It often takes 10 weeks for wannabe homebuyers to find the right house – sometimes much longer, if they’re in a part of the country with low inventory.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ latest Profile of Buyers and Sellers, that’s a little shorter than the 12 weeks it typically took five years ago. Still, buyers said that finding the right house was the “most difficult step” in the buying process.
Indeed, in the new home market, half the would-be buyers have been actively searching for at least three months, the National Association of Home Builders reports. And the vast majority of them say they are going to continue house-hunting until they find what has so far been elusive. Only 16 percent said they were ready to give up the chase.
The NAHB survey doesn’t say how many houses or communities these house-hunters have visited so far. But in the resale sector, NAR says people tend to look at 10 houses before pulling the trigger.
There are outliers, though, according to a recent post on the ActiveRain real estate site. Some buyers want to view that many houses – in a single day!
Sybil Campbell of Long and Foster Real Estate in Williamsburg, Virginia, recently took a call from another agent wanting to set up an appointment for her young clients, who were in town to look at houses before moving to the area. The agent told her they were planning to see four houses on one day and 18 more the next day.
Campbell’s policy is to show no more than eight houses in one day. “I have found that most buyers start to forget specific details about the houses after they have seen six or seven,” she posted.
Most other agents who responded to the post agreed, and several echoed Campbell’s sentiment that viewing too many houses in a single day doesn’t do anyone any good.
William Feela of Whispering Pines Realty in North Branch, Minnesota, said he has shown out-of-town buyers up to a dozen in a day, but finds that “few buyers can process more than four.”
Abby Stiller with Premier Realty Homes in Cape Coral, Florida, said her top number was 10, but that she’s only shown that many a few times. “It is not recommended,” she said. “It will be hard to remember all the houses, and it will be difficult to make a decision.”
Added Erika Rae Albert of eXp Realty in Austin, Texas: “Anything more than six, and they all start to blend together.”
Of course, there are exceptions. For Georgie Hunter of Hawaii Life Real Estate on Maui, the exceptions are condominium apartments. If there are many units for sale in a single building or complex, she wrote, “it can be easy to knock out three or four at once and then move on to the next place.” In such cases, she said, it’s more about location and amenities than the individual units, which all tend to be very similar.
No matter how many homes you see in a single day – whether it’s five or 18 – it’s a good idea to have a game plan, advises Kelly Dixon of Re/Max in Clearwater, Florida. She said she allows her buyers, many of whom are from out of town and have to pack a lot into a short time frame, to determine how many houses they think they can see.
But Dixon has a game plan, too: As they tour, she asks them to compare house 1 to house 2, then house 2 to house 3, and so on – just like at the eye doctor’s office. She also plans a midday break for lunch to regroup and refocus.
Margaret Mitchell of Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty in York, Maine, also sees a lot of out-of-towners. She copped to showing 12 houses in a single day “when necessary,” but not without a game plan of her own: “I keep a verbal running tally with buyers of what is on their short list and what is off their list as we go.”
Mitchell also discusses the homes on the master list before agreeing to a marathon day of showings. “My expectation is that they will pick one,” she said. To facilitate that, she takes the clients back for second showings at those homes that make the short list.
Jeff Dowler of Solutions Real Estate in Carlsbad, California, recommends taking photos and notes as you move through multiple showings.
Tim Maitski of the Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage, who has shown as many as 22 houses in a single day, says it doesn’t take long for prospects to eliminate a house – “usually in the first minute.” He said that once buyers have a couple top contenders in mind, “the rest is easy. … Every home after that, just ask yourself if this one beats out either of the top two.”
Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at email@example.com.