After a year of über-competitive bidding wars and record-breaking home price growth, the market is finally slowing down, which brings challenges of its own.
Tempering seller expectations, keeping wary buyers in the market, drumming up listings in a starved market — agents have an interesting fall homebuying season ahead.
We talked to five top agents from across the country to find out how they’re getting creative with marketing, creating opportunities, and relying on tried-and-true business tactics to ensure a successful fourth quarter with deals are as plentiful as the leaves falling from the trees. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Use rent-to-own platforms to get buyers in the door
Although the market has slowed down, Innovation Realty Group broker-owner Mollyana Ward said bidding wars are still a dime a dozen in Tampa.
“I’m still seeing people paying over appraised value and locking in those contingencies, to agree to pay over the appraised value,” she said. And she says that her agents are still losing out to other competitive offers.
Making it work
To help buyers still meet their homeownership goals, Ward said she uses rent-to-own platforms, such as Divvy and HomePartners, to help buyers snatch their dream home with the power of an all-cash offer. Those buyers can then purchase the home from Divvy or HomePartners within a year, with a low home price appreciation cap.
“Let’s say you’re a perfectly qualified buyer, but you’re utilizing HomePartners to go in and purchase this house for you,” she explained. “Then in your agreement, you’re able to purchase that house from HomePartners at 5 percent [home appreciation] cap within the first year.”
“That can be less expensive for the buyer to buy it that way than it would be to go in over asking [price] and put down $20,000 to $50,000 out of pocket toward the purchase price,” she added.
Bonus tip: Learn how to best serve investors and rental owners.
In addition to creatively using proptech platforms, Ward said she’s preparing her team to enter the property management space to help investors and individual homeowners who are placing their listings on the market as single-family rentals or vacation homes.
“My agents have been preparing by training for property management by taking different kinds of credit courses for property management, as we prepare the company to take that on at the beginning of the year,” she said. “A lot of people are selling their homes right now, and that’s great for inventory.”
“But many of the buyers have been investors, and what’s going to happen to those homes is they might end up being rental homes again,” she said. “So we want to just be diverse in the way that we approach the real estate market.”
2. Use your outside passions to draw business
South Carolina-based ERA Distinctive Properties Realtor Bobby Shealy is not only one of Charleston’s top producers, he’s also made a name for himself as a talented cook, photographer, and newly minted author.
Over the past year, Shealy said he’s learned to create a symbiosis between his businesses to attract new clients.
Making it work
“I’ve taken my passion for food and written a cookbook and have synergized that with my real estate [operations] to increase business,” he said. “The book, which is coming out this fall, is going to send business to me real estate wise, and hopefully, my existing real estate presence will boost book sales.”
Bonus tip: Use your passions to start real estate conversations.
Shealy is also using his knack for photography to reach out to past and potential clients with unique, heartfelt postcards with pictures of South Carolina’s most iconic landscapes.
“I take photos of sunsets and different things, and I have a card made from that. I send that out four times a year,” he said. “It’s hand-addressed. It’s not a stamp or something that’s been mass printed, and people are more likely to open it if it’s hand-addressed.”
“They love the message on the back and the personal touch,” he added. “They see I’ve taken the photo, and they keep it. It’s another way to stay top-of-mind.”
3. Become a buyer-seller matchmaker
Inventory has been dangerously low across the country, but second-home and vacation-home markets have been hit especially hard with a boom in demand from luxury homebuyers seeking refuge during the pandemic.
“Demand is still very high and we’re still lacking inventory,” Big Sky-based L&K Real Estate agent Michael Pitcairn said. “We still have buyers that are on the sidelines that are waiting for the right property to come on the market, and they’re ready to act and ready to move forward.”
Making it work
Although Pitcairn is anticipating a boost inventory during the winter, he’s not waiting around for listings to appear. Instead, he’s diving back into his client database and reaching out to agents in nearby areas to do some buyer and seller matchmaking.
“We’re reaching back out to our sellers that we worked with over the years and to our database to see if anybody is interested in selling,” he said. “Then we’re also approaching specific sellers and telling them we have buyers for their particular properties. We’re just trying to line up those buyers and sellers together to see if we can make a deal happen.”
On the agent side, Pitcairn said he’s reaching out to his network in Big Sky and nearby areas to talk about pricing trends and identify any opportunity to encourage a homeowner to list their home.
