Finally there was the connection I was looking for. As soon as I drove up in front of the house, I knew this was the home my clients were going to buy. More importantly, they did too. It had taken several weeks of searching for the right property. Despite the enthusiasm of many first-time homebuyers, previewing homes isn’t very exciting. In fact, it can be stressful, frustrating and often pretty disappointing.
Everyone begins the process with an idea of what their home should look like. Their ideal home has this designer kitchen with hardwood floors, granite counters and a bedroom-size walk-in pantry. The rooms are all huge and the ceilings tall. The landscaping is lush and the home has both views and privacy. The design is distinctive Southwest or French Country or English Tudor. What folks find, however, are REOs with worn dirty carpets and pretty average boxy houses that all have blemishes.
Often in life our expectations are higher than our reality. Part of an agent’s job is bringing a buyer’s unrealistic expectations into balance with what the client really needs or can afford. Subsequently, the agent is always presenting homes that do not meet the buyer’s initial preconceived expectations. Homebuyers may spend hours sifting through unsatisfactory homes on the Internet and deleting most of them. The best homes they will preview with their agent and most will be disappointments. Then finally, one home will be exceptional. It will not be anything like the buyer first envisioned but it will be so much better than anything else. It is a “WOW” experience. That’s when my work begins.
Gold among the grains
Early in my real estate career when a client called with an interest in a home, I thought my job was to gather all the information on the property and then recite it back to them. I would rush out to preview the home, take pictures with my Polaroid camera, measure the rooms, take detailed notes of every room and walk the property boundaries. Then I would visit the County Tax Assessor and preview their file, the County Surveyor and study the plat map and location of recorded easements and over to the Building Department to insure all the permits were properly obtained. This process could take days. Then I would call my client with all the information only to discover that he didn’t really like that location after all but there were a few others that he wanted me to check on. It finally dawned on me that often buyers make their final selection by eliminating everything else. If a buyer needed to sift through all the sand to find that bit of gold, I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time on studying sand.
When clients start smiling about a home before they walk through the front door, I start taking notes. What is the condition of the roof, rain gutters, drainage, cracks in the driveway and exterior painting? Then I will start poking around the garage door and window trim looking for any soft spots reflective of dry-rot. I may use the property’s condition in my negotiations with the listing agent and seller. It will also tell me what inspections and reports my clients may need to order. While my clients are opening kitchen cabinets and mentally placing furniture, I am looking for property and disclosure issues. Next is quickly placing a call to the listing agent to confirm the active status of the listing.
Often selecting a home is a subjective emotional decision. When buyers finally discover “their home” an emotional attachment begins. Agents don’t want a client to fall in love with a home that already has an offer or two under negotiation. Multiple offers are becoming more common as our available inventory continues to decline. A home could show as an active listing in the morning and reported as a pending sale that afternoon. Before a client starts mentally placing furniture, an agent should know the home’s current status.
Even when their home is still available, buyers should guard their enthusiasm. Finding the right home is only one step in a protractedly complex process where many uncontrollable events can put a sale in jeopardy. Buyers should remain as objectively detached as possible. The time to really get excited is after not before closing. The home may be nearly perfect but it isn’t the only nearly perfect home.
Every home tells a story
Every home has a story and before preparing a purchase contract an agent should conduct a preliminary investigation which will determine the offering price and terms. In addition to a property condition assessment, acquiring information on recent neighborhood sales, the property’s marketing history and a review of county records will provide valuable information and may raise questions that should be discussed with the listing agent before a purchase contract is drafted.
Once the buyer and seller have an agreement and an escrow is opened, an agent’s time will be spent obtaining and reviewing with the buyers the plethora of property disclosures, inspections and reports to insure there are no major property issues. This often requires frequent visits to the property. Since few homes are rarely in perfect condition many issues discovered will require further investigation or mitigation.
Helping a client find their special home is rewarding. But most of an agent’s work will begin after their client says yes.
Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached through his web site www.kencalhoon.com.