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Do you know what you want in a home? I’ll bet you don’t… at least, not yet.

March 29, 2011

Buyers are liars.  That’s a phrase I’ve heard since I entered the industry in 2003. 

Do I believe it?  To a certain degree, yes (he said tongue-in-cheek).

I believe it because time and time again what buyers tell me they want in a home up front is often completely different from what they end up purchasing.  Now, that isn’t to say that I believe buyers are forked-tongued devils.  However, buyers are conditioned to believe that they are supposed to say they want certain things in a property. 

Because I believe buyers don’t always know what they want, or at least how to articulate it,  I take them out on what I call an “Education Tour”.  These tours provide the perfect opportunity for me to see exactly what people are talking about, or not talking about.  They also allow me to educate buyers on features, condition, architecture, and issues in the market.  Watching someone react to different features and surroundings is far more enlightening than hearing them describe it.

I can’t tell you how many times buyers say they want a craftsman home but end up buying a mid-century modern.  Or that they need 4 bedrooms but really only needed 2 with set aside spaces for an office and scrapbooking.  Or perhaps they thought they needed a circular floor plan but really they just wanted an open wall between the kitchen and living room.   Or that they want a garage but what they really want is more storage for their stuff.  No matter the buyer, there is always something that is completely different than what they told me up front. 

Much of this has to do with the barrage of suggestions people receive from places like Pottery Barn, Dwell magazine, HGTV, etcetera.  Real estate agents then crawl onto the bandwagon and try to market homes toward these perceived needs.  We ‘re continually fed these images and ideas of what a home could or should be without being able to frame it into the context of our real lives. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Dwell magazine and HGTV but I would encourage buyers to consider their real lives first before trying to cram themselves into an idea of “home” that really isn’t them.  

How do you do this?   

For starters, walk through your home and think about each room.  Consider what works for you in that room and what changes would improve your life.  Make a list of those things. 

Step 2: Hire a Realtor, preferably me (shameless plug). Go out and see a number of different styles of homes.  Let your Realtor reflect back what they are seeing and hearing as you look at these places.  I can almost guarantee that you will be surprised by some of the changes that you’ll make to your criteria. 

From there you will have a more realistic picture of what you want in a home and will be prepared to start searching  in earnest.

It’s not surprising that not knowing what we want isn’t restricted to just real estate.  As it turns out, we are clueless about what we desire in spaghetti sauce, ketchup, and all sorts of other things.  Check out this TED talk by Malcolm Gladwell on what people want.   If you’re like me you’ll find it fascinating.

Happy hunting!

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