This April, one of Inman’s most popular recurring theme months returns: Back to Basics. All month, real estate professionals from across the country share what’s working for them, how they’ve evolved their systems and tools, and where they’re investing personally and professionally to drive growth in 2022. It’s always smart to go Back to Basics with Inman.
The past couple of years have been tough for buyers and their agents. Low inventory and high demand have led to compressed timelines, tight turnarounds and rejected offer after offer. Now, as interest rates and home prices edge some buyers out of the market altogether, you’d be forgiven for thinking the buyer outlook is pretty bleak.
However, as a real estate agent, your job is to help buyers see what isn’t readily apparent, and that applies to those hidden gems that are still available in the real estate market.
When buyers are provided with the information to think outside the box, they are better prepared for the buying process and better able to see the potential in the current housing market. Here’s how to guide them to expand their view and get the home that’s right for their style and their pocketbook.
Thinking one step ahead (or behind)
Maybe your buyer is looking for a starter home but needs to think down the road a few years to a family home. Alternatively, maybe your newlywed buyers are looking for a home with room for a growing family they don’t have yet, in a school district their children won’t attend for nearly a decade.
Sometimes buyers get fixated on the long-term potential of a home instead of thinking about what they need right now. While the idea of a forever home is appealing, it’s not really the reality for everyone. As the last couple of years have shown, plans can change and our professional and personal lives can be upended by events that are outside of our control.
While you don’t want your buyers purchasing a home that will only work for the next year or two, help them think through whether they’re planning so far into the future that they’re making it difficult to find the home they truly want and can afford today.
Help them to get their timeline together so that they can see if there are other options that might suit them better right now, and set them up for a successful subsequent purchase a few years down the road.
Revisiting their wish list
Some buyers come into their home search with a list of non-negotiables and they are prepared to stick to it, even when market conditions make it impractical to do so. Rethinking a home search starts with revisiting their wish list and considering what actually matters right now.
Are they very price-sensitive? They’ll have to make some adjustments. Are they more concerned with location than anything else? They may need to forgo some of their specific home feature requirements. Do they want what they want inside the walls of their home? They may need to shift locations.
Honing in on what’s truly non-negotiable is essential right now, and it can give buyers a better sense of how to move forward in a different, and more positive, direction.
Buying a fixer-upper
Some buyers go into their home search afraid of repairs and wanting to ensure that they purchase a home that is move-in ready from Day 1. That may not be possible in a market where some sellers are rushing to get their homes on the market to take advantage of favorable price conditions and aren’t taking the time to make the home perfect before listing.
Help your buyers understand the potential in a home with just a little elbow grease, a deep-down cleaning, and some weekend warrior projects.
If they don’t feel comfortable doing the work themselves, help them to connect with local contractors or handymen. Reach out to your favorite home inspector who may be able to connect you with trusted subcontractors in your market, or check out Task Rabbit for gig workers who are often highly rated and trustworthy.
The more possible and manageable you make home repair and improvement feel, the more likely your buyers will be to open their minds and hearts to that outdated home that’s filled with possibilities or that listing that has some deferred maintenance but is just waiting for someone to bring it back to life.
Considering a different residential category
Everyone, it seems, has decided that they only want a single-family home with plenty of yard space and multiple decks and terraces. In reality, there aren’t enough of these to go around in some markets, so help your buyers think about the possibilities offered by condominiums and townhouses.
Many multifamily communities provide plenty of recreational features and greenspace along with built-in amenities. Often, they have their own little balconies, decks and terraces, perfect for gardens and play spaces.
Inside, many of these homes live like a single-family home and offer tremendous value for the square footage. Look around at your market and find some attractive communities to add to the mix as an alternative to the single-family property.
Finding alternative neighborhoods
Some buyers get very locked into their favorite neighborhood, either because of schools, proximity to shopping and dining areas or because of the commute. Helping your buyers expand their vision and look at neighborhoods that may be similar, or those that surround their target neighborhood, might be a good option.
One way to help your buyers open up to the possibility of another neighborhood may be to help them see the financial potential it holds. Help them run numbers for their current neighborhood — high demand and selling at the top of the market — and for the neighborhood you’re introducing to them. There may be more potential there, especially if the neighborhood is in transition or is currently experiencing some increased demand.
Forgoing amenity-laden planned communities
Finally, some buyers are focused on a lifestyle that they believe they can only find in a planned community offering recreational and social amenities and activities. This can be especially true for retirees or for some Gen-Xers who are already looking for an active lifestyle community that can transition toward retirement living in the years ahead.
Talk to your buyers about the types of lifestyle enhancements they expect from a planned community and help them find those same amenities in other areas of town. Avid golfers may be just as happy buying a home near a country club or well-maintained public course. Those looking for a social outlet may enjoy a location near fine dining just as much as a social membership in a community clubhouse.
Whatever the case, much comes down to your buyer’s ability to reimagine what they think they know about their home search. Ask questions, have meaningful conversations, and give your buyers the gift of more options and more possibilities so that they can have a successful and rewarding home search experience sooner rather than later.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.