"One, little two, little three little Indians, four little five, little six little Indians, seven, little eight, little nine little Indians, ten little Indian boys . . ." At the risk of being totally unPC, I wouldn't be exaggerating in the slightest to say that our early spring market is shaping up just like that old nursery school rhyme (before songs - and people - were culturally sensitive).
As an example, last week, I represented the world's most-deserving couple on a starter home here in Oakland. They were well qualified, incredibly informed, and totally committed to the purchasing process. In short, they came to play! What's more, we had also taken the extra effort to meet with an engineer and a roofer at the home, so that they could comfortably waive their inspection contingency, making them that much more competitive in the end. (Remember, it's not just price a Seller considers, but the TERMS as well.)
"How many offers do you expect?" I asked the listing Agent (information that's vital prior to constructing an appropriately priced offer).
"Looks like three have confirmed," he said, pleased to have some healthy interest in the house, "although I should tell you that there are 19 disclosures out," he added as a footnote. (Ugh.)
"Great," I said, sarcasm dripping from my voice, "I'll let my Buyers know." "You can expect five or six," I confidently told my clients that afternoon. There are always a few latecomers who prefer not to declare their intentions, so let's prepare for more. I'm certain they'll show."
By 8 pm, four Buyers had emerged. By the next morning we stood at five. And ten minutes before I presented at 3:30 that afternoon, the listing gAent adjusted the head count to NINE! (Thank goodness for Docusign.) Whoa, that's a bit crazy (although no longer unusual in this rapidly accelerating marketplace)!
We quickly rewrote the first page of the purchase offer and I went into the conference room to make my personal pitch. (Game on.)"This is a love story . . ." I began, and indeed it was. Here's the happy ending, (drum roll please . . . ) my clients are now successfully in contract!
With nine offers from which to choose, three were virtually identical in price at the finish and all had aggressive terms. While I'd like to think I was smarter and more persuasive than the other Agents at the table, the truth is the selection process probably had more to do with my Buyers' story, than with mine (although, at the risk of bragging, I did tap dance quite a bit, as did our stellar mortgage lender from Wells Fargo.)
Ultimately, it was their very compelling journey, along with some very creative eleventh-hour negotiations that allowed us to win a photo finish. This is an instance when the backstory mattered a great deal and while that's not always the case, it often can make a difference when it is a very close call, as it was this time around. (If it isn't neck and neck, no matter how "compelling" the story, it won't persuade the Sellers. Would you turn down another $50,000 just to play favorites? I don't think so.)
But it never hurts to try . . .
A few years ago and with my Buyers' permission, I once shared that their desire to quickly secure a home was driven by their daughter's health. A tiny little thing of not more than three or four at the time, she was facing a serious operation at a hospital nearby, thus we were preemptively making an offer ("Preemptive offers" are presented prior to the offer date and typically, are VERY aggressive in nature and price.)
As it turned out, the elderly Seller had suffered from the same medical condition as a child. Long story short, the house was theirs and the Sunday Open was promptly cancelled. (And yes, the daughter did have her surgery shortly thereafter and is picture-perfect today.) I run into this darling mother and daughter duo at Mulberry's not infrequently and it's always incredibly rewarding to know that I shared a tiny piece of their journey and helped smooth their transition along the way.
So tell the story . . . and let the Sellers know how much you appreciate their home and the care they have taken with it. (DON'T share how you plan to tear everything out and repaint it from top to bottom - even if you do.) And don't be afraid to be a bit vulnerable. It's those slice-of-life moments in your pitch letter that often turn the tide and makes you very human - and not just a number.
So get out those pens and write! And if you're struggling, I'll help you. I like to think I have a bit of experience in telling the story . . .
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.