Locating buyer’s ‘perfect’ home puts matchmaking skills to test

#8 in a series of true experiences in real estate
April 1993, Hills Newspapers

Houses, houses everywhere. We cannot see them all. The houses that agents go to see are ones that seem by description to fit the buyers we have. If we have a Berkeley bay view buyer, we go to see those houses until we find the one.

It gets more complicated if we have five buyers and each of them is in a different price range and wants to live in a different area. It would be next to impossible to see every house that might be suitable for our clients. But we certainly try.

We look at the multiple listing computer every morning, we talk to other agents, we read the newspaper ads, and we go see houses.

The success of the system depends upon our looking for the right thing for our clients, houses that they will find appropriate and will want to buy. If we are showing our clients only houses they do not want to buy, that’s no good. But how do we know?

Imagine hiring someone to find you a dress for a special occasion. You call Macy’s and talk to the personal shopper. You say, “I can spend up to $100. I think pink or maybe green would be good, bluish green, not emerald. I look awful in plunging necklines. Probably it should be street length but longer might work. Size 10 usually fits me.”

What would your go-between pick? Would it be ruffly? Sleek and straight-lined? Would it fit? Would you like it? You can see the problem.

Describing to someone, especially to someone who does not know you well, what you will buy is difficult. Until you see it, you won’t know if you want it. And you might be surprised. What you buy might be entirely different from what you described.

Houses are harder than dresses. More money, more permanent. Do you know what you will want to buy? Can you tell your agent? Can your agent hear you?

Buyers have been known to say, “My agent has shown me 10 houses and they were all awful or too much money. Why can’t she show me something I like?”

Was the agent doing this on purpose? It’s unlikely.

Agents have been known to say, “Buyers are liars.” Every agent tells stories of buyers who said they had to have a particular thing but who bought something entirely without it. “He insisted he had to have a bay view, couldn’t live without one, so I can’t believe that he’s buying a house on Acton Street.”

Was it a lie? More likely, he didn’t know what would make his heart sing until it hit him on Acton Street.

The agent tries. That’s the only way she’ll get paid. The buyer tries. He doesn’t want to look at houses forever.

We had clients recently who couldn’t afford much. They didn’t think they had many choices. Like everyone, they hoped for a safe neighborhood and a clean house. I can’t remember now how it came up but it turned out that the man wanted double sinks in the bathroom. Having at least one sink always available to him was going to make his heart sing. What about your heart?

I’m a gardener. How well I can see the garden from the inside of the house and what route I have to take to get into the garden are of great importance to me. I would never buy a house with garden access by way of the basement. I know this because I have been gardening for a long time and because I have compared the relative charms of hundreds of houses.

Without looking at hundreds of houses, do you know what will make the difference to you? Here is a suggestion: Join in the effort. Go look at open houses, read the ads, keep notes on what appeals to you about the houses you see and what you hated. Then share this information with your agent.

Anything you can do to hone your house image, you should be doing. You want to accurately describe that picture out loud to your agent. When you find it, we hope you recognize it, then seize it while it’s available. You’re dealing with one-of-a-kind things here.

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