Tag Archives: buyer’s remorse

Under House Arrest?

CageDoorHere’s a short meditation on change for buyers or sellers who are feeling a little stuck.  There’s a lot of that going around these days.

Prevailing wisdom says there are no two ways (or even three or four ways) around it.  Change is scary. But is that really true?

Something hit home with more clarity this week while I was in the middle of moving to my new Real Estate Home at Sereno Group: It’s not real, actual change itself that’s scary.  That’s a clever illusion we get used to entertaining.

Or perhaps an obfuscation that you/we/I  manufacture to make it harder to wander outside the perimeter of our own tightly-constructed brain maps. Past the established fence line in our own backyards.  Towards the great unknown that looms large like a dark ego-less abyss without any apparent handhold to grab onto or solid ground to step up on. Mostly because we haven’t actually had the chance to integrate the new-ness into unconscious loops or comfortable self-definitions yet.

It’s really the thought of change that’s the most scary thing.  The yet to be experienced prospects of change. The future imagining of what change might be like.  The embracing of the fear of fear itself that’s most fearful.

On autopilot, we often erect elaborate obstacle courses full of “what ifs”  in our heads. One’s that seem too tough or insurmountable.  That run us around in circles.  That obscure our sight.  Wear us out.  Test us on levels we didn’t necessary volunteer to be tested on.

What if I get an offer on my house but can’t find another place to move? What if I buy a new house and lose my job? What if prices go up? Or down? What if I can’t stand the freeway noise? What if the neighbors are too loud? The list of what-ifs could/can go on forever. Ad infinitum.

And that’s what’s truly scary. The absurd lengths that so many of us often go, to avoid change.  That’s the most insidious of all the bogeymen-creatures hiding in our closets.

When people are struggling with change, something odd becomes apparent.  Doing nothing does exist as a default selection on the spectrum of choice.  In other words, not choosing is a choice too.  It’s  “None of the Above” on the multiple-choice test of life.

What is it about us that makes it so much easier to do nothing and remain content to spin our wheels in the same place rather than move forward into full engagement with a new and different place (Perhaps a really exciting and life-affirming place simply because it is new and different) ?

That brings us to what’s so great about working in real estate. It’s a core thing that goes way deeper than status or success or the desire to pay the mortgage on our own homes.  It’s the privilege Realtors have of being regularly invited into people’s homes to share in their most intimate processes/struggles/triumphs around change.

Twenty-three years now and counting.  And I have yet to work with any buyer or seller who wasn’t going through some major transition.  Home is inexorably intertwined with every passage in life. Home as a metaphorical extension of self and home as an actual physical exoskeleton erected around us.  All the biggies: birth of twins, death of a loved one, marriage, divorce, coming of age, empty nester, health, job loss or promotion…

Realtors don’t always feel privileged every minute of every day of course. There are times we feel like throttling a client when the bad and the ugly of their human nature eclipses the good.  Or stupid human tricks become the temporary special du jour.

But that’s what makes it more rewarding on those frequent when we help/witness people summon up courage and navigate past their fears. Maybe in the form of  a first time buyer rising to the occasion. Or a recently widowed spouse finding a path forward.

Brain maps are like ankle bracelets for minimum security offenders.  Doing the time isn’t that bad. The three hots and a cot can be pretty cushy. Except for that little electrical jolt we might feel, we can step over the invisible boundary whenever we want.

Fascinating to consider the irony of it all.  Home being our most important place of security, comfort, safety, privacy, refuge but knowing that it’s a place that can also become a prison as well… House arrest can lead to arrested development. And arrested development.


Do I get a Mulligan?

Last week we were musing about Buyers Remorse. That torturous aspect of real estate that seems to take great pleasure in showing up like an unwanted guest in the middle of so many escrows.

I’m sure we Realtors use the phrase too much. Extend the fragile umbrella of its meaning too far into the twisting wind. But what else can we call “it”?

There has to be some way to talk about those clandestine meetings that arise in our clients’ heads when they’re navigating something as huge as buying a house. Not to mention all the other major life transitions that come along part and parcel with their shifts in home-ness.

There’s got to be some common term for the cascade effect that occurs when people’s worry centers start throwing “What-Ifs” wildly up into the air like ping- pong balls in the lotto game of life.

