HGTV has had a big impact on buyer expectations as they search for a home (can you say: stainless steel/granite, stainless steel/granite, stainless steel/granite??). But it hadn’t occurred to me until recently that HGTV real estate shows had also impacted buyers’ beliefs about how many houses they should see before making an offer. On TV, buyers seem to see 3 houses and then select one. Recently a young client, after seeing her third house, thought that it was time to decide…even though none of the ones we’d seen turned out to be a great match for her. Oh my! She’d been HGTV’d! We talked, re-set her expectations, and continued searching until we found “The One.”
Until then, I hadn’t realized this particular born-of-TV expectation was out there: “3 houses, and decide.” But recently I’ve seen inklings of this again and again, with a good number of clients wanting to know what was an acceptable number to visit, or apologizing for exceeding some perceived limit.
(Spoiler alert!) The HGTV version is theatre and not actual home searching; the buyer has already selected a home before filming begins, and the other two houses are after-the-fact, simulated options. (And, by the way, saying it is theatre is not saying that I don’t ENJOY it. I watch, too, and find it rather fun.) But “3 and decide” ISN’T a paradigm that buyers should impose on themselves…especially since it’s rather fictional.
Buyers often ask me, “How many houses should I see?” And my reply is that there’s not a numeric answer. The real answer is: we’ll look until we find it.
Occasionally, a buyer walks into the first house, and it is totally, absolutely, clearly The One. They look at one house, make an offer and buy it. (I wonder if these are the charmed people who also have mere 15 minute labors in childbirth??) Sometimes “love at first sight” is really love at the first site. It happens. But very rarely.
Sometimes someone is looking for something very idiosyncratic, which is very difficult to find, in a very specific neighborhood, at a very specific price point. This is going to take time, and maybe lots of looking at options that are close to the criteria to see if an available house can be tweaked to match. Maybe the pantry can become a 1st floor laundry? Maybe those trees can be cut back so there’s more usable yard? Maybe the carport can become a garage? Maybe we can take out a wall so I can see the kids playing while I’m cooking? This probably isn’t a 3-house search. It will take some experience to absorb what the available housing stock can actually offer, and then some pondering to figure which compromises or adjustments might really work. One family just moved into their new place after a 4-year search. Granted, they were not in a rush, because the transition was long-range plan for their future. And they certainly weren’t out there looking every day for 4 years! We looked every once in a while whenever a plausible option appeared on the market. But “3 and decide”? That never would have worked.
Another recent client had looked at a few houses, and thought we might have located The One. It definitely ticked off all the boxes on their wish list, but there were no fireworks in their eyes. To me it felt more like they were saying, “Well, I guess this will do.” Now, I’ve used that phrase when I couldn’t find the exact purse of my dreams, but houses are not purses. (Feel free to quote me on that.) After looking at only a few houses…and planning to spend several hundred thousand dollars, it seemed like they needed to see some more places to know whether or not this place really would do. Perhaps it was the best they could hope for at the dollar they hoped to spend. But I thought if we kept looking we could find something that ticked all the boxes AND made them smile with delight. We kept looking. Their new place is AWESOME, and it was worth the wait! “3 and decide” would have sold them short.
But sometimes “let’s keep looking” actually translates to “I couldn’t make a decision to save my life,” or “I’ve never committed to anything in my whole life except a cat, and cats are self-cleaning.” Sometimes “let’s keep looking” becomes a version of Analysis Paralysis. Sometimes buyers see sooooo many houses, because they believe there is a totally, totally, totally, totally perfect house out there for them and we just haven’t found it. This one was excellent, but needed a new mailbox. Next! This one was lovely, but had a peculiar light switch cover in the basement. Next! That one was almost ideal, but would have required painting over the orange paint on one wall of one bedroom. Next! Sometimes there’s the fear that choosing “Wonderful House” means missing out on INCREDIBLY UNBELIEVABLY OVER-THE-TOP MAGNIFICENT HOUSE WITH A BARGAIN PRICE that might come on the market next week. It won’t come on the market next week, because it is a fantasy and not a reality. But this buyer might need to look at a good number of houses to understand that while AWESOME happens, absolute perfection doesn’t. Which is really okay, because it doesn’t require absolute perfection for it to be “perfect for us.” These buyers wouldn’t be able to look at 3 and decide, but if they’ve seen more than 30, and someday it could be 300? It might mean choosing to set a deadline by which to buy (in time to enroll the kids at the start of the school year?), or setting some other limiting parameter that provides helpful boundaries (we’ll see all 9 houses in our price range in our preferred community). While 3 might not be enough, some buyers will find it helpful to give themselves a framework so they know when enough IS enough.
I think all buyers should see enough houses…to know enough about the options…to know they’re making the right choice. Sometimes it is 1 house. Sometimes it is 3, but not because HGTV said so. 🙂 Sometimes it is 12. Sometimes it is more. Sometimes there are many great options out there; sometimes it’s harder to find a good fit. It tickles me when TV makes it look like this should all be able to get wrapped up in a half hour box. Nope. We’ll look until we find it.
(Note: Artwork accompanying this post was created by artist Megan Peters. The painting is a personal fave of mine!)
On Facebook: Laurie Simon Goldman, Sibcy Cline Realtors