It’s widely understood that the purchase of real estate is typically the most important purchase someone will make in their lifetime. This understanding does not hold up if you’re supremely wealthy and you buy businesses for tens or hundreds of millions, and it doesn’t hold up if you buy commercial buildings of epic scale for a living. But if you’re a normal person living a normal life, the purchase of a home, be it a vacation home or a primary home, is likely the largest single purchase you’re ever going to make. Everyone knows that.
With that firm notion established, it would make complete sense to approach the decision with a special variety of tact. The decision would be made after some many hours of education about the product you’re seeking, but only after you, as the buyer, thought out the ramifications of the purchase on your finances. Further, given the extremely subjective nature of real estate pricing, and the inconsistencies of valuations in each market, it would make sense to partner with someone capable of strategic guidance.
In this way, a real estate transaction would unfold like this. Buyer thinks about a vacation home. Buyer would like a vacation home, very much. Then buyer works on buyer’s finances, making sure they can afford such a purchase and making sure that the purchase of this new thing will not render their finances fatally impaired. Once the finances are in place, the search for a market can begin. Lake Geneva, being the only vacation home market worth exploring, easily secured the nod. The buyer is able, the market is defined, now the next step begins.
Representation is important, and our buyer friend knows this. So the buyer asks people for recommendations. The names returned to him are varied. Research begins, online at first, which is how it must begin. There is a process of elimination, then a process of interviewing, via phone or email, whichever is the more convenient for our buyer. Then there is the gathering of facts, of sales histories and of anecdotal testimonies. Then, after these steps are completed, there is a choice. The buyer will meet the agent next Sunday for a tour, and if all goes well, this will be the relationship that culminates with the vacation home purchase that this buyer has dreamt of.
But this isn’t at all what a typical vacation home purchase looks like. A few weekends ago, a buyer called me to see condominiums. Like, immediately, condominiums. They were interested, they said, and so they wanted to see those condominiums, ASAP! It was a Sunday, the one that fell after July 4th, and I was both busy with some work and busy with my personal pursuit of leisure, the sort of pursuit that even I, as a lowly Realtor, is actually entitled to. I responded to this buyer, told them of the available inventory, and told them that I could not show them property. I also asked if they were ready to buy, if they had talked with a lender or if the purchase would be cash. After many back and forth emails, they told me that they would no longer require my assistance. Thank God.
Then again, last weekend, a buyer calls on a property. They had to see it. They needed to see it. They must! And so I told them that I couldn’t show the property because it was occupied, and I would need some notice. So a few minutes later, another agent called me to show the same property. The buyer? The same one that had asked me about it barely 20 minutes prior. This agent was told that the showing wasn’t available, but that the buyer could come during the week to see the property. They came to see it, decided against it, and that was that.
The frantic behavior of buyers in a summer market is really rather disingenuous. There is some unnatural rush to see things, to see anything, to spend time with a Realtor in his car. While I recognize that this is a requirement of this vocation, the buyer who behaves this way is not only wasting the time of the Realtor, but she’s wasting her own time as well. Worse yet than wasting time, there is a stronger likelihood of a market mistake being made if the process is undertaken out of order and in extreme haste. Having done this for 19 years, I understand the allure of this lake. I understand how sunshine and 83 degrees makes the buying decision easier. But I also understand that the best decisions are not made on a Sunday morning after thinking about a vacation home on Saturday night.
As a full time, all the time Realtor, I am always willing to entertain last minute requests. In fact, without them, I wouldn’t have much of a business. That’s why this admonition is not just aimed at helping the hectic weekend schedules of Realtors like me, it’s also aimed at protecting the purchase decisions of buyers. Thoughtful, well considered decisions are the best decisions, and when there’s a rush to look at some real estate because the sun is shining and it seems like a nice way to spend an afternoon, I know that’s not going to produce a quality purchase decision. Beyond even that, if you’re looking for a Realtor— any Realtor— who is able to rush out and show you a property, do you suppose that’s the best Realtor for the job?