There has to be some language that captures those scary moments when buyer emotions ratchet up because real life is suddenly on the verge of becoming more real. When dreaming and talking get squeezed by events into the necessity of actually doing and deciding.

Swells of commitment approaching. Rogue waves that can’t be taken back. Tides of inevitability rushing past warning buoys towards a bridge too far and the tipping point of no return. Offer to Negotiation to Acceptance to Deposit to Inspections to Release of Contingencies to Sign-Off to Close.

Yikes! OMG! What if I make a mistake? Will God give me a mulligan?

Yep. Buyers Remorse – a staple of real estate. A dish found hanging around the table whenever the heat gets turned up in the kitchen and the escrow pot starts boiling. A daily special cooked and served up in all kinds of strange and interesting ways. Steamed. Grilled. Poached. And definitely fried.

Funny, the more ways Buyers Remorse gets prepared. the more unprepared I seem to be when it rears its all-too human head. Call it an occupational hazard – the spectre of escrow-interruptus still lurks like a shadow around every corner.

Somehow, I’ve managed to stay sane and adjust my own frame of reference over time. Here’s an analogy that makes it all make more sense – at least to me.

Close your eyes. Let your imagination drift back to college. A memorable Friday night. Alone at the local watering hole having a few beers. Looking across the room. Making eye contact . Love at first sight. Brain chemicals racing to the heart. Fireworks exploding. And in some fashion (appropriate to a family newspaper) a magical weekend spent with your new-found desire.

Then….Monday morning comes. The alarm goes off. The real world calls. You return to that other life – where the rest of you starts to question the whole experience.

Now fast forward to real estate land. Look at how the process is designed. No wonder it scares the hell out of just about everyone.

Buyers fall in love with houses. Get swept up in emotion. Make offers that are accepted. So far so good.

But happens next? They hire the equivalent of several private detectives in the form of Home Inspectors and Termite Guys to come and tell them everything that could possibly be wrong with the thing they just fell in love with. They pay people money to test their resolve and break the bonds of emotion captivating them.

At the same time their Agent hands them thick dossiers of information about all the secret things about homes that could harm them. Asbestos. Radon Gas. Lead Based Paint. Floods. Earthquakes. Who knew there were this many horsemen of the apocalypse?

Buyers Remorse isn’t some awful aberration of the psyche. It is something that’s infinitely normal. Is there any buyer on the planet that doesn’t wake up at least once during the course of escrow plagued by tremors of doubt and at least the mild choking sensation of existential terror? If so, then they must be living life as an automaton, without benefit of the normal emotional chip the rest of us were born with.



Chestnut Roasting

Good old Buyer’s Remorse. A dog-eared catchphrase in the well-worn lexicon of real estate. One of it’s grand old chestnuts.

Oft-experienced. Oft-invoked. Buyer’s Remorse is the staple we trot out of the stable when we don’t have other words to describe unstable weather (or whether not) conditions inside a troubled buyer’s head.

Deep down “there.” In the dark corners of the mysteriously thick skulls we all possess. Where rational layers of neo-cortex rub up against a Pandora’s Box full of inner demons residing in the lowly, sub-cortical regions of the brain. Tiny bottomless pits of adrenalin, emotion, survival instincts and ancient, hair-trigger, fright-and-flight mechanisms ready to go off at a nanosecond’s notice.

Moribund tales of Buyers Remorse abound. Every Realtor has their share. Etched indelibly onto the casualty rolls of hard to forget, crash and burn transactions. Decimated deals. Escrows that flew south when terror attacks came in the middle of the night. Skittish clients spooked and bolting out of their comfort zone. As the song says: Remorse is remorse of course of course. And no one can talk to remorse of course. Except maybe a house whisperer named Ed.

There’s the story about the offer that went along just fine until it came time to actually sign it. Or worse…write the deposit check. The one about the multiple offer situation where all ten would-be buyers panicked and ended up scattering to the winds. The one about the serial buyers who kept buying a new house every year thinking the next one was really going to fix their lives. The one about the buyer who was just as anxiety-ridden at the thought of getting the house as he was about not getting the house. Hundreds of stories about poor first-time buyers who turned tail and ran as soon as they got a gander at their first home inspection. And thousands more.

