Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX United Real Estate

I guess I really shouldn't be surprised but I am always caught off guard when my buyer clients start out saying they want one thing and within a couple of visits make a complete 180 and want something different.

Now, before my fellow real estate professional tell me I should have a thorough and complete buyer consultation at the outset of a home search -- I do.  No, not 100% of the time.  I do like to get a good fix on what my buyers want, though, so I don't spend a whole lot of time riding around, burning gas, putting wear and tear on my car and filling out feedback forms for listing agents.

Here's an example: new buyer clients say they're interested in a certain area because they want their kids to go to a certain school.  They've already done the research and this school is the school. Great! Narrows down the geographic area (or does it?). They also tell me they want a certain number of bedrooms and baths, single family home, etc. etc.  They have it pretty well narrowed down (or do they?).  Oh yeah. Foreclosures. They want to look at foreclosures because they've heard they're a "deal". (or are they?)

This sounds great, I think to myself.  We'll look at the 10 homes that match their criteria. They'll pick one and we'll go happily to settlement in a month or two.


After the first outing, they've decided that maybe foreclosed homes aren't such a great deal. They're all trashed and/or gutted and/or have water damage. They've decided that the "plain vanilla" sales (where the Seller have some equity and doesn't need that pesky "third party approval") are just too plain. Now they want to expand the geographic ares (wait. what about the school?) and they even want to look at new construction (whoa. that's a change from foreclosures!), they want to look at a new price range, too.  Hmmmm.

All this is OK.  They're financially qualified and, hey, they can live where they want, right?  It's just that it always amazes me that people start out with one idea of what they want and then completely change course. It's as if they never had that initial consultation about what they wanted and why.

If I were a cynical person, I might suspect that home buyers tell their Realtor consultants what they think we want to hear or, maybe, what they think their friends told them would be a good deal.  Or, maybe, they just don't know themselves.  That's possible and that's why we Realtors try to get our buyer clients to focus.

Sure, sometimes it's fun just to go out to look at different houses to see what's out there or to get decorating tips or maybe see what $400,000 gets you in the MD Suburbs of DC vs Bismark, ND.  Most of the time, though, maybe even the vast majority of the time, it is the wiser path to know what you want and go after it (within your financial ability).

Knowing what you want goes a long way to actaully getting what you want.


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  1. D B 09/02/2009 03:19 AM
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Danielle Pierce
Platinum Realty and Preservation - Chicago, IL

More often than not, I have found that Buyers (ESPECIALLY first-time buyers) get advice and opinions on everything from everybody. Family and friends are the worst culprits. I believe that everyone means well, but at the end of the day our opinion as professionals should count the most. I am working with one of my best friends right now and I am SO GLAD it is almost over! We went from townhouses to raised ranches to georgians to quad-levels. I especially loved when we started looking at Georgians, although she had clearly stated that she does not like that style of property. I can go on and on.... This was a great post, however!

Sep 02, 2009 08:08 AM #38
Pam Dunn
RE/MAX Premier Choice - Crossville, TN
Relocation Specialist

This happens very frequently! I make a must have and wish list for each client, explaining every step of the way that compromise is the middle word in Real Estate. The consultation up front is crucial. Buyers do not know what they want-we have to guide them!

Sep 02, 2009 08:17 AM #39
Grace Keng
Keller Williams Realty Cupertino - Cupertino, CA
CRS, CDPE (408) 799-8887


Don't get frustrated by those buyer. YOu changed as they changed. Sooner or later they will know what is their best choice.

Grace Keng, Northern California realtor,

Sep 02, 2009 08:19 AM #40
Irene Kennedy RealtorĀ® in Northwestern NJ
Weichert - Lopatcong, NJ


I try to get buyers to work up a need vs. want list with me.  They need 3 bedrooms but want 4. Need an eat-in kitchen but want granite counters.  Need to stay within a $$-$$$ price range but want a bargain. Amazing how quickly the fireplace, 3-car garage, cul de sac, etc., shift into the "icing" category and we can focus on the cake itself.

Look forward to your upcoming post on being Under Contract with these buyers!

Sep 02, 2009 08:48 AM #41
Marian Goetzinger
Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000 - Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Crystal Coast Real Estate NC

Ken,  I think sometimes we don't get the entire picture from our buyers early on because they don't trust us.  That takes a little time.  Working with buyers involves developing relationships too, in addition to all our expertise and professionalism. 

