Without true desire, it’s never going to happen #715

#715 in a series of true experiences in real estate

This week as we left a most attractive house on tour, I said to Anet as I sometimes do about a house I like very much, “I wish I knew someone to sell this to.”

We drove on looking at other houses but I couldn’t stop thinking about that house, searching my mind for a possible buyer.

“I could call those people who are relocating to the Bay Area,” I said suddenly. “They aren’t having any luck finding a rental here and they do intend to buy someday…”

I stopped because I already knew it wouldn’t work.

“They aren’t buyers,” Anet said. “At least at this point, they aren’t.”

Of course, she was right. Our out-of-towners would be a very long shot indeed. They aren’t thinking about buying now, haven’t investigated loans, costs, neighborhoods. They haven’t looked at any houses and have no idea how much things cost.

Also this particular house will sell quickly, probably with more than one offer, and it’s anybody’s guess how much it will sell for.

It’s just too much to expect that anyone could grapple with all that is involved in buying this house in the time available. I must have been out of my mind.

We’re always telling people that buying a house is big, that getting ready requires time and concentration — information to gather — what houses cost, loans, reports, house imperfections and so on.

In addition, although a little harder to describe, a buyer must become physiologically ready. This can take a little time or a great deal. For some people, it never occurs.

That might be what’s going on with a woman I talked to on the same day I saw that house. She said she’d like to buy, has been searching for a long time and has found more than one house she wanted. “But at the last minute,” she says, “I chickened out.”

She wanted to know if we’ve encountered this problem with other people.

Yes, I said, we have. Commitment is very hard for some people, not to mention responsibility. Taking on a house as one’s own — the roof, the water heater, the payments — isn’t possible for everyone.

“But — here’s the good news — not everyone needs to buy a house,” I said, and suggested that maybe she should let herself off the hook.

“But I think I really do want to buy,” she said. “My kids need a yard and it seems silly to go on paying rent. It’s just that I can’t seem to make myself do it.”

At first she wanted to live in Berkeley, she went on, so she learned the Berkeley market. But when she found a house she liked, she decided she thought Oakland would be better. It took her more months to explore various areas, figure out where she’d like to live. Meanwhile the market changed.

“When I started all this, there was less competition,” she said. “Even then, I always picked houses that other people wanted too. I was scared about multiple offers. And although I found houses that seemed to be in good shape, I worried terribly about what would be discovered during inspections.”

“Now in this market, I know I’ll have to move even faster, make decisions more quickly than before. I hate that pressure.”

I was surprised by my caller’s candor. We’ve certainly encountered people who thought they wanted to buy but never did. The ones we’ve known, however, didn’t seem to understand what was standing in their way.

Even after looking “forever” at “everything,” they said things like, “The right house hasn’t come along,” and “I know if I’m patient, I’ll find what I want at my price.”

Earlier, when we first met, these same people may have asked if what they wanted was realistic. Often it was.

“Can I buy two bedrooms and a sunny yard in Northbrae for around $1,000,000?” might have been the start.

“It should be possible,” we’d say. “Let’s look.” So we looked at what was available and the buyer refined his objectives. His requirements rose, sometimes to an impossible height.

“The rooms are too small, the yard is too small, the kitchen needs everything,” we’d hear. “I have to have a garage and I don’t want to have to replace a roof.”

We looked some more. Finally we found a house (or two or three) that seemed right.

“It’s wonderful,” declared our client. “I love the location, the light inside, the size. But many of the windows are painted shut and I hate the carpeting in the bedrooms.”

What could be wrong here? Maybe this buyer isn’t a buyer.

Invariably the next comment is, “I think we should keep looking.” We think the client is hoping that a house will appear that is so ideal, one that the client finds so appealing that reason and worry will disappear.

Which we suppose is possible, although we’ve never seen it happen.

Our caller this week asks if I know of anything that will help her. I tell her that with preparation, learning what kinds of things commonly come up during inspections and how she can write the strongest possible offer, she can allay some of her fears. Other than that, she can weigh what she will gain and what she will lose by buying.

But, positively, if she is going to buy a house, she has to want to. True desire — the knowledge of what’s in it for her — is the key. Without it, it’s never going to happen.

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