Suffice to say no one is immune. Buyers are only human. We all have boogey-men hiding in our closets. What better time to take them out for a stroll than in the middle of buying a home?

In the old days Buyer’s Remorse seemed simpler. More straight-forward. It usually camped out at the far end of the regret spectrum. Where there was no going back. Right after Close of Escrow (COE). When the Dirty Deed was already done.

My made up Latin name for this familiar garden-variety is Post-Rigor-Remorsus.

Buyers act diligently. Move steadily through escrow. Cross T’s. Dot I’s. Rigorously attend to each detail along the way. But some put their heads down a little too far. Focus so intently on small things, they don’t notice their own shadows following them. Walking like dopplegangers in their own shoes.

This kind of double-trouble lies in wait until the dust settles. When those powerful, brain-produced, mind-altering drugs linked to anticipation and excitement have vanished. Reality doesn’t always live up to realty’s staging. Be careful what you wish for…the saying goes. The other you just might get it.

What do Buyers do if post-rigor-remorsus strikes? One of three things: a) Kick their own butts unmercifully. Don hairshirts of self-blame for eternity. 2) Go through their inner rolodex and find someone else to blame. Or better yet, find everyone else to blame. 3) Move on. Get back to the bigger picture. Nothing is ever as perfect as imagined. Dream homes included.

These days more people are showing signs of Early-Onset, Pre-Remorsus-Remorsus. It won’t be listed in the upcoming fifth edition of the DSM due out next year – but it’s becoming endemic. Increasing numbers of Buyers are regretting all the regrets they might succumb to long before they’ve ever had a chance to get there and start regretting where they are at. More on this next week.

And after that? Seller’s Remorse…the other dark meat.



Hmmm.  How odd.  Buyers competing with other buyers?  In what’s supposed to be a no holds barred Buyer’s Market?  You know, the kind of market where buyers call all the shots. And have their pick of the listing litter whenever they deign to bestow a little largesse on those woeful  sellers, all addressed up, waiting to dance.

And yet…,.we’re seeing multiple offers flying right and left, at least in some parts of  this peculiar market. What’s that all about? It flies in the face of everything we thought we knew about how a Buyer’s Market is supposed to act. But then, these are interesting times, aren’t they? As the oft-quoted Chinese curse says: “May you live (and buy) in interesting times.”

Before we get too far into the mysterious multiple personalities that come part and parcel with multiple offers in a Buyers’ Market, let’s spend a column strolling down memory lane.  Let’s harken back to those thrilling days of yesteryear – when it was a Seller’s Market and there was nary a care in the world. Money grew on trees and competing buyers were the staple that everyone else was feasting on.

If you were a listing agent back in  1988-1989, 1999-2000 or 2004-2005,  you knew, unquestioningly, with every fiber of your real estate body, that even if your first escrow fell out, due to fate or bad luck or even a buyer’s bad behavior,  there would always be another one waiting in the wings.

For every offer, there were 4 or 5 or 20 others right behind it. Buyers tripping over buyers to get into back-up position.   Every listing was on the gold standard. A veritable stash of krugerrands buried in the back yard. You didn’t worry about counting your commission before you had it because every listing – good, bad or ugly –  sold.  The key to success was to get the listing in the first place They were all done deals.

Here’s to  a rapidly appreciating market! It cures all ills. Glosses over all imperfections. Makes every boo boo feel better.  Nothing can go wrong…until of course, everything goes wrong.

Working with buyers in a Seller’s Market? That was another story. You put your time in. Often endless hours. Showing countless numbers of properties. Rushing to get to them quickly when they first hit the market. Beating the rest of the hungry hordes flocking to the blue light special. Writing offers on properties your client didn’t stand a snowball’s chance of getting – mostly because they just weren’t ready to step up and pay what the market insisted they pay and in the end… made them pay.

Sometimes it took 3 or 4 failed multiple offer situations for a buyer to finally get it.  For the light bulb to go on. They really couldn’t negotiate. The market wasn’t going to let them. This wasn’t Burger King and they couldn’t just walk in off the street and expect to have it their way a la carte. If they wanted to buy something, anything, the capitulation had to come from the buyer’s side of the coin (lots of coin).

