We have had to adapt a lot during the last year. The pandemic has affected our business and personal lives so much that it’s hard to look back at what we used to have. Aside from the months of shutdown, working from home, the changes in schooling, the lack of travel and differences in everything we used to take for granted, there have been some fundamental changes to our industry. I have some years of experience in this business, 19 to be exact. Many of you have more than this, even double the tenure I have. And many of you have fewer than five years in the business, maybe less than a year. This article is for all of you . . . whether you are a seasoned agent or very green, we all need to be able to adapt.
It is important to acknowledge that the real estate market is in constant flux. Trends tend to be measured in years, so the changes aren’t always abrupt or obvious. Do you remember watching the market improve as our country was working its way out of the recession? Gradually, month-by-month, days on market got shorter; and the average sale price inched up. This was not sudden but took place over years. The market was actually balanced for a couple of years, favoring neither sellers nor buyers. Personally, that is my favorite type of market. You can negotiate win-win terms and not have one-sided, winner-loser agreements like we have today. But I try to adapt.
Before the pandemic the market had steadily transitioned into a seller’s market, getting more and more intense until the shut down. Then the shutdown ended and the market shifted dramatically to the very exaggerated seller’s market that we are in today with an extreme shortage of listings. This intensity generates a lot of complaints from agents. It makes us reminisce about other markets that are easier to work in. But this is where we are right now. It’s not the listing agent’s fault that he received 40 offers. There is no perfect way to soften the blow for the 39 buyers who did not get the house. All that you can do is prepare your clients and yourself for the current market. Get the tools you need to help your buyers and sellers, and be courteous to your fellow agents. There’s no crying in real estate, so just keep going.
I once had a listing in Belair in Manheim Township that did not sell after 12 months. Can you newer agents even imagine a house in Belair not having 50 showings and selling in three days? This was an ordinary, affordable home that no one wanted in 2011. The seller moved to take a job in another state, because he lost his job here. Unfortunately his wife was beginning a battle with cancer when we listed their home. It went from being a standard listing to being a short sale to going into foreclosure to being foreclosed. All this while the seller lived out-of-state and had to abandon this home and then deal with the loss of his wife. It was an awful time. I sometimes think of this listing and how neurotic the market can be. There is no logical reason why a home like this should not sell, yet it didn’t. There is also no logical reason why a home like this should now have 50 showings and 20 offers. The market changes continuously, so today’s circumstances will not last. You will need to adjust to what’s next.
Showings have changed. First of all, there is an online showing calendar which is amazing and makes scheduling much more transparent than in the past. Some listings have so much interest that the listing agent limits showings to 15 minutes. Yes, it is crazy to show a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and expect a buyer to make a purchasing decision in 15 minutes. But this is where we are right now . . . this is how it is. We can’t overlap showings like pre-pandemic, so embrace it. Get to your showing early as you may find that the preceding showing is finished and you can get in sooner. Figure out how to get the most out of 15 minutes. The reality is that most buyers make their decision immediately upon walking into a home. And some buyers in our market are still making offers sight unseen. So deal with the 15 minute showings, make it work . . . and don’t worry, it will change.
BrightMLS has created an ease of access to information. As a new agent you may not realize how localized the listing information used to be. You had to have membership to three or four MLS services if you wanted to show homes in surrounding counties. This was a real barrier to doing business in a neighboring county and for the most part kept agents working in a smaller geographic footprint. Now we are traveling outside of Lancaster County more often, and agents from surrounding counties are working in Lancaster County. I’m sure we bring unfamiliar practices to surrounding counties, and agents from those counties bring their unfamiliar practices here. I hear complaints about the out-of-area agents working in our market. What’s the real complaint? They’re taking our business? Work your business, and you will have plenty of opportunities. This is a change that has been intensified by our regional MLS, and it’s a change that is here to stay . . . for now. You may find that some of the practices followed by agents from other areas could actually enhance your business. Embrace these agents, because we are just like them when we do business in another county.
If you’re new, consider yourself warned. The market is going to change. It is continuously changing . . . it’s just that it’s measured over years and not days, so sometimes the trends sneak up on you. If you’re a seasoned agent, consider yourself warned. You have to continue to adapt to market changes and roll with the trends. No one cares about how things used to be done, they’re too busy trying to navigate the current market. Some day, maybe 10 years from now, we will pine for the days we could sell a run-down home on a main road that backed up to power lines with a leaking roof and moldy basement for $20,000 over asking price.
Lisa Naples, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices HomeSale Realty
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