Sunday, March 30, 2008

When Friends Are Clients

I have not written much about my "second job"in real estate mainly because not much is happening. New England, like many section's of the country is in a bit of a real estate slump. I have two clients, one client is a couple that I have known for a number of years. They are a bit older than I am and have lived in their current home for almost 40 years. They have dogs, chickens, and two goats. At one time they also had horses and sheep, but have given up the other animals. It's a lovely old Colonial home (built in the late 1700's), 3 fireplaces, lots of original woodwork, three barns, a kennel, etc. They want to move. Maintaining an old home is costly, it is drafty, it has a dirt floor basement, real plaster and lathe walls, and next to no insulation. Very charming and authentic, but very old.

We have been looking for a potential new home, the chickens and goats will go to a neighbor, but the dogs will come with my friends. The criteria will be a home that has enough land so the dogs won't be a bother to the neighbors, it must have room for a kennel for the dogs (either a kennel or a building to be converted to kennels), 3-4 bedrooms, a real basement with a walkout, and updated mechanicals and not require a lot of work (no extensive renovations). And oh yes, it must be at a certain price point.

A couple months ago, I showed them a house close to their current home that my office has listed for sale. This house is listed through my office and as per state law, I work for the seller. I also represent the buyers, but for the initial showing, I represent the seller. The house in question was built by the owner for he and his wife. Since he was/is a builder, they customized parts of the house to their personal taste. They had planned to stay there for at least ten years. The wife passed away about a year ago and the husband put the house up for sale. It is about 90% finished, there are still some things to be done, decks and walkways built, some trim work to be finished, landscaping to be completed, but it shows OK and we preface each showing by saying these things will be completed as part of the sale of the home. The owner has just lost the desire to finish the house while he is still in the last stages of grieving.

On first glance, this house would be perfect for my friends, it's a large house, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, study, living room, large eat in kitchen, large dining room with french doors leading to the outside, very energy efficient mechanicals, 3 car garage with a plumbed in approved guest/in law/rental apartment over it and it does have an amazing sunset view on about 5 acres of almost all flat lawn. I also know that since this home was built by the builder that as I said, they tweaked it for their personal tastes. Instead of a vinyl,tile, or hardwood floor, they used Pergo in the kitchen. They liked dark colors, so the granite counters where almost black, the furniture is over sized and of a very specific taste (lots of people have a hard time getting past furniture and personal possessions when they look at houses), french doors that lead from the lower level guest/master bedroom to a crushed stone patio, the proposed wrap around deck and walkway connecting the house to the garage has footing poured, but is not complete.

Part of what makes a real estate agent successful is knowing your client and their needs and wants and how to match house to buyer. I know my friends/clients well enough to know that at first blush, this sounds like the perfect home for them, it really was not. They don't like Pergo floors, prefer lighter counter tops, etc and I knew the land would not suit them for a potential outbuilding. They have three cars, a tractor and a very large riding mower, the garage would be kind of small. I've been sending them information sheets on a number of houses for a number of months and have been tracking whats for sale based on their criteria and price range. There is currently not a lot in their price range. The house I do think would be great for them is about $150,000 over their budget. I know the sellers won't reduce their price and the buyers won't raise thier price point enough for them to meet in the middle. Ah well....

I warned my friends a head of time that this house was built by the owner to be his semi-retirement home and thus customized for he and his wife. They had planned it to suite their tastes. The owner had given us permission to say all of the above and that he could and would be happy to finish what was unfinished or make a reduction in price based on the unfinished work. The seller does not have to sell, he would like to sell and move on to a new chapter of his life. I would not NOT show the property to a prospective client, but did not want to get either the sellers or my buyers over excited.

Needless to say, while the showing went OK, my friends/clients were bitterly disappointed. They had a hard time getting past the furniture, did not like the Pergo floor in the kitchen, thought the proposed deck would be too small, did not like the detached garage, the basement although large, did not have an exterior door, they did not like the view off the deck to the back of the house that was just trees (the back yard view was NOT important to the sellers), did not like the orientation of the house, etc. All they kept saying after we left the house was how disappointed they were in the house. All I wanted to do was retort back "You were the ones who built up the house in your mind as your "perfect"home and I told you it was not", but I did not. For the next two months, they would ask what was the status of the house for sale, had it been show, any offers, etc and always end the conversation with the statement how disappointed they were in the house.

OK, I get it, you did not like the house. I knew they would not like the house, they wanted to see it, so I showed it to them. That is my job, I show houses. They did not like the house I showed them in town A-it was too close to the village center (actually it sits in back of one of our small town shopping centers-which is a small grocery store, post office and another small business), they did not like the house in town B-wrong style of house (then why did you ask to see it if you don't like Gambrel Style houses), the house in town C had no land, the house in town D only had one bathroom, second house in town B was out of price range,.........

It's tough keeping that balance of freind and real estate agent. It's even tougher when your clients keep harping back to that one home that they were "disappointed in". I really want to say, just get freaking over it. No one made you see it and you were the ones who built it up as the "pefect" home, I did not. Just give it up and move on for crying out loud. I'm not sure why they keep asking about the house, they made it very clear they are not interested in it, yet they want to know the status of it. I asked at one point if they were considering an offer if the price was lowered (known in the business as bottom fishing) and they said no, they were not. It's not my place to say more than it is still for sale and what the current price is. I just keep sending them the updated listings and hope they find something is a town that they want to live in.


CindyS said...

Showing property can be a pain whether it's friends or not. I had clients who ran me all over half the state looking at property and then decided that they liked the house they were in better. Sigh.

Bouncing Back said...

Very true, at least with a non friend I can (and have been) a little more 'direct" about showings. As the old saying goes 'buyers are liars'.......

Obligation To Pay said...

I can relate to your situation. Being a computer geek and having a side business doing "computer support and repair" I have "friends" who at times try to take advantage of that friendship! I’ve tried to refrain from being their computer tech because I find it hard to “charge” them for my work.

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