The challenge for every buyer was in his own head. The true negotiation was with himself. How much could he ultimately convince himself to pay for a place? How much could he trick himself into taking on? Whatever he thought his limit was, the highest price he could possibly afford …it always took more. And more. And then … just a little more.

It was The Big Squeeze. Not only did buyers routinely start with more than full price and bid-up from there, they were also pressed for time. They careened crazily through escrow with incredibly short contingency periods. After working so hard to get into contract, they were afraid of what might happen if they didn’t hit every single mark, in perfect sync, along the way.  Inevitably, there was always something unexpected that came up.  A bump in the road or in the interest rates at the last minute. An extra closing cost popping up out of nowhere.   An inspection issue that no one really anticipated. Ca-ching. The adding machine just kept adding it up and piling it on.

Buyers had to talk themselves into accepting it. Dealing with it. Working around it. Putting up with it until it could all be fixed down the line, with a tiny piece of that pot of gold that was going to be theirs, waiting at the end of the rainbow.  It wasn’t that buyer’s remorse didn’t happen back then. It was just that it was so much easier to swallow.  The gestalt of the times was cramming it down every one’s throat. The whole object was to buy something. To get into the market at any and all cost.  Because it was only by getting into the market that you got a chance to be a seller too.

So next week, let’s explore how utterly strange this phenomenon of multiple offers can get when it happens right in the heart of a market teeming with buyer’s remorse. Who wins? Who loses? Who capitulates now?


Solid Ted?

I’ve been churning out this stream of consciousness called Real Estate of Mind for a long time now.  This past week,  I received the highest form of praise  I could ever aspire to… a local Realtor wrote:  “Your article on that over-the-hill agent was so funny, I blew coffee through my nose.”

A response that visceral and an image that graphic, exceeds all the right-on’s,  atta-boy’s, knowing smiles and mini-revelations my missives have coaxed out of you readers these last 13 years, by a factor of 10.  Thank you. I mean it. Blowing coffee through the nose.  It simply doesn’t get any better than that.

And while pausing for further commercial interruption in the middle of my own “advertorial” let me remind those who have gently complained about the small type –  log onto my blog with your morning coffee. You can OD on my real estate rants with whatever font size your aging eyes require.  Barring that, I have a new Promo Product to offer up. It’s a refrigerator magnet that doubles as a handy magnifying glass.  Helps you see and read the big picture of real estate.  It’s free to the first seven e mailers. After that, you have to list your house with me in order to get one.

But back to Tales of the Trenches….

There I was this week.  I got a call on a listing I just put into escrow.  It was on for $825,000 and after three weeks of the market’s coy flirtations and tiresome testing from  inveterate tire-kickers,  I listened to my own advice.  I encouraged my client to lower the price. Funny what even a small reduction can do sometimes.  Here was a discouraged Seller who had already concluded his property would remain unappreciated by buyers for all eternity. And then? Voila!

Four offers in three days. Full price. Qualified borrowers. Short contingencies. What more could one ask?  As usual, once the listing went into escrow,  the calls started. Agents representing Johnny-come-lately Buyers, who didn’t quite want it badly enough before. Those buyers content to keep circling around, doing their drive-bys, until the exact moment that mysteriously occurs when some other buyer steps up to ‘carpe diem’ the deal.  Translation: Homes are more desirable when you can’t have them.

So here’s the operative real estate phrase for the week:  Whenever an Agent calls another Agent about a house that has just gone into escrow, they ask:  “How’s the offer? Is it solid?”

Solid.  Hmm.  I have to admit, that there was a time when I would have answered that question unthinkingly. Without hesitation. Sure. Of course. Multiple offers. Full price. Qualified buyers.  Yatta Yatta.

But this time, that question stopped me in my tracks. I was momentarily stunned. Speechless. A flood of conflicting thoughts inside my head came cascading like a tsunami carrying all the dashed hopes and detritus and collective residue of all the DFTs (Deal Fell Throughs) accumulated over these last few years, while the real estate process has been turned upside-down and inside-out.

