What have I been doing since the market slowed down?

I was expecting to not be at all busy this fall and winter with the slowdown, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have been referred to me lately.

Being a realtor is always interesting.You never know if you’ll be working two months from now. You just hope that the work keeps coming. Fortunately, it has been steady for me for nearly 18 years.

One recent day, I didn’t really have much going on and out of the blue, a past client calls to say a co-worker of his is moving and wants to talk to me about selling his house. So we do a group call and later that afternoon, I’m meeting the seller and we are making plans to list his house. I have really enjoyed working with this seller and his family. They have never sold a house before. They took all of my suggestions on what to do to prepare the house for the market. They seemed like a fun family so I asked if I could put on my Santa Suit and do some pictures with me in the house for the listing. They thought that was awesome. The husband said he was told by his co-worker that I would be fun to work with. We priced it right and it was in a very popular neighborhood, so it sold quickly.

I had the chance to work with a past client whom I have always enjoyed. He was ready to sell a duplex I had sold him several years ago. It didn’t take long to sell and he was happy with the process and results. It was great getting to see him and his wife in person again. We used to randomly cross each others paths when I would see them bicycling in Hamburg or at Good Foods Co-op.

I am getting ready to list another duplex. This one is owned by the mother of an old friend. I’ve mostly been dealing with my friend’s sister since the sister has a POA for the mom. The sister is a lot of fun. Really nice too. And it’s been great to see and chat with my friend.

I’ve got an old family friend whose house I have listed. She renovated the entire place. This has been in the works for most of the year but we just recently put it on the market. It’s been a blast to see her this much.

A couple of weeks ago I get a call from somebody who said they were given my name by somebody they knew. Turns out it was a client that has used me 3 times that lives on the same street. This seller had talked to a few other realtors and picked me. Truth be told, I don’t give that strong of a first impression so I usually don’t “Win” in these types of situations. Usually there is some flashy agent with a bunch of graphs and brochures that gets the listing. The seller is a super cool lady that has been so pleasant to work with. It is always nice to start off with a bit of trust having gotten the endorsement of the person referring them to me.

And just this weekend, I get a text to show one of my listings. It is a young man and his wife who were referred to me from a friend that lives across the street from my old house. He had told me he was referring this couple to me quite a while ago. I assumed they had found another realtor and had already bought a house but they just decided it was time to get serious. It’s pretty cool working with them. The husband was a couple of years ahead of my oldest son in school. The last time I had seen this young man was probably when he was in high school. I love working with first time buyers!

And just now, while I am writing this blog post, a friend who has used me several times texted saying an employee of her’s is wanting to see a listing. I’m not sure yet where that will go, but wow, what an honor to have all these people promoting me among their friends and family.

So to answer the question in the title, I guess I’ve been a little busy with work!

Thankful that these embarrassing moments don’t happen more often!

I normally do a lighthearted post around Thanksgiving since I know few are thinking about real estate during the holidays.

This time I thought I might share some of my most embarrassing moments.

There have been the countless times I have been out with clients and not realized until I got home that my zipper was down. It has happened so many times that I can’t recall any one specifically.

Probably the funniest time was when I was having an incredibly busy day showing multiple houses to multiple clients. I had arrived about 5 minutes early to a house. Just as I got there, my client texted saying they were running a little late. I was so excited because I had drank many many many cups of coffee that day. I let myself into the house maybe 2 minutes before the scheduled showing time officially began. While I am in one of the upstairs bathrooms, I hear a voice asking if anybody is in the house. I state that I am the realtor here to show the house. The voice was the seller, who hadn’t left yet, in the bathroom on the other side of the wall from the one I was in. The seller and I never talked face to face. He must not have drank as much coffee as I did that day because when I exited, he was gone.

Then there was the time I had another crazy day of showing houses. This one began really early one morning. It was still dark outside. I kept my sandals in the foyer closet. I stuck my left foot in the closet and pulled it out with a left sandal on. Then I stuck my right foot in the closet and pulled it out with a right sandal on. What I had forgotten is that I had two identical pairs of sandals. The only difference was one was leather and the other was suede. I did not realize until I got out of the car that I was wearing one of each of those sandals.

Speaking of shoes, for a while there I had a really nice pair of sandals that would occasionally, if I stepped a certain way, make a noise like somebody was passing gas. Every time that happened, I would subtly try to get the shoe to do it again so people wouldn’t think I had just passed gas, but of course the shoe never cooperated. I then looked like somebody who had just passed gas and was walking funny. After a few times of this embarrassment, they became my lawn mowing sandals.

More than a few occasions I have been worried about running late and passed my client at a rapid pace on the way to a house. I usually say something like “See how motivated I am to find you the perfect place?”

