The Mystery Housebuyer

It’s already time to deploy the agent

Here’s a true story. Recently Judi found herself deciding to exchange her large ranch-style home for a smaller, easier to maintain condominium. She didn’t know how soon she would be able to get it on the market, so she wanted to delay contacting her real estate agent. My advice to her was to not wait; arrange a walk-through of Judi’s house now, even if the eventual sale is half-a-year away, because the agent’s input and knowledge could save Judi a lot of time and money.

I’m not an agent — I’m not even in real estate — and neither is Judi, so I don’t write this column as a shill for any industry. But I do believe that you should make the best use of professionals when you need them, and Judi needs an agent she can trust.

Luckily, she purchased her current home via Philip, an agent who provided above-and-beyond service. In fact, she likes to joke that she actually bought four homes through Philip that year, because the first three purchases all fell through at the last minute for a variety of unrelated reasons. So she knows that Philip is patient; even if in the end Judi doesn’t put her house up for sale until late summer, having agent Philip on board and informed about the effort from the beginning can only help.

Here’s why.

Scenario 1: Judi moves two months from now. That means she will need to move quickly to fix up any deficiencies in her place, and she will need to identify and purchase the condo very quickly. Judi has never lived in a condo before; she’s never paid HOA fees or read the minutes of the condo board to see what problems might be present. Also, Judi is retired and on her own; she does not have endless money to spend on expensive repairs. Philip will be able to either confirm or belay Judi’s worries that certain things need to be fixed or replaced before the house is marketed. Depending on what the repair project is — repainting a porch post, perhaps, or replacing interior closet doors — the agent will know better than Judi what buyers will think is important, what buyers would prefer to fix themselves to suit their own tastes, and what other things Judi didn’t even think about that will turn off buyers or lower their bids.

Scenario 2: Judi moves in August. Between March and August, there could well be a number of new condo projects that finish construction, and agent Philip is going to know about them before Judi would. Agents also oftentimes hear about homes that are not even on the market but that might be for sale if there’s interest. And the earlier Philip knows, the longer he has that knowledge of what she wants to buy (and sell) as he goes about his business of meeting other buyers, sellers, and developers. He might very well come across someone three months from now who wants just the house Judi has, and a ready buyer at the right price could very well push Judi from Scenario 2 to a modified Scenario 1.

Judi doesn’t absolutely have to use an agent. In 1983 she purchased a home directly from the seller, and she and her family lived very happily in that home for a quarter century. Furthermore, Judi is very adept at using the internet to find information, so she could lurk on Trulia or Zillow or other oddly named online listing service. But again, she has always owned stand-alone houses, not condos, and this is also the first time she will be selling and purchasing homes on her own, without a husband.

Also, with Judi the question is not whether she’ll use an agent; she already knows that she wants to use an agent, and Philip specifically. The question here is when she will bring Philip into the loop. And the best analogy is that of a software agent that is set loose to sift through mountains of computer data and deliver a solution. Philip can do that for Judi. And just like a software program, the more information and the more input, the better connections that can be made. More information is always a plus.

If she didn’t already know Philip and have had successful purchases through him, my advice would be modified slightly. I would suggest she bring in several different agents to see her house and hear her plans; she would likely find that their advice differs (and, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have several hungry real estate agents out there looking for potential buyers for her home or condos that match her wish list). But she feels that she’s got a reliable agent already, so no need to delay.

The agent should see the house now, this week, because he can’t start helping Judi until she activates him.

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This Anonymous does not hack computers, just buys homes.