Does anybody really know what solid means anymore in this new day and new age when  every nuance of escrow is harder and almost every single thing takes longer than you thought it would?  “New and unimproved” as a one colleague says.  Is there anything close to unity and community of purpose or a sense of  ‘solidarity’ in real estate today?

Right now, realty looks like the rest of reality does when you get the big electron microscope out and peer closer. All those ‘real’ things that look so solid on the surface prove to be just a bunch of crazy mixed-up atoms, wandering in space, a slam-dance of chaos crowded onto the moshpit floor. Connections are tenuous. Always changing. Hard to tell how “it” all fits together. Or if “it” can stay together long enough.

No one is skating though escrow these days.  The ice is thin and far from solid. Hans Brinker’s golden skates got pawned. All us little Dutch boys are busy plugging holes in the dykes.

Are qualified buyers really qualified when it comes to the full doc, give-us-your-first born credit crunch?  Will that cut-rate appraiser hired by the AMC come down from Fremont and ding the value of the house even after it has been negotiated down $75k? If he doesn’t, is there a review appraiser at a desk somewhere in Des Moines ready to trip the trap door in this huge game of Chutes and Ladders? Will buyers be able to contain their own remorse and resist the temptation to renegotiate the price based on some red-flagged, red herring of an inspection non-issue? Will the other Agent’s brain implode trying contain his own buyer’s behavior?

Solid Ted? Naw. Nuff said.


Real Q and A

Making an offer shouldn’t be like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it will stick.

(Originally Published 7-08-06)

Dear Tom: We are interested in a house that has been on the market for a long time and hasn’t sold. Clearly the Seller is asking too much or someone would have bought it by now. We want to make an offer but we don’t want to waste anyone’s time. So, we thought we would just make our offer to the Seller verbally through our Agent and their Agent. What do you think? Waste Not, Want Yes

Dear Want: Except for rare instances (mostly relating to counter offers and counter to the counter offers) I am not a strong proponent of throwing verbal offers casually out into the ether of the marketplace, as though one were tossing strands of spaghetti against a wall, just to see if something might stick.

As anyone who has worked in this business long enough will tell you – talk is cheap, even if the houses aren’t. I don’t know how many times in my career, an Agent has called to say that he/she was bringing in an offer on one of my listings, only to have some sudden mysterious act of “client interruptus” take place in the form of a last minute change of heart or a debilitating attack of buyers remorse – in which case the mythical offer got hijacked before it actually ever materialized in the flesh.

I stopped telling Sellers a long time ago that we “might” have an offer coming in every time someone calls to say they are “working on something.” Too often it gets emotions worked up and adrenalin shooting through the system needlessly. There’s nothing worse than a Seller waiting  in vain for their date to show up and the dance to begin – sitting all “addressed up with no place to go.”

So rule of thumb is: unless there is a bona fide Purchase Contract completely filled out with someone’s John Hancock on it staring up at me from the safe harbor of my own desk – it ain’t an offer.

It might be a dream. It might be a flight of fancy. It might be a negotiating ploy. It might be unrealized potential. But it ain’t an offer.

As a Buyer there’s another angle you might want to consider. By making a verbal offer, you could be selling your own interests figuratively short if you are really trying to convince the Seller of  a property that has been on the market for a while to sell his/her interests literally short.

Think about it! When you tender a verbal offer, you are in effect saying to a Seller: “If I were to hypothetically think about writing an offer on your home somewhere in the range of some price, how do you think you would hypothetically respond to such an offer, were I to actually make it?” Hardly compelling stuff, is it? Specially for a Seller stuck in the morass of their own mind-set.

I guarantee you that as long as Sellers are thinking about the prospect of selling their property on a purely hypothetical basis, rather than a real one, the vast majority are going to revert back to the same conceptual set of expectations that convinced them to overprice their property in the first place.

There is only one way to transition your interest and their dreams out of the realm of the hypothetical and into the real. Put your offer in writing. Make it appear on their dining room table. Force them to review its terms and conditions in a way that requires them to do some actual soul-searching and confront their own presuppositions.

A real written offer alters the internal process of even the most recalcitrant Seller. It says to them that the whole ordeal can be over if they just agree to sign on the bottom line. And that is compelling to someone who is tired of living in the fish bowl of the marketplace.

