If you leave the whole thing in the hands of estate agents, as many do, you have no idea of who the viewers are, what their characteristics and priorities might be. But in an age where more and more people are doing this online (which is not yet properly geared to it), or if you choose to conduct the viewings yourself, you get a much better picture.
I know, from friend’s experiences, that all the information you get from an agent is what they liked and what they didn’t like. These may be excuses anyway, and may be offered days later, so the stresses of it all are hidden, which for some is intolerable. I’d far rather know the facts.
I haven’t sold many houses in my life, and only once did I do it all myself. Then, it was much easier. It cost me £50 to put it in a newspaper, and it worked. Things have moved on (or backwards) since then. The whole thing is incredibly unreliable and messy. So I thought it might be helpful to offer a list of the sort of potential buyers who might turn up. The list isn’t exhaustive, because I’m not an expert, but I am seeing patterns emerge.
Some people may fit into more than one category, and some of these will be applicable only in certain areas, or may look rather different from place to place. I’m also sure there are types of seller, of which I am one. I imagine the estate agent could (but won’t) tell me which of those I fit into.
Round here, where people come on holiday, there is unfortunately a goodly helping of these. People who have no intention of buying, but like to fantasise about living down here, and see it a bit like an outing to a stately home or otter park. Something to do which will amuse. They will often say their house is on the market, when it isn’t, so that they seem viable.
They aren’t always easy to identify, though they do often make lots of positive noises without actually seeming engaged. Some will want to stay for ages, poring over your furniture and stuff, or asking lots of questions about living here. Others will pass through fast, only giving the place a very cursory glance. I suspect the latter have organised an itinerary where quantity is more important.
Basically, time wasters. Considering it takes quite a while and committed effort to keep maintaining house and garden in the sort of way it needs to be to show, and it is quite labour intensive, these are annoying.
These people have their own house on the market, and may move often, in order to do a place up, or just cash in. They are coming only to see how their place compares to yours, and will be heavily entrenched in confirmation bias, where their place is worth a lot more than yours. Feedback, either at the time, or afterwards, is usually critical, and frequently completely inaccurate. Prepare to be offended, unless you realise this is their whole modus operandi, and it has little basis in truth.
People who have invested their hearts in a place which had a troubling survey so they had to let it go. These people will be looking out for exactly the same as happened before. They won’t pay any heed to reassurances or facts. Oddly, they are still attracted to the same kind of character property, but are terrified it will reveal exactly the same issues, so whatever drew them to view in the first place will be overruled by their belief the same thing will happen again.
Some people spend a great deal of time poring over property details and making lists of questions, and may also have a tick list which needs to be fulfilled for them to want to buy. On one hand this might sound practical and sensible, but what it tends to achieve is a failure to engage with the place and what it might be like to live there. This can range from whether existing furniture will fit, to whether there’s a place for a washing machine. I was asked that only yesterday, in my contemporary kitchen, standing next to the washing machine. The list becomes their prime concern, so they can pore over it afterwards, but it means it has no heart, and that is key for choosing a property.
They may be early in their search, or very late on, but either way, they are unlikely to find anywhere which will meet all their requirements, so they’re a different form of timewaster, effectively.
They want the perfect house, in the perfect place, with everything exactly as they’ve imagined. Down here it might be called Poldark syndrome, though other names would be more appropriate elsewhere. People seem to expect stunning views, with none of the normal things you might see in farming areas, a rural idyll, but just round the corner from the supermarket, doctors surgery etc. Aside from the fact nowhere has that, every house has its compromise. I’ve yet to see one that hasn’t. Some are of course deal breakers, but there will always be something you need to swallow but would prefer wasn’t there, or was. The idealist will not accept anything other than perfection.
Related to the aforementioned dreamer. They’re not quite house tourists, for they genuinely believe they’re looking for a house to buy. Realistically though, they’re not. They’re looking for places (for they will inevitably lose each one they fall in love with) which they can imagine themselves in, pore over, dream of, aim for, but never get to.
They’re a right pain to be honest, because until you’re au fait they will seem convincing, and you will imagine you’ve sold, when you’ve done nothing of the sort.
The no show
A surprisingly high percentage of potential viewers seem to forget that there are various people at the other end of the process, organising things to ensure they can view the chosen property. A considerable number of times I’ve been informed very shortly before the viewing that they won’t be coming. They have to go back up country and hadn’t realised how long it would take to get to places. They’ve changed their minds. They’ve mysteriously been called home on a family emergency (you’d be amazed at how often that happens). The estate agent has told me of the times when they go out to conduct a viewing, and the viewer will either just not turn up, or inform them 20 minutes after they were due they aren’t coming.
People can be very flaky and inconsiderate, which when you’ve investing a lot of time and effort in to the whole thing, can be infuriating. Don’t take it personally. It really isn’t about you or your home.
Buyer with heart
Worth their weight in gold. They may not fall for your house, and they won’t waste your time if they don’t. They might comment on the things they like, and some are honest enough to share what is impractical for them, but they’ll move on, and there’ll be no expectation from either side.
The ones who do fall in love with it will make it clear. They may or may not be in a position to make an offer, but you’re aware it’s somewhere they feel at home and would genuinely choose to live.
Choosing a house, a home, is about a combination of elements. Practicality, location and so on matter. But if someone doesn’t have a feeling for your house, if it doesn’t seem to wrap itself around them, they’re unlikely to buy it.
The process continues to be stressful beyond the point of getting an offer, but I’ll write about that another time, when I get a viable one.