Creating Boundaries…And Breaking Them
The buyer wants Park or Fifth Avenue. She insists she will not go anywhere else. The perfect apartment is on 57th Street by the East River. What does the resourceful agent do?
Alternatively, the buyer wants to look at properties on the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, Chelsea, and Tribeca. And really, Brooklyn could be interesting too. He wants a three bedroom, but could get by with two bedrooms. And he loves the convenience of new construction, but also has a hankering for those pre-war details you find in the older properties! How does the smart agent respond?
In our business we need both to create boundaries and to transgress them. Part of our role as trusted advisors is precisely to know when there is too much latitude and when there is too little. It is not always easy. And it requires that most crucial of all our skills: listening!
Sometimes a buyer defines search parameters based on what is familiar, or what seems most desirable. The buyer who expresses a desire to live on Park or Fifth may be most familiar with those avenues, or may feel most comfortable with the sense of solidity and tradition which those Upper East Side addresses embody. Or the purchase may be aspirational, with the notion of Park or Fifth standing in for the excitement of living in one of New York’s most glamorous buildings.
So as agents our first responsibility is to understand. Which items on the buyer’s wish list represent her top priorities? Is the Park or Fifth instruction ironclad, or does it simply telegraph the desire for a top prewar building? Does she want the address badly enough to sacrifice space, or light and views, to get it? Or can she be flexible about location, as long as the building quality is consistent, to get the space and light her agent has intuited will make her happiest? Sometimes we have to push outside the boundaries of what we have been told to make sure we find the right thing.
At the other end of the spectrum, some buyers need to create parameters so their property searches don’t descend into chaos. No buyer will ACTUALLY consider a one bedroom, a two bedroom, or a three bedroom apartment in any neighborhood in town, but many agents do receive such vague direction from buyers, especially during the early days of their searches. In this situation our job is not to widen their horizons but to focus them. By spending some time with these buyers, and once again prioritizing their needs based on what we hear, the attentive agent can narrow the search parameters to yield better results in a more reasonable timeframe.
For me the intuitive interpretation of buyer criteria is one of the most challenging and interesting aspects of the home search process. If we as agents really listen and pay attention to the often complex messages our buyers communicate to us, to what they say and how they say it, to what they DON’T say and how they react, we can become translators of the wishes they may not even have fully articulated to themselves. Agents have a special role to play in the home selection process, and the more attentive we are, the better we do it.