Everyone still calls active would-be home buyers “house hunters.” The term hasn’t changed; the goal hasn’t either—but today the activity it conjures up is very different from that it did just a short while ago.
For instance, for house hunters, including luxury towns like Greenwich, whose last hunt was in, say, 1990, their memory of “house hunting” is probably that of thumbing through stacks of black-and-white listing sheets provided by the real estate agent. Those may have been a little hard to read, especially if they’d been sent to their oh-so-slow home fax machine. If any of the sheets looked worth pursuing, the next step might have “beeping” the agent’s pager—whereupon the agent would have then contacted the seller’s agent (usually through their answering machine) to set up a showing. House hunting just a couple of decades ago was loaded with those new-fangled electronics—most of which can now be found only in boxes in the attic.
Today, when you say “Greenwich house hunting” it evokes a quite different set of activities. As media commentator Dave Ramsey recalls, “Even up to 2005, a buyer would look through real estate publications and try to connect with an agent that specialized in a specific neighborhood… Who would select 10-20 homes for that buyer to view.”
Today, Greenwich and other luxury market house hunters would have a hard time relating. At home in their easy chair, they zip through screen after screen of professional color images of properties that meet qualifications they have set—then just send a list to their agent to schedule showings. Information is so readily at hand. Today’s Greenwich house hunters are more like zoo visitors than safari trekkers.
Although today’s newly evolved house hunting may sound as if it has all but eliminated the need to recruit a real estate agent, it’s actually true only for the first steps in the process. Ramsey is clear about that: “Even if you think you’ve found your dream home in an online search, your agent will help you nail down all the facts about that home and the neighborhood you’ll live in.” Locating suitable properties has gotten much more efficient, but as for all the rest of the home-buying process, he points out, “things are more complicated these days.” There’s nothing better than testing an opinion, than being the “victim.” Recently, I was looking into vacation properties. I couldn’t believe how ill-equipped I was on a number of fronts, starting with “Is this a good location?” to “Is this property listed at the right price?” Like anything, having a professional who knows their industry, their market, and your needs trumps all else— including the momentary temptation to just “jump first and figure out how to swim later.”