You know those movies where the two lovers look into each other’s eyes and the music tells you that volumes are being spoken without any words?
Yeah, well, that ain’t the way it works when you’re house hunting. Words — lots of them — are your friends, so start talking with your agent early and often.
So what’s the best way to communicate with your real estate team to ensure home-seeking success?
1. Sit down with your agent NOW
You do have an agent, right?
Especially in competitive markets, you’ll find yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t have someone watching the market and working your case every single day.
This person is your adviser and advocate throughout the process. Make sure “good communication skills” is one of the criteria you bring to bear on your choice of agent.
Meet face to face as soon as possible to form a bond, to lay out your needs and budget, and to learn about the many steps involved in a successful real estate purchase. These are things you don’t want to be hearing about on the fly.
2. Get your expectations set early
Whether you’re buying or renting, tell your agent to give you the facts of the market right between the eyes. This isn’t the time to sugarcoat realities.
Ask her for recent data on list price-to-sale ratios to prepare yourself to make over-asking offers if necessary. Ask about ways to compete on things other than price — doing a pre-offer inspection, for example, so as to waive the inspection contingency. Learn about the need for speed, if any.
“I prep my rental clients that it’s a game of hours around here,” says Boston, MA-area agent Deb Cantrell. “He who hesitates loses, so we always go in ready to sign.”
3. Don’t be shy, be honest
Your agent can’t do her job without accurate information about you.
Don’t hold back on your likes and dislikes, your financial situation (clarified by early contact with your banker or mortgage broker), and your reactions to the properties you see.
Create boards on Trulia and add properties you like and don’t like (even if they’re out of your price range) and invite your agent to collaborate. Everyone talks about personal style in a unique way, so it can be helpful to show, not tell, when it comes to what you want.
This is no time to be polite, so say what you think at open houses and private showings (though privately to your agent, not within earshot of other buyers, listing agents, or sellers).
Each opinion and observation that you voice tightens the focus of your search and offers clarity into what you’re after.
4. Establish a foolproof way to connect
When properties move quickly, every minute can count.
Tell your agent in order of preference the way you want to be reached (email, text, call), and whether you should be hit by all means at once if there is a hot property.
“I like to create a red phone like in Batman,” says John Bigelow, a veteran real estate pro in Cambridge, MA. “I invite my clients to reach out to me at any time day or night in a fashion that suits them, through a channel I reliably check.”
5. Be systematic
Avoid flailing about. Make sure your agent and you have a search methodology in place so that forward motion can occur.
I like the “benchmark” approach: At the end of every showing(s), I ask my client to rank the property against others we’ve seen, always searching for the one place that’s come closest to “right.”
Next time we go out, that home will be the benchmark against which new places are judged.
Properties will topple properties, a certain discipline is brought to bear, and your search will develop a rigor and logic of your own making.
6. You are not a loser
If you’re continually seeing properties at your price point that just don’t satisfy, don’t feel like you’ve somehow failed.
The market is the market, and sometimes you have to adjust your sights. Compromise comes along the four vectors of real estate: size, condition, location, and price.
If price can’t change, talk candidly to your agent about adjusting one (or more) of the three others.