Taking Control Of A Sellers’ Market

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We are in the thick of a sellers’ market in upstate New York. Good properties at reasonable prices are getting multiple offers within days of being listed. Properties that languished, perhaps because prices were a bit higher than the market would support, are now getting full price offers.

This isn’t anecdotal. This is precisely my experience. And thanks to my experience, I can give you some advice to help you successfully navigate a hyper-competitive market.

First, let’s start with today’s underdogs – the BUYERS.

Yes, inventory is low. It’s not your imagination. There just aren’t enough properties for the sheer number of buyers. It’s a game of musical chairs, and buyers are scrambling for the best chairs. Those left standing, then re-evaluate the chairs that are left, and if they don’t move quickly, someone else sits down while they’re thinking. Another property gone.

Here are five tips to help you get the house you want.

1. Pick an agent. Seriously. Far too many buyers are accustomed to urban areas, where it makes plenty of sense to simply call a listing agent, and never commit to a buyer’s agent. It doesn’t work in rural areas and it’s really a problem in a competitive market. Having your own agent means having someone scouring the new listings for you every day, listings you won’t see on Zillow for a day or more, and giving you a heads up. Your agent can preview for you, even if you can’t get to a showing for a few days. And that early start makes a difference. Finally, a buyer’s agent is YOUR ally in a negotiation. A listing agent would have to act as a dual agent, representing both you and the seller. It can be done, and done well. I’ve done it myself. But in a competitive market, you want someone who represents only you. The cost to you? ZERO. Upstate, sellers pay the listing agent, and the listing agent splits the commission with the buyer’s agent. So why wouldn’t you?

2. Get pre-qualified. If you’re going to need a mortgage, make sure you’ve already applied, and gotten a pre-qual, at the very least, from a local bank. Pre-approvals are even better. But any offer must include a bank pre-qual or proof of funds for a cash sale. If you find the place you want, you’ll be ready to make an offer without delay.

3. Use technology. It saves you time, and helps you zero in on properties that really interest you. Use Google Earth. “Walk” around communities, even down the street in front of the properties you like. Read up on the towns, the schools, the attractions. Be an armchair sleuth. Also, understand that Zillow “estimated values” mean nothing in rural areas. Zillow has no clue. So understand the limitations of the tools you use.

4. Don’t try to outsmart the market. In a seller’s market, an offer with lots of unusual contingencies, or an offer well below asking price, just isn’t worth the effort. And it’s likely to turn off a seller. If you like a property, make a reasonable offer, and listen to your buyer’s agent. If it’s likely to get multiple offers, make an offer that stands out in a good way.

5. The more reasonable you are, the more attractive your offer is. Can you give sellers a little extra time to move out? That might be appealing. Will you refrain from nickel and diming them on every little item in the inspection report? Very attractive. Offer a seller a simple, uncomplicated way to sell, and you’re going to come out on top.

SELLERS – these are for you.

1. Don’t be greedy. Listen to your agent, price your house correctly. And if you get a good, solid offer, work with those buyers. If you get multiple offers, let your agent guide you in the best way to handle them. And if what’s proposed doesn’t sound right to you, ask for alternatives. But don’t make the mistake of getting a full price offer and trying to dangle the buyer along as enticement for more offers. First, that’s really not cool and you’re likely to lose that buyer. Second, you could find yourself having to pay the commission to the agents, who did precisely what you hired them to do, who brought you a ready, willing, and able buyer at your price, which you then refused to accept. That could be expensive.

2. A seller’s market doesn’t mean you don’t have to stage your house. If you want to sell, you want your house to stand out in a crowd. In a good way. So clean up, de-clutter, do all the things you’d do if it was a buyer’s market. It will bring you higher offers, and you’ll sell faster than your lazy competition.

3. Have a plan. If someone wants to buy your house, they want to move in. Know where you’re moving. If the sale is contingent on you finding a home you like, buyers know just how hard that’s going to be for you, and how long they may have to wait for you to move out. If they want a house now, they’re going to find one that’s actually available.

4. Don’t overprice. A seller’s market means houses are moving fast, and there are lots of buyers. It doesn’t mean buyers are suddenly stupid. They still want fair value for money. When they perceive they’ve found it, they’re willing to pay full price, maybe even a bit better. But overpriced homes sit longer. And sell for fair market value in the end. Price it right and then you can be firm. Someone will meet your price.

