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You're Not Doing This Alone: Richard Gullo Talks About First-Time Buyers

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As part of Rookie Roosts Week, we wanted input from a key player in purchasing your home- the agent who represents you. We talked to Herth's Richard Gullo, an experienced pro in guiding first-time buyers through the process. You've probably seen this dapper, effortlessly-charming Louisiana native tooling around town in his vintage Karmann-Ghia convertible.

CSF: How do 1st-time buyers expectations differ from others?
RG: They're not that different, and very close in expectations these days. Most buyers are doing a lot of research about neighborhoods, pricing and their loan options before they really hit the ground and start seriously looking with an agent.

CSF: Are they nervous?
RG: Most of them are. It can be intimidating at first but once they get out there looking, making offers and watching the market they can feel better about what they are getting into. They've been successful in one business- usually tech- and bring the same intelligence and research to the table, but there's always emotion involved in buying a first home.

CSF: How do you manage their expectations?
RG: With a soft glove. It's a big step. Buying a house is like mapping out one's future.
CSF: How do you vet your new clients?
RG: It's not really necessary, since they're almost always referrals. But we always get the loan pre-approval out of the way first- if they haven't come already pre-approved- which gives us both a better picture of what they can afford. And coming to an agent pre-approved means you're serious about buying a house.

CSF: How do they react to a suggestion to bid over asking?
RG: I've had clients completely walking away from the idea of buying at all, and others really asking questions and using my knowledge of what I see happening. We're seeing the return of the "pre-emptive overbid" this year, and that takes some serious intestinal fortitude.

CSF: Do they think it's going to be like an episode of HGTV's House Hunters?
RG: I'm sure that has something to do with it, but with their own set of bullet points to check off. They are concerned with lifestyle issues, like where the private transport buses to the Peninsula stop and whether the neighborhood is walkable.

CSF: Do they read real estate blogs?
RG: They are very educated when it comes to what they're doing with their money, and any form of information is a large part of the education of the process.

CSF: Do they shop/search the internet?
RG: Oh yes. This is a large part of the process. With so many ways to get information now, they want to see it all- but in the end, real estate is about bricks and mortar. And money.

CSF: What about the "Is this a good investment? Will it increase in value?" question?
RG: First-time buyer are rarely flippers. San Francisco real estate is still expensive, and compared to the rest of the world, values here have held up remarkably well despite the recession. And buyers know it's not 2007 anymore, so no, the question doesn't come up. They've already decided what to do with their money and how they want to live.

CSF: Have you encountered a buyer's particular obsession, like gas stoves vs. electric?
RG: Yes. I had a gentleman whose favorite part of the house was the kitchen, with the gas stove being the centerpiece. He's a great cook. But part of the learning process for a first-time buyer is them figuring what they really want, rather than what they think they want.