And I won’t even go into all the times my phone’s autocorrect totally changed what I had typed.

One time, I was showing a vacant rural property that had a giant outbuilding. I was there with a husband and wife. I opened the door to this building and the wife walked in right behind me. All of the sudden, we both felt all these insects literally all over us. I am highly allergic to bees, which is what I assumed they were. I turned around to run out of the building and she was in the doorway so I grabbed her like I was saving her life and then both of us jumped off the top step into the yard with our arms wrapped around each other. Turns out they were just flies. When we went back inside, there were probably a thousand flies swarming around.

I guess if these things are the most embarrassing moments of my nearly 18 year career, it hasn’t been too bad.

I hope everybody has a great Thanksgiving!!

Talk about luck

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the media scaring us with doom and gloom headlines about the real estate market. It’s time for some warm and fuzzy vibes to read, so here are a few of my favorite real estate stories spanning my 17 year career.

The oldest story happened back when the market wasn’t so good. I had a young couple who had used me to buy their first house in Masterson Station. Well, it was time to move up. They found an incredible house in Copperfield that had been on the market for a while. It was a relo sale, which is when the seller has been transferred and a relocation company is involved. When the house doesn’t sell by a certain time, the relocation company buys the house and they become the seller. We wrote an offer contingent on selling their old house. It was accepted. We then sell their old house. Everything is good. Until it isn’t.

The sale of their old house fell apart…..while they were on a cruise. Yep, I had to call and interrupt their vacation to tell them that not only are they not selling their old house, they are also going to now lose their new house. It was one of the toughest calls I’ve had to make.

They came home. We put their house back on the market. We sell it again after a little while. Guess what? The Copperfield house is still on the market. Only now the relocation company has lowered the price AND replaced some of the carpet. In the end, they got their house for less money than they were paying the first time and got some new carpet too.

Years later, after moving out of state and returning, this same couple told me what they wanted in their next home. They are really good at remodeling so a fixer upper would be a plus if one was available. They had narrowed it down to two neighborhoods. The husband told me he wanted a spot to park a camper or boat. About that same time, a seller in one of those two neighborhoods randomly called me to list their house. The seller was the original owner. The house was in good shape other than some deferred maintenance but was a bit dated. As I saw the house for the first time, I remember thinking it would be a good fit to my buyers. I KNEW it was their home when I saw the extra concrete going from the driveway to the backyard where the seller told me he used to park his camper!

A couple years after this, another client sent her brother to me to talk about buying a first home for he and his wife. As he was describing what they wanted in a house, I told him that I was about to list one just down the street from his sister and brother in law as soon as the seller’s new house was done. Sure enough, they bought it and started their family there. A couple of years later, they asked me to work with them to find an entry level investment property. I had a friend who had been talking about selling a townhouse I had sold him a few years earlier and sure enough, he was willing to part with it.

Some time later, another seller was referred to me by some clients and friends. I met with her at the house she had lived in most of her life since it was built by her parents. While I was waiting on this seller to do a few things to get the house ready, another client took me out for coffee and told me he was looking for a house. His big requirement was enough space to do his woodworking. I told him about the house I was getting ready to list since it had a huge detached garage that, if I remember right, already had enough electrical service for his heavy duty equipment. He bought it.

I used to think these people and many others I have worked with were just incredibly lucky to have exactly what they wanted drop in their laps. Now I realize I am the lucky one for getting to be the hands that drop it in their laps.

Now, isn’t this better than reading about higher interest rates? Don’t worry. They will come down. The real estate market will soldier on. How do I know? Because it always has and that is because everybody has a dream about what they want in their next house, just like these friends and clients of mine.

Negotiating 101

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

I think this is good quote for explaining how negotiating works. Some people think negotiating is about getting the other party to do exactly what you want. It isn’t. It would be nice if it worked that way but it doesn’t. The goal of negotiating is to get the other party to bend as much towards your ideal situation as they are willing to go.

In real estate sales, the biggest single item to negotiate is the sale price.

Often a buyer will base their offer amount on the seller’s list price. MISTAKE!

Before you make an offer, you need to first know what the house is worth. That’s where your realtor comes in. Once you know what the house is worth, you make an offer based on its value rather than the seller’s list price. Why? Because if the house was overpriced, you might make an acceptable offer that is still more than what the house is worth.