5. Maintain your systems. Buyers inspect them thoroughly. Get your septic cleaned. Keep the receipt. Test your well water. Service the furnace. Clean the gutters. Touch up the exterior paint. Repair what needs repairing. Your goal is to give an inspector nothing to flag. Inspections make or break a sale. Offers get slashed, buyers even walk away after a bad inspection. You can avoid that.

There’s a lot here, and there’s a lot more. But these are some good basics. Any good realtor knows these, and can offer you even more. Find one. We’re out here, and we’re busy, but we will always make time for clients willing to listen to us.

Real estate, believe it or not, is a service industry. Sales are the result of good service. We know how to help you succeed, and that’s our ultimate goal.

Find out more:  https://www.upstatecountryrealty.com

 

The Catskills Are Calling (Again). Get a local guide.

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No, that picture isn’t “doctored.” That’s what it looks like in upstate New York, and that’s the view a very lucky couple just bought.

They’re part of a movement, a wave of downstaters looking to buy a country home in the new reality of masks, disinfectant, and social distancing.

This happened before, after the attacks in New York City on 9-11. This time, the threat is a virus, and this time, it seems like the Internet is making people reconsider the allure of the metropolitan life.  A little space, a little privacy, a small town, are looking good to folks who once thought country life was far too sleepy to enjoy for more than a few summer weekends. And if they can work from home, why not?

Is it cheaper to buy upstate? Of course it is. But do not be fooled into thinking it’s cheap. Prices have been slowly rising and now that the demand outstrips the supply of available properties, there are bidding wars.  The days of livable fixer uppers below $50K are gone, at least within three hours of the city. But for $150K to $300K you can buy something pretty terrific, and still have high speed Internet.

That’s the other thing that’s changed – Internet has reached many areas that once only got dish service. Spectrum offers broadband in many rural areas in Delaware and Otsego County, and smaller companies like Delhi Telephone, Margaretville Telephone and OEConnect are running fiber optic lines. They may not be cheap, but they’re fast and they’re local.

If you’re considering a move upstate, please also consider this advice: get a buyer’s agent.

It doesn’t cost you anything. Upstate, unless you sign an exclusive buyer’s agent agreement (and most people don’t), the seller of the property you buy pays your agent at closing. But does it add value for you? Yes.

You get a local expert. Not a friend who just moved to the area, but someone who can tell you about communities and services, and even the arts and culture in a region. You get an advocate — someone who will give you frank feedback about properties that interest you, who understands what you are looking for and will guide you toward the properties that best fit your picture of the perfect place.

You’ll have someone who will offer you list of local service providers, from lawyers to inspectors, as well as plumbers, contractors, etc.

And you’ll get a savvy negotiator who will work to get you the right place at the right price.

I work for sellers, and I work for buyers. And I’ve worked for both — that’s called dual agency and it can work beautifully. But if you’re looking at multiple properties, you need an agent.

It’ll save you headaches, anxiety, and money. And it won’t cost you a dime.

Buying and Selling, a Virus, and You.

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Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

It’s rural here in the Catskills. Really rural. That’s great when there’s a global pandemic. And it’s not great at all.

I’m in Delaware County, New York. We’ve got a lot of open land. And not so many people. I consider it nothing short of heaven, and so do a lot of people who visit here from urban areas. In scary times, it looks even more attractive. And safe.

But there’s a downside.

This county doesn’t have a hospital that can handle ICU cases. We have a screaming shortage of health care professionals. We have a pretty high population of older folks.

That’s all a bit worrisome.

The county government has put out a press release asking our weekenders and visitors to think twice before coming to the country. There’s a concern they’ll bring the virus with them. There’s a concern they’ll be less vigilant once they’re in the country, and there’s a huge concern that they’ll be an added strain on an already critical health care system.

I see both sides. I imagine if you’re in the city and your thinking now’s the time to get out of the city, you don’t want to hear that you should stay home. Particularly if you own a home here.

Then there’s the question of whether you can act on your desire to buy a home somewhere outside the city now. That’s where I enter the picture.

I want you to know how I am trying to walk that tightrope between helping my clients buy and sell properties, and taking stupid risks that might impact me, my clients, and my neighbors.

First, if you’re a buyer and want to see a house, this is the time the video tour is going to absolutely shine. You’ll see enough to know if you want to see more. And use Google Earth to view the neighborhood. Even if you can only do a satellite view, you’ll learn a lot. Weed out the maybe’s from the no-way’s before you ask for an appointment.

I’ll do as much as I can via video and phone. All realtors are trying to limit personal interactions as much as possible.

