Berkeley music teacher wins bidding war for home with a song

When Natan and Elizabeth Kuchar put in an offer on a charming 1929 Berkeley listing, they had no idea that it would take singing just the right song to snag the home.

Natan and Elizabeth Kuchar with their children outside the home they secured with a song. Photo: Courtesy Kuchars/Redfin

By Natalie Schwab/Redfin

When Natan and Elizabeth Kuchar put in an offer on a charming 1929 Berkeley split level, they had no idea what it would take to win the home.

The two teachers were living in a rental with their three children in the Poet’s Corner neighborhood of Berkeley when they heard that the home down the street was about to be listed for sale. They were ready to become homeowners and wanted to stay in the neighborhood. When they toured it, the three-bedroom home stood out to them right away. With original 1930s features like iron rails and hardwood floors, it was unlike anything they’d seen in the area.

“It wasn’t screaming at us like these other houses were with updated kitchens and bathrooms,” Natan said. “It had these very quirky purple and orange stripes on the garage and a well-maintained vintage vibe to it. We liked it immediately.”

The home made a big impression on the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, who drew a picture of it that the family submitted alongside a letter and their offer.

A drawing by Natan and Elizabeth Kuchar’s daughter/Redfin

The sellers, Kathy and Josh, were touched by the family’s offer letter and also learned that Natan is a music teacher who publishes videos for kids on YouTube under the name Mr. Palindrome. Being huge music fans themselves (the couple met on a bus on the way back from a concert) it left a lasting impression.

There were two preemptive offers put in on the home, according to the listing agent, Redfin’s Jana Cloud. It was between the Kuchar family and another couple. Not long after making their offer, Natan and Elizabeth received a call from their Redfin agent Maya Karpinski, who told them the sellers had countered at $20,000 more.

“We couldn’t go over, we couldn’t push our number anymore,” Natan said. “So we felt a little deflated.”

A few hours later, his agent called once again, but with a more hopeful message: “The sellers really like you and they’re rooting for you. They want you to offer something creative alongside the financial offer,” Maya told him.

“I’m thinking, what on earth am I going to do in a couple hours to win a house?” Natan said. “I went to my piano and turned on my camera and decided I was going to record this message for Kathy and Josh, and in essence it was me saying, I don’t have the words to describe how much we want this house to be our home, so instead I’m going to sing to you this Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song, ‘Our House’ and that was it.”

What Natan didn’t know was that Kathy and Josh sang that very song to each other the first time they lit the fireplace in the house. Within three minutes of sending the video, Natan got a text from Maya saying they’d won the home. He was in disbelief.

“My wife and I were just very shocked and honestly confused,” he said. “We certainly weren’t the highest bidder, so it was very heartwarming to know that some sellers in Berkeley are looking for more than the highest offer. Josh and Kathy have always been passionate about keeping Berkeley quirky and were doing their bit to keep local people here. I can’t tell you how grateful and excited we feel to be living here.”

Kathy and Josh, the sellers, sang the same song to each other the first time they lit the fireplace in their house, that the buyer, Natan, sang to them on a video to try to persuade them to sell it to them. Photo: MLS/Redfin

His advice to other buyers is this: “Wherever possible, share of yourself. These are really huge purchases and clearly money is very important, but I think if you can attach a personal story to the money, these sellers are looking for that.”

“We were very moved,” Kathy said of the video. “Seeing that made us realize that they were definitely real people who had told us the truth. When they said they couldn’t go any higher, it wasn’t a negotiating tactic. They really love our house.”

The takeaway? Even in a competitive market with rampant bidding wars, waived contingencies and all-cash offers, it’s not always about the money. Cash may be king sometimes, but in this case human connection won.

This story was first published by Redfin on March 19, 2018.

Correction: This story was updated after publication with a correction from Redfin. The competing buyers did not offer $20,000 more for the home. Rather, the home sellers countered at $20,000 more. We apologize for publishing the error.