It's time to take a real estate 'stop-chat'
Borrow a page from Dr. Phil to assess buyers' wants
By Alisha Alway Braatz, Wednesday, February 23, 2011.
My daughter Ava is now seven weeks old. As I am writing this, she has finally settled to sleep peacefully on my chest after a two-hour crying spell. Feeding, diaper changes, a bath, bouncing, walking, swinging, singing — none of these had worked.
And to think it all started when she woke up from her nap!? I now publicly apologize to all those mothers I silently ridiculed for grocery shopping in 1980s-inspired jog suits. I am sorry. I bow to your fortitude as I, decked in sweatpants and unwashed hair, leave the house with my child.
When I do venture out, Ava is buckled in a car seat in the backseat of my SUV, exactly where I usually have a house hunting couple sitting. She is not like these other babies I hear about. You know, the kind who like cars. If Ava so much as smells that car seat in the house, she goes berserk. Hates a car ride! And no, I don’t think it’s my driving, thanks.
But sometimes we do have to go somewhere. And that’s when I repeat my new mantra: "Wow! I am so thankful my daughter has lungs! She can breathe! Oh, and what volume! Surely, she will win ‘American Idol’ someday."
It reminds me of my difficult-client-home-touring mantra: "We’re almost done! Only a few more hours! And then we will know more than we did before."
Last summer I helped a lovely couple buy a vacation home. Well, they were lovely outside of house hunting. After three weeks of fruitless touring, I came to the realization that despite my get-to-know-you interview and the questionnaire I had required them to fill out, none of us spoke a common language.
He wanted a country house — and so, apparently, did she — but he wanted five acres and she was hoping for a 15,000-square-foot lot on a golf course. He said he didn’t mind a fixer-upper, and while she nodded in agreement, she also secretly passed me a note: "Help! He doesn’t know how to use Drano!"
My afternoons with the two of them were beginning to resemble a Rachel Ray interview: lots of loud guffaws followed by the awkward pause. I tried being more informative. I tried being silent. I asked leading questions. I even suggested we phone a friend … but nothing helped.
He would pass on a home by saying, "It just doesn’t feel right." She, on the other hand, seemed to have an uncanny ability to keep us within a radial parameter of a coffee shop. It was time for a "stop-chat." I introduced it like these happened all the time — although why I couldn’t come up with a better name, I don’t know.
The best place I could find for the stop-chat was Red Robin. I ordered us three cheeseburgers and did my best Dr. Phil: "So Chuck, I hear you saying that you would like to live in the country. And by country, you mean acreage. And Darla, you like a house with a country feel, but would prefer living within walking distance of a Starbucks. Have I heard you both correctly?"
Couples therapy went well. Darla was able to safely tell Chuck she wasn’t interested in spending her vacation time replacing toilets and building an addition, and Chuck admitted that while he liked the idea of being a man-of-the-earth, he didn’t really like yard work at all.
The next day we made an offer on a lovely golf-course home on a quarter acre, where the homeowners association takes care of the yard and Starbucks is just a short tandem bike ride away. Stop-chat, you worked your wonders.
I implement the Red Robin burger breakdown when the need arises, and have contemplated earning a real degree in counseling. Wouldn’t that be interesting cross-marketing … hmm.
Well, Ava is crying again, signaling that she needs my attention. I’m so glad she has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to tell me what she wants.
Although she’s got me running around at seven weeks, I’m sure her stop-chats will quickly escalate from burger joint to Nordstrom. She does look a lot like me.
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist
Contact Alisha Alway Braatz: Letter to the Editor
All rights reserved. This article may not be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, in part or in whole, without written permission of Inman News. Use of this article without permission is a violation of federal copyright law.