March 27, 2012

Compromise (aka: Loving with Flaws)

When to Buy and When to Walk Away

Real Estate
Falling in Love Despite Imperfections Falling in Love Despite Imperfections
Falling in Love Despite Imperfections

I had the pleasure of getting to know June Scott, one of the most well-known and iconic Beverly Hills real estate agents, before she passed away.

Eight years ago, when I first got into real estate, I went into June’s office one day and complained that my buyer – one of my first clients ever – just couldn’t seem to find anything she liked. Every time I was sure we had found “it,” my buyer found something wrong with “it.”

I was frustrated and, honestly, a bit panicked. Would real estate always be like this? Showing a client thirty-six condos that she didn’t like? I had come from the movie business, where after thirty-six phone calls Julia Roberts and Michael Bay were already attached to a film and shooting in Toronto was to begin next week.

I lay out on June’s sofa as a psychiatric patient may. “If all real estate is this hard I don’t want to do it anymore,” I recall saying. “I might as well work at Starbucks. I’d make more money per hour.”

Subsequently, June, who was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met, recounted a story of her own, which has stuck with me since. Sure, it pertains to real estate, but its lesson is broader which is why I want to share it with all of our readers.

June said she was showing $20 million houses in Beverly Hills to a husband and wife (we’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith). Remember, this was years ago, so there wasn’t a lot of inventory in that price range (in fact, there still isn’t). Once a month a new listing would creep up and June and Mr. and Mrs. Smith would go look at it. It was somehow always “close, but not exactly right.”

June and her clients spent months looking, and June was thrilled when, one day, the “perfect” listing presented itself on the MLS. Swimming pool. Check. Ten thousand square feet. Check. Acre lot. Check. Traditional. Check. Provenance. Check.

The showing seemed to go well, and after June pulled out offer papers and handed them over. The wife looked at the husband and unilaterally declared, “We’re passing. Let’s look some more.”

“What? Why?” June said, shocked.

“Because it doesn’t have a tennis court,” Mrs. Smith replied matter-of-factly.

“I’ve been working with you for six months and I didn’t even know you were a tennis player,” June said to Mrs. Smith.

“I’m not,” Mrs. Smith answered. “But for twenty million I think we should be able to get a tennis court. Just in case I decide to take it up.”

I think June Scott’s story pertains to love, friendship, life … and real estate.

As far as real estate, I have my own personal and really honest story to tell. In January, I did a thorough examination of last year’s real estate business and realized something. I was working with a whole lot of clients who bought nothing. We took them to see “close-to-perfect” houses and, like June’s clients who wanted a tennis court for twenty million (a perfectly reasonable request, all jokes aside), many of my clients found something wrong with everything we looked at.

I pride myself on never, ever pushing my clients to buy something they don’t want, which is why my statistics over the past fourteen months weren’t alarming … initially. (In fact, dare I say, I was even proud of them?) But over the past few months I’ve come to realize in real estate, like in everything else in life, compromise is imperative.

In fact, looking at my statistics again, I realized that I failed in an important piece of the real estate puzzle: I didn’t tell my clients that, even in a “buyers’” market, they will never ever find the “perfect” house. Even if on first blush it may be perfect, they will eventually find out the plumbing leaks, the neighbor’s dog barks a 2 AM, that the fourth bedroom really only fits a single bed. It’s important to get “close enough” and buy a house knowing it will have some flaws. Even in uncertain markets buyers must understand that the perfect house will not materialize just because prices have gone down.

I’ve changed the way I do business now and I think it’s a lesson for all agents and, more importantly, buyers. I now encourage my clients to write down their version of the “must-have” list: Bedroom count, lot size, style, pool, playroom, theatre, school district, etc. And then I tell my clients that once they finish that gorgeous list, they’re going to have to pull out a red pen and circle two or three “must-haves” and cross out a heck of a lot of others on the list. Other than that they will miss the unusual intersection of low interest rates and low prices and find themselves in three years looking for imperfection much more expensively.

Why do I bring this up now?

First, because the real estate markets are picking up and I think that part of the reason is that buyers are realizing that compromise must happen, even in shaky markets.

Secondly, because I’ve been thinking of compromise a lot lately, and I realize it’s imperative in all aspects of life, not only real estate. No friend is perfect, no family is perfect. And as for love, well, I read on Quora yesterday that it’s cheaper to find a new man than repair one we already have that’s broken. True? Maybe. But even with a shiny new one we have to compromise. You may not like his glasses, but you love the way he makes you laugh; he may not know who Aaron Rodgers is, but he beat you last week in tennis in a tiebreak and you're determined to beat him next time. You thought it was imperative you were taller than him in heels, but silence with him is sweeter than talking with someone else so you’ll forgive the height thing (and keep those Louboutin’s in the closet). He may drive you crazy sometimes, but he drives you the other kind of “crazy” sometimes too. Since Bungalux was conceived as a "real estate and 'life'" site, I always want to broaden lessons if I can. What I'm trying to say is as follows: Just because you're looking for a traditional doesn't mean you can fall in love with a contemporary. This goes for houses, friends, jobs, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives. It happens all the time.

Oh, and in conclusion to today's article, what ever happened to June’s clients with the tennis court, you wonder? June convinced them that the Bel Air Country Club was right down the street, so they bought the house, even without the tennis court.

And did Mrs. Smith ever take up tennis? No, she didn’t. My guess is that once she joined Bel Air she probably took up golf instead.


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