Friday, October 17, 2014

Home Buying Etiquette

The fourth season of my house on the market is winding down, and if a miracle of an offer doesn't come through in two weeks, I have to do this all over again in the spring. While many buyers and agents are respectful, others are not and need sound advice. I have searched the internet for a guide to good house-hunting manners and I didn't find much, just bits and pieces here and there, so this blog post is my own guide based on my experiences.

These are not in any particular order because they are all important:
1. Always REMEMBER that you're a guest in someone else's home. Don't think that because they are offering the home for sale, that you can do anything you want in it and that they have to put up with you. It is in your best interest not to tick the seller off because if it comes down to negotiating a deal, she will remember how you treated her and her home. Look at it this way. If you are at Walmart buying a coffee maker, you study the package,  make a decision based on the information given you and buy it on the faith it will be a good coffee maker. Just try opening the package and making a pot of coffee, to check it out, right there in the appliance section of the store and see how that goes over.
Bob's House Pencil 8 x 10
2. Use common courtesy; say hello when you get there and thank you when you leave. You don't have to stand around and chat but don't act like the home-owner is just another piece of furniture.
3. Ask, ask, ask, before you do anything. Certainly you need to know--in a general way--the size of the closets or maybe what the inside of the cabinets look like or even the inside of the refrigerator, but anything beyond a quick glance into personal spaces on the first visit is inappropriate.You don't need to see how clean the oven is.  If you want to check things out further ask the home owner if it is OK. REMEMBER that the home owner filled out a seller's disclosure of any problems with the house-- take it on face value. REMEMBER that it is doubtful that you will make an offer on a first visit. If the house makes your short list then when you go back you can flush toilets, check crawl spaces and measure closets, but only after you ask the homeowner for permission. Ask before taking pictures. Also REMEMBER that before you get to closing there will be an inspection by a professional; anything awry with the house will show up then, so it is not really necessary to do a thorough inspection yourself unless you get a kick out doing such things. But ask first. This goes back to Rule Number One-- you don't want to get into a bad place with someone you might have to negotiate with. That's plain dumb,
4. You don't have to look for flaws as an excuse not to buy the home; if you are not interested just say thank you and leave. A young woman viewed my house and was excited about it and wanted come back with her parents. I could tell by the look on dad's face when he arrived he was not impressed with the place and after they spent a long time downstairs he came up and told me the toilet ran slow and asked if I had plumbing problems. I told him the  house had no plumbing problems; the toilet was just old.  He said he thought I had roots in the sewer line, and I told him that we treated the lines regularly that they were fine. He told his daughter's agent (who never showed this house to anyone else again.) that I had plumbing problems, who related that to my agent who was very concerned. My son had to install a new toilet, on his nickel, to prove there was nothing wrong with the lines. Don't make trouble for the homeowner or almost call her a liar. If you don't want the house move on.
Home of Canadian Artist Emily Carr in Victoria BC
5. Don't make negative comments about the house while you are in or near the home. Most people actually like their homes. If you like something it is OK to drop a compliment or two--homeowners appreciate it, but don't criticize things within earshot of the person who is holding her dog back so it won't eat you.
6. If it is muddy out offer to remove your shoes. Or at least wipe your feet on the rug provided.
7. Show up. The seller went to a lot of effort to make the house presentable, so you can at least look at it, even if you're pretty sure that you want the cute little cottage on the corner. And be on time. If you have an unavoidable conflict make sure your agent calls the home-owner.
8. You are looking at the house, not the peoples stuff. Some people are minimalists, some absolutely love nick-knacks and others are clutter bugs so just look at the house. There was a time when a seller was expected to "stage" the home so the buyers just can see the house as theirs. That was OK if you sell within a few mouths but in a bad economy where houses remain on the market for years, it is unreasonable to expect the homeowner to stage it to your liking. I had stuff packed in the shed for two years that I needed in the house because well meaning people told me I must put my personal things away; my agent never asked me to do that. I don't intend to do that again. Just look at the house.
9. If you have to use the restroom, hold it until you get somewhere else. I came home after a showing and found large muddy footprints (see number 6) leading through the house and into the bathroom where the toilet seat was up. That is not cool.
10. Leave your entourage at home on the first visit, certainly two or three people looking at the house is appropriate, but not all the kids and grandma too. Don't make the homeowner clean up foot prints and finger prints after you're gone. And kids touch things. If you want to come back for a second look, I suggest that you bring those people who weren't there in the first visit.
11. Use my agent.  Some people act like agents are greedy ogres, but they earn their commissions. They have access to resources such as MLS listings on the internet, real estate magazines and agent showings. They do all the paper work too. If you like doing all that stuff and want to sell your house yourself, that is fine, but to see my house, use my agent.
12. Use my agent.  Don't show up in my yard out of the blue and want to see the house on the side. I don't know you from a tweaker, so I am not going to let you in the house. Call the number on the sign. Oh, that's another reason I have an agent, to screen lookers.
Snowy Day Pencil 8 x 10 
13. Use. My. Agent. Don't think because you know me, that I am going to give you a deal. A lady from my church approached me. Her cousin, whom I've never met, had looked at my house; because he is disabled and can't afford my asking price, he asked her to ask me if I would take it off the market and sell it to him myself so he could save the money I would pay in commissions. And she was persistent about it. Let me get this straight... you want me to do all the details and paperwork involved in closing on a house so he could get the money? Yeah, right. Maybe he left the toilet seat up.

These rules are also for agents, too, plus I have a special note for them: Dear agents, I do realize sometimes you set up showings in such a way that you are building up to the prize--the expensive home on Knob Hill-- and my home is not the one you really want to sell but don't be so obvious about it. Ms S from REMAX was in my home for about a minute when she asked me what it was like downstairs. I was too stunned reply properly and then she said, "This is not the right place for them anyway," and they left without going past the living room. Listen Ms S from REMAX, you should have taken your happy butt downstairs and at least ACTED like you were trying to sell my house. I remember you and you won't be in my house again if I can help it.  

So there you are. And if you can't remember those, remember these three--1.
Respect, 2. Courtesy and 3. Do unto others.

Happy House Hunting!

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Untitled Acrylic
Every man's memory is his private literature.  ~Aldous Huxley

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward. ~Margaret Barber

Twenty years ago on August 8, we came to this area in Northeastern Washington--at a confusing turning point of our lives--to visit friends in Northport; we decided to stay here and I am still here. Who would have thought these gypsies would have settled here of all places? It was smoky that day from fires and it was very hot--but the landscape was--and still is-- breath taking. 

The Day's Leftovers Acrylic
Looking over my life I see that the important milestones were just ordinary days at the time so I didn't mark them by taking a picture, but I still have the pictures in my mind.  As an artist I observe--drink in what I see, actually--and the pictures my mind records come out in my work or they come back to me when I take time to reflect.  Once I was showing some paintings at an art show and a woman walked up and pointed at one and said, "I know where that is!"  I didn't tell her that it only existed in my mind, but maybe it doesn't. Maybe the scene is really there somewhere and I saw it, absorbed it and it came out in the the brush. 
Where the Moose Walks Acrylic

I am at another turning point in my life and it is just as confusing to me as that day 20 years ago, only now I am without a partner and I have to face it with courage that I don't know that I have.  Today may be another important milestone that I will look back on in years to come or it may just be another ordinary day, but you can be sure I will be taking pictures,  if only with my mind.
Sunrise at Bob's Place