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Friday, October 12, 2007

Shop 'til you drop

Lately we seem to see the "shop 'til you drop" syndrome extending to real estate. There are just so many choices (too many, most would say) that home shoppers get caught up in the process and have difficulty making a decision on any one home. There always seems to be one more listing to look at, one more new home on the market, one more foreclosed or distressed bargain on the horizon.

I suppose that we Realtors are partially to blame. We keep sending listings or signing people up for those automated programs that send emails every time a new listing comes on the market. But, the buyers themselves have to share in the blame. Many don't really have any idea what they're looking for in a home. I get the line, "I'll know it, when I see it" a lot. What that's really saying is I have no idea what I want. Buyers should always start with a list of the features and locations and other things that they want in a house. They should actually have "must have" and a "would like to have" lists. They should also have a good idea of where they want to be, for whatever reasons - time to work, school district, proximity to shopping or whatever.

Home shoppers should also be pre-approved, so that they know what they can afford and so that they can act decisively if they do eventually find the perfect house. I can't tell you the number of times that I've spent weeks or months searching with a buyer, only to find that they can only afford about one-half of the house that we've been looking at or that we lose the house that they wanted, while they go through the loan pre-approval process before making an offer.

I advise buyer clients to take time after every 8-10 homes that they may see and assess why those homes didn't fit and how they can change what they tell me they're looking for from that experience. Asking, "Why wouldn't I buy that home?", after each home also helps clarify for the home shopper what features are really important. Use those insights to help your agent fine-tune the searches that he/she does, so that you don't waste a lot of time going out to see homes that you already know you won't like. Also take the time to do the "desk work" of looking through the listings that you've been sent thoroughly and eliminating those that would likely just waste time.

Some view aimless shopping in the malls on weekends as sport or entertainment. Wandering around looking at houses is only fun for the first few houses, then it becomes a pain for everyone involved. So, get prepared, do the homework and don't plan on shopping 'til you drop.

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