If this summer finds you in or on the real estate market the two most important things you will need are a smart real estate agent and healthy dose of reality. Sure the virtual tour and snappy flyer are pretty, but the market isn’t. Finding a ‘smart agent’ may not mean the guy who’s sent you Broncos schedules and sold your cul-de-sac for the past twenty years, or the bubble-headed blond on the bus bench. I’d rather you go with someone who has a keen sense of where the market is TODAY, not yesterday. Though our trending info charts and graphs show market improvement, no one knows for certain where we’ll be next year. The agent who offers “certainty” is tap dancing.
With more than 80% of buyers beginning the home search on the Internet prior to contacting an agent, consumers no longer rely on Realtors to provide them with all the information, we now co-create the experience.
Buyers and sellers both benefit by seeking out an agent who can effectively gather and interpret all available information to define the goals and strategies before and during the transaction. Being a good real estate agent is part instinct, part industry and finding one who does it as a full time job is a good sign they know the realities of today’s market. The key is to have an agent who is not afraid to tell you the truth.
Consider these examples of three areas where a reality check would be helpful.
1.) PROFIT. A high-end home in one of Denver’s most desirable locations. The sellers have improved it considerably and have lived there long enough to have built some hefty equity. Ideally they’d like to turn a nice profit and take advantage of the value available in the middle of the market to purchase a larger house in a more modest neighborhood. The problem here is that their beautiful home is sitting in line in the million dollar price point where the inventory is stockpiled to 365+ days on market with fewer banks approving jumbo loans (over $417k). Experienced ‘flippers’ , they are not novice to the real estate transaction, so it seems logical to apply the strategies they’ve always used to sell their flips. Savvy as they are, it would be more effective to spend a bit of that equity and hire an agent with the skills and resources to reach the broadest pool of potential buyers increasing their ability to compete in a glutted market. Will they sell? Eventually. Will they get top dollar? Statistics say probably not. Will they achieve the desired outcome in the allotted time frame? Well, school starts in August…
2.) PRICE. Seller wants to sell a suburban home. Their segment of the market would be considered a balanced market with only five months of inventory, but even with its unique features the house needs some upgrades and is not selling. Though the home feels too big for the family and they’d like to move into a more manageable townhouse, there is little likelihood they’ll reach their goal if they don’t get real about the price. Here is where a realistic Realtor tells the tricky truth: A house is not a product, like a hamburger, so marketing alone will not sell it. Your house is an emotional commodity. It is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, not what you’d like to net. Harsh as it is, if you need more down on your new place, you’ll have to figure it out. Improved the property and trying to cover the cost? Forget about it. Stop living in your own personal snow globe and put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. Would you pay more because it’s what the seller needs? No, you’ll either keep shopping for the bargain you feel good about, or pay more for the neighbor’s house with the upgrades already in place.
3.) PRESSURE. As missed mortgage payments stack up, so does the stress. You’ve done all you can to keep up, postponed the pit a year ago with a loan modification but it’s still too much. You hire a knowledgeable agent who is able to convey your options and the pros/cons of each strategy and you decide on pursuing a short sale. Experience and market chops tell your perspicacious agent that there’s not another house in the neighborhood like yours and she’s right. Within a week four offers come in, forcing a bidding war on a ‘highest and best offer’ deadline. She gets more than she asks for, but the bank is further along in the foreclosure process than you realized. Reality bites. Better the sting of the short sale than the heartache of foreclosure, but time must be on your side.
The housing market always has a bit of the “smoke and mirrors” to it (not to be confused with a house with smoked mirrors). Sorting through opinion, sales tactics, experts and statistics to glean the facts can be a daunting task for the smart consumer and agent alike. Research is only as good as the information you come up with and strategies are often based on information. Try to make sure you do your work and find someone willing to do theirs as well, and don’t replace the real estate bubble with a real estate Bubble-head.