The Greater Boston real estate market is the tightest it’s been in living memory. Inventory is at record lows, prices are at record highs, and demand is as strong as ever. Open houses are brimming with people, and buyers and their agents are feeling the pressure.
Shelley Brauer, a clinical social worker in Brookline who works primarily with couples, said house-hunting can exacerbate her clients’ issues. She said collaboration, compromise, and communication are critical.
“It’s a recipe for extra fighting. It’s bad enough trying to buy a couch together. When you’re talking about a house, it’s exponentially magnified,” Brauer said. “You have to compromise and sacrifice your dreams. Dreams get snatched away by someone else. It’s easy for the blame game to start.”
Brauer said home buying can be very evocative. People get depressed and fight more until they can step back, sit down, and acknowledge what’s happening and come up with a new game plan.
“Sometimes, I help them to manage how they talk to each other and how they compromise and parse their differences. It helps the relationships work better and get stronger. The bonus is that they get a house at the end of it.”
Susan Condrick of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Cambridge said the spring market started a little late this year, fueling the current frenzy. Condrick said she prepares her clients to see dozens of other buyers at open houses. She tells them to try to relax, focus, and pay no attention to them.
“Not everyone walking through is going to make an offer,” Condrick said. “I tell buyers to be aware. If the house is priced right and there are a lot of people there, you have to be prepared for competition. But you also have to ignore that and work on crafting an offer that is attractive to the seller while still protecting your interests.”
Condrick said she tells her buyers they shouldn’t worry about someone swooping in with a big cash offer. She tells them to focus on making the best offer they’re comfortable with and block everything else out.
“People hire us to help them strategize and guide them,” Condrick said. “I often say, ‘If you really want this, you have to put your best and final offer forward.’ Typically, it takes a couple of offers before someone finds the right house, and they take your advice. More often than not, it works. Because this isn’t a typical market, it takes people awhile to get used to it.”
Condrick said buyer’s agents walk a fine line in helping their clients craft compelling offers while trying to ensure they don’t let their frustrations lead them to waiving contingencies they need or overpaying for a property.
“You never know how long it’s going to take,” Condrick said. “It’s an organic process. Any decision a person makes with their family, they lose objectivity. But if you’re pushing a buyer past the point where they’re comfortable, you’ve stopped working for your client.”
Joselin Malkhasian of Lamacchia Realty in Waltham said buyers often have friends or family whispering old and/or bad advice in their ears.
“It’s difficult because not only do you have to get the buyer to acclimate to this market, everyone has an opinion about real estate, so you have to get … their friends and family to acclimate, too,” Malkhasian said. “You try to give your client the best advice to position them in the market, but you compete against the rest of the people in their lives.”
Malkhasian said most of the buyers she works with get an accepted offer on a home within a few months, provided they are prepared and looking full time. Depending on the variables, however, it can take a year or even more, she said.
“The success in finding a home is about lining your ducks up in a row before you even see a house,” Malkhasian said. “You have to work with a reputable, knowledgeable realtor. You have to be preapproved, and listing agents will check your preapproval. Have a relationship with your home inspector.
“You have to be ready to strike before you find your house or it might be too late.”
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