I’m doing listing appointments virtually. No need for me to haul whatever germs I may have into someone’s home to discuss listing their home. I can talk with them, answer questions, and hopefully convince them I’m going to work my butt off for them without shaking their hands or even walking through the door. My hope is they’ll appreciate that I’m putting their health first.

I’m giving my seller clients the option of showing or not. If they have reasons to be particularly vigilant, whatever they are, I respect that. I hope you do, too.

If we set up a showing, I’m going to ask prospective buyers to be considerate. I’m not showing if they appear sick. I’m not showing if I’m sick. And I’m not showing if sellers seem sick. That may mean a last minute change in plans. That’s just how it is right now.

I’ll be wiping down doorknobs and asking everyone to cover their shoes. It may seem like overkill, but better that than making anyone sick.

Realtors are being asked to limit interactions by lawyers, so I’m not going to closings. I’m limiting my presence at inspections, too, much as I’d like to be there. It’s not worth the risk.

Risk vs. Reward. Think about it. We’ll be here when this is over. There will be a place for you and a buyer for your home. Give it just a little time, let’s get everything under control, and then get in touch.

 

 

A General Store Story

UPDATE: I am delighted to report that this wonderful old store is under contract and the new sellers intend to keep it as a market in some revised form.

Want to see what’s for sale in the western Catskills and beyond? Come visit my website at upstatecountryrealty.com. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and don’t miss a thing!

The QUINTESSENTIAL GENERAL STORE

That’s the official ad. It’s a general store. It’s in Cherry Valley. It’s for sale. But of course that’s just the beginning of the story. Let me tell you about Rury’s Food Store.

When I was a kid, my family had a cabin on 100 acres outside of Cherry Valley. We spent every summer there. I adored it and I loved the town of Cherry Valley. It was sleepy and friendly and quiet, and I was way too young to know or understand that Alan Ginsberg and a horde of wild-eyed artists had a place above town where they had a much more adventurous life than I did. But there was always something a bit more interesting in the air than you’d expect from a seemingly-forgotten small upstate New York town.

I brought my own kids to that cabin and we all have happy memories of their times there. To them,  this was the town where they could walk down the middle of the main street and only have to keep an eye out for a tractor or a dog. It’s where the library was the size of their house back home, and where they could find hilarious old comic books for sale in the back of the market down the road. And it’s where they could walk into Rury’s and enjoy the satisfying slam of a giant screen door and be welcomed by the same guy who used to greet their mom – Jake Rury.

My kids are grown now. And I’ve moved back to this area, drawn by a sense that I had to, finally, live here. I started talking to Jake, who was ready to sell his market. I really really wanted to run a general store. He let me run all over the building, and I learned there was a former lawyer’s office on the other side, two apartments on the second floor, and an absolutely incredible top floor space that was once used by the Mason’s.

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It didn’t work out; my partner will do almost anything for me, but moving his music studio into an aging building in the middle of a town he hadn’t quite warmed to yet (though it won him over eventually) was a step too far. We found a happy compromise in Franklin – a town about an hour away but equally artsy and charming and beautiful. Rury’s closed.

And then Jake died.

His sons own the building and they’ve got no interest in running the store. I got in touch and asked if I could help. They said yes.

And so I find myself representing a property that I still wish I could have bought myself. I can envision the market that could become the new Rury’s (and I will hope the name stays). I picture an owner who loves small communities, who wants to come in and become a part of what’s here, who appreciates its quirky history, its summer tourism and its winter quiet. I picture a coffee pot that’s on in the winter for the plow guys if the local diner isn’t open yet, a place with a table or two where the elderly folks know they’re welcome to sit down and visit and the local kids know they’ll be greeted by name. And I can picture so many things on that amazing third floor that I simply cannot list them all.

I know this town, and it needs a market. It needs an anchor. Right now, folks have to drive twenty minutes for groceries that aren’t stocked at the town’s convenience store.

The new owner may have other plans. But I’m rooting for a market.

Jake Rury’s dad worked in that market, then Jake bought it and raised his family in the apartment upstairs. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P, remember) was once a competitor, but it’s gone. It’s a health care center now. There was a newer supermarket. It’s gone; now an insurance agency. This is one of Jake’s boys. He’s looking for someone to take over a live/work opportunity that kept his dad and his mom comfortable for their whole lives.

 

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This is what’s on offer. It seems to be a good, solid old building. It’s a town that sees tourists from nearby Cooperstown and Sharon Springs in the summer. There’s a lot of updating to do, particularly the electric, so it requires clear heads. But there’s business in town, and there’s potential for this to be something very rewarding — and not just financially.

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