If you’ve spent any time watching the news or reading the paper, you’re aware of today’s big stories; throngs of people desperately trying to find the right candidate, ultimately disappointed that there aren’t a greater number of - or at least better - choices. Whether it’s the electorate, lamenting the fact that this year’s crop of candidates is less than stellar or local homebuyers, frustrated by the lack of inventory, everyone seems annoyed.
Turns out, the number of properties on the market for sale was, until recently, 11% below last year’s inventory. Oddly, actual sales numbers are trending higher. So, how do you explain the contradiction? Well, this year’s unseasonably warm winter has a lot to do with it. At the moment, I don’t have regional statistics, so I’ll simply talk about my team. In January of this year, our sales had increased 136% above our record-breaking sales of January 2015. Sales in February were up 28% over the previous February. It seems that everybody who had been planning on listing with us in March and April, instead, decided to do so during the first two months of the year. Inventory was low in the traditional start of the spring market (March/April) only because the actual spring market seemed to have really kicked in during January and February. The whole season shifted to an earlier point in the calendar year. Great news, right? Well, mostly….
As a result of sellers entering the market earlier in the year, inventory levels dropped drastically in the month of March. At the same time, buyers seem to have sprung forth from the earth like early-season crocus and they’re frustrated. There’s just nothing for them to buy. Ultimately, I think that the market will revert to its norm. Those who were planning on listing in May or June probably didn’t sell in January or February. As a result, the number of houses listed for sale should start to rise sometime soon. However, between now and then, what’s a buyer to do? The solution that we’ve provided our buyers is pretty simple. We’ve been introducing our current buyers to our forthcoming sellers, setting forth the rules of engagement early on in the courting process. Both parties agree that, in exchange for a buyer to walk through a house before it is available to the general public, the buyer needs to assure the seller of two things. First, they need to realize that the seller has little incentive to sell at anything less than full asking price. Then, they need to agree to close three, four or sometimes five months down the road. This provides the seller some comfort knowing that they will have enough time to find their next property. When these deals come together, all parties win. Buyers are thrilled that, finally, they were able to find a house. Sellers, of course, are thrilled to sell for top dollar, with a closing date of their choice, without having to prepare the house for market and endure hordes of prospective buyers trudging through their residence. Twenty percent of all of our sales this year have been transacted off-market. Perhaps thinking outside of the box in this way is one of the reasons that, remarkably, our sales have increased, yet again, 40% over the first quarter of last year!
I’ve discussed the market, thus far, as if it’s a single entity. In reality, I think that there are currently three distinct markets that can be identified. The market that I’ve already described is really that which exists below $250,000. Its defining features are a lack of inventory, a large numbers of buyers, and sales that are occurring within 24 hours of listing, oftentimes with bidding wars. This also happens to be the market that, frankly, is causing me some personal worry. In short, I seem to have become a casualty of my own success. Recently, a number of friends and a few past clients have enthusiastically told me about listing their homes with another real estate agent. A few have excitedly told me of a house that they just purchased while lamenting that the agent that they had used just didn’t provide the same service that they had enjoyed with our team. After congratulating them on their success, I asked them why they hadn’t called to engage our services. What I’ve begun to hear is that these friends assumed that I wouldn’t be interested in working with them because the transaction was just too small. As a result of these conversations, I’ve realized that I need to immediately convey genuine interest and desire in continuing to work with buyers and sellers in this price point. These sales are my bread and butter. It’s the market from where I come. And, honestly, I don’t want to lose out on the opportunity to continue to work with a segment of the market from which I derive a lot of great friends.
The next slice of the market that currently exists are those homes that are available for sale between $250,000 and $400,000. This market is defined as one in which neither buyers nor sellers have an upper hand. There seems to be an equal number of those looking to purchase and those looking to list. Homes in this segment of the market are selling within six weeks of listing and everyone seems to be, well, well-behaved. No histrionics. No bricks being thrown through windows. No tears. Sellers list, buyers purchase. Six weeks later, the house transfers title. Easy!
Finally, the one fragment of the market that hasn’t enjoyed the exuberance associated with first time buyers are those individuals who are trying to sell property above $400,000. Last year at this time, there seemed to be small armies of executives, physicians, and others buying higher-end homes throughout the Rochester region. At the moment, this market is a bit sluggish. Properties are taking longer to sell and, unfortunately, offers are being tendered only after one or two price reductions. Hopefully, sometime soon, legions of photonics engineers and their executives will gallop into town on white stallions fulfilling the hopes and expectations that we’ve carried with us for the past nine months. Higher-end sellers, in particular, would be grateful!
Behind the Scenes
When I moved to Nothnagle a few years ago, I left behind a dear and loyal friend, Matt Jensen, who decided to rejoin the team this past January. Matt’s generosity of spirit, his commitment to always do the right thing and his patient concern for those around him seemed only to grow in the time since we last worked together. It’s great to have him back.
Mark Crandall, who had been our client concierge for several years, recently secured his real estate license and is now working as an agent with our team. He’s currently employing those traits which made him so successful in his previous role - patience, kindness, and a selfless dedication to others - and applying them to his efforts as a Realtor. Inevitably, much success is in store as a result of this transition.
When it came time to find a new client concierge, my initial panic quickly faded when I realized that I already knew who to hire. I had been keeping my eye on somebody who I had gotten to know whenever I would go to the Spa at Del Monte and I was always impressed with this guy’s positive and enthusiastic energy. Thankfully, at the moment that I needed to find a new concierge, Elliott Pruitt happened to be looking to make a change. We brought him on earlier in the year and couldn’t be more pleased. In Elliott’s world, everything is genuinely wonderful. The grass is always greener and the birds always sing a bit more cheerfully. His attitude is infectious and his “can-do” enthusiasm is an incredible asset. Elliott always seems to be anxious to help our clients - regardless of the unusual requests that come his way.
• Dead rabbit frozen to the ground in the backyard of an upcoming listing? No problem!
• You’re away on vacation and you need someone to go to the house, find your son’s favorite swim trunks and mail them off to you? Easy!
• You’re living in New York City, light bulbs are burned out in your vacant house and the smoke alarm won’t stop beeping? Done!
I’m not making this stuff up. Honestly, Elliott has completed these tasks and many others on behalf of our clients in the past few months. It’s exactly what I had envisioned when I created the position and I’m thrilled that I’ve got Elliott fulfilling the dream!