Here’s a few observations based on my 17 years of experience in every market type ranging from the worst in history to the best in history and everything else in between:

  1. Sellers in our area usually don’t come down a considerable amount from their list price. You are not going to get your offer for 80% of the list price accepted. Even in the worst market ever, this was very rare. Usually if a seller is that motivated, they reflect their motivation in their list price.
  2. If you make a very low offer, most sellers either reject the offer or barely budge from their list price because you have given them a sign that you are going to be difficult to deal with so they leave plenty of room for more negotiating. This basically put you back in the same place you started so it is counter productive.
  3. The most common method of negotiating is the old “Meet you in the middle” routine. I often see a buyer make an offer for say $10k less than list price hoping to get the house for $5k less than the list price. Common also is when you come down to the last round of negotiating and somebody says “Let’s split the difference.” While this is common, it is very uncreative.
  4. You can lose a house while waiting for a seller to respond. I have seen this numerous times where a buyer will make a low offer, drag out negotiating over multiple days, then all the sudden another buyer makes a much better offer and your next communication from the seller’s realtor is that the house is no longer available. You typically want to make an offer that will either be accepted immediately or maybe where the seller counters once and you accept it. If the house is nice enough for you to have picked it among all the competing listings, then odds are another buyer has come to the same conclusion that it is currently the best house on the market in that price range.

So, here is my advise on getting your house and getting it at a favorable price:

  1. Realize that the person who wins the last battle usually thinks they won the whole war. I usually try to reverse engineer a counter offer so the other party can come back with exactly the number I was hoping they would. When they do, they feel like they won the war of negotiating, but I really just let them win the last battle.
  2. Know what it is worth and make an offer either for that amount or slightly less. Remember the goal is get the seller to tell you the least they will take for the house. Before the market got so crazy the past few years, the average list to sale price was about 97-98%. I might make an offer 1-3% less that the house is worth. If they counter for anything less than the full price, guess what, you’re getting the house for less than it is worth. Sometimes the seller just accepts it. If that happens, great, you STILL got the house for less than it is worth.
  3. And speaking of winning, don’t get too caught up in the game. Save that for a trip to Vegas at at blackjack table. Your goal here is to get the one house that you felt was superior to any other house you have seen. If you get it and get it at a fair price, quit trying to make that horse drink more water.

Having a hard time selling your house?

Now that we have returned to a much more normal market after a brief period of utter craziness, it’s time for a refresher course on what to do if your house didn’t immediately sell.

Real estate has always been about price, location and condition. All three of these must be in balance for a house to sell. Since you can’t change the location of a house, all you can control is the condition and price.

Here is what over 17 years of experience in good, bad, terrible, average, great and crazy markets have taught me:

When you get lots of showing but no offers

This usually means that buyers think the price is realistic based on what they see online so they schedule a showing and come check out your house. If you don’t get any offers, that means their expectation did not match the reality of the house. Sometimes this can be caused by having pictures that make the house appear to be in better condition than it is, bad curb appeal of the surrounding properties, or some negative thing omitted from the listing that buyers won’t discover until they get there. 99% of the time it is just because the house didn’t “Wow” the buyers in person as much as it did online.

An old school rule of thumb is that when you have had 10 showings and no offers, it is time to reduce the price. Sometimes if the feedback from showings is all the same, you can keep your old price and improve whatever negative thing buyers mentioned. I usually prefer a price reduction because often you can spend money correcting that one big negative only to have subsequent buyers find the next big negative. There is nothing more frustrating than spending money solving a problem only to later discover you’ve got another one to solve.

When you are not getting any showings at all

Usually when this happens it is because buyers know the price is way too high and don’t even bother to come see the house. Occasionally buyers can overlook your house if the presentation of the listing was terrible but I don’t see that happen often. Sometimes it can be because you’ve got too much junk all over the house and the pictures, while good, just show a cluttered mess. The thing to do here is reduce the price to be competitive with similar houses buyers may also be considering. Something that is hard for sellers to understand is that buyers are looking at more houses than just their home. To a seller, their home is all they are thinking about. To a buyer, it is just one of several homes they can buy. Buyers have options now. You’ve got to make your house become their first choice if you want to sell.

Over the past 17 years, I have seen sellers refuse to reduce their price or do anything to make their home more appealing to buyers. They usually think the issue is with their realtor…..if only the realtor would do more open houses, if only the realtor would advertise the house, if only the realtor had glossy brochures inside the house for buyers to take home. These sellers usually let the listing expire then pick a new realtor. It is at this time that the new realtor suggest dropping the price. It is also at this time that the seller cooperates. And guess what, with a lower price, the house sells.

Selling a house is not rocket science. All you are trying to do is make your house a buyer’s first choice. Back in 2009-2011 when the market was the worst ever, I would sell houses the first day on the market and have multiple offers. Many people thought I had a magic wand back then. I put the same effort in all my listings. It wasn’t me. It was my sellers. They were realistic and took my advice.