For this week, we're going to focus on the vast amount of information that's out there everywhere, always swirling around homebuyers, sellers, and Realtors like so much money in one of those cash-grab phone booths.
Specifically, I'm talking about the almost daily barrage of news items from companies like Zillow, Inman, and others. They usually show up on the web, social media and other media outlets as "findings" or "research" or press releases and, yes, they are usually very interesting.
But what they really are is marketing. Data journalism, to be specific.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. Without effective, accurate marketing, consumers would be very much at a loss to make decisions and pick products and services.
The companies who disseminate these findings, data points, observations, and research are actually trying to drive valuable info to the consumer. You see, the hallmark of good marketing is that it DOES something to really help the consumer.
But how much of all this information really helps the average homebuyer and seller (and Realtor) in a given, individual home transaction?
We say, not very much at all.
So what's the problem with all this data? People try to use it when buying and selling and that can be a problem.
It's usually at such a high, general "national" or regional level, any market trends it exposes may or may not (usually not) really apply at your local location.
For example, on the whole, because inventory is low and driving up prices, does that mean you can be sure to get more for your home in your market? Not necessarily and, usually, not. It could mean you pass on good offers or suffer a long, long wait to just reduce pricing anyway.
As well, it's often hard to know how to use any of it to your advantage such that you make changes or alter strategies to see a result when, in fact, the data and info may not have even applied in the first place.
An example? Articles like this one published recently where Zillow identified areas with more or less "empty nest" households may cause your agent to make specious assumptions about how to price your home given that kind of market condition or who you target. Not good. Could cost you money.
For buyers? Well, watch the info coming out. Most of it - if not all - is designed to create a sense of urgency in buying, prodding buyers to make decisions based on factors that really don't impact your buy, price, etc.
I could go on, but the point here is that trying to use this data in your home search or transaction can often HARM you in the process.It can distract your focus from things that do matter and it can lead to decision-making based on assumptions that may turn out to be false. Especially when it comes to things like pricing your home or negotiating with a seller.
In short, this info can be a very distracting roadside attraction on your drive to buy or sell.
Here are 5 important common-sense things you should be focused on in any given real estate transaction that most certainly will help you whether you're a buyer, seller, or an agent:
1. Price solely based on comparable homes - When setting a price, your Realtor can help you with what's sold, but you also need to use the current market to judge based on what you're competing against right now. Why? Markets change. Sometimes quickly. And remember, you can always go down in price, rarely can you go up. Knowing what other buyers have to choose from in the market that's comparable to yours can help you balance a quick sale with making the most money. Buyers...you should know too (Hint: having a list of up-to-date comparables helps justify offers!).
2. Stage your home - Whether you do it yourself or actually hire someone, clean up, de-clutter, de-personalize, slim down and make it look like a hotel. Seriously. It's hard to overstate the importance of making your home appear enticing to as wide a range of buyers as possible. It's what hotel designers do and you should too.
3. Find a lender you trust and make SURE you know you'll get funded - Perhaps the #1 source of heartache and heartburn for the buyer, seller, and Realtor? A deal that crashes 25 days into escrow because of a buyer that changes lenders, has their lender lead them on and can't get the deal done, or has hidden financial issues that pop up and kill the deal. In fact, in today's lending climate, deals are taking longer and more of them are ending unexpectedly than ever before. What's the best defense? A good offense. Start the process very early, be prepared to do a lot of paperwork, and be certain of what you can afford (over-reaching can still happen even after the mortgage crisis).
4. Decide what's best for you, find a way to get it - Whether you're a buyer or a seller, decide what matters most to you BEFORE you embark on buying a home or selling one. For homebuyers, is it the location? Price? Size? For sellers, how fast do you want to sell? What's your floor when it comes to offers? This may sound simple, but too often buyers and sellers fudge on what their "care abouts" are during the process. If you figure out what matters most before you start, you can arm yourself with the tools to negotiate a deal. If you get to the offer-making point and you are not prepared, you will lose out on something. It's even valuable to game-plan what those losses/gains could be given what you may find on the market. In the end, if you don't have to make a decision quickly, be patient. Despite what the news and information out there say, there's always another home coming on the market.
5. Trust your gut - When at the deal-making stage, shut out all the noise and information. If it seems off, it probably is. Don't waste your time with difficult sellers or buyers; they're not worth it in the end. Many transactions fall apart after lengthy, painful, and costly delays that can be avoided if warning signs are heeded. Have a seller that won't budge on something insignificant? Warning. Buyers asking for too much? Warning. All deals involve give and take, but we all know what seems off and what doesn't. The all-time home buying and selling top tip? You have to be willing to walk away from a deal. If not, be prepared for the costs and consequences.
Have a great weekend, folks! Today is National Superhero Day. We say everyone can be a superhero any time they want by picking a charity you care about and making a donation. We suggest the St.Judes fight against childhood cancer for as little as $25. Feels good.
Realtors: Whether you're paying $19.99 a year or $19,000 for your website, it's wasted cash if it doesn't get you leads. Over 90% of real estate websites have poor search visibility when customers search Google for real estate in your area.
Why? Find out here.
And find out if your site is one of them.