Lint-Trap 5/13/01: Agency




I once heard someone say "unsolicited advice is a form of attack". But somehow, if I make it an entry it doesn't seem that much like an attack. So, viv, here is the benefit of my (albeit limited) home buying experience.

Simply put, in my experience, 95% of successful home buying is getting the right agent. My first house we looked for a house for months with an agent who just didn't get it. We said we didn't want a pool. She kept showing us houses with pools. We said we wanted 3 bedrooms. She kept showing us more expensive houses with 4 bedrooms. Eventually we got discouraged and stopped looking.

Then we saw an ad for an old house. We called the listing agency, and was connected to their 'old house' specialist who hadn't seen the house yet (he'd been on vacation when it was listed). So we met him at the house, and looked at it together. It was on one of the most beautiful pieces of property I've ever seen--mature towering maple and oak trees, Baltimore Orioles flying back and forth in their branches. An old apple orchard on one corner of the property. Well, you get the picture.

The house was a dump. The roof sagged, extensive interior water damage, and remodels done by someone with no taste when they were apprently drunk. The floors weren't level. A disaster.

So we talked to the agent. We agreed the property was wonderful and the house a disaster. We contemplated buying the property and fixing/rebulding the house, but it was 40 minutes from work for me and over an hour for my wife. It just didn't seem to be worth it. Sadly we said good bye to the agent, a friendly older gentleman, and went back, still discouraged, to our apartment.

Three Months later, he called us and said "Have you found a house?" We said "No." He said "The perfect house for you just came on the market." We went out and looked at it, and it was perfect--a 200-year-old farmhouse almost totally surrounded by a wildlife refuge, an Indian grindstone in the front yard. We made the offer standing in the driveway after seeing the house, and we moved in six weeks later.

The second agent listened. He didn't call us to show us houses that we didn't want. He listened to what we did want, and thought of us immediately when the house came on the market.

Forward 20 years, from New Jersey to California. Second wife instead of first wife. Moving from a huge Victorian in New Jersey to Silicon Valley and suffering sticker shock. Once again, an outstanding agent. The house we bought never came on the market. It was an older house being remodeled with a big addition on the back. The agent was aware of the house and kept an eye on it. We made the offer when there were no interior walls, just studs. We were able to spend about $5,000 extra and get a half-dozen changes that really made the house perfect for us-- hardwood floors in the living room and dining room, turn a too-small bedroom into a music room, turn a 19-foot-deep walk-in closet into a smaller closet plus a sewing room.

The agent watched the construction like a hawk. She was always finding a couple of cubic feet here or there and saying to the builder "What's this, couldn't this be a linen closet?" or suchlike. Absolutely outstanding.

I don't think it's just real estate agents that work this way. I've had similar experiences with car salesmen and therapists. If you don't really feel they are on your wavelength, dump them. The difference between good enough and really perfect is night and day. And can be the difference between getting a house and getting discouraged.

My current house I found by myself, driving around the area looking for another open house. As if to make up for not having suggested the house to me, my agent was a whirlwind of activity dealing with the inspections, repair of damage, etc. that needed to be done. The sale almost fell apart three times, but she kept my spirits up and I eventually got the house for my price and I've been so happy here I can hardly say.

Agents get a lot of money for representing you. Make them earn it!

And thanks, Viv, for bringing back some good memories.

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.