News Flash: Home buyers with children consider children in the immediate vicinity a crucial criterion for their decision.
I just had a frustrating exchange with the selling agent for a home for sale in the Barron Park neighborhood of Palo Alto, CA. Unfortunately, this is the way my conversations with realtors have gone pretty much every time in the last two years.I asked her a straightforward question: “I have a three-year-old and a newborn. Do you know if there are any kids their age among the neighbors right around here?”
She replied, “This is a wonderful neighborhood for kids! You’ve asked the right person – I live on this street.”
“OK, great! Tell me – are their kids my kids’ ages here?”
“Well, next door, there are three kids.”
“Five, seven, and nine, I think.”
“I have a three-year old and a newborn. Are there any babies or toddlers around here?”
“There are *lots* of kids around here. I wouldn’t worry about that,” she said with a slight smirk on her face.
“I’m not worried at all. I’m just trying to figure out if I want my family to live here.”
“Well, even if there were babies here, I couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t move in a few years.” She walked away. She had had enough of me.
Duh!!! Just because someone can’t guarantee something doesn’t mean it’s not important to a buying decision. No one can guarantee the weather this Thanksgiving in Hawaii, either, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a primary concern of those contemplating a Thanksgiving vacation there.
As I’ve written in another post, I’m convinced that if my family lives in a house that is surrounded by kids my kids’ ages, and if those kids’ parents allow them to play outside frequently, my kids will have a much better life. Therefore, I consider the existence of kids my kids’ ages playing in the immediate vicinity to be a crucial housebuying criterion.
Why don’t most realtors realize this and supply a better answer than “This is a wonderful neighborhood for kids!”? They can routinely answer detailed questions about square footage or closets or kitchen appliances.
If a realtor answered, “this house has many bathrooms!” in answer to a detailed question about how many bathrooms a house has, you’d immediately write him or her off as worthless. Well, a realtor who can’t recite details about neighbors is just as worthless, at least to families with kids. Unfortunately, the latter is true for most listing agents.
So, in conclusion, I have some advice:
Advice for listing agents: Knock on neighbors’ doors and ask lots of detailed questions.
Advice for family homebuyers: Ask realtors lots of specific, detailed questions about neighbors and the neighborhood. If they can’t answer these thoroughly, knock on neighbors’ doors to get the answers yourself.