When the market is hot, it’s hot. And when it’s not it’s not. That’s not brain surgery by any means. So if you can buy a house for a bit of a “discount” because it’s on a busy street in a great neighborhood and save a bit of money, should you?

“I remember my first house very distinctly,” a friend said over dinner the other night in his beautiful home with a drop-dead view. “We couldn’t afford a house in the neighborhood with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that we needed for our growing family so we bought one with an ‘adverse condition.'”

My husband and I leaned closer. We’ve been having this debate for more than 20 years now. I’m on the “yea” side of this argument, and he’s on the “nay” side. “If you think that this is the best price you’ll ever get for the house in this market,” he says,” what will you do if you need to sell in a downturn? Who will want this ‘dog’ on a bad day?”

“What did you buy?” I piped in, eager to hear the yea side of this story.

“It was the busiest, noisiest street in the neighborhood that everyone took to get to the freeway,” our dinner host continued. “But its negative attributes bought us 500 more square feet and an extra bedroom for my daughter.”

Not one to be content with the end of the story, my husband continued firmly, “It’s a bad investment…too risky. I couldn’t sleep knowing a friend or a client bought a house just to get into a neighborhood that they might get stuck with at a later date.”

He may be right. All that may be true. But even the highly undesirable properties that come on the market seem to be selling right now. The description “Canyon delight,” for example, means hanging off a cliff; “quaint” means small, dysfunctional rooms; and “recently updated” really means it hasn’t seen a contractor or designer since the first Gulf War.

In our local MLS, you can tell when a house is situated on a busy street or next to an apartment building because the picture is squished or taken from a funny angle. Or the house doesn’t go into “pending” in the first few days. 

However, even the best real estate agents can be fooled sometimes. They have all had the experience of getting a client excited about a new listing that turns out to be horrible. The eager buyer flies out of work during his or her lunch hour – eager enough to write an offer in the car or in the driveway. Then ugh. There it is: the alleyway for the local gas station, the unexpected curve under the overpass, the crack house next door.

The ones that really irk me are those priced to market as if nothing is wrong. Does the listing agent really think that a potential buyer is a fool? Is the role of a real estate agent or broker to find the “shoe that fits” even if it is a size 8 for a size 10 foot?

So at the end of the day, what’s an honest agent with a desperate client to do, especially if inside it’s “just perfect?”

“The role of the agent is to make the client happy,” said one of the top producers in our area. “You know that old saying, ‘to each his own’? That’s what selling real estate is like. You can’t always figure out what makes a client respond positively, and if they think that the inside looks right – even when it’s in the middle of the 405 – then it’s not up to me to talk them out of it.”

“Absolutely not,” my husband said. “The agent needs to take responsibility to make sure that the buyer doesn’t get stuck with something that they can’t sell.”

And so the debate rages on. Actually, in June it will be more like 22 years.

Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at juliebrosterman@hotmail.com.

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