"How are you feeling this morning?" I asked my sweet, young Buyers who had just lost out on an ambitious offer for a home in the Glenview AFTER receiving a prompt from the listing Agent to bid higher, which had momentarily led us to believe they were in first position. (They were, but not for long.)
"We're totally bummed," came the reply. (Of course you are. It feels like a hangover; a "house hangover" for lack of a better term. We've all been there and it sucks.)
Putting aside the fact that I hate it when Buyers are forced to bid against themselves, only to lose (that's not nice), this well-intentioned couple had done everything they could to secure the property, including pre-approval with a local lender, a sit down with the home inspector, a contingency-free offer, a HUGE down payment, and a charming love letter, BUT their closing time was hampered by the fact that this particular loan required a longer lead time and our hands were tied. (That's now been corrected.)
Unfortunately, the Sellers chose someone else who could perform more quickly and who had a childhood tie-in we couldn't have predicted - nor overcome.
Then came the "What if's?" . . .
"What if we had been able to close faster?"
"What if we had written the letter differently?"
"What if we'd had written the higher number from the start?"
(Hey, that way lies madness. I assure you, there will be other opportunities.)
Here's the thing, hindsight is always 20/20. In the moment, we do the best we can with the information at hand. THEN, if necessary (and it's almost always necessary) we adjust, we learn from our mistakes, AND we sharpen our pencils. Some of the circumstances we will be able to control and some we won't. With respect to what we can . . . we improve the process in the next go-round. With respect to what we can't (as in sharing the same hometown??? Really?), we move on.
It's important to note that on the day of offers, there is a ton of jockeying that takes place as Realtors size up the competition, ask pointed questions, try to get a sense of how stiff the action actually is, and then seek to get their Buyers on board. Believe me, that's not always easily accomplished; Buyers often have their own ideas, opinions, and financial limitations and that's their reality, so moving them to a place that understandably makes them completely and totally UNCOMFORTABLE (!!!) is a journey to be sure, and it usually doesn't happen overnight. Hey if this were easy, you wouldn't need a Realtor at all . . . (but it isn't).
For some Buyers, there's a longer learning curve than for others as they trudge the road to happy destiny, and realistically, few Buyers will actually secure the first house on which they bid. That's just the nature of the marketplace - and the beast. In my experience, life lessons are only ever achieved through our failures - not our successes.
Having shortened the lead time considerably by switching to a new lending product, we're back in the hunt with the expectation that these Buyers will do better on the next house (fingers crossed). Which is to say that there is always a certain amount of luck required on either the buy or sell side of a transaction (as is true with almost any significant undertaking), but as professionals, we should always work to improve our skill set as well. In other words, luck alone isn't going to get the job done. . . this is where experience comes into play.
By way of example, yesterday, I received several offers on an A-mazing A-frame I represent (see below) and was frankly shocked at how incomplete they were. With 11 disclosure packages out and strong, last-minute interest, we anticipated 3-4 offers, but I had to chase down missing pieces on each before meeting with the Sellers. From where I sit, and with multiple offers from which to choose, that makes no sense to me. As a Realtor or a Buyer, why not put your best foot forward? Anything short of a full-scale effort is just a recipe for disappointment.
To preface my point - and because I'm a bit of a control freak (but you already knew that), I always send out standard instructions - prior to accepting offers - to everyone who has requested a disclosure package. They go something like this (drum roll please . . .).
"Thank you for your interest. If you are writing, please include a California Purchase Agreement, Agency, an East Bay Addendum, a lender letter, a synopsis of your offer and a brief bio of your clients. Optional: A love letter; however, any letters from the prospective Buyers will absolutely be shared with the Sellers. Good luck!"
That's pretty clear, right? I mean, if those aren't BIG FAT bread crumbs, what is? In short, if you and your Realtor aren't following the trail . . . then, "Houston, we have a problem." And while a "love letter" isn't going to get you the house if the offer price ahead of yours is significantly higher, the letter from the winning Buyers in yesterday's competition definitely made an impact . . . especially as it was the only one!
Did it help to hear that these Buyers would be "stewards" for the house, that they loved all of the design choices, that they could see themselves in it for many years and would lovingly care for it?
It didn't hurt.
Moreover, when I contacted the Buyers' Agent, she worked VERY quickly to get us the missing documents, and has acted with speed and diligence ever since, opening escrow early this morning, depositing the good-faith money, lining up the appraisal, and performing totally transparently! (I love that in an colleague.) Why wouldn't I want to walk through an escrow with this sharp Agent again? She's accessible and responsive, and that's what you and I both want in a counterpart. Agreed?
So put down the aspirin, tighten your terms, get aggressive, and write a love letter (include a photo as well). Because if your don't comprehend that buying a home is an emotional journey - for both Buyers AND Sellers alike - you need to begin to recognize that now, AND you need to give yourself every advantage you can, including working with a Realtor who DOES understand that important component and leaves no stone unturned. Because if you're going to suffer a hangover, let's make sure it's caused by champagne and not "What ifs?"
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 14 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.