Caveat Emptor – Let the buyer beware – and due diligence

J Philip Faranda June 28, 2011

I seldom reblog, but Ruthmarie Hicks has written an excellent piece on the importance of buyers needing to do their homework before just gallivanting all over the county looking at homes they might never buy if they knew better. 

Ruthmarie then goes the extra mile in giving resources where buyers can go online to get information that we as agents cannot give due to fair housing laws and other restrictions. 

In my book, a buyer that expects all this information from an agent is not a serious buyer. As the commercial says, an educated consumer is our best customer. 

Via Ruthmarie Hicks (Keller Williams Realty):

When home buyers engage an agent they often expect us to be the repository of any and all neighborhood information.  They often don’t see the need to do their own research because they can just pick the brains of their buyers agent.   But the truth is far more complicated than that.   Steering Laws prevent me from divulging anything about following:

  • Demographics – for example – I can not answer a questions like “Does this neighborhood have a lot of young families?”
  • Schools – for example – I can not address whether a school district is good, bad or anything in between.
  • Crime Stats – I can’t answer your questions about whether or not an area is “safe.”  In truth you could be walking into a neighborhood rife with gang warfare – but I’m not allowed to discuss it.

 

Due Diligence is the home buyers responsibility:

The law says that I can not discuss these matters or offer an opinion on them.  However, the law does not prevent me from providing the tools to help buyers find the information for themselves.  So here are some links and phone numbers.

Why I’m insisting on due diligence BEFORE I show a lot of homes:

Right now we are in a market where some buyers seem to be literally all over the map.  I’ve had buyers wanting to see homes in as many as six or seven different towns – some of them covering an area that could create a tour of 60 miles or more.  Many seem to think that needing 50 or more showings is necessary before making a decision – and then it is sometimes a decision not to buy!   With a little research – that list could be pared down to something far more sane.   The problem isn’t with any one buyer – it is the cumulative effect of too many buyers doing the same thing.  An unfocused  rudderless  buyer who is all over the map takes time away from buyers who are focused and ready to pull the trigger. In the end – this isn’t fair to my other buyers who are ready to buy and have done their due diligence.

The fact of the matter is that very often buyers want to see things that I know they will never buy once they have done their due diligence.  I can’t tell them that though, but its frustrating because this situation creates a colossal time sink for many parties.  For myself – the setup can take as long or longer than the tour itself.  For the showing services, its tons of phone calls. And let’s not forget the sellers themselves who have scrubbed, cleaned, dusted, tidied and fluffed and vacated their home to accommodate someone they hope will make an offer.  What goes on behind the scenes to make these showings work is far from trivial.

So when buyers are literally all over the map – and seem to be in “no hurry” to buy – I will insist that they do some necessary legwork first.  The fact is that vast swaths of homes can be eliminated simply by digging a little and using the information that is at the buyers fingertips.

Here are some ways to dig a little deeper – before picking up the phone and requesting a showing.

Demographics:

Trulia has some demographic data as well as data on crime stats.   Click here for New York State – and plug in the zip code or town of interest.

Another good site for demographics is City Data.  Once again you can just plug in the zip code or town and go.

Neighborhood Scout is a site that you have to pay for to see the good stuff.  But I’ve heard that people find it worthwhile to subscribe while they are in search mode.

For all the general information available – nothing beats being in the area and spending time there.  Going out for dinner on the weekend – taking in a movie…but spending time in the area is very helpful.

Schools:

The best resource for schools online appears to be Great Schools.

However – scores can be deceiving.  Home buyers should not reject a school system based solely on scores.  Scores often reflect the affluence of an area more than they do the actual quality of the school system.  I wrote about this in a previous blog about the  “The Great School Debate”.  The best way to judge a school system is by visiting the area schools are going directly to the administrative offices for information.  This may sound very time-consuming – however this is where you are thinking of living for a long time and it is worth the effort.

Since this blog covers a large portion of Westchester NY – providing links  to all the schools in the area would be prohibitive.  Googling the school in question will bring up the site.  Just be sure to include NY or you may find yourself in White Plains Georgia or Larchmont Virginia.

Crime:

Neighborhood Scout (you do have to pay for this ) and Truila will give you some of what you are looking for.  But in this case – as in the case of the schools – the best way is to call the local authorities directly.   Below is a partial list of phone numbers for the local police.  These are non-emergency numbers.

One of the problems with the on-line data for both demographics and crime is that some areas are Post Office addresses don’t relate to the same municipality.  The data may be skewed by the PO.  Remember that these are national maps and the nuances of let’s say Scarsdale the town and Scarsdale the PO – which covers a much bigger area may be blurred.

If all this sounds like a lot of work….

You would be right – but buying a home IS work.  These are the basics that buyers need to do when picking a neighborhood where they will be living for years to come.   I have also found that buyers who aren’t willing to do this – really aren’t buyers.

© 2011 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks – http://thewestchesterview.com – All rights reserved.

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