The Art of Asking Questions

Jim Hinshaw
Contributing Writer
Improvement Professional, President & Sales

May and I are in our new home in Phoenix, sold our home in Colorado late last year.  Put some money down on a lot in Phoenix, contracted with a builder to build us a new humble abode.  But this article is not about building a home, rather is it about the art of asking questions.

We had signed a contract (started to call it an agreement, but in the case of home building, it is a contract.  Just try to get out, will be expensive!) to construct a new home last year, moved back to Phoenix, staying with our son Mike.  Mike actually said, this is return for the times I bunked with you guys.  Was good, except, he has 3 cats, a dog and a Guinea pig!  And I am allergic to cats.  Was going to take 6 months to build our new home, lots of Kleenex.

May said the new home must be within walking distance to Starbucks, this one is 1.2 miles away, 2.5 mile roundtrip.  Don’t get me started on how I could buy a new home if I just quit buying them Starbucks Lattes, I have the new home, and at my advanced age, I will pay for the coffee.  We actually walked to Starbucks this morning before they were open, turned around and walked back, never went in.  It is just a great marker, something to work at, 2.5 mile walk is a good walk.

Back to the new home.  Last Oct we had a 3” rain in one day.  Flooding all over town, so I told May, we need to go look at our lot in the rain.  We did and were disappointed.  It was on the back side of the project, guy behind us had a 2-story home and his lot was 2 feet higher than ours.  Was getting very wet in our lot and the guy behind would be looking down on us all the time.

So we went back to the office and told our sales rep that the lot we had picked out just would not work for us.  She replied, well, that is the lot you picked out.  My lovely wife (oh, we have been married 50 years in August, some sort of a record) then asked the best question on the planet.  “Are there any other options?”.  The sales rep looked at us and asked us a question, can you close immediately?  I replied yes, our financing is all in place, we are ready.  Turns out that a couple had built the exact same home we were going to build, except in a prime location at the front of the project, backed up to a wash, no backyard neighbors.  And they had put over $80 k in upgrades, then decided they wanted a different home at closing.  So the builder had a home that he thought was going to be off his books, now back into inventory.

We talked about the home, put together an offer, bought it for under appraisal.  And got a premium lot in the deal.  We had all the paperwork in place, but May still had to walk thru the buying process step by step.  Amazing how complicated things get.  At one point, the closing documents were incorrect due to a mistake by the builder, not us.  Took some time, but we closed in just a few days, on a Friday.  At closing we were congratulated, and told we could pick up our keys the next Tuesday.  Which was right out!  We had movers scheduled for Sat, and in fact were meeting a load of appliances that afternoon.

Again, my wife proved how you must not quit trying, she recognized one of the agents at the closing, had heard her name before.  Asked to see her, told her we really needed this to happen today.  She said it was too late, the banks were all shut down after noon on Friday, the builder would not release the home till the money cleared the bank.  May said I thought of that, sent our money in the day before, so it would not be a problem.  Took another few calls, but we got our keys that afternoon.  We literally pulled into the subdivision right behind the appliance delivery truck.  Great timing.

Here is my point.  Never assume that something cannot happen.  Ask questions to see what options are available.  And keep on pushing till ya get the keys.  This applies to our businesses as well.  When you are taking on a new project, it can be overwhelming.  New software, we don’t know what we don’t know.  And you will be told things that may be accurate, but in some cases not the exact answer.  And many times not what you were looking for.

Final incident that illustrates my point on not giving up.  We had to get documents to the IRS  before we could buy the new home here.  Not able to do that from Colorado.  We came into town one evening, went down to the IRS building, they were all in a meeting, so we waited outside.  After 45 minutes, they came out and said who has an appointment.  We did not, did not realize we needed an appointment.  What other office can we go to: none!  Had to be at the main office.  Finally got thru on a landline, talked to a very helpful woman who said I could fax in my info.  Staying at Mike’s place, no fax machine in the home.  She said I have to confirm it is you faxing that info, and I will send back a confirmation to that same fax machine.  All this has to happen before we can close on the new home.  So she stayed on the call while I drove over to the UPS store 3 blocks away, and listened to me fax the document, then confirmed the reply came through from her.  Amazing, an employee that truly cared.   My point, never give up!

You may have to get a consultant, or an advisor involved, perhaps your spouse.  When everyone around you is telling you it can’t be done, ask what it will take to do it.  Then do what it takes to make it happen.  We are thrilled with our new home, it is all we wanted and then some.  And by the way, we got our internet/cable tv system installed that weekend.  May was stopped a month later by a guy 2 blocks away, who moved in almost the same time we did, who had no internet yet, wanted to know if we had ours connected up.  May said yep, ya just gotta keep pushing.  You may say, you were lucky, just a coincidence, Yada Yada Yada.  My response, the harder you work at something, the luckier you get.  May spent weeks on the closing of our home in Colorado, and weeks preparing for our new home.  Make that months.  Her effort got us a great home with an excellent location, all at a very attractive price.

 

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