House Dating

In case you haven’t seen my posts on the topic before, Tina and I are looking for a new home.  Cam’s getting to the age where he needs more space (and I would like an office that isn’t also a bedroom).  So we’ve spent the better part of a year fixing the things that needed fixing… and making the house a curb-appeal rockstar.

Meanwhile, we’re sorta’ looking, too (no, we’re not dumb enough to want to try to have two mortgages – no thank you).  But if we get an offer, we need to be prepared.  So we’ve keep a running list of a few potential properties that we’d like to go see in the event things work out for us.  A few days ago, things started to look like they would.

So we took 3 hours out of our realtor’s Fourth of July weekend to go house hunting yesterday.  I have to say that I’m pretty disappointed overall… and I think it has to do with some central tenants/laws/rules about selling homes that really closely pair with rules for dating.

1. Set expectations properly.  When you’re dating, especially online, the first thing most people show is their photo.  As a guy, I can tell you that if you are looking through a screen of women and all you see is a head, the first question you have is about the body.

Homes are the same.  If you show the inside, but no exterior shots – my first thought is that there’s something wrong with the outside.  Additionally, when you DO show photos of the outside, don’t take a photo from a weird angle to use some form of forced perspective to make it no longer appear that you have a 200′ vertical elevation drop from the street to your garage.  The minute I see that in real life, I’m not even going to look inside your home (which will become more important to you, the seller, in a minute).

Also – if you post a sign or have a request that I take of my shoes when entering, you’d better well have your place looking like a “no shoes” home.  By that, I mean:

  • you’d better not be a smoker and have cigarette butts outside or smoke smell inside
  • your floors had better be immaculately clean (my white socks will tell me the story in a minute)
  • you probably shouldn’t have a dog – especially one that requires food and water bowls in the kitchen AND in your master bathroom… and where you’ve picked up the slopped food around the bowls, too
All in all, if you ask me to remove my shoes, I will have enough respect for you to do it – even though I don’t know you.  But if you’ve wasted my time AND I’ve felt just a little weird walking bare or stocking-footed through your home, you can bet I’m not putting an offer on your place.
So, set expectations properly.
2.  Know your price range.  Look, I know that nobody wants to admit when someone is “out of their league” but the truth of the matter is that not everyone fits well with everyone else romantically.  Try as hard as you might, but Penny and Leonard just aren’t meant to be together long term (besides, Pria is a better match).  Granted, I have NOTHING against Penny.  She’s just not going to be able to hang with Leonard’s crowd (or vice versa for that matter – even though Leonard really wants to).
For houses, if you price your home based on what you feel it’s worth, and not based on what it’s actually worth given its location and condition, don’t expect to get what you want out of it.  Real estate is already incredibly volatile and fickle.  Our current home was headed on a 5+%/year increase trajectory at the point when we bought it.  Which means that today, I should be able to get 128% of what I paid for it.  Wanna’ guess if that’s what the housing market says it’s worth?  Of course it’s not.  The market took a header and down went my hopes of ever seeing the 100% increase prior owners of this same house did.
When you price your home and then scoff at the offers that come in, take a moment to think about whether the home is worth what you’re asking.  What makes it worth that?  Is it immaculate?  Does it have a big backyard with a fence?  Is it on a quiet street in a good neighborhood?  Does it still have any builder brass or builder slab fixtures?
I’m not going to pay for potential.  I’m going to pay for what is.
3.  The corollary to #2 is: Don’t believe your own hype.  Yes, I know you’re awesome and your mother thinks you’re awesome, too.  What does your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend think?  Would they start your personal ad with all caps: “STUNNING HOME (guy/girl) IN & IS PICTURE PERFECT”?
No?
Right.  Why?  Well, first, all caps is shouting.  But beyond that, people won’t describe themselves as perfect (and usually not stunning).  Which is why, in real estate, we have agents.  House Pimps.  They’re there to market the heck out of something that isn’t all that.  And, like lawyers, we tend to dislike all of them other than our own.  [Speaking of which, our agent is awesome.  If you ever need someone in Raleigh, let us know and we’ll connect you.]
But when you believe the House Pimp Hype, you’re forgetting that there’s a reason why you no longer want to live there.  Part of that forgetting allows you to move… the other part makes you want to sell for more than it’s worth (See #2 above).  More importantly, however, it creates a disconnect between reality and fantasy.  At the end of the day, I’m buying a house and I’m going to have to work to turn it into a home.  Drop your hype and figure out what it is about the house that lends itself to becoming a home.
The same, of course, is true for dating – you become a great catch when you realize what you have that’s useful to someone else.  But this is really the subject of a whole other post (and a book that I’m working on).

4.  Don’t waste my time.  Actually, all of these rules come together to support this final rule.  If you waste my time, you’re never going to get my interest.  If I have to figure out the “real you” in dating or the “real deal” on the house, that’s wasting my time.  And given the amount of technology at our disposal these days to find out a lot of the story early on in the “relationship”, don’t be surprised that if you try to fool me to get me close and when I am and see you for what you are … that I run.

Yesterday, we saw the 200′ vertical drop house in person.  Photos made it look great, but there was no way that we would ever make it up and onto the street in a Raleigh winter with a little ice or freezing rain.  So we didn’t bother to even look inside the house.  There was no way to fix this issue.

Some people probably don’t care about things like that (heck, the house isn’t brand new, so theoretically, several people haven’t been bothered by it).  But deceiving me enough to drive out to BFE to see it in person just pissed me off.  So I cancelled my showing slot.  Which, if you’re like me, meant that you had been forced out of your house during my slot and now have nothing to show for it.

On the flip side… don’t make a showing appointment with me and then cancel mid-way through the time.  I’ve had to pack Cam into the car… maybe even wake him from a nap a little early.  All told, a huge inconvenience.  I’ve been completely honest in my listing and photos so there’s nothing unexpected about what you’ll see when you arrive.  So don’t bail on me now.  Because, as with dating, I can find out who you are (or who your House Pimp is)… and I can promise that if you call back later, I won’t be pleasant to deal with.  🙂

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