Life Home & Garden

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Home truths: How to deal with heartbreak in the house dating game

Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

The process of buying a house, or selling one, is a lot like dating. Obviously it takes two to tango and it's all about finding that perfect match.

The first thing a buyer has to do is to get out there. Look around. Or if you're a vendor, you've got to advertise the fact that your home is available.

Technology has changed the process. These days, potential buyers trawl through prospects on their smartphones to narrow the search. And they'll often spend weeks doing nothing but swiping through pictures of candidates.

Then the buyer finds a hot property that seems to tick all his or her boxes. It's time to get in touch - to check things out in person. So a phone call is made and a date is made for a viewing.

This is a chance for the vendor to get familiar with the prospect, for probing questions to be asked to see if all is as it should be. It's when the buyer checks if anything is hidden below the surfaces, whether there are skeletons in those cupboards or anything crazy going on upstairs. Some polite prodding and poking.

It's likely of course that each party will try out a number of options in search of their ideal fit. Maybe even dozens. For one reason or another, either one can be struck off the other's list of prospects, perhaps not even knowing why this has happened. The vendor might be keen enough to embrace your offer, but for whatever reasons, as a buyer you might have to let them down gently and move on. Did that vital first house visit reveal to them that the online pictures are enhanced or taken from overly complimentary angles? From the vendor's perspective the would-be buyer, who was wholly positive about that first experience, might never show up ever again. And after a long search without a match, it's easy for vendor or buyer both to become downhearted and disillusioned and lose confidence.

So unless you're one of the lucky buyers and find that dream prospect straight away, you'll just have to keep on looking. As a jilted vendor, do question at this point if you're just asking for too much. If not, you have to cling to the belief that someone will eventually happen along who is prepared to engage for real.

Eventually the buyer finds the right property for them (it might even be love at first sight!) and from that point on they are into pursuit mode. They begin some serious courting. So far so good.

Just like the dating game, it's at this point in the process that the ditherers can bugger it all up. For everybody.

I'm talking about the ones who can't make their minds up about what they want; who drag their heels when it comes to making a full-on commitment. They do this either because they're no use at making their minds up on anything, at all, in their lives; or because they're having a strategic dither - leaving the door open as long as possible in case a better prospect happens to come along. This lot can convince you that you're home and dry and in clover - that your hearth is the one they want - and that it's only a matter of closing. Suddenly they're not playing ball at all.

It happens at an advanced stage in the process when push needs to come to shove. Perhaps as a vendor, they've made an offer and you've accepted. In your head you're already living in that other house you've been bidding on in turn. You're ready to fling them the keys.

But now deadlines are being missed. Excuses are being made about why the deposit isn't being paid. The process is drawing out. Others who were interested in your home are leaving the scene and getting themselves sorted elsewhere. You've impressed on them the need to close but the dog ate their homework, Uncle John has been taken sick, the guy at the bank is on holidays, on it goes.

If you're the buyer, they're away when those vital signatures are required; or waiting for dad to sign a cheque. So how do you know whether to wait for these people to come good; or to dump them and move on? And when to do it?

Well, if you've ever found yourself here when dating, then play by the exact same rules. Yes, they could be two-timing you or even six-timing and closer to closing with someone else. Conversely they might have lost their mortgage approval and are desperately trying to get it back.

To find out, you first need to give yourself a reality check. Know this: No deal is done until both names are on the contract. And 'Sale Agreed' means little more than heavy petting. It's first base.

Now consult with your trusted and clever friends/family and ask them what they think about this behaviour. Get a vote going. See where the majority leans. At this point you are too closely involved in the process to think impartially and impartial advice is just what you need right now. If you're a vendor, your agent's advice is best. Take it. They've been down this road before with wasters.

Now it's time to set some reasonable and clear boundaries: conditions and deadlines. Lay these out and let them know you will not tolerate these being crossed or broken. Stick to your deadline. Otherwise you are making a fool of yourself. Don't be a doormat. Don't play hard to get. Don't smother them either.

If they let you down then get up quickly, dust yourself off and get back on that horse. This is a reality of being in the market. But remember: There's a buyer out there for every reasonably-priced home and a home for every reasonable buyer. Apart from all that, they're just not worth it!

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