Finding the right condo

I met a potential client who told me that she had been looking for two years for a condo.  She called me because she wanted to see a particular property in Belle View.  After establishing that she didn’t have an agent, I showed her Belle View.   I practically had to drag her to see a property I thought she would like based upon her input. That property was Montebello, and she absolutely loved it and was amazed because she wouldn’t have had a clue that Montebello existed if it wasn’t for me.

exterior with shuttle
Shuttle bus

A few days later, she wanted me to tag along to another property that she had found at my property search site.  That prompted me to “set the record straight” with some frank talk.

Obviously, I would love the opportunity to be of service to her. I appreciate and value each client and always need one more client. But there are limits to what I can and will do and this is for the protection of both the client and myself.

When I take on a client it is because I know I can add value to my client’s end of the transaction.  I add value by finding right property at the right price. As I have demonstrated to her and others, I know the condos of Northern Virginia very well. Additionally, I can be a pretty tough negotiator when the time calls.

Thus, if a client allows me to represent him or her, I think it’s important that I go with the client whenever the client views properties (with the possible exception of open houses).  So, to answer her first question, of course I want to go with a client when a client has interest in a property.  But, when I see someone who has been looking for two years, three years, and has probably burned through a couple of agents who threw their hands up in frustration, I think it is important establish a few facts.

There are two primary reasons why a buyer takes a long time to select a property:

  1. The buyer either has unrealistic expectations; or
  2. The buyer does not have clearly defined goals.

When expectations are unrealistic, the best thing that I can do as an agent is to apprise buyers of reality and wish them well in their search. This is not because I’m a tough guy, but rather because it would ruin me a professional to chase the impossible.

To use a metaphor, maybe bigfoot exists.  I’ve heard that people saw him.  But if I made my living as a game hunter, I’m not going to spend my time (the only thing I really have) trying to catch bigfoot.  I’ll wish you well if you are looking for bigfoot, but I’ll stick to game that I pull from the forest every single day.

In this case, the buyer had a reasonable assessment of reality but she didn’t really know what she was looking for. In other words, she didn’t have clearly defined goals.

The client’s method for finding a condo was simple: she randomly searched the Internet and other media to identify prospects. She then visited the potential location and then moved on to something else. That method will use up a lot of time and energy.  I’m not saying the random selection method NEVER works, but in this case the client had already spent two years and hadn’t found the right property.

Obviously, a buyer needs to see some properties to get an idea of what is available.  But what doesn’t make sense is to randomly shop units to find what you want.  Northern Virginia (Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County) is a huge metropolitan market. There are so many condominiums in Northern Virginia that a person won’t be able to see them all. (Unless like me, the only thing you do is look at condos all day.)

I told this client gently but firmly, what I thought made the most sense. I told her the truth.  That is, instead of the client leading me around and letting me open doors so she could find a condo, I would play the part of the expert.

As an expert, I would asked pointed questions and listen carefully to her replies. In this way, we can define exactly what it is that the buyer is looking for.  Then, after we have established the goals, then it makes sense to begin touring the selections that I recommend. With each condominium we visit, I’ll learn more about her needs and we’ll get closer to the property that this client will eventually buy.

  1. Define goals.
  2. Refine goals.
  3. Buy.

Simple, effective and good for the client and the agent.

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For more information or to set up an appointment call Nesbitt Realty at (703)765-0300.

Will Nesbitt

View posts by Will Nesbitt
Will is the principal broker of Nesbitt Realty and Condo Alexandria. He is licensed in anywhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but focuses on those communities found in and around Alexandria, Arlington, Mount Vernon and Springfield/Franconia. Will has been involved in real estate management, sales and investment for more than twenty years. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army. While in the army, he studied Russian at Monterey's Defense Language Institute. He is also a "veteran of the dotcom wars" and built most of the sites associated with Will currently resides in Belle Haven Estates just outside Old Town, overlooking New Alexandria. He is a former president of the Mount Vernon Youth Athletic Association and founded the Alexandria Fun with Friends Group. Will is the author of BattlestorM, a tabletop fantasy game, which was published by Ral Partha Publishing in the late '90's, and Arthur's Realm, a boardgame available at the Gamecrafter.