And besides, I've often walked into a department store to buy a new pair of shoes and go home with a new dress instead.  I changed my mind after I started looking!!! (:

Sep 02, 2009 08:53 AM #42
Rick Evans - Sandpoint Idaho Real Estate Waterfront, Ski, and Resort Property
Sandpoint Sothebys Intl Realty - Sandpoint, ID

I can relate.  It seems like I can do all the qualifying and buyer counseling in the world, and buyers still change from day to day.  My biggest frustration is in people acting like they are extremely interested and ready to go, only to find out that they still need to sell a home or two, raise another $100k, and put their kids through school.  Then when they finally do come around they offer 50% of the purchase price.


Sep 02, 2009 09:12 AM #43
Team Honeycutt
Allen Tate - Concord, NC

Seems I always have these clients.  I have a whole sheet of questions to ask but so many times they change their minds after that first outing.

Sep 02, 2009 09:19 AM #44
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Hopefully, we won't get too many buyers like this.  Most are able to focus pretty well when there is an initial consultation. It also is helpful to find out if the there are 2 buyers .. whether or not they are ont he same page.  This can certainly cause a lot of problems.... and many more showings.

Sep 02, 2009 09:23 AM #45
Cassi @ Knightyme Video Tours
Knightyme Video Tours - Lawrenceville, GA

Have clients seen pictures, video tours, or virtual tours before you took them out?

Sep 02, 2009 09:24 AM #46
Vickie McCartney
Maverick Realty - Owensboro, KY
Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY

Hi Ken~ I think that they have the prerogative to change their minds, and they usually do change it many, many  times, lol! 

Sep 02, 2009 11:16 AM #47
Emily Lowe
The Lipman Group | Sotheby's International Realty - Nashville, TN
Nashville TN Realtor

So true!  Most buyers have to go looking a few times before they know what they actually want - especially if they are first time buyers!  There is the rare buyer who knows exactly what they want, but they are RARE!!!

Sep 02, 2009 11:26 AM #48
Michelle Gibson
Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. - Wellington, FL

Ken - I think we've all been in this position before.  There have even been a few times I started questioning my listening skills.

Sep 02, 2009 12:29 PM #49
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

Ken, been there bought the tee shirt, will probably buy a few more. Good post.

Sep 02, 2009 12:56 PM #50
Damon Gettier
Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert - Roanoke, VA
Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE

Ken, my first year in the business I had buyer client (resident Doctor) who was moving to Roanoke VA.  He told me exactly what he wanted, ranch style home, rural with low traffic, acreage, NO NEIGHBORS, 10-20 minutes to the hospital, mail floor master, main floor laundry, vinyl siding.  After showing them 19 homes over 2 days we had to regroup......

What did they buy?  A brick Tudor on half of a postage stamp lot (their new house was 6 feet from the neighboring house) laundry in the basement, master bedroom upstairs, on a major city road, huge neighborhood, 6 minutes to the hospital.

It doesn't matter how many questions you ask....sometimes you just have to look.

Sep 02, 2009 02:55 PM #51
Pat Whitehouse
RE/MAX 1st Olympic Lynchburg Va - Lynchburg, VA

I think we all have those clients. Congrats on a well deserved feature. :-)

Sep 02, 2009 05:35 PM #52
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

I find that serious buyers who are continuously educated usually come to understand the market pretty quickly, and once they are, can make radical adjustments to their criteria.

Sep 02, 2009 06:23 PM #53
Will Nesbitt
Nesbitt Realty at Condo Alexandria - Alexandria, VA
Nesbitt Realty is a family-run brokerage.

I'm a firm believer that people need to see the houses they won't buy before they see the house they will buy.

Sep 02, 2009 10:14 PM #54
Brian Schulman
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552

This is where the old saying "Buyers are liars" originated.  When buyers see the real world in available housing, often their preconceptions change.

Sep 02, 2009 11:50 PM #55
Debbie Cullen
REMAX Realty Team-Cape Coral, FL - Cape Coral, FL
Your Cape Coral, FL Specialist

ah yes

Sep 03, 2009 01:27 AM #56
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Ken, this is so NORMAL. Buyers don't know what they don't know. As they see what is out in the market they change their mind naturally, sometimes appearing all over the map. It is not lack of focus but learning.

Sep 03, 2009 02:26 AM #57
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Ken Montville

The MD Suburbs of DC
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