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.

Real Estate In a Time of Pandemic

New York became the epicenter of a global pandemic, and real estate in New York came to a screaming halt. Briefly.

Realtors were told to stay home. To avoid in-person contact. Even forbidden to solicit new business.

Strictly speaking for only myself, it was okay. I felt safer that way.

And then the Empire State Development Corporation, the state’s “let’s grow” division, notified us that real estate was an “essential” business, and we should get back to work.

But, they amended, we should stay home. And we shouldn’t do any showings.

Excuse me? That’s got a lot of us banging our heads on our desks.

I don’t know how this will work out yet. None of us do. But there have been a lot of questions, a lot of angry emails (some of them came from me) and a lot of differences of opinion.

Here’s what I know: my sellers aren’t keen to show their homes if they live in them. In fact, they will not do it. Yes, we have virtual tours. It’s not the same and we all know it.

Yes, there are a few rare buyers willing to buy a property they haven’t seen. There are inspectors still willing to inspection, appraisers still appraising. Banks are apparently still approving mortgages and lawyers are working, but everything is on a virus-aware timeline.

There are new clients asking me to list their homes. If the house is empty, I can see a way to do it without compromising my health, their health, or the health of our families. If the house is occupied, I honestly can’t.

I’m disappointed that the state (yes, Andrew Cuomo, I mean you) somehow was too blind to understand that real estate simply cannot function in isolation.

I have no income from real estate and I don’t anticipate any anytime soon. That hurts. But I, personally, think being dead or making people I live with sick would be a lot worse.

We will get through this, most of us. Business will resume. But let’s do it safely. Let’s be smart.

Greed never makes wise decisions, nor does desperation.

My clients would rather wait and be safe. My clients are very, very smart.

 

I love you, sweetie, but I’ve got a date with the Gov.

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I admit it. I’ve been meeting with Andrew Cuomo every day for several days now. He’s not like I thought he was. It’s one of the best hours of my day.

I’m his age. I’m not some starry-eyed kid. It’s not easy to impress me.

I knew his dad, in fact. A sharp man, and a funny one. An intellect. A kind man, too. But he had a reputation for not suffering fools gladly.

I was a young reporter back then. I’d been warned about Governor Mario Cuomo by my producer.

“Don’t ask him stupid questions. He’ll eviscerate you if you do. But don’t be scared, either. Know your stuff, ask a good question, and he’ll treat you with respect.”

That’s how it worked. And (I’m sorry, Andy) until lately, I just didn’t see that the son had as much of the father in him as he does.

But this emergency, this unprecedented health crisis at a time when there is absolutely no leadership, no skill, and no honesty in the White House, has given Andrew Cuomo an opportunity to shine like he has never shone before.

“The control freak we need right now,” one publication gushed.

“Help, I think I’m in love with Andrew Cuomo,” another writer cried.

I get it. I’m crushing on him a little myself, though it’s in a far more dignified, “Well, how refreshing” kind of way.

I am grateful to have a very part time journalism job with a small local newspaper, which is a gift while real estate is temporarily at a standstill. And, because I’ve been doing news for a long time, I’ve taken on the job of watching the governor’s daily press briefings, done live and with an aplomb that would have made his father proud, and reporting on what’s said there.

He’s been everything I could hope for in a leader.

Andrew Cuomo is organized, he’s on top of things, he’s competent. He’s not afraid to admit what he doesn’t know, and he looks to his team to answer questions he’s not sure he knows the answers to. As he speaks, a stream of comments from viewers scrolls beside the internet feed.

“He just fact checked himself in real time!” one viewer wrote.

“I never liked him before, but if I woke up tomorrow and he was president I’d be fine with it,” another wrote.

I’m not so far gone that I’m going to suddenly elevate him to some ridiculous pedestal and start calling for him to be drafted for the Democratic nomination. Let’s not tumble into hero worship. I’m not sure that would be the right move.

But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is, without a doubt, the right man at the right time in a state that is under assault. He reminds us that New Yorkers are a tough people, a hardy people, and a resilient people. He has scolded us for spreading rumors. He has called out people who refuse to follow instructions that protect their neighbors from an illness that swept through New York City like the flood waters of Hurricane Irene.

He did a good job when the state got hit by two hurricanes in a row. He’s dealt with disasters before, both as governor and as secretary of HUD. But this time, when there is absolutely no one to trust in Washington, his calm, rational, human response is more comforting than I think he can possibly comprehend.

One publication said that with two words, Cuomo became the leader we all need right now. It was when he ordered the state to basically shut down. He said, “Blame me.”

Accepting responsibility for hard choices. That’s the mark of a leader. It was a reminder of what the best of government can be. And it’s New York’s governor who’s showing the nation how it’s done. I’ve never been prouder to be a New Yorker. He’s making a bad situation much, much easier to handle.

I hope he knows it. I hope he understands that, at long last, there are a lot of people in this state who appreciate him and are counting on him to get us through.

Andrew Cuomo ends each daily press conference with the same line. He stands up and he says, “I’ve got to get to work.”

You do that, Governor. And we’ll be here, thanking our lucky stars that you’re the guy who happened to be in that mansion in Albany at this particular time.

Good job.

And if anyone’s looking for me tomorrow morning, I’ll be in front of my computer, waiting to hear what the gov’s got to tell us today.