This isn’t to say, of course, that you can write any offer at any price and expect Sellers to immediately cave in and hand you the keys and the deed to their property. What it hopefully means is that you can create an opportunity to get your foot in the door and begin a dialogue about acceptable price and terms without getting it slammed shut abruptly in your face.

Talking the talk isn’t enough. You’ve got to help the Seller walk the walk and do the difficult work of coming to grips with their own deflated expectations. Don’t worry about wasting anyone’s time. It should only take your Agent 20 minutes to write up the Purchase Contract assuming you have a reasonable sense of what you want to offer. The Seller has already wasted much more of their own time than you ever could.



(This article was first published in 1997)

Ah, if life or real estate really were only as simple as a Budweiser beer commercial. In sixty short seconds, we could discern the hidden meaning of existence by staring deeply into the third eye of Spuds McKenzie. Or we could routinely coax ourselves into a profound meditative trance by breathing in sync with the esoteric rhythms of those magic Clydesdale hooves as they trotted proudly down the middle of Main Street America.

But no, unfortunately, that Bud’s not for you or for any of the rest of us in the real, real estate world.

There are always more questions than answers when it comes to buying a home. Or when going through any of the other major life transitions that are lying out there in wait for us. So tell me this, intrepid fellow traveler on this remarkable journey we all car-pool in together…Are we ever going to get all our questions answered?

Nope.  Forget it. Not a snowball’s chance in the proverbial big down under.

But how about this as a consolation prize? Can we get a lot of our questions answered? You bet! And if you think that constitutes “just settling”, think again, because last I checked, some is almost always better than none.

Fate, providence, kismet, divine intervention, synchronicity. karma, luck – whatever name you use for “it” in the lexicon of the daily universe you happen to stroll around in – “it” always reserves the last choice for itself.  The ultimate say. The final word.The proxy vote. The consummate contingency.

The more I endeavor to understand this fascinating form of soul work known as real estate, the more convinced I am that the overriding caveat to buying a home is that no matter how many questions you have, no matter how many answers you get, there is still going to be that last little leap of faith that you have to take all by your very lonesome.

A small but oh-so-significant leap over what may feel like a giant chasm opening up under your chair at the escrow sign-off table or an infinite abyss welling up in your own gut when the moment finally arrives when, with trembling hand, you have to write the one of the biggest gut checks you’ve ever have to write in your life.

Some people are better at doing “the leap of faith” than others.  Some seem to be able to draw from a deep, mysterious, hidden well of courage when the moment of truth inevitably rolls around.  Others turn to jello at the first hint of  full commitment. Some sink into a fast free fall or start sounding a high emotional pitch when the going gets just a little tough.

With assistance, Buyers can put themselves through a kind of mental and emotional boot camp to prepare themselves to recognize the big moment before it actually arrives.  Training that teaches them some of the rudimentary tools of proper prior planning and helps them get over the hump before the hump morphs into an insurmountable mountain.

One simple piece of advice is this:   In the beginning of your home search start by paying attention to all those little things  you actually can control in the real estate process – recognizing that there is so much that is going to be beyond your control as you get further down the road.  If you go step by step in premeditated fashion  and cross a bunch of nagging requisites off the list up front,  you’ll be surprised at how much energy and brainspace you can free up for the future.  The idea is to save and garner and hold enough synaptic juice in reserve so it is available when you finally enter the steel cage for the wrestling match with all the tougher, more unanswerable, more uncontrollable questions that are inevitably going to arise to challenge you.

You might as well  acknowledge right from the start that you aren’t going to make it through your home buying experience without experiencing plenty of existential doubts, second, third and fourth guesses, sweaty palms in the middle of the night, sudden onslaughts of decision deficit disorder and  heavy bouts of fear and loathing caused by pre-buyer’s and post-buyer’s  remorse. Expect more than a few visits from the dreaded what-if monster – sliding out from under your bed or rattling loudly from inside your closet in the wee hours. The what-ifs will always shake your sleep with a host of  their favorite old refrains:  What if I lose my job? What if the economy goes to hell? What if the roof starts to leak? What if I stretch myself too far? What if I become a slave to my mortgage?

