By Diane Saatchi
Brokers know that when the sun is shining and the pools are glimmering, it’s the perfect time to show houses. We pop in and out of homes with our clients on a whim, dropping in here and there to check out a kitchen, a backyard, or a view.
Showing houses is a highly coordinated dance of schedules. If you’ve ever tried to wrangle half a dozen friends for dinner on a weekend night or get the majority of your office to the same meeting, you might have some idea how challenging it is to get everyone on the same page: customers, listing brokers, owners, and sometimes tenants. For a day in which would-be buyers want to see seven houses, it’s safe to say there are at least a dozen busy people’s schedules at play.
I don’t say this to complain. Rather, I’m writing about the behind-the-scenes work that gets us to that newly listed home at 3 p.m. sharp to emphasize how much time a buyer can save themselves with a little forethought and a commitment to the plan. If the buyer can hold up their end, the broker can usually hold up the other — and everyone saves time.
Here’s how I arrange a typical day of easygoing, fun house-hunting:
Step 1: Pick a date. To see the homes in person, the buyer has to physically be here, so the very first step is to figure out when they’ll be present and available.
Step 2: Narrow down our choices. If you’re Googling for houses to buy, there are dozens on dozens of options available — but only so much time in a day. Once we’ve picked the day for our house-touring extravaganza, I’ll go back and forth with would-be buyers: I send them houses meeting their criteria that we’ll be able to see on their chosen date, and they send me listings that have interested them and they’d like to see if possible. I will then check current status with the listing agents to be sure the selected homes are still available, can be shown and if the price or anything else has changed.
Step 3: Map out our route. It’s impossible to know exactly how much time buyers will need at each house, especially if we haven’t worked together before. To give us the best chance of sticking to our schedule, I map out our route, so we aren’t criss-crossing all over the Hamptons, hitting all available traffic. I usually try to schedule our first showing for a house where no one is currently staying, in case we’re running late and need to push it to the end of the day instead, and in the summer, I do everything in my power to avoid making a left on Montauk Highway.
Step 4: Start making phone calls, emailing and texting. Once I know when the customers will be here and have the ideal route, I start making phone calls for scheduling Tetris. I call (email and/or text) the listing broker on a property we’d like to visit to check their schedule, they call the owners (and in some cases, the tenants) to check their schedules, the listing broker calls me back to report on everyone’s schedule, and I work it into our schedule. Then I repeat, times as many houses as we’d like to see.
Step 5: Change the plan. Invariably, I go to sleep the night before a series of showings knowing everything is arranged. Invariably, I get a call in the morning that the arrangements no longer work. When there are so many people involved in the day — buyers, sellers, tenants, brokers — there are also many chances for things to go sideways. Perhaps the buyers got a late start driving out from Manhattan. Perhaps the weather took a turn and they don’t want to visit houses in the snow, or they’re still coming but they want to squeeze in another house they found online. Perhaps one of the listing brokers had a schedule conflict, or the tenants of one of the houses can’t vacate after all. Whatever it is, it means a change or changes in the plan.
Step 6: Make more phone calls. If we have to push everything back by an hour, everyone needs to know. Time for more phone calls — or texts, or WhatsApp messages, or smoke signals, because cell service can be pretty spotty in the Hamptons.
Step 7: Get started. Now that everyone is on the same page, we can set off to see the houses. However, we’ll quickly realize the perfect plan needs some last-minute adjustments. Traffic might be even worse than usual. The buyers might have brought a dog who needs a potty break, or a kid who needs 10 minutes to be coaxed into a car seat at each house. We might pull up to a house, see it from the car, and realize the buyers don’t even want to see the inside. And if we’re running late to a 2 p.m. appointment, I can usually expect a phone call from the listing broker, who has a tight schedule of their own to manage, at 2:08 p.m.
Step 8: Once we’re done for the day, it’s time for more communications. I try to get in contact with each listing broker right away to tell them whether the customer is interested in the house, and they pass that message on to the seller.
And we’re done! The day is complete.
You can see how easy it is for things to go sideways when there are so many players, and how easily a productive day of house-hunting can waste so much time instead. Aside from arriving on schedule and sticking to the plan, my best advice to keep from wasting your time and your broker’s is simple: Trust your broker. Sometimes online photos are not what they appear to be.
If you broker tells you the house you found online which is in your budget and has a beautiful view or is your dream location is a tear down, trust that seeing it will be a waste of time.
© 2019 Diane Saatchi