“It’s Only a First Home” (and other bad advice).

So I’m enjoying one of the myriad HGTV Real Estate shows the other night.  First time home buyers were the focus of this particular program.  Unable to  watch without properly entertaining myself with my own sarcastic commentary (did that agent really just say that?), this has become one of my favorite pastimes.

There is the Realtor who feels the need to point out the backyard or the front door to the dumbfounded buyers.  The agent who demands to know “if this is a house you can see yourself living in” within seconds of stepping through the front door.  It’s a carnival of overselling that I can only hope has more to do with the camera than the standard practices of my erstwhile colleagues.

There is one particular practice that repeats itself ad nauseam on these shows, though, that truly makes my blood boil.  I’m speaking of the agents who seemingly forget that their job description as a buyer’s agent is to protect the interest of their clients.  It’s awfully hard to do that portion of the job correctly when you push every property that you look at as the greatest thing since canned yams.

Homes have flaws and some are fatal.  While it is ultimately the burden of the consumer to make that determination, these silly shows raise my ire when the response to the buyer’s observation that there is a train running through the back yard is, “Hmm, let’s go back inside and look at that wonderful kitchen again!”

Or my personal favorite brand of exchange:

Buyer: “This only has 2 bedrooms?  We need at least 3.”

Agent: “Yes, but look at those hardwood floors!”

Buyer“The floors are nice …”

Agent:  “And remember that this is your first house.  The first house is never the dream house.  You can always move up to the bigger house in a few years.”

Timeout!  This is the worst brand of advice, and I simply cannot tolerate it.  No, the first house will not be the dream house, but to advocate making sacrifices on the aspects of the home that will impact resale potential the most is unconscionable.  You don’t eliminate the third bedroom and 75% of future buyers, you eliminate the hardwood.  You don’t purchase the stigmatized property with the highway behind it just to get the kitchen with the stainless steel appliances.  Those are poor purchasing decisions.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that a first time buyer should not worry about some major feature of a house, I would be a piggy bank.  While it is always important for a buyer to discern the future value potential and ability to resell a property he or she is considering, it has somehow become cliche that it is not as important to the first time buyer.  As if the lower dollar value of the investment or the knowledge that he or she will only be in the home for a couple of years would somehow mitigate the importance of due diligence.

I maintain that future value concerns are even more important to first timers than most.  For the very reason that they will likely enjoy a shorter stay in the home, they need to be especially cognizant of resale capability.  The retired couple who is buying the home they envision for spending the duration of their golden years can more afford to make a purchasing decision with their specific needs in mind than the couple that is just getting started and will use their first property as a springboard to their ultimate home.  They don’t want to get off on the wrong foot by making a poor initial investment.

You can more afford to screw up your purchase if you never plan to sell it.  If this is the house you plan to die in, by all means, buy the one on the ancient burial ground with the sweet discount and benevolent (hopefully) spirits.  Otherwise, buy something that someone else will want to buy from you.

So first-time home buyers, you will have to make sacrifices, especially if you are looking in a higher end market like Scottsdale.  That does not mean you should settle for having a power plant next door or the funky one bedroom house with the garage converted to a recording studio.  Eliminate the properties that have unfixable or expensive structural/locational problems.  Remember, you can always replace the vinyl flooring and the laminate counter tops.

Not so easy to re-route the Amtrak.

Please like & share:
  • Thank you Slaybaugh for pointing out that the role of the agent looking out for the interest of the buyers is to point out the negatives! I’m thankful that HGTV exists so clients have some idea what staging is, for example. Still, the agent behavior on those shows is, as you point out, often horrendous.

  • It is us to us as client advocates to point out the pros and cons of each home they are considering. I’ve often had 1st time buyers tell me “I never thought about that” when I’ve brought up the subject of the ability to resell easily. HGTV may be entertaining, but I’m always tempted to squint for the small print that says “I’m not a REALTOR, but I played one on TV”.

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Paul Slaybaugh is here to sell houses and chew bubble gum. He's all out of bubble gum. More About Me >>>

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