Year in Review
The year 2015 was a watershed moment for local real estate. It was, in my mind, that period of time when we could affirmatively state that the recession, seven years after its inception, was finally over. The housing market felt different. It was stronger. Not as fearful. And in many ways, positively chaotic in a way that we hadn’t experienced since before 2008.
The year started off, at least for my team and me, with a bang. Despite bitter cold temperatures (remember?) our sales were up 42% over the previous January. Why? I believe that two factors were in play: 1) Strong sales in the first month of the year were a harbinger of the year to come, and 2) Our team strategy of listing homes for sale before the arrival of the spring market seemed, once again, to bear fruit. Most sellers wait until March 1st to list their property. Our contrarian view is to encourage our clients to list earlier in the year. Sure, there are fewer buyers looking in the dead of winter. However, those buyers that are foraging through snow drifts are both intent on purchasing and frustrated by the lack of inventory. As a result, our sellers sell very quickly and for top dollar.
Once March 1st arrived and, with it, the traditional onset of the spring market all hell seemed to break loose. Properties that were priced appropriately and in near perfect condition sold immediately; often times, with multiple offers. Sales prices increased significantly. We’ve grown accustomed to languid growth of 3-4% in local property values. This year, it looks as if we may have enjoyed an increase near 7%. Remember, the commonality that exists among these successful transactions is price and condition. Buyers are looking to purchase homes not projects. Unfortunately, in the eyes of buyers, that which constitutes a project has continued to broaden. In other words, in our increasingly structured and scheduled lives, sellers need to remove wallpaper, paint, replace carpets, and stage their home in order to engage prospective buyers. The good news is that, in exchange for their efforts, sellers are gainfully rewarded. Every dollar that is spent on aesthetic enhancements returns $1.50 to $2. And, homes sell more quickly!
Occasionally all of this exuberance got the better of a few homeowners. They witnessed the increase in their neighbors’ property values and became greedy. These sellers decided that a 5% or 7% increase in the list price of their home wasn’t enough and opted to list higher. Well, in this day and age of HGTV-educated and Zillow-informed consumers, avarice and greed are easily detected and quickly punished. These overpriced listings, despite price reductions, would languish on the market for four or more months; each price reduction succeeding only in chasing the market downward until the home was sold at a deep discount over what should have been a higher sale. Gordon Gekko’s maxim “Greed is good” does not apply to our local market!
Buyers mostly seemed resigned to the fact that sellers were in control. They realized that, in order to be competitive, they needed to walk through houses within 24 hours of listing. If they were interested in pursuing a given home, they knew that they would need to immediately write an offer. The happiest buyers were those working with experienced, competent agents. Agents who understood the complexity of the market as it played out in the year 2015. Again, the promulgation of information through both the internet and television has resulted in a class of consumers armed with degrees in Real Estate 101 and they’re not going to abide mediocrity.
All in all, it was a great year for both buyers and sellers. Sellers enjoyed brisk sales and higher prices. Buyers took advantage of interest rates that remained historically low while, at the same time, they were purchasing homes that, more likely than not, required less renovating than properties they may have purchased in years gone by.
The Year to Come
So, where do we go from here? What does the future hold in store for those of us involved in real estate in 2016? In short, it’s probably going to be another banner year. Both the local and national economies have an underlying solidity about them that bodes well. The U.S. unemployment rate is 5% - the lowest in 8 years. Locally, the number of men and women without work has dropped to 4.6%. If we’re lucky, the promise of photonics-related jobs will begin to blossom sometime in the first quarter of the new year. Interest rates will, I believe, remain relatively low. The Federal Reserve recently announced that after keeping rates near 0% for the past nine years the U.S. economy had strengthened enough to warrant a .25% increase. My sense is that any negative repercussions that could evolve as a result of the rate hike will be offset by increased consumer confidence associated with a strengthening economy. Finally, the presence of El Nino will almost certainly ensure that the remainder of this winter will continue to be warmer than the winters that we’ve experienced in the past few years. Because favorable weather conditions give rise to a hike in real estate activity this year’s market will likely kick off sooner rather than later.
I’m proud to report that my team and I sold $59,000,000 worth of residential real estate this past year- an astonishing increase of 40%! Close to 80% of our business continues to derive from previous clients referring their family and friends. Thank you! There are many reasons for this incredible growth:
We have both an amazing executive and sales team. My memories of 2015 are filled with phone calls, text messages, and emails from team associates starting at 7:30 in the morning and running through 10:00 at night- seven days a week. Their continual, urgent refrain had to do with how it is that we resolve a problem or consummate a deal on behalf of a client. It seemed to be never-ending and a great example of how it is that we continue to strive to be the Wegmans of local real estate.
Our work with Jim Mahan, our executive coach, continues to inspire us and help to hone our skills and efficiencies.
Last year we set out to create the position of client concierge. I’m glad to report that it was an incredible success! Clients love the fact that they can call into the office and ask us to handle, well, just about anything.
We also expanded the role of our listing coordinator from a part time to a full time position and our sellers reacted enthusiastically. The whole process of on-boarding our sellers as we listed their home became mostly stress free because of the attention that Jaclyn Bertola was paying to the details of the listing process.
In the year to come, we’re committed to growing our sales while, at the same time, providing great service. In order to accomplish that:
We’ve just finished installing Salesforce- a $6,000 Client Relationship Management software package to streamline communication and workflow.
Marissa Pixley, our Social Media Coordinator, will go from part time to full time and add some new responsibilities to her workload.
Mark Crandall will be stepping aside as the client concierge. We’re thrilled, however, to report that he’s just secured his agent’s license and has begun selling. In addition, we’re adding two more agents to the team. Ali DeIngeniis hails from Brockport and has also just secured her license. We’re looking forward to enjoying her intelligence, humor, and bright personality! Finally, at the end of January, we will reveal the name of a seasoned agent and old friend who will be joining us!
In conclusion, at the beginning of 2015, I was beginning my 25th year as a real estate agent. I was just celebrating my 50th birthday. And, I had set a goal of selling $50 million worth of real estate. As a result of the kindness and loyalty of many, I wildly surpassed that goal. I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to work with so many incredible people in a career that I love! Thank you!