Matchmaking buyers with sellers is a fine art #665

#665 in a series of true experiences in real estate

A few weeks ago we met a woman who is looking for a certain sort of house to buy, one that will not be easy to find. Then, this week, just like a miracle, we learned that we will be listing a house for a favorite old client, a house that may work perfectly for the woman.

If it really is a match — one of our clients selling exactly what another wants to buy — this is unusual. This doesn’t happen often.

We haven’t told either client yet. It’s too soon. They’ve both got things to do, they’re working on those, and we’re having fun fantasizing about matchmaking. He, the seller, is getting his house together, finishing details. We talk, we encourage, we’ve done some research. Mostly, we’re waiting, and we are excited.

We do think chances are good that she’ll love it. It’s about the right size with the living area all on one level. The 1920s architectural detailing remains intact (light fixtures, real plaster, inlaid wood floors, all wooden windows), which she will appreciate.

There are both a garage and two useable basement rooms with electricity and water (she has neither now and wishes for them). The house is located only 2 freeway exits south of her present home, probably adding less than 10 minutes to her work commute.

But best and most glorious of all — the likely heart stopper for our buyer — the house is sited at the front of a deep, all level, full-sun lot. This is a piece of land that a passionate gardener dreams about all of her life. Our buyer is one such gardener.

Shall we hurry to get our clients together? We don’t think so. We cannot in good conscience hook up our buyer and our seller while ignoring market input. It wouldn’t be fair. The price someone is willing to pay could be less than our asking price. Or, as is true in many cases these days, someone may pay more.

Not until the listing is complete, inspections and disclosures in hand, windows washed – ready for visitors – will our client see it. Much as we would enjoy our buyer preferring this wonderful house, she’ll have to do what other buyers do: make an offer on a pre-announced day.

For market value is set by the prices that are offered. And this is the case for this house, her own house, everyone’s house. Before marketing, value is only a guess, for some houses a bigger guess than for others. This particular house has a wildcard. Its rare, large and flat lot in a traditional neighborhood makes it difficult to pin down its desirability to buyers, and therefore what it’s worth.

It is also true that just about every time we list a house, someone pops up, not someone we know, but a neighbor, friend, or relative of the seller who says he wants to buy directly from the seller. “Stop working on the house,” says the interested party, “I’ll take it just as it is.”

When this happens, we tell our sellers that they can, of course, choose to sell to this person. But it will probably be wiser, the chances of actually closing and the seller netting more money greater, if the property is exposed to many potential buyers.

Also, it’s been our experience that the buyer who shows up early usually disappears. He finds that he doesn’t have as much money as he thought or he couldn’t get the loan he needed. Or he got scared off when he thought he’d have competition for the house. We’ve also seen buyers pull out because they were alone in wanting to buy. This seems to be a case of  “I don’t want it unless other people do, too.”

There are times when buyer and seller want to deal directly with one another, without any marketing. This can be true where the buyer is a tenant in the house the landlord wishes to sell. Such a direct sale can be successful for both parties, but only when they can arrive at a mutually agreeable price, with no one feeling ripped off. Unfortunately, even when a professional appraisal is obtained, the price that might be produced by the marketplace will remain unknown.

Selling a piece of real estate is, in many ways, like selling anything else that is one of a kind. If you have, for example, a fine old vintage car which you choose to sell to a guy who shows up at your garage sale, you’re probably not going to get full value for it. Your customer base is simply too limited. But if, on the other hand, you have the time and patience to market to specific car aficionados, perhaps with worldwide exposure, the chances of selling for the best price rise dramatically.

It could be that this story will have a happy ending for both our clients. That would be great. If our buyer sees the house and loves it, and if she is ready to buy, she may get her huge, sunny garden plot — a fine treasure.

We will not represent her in that sale though. We never work with both buyer and seller in the same sale. We will place her in the hands of another agent to represent her interests and hope it’s a win for both buyer and seller.

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