Another year has rocketed past and we find ourselves in reflection of 2017 and great anticipation of 2018. From a real estate perspective it was another fantastic year of continued home value increases, driven by another 12 months of listing shortages which equates to a frustrating market for home buyers. Interest rates remain very good and all indicators tell me that we will experience another year of low listing inventory. Even though new construction is up, the price per square foot is sky high given the fact that those homes do not include window treatments, landscaping, patios/decks, finished basements and in many cases even sprinklers or sod/grass seed in the entire yard. Adding up those additional costs can tack a large sum on your home purchase. Ranch home sales are being driven by Baby Boomers who want to eliminate stairs and have everything on the ground level. Those Boomers are paying cash in many instances or a conventional mortgage with a huge down payment, so young buyers/families trying to buy that type of home is challenging especially if they are purchasing with an FHA loan (small down payment). Those are just a few examples of the things driving this market and in a nut shell, it is likely to continue through 2018. They keys for Sellers: make that home “show ready” in as many ways as possible getting a real estate professional’s opinion early. For Buyers: get a STRONG pre-approval or full approval letter from a reputable mortgage lender and be ready to act FAST. Many of our homes have sold in a day or two and for multiple offers which will likely continue in 2018.
We are witnessing what always happens in a recovering real estate market. New Realtors, new real estate offices, contractors, etc. pop up everywhere to try and make some fast money. Then when the market cools they will disappear, close and go out of business just as quickly, moving on to make fast money somewhere else. When choosing a real estate or construction professional, do your research! No matter who you choose, trust your assets to those that represent the industry through good times and bad. Those of us that work even harder in bad times to maintain as much of our values as possible, then to help them recover. These are the professionals that work for our local values, not to make some fast cash and move on. It baffles me how someone will trust their most valuable asset to a nephew that “does real estate on the side.” Would you trust a surgeon who dabbles in his trade to do your major surgery?
Many people think a recovering real estate market is all positive news. However a recovering market creates more opportunity for unethical contractors. Contractors with good reputations are booked for weeks and even months, so this is the time when tradespeople come out of the woodwork and we see an increase in poor workmanship and even homeowners being scammed. Try to use contractors who have strong track records and are referred from friends and Realtors. It’s the contractors (and Realtors) that make it through the bad times that are usually your best choices! I see lots of contractors and Realtors resurface when the market recovers, having left to do something else when times get tough. We also see a lot of people get their real estate license when the market is hot because it’s easier to sell homes then, and those same people normally disappear just as fast when things slow down and you have to work harder for your clients. My suggestion is to go with the experienced when selling your home. Would you trust your stocks and investments to a first year financial advisor? Your home may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars so why trust that investment to someone with no experience?
In my opinion, real estate transactions should be a win/win for both parties. In most instances, the sale of a home and the purchase of that same home have intertwined emotions. Possible years of family memories of a growing family with the promise of a new family hoping to do the same. Sadly so many agents see the transaction as a “sell it as fast as I can and move to the next one.” Honest and ethical negotiation processes are becoming a thing of the past and that, my friends, is very sad. There is nothing more rewarding that leaving the closing table with Sellers and Buyers exchanging phone numbers, giving each other gifts, smiling and laughing. That is what makes my career rewarding. Making a living in this industry is easy. Changing lives is the true reward.
As 2014 ends, my thoughts are naturally on an upcoming and exciting 2015. My number one goal every year on my goal list is always the same – professionalism. Every year should be exciting from a business perspective because it gives us a clean canvas to re-paint our business goals but most importantly, how we do and grow our business.
Let me take this a step further….. I see the biggest mistake companies in EVERY industry are making is putting less emphasis on professionalism aka, customer service. Customer service (overall) is getting absolutely horrible in every industry I can think of. Are there exceptions? ABSOLUTELY! So don’t come through your laptop, tablet or phone screen to strangle me. And we could go into incredible detail regarding companies that outsource their customer service departments but we don’t have the time here.
My favorite company for customer service? Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare and Gaylord (Michigan). Their customer service is off the charts! And my opinion is it is almost impossible to “teach” great customer service. You “hire” people with the heart, attitude and personality to support your goals of customer service. Jay’s does it better than anyone.
How does that relate to real estate? It really doesn’t but every time I stop at Jay’s, it reminds me that no matter how good we are, we can always do better in servicing our clients.
The flurry of 2014 has calmed, with the real estate market leveling to “more normal” levels. I have to be honest that I was getting a bit nervous this past summer as homes in certain communities were selling at a frantic pace and many WELL above list price with multiple offers. Many people love to see fast recoveries, but those of us that worked through and endured the market meltdown several years ago remember how dangerous a market “bubble” can be and I personally think we were headed there again. Fortunately (although many Sellers on the market right now may not agree and I certainly mean no offense) the feeding frenzy has subsided and it is getting a little easier and much less stressful for a Buyer to find a home. My idea of a “perfect” real estate market? Not a Seller’s market or a Buyer’s market, just a slow and steady value growth market which benefits Sellers, Buyers and the respective communities they live in. A market where listing Agents and selling Agents work cohesively to make the transaction a “win/win” for all involved. And a market where lenders give sound and ethical advice to their clients so their home purchase becomes an easily sustainable part of their retirement or investment savings.
One of the most impactful books I have ever read is “The 7 Levels of Communication” by Michael Maher. I have embraced and adopted many of the principals of his system in my business and the results are proving to be exponential. He focuses on “The Communication Pyramid” in which 1 on 1 (face to face) meetings being the most effective in business, but I realized the truth of that in everyday life just this morning.
After getting YET ANOTHER few inches of snow during the night, this morning my snow blower pull cord broke on the first pull! That was at 6:00 am, so after shoveling our driveway I called the large local retailer/repair business and was informed it would be 24 hour turnaround time for the repair. So I immediately drove there to drop it off and after a cheerful good morning to the repair counter, I left 20 minutes later with the repair completed.
Face-to-face meetings are absolutely more effective than phone calls, emails and especially text messages! Put a smile on and get “in someone’s face!”