I had an interesting experience recently that I thought I would share with you. It illustrates how sometimes it’s the small things that make a big difference in a real estate transaction.
A few weeks ago, I arranged to meet with one of my buyer-clients at a brand new listing in San Mateo. The house was listed as “vacant” and the showing instructions were to “go direct”, so there was no need to call in advance to set up a showing appointment. We just picked a time and arranged to meet there.
I arrived a few minutes early that Saturday morning to open up the house and turn on the lights in advance of my client’s arrival. As I pulled up, I noticed that the garage door was wide open and that there was a man that was busy cleaning up the garage and sweeping down the driveway and walkway. Like any other Realtor who has been in this situation, I nervously double-checked the showing instructions to make sure that I had not totally screwed up, and we that weren’t accidentally showing up unannounced in the middle of their breakfast. Nothing like killing that first impression. To my relief, I had it right.
I proceeded up to the house and introduced myself to the man, who indeed turned out to be the owner of the property. He was a genuinely nice guy who was obviously very proud of his home. We were in the middle of a pleasant conversation when my buyers pulled up in front of the house. At that moment, a brilliant idea popped into my head, and I turned to the seller and asked the him the following question:
“Would you be willing to give us a quick tour of your home?”
Well, nearly an hour after our “quick” tour commenced, we emerged from the house flush with knowledge that extended well beyond every addition and modification that the owner had lovingly done to the house over the past 28 years. We now knew that the neighbor across the street had lived in the same house for 35 years; and that a nurse and her family lived next door; and that the turnover was very low in this neighborhood because people loved living there, and all of the new commercial construction that was slated for just around the corner. etc, etc… All of this was information that we would have never learned had we just toured the home on our own. And the seller would have never known the background of my buyers, and what they truly appreciated about his home.
But as valuable as that information was for my buyers, it wasn’t nearly as valuable as the connection they had just made with the seller — a value that we would soon come to realize.
My clients clearly loved this house and its location. But as I always tell home buyers, “If you love it, rest assured that others will too.” And that was clearly the case with this home, as the open house was absolutely packed (yes, I spied on the open house. I admit it.) and there were 14 disclosure packets pulled on this property.
When the offer date arrived, we were one of 5 eager buyers bidding on this house. I always do a lot of homework on properties when I write offers for my clients, and this due diligence paid off. Our offer price and terms got us into a deadlock with two other buyers at the top. It’s always a delicate balancing act to make an offer strong enough, but without massively overpaying. We hit paydirt on this one.
(If you’ve hung with the story thus far, this is where the magic happens.)
The sellers were in the optimal position at this point to negotiate — they had three strong offers competing with each other. They could have easily countered any one of the offers – or all three at the same time — to squeeze some additional blood out of the proverbial turnip.
But they didn’t.
For the Win
I got the phone call that afternoon that every Realtor loves to get — which enabled me to make that favorite phone that every Realtor likes to make: We got the house. No counter offer, no negotiation on terms…just a happy seller that signed our offer outright.
I’d love to be able to pat myself on the back and think that it was the homework that I did on the house, my understanding of the local market, and the knowledge of how to put together a compelling offer that made the difference. But I know better. That’s just the barrier to entry in this high-stakes game of residential real estate.
No, the real difference in winning this home was the connection that was forged between the buyers and the sellers from that totally fortuitous encounter that happened on that Saturday morning. The buyers were absolutely enthralled with the house, and the sellers were equally thrilled to pass along their home where yet another young family would be raised. That level of connection doesn’t come from just a letter. (and yes, we wrote one of those too. Just to cover all of our bases.)
You see, it’s sometimes the small things like this that make a big difference. Even in the cold, cruel world of real estate.
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