I’m now verging on 10 years in the residential real estate business this June 2017, having started in commercial/corporate real estate for my first nine years in 1998. Over the last 10 years, I’ve sold approximately 174 homes personally, and during 2018, I likely will hit my 200th residential sale. This does not include the hundreds of homes sold by my agents for which I’m responsible and have oversight. I’ve trained many agents both new and experienced alike and have served as crisis manager for many challenges that are inherent to the business. And with all this experience comes insight and wisdom, yet the acknowledgement that there is always the potential for something new and challenging that can arise at any time. Nobody is perfect, but we are only as prepared as our knowledge and efforts allow us to be and that goes for your REALTOR®. Here are a summary few insights I have gained in my time as a residential REALTOR®, followed by elaboration:
- A sale is not a sale until the money is in the bank.
- Technology can’t replace knowledge.
- Homes and home sales are complex, requiring a team effort of knowledgeable experts.
- Homes are unique, and the market is determined on a house-by-house basis.
- The real estate market is constantly changing so don’t make assumptions on the value of a home.
- Timing plays a big role in a sale, and nobody can predict the future.
- New business models continue to emerge, offering commission discounts.
- Your commission savings could end up being the source of your greatest expense.
- The loan process plays a big role in a sale and is out of the seller’s control.
- Everything is great until it’s not, and it pays to be prepared for anything when buying and selling.
- There are inherent risks and rewards to owning a home.
- It pays to have an experienced REALTOR® to avoid pitfalls and achieve the best results possible.
- Top REALTORS® tend to have similar qualities, deep connections, and customer-centric philosophies.
- The REALTOR® you choose does matter, and good ones are worth the money.
One thing I’ve learned is that a sale is not a sale until the money is in the bank. For example, I sold a house recently and got a call 30 minutes prior to closing that the buyer’s gift funds did not arrive and the buyer terminated the contract. To add insult to injury, the buyer would not sign-off to release the earnest money to the seller so we had to follow a weeks-long process to get the money from the title company. Fortunately, we had another interested buyer who stepped up and got the sale closed quickly for more money! A difficult situation ended up as a huge win for the seller. Yet, in a different market or time, the result could have been more time on the market and a big price concession if we didn’t have other buyers in tow. We couldn’t have predicted the outcome, but we were able to achieve an optimal outcome in a difficult situation.
New real estate business models have emerged over the years with some offering commission discounts and/or the shiny new technology. The lure of saving a buck can be attractive to consumers, and the technology new and seemingly innovative can be enticing. Buyers can search online and find listings with ease, and sellers can sell for less and get maximum exposure – so they say. Buying and selling a house is easy after all, right? Just enter it in the MLS and voila! Or just look at a few homes, write up an offer and bam, you’re in your dream home! While that might be true at times, it is prudent to stop and consider, “Not so fast!”
It is clear to me that innovative technology has not replaced the experience, wisdom, and knowledge required throughout a home purchase or sale. Buying and selling a home is a huge investment and can be a complex transaction with a complicated and complex product, requiring a team effort of knowledgeable experts to achieve the best outcome. Every home and every sale is different and unique in its own way. Even with so many sales under my belt, I rely on the knowledge and expertise of a long list of trusted experts to offer guidance throughout the process. Before considering that discount approach, consider the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” In my experience everything is great until it is not, and then it is too late and your savings could end up being the source of your greatest expense.
Another lesson I’ve learned is that you never know what to expect when buying or selling a home. The easy sales/purchases are rare and often a surprise, and the difficult sales are more common, with the list of challenges often unexpected and abundant. You just never know the condition of a home until it is inspected, and even then inspectors can’t see underground or behind a wall. On the selling side, I’ve learned impressions can be reality so the way a home presents itself is important. While it doesn’t always make sense to invest in improving a home for a sale, there is a strong case to be made under the right circumstances.
The real estate market is complex, and the market is determined on a house-by-house basis. Homes vary widely due to location, geography, floor plan, condition, and price. I can’t remember all the homes I’ve sold where, due to their unique features, there were almost no comparable sales from which to determine a fair market value. There are many homes that are difficult to sell in a hot market and others easy to sell in a soft market. While one home may fly off the shelf, another may sit and require significant work or price reductions. Timing also plays a big role in a sale: whereas today there may be two buyers ready and willing to purchase, next week there may be none.
The loan process plays a big role in a sale, and much of it is out of the control of the sellers and their REALTOR®. It is important to do what you can to evaluate the buyer’s ability to purchase and likelihood to close. I’ve spoken to many lenders over the years and have standard questions to ask, but the way the lender responds can be more telling than the information they provide.
I could write a book on all the scenarios I’ve experienced selling homes over the last 10 years. In my experience, challenges exist in both buyers’ and sellers’ markets, but I’ve witnessed the most pain and anxiety when a seller has to sell and is faced with losing money. But the most common feeling I witness from my customers following a sale – both buyers and sellers alike – is excitement and relief that all the time and effort and planning is over and they can now move on with the next phase of life.
What is the moral of the story? The REALTOR® you choose does matter. REALTORS® don’t provide their main value from simply e-mailing listings, opening doors, or entering a home into the MLS. Their true value comes from their role as a consultant and a fiduciary, offering their time, experience, valuations, connections, and advice to help you achieve the best possible outcome and avoid pitfalls. A REALTOR® is a consultant, guiding and advising on how to achieve the best outcome according to your goals. Like most relationships, this is one whose success hinges upon mutual trust and respect, as well as empathy, honesty, patience, and mutual care. They serve with the goal of customer satisfaction and get rewarded for their loyalty and efforts. Find someone who is knowledgeable, experienced, connected, and especially someone who cares. Then, develop a mutual commitment, proceed to achieve your goals, and don’t look back. If you find yourself directing your REALTOR®, rather than consulting them, then you have either hired the wrong person or might be overlooking the value available at your fingertips.