Once I went to hear Jon Krakauer, the mountain climber/writer, speak about his book “Into Thin Air.” The book is about a terrible mountaineering accident, and the thing I remember Krakauer saying is that mountaineering is so dangerous because there are so many different ways to die — you can fall, or you can freeze to death, or you can have an aneurysm, or you can get hit by an avalanche, or your oxygen fails and you simply run out of breath. (I think there were more, but you get the point.)
I feel this way about buyers; it’s not that they lie, it’s that there are so many different ways they can do it. I think I’ve figured out every mendacity, and they find another. Maybe that’s why my sneaky little subconscious came up with the violent mountaineering-deaths comparison; but really, it’s too good for them!
I mean, I know sellers can be difficult, but at bottom, they only want one thing: a big pile of money. Getting there may be tough, but at least there’s an objective — and one that, as agents, we understand.
But buyers? Who knows what’s going through their pointy little heads? Certainly not what’s coming out of their mouths.
Take Al, the buyer who wanted a condo in the $500s. The $500s became the $600s, and the $600s became the $700s. Good news for me — except that we were on a local, making stops along the way at $525K, $550K, and so on. The apartments? Only marginally different from each other.
And I’m beginning to think the train won’t stop at an eventual transaction.
Or Betty, the buyer I just captured because she visited my building with her parents. I spent a long time talking to them about what they wanted — because they were traveling together. Silly, silly me — it was only after I spent a precious hour working up the open house schedule they’d asked for that I learned that she had vastly different ideas from Mom and Dad — happily declaring her independence, yet dissatisfied with her reduced buying power.
Let’s not forget Sean, who knew I was a Greenwich Village specialist, so he had me turning over every stone in the Village for something that didn’t exist — only to move to Brooklyn. Brooklyn, I tell you! The two places are as different as L.A. and San Francisco, so why was I wasting my time on one when he was considering the other?
Price point; decision maker; geography; and we haven’t even gotten to features. When I was a buyer, I was such a good client. I said I wanted a doorman in Chelsea, I bought into a doorman building in Chelsea. I searched with a boyfriend for a place with a big kitchen, we found a place with a big kitchen, we bought it. What on earth are these people doing all this running around for?
Maybe some of you more experienced agents can translate for me; maybe there’s a system I don’t know, where I listen to every fourth word or something. (I’m really reluctant to adopt one widely followed method, which is to simply lackadaisically show buyers the inventory I have, like a lazy waitress waving her hand at a pie case.)
I know some of the trouble is price point. My first apartment, I could literally have let the bank foreclose on my $52,000 mortgage without incurring a whole lot of financial harm. When that first mortgage has another zero after it, you do have to swallow twice.
But at some point you do have to swallow. I just sent Betty another e-mail, extolling the glories of four apartments she can get on her own paycheck. And maybe she’ll love one of them, and we’ll go see it, and she’ll make an offer, and we’ll close, and I’ll get paid.
Or maybe it’s just a gigantic misdirection on her part. I’m not exactly holding my breath.