Jennifer Carstensen: ‘The seller’s market train has left the station’

A top agent talks about why she has nothing but optimism for 2015

Jennifer Carstensen is a Realtor at Re/Max Real Estate Experts in Germantown, Tennessee.

Are you optimistic about 2015?

More so than ever before. The housing market overall seems to be improving. Prices seem to be back to the prerecession prices, and sellers are now seeing equity build in their houses due to the low interest rates. There are no more tears from massive loss at the closing table.

What are you worried about?

I’m not worried about a thing! I’ve seen the uptrend in the housing market for the last 15 months or so, and in anticipation of this, I’m laser-focused on growth and having the team in place ready to catch the inventory.

How much do you fret about global events?

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It’s great to be up-to-date on issues and events, but I don’t concern myself with the market trends outside of the U.S. because our market trends seem to vary statewide.

Will mortgage rates go up or down next year?

I believe we will see them end 2015 around 5.5 percent.

Will home prices appreciate next year?

Based on my research, I would expect a national increase in average sales price of about 10-15 percent. In my market, we already experienced similar growth in the third quarter and continue to see it increase in the fourth quarter.

Will agents be more productive next year?

When the economy is great, more new agents flood the market. When the market declines, low-producing agents tend to exit the business. Today’s agent is more savvy about technology, about growing teams, about their bottom line than ever before.

I think we will see more and more solo agents forming or joining teams and those agents dominating their market. It’s already happening. Teams outperform solo agents, and it’s easier with a team as far as branding and customer service, and makes for happier clients, knowing a team is selling their house, not just a solo agent.

Will the portals play a bigger role in real estate next year?

Absolutely. The game of real estate is ever evolving.

What will be the biggest source of real estate leads next year?

Unless NAR forms a national MLS database and begins to intensely advertise that Realtors’ sites are more accurate than Zillow, I see Zillow having a major impact on lead generation for agents moving forward. Zillow has unprecedented momentum — and, let’s face it, that’s where consumers go for real estate information, advice and services.

Are you making plans to expand, contract or maintain your business this year?

Expand as wide as possible. In the third quarter we expanded into a neighboring state, and it was a great decision.

We like to think of our team in terms of the game “Hungry Hungry Hippos.” There are plenty of clients, no matter what shape the market is in, and our job is to: be in front of them first, wow them with our customer service, and keep them as our forever client before the competition does.

What is the biggest challenge for the industry in the coming year?

Educating buyers that the times have changed and they are no longer in a buyer’s market. That train has officially left the station.