Q: How often do people buy the first house they see?
I had someone who did just that this year. It is rare. Generally, I hate it. Why?
You would think that I’d love this. Quick work! But, people who buy the first house they see (because it is “magic”) are often not as happy as people who have shopped around a bit. It takes at least 3-6 houses to get your feet wet in this market. I would rather that our clients have the information to be confident before they make an offer and purchase a house or condo.
No perspective: When someone buys the first house they see, they do not have the experience of getting a feel for the market. They don’t get a chance to try out different types of houses or different locations. This makes it harder to be confident that this was really the house for them.
Whenever possible, I show this smitten buyer at least two or three more houses, before making the offer. That builds more perspective. It makes everything go more easily because there are other data points that say “This IS the right house” or not.
Sometimes the house is unworthy: When someone gets seduced by a “magic house,” they are unlikely to look carefully for flaws. Sometimes the flaws are huge and obvious to me and my agents, because we are paid to be objective. I have seen people sure that they found the perfect house, only to realize fundamental things like this:
- They need three bedrooms and this property has two.
- They want a workshop, but the basement ceiling is too low for that.
- They work on their antique car and this house has no garage.
- It is in a town they have never looked in and have not researched the schools.
- It is on a busy street, but it is Sunday, so they didn’t notice.
- All the systems are outdated and the property is at the top of their price range, as is.
Steps to buying rationally instead of looking for the magic house:
Look for the important things. It has been frustrating to buyers that they only get fifteen to thirty minutes to see a house before needing to make an offer. This rush-rush is bad for buyers. I also expect it contributes to the number of buyers who back out a week later; that makes it bad for sellers, too.
Buyers should be looking for their must-have list items:
- The usefulness of the rooms that are most important to you. Is the kitchen, bedrooms, entertainment space useful for your life?
- Are the expensive parts of the house the type you like? Example: If you need to convert a hot air heating system to hot water baseboard because of allergies, you might not want that expense immediately after you move in. You will have far less hassle seeing only houses with steam or hot air heating.
- Are you immediately planning to tear down walls to make the house work? If so, you should check with your agent about whether you are likely to find a house with walls more where they’d work for you. Unless you are looking forward to a rehab project, you dream house should have walls where you want them.
What your buyer’s agent can do to help
While you are figuring out if the house works for you, your agent will be looking for big-ticket problems that are common in the kind of house or condo that you are in.
Even in the overheated market of 2021, our client are all having home inspections, or at very least pre-inspections/house consultations with a home inspector. This is a must for our clients. We think it is irrational to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars without getting it checked out. Home inspectors find tens of thousands of dollars in work that you wouldn’t know about without them. My agents and I are in houses all the time, yet home inspectors still surprise us when they notice small things that indicate big problems.
I am not against falling in love, but my agents and I help people figure out if it is puppy love or the makings of a beautiful friendship. Congratulations to A. and M. who bought the first house they saw. It is a magic house.