The other day I was in the car with my uncle, a Jesuit priest and a very wise man. Our conversation turned to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, and my uncle noted that for Aristotle, the most important thing was the type of question asked.
We chatted about this awhile (I had studied Aristotle in college, but hadn’t remembered this important point) and I realized that this is also very true with real estate and home buyers & home sellers right here in Silicon Valley today.
Let’s look at a few real estate questions and just think about where each one leads:
- What is the fastest way to…?
- What is the easiest way to…?
- What is the cheapest way to…?
- What is the most thorough way to…?
- What is the most careful or conservative way to…?
You can see what I mean. So many times, people wanting to buy or sell homes start with certain questions…and they may or may not be the best questions. The questions above are the “how to” questions – what is the way to do whatever it is.
Here are some very different questions. Instead of the “how to do” questions, they are the “I want this outcome” type of questions:
- Where is the best school for my kids and their needs (or special needs)?
- What kind of neighborhood do I want to live in?
- What kind of agent do I want to hire to guide me?
- What kind of lender do I want to hire to assist me?
- When would I like to be in or out of my home?
Oftentimes, I’ll have a listing and will be working with the seller to get the home marketed and sold. A buyer – who does not know me in the slightest – comes through an open house and asks me to help him or her or them to “write up the offer”.
That’s not a compliment, you understand. Because that buyer isn’t hiring me per se – the buyer is hiring the person who’s the listing agent. It’s just a “position”. Today I’m that person. If they don’t get the house, they’ll hire someone else next time – the next listing agent. The reason for the selection is that they feel that they will “have an advantage”. Any warm body in that position will do!
These buyers are not asking the right questions, in my opinion. They are not asking “who will represent my interests alone?” They are not asking “who’s qualified and competent?” They are only asking, I suspect, “who can get me a better deal” or “who can get me an advantage?”
The housing meltdown over the last three years should have taught consumers that not all lenders and not all real estate salespeople are alike. It should have taught them, frankly, that not all of them are to be trusted. It is extremely important for consumers to be selective when hiring professionals to help them to buy or to sell a home. This is one of the largest transactions you’ll ever make, and for that reason, it is important to hire thoughtfully and carefully. Think hard not just about the “cheapest” way to do things. Think about the ultimate outcome that you desire. That ought to include a broad range of concerns beyond just getting the house.
If you do not have a broad range of concerns, you haven’t read enough! Please, if you think that buying or selling a home is exactly like buying or selling a piece of furniture or a car, please do some more research. I’ll post some selected suggestions below. Make sure that when you’re buying or selling Silicon Valley real estate, you do it thoughtfully. Make sure you ask good questions so that you can get good information and in turn make good decisions. Without the basis of good questions, you may never get to that best result.