In my book about selling a home I have a chapter called “One license – Two Jobs.” It is about how the job of the buyers’ agent is much different that that of the listing agent. Most agents have a preference. I have a slight preference for the role of listing agent because of my background and interest in marketing that goes way back before my real estate career. In most industries, the equivalent of the listing agent is a marketing director or product manager. The buyer agent role is more like an independent manufacturers rep that does the direct selling.
Nevertheless, being a buyer agent is often a lot of fun and can sometimes lead to lasting friendships. It is also very revealing and after many years of showing homes to people you begin to see some patterns.
The biggest conclusion I have come to is that the emotional component of the purchase usually far outweighs the bricks and mortar criteria that you may develop.
That was confirmed by some consulting I did with a company that developed a search engine for buyers to use to find a home. The company failed although it was a remarkable piece of software. The potential buyer could enter all kinds of search criteria and even assign weight to each factor. Theoretically, this would save them enormous amounts of time and find just the right home for them. Techie types loved it. Almost everybody else just yawned and the business never really took off.
Turns out, people like flipping through the listings on the internet and aren’t necessarily looking for a shortcut that was going to save them time. Some of you older folks might remember thumbing through the old Sears and Roebucks catalogue…or sometimes referred to as the “wish book.” It’s a similar experience and it’s long been known that the images and not the data that really drives the appeal of one home versus another and makes good staging and photography so important when selling.
A tricky situation often develops when a couple is shopping for a home, especially if it is their first one. Even minor differences in their individual criteria or vision of a home can lead to months of searching to find one they both like. I remember a married couple I became very fond of. The first home we looked at was very modern. He was German and loved it and was ready to make an offer. Turned out she wanted to see some more traditional homes. We looked at a very nice one, but it was so crowded with furniture and souvenirs from the owners’ world travel that he got claustrophobic and had to leave. After looking at about 30 homes we finally found one that they both liked.
That was early in my career. I can now listen and watch my clients as they look at a home and get a much better feel for what would satisfy them both. Picking up the vibes from each usually lets me at least avoid showing them homes I know they won’t like and often gets them to homes quickly that they fall in love with and it’s often missing something that they originally thought they had to have when they defined their original criteria, such as a particular neighborhood.
In the book I make the case that the job of the buyer agent is disappearing with technology taking over so much of what you used to use the buyer agent for. Interesting fact…I just recently learned that the US is one of the few, and maybe the only, country in the developed world that has such a thing as a buyer agent.
So, here’s a little advice…first, if you do use a buyer agent, find one that has enough experience that they can read the emotional tone of your wants and desires to help you sort through the options.
Second, keep an open mind. Not every home that’s a possibility will be staged well or even be well cared for. It takes some effort sometimes to imagine what a home would look like with your touch.
Third, go, with your heart.
Finally, if you’re a couple, finding something that turns you both on, may be a little more difficult, but worth the effort. Be patient.