Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting my newest listing on Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Berkeley for Thursdays' Brokers' Tour while the sun streamed through the newly washed windows and the birds melodically chirped outside. Between the stunning house, the coveted location and the beautiful, spring day, the Sellers and I couldn't have wanted for a better debut. In a word; it was "ideal."
As we turned on the lights, opened the French doors, and set the stage, the Homeowners asked if there was anything else I needed to know. (I'm certain, they meant about the house; there's LOTS I need to know about life in general.)
But with respect to 1871 Thousand Oaks, the Sellers had been so pro-active, that they meticulously documented ALL of their expensive upgrades during their stewardship, which involved extensive retrofitting and seismic upgrades, stucco and structural work, and two new bathrooms, and then thoughtfully created a photo album with an itemized list of "Seller Improvements." (Thank you.) In short, this house is as worry free as they get.
Still, I did have one unanswered question . . .
"Is there a spy cam on site?"
Having just finished successfully selling a house in Piedmont where cameras were not only present, but actively monitored throughout the day by the absentee Homeowners, via their respective laptops, it's important to remember that we are no longer alone. For the record, security is a smart idea, especially when selling our homes, but it also reaffirms the notion that we need to mind our Ps and Qs when "visiting" other people's houses. What's more, we need to remind our Buyers to do the same.
The concept of "keeping your opinions to yourself," is tougher to enforce than you might imagine. Primarily due to the Internet, Buyers are better educated than they have ever been, often requesting disclosures before seeing a house, researching the community AND the Sellers through Linkedin, and showing up incredibly prepared to every Sunday Open with questions in hand. It seems that Buyers are immersed in the world of Real Estate and with good reason; finding a home is nearly a full-time job. (Expect your weekends to be booked from here on out.)
Which isn't a bad thing . . . necessarily. Given the speed of today's transactions and the ultimate investment in a home, we want our buying public to be well informed, but this new knowledge often leads to over-zealous Buyers cornering the listing Agent at the Sunday Open and cross examining them in front of others, as if publicly pointing out the weaknesses of a property will somehow stack the deck in their favor.
With all due respect: shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!
Seriously, stop talking!
The tough reality is that with more qualified Buyers than good housing stock to put them in, Buyers are in HEAVY competition, thus you are essentially auditioning for any house on which you bid. So may I politely suggest that the Sunday Open isn't the time to prove that you are smarter than everyone else who may be looking (even if you are), OR the opportunity to pick apart the home room by room (even if it deserves it), OR a chance to wax philosophically about the nature of the marketplace as a whole. (Nobody cares that you think it's over inflated.)
Just understand that we are watching and listening to your behavior during the Opens, and while good Agents certainly invite your engagement, there's a difference between your interest and your criticism. What's more, while Realtors use to be the wall that separated potential overly-anxious Buyers from easily-offended Sellers, (there are a lot of conversations and comments that Sellers don't need to hear), the advent of mini-cams as well as the ability to record on nearly any device in the house means that the Sellers may not only be seeing you (and me), but hearing everything we say. (That's a little scary.)
So with that in mind, it doesn't surprise me in the least that my Berkeley Sellers were recently required to sign a "release" while visiting listings in Florida,which essentially outlined that everything they said might be recorded and could be used against them in a court of law. (Say what?)
Does that mean you can't say ANYTHING negative about a house, even when it's factually correct?
Of course not, but the time and place to do so IS NOT at the Open House. In fact, I'd argue that real Buyers aren't serious about a home unless they not only point out its issues, but then diligently work their way through them. And because I've yet to sell the "perfect" home, openly and frankly discussing a house - and weighing all of its flaws and attributes - is part of the process, and more importantly, it should be. After all, when it comes to Bay Area Real Estate, there's A LOT of money at stake!
Just remember to speak to your Agent in private about your concerns, your questions, and your thoughts, not the listing Agent. That's what we are here for (and 'hear" for). At the Opens, you should do nothing more than hold your tongue, introduce yourself with a smile, and walk through the rooms with your Game Face on, espousing the virtues of each fantastic, spacious, elegant, gorgeous, incredible home you see . . . (you'll find the appropriate adjective).
"This is the MOST beautiful house on plant Earth! (Okay, that may be stretching it, but you know what I mean.)
In any event, if your own Agent hasn't trained you yet, consider yourself forewarned and ZIP IT! I can almost guarantee that someone, somewhere, somehow, is watching. Welcome to a brave, new world.
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.