With September’s historic-low inventory of homes for sale, suburban homebuyers and sellers have been thrown into a real estate whirlwind. Clients on both ends of the real estate transaction need an agent or broker to help them keep up with the pace and play their cards right.
I’ve been an agent on Long Island for over 10 years, and I can’t express enough the need for agents and brokers in times like these. So, I’m sharing some of my expert advice with those of you who also represent suburban areas. Here’s how to best help your buyers and sellers successfully navigate the current low-inventory market.
When working with buyers
1. Express the increased value of representation
When having those initial conversations with a buyer, you need to make sure they understand that in this market, they’re already drawing the short straw. It’s important that you explain to them that while DIY home-browsing may spark a lead, doing their own end-to-end house shopping likely won’t be as smooth.
The increase in online real estate resources is impressive, but they don’t replicate the value of proper representation in a real estate transaction. Make it clear to the potential client that your expertise and connections can best protect their interests and their wallets.
2. Help them direct their attention
From the get-go, ensure your clients are directing their attention realistically. Going for homes at the top of their budget likely won’t end well in this kind of market because the high demand and low inventory can cause many homes to sell over asking price.
This means your client’s time and attention are best directed at homes they can afford to get into a bidding war for. Informing your client about this early on is important. Don’t let an out-of-reach, top-of-budget property cause them to miss out on a lower-priced plausible alternative.
3. Discuss the importance of flexibility
Remind your client that the seller has many options in regards to who to sell to. It’s smart to agree with your client early on that if you find something they like, they’ll keep their offer simple. Flexibility to the seller’s closing dates, not making too many requests, etc., can make your client’s offer stand out from others.
4. Build overall trust
Trying to buy in a low-inventory market can put stress on your buyer, so it’s important to create a foundation of trust from your first conversation and build on that throughout your time working together.
Showing your buyers that you have a vested interest in finding their dream home will ease their worries and allow them to feel more comfortable acting fast on your advice.
So, go beyond asking how many beds and baths they’d like, and pose questions like: What do you believe is the heart of your current home? Do you like to entertain?
These kinds of questions make your buyers feel that you have a personal understanding of what they want and the professional experience to help them make it a reality. Easing your client’s worries and establishing trust will make the experience much more enjoyable and successful for the buyer.
When working with sellers:
1. Express the continued value of representation
Some sellers are under the impression that with high interest and low inventory, they can maximize their profit by selling their property themselves. You need to get the message across that though they might have the upper hand, a home doesn’t sell itself, even in this market.
As an agent, you have an invaluable network of connections that will help get eyes on their listing and increase the sale price. Relaying this to the client will help build your case for why representation is key.
2. Help them evaluate their home and pricing approach options
Many sellers have a number in mind when it comes to listing price and are hesitant to budge unless they have a concrete understanding of alternative pricing strategy. By thoroughly evaluating the home and different pricing strategies with your client, you can help them reposition themselves to make the most profit.
Explain to your client that depending on their property, they may want to price based on the home’s unique attributes, like pricing slightly under value to spark a bidding war on an outdated home.
3. Discuss the importance of marketing and staging
Your seller needs to know that while buyers may be on the hunt, they’re still picky. Putting some money into high-quality pictures, ads and staging will bring buyers in with a more positive outlook and willingness to give a higher offer. This can definitely be an opportunity to “spend a little, make a lot.”
If the seller objects or has reservations, you can explain the value relatively simply. In terms of staging, an empty house can feel unfamiliar and lack personality, while a house that’s furnished to a niche liking can make the viewer feel out of place.
A house should be strategically staged to best position the viewer to imagine themselves and their family in the space. For example, a coffee table and comfy chair will help someone picture where they might have their morning coffee. A set dining table will help them visualize where they may host their family for Thanksgiving, and so on.
Also, showing the seller professional before and after images from other staged homes can persuade them on both fronts! This lets them see the transformation that happens to a room when you add some strategically placed furniture and capture it with a high-quality camera.
If that doesn’t persuade them, try having them look through some staging image boards or photographer samples before you select which stager and photographer to go with. Most of the time, just including your seller in the process can make them feel more comfortable.
4. Build overall trust
There are misconceptions that in a low-inventory market, a home can pretty much sell itself, and this makes some sellers doubt the value of an agent.
So, having a conversation with your sellers about the specific value you see in their home — and how you plan to elevate that value even more — can help ease their doubts and better prepare them to act on your advice quickly. Open and honest communication with the client helps them understand the strategy and feel more at ease in a rapidly evolving situation.
Our job as agents and brokers is always an important one. We help clients take big steps in their lives — steps that often come with second-guessing and difficult decisions.
With the current low-inventory market and the overall uncertainty that comes with life in a pandemic, our job has never been more important. When we have these open and honest conversations with clients, it reduces their stress and makes them feel more prepared to handle this process and act quickly.