In home market lurks the unknown

#10 in a series of true experiences in real estate
May 1993, Hills Newspapers

Take reliable agent to guide you through
Many of our clients are people who were already our friends. We know them from Berkeley Rep days or from KPFA connections or they are friends of friends.

We are glad that they tend to be people who first want to understand what they’re thinking of doing. Probably they will buy or sell but they need information because they might not.

Which could be the reason they chose us, but it’s more likely they haven’t thought about it much. Most people think one agent is as good as another. They rarely wonder, Which agent?

Let’s think about this. How clever does your agent need to be anyway?

If you are buying or selling a house, you are about to go on an uncharted course. You don’t know what lies there. Maybe it will be without mishap or maybe there will be travail. At the very least, surely, you’d hope that your agent would speak your language. While you are sorting out the details, settling on the price of the goods, it would be helpful if you didn’t have to wonder what your guide is saying. It would be great if you and he or she were in accord.

Maybe you think of buying or selling as a safe journey. Let us hope it is exactly that. But you know about vacations. Sometimes a canceled flight, bad food, the camp site too close to people playing loud music. Wouldn’t a professional fixer of things, someone who understands and can do something about it be welcome then?

Things go wrong in real estate, some worse than others: A creek under the living room, a leaky roof, the city being the owner of the part of the road your driveway is on. Because this is so, you could certainly expect that your guide will know more than you do, will see things you would miss, will fight the alligators if they appear.

One woman said to us recently, “I bought my house from an agent five years ago but I wouldn’t go back to her now. She was great at showing us houses but once we’d made our offer, we could never get hold of her. And when we had a problem with the sellers over the furnace, she seemed very uncomfortable and didn’t want to deal with it.”

This is not a horror story. The woman didn’t lose life or limb or even a lot of money. But she lost faith, and she would not pick that agent again. If you had heard this opinion of an agent, would that agent be your choice?

Here’s a worse one. We just heard about a sale that ended in a big fight. The seller had offered to pass along to the buyer new kitchen cabinets, appliances and marble countertops he had purchased but never installed. The seller thought he had made clear what was included. The buyer thought he knew what he was getting. The agents involved in the sale must have thought they knew too because neither of them had made a written inventory of the items. Everyone was mad. It was a mess. How clever does your agent need to be?

The time to find the right agent is before you begin. You won’t know for sure that you’ve done it until your agent saves the day or simply quiets your anxiety. But you can try and you should. Talk to several agents. Listen to what they say, what they ask, how they care for you and your plans.

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