My buyer clients know that they count on me to remind them that while fair market value, the comparables and the likely appraised value are all important inputs to their decision on how much to offer for any given property, the price they offer must also pass the final gut-check question: "What’s it worth to you?"
I’ve been finding myself asking that same question of homebuyers in a different context lately, though — the context of what they’re willing to do, to what lengths of personal inconvenience are they willing to go — to do the work of house hunting and successfully buy a home on today’s market.
Taking a step back, let me preface this mini-rant with another phrase my clients are used to hearing me say: "I don’t sell shoes." Not to minimize the importance of shoes and shoe salespeople whatsoever — shoes are a source of utility, comfort and, sometimes, even delight(!) in my world. However, my reality is that the item I sell is, for most of my clients, the single largest, most important purchase they will ever make.
Throughout my real estate career, I have used exactly this rationale to explain away the freak-outs, anxiety and drama some clients experience and even create — they’re not nut-jobs, they’re just stressed out. And while it is certainly possible to have a drama-free real estate transaction, I also have a great deal of compassion for those who don’t know that yet. Long story short: If there’s a purchase that warrants being stressed out about, it’s this one.
I have also used the import of the transaction of homebuying to justify years of working at all hours of the day and night, extreme family sacrifices (e.g., showing houses on even the most sacred of holidays, if necessary) and other personal lifestyle concessions to my profession, like getting up at 4:30 a.m. everyday, among other things.
I’ve actually had more than one client say something like, "Geez, T, you work so much. You really need to take a vacation. Just please don’t do it during my deal!"
And for the most part, I acquiesce. The obvious complication with this, from my perspective, is that if I do this for everyone, I would never take a vacation! But, you know what? I don’t sell shoes, I sell houses, so I make some sacrifices in honor of what I see as the sacred trust my clients have placed in me. …CONTINUED
So, I’m not complaining. However, what concerns me sometimes is the misalignment between:
1. a broker/agent’s willingness to go to all sorts of time-sacrificing extremes in the name of the extreme import of this purchase; and
2. the clients’ willingness (or lack thereof) to do the same — for their own transactions!
Weddings, funerals, business trips and on-call hours — I get it when these inescapable, "unreschedulable" obligations stop you from getting out to see a property or delay your ability to make an offer.
But in our current market’s landscape of multiple offers, super-short average days on the market and looming changes to loan guidelines that threaten to slash your buying power in a couple of weeks, when you get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a place and you don’t show up because of the following reasons — "I’m helping my friend move that day"; "I have a barbecue to go to"; "That would mean I’d have to get up at 9 a.m. on a Sunday — and that’s just too early!" or "I have a friend here from out of town, and we wanted to go to brunch" … I begin to question just how much of a priority this purchase really is for you, and even to rethink the extremes I’ve been willing to go to in the name of this being your biggest deal ever.
I’ll go to extremes — without complaint, because that’s what I do. But when our calendar is booked and you want an appointment at the last minute, and we get you one then you remember that there’s a church concert you wanted to attend right at the same time, as important as church is, it becomes a little bit harder in that moment for me to take you as seriously when you say your purchase is super-urgent.
Here’s the deal — flat out — you should be at least as willing as I am to make scheduling sacrifices for your house hunt. It can’t be all urgent for me, and not for you. Good, mutually beneficial human relationships don’t work like that — in life or in real estate.
And, sellers, you are not off the hook on this one. You ask how to get top dollar for your home and we give you a list of things to do around the house and otherwise.
But the $300 pest inspection the $500 handyman bill or the weekend it’ll "cost" you to declutter is just beyond what you can do, because you’re going to a high school debate or you’d rather spend the cash on a weekend away. Uh, well, OK, but don’t call me when you don’t get what you want! You’re making a clear statement of your priorities here.
Buying or selling a home is something that you do somewhere between once and a few times in your lifetime. And, like everything, doing it well and wisely takes some work, time and sacrifices. I know literally dozens, even hundreds of brokers and agents who are willing to work nights and weekends, invest their own money and go to all sorts of extremes to help you pull it off. You should be, too.
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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