As I travel throughout my day here on the Mainline, I run into friends, shopkeepers, service providers and others. I am chatty, so it is not uncommon that most of these contacts know I own a residential real estate company. Invariably, I will be asked one of these 3 questions by almost everyone:
1. How’s the market?
2. How much did that house down the street that just went under agreement sell for?
3. I am looking for a house with [fill in the blank]. Do you know of any coming on the market or that are being sold privately?
Now, trust me, I want to answer these questions for everyone. And I want to be polite. But I am stymied every time. Want to know why? Here’s a blow-by-blow description for each question:
How’s the Market?
I have learned to answer this question in the way that current news is reporting, regardless of whether I am seeing that type of market in my niche of upper-end homes on the Mainline. “We don’t have enough inventory and sellers are getting way over asking” has been the recent answer. That is true for most price ranges but not all and true in some locations here on the Mainline but not all. It is certainly not true for the properties that are listed at way over market value. I am not sure people want to know that real estate is highly localized and generalities are usually useless. My buyers often worry that they are looking for a house in a market where there are not many homes. But typically, I won’t recommend “most” homes, and it only takes that one seller with the perfect home to put it on the market while we are on the hunt. It is no reason not to look if they want to buy.
How Much Did that House Sell for?
This question almost always is asked right after the house has gone under agreement and the sign now says “Under Contract” or “Closed”. Or they might have seen it marked “Pending” on their favorite website real estate search site. Unless I am involved in the transaction in some way, I will not know that answer. The information available to agents does not include the final sales price until after the closing occurs. Agents will sometimes put up a sign saying “Closed” after the agreement is signed if there are no “outs” for the buyer like getting a mortgage or an inspection. But the property is not really closed. A good agent will not want the agreed-upon price to be public until after everything is finalized in case something goes awry and they have to put the house back on the market. What the seller accepted before may not be relevant then. If the house sold really quickly, I can usually say with confidence that it probably got asking price or above, but that is just an educated guess.
Do You Know of Any Houses That Others Are Unaware of?
I think most people assume that they are not being told of all the houses that are on the market at any given time. They do not trust the real estate industry to work fairly. And that is based on stories they hear, some of which are true. More than a few agents, to get business, will tell prospects that they or their company will have an inside edge on this “treasure trove of wonderful homes” that are only available through them. While they are allowed to have such “exclusive” listings, only a very small number of homes are actually sold that way, and the chances that your perfect home will be among them is slim. Our industry is cracking down on this practice, as it is almost always NOT beneficial for a seller to offer a home to only a few, rather than all, potential buyers. It is, however, obviously better for the agency. The good news is that homes now can be listed as “Coming Soon”, a practice widely used and one which gives everyone the chance to know about the home before it is marketed or shown. (At least those are the rules for the MLS, which are being enforced better lately.)
So I will try to answer these questions, but, as you can see, I am not really answering the questions that are asked.
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