It’s the holiday season so visions of sugar plum fairies are dancing across the TV announcing the Nutcracker as one of the season’s brightest traditions. With all due respect, that depends on your traditions . . . .
Years ago I took my son, Case, to see the Nutcracker Ballet in San Francisco. As I'd had a short-lived career onstage, I was certain that when I became a mother, my kids were going to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, and love theater! So when complimentary tickets for front-row seats fell into my lap for the highly-respected SF Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker, I eagerly jumped at the chance to take Case to his first live show; one that didn't involve a creepy 6-foot-tall, purple dinosaur or a 3-ring circus.
Dressed up for the evenings festivities, we boarded the train at the West Portal station and headed downtown for dinner to what would be the first of many magical mother/son evenings together. While I eagerly awaited the moment when the toys come to life, Case, only 5 years old at the time, was far less thrilled and let me - and everyone else - know it . . . in no uncertain terms.
No sooner had the curtain gone up than my son began to squirm in his seat and well before the first Act was finished, Case turned to me and announced “I hate this!”
"Shhh!" I said. "Be quiet!!!"
Which only added fuel to the fire. "I HATE THIS!" he screamed in ever-increasing volume until intermission when we crawled out and finally made our escape, my embarrassment cloaking me like a winter wool coat.
My point being that no matter what my expectations were for the evening and what I’d anticipated would be the outcome, Case clearly had other ideas (and at five, wasn’t afraid to share them). Not until years later when we saw STOMP, was I able to redeem myself, theater-wise. In retrospect, what was I thinking? (Really, I had no clue.) The Nutcracker was a stark lesson in how little I was going to actually shape my children's likes and dislikes, but I digress . . .
Like my son, Buyers can have strong opinions about what appeals to them and what DOES NOT and that’s okay. In fact, it’s preferable. The more I know about what you like, what you need, what you want, where you are willing to compromise, and more importantly, where you are not, the better and more efficiently I can help you secure a home in a market where we have too few properties to meet the high demand. Assuming everything goes our way, buying a home is still going to require a fair amount of luck, determination, and skill, not to mention grace.
Consequently, when I meet with new Buyers, I tell them that my actions are going to mirror theirs. In other words, the more engaged they are in the process, the more they can expect from me in return. As the Internet has made the MLS available to the public, it's highly likely you're going to identify potential homes well before I do and that's perfectly appropriate. I'll be the first to admit that Agents are no longer the gatekeepers into the secret, coveted world of real estate. Instead, we're the producers and the directors that get you through the performance (and make no mistake, you're giving a performance, even if you don't know it).
While I've written this piece before, it bears repeating that there's an etiquette to being a Homebuyer, meaning that while I need (and want) to hear your preferences and critiques of the properties under consideration, the isting Agent does not. Moreover, the listing Agent SHOULD NOT!
Because as listing Agents, we're going to steer our Sellers towards the Buyers that not only love the home, but are likely to be the least problematic moving forward. The theory being that if a Buyer is already looking for problem areas at the Sunday Open, imagine what might happen once they get into contract? This is the case where the squeaky wheel, doesn't get the grease.
Ditto for questioning the Agents at the Open in detail. There's a time and place to answer all of your questions (and they're important), but the Sunday Open isn't the time OR the place. Let's first get the Disclosures, read them thoroughly, and then call the Realtor if necessary to drill down and get the answers you need to feel comfortable BEFORE making an offer. And if it's not the house for you, then move on. No need to share your unsolicited criticisms and opinions. They're not welcome.
To be clear, if you aren't asking questions and overcoming hurdles, you're probably not truly interested in the property, but HOW you proclaim your interest is EVERYTHING. In short, let your Agent ask the questions on your behalf. (We're paid to do the heavy lifting.) Your job is to pretend to love the house, even if you don't, or risk creating a reputation among listing Agents as hard to please, or worse yet, picky!
BTW, if you think that loudly proclaiming "I hate this," works to your advantage by chasing other interested parties away, it doesn't. It does, however, make the Agent want to quickly drag you out of the Open House, post haste, and put you on their "naughty" list.
On the other hand, if your goal is to never sit through the Nutcracker again, "I HATE THIS!" will absolutely do the trick. (I never even attempted taking our younger son,Tristan; I was smarter the second time around.)
So when it comes to Open Houses, mum's the word. Just sit back and enjoy the show.
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 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.