Change is hard. But you’ve got to buck up if you are going to make it through in one piece with a modicum of grace and good humor. Customizing and reciting your own version of the serenity prayer is also good medicine.

There’s something else you can do  for yourself while you are at it. Don’t jump into the car on the first day of your house hunting process, convinced that you are under some biological imperative to identify the perfect home right away. Instead, try easing slowly into the car and head out on the town without any preconceived pressure or sales hype hanging over your head. Simply decide that what you are going to do is conduct  “research”. Go on a  mindful exploration and an interesting informational scavenger hunt. Simply take a ride and see what you see.

Since the “market” is a hard to perceive phenomena based on an invisible matrix of how every home compares to every other home in your area, viewing a lot of places over time helps you develop a gut sense for what the market is, where it stands and how it operates and evolves cyclically through the ongoing machinations of the great Invisible Hand”  that Adam Smith so clearly saw.

Re-framing your house hunting as research takes the onus off the hurry up and go buy-buy consumer addiction that our culture insufferably promotes at every turn.  The research mode smoothes things out and creates a more comfortable atmosphere to ask questions and pursue answers in.

No house you look at is ever a waste of time. Banish that silly notion.  The houses you look at when you are house hunting don’t all have to be perfect. In fact none of them are going to be perfect.  You often gain as much from seeing and talking about what you don’t like in a house as you do from seeing lots of features and amenities that you do like.

House hunting takes place over a period of time that is different for different people. One size, one house,  one style does not fit all. To own a home, first you have to be willing to own your own process. Yours – no one elses. Not your agent’s. Not your parents. Not your cubicle mate’s at work. And one of the most important things to remember is that there are no stupid questions. Never apologize to your agent, your lender, your escrow officer for asking anything.

True, some of the questions that pop  into your head and jump out of your mouth may sound more like zen koans rather than the rational precepts of a more staid and linear Newtonian universe – but go ahead and ask them anyway. Honor whatever comes up for you. Check it out. Don’t leave any of those stones un-turned. They can create disturbing ripples if they get tossed away before they get checked out. The learning is in the asking and in thinking it through just as much as it is in the answers themselves.

The real estate control consortium – Central Command in Sacramento – seems to have its own trouble discerning what is important and what isn’t important when it comes to turning out well-rounded, worldly-wise Realtors who can act as worthy ombudsmen for clients going through major life transitions.

When I took my real estate first licensing test, the folks at the State Department of Real Estate (in their infinite wisdom) seemed quite concerned that I know exactly how many square feet were in an acre of land as well as the intricacies of the original Spanish Land Grant system along with the exact definition of alluvial accretion.

Now that I’ve been in the business for way more than a hundred dog years I realize how irrelevant most of those details are and how little use they are when trying to put together the jigsaw of the big picture for real people.

What follows is a sample of  the kind of questions that seem much more important to me when it comes to my client’s best interests in their journey through the mysterious underbelly of a real, real estate transaction.

Some of these questions may sound odd at first, but there’s a method to my madness. In real estate, fact is always stranger than fiction and when the going gets strange, you have to be able to embrace its complexities.

Here goes:

Why is there truly no such thing as a good market or a bad market.?

Why do so many Agents/Brokers claim to be #1 in real estate at the same time?

Why do the number of lawsuits in real estate increase in direct proportion to the enactment of consumer protection laws?

Why does more real estate paperwork make it less likely that clients will read the most important things you share with them?

Why is earthquake insurance really just life insurance for your house?

Why do most appraisals come in at exactly the agreed upon purchase price of a home?

Why are some termite companies known as buyer’s termite companies while others are known as seller’s termite companies?

Why isn’t location, location, location the most important thing in real estate?

Why is the fourth dimension the most important and least acknowledged dimension of real estate?

Why doesn’t a Seller have to accept a full price offer?

Why is almost everything you read about real estate already old news?

Why is there always a catch to an as-is offer?

Why ask why?  Not just because you like to blast down the brewskies.  But because you are about to buy a home that holds a unique place in your life. It is a foundation for shelter, privacy, comfort and safety and the center of balance for almost everything else you do. Home is four special walls, a roof and a handful of rich dark earth that nourishes your soul at the same time it is probably the biggest single financial asset that you’ll ever own.

That’s why.