Beginning the Home Buying Process-Workshop Post

I’m trying out a “Workshop Post” style, where we DO what I do, together in realtime.

I have My MLS up as I write this article and we “work” through the scenario together, online.  The client will be hypothetical, but fairly consistent with an average actual scenario.

Young couple want a home for $500,000 in 98033 that is at least 2,500 sf, no more than 5 years old, with a lake view, if possible.  These parameters feel “off” to me, so before we talk about looking at homes, I go with the client, to the computer and test the parameters.  “Let’s put these in the mls and see if any have sold in the last 6 months using these parameters.”

Entering 98033, max price of $500,000, minimum year built 2002, with a Lake View.  Zero Found.  Before we take out the Lake View, let’s try shifting to 98034.  Nope, still Zero Found.  Before we take out the Lake View criteria, let’s try built since 1990 and 2,000 sf or better.  Still nothing.  OK, let’s take out the age of house restriction and see if that buys a Lake View.  Nope, still none.  Husband says, “Can I get a Lake View if I up the price to $600,000?”  We find a couple in both 98033 and 98034.

Wife starts getting teary eyed, doesn’t like the style of those houses and is not willing to trade down to houses like that just to get a view.  Husband and wife talk and agree that getting a veiw isn’t worth trading down in age and size and style.

Start over.  Back to original parameters of not more than $500,000 in 98033, 2,500 sf, built since 2002, but with no Lake View.  Nope, still none.  We shift to 98034 and we find one, but wife doesn’t like the style of home.

Buyers are getting discouraged.  I take over at this point and help them out.


I say are you looking for something like this?  It has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths.  It was built in 1995, has 2,350 sf on a 10,000 plus sf lot and sold for $540,000.

Now we have two big smiles.  YES!!  They say, but we really wanted Kirkland.  I ask why.  They say because they wanted Lake Washington School District.  I say this IS Lake Washington School District, but it’s in Zip Code 98011 in the Finn Hill section of Bothell, possibly in the section Kirkland is talking about annexing.  Have to check on that.  They say they don’t care, as long as it is Lake Washington School District.  I say, but if it is in the “likely to be annexed” portion, the value may improve if the address becomes “City of Kirkland”, which would make it an even better investment. 

Now I give them “the bad news” that it likely has LP siding.  They ask how I know that?  We talk a bit about why it likely has this type of siding, and what that means, and not to limit to just this type and location I move on to other likely good scenarios and show them these houses:

all of which are in Kirkland, and come up with 10 to 12 other good options just outside of their original parameters.  In Kirkland, but a little older, newer, but  little smaller, older but remodeled, etc…

Now we are all happy and on the same page before we begin to look for property.

Agents often ask my why I don’t just tell them all of this in the first place, as I obviously don’t need to “go through the motions” to know what I already knew at the end.  I do it because it doesn’t take very long and I can’t really tell someone to knock out the view consideration or switch their other parameters.  I need to go through the motions because some will change to condo with a view or townhome, and some will stick with single family. 

By using what HAS SOLD in the last six months, instead of what is for sale today, we can see the likelihood of whether or not the option WILL exist into the future. Very Important.

Not everyone moves in the same direction, once the original parameters need to take a shift this way or that a bit.  So playing through the process is the only way I know how to have the client move the parameters, and not the agent alone.  Once they determined Lake View was the one parameter that was going to be moved, and once they knew the reason they imposed those parameters, such as School District, I was able to speed through to a “better place” and ease their pain.

This experimental post is what I think people mean when they say they want “more transparency” about how real estate really functions.  If you like it, I’ll do some more using other areas such as Green Lake, Redmond, etc…  I can’t do places outside of my service area, so don’t ask me to do Columbus, Ohio :), but I can take specific requests for a post like this one.