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A Day with the Gals: “Trust Me”

Posted by Johnine Larsen on April 8, 2014
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Aerial_view_of_Magnolia_Bridge,_Seattle,_2002Johnine had shown Carol more than a hundred houses. Their partnership had lasted a full year—longer than a year, in fact. It had not taken so long to find a house because Carol was especially picky, or because inventory was low. It was just bad luck.

Carol had made four offers on houses—and offers don’t come cheap. They mean a home inspection ($500) and a sewer inspection ($200). Nonrefundable. But every time Carol made an offer, someone outbid her. The other buyers wrote escalation clauses into their offers, willing to pay above the asking price. Carol  used escalation clauses, too, but she always managed to pick a house that someone else—someone richer—wanted more.

As the search dragged on, as Carol lost one $700 offer after another, she lived in a small apartment that she would have happily left a year ago. Carol was getting desperate—ready to give up on buying a house and just settle for renting.

“Keep looking,” Johnine said. “Trust me. We’ll find something you love, and you won’t get outbid.”

Carol and Johnine had worked together for more than a year, and Carol knew Johnine, and she trusted her. So Carol listened.

*   *   *

Seattle_-_Magnolia_Bridge_02The search went on. Johnine found other houses—the best the current housing market had to offer within Carol’s price range—but none of them fit Carol well. However, Carol was desperate, so she picked one in Magnolia. A single-level ranch house, priced much higher than it was worth. Nothing fancy, nothing spectacular. A few months ago, she would have overlooked it.

“It’s Plain Jane,” Johnine told her. “You won’t love this house. You won’t be able to call it ‘home.’ If you’re willing to wait, we can do better.”

Carol wavered, but again, she trusted Johnine.

*   *   *

Eventually, Johnine found a gem: a two-story American Foursquare that had just appeared on the market. The seller had just gained a new house and a new baby, and she wanted this one sold. The American Foursquare fit Carol perfectly. Stylish, charming, and kept in immaculate condition.

Carol loved it.

But one problem remained: the house’s asking price. Carol could afford the house now, but Johnine knew it would sell for higher—potentially a hundred thousand dollars higher. Other bidders would write escalation clauses into their offers, leveraging more money to beat out the competition. Carol could easily find herself in the same situation as before: outbid and house-less.

But Johnine had an idea. A risky idea, but one she believed would work.

1) Skip the inspection.

2) Make an offer at asking price. No escalation clause.

Few prospective buyers waived their right to an inspection—it meant running the risk of missing a serious problem like a faulty sewer line or an unstable foundation. But Johnine had spent the last twenty-four years looking at houses.

“Whenever I walk in a house, I pretty much do an unofficial inspection on my own,” Johnine told Carol. “It’s like second nature.”

“And is the house okay?” Carol asked.

“The house is great. Everything’s high-quality, all the appliances are upgraded, there’s no mess anywhere—even the closets are neat. I can tell—these owners take pride in their house.”

Other prospective buyers had already made offers, and two of them had escalation clauses—but because they reserved the right to an inspection, those bids were uncertain and more complicated. The seller would face a choice: Carol’s lower but guaranteed offer, or the other buyers’ higher but uncertain offers.

Johnine assured Carol that the seller would pick her. “There’s more to real estate than money,” Johnine said. “Your offer is easy and guaranteed—and that’s what this woman wants. She’s busy with her new house and her new baby, and you’re making her life easier.”

Again, Carol trusted.

She sent Johnine anxious texts and emails, though, but it was a gamble, after all, and it was risky.

“Should we have added an escalation clause?” Carol asked. “I’m going to get outbid!”

“You’ll be okay,” Johnine said.

“But I’ll get outbid by thousands of dollars!”

“Trust me. Just breathe.”

In the end, Carol got the house. Johnine’s gamble paid off—not just for Carol, who ended up with a dream house, but for the seller, too, who got a simple transition that made her life easier.

That’s what real estate work is all about. It’s about finding the threads of human connection. Money’s not the most important thing at stake here. Find out what people actually want—a house they can call home, an easy transaction that keeps life simple—and you can make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Because buying a house should be exciting, genuine, and fun. And when it’s over, you should end up with a house that you love—not one you had to settle for.

Aerial_view_of_Downtown_Seattle_and_Mt._Rainier,_1968 (1)