Back in 2011 I wrote a very popular real estate column for The Denver Post; this particular column garnered a lot of attention as it was titled, “The Spreadsheet Guy!”
We’ve all known someone like the spreadsheet guy at some point in our lives. In this situation I was representing a buyer, his wife, and their two kids who were relocating to Denver. The gentleman was a C level executive, and every time he got in the car to go out with me to look at property, he brought his laptop. He would sit in the front seat with his wife in the backseat and he would open his laptop to an Excel spreadsheet. On the spreadsheet, he detailed every neighborhood he was interested in living in. In each neighborhood he listed all the homes that had sold in the last six months and all the homes that were active. For each home, he listed the beds, the baths, the square footage, the lot size, the price it last sold for, the age, and most importantly, the price per square foot.
At each home, we would go in and we would look at the active listing, and then he would return to the car, open his spreadsheet and see exactly how that active listing compared to all of the sold data he had accumulated on his spreadsheet. Within a few minutes, this guy was able to pin down exactly what the house was worth, almost to the penny. He could recite the sales trends for the last six months of the market, like it was chapter and verse of the Bible.
So, what’s wrong with that? There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I love an educated buyer. It makes my job so much easier. The only issue we run into is that very rarely does a sale pan out just like the spreadsheet guy planned. All the homework, studying and analyzing is great, but at the end of the day the sale boils down to one thing, “What is a seller willing to sell for and what is a buyer willing to pay?”
That spring I probably wrote seven or more contracts for the spreadsheet guy. All of them lowball offers based on his analysis of the data on his spreadsheet. About a month and a half into the process we were back in the car looking at more homes. We stumbled across one in a fantastic neighborhood, and there was nothing NOT to like about this house. In fact, his wife absolutely loved it. We got into the car and my guy started to do his thing with the laptop. Right about that time a voice came from the back of the car. It was his wife and I’m paraphrasing, but her rant went something like this, “Bill, I don’t give a damn about your spreadsheet or your analysis! I’m tired of this process and I am tired of looking at homes. I have found a home I like and for me it’s not about getting the best deal. I want to find a place that I can call home and we can be happy. So, stop making lowball offers and let’s buy this house!!!”
There was dead silence in the car. I didn’t dare look at the spreadsheet guy and I didn’t look in my rearview mirror to see his wife’s face. I just looked straight ahead and drove them back to their rental. Not a word was spoken over the next 15 minutes. I knew the minute they stepped out of the car and stepped into the house the ______ was going to fly!
Later that evening, I got a phone call from the spreadsheet guy. He told me they wanted to make an offer on the house, the one his wife really loved. Much to my surprise – or maybe not – he made a very reasonable offer. There was a little bit of back-and-forth between the buyer and the seller, but within 24 hours we were under contract on that property. Thirty days later, the sale closed, and his wife got the home she really wanted.
I have resurrected this story from 2011 because with the current shift in the market, the spreadsheet guy is coming back. I think it’s important to remember it’s not who won, lost, or who got the best deal. It’s simply this: Did you get the house you really like, will really enjoy, be very happy in, and did you get it for a fair price? The deal always comes down to what a seller is willing to sell for and what a buyer willing to pay. Make the compromise, enjoy and get on with your life.
Dan Polimino is the owner of the Hawaii Team in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i. He and his team are the luxury residential experts for the Big Island. If you are thinking about buying or selling in Hawai`i, then please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 808-913-0899.