Buyers Aren’t Liars

There’s a phrase every Realtor has heard and many believe: buyers are liars. Realtors representing buyers sometimes feel misled when buyers change their minds or reveal information later that would have been helpful earlier.

As a buyer, it is unlikely that you hire a Realtor with the idea, “Hey, I’m going to lie to this person so they are less effective on my behalf.” And yet, it seems to happen a fair amount. If buyers know what questions to ask themselves, their Realtor, and their lender up front, they are more likely to get clear about what they’re looking for and to remain consistent throughout the buying process, resulting in less frustration for everyone.

Buyers first need to be honest with themselves about the type of house they can see themselves living in. To do this, they need to make a list with three columns under these headers: must-haves, needs, and wants.

Must-haves should be a list of the attributes that you, the buyer, cannot live without. If you are a contractor and your home serves as your office, you must have enough property to store your equipment. If you are a doctor, the hospital where you work may require that you be able get there within twenty minutes of an emergency call. If you work for an organization with territories or jurisdictions, you may be required to live in a certain territory or jurisdiction. If you have four kids, you may decide you need at least three bedrooms. If you are wheelchair-bound, the home must be one-story and wheelchair-accessible or easily converted to it. If you commute to work, you may decide that you must be within a certain distance of an airport to maintain a certain quality of life. These are must-haves.

Close cousin to the must-haves are the needs. That contractor we talked about earlier must have space for his equipment, but he also needs a home office where he can get paperwork done. Could he work on the kitchen table? Yes, but he’d prefer not to. That family with four children must have at least three bedrooms—boys in one room and girls in another—but each child would be much happier with his or her own bedroom, so the house really needs five bedrooms. And if you have school-aged children, being in a particular school’s enrollment area could also be a need.

After needs come wants. Do you want a view? A swimming pool? Hardwood floors? Clearly, these items are not as important as whether your whole family will fit comfortably in the new home, but they are still important.

Once you and your family are clear about everything you can think of for all three categories, share this information with your Realtor. He or she can filter homes for sale so you don’t waste your time looking at properties you would never buy.

After you’re clear about the property you want, ask your Realtor about neighborhoods with homes in your price range. What is the median price for houses in the neighborhood? Who lives here; is it quiet or full of rowdy kids? How close are community services and amenities like parks, hospitals, and shopping? Are there any problems you should be aware of?

Finally, get in touch with a lender and ask questions about current loan rates and terms, types of mortgages you should consider, variable versus fixed rate options, rate locks, and how much he or she thinks you can qualify to pay each month.

Armed with all this information, you can communicate clearly and accurately about what you want and need, and your Realtor can help you find the perfect property.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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