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Anyone who’s ever fallen in love with an apartment at first sight knows that emotions run high in the world of real estate. As much as we try to keep a level head, sometimes we lose it when an apartment has a phenomenal view or the perfect floor plan.
In her mini-online tome The Home Owner's Guide to Taking Control of Your Money ($3.95, Amazon), personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi identifies four possible pitfalls for home seekers based on the research of Dr. Michael J. Seiler, a professor of real estate at Old Dominion University in Virginia.
We've reprinted these below, and asked a few NYC-based agents to weigh in with their reactions.
Pitfall #1: Real estate agents can cloud your judgment.
The attractiveness, gender and voice of a real estate agent can sway a prospective homebuyer’s opinion of a property. Using voice-altering software, as well as before and after extreme make-over photos, researchers found that attractive female agents who employ hyperbolic rhetoric (i.e. exaggerations) are better at establishing credibility and trust from prospective buyers. The study included nearly 1,600 potential homebuyers on a web-based audio/visual tour of a typically priced home in their area.
Gil Neary of DG Neary Realty thinks this “has some truth and some fantasy” to it and it may come down to personal preference.
“People from different backgrounds and cultures react differently,” he says.
But other agents, like Simone Song of Simone Song Properties, aren’t so sure. Song says most people respond to an agent who is “sincere, honest, and transparent.”
And Eve Levine, a broker at The Corcoran Group says most New Yorkers are “quite savvy” and are more likely to be persuaded by an agent who “listens carefully” rather than looks like she should be in a fashion magazine.
Pitfall #2: First and last impressions matter most.
Seiler and his co-researchers found the rooms that were most influential are the first (usually the curb appeal) and the last (backyard/view). For homes that have made your final cut, go back and visit at different times of the day when the lighting or street noise may be better (or worse). Visit at least a few times before making a firm decision.
While this may be true, putting a triple-mint lobby or sweeping city view into perspective can be a little more complicated in NYC.
"Unfortunately, because of the competitive nature of the real estate market in New York, multiple looks -- or even a second one -- are not always possible before making a decision," says Levine.
Pitfall #3: Color throws us off.
Homes with a single pink wall in the living room were valued $3,500 less than the identical homes with white walls.
Neutral colors are the most appealing, agreed the brokers we spoke to.
“When advising sellers in preparing their homes for sale, I ask them to think like buyers,” says Levine, who sends sellers to open houses “to get a sense of what is appealing and what isn’t.” The apartment should be a “blank canvas where a buyer can visualize himself living.”
Pitfall #4: We want what we can’t have.
If you only qualify for a $200k home, but have been looking at nothing but $400k homes, the $200k homes will no longer look good to you. Stay focused on what you can afford, otherwise, after seeing higher priced homes with fancier amenities you may begin justifying spending more money (money that you don’t have).
“Sometimes seeing what you can't afford makes a buyer realize why they are frustrated with the things they are seeing in their price range,” says Neary. "This may prompt some buyers to look in a different area or market or to wait and save more money until they can afford what they want.”
But Song maintains that serious buyers will not look outside their price range.
“They may go to a lot of open houses in the beginning to see what is available, but once they’ve narrowed down what they want, they don’t go looking at places that are more than they can afford," she says.