“I’m calling on a lot of listings that have sold in just the past couple of years and networking with other agents to see if the recent price increases are creating sellers out of the buyers that just purchased in the past five years,” he said.
Pitcairn said to make matchmaking efforts work, agents must present robust and accurate market data that proves the benefit of buying and selling — despite market challenges.
Bonus tip: Make sure your data intel is on-point.
“I think first and foremost, you need to do all of your research prior to the conversation and make sure you’re well educated on their home and their particular market,” he said. “Because if you can demonstrate that you’re the expert, and you know all the information about what’s going on in their neighborhood, they’re gonna feel a lot more confident that the advice you’re giving them about pricing is accurate.”
“Once you become the expert in your market, it just breeds confidence to the rest of the real estate process,” he added.
4. Diversify your business with new developments
While the majority of markets are cooling, New York City-based Corcoran broker Beth Benalloul said the Big Apple is heating up with the number of bidding wars increasing by the day.
“I would say the first six months, let’s put it that way, people were leaving New York City — they didn’t want to be in like the city due to the congestion,” she said. “Now, over the past five or six months, that has shifted.”
Benalloul said families have been racing back to the city for the school year, which means sellers — who’d gotten used to offering favorable deals to buyers who stayed in the city during the pandemic — now have the leverage to up their asking prices.
Making it work
“I’ve had certain properties that have actually gone to competitive bids, which I know in the rest of the country is like every transaction, but like, we just haven’t seen that type of market here in a while,” she explained.
Although things are heating up for Benalloul, she’s ramping up her outreach to past and potential clients. “I’m actually entertaining [some] clients tonight,” she said. “I’m trying to gear up for fall with new listings and take advantage of the fact people are more comfortable going out.”
Bonus tip: Mix it up with developers who are new to the neighborhood.
In addition to reaching out to clients, Benalloul has strengthened her presence in the Upper East Side’s robust new development and remodeling market. She said she keeps an eye on sales data and makes a note of buyers who are snapping up a host of properties, likely to flip and relist for a profit.
“I try to kind of go after either like newer, smaller developers who are new to the neighborhood,” she said. “You can research who is getting construction loans or if somebody is coming into the neighborhood and buying up a lot of properties.”
“I reach out to them as a broker and say, ‘How can I help you on your next step?” she added. “Once you have a relationship with someone, and there’s somebody who’s doing multiple projects, the hope is that you become their go-to [broker].”
5. Focus on your niche
Windermere Real Estate-Utah real estate agent Dash Longe said he’s doubled down on reconnecting with his sphere and serving his niche, which is Utah’s vibrant ski community.
Making it work
“I’m really targeting my personal audiences and going after a specific buyer that’s looking for a specific listing or specific neighborhood that I already know,” said Longe. “I’m more or less focusing on reengaging with people that probably already have seen my name out there.”
“A lot of my direct mail and marketing is geared toward capturing that audience in the ski community and the buying and selling opportunities for them this fall,” he added.
Longe also said he values community engagement on social media and at in-person events on the slopes, where he can show off his skills as a professional skier and content creator.
“There are people [in the ski community] that have heard that I’m in real estate or know that I sell real estate, but I still take time just to remind them and continue to be top of mind,” he said. “I do targeted emails, I do neighborhood newsletters, and re-engage with clients and give them an update on their property.”
Bonus tip: Focus on community engagement within your niche, and be sure to provide value.
Longe said the market updates have been helpful in reconnecting with buyers and sellers who need help navigating a market shift.
“You have people that literally threw in the towel after making offers on numerous homes and failing,” he said. “Then you sellers who’ve gotten aggressive and think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want.”
Longe’s market updates are all about helping sellers adjust their expectations. “Caution sellers not to overprice,” he warned — and giving buyers the encouragement to try again.
“There are people that have thought about selling and buying because they need to upsize or downsize have been a little bit too scared because they don’t want to enter the purchase marketplace,” he said. “So it’s all about getting back in touch with people who want to sell their homes that haven’t felt like they could take on the market.”
“I’m also reengaging with buyers who were willing to make a strong offer, but just weren’t willing to give up everything to buy a home,” he added. “I’m saying, ‘Hey, there’s probably going to be a few less listings, but let’s pay close attention to the ones that do come on, and go out and take a look at them because you do still have a shot, and probably more so than you did before.”