Real estate advice and “your cousin Vinny”

Being in the market to buy a home is great cocktail party conversation material. Anyone who’s in the process of buying or selling a home may as well wear a sandwich board announcing open season for Words of Wisdom from well-meaning friends and relations.

Now don’t get us wrong. You’ll need advice, since your home often signifies the largest investment you’ll ever make. Buying or selling is a major undertaking. So, advice is good. Just pay a little attention to where you get it.

Your mother’s brother’s cousin Vinny (once removed) is undoubtedly a very smart man. Very successful in business too; I don’t doubt it. But let’s ponder a moment. He sold his house 7 years ago in San Francisco, where the average time on the market for a home to sell was one weekend (yes, 48 hours). And the Seller’s biggest problem was choosing which of the five buyers’ offers to accept. Your home has been on the market for 11 months (yes, almost 48 weeks). And the offer you’re now considering is the only one you’ve seen in all that time. Perhaps cousin Vinny’s advice to “hold firm” at the asking price you established 11 months ago doesn’t fully apply.

Or maybe you’re in the process of buying a home. You’re even pretty excited about the 3 bedroom bungalow you think you can get for just under $200,000. True, it needs paint in every room, some kitchen updates and possibly a new roof in the next five years. But it’s in a great neighborhood, has a yard with trees and a garden plot, and that covered front porch you’ve always seen in your dreams. You call your brother-in-law who just bought a home in Tuscaloosa: brand new, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths on 2 acres for $118,000. Is it any wonder he’s not excited about your find? When he cautions you to start your negotiations at 30% below asking price and never go higher than $160,000 for a 3 bedroom home, should you maybe take that advice with just a tiny grain of salt?

Please, it’s a big decision. So talk to your friends and relatives. Bounce your ideas and questions off them. But, do yourself a favor. Choose the ones who’ve recently bought or sold in your market. They just might have a better handle on your reality.