You Might Not Feel Comfortable There…

I’m sorry if this post comes off as something of a rant, but I am a very “by the book” agent and things like what I’m about to describe make my blood boil.

The Hartford Courant has a nice little blurb in every Sunday real estate section about “Moving In…” where they talk about people that recently purchased property in various towns in the Hartford area.

This past weekend the “Moving In” article was about a family that recently purchased a home in Hartford, one street away from where I live. According to the article, the couple relocated here from San Francisco last year and were drawn to the West End of Hartford immediately, as they loved the Victorian homes. The husband actually specialized in restoring the interior and exterior of Victorians in San Francisco. But they didn’t initially buy in Hartford.

The wife goes on to say “We liked the West End a lot, but the [agent] scared us away.” According to the Courant “the couple decided to buy a traditional home in West Hartford instead, and they spent the next year settling in to their new lives.” This year they decided to shop for another home, got a different agent, and ended up buying a Victorian in the West End.

Seriously, I screamed in frustration when I read this article. Ask Kyle, it was loud.

The people found an area they liked and identified with, were discouraged to buy there by an agent for whatever reason, ended up buying in the town right next door, then moved one year later to the area they initally liked in the house type they favored from the beginning. How screwed up is that?

It is completely, totally, unquestionably ILLEGAL for real estate agents to steer people when they are making their decision to purchase a home. And unfortunately it can and does happen, whether it is intentional or unintentional.

As an agent, it is my job to be “the source of the source.” For example, if someone asks me “is this a good school district” or “will I be safe here” I point them to various websites, tell them to talk to neighbors, call the local schools and ask to speak with parents, call the town police department, etc.

Everyone has different needs and comes from different backgrounds. It is not my place, nor that of any other agent, to suggest to someone that an area might not be right for them. What is right for me may not be right for you and vice versa. As long as you can afford to buy a house, it shouldn’t matter if you want to live on Mars (I’m not licensed there, by the way). There has to be some onus on the home buyer to make the decision if a town or neighborhood is right for them, but for an agent to suggest that you should not live somewhere is completely illegal and inexcusable.

So how do you determine the right area if, for example, you are relocating and only have 3 days to find a house? Here’s what I suggest…

1. Do as much research as you can online, before you travel for your visit. Just Googling “blog” and the name of the towns you might be considering can provide a wealth of “unofficial” information. Visit the websites of local newspapers and read them. Go to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center and search on town profiles. These are just a few places to begin your research.

2. Ask future coworkers what they think, but do this with a bit of caution. Realize that people will think their town is hands-down the best. Otherwise, what would it say about their living decision? If you continually hear “don’t look in that town,” ask if they know of someone that actually lives in “that town” that you could speak with. You’ll probably get a different perspective. In other words, try to question if you need to, don’t be a sheep.

3. Have your agent arrange showings so you look at properties half of the day and then have time to go back and explore areas on your own for the rest of the day. This will give you time to investigate neighborhoods, talk to neighbors, determine your commute time, figure out where the nearest grocery store is located, etc.

4. Rent if you have to. It may not seem like the best option, but if you feel that you’re not making the best decision and need more time to explore an area, do it. It will end up being cheaper and less emotionally stressful than buying a home in the “wrong” place (for you) and then needing to move one year later.

Don’t feel that you have to listen to agents when they express their personal preferences. You are the one who is purchasing the house and going to live there, not them. So it’s you that needs to be comfortable with the home, neighborhood and overall community. Agents usually mean well with their “advice,” but there’s a reason that Federal Fair Housing Laws make it illegal to give.