Real Estate Koans

The other day someone asked: “How many properties does a person look at before they find a house?” Hmmm. Another one of those interesting zen koans in a market where the only thing that’s certain is uncertainty and the only thing that stays the same is change.

Well Grasshoppers, I could answer the question with another question like: “Does one hand clapping alone in the forest make a sound?” But….I’ll try to translate it into Western-speak.

There are as many answers as there are people. 10? 50? 100 homes? The exact number lies somewhere between one and all of them. People always find “it” sometime between now and then.

I recently worked with folks who found it their 1st trip out, only their 4th property viewed. Fortuitous but not the norm. Of course, they had also done thousands of virtual drive-bys on search engines and spent many hours manifesting this choice in their mind’s eye.

I’ve got another client still looking after two years. Lack of inventory? Fate? Maybe there’s some dysfunction beneath the surface? Maybe he’s just particular?

But then again…why shouldn’t he be particular. It’s home. People haven’t been in much of a mood to settle for something that’s merely “ok” lately. Buyer expectation has been hovering pretty high on the Perfect Index. As things heat up, numbers on the “I’ll Settle” Index will rise accordingly.

If memory serves, my all-time streak for extra inning showing activity was with a couple who looked for seven years (who’s counting?) Every time a house seemed right, they asked one of their ex-spouses, a contractor, to give it thumbs up or thumbs down. The ex always blew the house out of the water. They finally realized the ex didn’t want to see his former other-half happy in a new home. Impediment removed, we closed on a great place shortly thereafter. Go figure.

I also recall another one of my all-time personal bests – the day I showed 19 properties to the same couple! Kids don’t try this at home. Could be hazardous to your health.

Anyone looking knows that after four or five houses, things start to get fuzzy. Eyes glaze over. It all begins to blend together. No one remembers whether the house with the pool had the brown carpet or whether the one that smelled like kitty litter had the pea-green paint. Sensory overload. Too much information.

That particular day felt like a combination of the Iditarod and the Amazing Race. A hundred yard dash that turned into a marathon that turned into a super-marathon.

Silly me. I thought we were starting out on a three hour cruise – only to become Gilligan shipwrecked with a couple of passengers. Thank God for vacant homes and their facilities. Thank God I brought standard real estate survival gear: Epi Pen (sticker shock), Kleenex Tissues (crying jags), Energy Bar (hypoglycemia) Dramamine (car sickness), Dog Biscuits (Rotweillers).

We went down every road, I never knew existed in San Lorenzo Valley. Past all those homesteads packed in them thar hills. Wondered how many streets could be called Summit or Highland without people getting totally lost.

Somewhere we passed the point of no return. We all got the giggles. It took twice as long between homes because I kept making wrong turns.

Then after the 18th house, on a whim, in the waning hours of twilight, they suggested a property that wasn’t on our list. Fried already, I figured sure, why not humor them.

Before they even got up the front stairs, a bolt from the blue hit them. Their body language changed. Without anyone saying anything, I knew this was it. We closed 45 days later.

There you have it buyers. Fate, kismet, synchronicity, divine intervention or just plain luck? Whenever your inner voice asks “Are we there yet?” know you’ll be home before you know it. Sometimes the 19th time is a charm.


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