[photopress:Atticus_1_2.jpg,full,alignright]I was watching the Oscars the other night. There was a brief clip of “To Kill a Mockingbird” where Atticus is telling Scout that you have to step into another man’s shoes/skin and walk around in them a bit, before you can know…(paraphrased). It reminded me of the many people I have helped find the “right” home over the years. I try to remember when I stopped “showing” houses and started “finding” them.
I remember sitting in my office one day noticing all of the agents who were listing homes of people whom they sold the same homes to a short time before, and wondering why my clients were content with the homes I sold to them. My sister is still in the same house I sold to her in 1992. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law are still in the same home I sold to them around the same time. Every once in a while I do an owner search and find that the people are still there, living in that same house I sold to them, many years later.
Finding the “right” house to buy has a whole lot more to do with “where” than “which house”. People buy a “lifestyle”. The absolutely perfect house in the wrong place for you, does not seem to make someone as happy as finding the right house in the right place.
I was meeting a man last night in a dark parking lot to show him a property that is “not for sale”. I met him back in May or June of last year. Since that time I have told him not to buy several properties and last night I took him to “the” property he should buy. It was what is known as a “pocket” listing and involved two other agents and no written agreements to pay any of us. For him it was more about the right property and the right circumstances. The right property for him unfortunately is the kind that gets multiple offers. His demeanor and need to process the info, just doesn’t lend itself to a competitive environment, so I had to find something that wasn’t for sale. No other buyers vying for the same property.
I have three or four buyer clients right now in the same price range, but they all have different profiles. My partner brings me properties for sale and says “How about this one for X & X?” I say no…wrong lifestyle. They need a newer house built in 1995 or 1998 in this neighborhood and that elementary school… He checks with the buyer. They agree with me. He comes back with a condo and says this one is perfect for X! I look at him and wonder why he thinks that, it is obvious to me that X does NOT want to live there. He checks with X and X doesn’t even respond.
The X and X couple needs a house in a newer neighborhood where a large percentage of the neighborhood has younger children. Where there are pavements to walk all over with a stroller and maybe a tot lot. A remodeled home in an older neighborhood with no sidewalks and mostly “empty-nesters” for neighbors, won’t do. I have pinpointed the exact neighborhood and am sending letters to all of the homes that would likely sell in their price range. I target the homes based on year built and assessed value using the tax records.
Mr. X needs a condo in a lively area, not too close to work. He is a workaholic and needs to go “home”. If his “home” is too close to work he will be tempted to drop by the office nights and weekends. He has to look out of his window and see something relaxing. He needs a territorial view or a lake view and not a lot of business and traffic and yet at the same time, he needs to be able to walk out of his front door and window shop or stop by the coffee house and mingle with people.
Ms. X works from home and needs to be close to downtown Kirkland, but also needs enough space not to be “confined” while working from home. She needs to be close to her friends and church and yet her price range and space needs predict that she needs to be just outside of where she would most like to be.
I first take people to property to get into their skin…not to find a property. I look into their eyes and watch their body language like a profiler. I take them to properties I pick that are not alike at all. It’s like the optometrist who keeps putting lenses with slight differences and saying “is this better than that?” “How about this?” Once I find what they like and don’t like, usually after showing them 3-6 properties. I go out and get “that”. Usually it’s not for sale, yet. I watch for it to come on market or I actively seek it out by writing people who own “it”. I don’t tell people they can’t have what they want because it is not for sale, but I do tell them they can’t have it if it doesn’t exist or is not in their price range. Agents have in their brains and via the tax records, a fairly good handle on the “realm of possibilities”. Getting access to the mls does not empower the consumer, it limits them to what is for sale.
Don’t sit at a computer screen looking at property until you have first identified “where” you will be happy. Think more about what makes you happy. I like to walk down a street with lots of houses and look at the architecture and flowers in people’s gardens and say “hey” to the neighbors. Put me in a great house on an acre lot out in the middle of nowhere, and I may love my house, but hate my lifestyle. Conversely, some people hate to walk outside of their home and have someone look over at them and say “hey, neighbor!” They are like, “Oh God, I just want to read my morning paper in peace!”
So spend at least as much time knowing where you will be happy as you do calculating monthly payments and number of bedrooms and “to thine own self be true”. First find your lifestyle match and then your house. You will be much happier in the long run if you do.