Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Buying a Home and Avoiding a Wild Goose Chase!

“Hi! We are looking for a REALTOR® who works in Hugo. Can you help us?”
“Absolutely! What can I do for you?”

“We are relocating from St. Cloud and want to be in a home before school starts, is that going to be a problem?”
“Are you a first time buyer or do you have a home to sell?”

“We are first time buyers and are currently renting month-to-month.”
“There should be no problem. Have you talked to a loan officer?”

“Not since last year.”
“The first step is getting preapproved and then we can start looking at homes.”


So began my relationship with a new first time buying couple early in July. They were on a tight time schedule and were a bit of a distance from Hugo so planning was key. I wish I could say everything turned out perfectly for them but it didn’t. Chasing wild geese is a fun activity for dogs not for serious homebuyers. Here’s what happened:

I set up Christy and Mike in my
Listingbook system so they could view new listings as soon as they hit the internet. Their price point put them in tight competition with many other first time buyers as there are few nice single family homes under $160,000 with three bedrooms on one level in move in condition in Hugo.

Christy selected a dozen homes to see on their first trip out. Of the homes selected, only four were still available. From the preliminary discussion with the loan officer, they were qualified to purchase FHA. That meant that a home would need to pass an FHA inspection. Unfortunately neither of the two single family homes we saw would pass as the were both foreclosures in very questionable condition but the two townhomes were a match. Christy and Matt loved the townhomes, BUT…

“We really need a yard for the kids to play.”

Not a problem…Maybe we should expand the search area. Are you okay with White Bear Lake? It is the same school district as Hugo? What about Forest Lake, Lino Lakes or Blaine?

The search was expanded to include Chisago City as the young couple was interested in the zero down
USDA financing in Chisago County.

Another trip down and another dozen…down to half dozen…showings scheduled. Two of the homes were a perfect fit. Huge yard. Well priced. Move-in perfect. BUT…

“The thirty mile commute to downtown St. Paul is too long after all.”


Not a problem. Christy and Mike decided to expand the search to include Blaine, Spring Lake Park and Coon Rapids. These areas were closer to work for Mike and in school districts that were appealing to the young family.

A third trip down. Third time’s the charm right? It was! They found a perfect home with a 20 minute commute in Spring Lake Park. BUT…

“We don’t think they will accept our offer.”


“Why don’t we write up an offer and find out if it works for the sellers?”

“Maybe…we will think about it.”

Now with the Listingbook system I can see the homes my clients view. Christy and Mike didn’t call over the weekend to write an offer but starting to search in some pretty out of the way areas while skipping over many closer in and better options. They wanted a newer home with all the bells and whistles for $150K or less. This can be done in a suburb of St. Cloud but not a suburb of St. Paul.

Christy and Mike began a hunt for an elusive wild goose. No matter how hard I tried to explain the situation and point them back toward their goal, they just kept heading off in unusual directions.
I saw the couple had now started to search for homes in Otsego about an hour northwest of St. Paul and Farmington, another long commute to downtown to the south of the cities. Sure, in these communities a person can find a newer home at a lower price, just like in Chisago City, but they said no to a long commute a few weeks earlier on a home that fit all their criteria AND that had a zero down financing option available. A short commute time was one of their top “must haves in a home.” These communities are both well beyond the commute to Chisago City that was vetoed earlier.

Another day of searching was set this time in Blaine. They decided an end unit quad home would have more yard to play for their children and again found a perfect place. They were ready to write again BUT…

“The association fees are too high.”

Now we are into the last week of July and their timeframe is next to nil if they want to get in to a new home before school and the new job starts. I remind them of their timeframe and the several homes that were still available that they loved but didn’t write an offer on. BUT…

“We decided we want to see some homes in Otsego.”

“Sorry. I don’t think I am going to be able to help you buy a home after all.”
I don’t know if Christy and Mike ever found a home or ever will find one as I decided I wasn’t the right agent for them. I did hear through their loan officer that they found a “perfect” home in Otsego but something went wrong and they never wrote an offer. Now they were searching in Farmington.

What went wrong? Being focused is essential to buying a home!
Sometimes a client’s criteria will need to be adjusted to fit what is currently available on the market. The first time buyer’s $8000 tax credit has created a big demand for Twin Cities starter homes. This couple’s inability to make a decision on what they were looking for and inability to accept the market conditions had them running in too many different directions—Chasing a wild goose!

It is not often that I have to say “goodbye” to a client that hasn’t walked away with a good buy on a house! I have successfully assisted numerous
first time homebuyers find their way home. In this case, we found several “Good Buys” but in the end, Christy and Mike ended up without a house.

In my
homebuyer’s success guide, I outline how important it is for buyers to stay focused on what they really want in a home. As a REALTOR® it is my job to help my clients stay on track throughout the home buying process; from the first showing of a property to the handing over of the keys at the closing table. Too many options can cause confusion. Combined this with an inability to regroup and make a decision, buyers can let good homes to be sold out from under them. Changes will come up and if as a team we can refocus and start again, the unending wild goose chase is avoided.


Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/