We were, arguably, every buyer agent’s dream. Month-to-month lease in our apartment. Prequalified for a mortgage. Laser-beamers on location, looking in a specific neighborhood with a radius of less than 3 miles. Had our eyes on the market for the last 15 months, and knew the value of what we wanted. In no hurry, and willing to be patient, but ready to pounce if the right home came along.
That was where my wife and I were when we officially entered the housing market in the fall of 2006. We even had an agent from a local company who we trusted, named Colin. Colin was a referral from a good friend and someone I had known for years. Did it matter he had previously been a bartender at our favorite local pub?
I was on top of our search for a new home, getting email updates from our Colin’s web site on new listings nearly every day. Recently he added a mapping feature to his property search, much better than searching by zip code. I set my map in the exact location where I wanted to buy, set my price range, bedrooms, bathrooms, garage stalls, and so on. Soon I developed an intimate understanding of the housing market in this area, especially when my agent answered any questions we had. He wasn’t pushy, just available, which was what we wanted.
Soon we started scheduling showings for our favorite listings, and that’s when we really needed Colin. He pointed out things that I would have missed as a first-time buyer. “Yep, cable’s already wired to the upstairs.” “Copper pipes, that’s good.” “You’ll need to install egress windows if you want to finish this basement, but at least it’s nice and dry down here.”
Of course, my wife and I did our Sunday driving without him. We cruised back our chosen neighborhood, picking up flyers from yard signs, even stopping at open houses. “Are you working with an agent?” We confidently replied, “Yes.” One house had great curb appeal until we saw the list price, far too high for that neighborhood, we thought. Onward.
We continued our leisurely search until just before Thanksgiving. Then one night we toured a home we can only describe as “unique”. Split level, lots of space, some great features (and some rather unusual ones, too) and a great location. We called it the Brady house, resembling as it did the house on The Brady Bunch. But just a little more than we wanted to spend.
Colin indicated the house had offers on the table. “What does that mean?” I asked? “It means,” he replied, “that if you really love it, you should write up an offer soon, probably tomorrow.”
That moment hit us like a Pamplona bull. Before it had been so easy. No pressure, we were just browsing. Now we had to make a decision, and actually compete with other buyers placing hidden offers. My wife and I ran through a gauntlet of questions. Can we afford it? Can we live with that goofy stove contraption in the kitchen or the ugly carpet in the basement? How hard will it be to sell such a “unique” home? Instantly, our home quest went from Sunday drives to making hurried choices that would impact our lives for the next twenty years.
Colin understood. He assured us we shouldn’t feel pressured, but we needed to act if we wanted the house. “Ok,” I said. “Let’s schedule another showing and see it again. If it’s for us, we’ll make an offer.”
Arriving at work early the following morning, I opened an email from Colin’s web site announcing new and updated listings that matched my search. Just like most other days since I started looking, except on this day one of the houses stood out. It was the one with the great curb appeal, the one we liked but felt had been priced too high. Not anymore. I called Colin. “Can we see this house before we go look at the other one?” I asked.
Colin said he would check with the listing agent, and called me back 10 minutes later. “Meet you there at 10.” I arrived to see his familiar white Volkswagen parked in front and remembered how my wife and I felt the first time we saw the house. Colin got the key from the lockbox and we walked in the door.
I was home.
Just like that, my entire being was filled with warmth that can only be described as a homecoming. The house was perfect. It was an older home, more spacious than the bungalows that dominated this area, but very well-kept and not in need of any major improvements. We toured it all, and nothing changed. It was ours.
We next went to the other house we had seen earlier, and suddenly looked at it with a more critical eye. The whirlpool tub is nice, but it’s old, and would be expensive to fix or replace if it broke. And are those water stains in the closet behind it? Sure feels cold in here; are these windows double insulated like the house we just saw? Look at the burn marks in the carpet near the fireplace. And so on and so on.
The next morning, Colin and I toured the dream home with my wife. She had an identical reaction, and that sealed it. We went straight to Colin’s office and wrote up an offer. The next day, we were out for a hike when Colin called to tell us the seller had submitted a counter-offer.
“What do you think?” I asked Colin.
“It’s a reasonable counter, and I know you like the house, “he replied.
“Then we have a deal.” We closed 3 weeks later.
There were, of course, the usual hurdles in those 3 weeks. The inspection revealed a few minor changes we requested from the owner, to which he agreed. And the inevitable “Oh, by the way” moment at closing (in our case, the owner informed us we would never get a queen-sized box spring up the stairs, and he was right). But I cannot imagine having a more positive first-time home buying experience.
All because of good technology, and a great agent.