I recently had the great fortune to become acquainted with Danielle LaPorte, co-author of a book called "Style Statement." The book’s purpose is to lead each reader through a series of questions resulting in a unique, two-word style statement. A style statement describes your personal style, and according to the book, "define(s) the true you … Your style statement is where your essence meets your expression."
Sample style statements from the book include "Enduring Bold," "Sacred Elegance" and "Structured Soul."
Intrigued by the prospect of capturing something as holistic as one’s personal style with such nuance and depth in two simple (but carefully chosen) words, I was reminded of this style statement idea the other day when working with several different sets of clients: buyers and sellers.
It occurred to me that there are distinctive types of buyers and sellers, profiles or templates for their pre-contract real estate behavior — not so much personality types as distinctive ways I’ve repeatedly observed in buyers and sellers that show up in their transactions, and during the house hunting and marketing periods.
Now, when you write a style statement, you’re supposed to choose two words as follows, according to the book:
Based on the 80/20 principle, the first word represents your foundation, the 80 percent your essence. The second word is your creative edge, your distinction — it’s the 20 percent that makes all the difference in being your whole self.
So, I’d say about 95 percent of my clients are sensible, smart, ethical people, at their essence. (Simply consider, as evidence of their smarts, their selection of broker: yours truly. Kidding.) So, perhaps they’d all have something lovely but basic, like "Decent" or "Brilliant" or "Righteous" or "Upstanding" as their essential foundation, the first word of their Real Estate version of LaPorte’s style statement. OK, so the first word is settled.
That leaves us only to come up with the second word — the term of distinction — the descriptor for what makes them unique and differentiates them from each other. We’ll review some profiles of seller next time. But buyers demonstrate a fascinating range of profiles when it comes to their house-hunting behavior:
The Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY-er). These are the buyers who get that they should take advantage of a pro’s pricing advice, negotiation expertise, contractual representation and escrow coordination skills — but do most of their house hunting solo. They get listings from me or online, and then head out to open houses every Sunday afternoon. They screen and perhaps ring me up to revisit places they like privately, where we discuss the comparables and offer strategies.
I recently had a DIY-er couple who, when I tried to get to the root of their high anxiety level, revealed that seeing places while so many other prospective buyers were also touring them during the open house made them feel competitive about places they didn’t even like! I eventually uncovered that they were under the increasingly common, but unfortunate, impression that it was atypical for agents to drive clients around to see homes.
They thought that to even ask would create undue burden — on me! "Pshaw," I said. "This is what I do, and you deserve to see places privately before you buy. Get over yourselves. And then get in the car."
The Screener-Outer. "Hey, T, thanks for the 52 listings you screened and sent over this week. There are 1.5 I’d like to see on Sunday." "Eh, 1.5?" "Well, we think one is really a contender. The 0.5 is one that looks interesting, but more for voyeuristic purposes than anything else. That’s not a great reason to go see a place, though, right? OK, let’s just go see that other one." …CONTINUED
You’d think this type would be the bane of the broker’s existence, but the contrary is true. These types tend to be laser-beam focused and have a lion’s share of self-knowledge. They’ve owned several homes before, have lived in lots of places, and they just flat-out know what doesn’t work for them. I might not see them every weekend, but they don’t waste my time and I don’t waste theirs.
I always keep an eye on the listings, though, just to be sure there’s nothing I think they’re screening out unduly. Often, I’ll counter their suggestion that they need to see only one with a proposal to see at least one or two others that I think they might find more appealing live than the online photos might have led them to believe.
The Equal Opportunity Seer. You’ve heard of Equal Opportunity Housing, but this type of buyer takes the concept to a whole new dimension. Out of — I think — a fear that they’ll miss "the one," Equal Opportunity Seers wants to see everything. Even homes that are out of their price range or in neighborhoods they don’t want to live in.
They err on the side of living in the fantasy world that they might be able to make it work, but no matter how many times they see a 700-square-foot, three-bedroom house in the perfect neighborhood and realize that it’s entirely too small, they still always keep hope alive that the next 700-square-foot, three-bedroom house "might work if the floor plan is just right."
You’ve gotta love the eternal optimism of these Equal Opportunity Seers, but my job is to also manage them. There are so many houses and so little time, so these folks often need to be reminded of how they reacted before to that property type and/or why they should prioritize other types for their precious viewing hours.
The Yogi. You’d think the Seer and the Yogi would be related, and they are, but only very loosely. Like the Seers, the Yogis are uber-flexible about what properties they’d like to see. But unlike the Seer, the Yogi is actually uber-flexible about what properties, features, amenities and even locations and property types will work. And like real-life yogis, their openness has put them on the path to happiness.
The Nit Picker. "What did I think of the place? Well, it has gorgeous views, huge rooms, charming fireplace area, granite as far as the eye can see, brand-new chef’s appliances, a lush backyard, fabulous floor plan, located perfectly and is priced about $200,000 lower than everything else I’ve seen, but, did the closet in bedroom five seem a little small?"
Need I say more?
And the list could go on, endlessly. There’s The Flip-Flopper, who constantly changes his mind or grows new must-haves or deal-breakers. And there’s The Linguist, who overanalyzes the verbiage in the property listing and gets distracted by the unavoidable disconnects between the ad language and the reality of the property.
They all require a different approach, but they all end up in the same place, eventually: home.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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