"What happened?" the agent on the other line said. "I thought your clients LOVED the property."
"They did." I replied. "Unfortunately, their friends didn't." (Say What?)
Listen, I understand your desire to bring your "friends" to the house you are now in the midst of purchasing. It's a BIG investment and everyone wants to avoid making a mistake. However, nothing takes the air out of the balloon faster than having your friends decide that the house has drawbacks that they would rather live without. Let me save you (and them) the trouble - EVERY HOUSE HAS DRAWBACKS. (They do! ) I've sold A LOT of houses to clients through the years, and I've bought several of my own, and without exception, every single one of them (irrespective of the price) had some compromises to be made.
That isn't to say that every house is going to pass inspections with flying colors, or that I think that there isn't a valid point at which the buyer should walk away (in truth, there may be). If there are REAL risks that you, as the buyer, truly aren't comfortable living with - or addressing over time - then by all means, I'll have no trouble canceling the escrow on your behalf. In fact, I'll encourage it. The last thing in the world I want to do is talk you into a home that you will regret owning later on.
But with respect to the opinions of others (solicited or not) the question is: are we dealing with fatal "flaws" or fatal "friends?" Put another way, are there too many cooks in the kitchen?
It's not that your friends' intentions aren't pure (they undoubtedly are), but let's be clear - they're not necessarily objective. How can they be? Often our friends mistakenly believe that their job is to save us from ourselves. Is it any wonder that the value we place on their good opinion is often more important than our own? OR that they take their role so seriously? Anything (and I do mean anything) negative our friends observe has a tendency to sabotage the transaction and override any positive feelings about the home you previously held. Once that happens, there's no way to unring the bell.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a gal who respects a strong opinion and some emphatic discourse, but I have also learned along the way that it is often my role to validate your opinion, instead of expressing my own. Whether I personally like the house or not is beside the point. Whether or not I can justify the purchase and provide clarity about the home on which you are now in contract - very much is. My job is to lay out your options and set reasonable expectations so that you can make an informed decision.
Clients with a good deal of previous home buying experience may well be comfortable with a MAJOR remodel that includes foundation and drainage work, while those that are newer to the process, may feel overwhelmed by the simple act of selecting new colors for the walls. Imagine then, how unnerving it can be when our friends profess their dislike of the decor and begin to punch holes in our future residence? (It shakes our confidence.)
When we take our friends to the home we have finally chosen to purchase, they haven't had the benefit of seeing the houses you have already eliminated or why. Without the back story, our friends tend to examine that single property under a magnifying glass and let the criticisms fly, often out-experting the experts you have hired to render a professional opinion. However well meaning, they don't pause long enough to understand that what you really may be asking of them, is their support and encouragement to live out your dreams.
To recap: unless you really want your friends' honest and sometimes brutal opinions, leave your "friends" at home until after inspections, or better yet, until after you have closed escrow altogether. THEN you may pop the champagne, have a BIG housewarming party and invite ALL of your "friends" to celebrate together. Whether they love or hate your home at that point, chances are, they'll be polite enough to stay mum about it.
Now that's a true "friend."
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.