. And at that point in our lives, it didn’t really matter if the trip took 7 hours and 45 minutes or 9 hours. We could drive for a while, stop and have dinner, and get back on the road.
Once Anthony was born, the trip became MUCH MORE strategic.
It took us a good 2 years of trial and error to figure out when to leave with a newborn and then an infant/toddler to make the trip as uneventful as possible. If you have kids and have ever had to stay in the car for a long distance trip, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
So, the first couple of times we tried this, we would leave about bedtime 7-8p. But the problem with this was two-fold. First, I had been up working all day, driving on 95 at 1-2am on an empty road is boring, and thus I became very drowsy. Second, when we’d get to Lou and Linda’s (my in-laws) at around 4am, Anthony would be wide away and ready to rock and roll. By then I’m going on 24 hours of no sleep, and catching a few hours of shut-eye was nearly impossible. Then for the first 2 days of the trip, I’m trying to ‘catch up.’ The time for this trip was around 8 and a half hours. There wasn’t much traffic, but I had to stop 3-4 times for gas, to eat, or just get fresh air. After a few trips like this, the lack of sleep was too much, and we changed our strategy.
So, we then tried to get an hour or 2 of sleep and leave at 11p-midnight. Our thought process here was that it would be morning when we’d arrive at Lou and Linda’s and we would just start our day. This trip too, was ok, but again resulted in the same problems as above and lack of sleep. I don’t know about you, but the older I’ve gotten, the more I need to get a decent amount of sleep.
About this time Alex was born, and traveling with 2 kids was even more challenging than traveling with one. But not only that, once we arrived, there was no break.
So, about 4-5 years ago we tried our 3rd and by FAR the best strategy that we’ve tried for timing the drive to Myrtle Beach. We would all go to bed at our regular times and wake up about 4am. Make coffee, make a shower to wake up, and we’d hit the road somewhere between 4:30-5a. This strategy has worked great. I get close to a full night sleep. I’m refreshed. The kids are asleep for the first 2-3 hours of the trip. And – most importantly- we get past the beltway without any traffic. If we wait another hour, we hit beltway traffic and easily add another half hour to hour (plus stress) to the drive. We can typically condense the stops to one or two stops.
By the time my Dad calls me when he wakes up to do our mile-marker check we are usually somewhere around the Virginia/North Carolina border.
We then arrive sometime between noon and 1p, depending on the traffic once we get off 95, and we typically make the trip in between 7 hours and 45 minutes and 8 hours and 15 minutes. We can then have lunch with Lou and Linda, and the kids still have plenty of daylight to play the rest of the day.
The same thing works coming back… Leaving at 4:30-5am puts us on the beltway about 11:30, and although this can be hit or miss, it is typically the lightest traffic time of the day.
I’m always timing our trips, so I know that our record was 7 hours and 16 minutes from the time we pulled out of one driveway and pulled into our destinations driveway. The LONGEST trip, absolutely SUCKED. This was one of Susan’s and my first trips when we were still experimenting with timing and left after work one day. We hit all kinds of traffic and ended up being on the road for 11 hours and 45 minutes. We had to find alternative routes because of accidents and heavy traffic. This was the absolute worst.
I’m telling you all this because TIMING the departure has a direct effect on the travel time.
We drove to Lou and Linda’s the day after Christmas this year, leaving at our 4:36am time and only had one stop. The kids slept the first part of the way and then watched DVD’s and played games the rest of the way. Now that they are 8 and 5 years old, they can be somewhat independent on the trip, which is MUCH easier. We made excellent time and pulled into Lou and Linda’s driveway at 11:52am, matching our best ever time of 7 hours and 16 minutes.
A week later, having had an enjoyable week with Lou and Linda and extended family near Myrtle Beach, it was time for us to come home. The day after New Year’s, we made the return trip. This time we bought another ½ hour of sleep and pulled out of their driveway at 5:02am. Again, 1 stop during the trip. And not much traffic on the beltway. We made it home at 12:08pm, besting our previous time by 10min. Now, in the scheme of things, 10 minutes isn’t that big of deal, but planning out a strategy for the optimum time is. You see, Lou and Linda had to fly out of BWI two days later, and they came to our house for one night before they went on their trip. They made the trip from Myrtle to Maryland the day after we did. But instead of leaving very early in the morning, they waited until about 8:30am. This puts them on the Beltway and 95 on high traffic times. I mentioned to them that they might encounter some traffic around DC leaving at that time. And they did. The same trip, leaving 3 hours later in the day added an additional hour and 36 minutes to their trip.
A slight change on timing can make such a huge difference.
I relate this back to real estate and timing the market for purchasers and sellers. If timing when to list your home for sale for maximum profit was as defined as and as clear cut as timing our drive to South Carolina, my job would be MUCH easier and less stressful.
Most sellers (and agents for that matter) seem to think that ‘The Spring Market’ is the best time to sell your home. And although that might be true some years, in other years it is the complete wrong strategy.
Last year, for example, was one of those unusual markets. Remember last winter with all the snowfalls? The kids off school? The freezing temperatures and power outages? Well, last winter, I couldn’t keep homes on the market. There was about a 2 and a half month period from end of December through the middle of January when I couldn’t keep any homes on the market. I listed 8 homes during that period. My homes hit the market on a Thursday (there is a specific strategy about this that I might write about in another issue), and on 7 of those homes we had contracts accepted by the next Monday. No idea why this was happening. Could have been a lack of supply of homes. Might have been great interest rates. Not sure, but it was atypical to the conventional thought process about when is the best time to list for maximum profits.
I saw this happening and evolving, so a couple of weeks in, I called 2 of my friends (my clients either are, or become friends because of the closeness upon which our relationship evolves) who had been thinking about selling for the last year or so.
I told them, “Guys, I’m not sure what is going on, but I can’t keep listings on the market. If you are truly thinking of selling. NOW is the time.”
Both said, yes they wanted to sell. So, I put Stacy and Sharon into action. Both homes were Scientifically Staged beautifully and Annie photographed amazingly.
The result- Jeremy and Beth received an offer on their home the first week that it was on the market. It took some time to negotiate, but the end result is they have, and still HAVE, the highest sold townhouse in their old neighborhood in the last 5 years.
Shane and Shannon, another couple, received two offers the first weekend that their house was on the market and accepted one. The kicker here: their house hit the market during one of the huge snowstorms last year, and there was only 1 day that people could get into see their home. But the timing of listing their home allowed them to get a contract, sell, and move into a beautiful new home.
So timing can have as much of an impact on everything else that we do: The Scientific Stage, The Professional Photos, the professional cleaning, the pre-listing inspection, etc. If the timing is right and the above are done correctly, the results can be amazing. If we do everything correctly and the timing is wrong, then maximum profits may not be realized. This is one of the reasons that having a seasoned professional who monitors the local market daily and can detect trends before ‘the public’ can be invaluable.
So next time you ask yourself, “Is now a good time to sell?” stay away from the traditional thinking and listening to the mass media…
Much like the slight adjustment of leaving at 5am instead of 8am can save almost 2 hours on a trip, the timing of selling your home at a particular time, as compared to waiting 3-4 months, could put tens of thousands of additional profits in your pocket.
And, if you have family getting ready to drive or go on a long-distance trip… remember the guessing game and see how accurate you can be.