We reach the end of a day long look at homes, and the situation is ugly. Seven houses and no agreement. The husband and wife (if they're still talking), are not exactly holding hands with starry eyes and planning for life together in their new home. Then the dreaded moment comes. They turn to me and ask, "Well, what do you think?" Me? I think these two should have walked backwards out of the church instead of up to the altar on the day they wed!
I've watched HGTV a lot. Any given show features a wife and husband with different wants in the home buying/renovating decision. There is maybe a minute or two devoted to them squabbling over their differences, then the magical host steps in with a few sage words and forty-five minutes later the couple is standing in a home that fulfills everyone's wishes. It's so easy in tv-land.
In my real corner of Ohio where I show real homes to real people, the reality is seldom so smooth. Get two people in the same room and they're bound to disagree on something. Get two married people in the same room and start discussing room sizes and there may be a jihad brewing. I don't have all the answers. My wife and I are at loggerheads all the time over decisions involving our home. But here are some tips I have found over the years:
1. Find out what differing wants/needs are causing the friction BEFORE going out to show homes. If one of the spouses wants a huge yard and the grass-cutting spouse wants a postage stamp lot, there's bound to be trouble if you show properties with tons of acreage all day. There is an "in between" here - a lot that's roomy but not vast. Homes in this grey area of acreage may end up satisfying both parties. No matter what the issue may be, a good Realtor should be able to find a property that straddles both wish lists.
2. Help a couple to understand how many facets there are to the home. One spouse may not end up with the dreamed of wine cellar, but may be benefiting from an enormous room for a home office. Just because the home isn't perfect for one or another of them doesn't mean there aren't lovely, valuable and useful qualities there that will make it a great home for BOTH of them.
3. Stay neutral! The last thing a sticky, argumentative situation needs is two people ganging up on the third. Learn the fine art of being Swiss and keep your opinions out of their home search. It's always fine to be a good listener and empathize with buyers. And advice of a professional nature is appropriate, too. After all, that's why buyers hire a Realtor to help them buy a home. But trying to convince a wife that her husband really needs a king-sized media room is neither empathizing nor advising. It's digging your own grave.
Meanwhile, I'm standing in home number seven with two people who have just asked me to take sides in their war. A steadying breath and I answer them, "I think we've seen a lot of homes today. I think this is a major purchase. I think you're frustrated with each other and the homes we've seen. I think it's time for you to take a break. Most importantly, I think you will find a home. We may have to revise criteria and look some more, but in the end, I think the two of you will find a house you'll be happy to call home."