Walk a Mile in Buyers’ Shoes

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

What do buyers want? It’s a deceptively simple question that real estate professionals must regularly ask themselves, whether they represent sellers, buyers, or both. The answer isn’t always obvious, especially when you encounter an individual who seems incapable of making the simplest decision. Placing yourself in buyers’ shoes can help you identify and devise strategies for overcoming common stumbling blocks and generally provide better service. House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Homebuyers (Chronicle Books, 2002; $19.95), by Dian Hymer, a syndicated real estate columnist and real estate broker, offers practical, hands-on advice about homebuying, based on her 25 years in the business. You can use the book to gain a better perspective on buyers’ concerns, or recommend it to buyers.

The spiral-bound volume simplifies the homebuying process, breaking it down into a series of manageable tasks. It includes charts, checklists, and logs to assist readers in organizing the myriad details involved in shopping for, financing, and buying a home. House Hunting is broken into seven sections: Getting Started, The Search, Negotiating Your Home Purchase, After Your Offer is Accepted, Closing the Sales, Selling Your Home, and an appendix. Helpful chapter title tabs allow readers to quickly flip to their desired section. Each chapter starts with a brief introduction, followed by charts and explanations presenting the information that buyers need to gather at each stage and the decisions they need to make.

You can emulate House Hunting’s back-to-basics approach to fine-tune your interactions with buyers. For instance, “Chapter 1: Getting Ready” can give you a better handle on buyer psychology. You’ve probably dealt with new buyers who don’t seem to know what they want. Take these overwhelmed buyers back to the planning stages. Homebuying can be stressful even for people who have bought a home before–it can be downright paralyzing for first-time buyers. The chapter recommends developing a wish list that turns buyers’ vague wants into a concrete priority list:

  • Necessary Features. It might be a yard for children or pets or a well-lighted sunroom for growing flowers, but this category contains the deal breakers–the features that the home must possess.
  • Desired Features. These are the features which would be nice, such as a certain style of architecture or a bedroom with a view, but aren’t essential.
  • Unwanted Features. This category contains features that would automatically rule out a potential home; for example, busy professionals might not want to deal with a fixer-upper.

If listings are your specialty, you might find special interest in “Chapter 6, Selling Your Home.” The chapter provides an epilogue to the homebuying process—the day when your first-time homebuyers decides to sell their home. The chapter contains a list of the pros and cons of selling the current home first or purchasing the new home. This list addresses various strategies that will enable buyers to purchase a new home before selling their current one, such as placing a contingency clause in the purchase contract, using a swing loan to purchase a new home, and buying the replacement home using a line of credit (secured on the current home) for the downpayment. These explanations present a template for concisely presenting these options to your customers.

Since the book is firmly targeted toward the consumer, you may prefer to suggest it to buyers who want to organize their home search. In addition to providing overviews of complex topics such as mortgage options, the book includes checklists and worksheets to guide buyers through their home purchase. For instance, its “house hunting worksheets” presents a means for buyers to keep track of their impressions of houses, with fields for listing price, property condition, and commute time, among other elements. A later checklist ensures that buyers will remember every step that they need to complete during closing, from obtaining title insurance to signing the closing document. House Hunting is subtitled “the take-along workbook for homebuyers,” and it lives up to its billing—touches such as pouches to store documents and business cards add to this sturdily constructed book’s field-readiness.

You can use the book to get a perspective of the buyers’ view of the real estate transaction process, then keep it on hand as a resource to share with overwhelmed homebuyers. Ultimately, a better informed buyer can translate to money in your pocket. Customers who know what they want aren’t going to require as much handholding as those whose buying parameters remain fuzzy. At the same time, you can better appreciate how to address their concerns after you walk a mile in their shoes.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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