Alice Garvin has lived in Alameda for more than 50 years. She sold real estate for 40 of those years. Her professional, personal knowledge and wisdom have only appreciated over time.
I’ll bet being in real estate has changed a lot from when you first got into the business.
Things were much simpler. For starters, a contract was one legal-sized page. There weren’t millions of inspections and reports done back then, and people weren’t suing each other left and right. Owners disclosed what they knew about their home and that was enough. Nowadays you’re warned that a golf ball might hit you if you live near a golf course. Everything is a big deal, and because of that, it now takes about two hours to fill out papers when you buy a home. I think what’s been lost is trust.
You’ve seen the market through a lot of ups and downs.
I think that the slump that we’re in now is a result of prices previously coming back too fast and too high after the last dip. So today everyone has an inflated idea of what they think their house is worth. I actually think today’s prices are about right. That’s hard for people to accept, though. In the early ’90s when a house wasn’t selling, we raised the price and then it would sell. The psychology was so different for both the seller and the buyer. There’s no denying though that this is the longest and the worst dip I’ve seen.
Tell me that the housing situation is going to get better.
Oh, it definitely will in Alameda. Alameda will always be the desirable island off the coast of Oakland whose community has fundamentally stayed the same. I think the diversity of employment of the residents makes a big difference. Another plus for Alameda is that we have multiple generations living here. People typically buy houses here to make them homes for years to come, not just to turn them over for a quick buck.
How did you raise seven kids alone for most of your life?
With a lot of faith and a good sense of humor. Before my husband passed away, he advised me to try and make decisions right away. He said if it’s a good decision, great; if it’s a bad one, then you will learn from it and never do it again. And he was right. It was also helpful being a being a part of a close community.
I understand you used to host a popular July 4 party in your backyard.
Yes, that’s a fond memory for me. For 26 years I hosted a potluck gathering for all of my neighbors. I had just had my deck built when the parade started happening, so it was perfect timing. Everyone brought the same thing every year. We barely had to coordinate things after a while. Whole families used to come and relax together. No one was on his or her cell phone talking or texting. We had music and lots of patriotic-themed foods and such. I used to love hearing our old friend Dr. Paul Jones get up every year and make a little speech about how proud he was to be an American. Those were good times.