It’s so common that we have a word for it. Catching someone on it and proving that it was done is hard to do because the nature of pricing is that it is very interpretive.
A Realtor is in a state of constant competition for clients. In order to attract clients there are many kinds of strategies that one can employ. Some methods work better than others, some require more effort than others and some are more ethical than others. As in so many kinds of approaches to business, politics and just generally getting people to like you, a common strategy is to tell people things that make them feel good. A little flattery, and a dash of hope go a long way.
Clients do not know the ins and outs of real estate like Realtors do and that is after all the larger part of why they are hiring our services. What clients do know is that they have put a lot of time, money and love into their homes. To them, it’s much more than a big expensive box in which they sleep and keep their stuff. After all, the word ‘home’ is full of warm, happy, cozy nuance that I would imagine people from all corners of the world share. And in the context of life’s major financial transactions, homes are the ultimate big ticket item.
So, a Realtor with the standard package of real estate knowledge meeting a Seller with the standard package of hopes and dreams can, and fairly often does, tell them exactly what they want to hear. They can use it again and again with many different people. Not all will bite, but many will. Said Realtor can say that they can sell the home for more than the other guys or at least at a price that is pure flattery. It’s easy to convince people that something is true when they want it to be true.
There is a saying that some Realtors adhere to: “You can’t sell the listing you don’t have.” I’ve also heard “You can’t reduce the listing you don’t have.” The point being that from the (ethically grey) Realtor’s perspective, it is more profitable to have a listing that can be put up now and reduce to a sellable price later on than it is to have no listing at all. If they can hold on to that listing long enough for it to be reduced to a sellable price, then they will make money directly off the selling of the listing. If it never sells, then they still get the benefit of the various kinds of advertising that come from having a listing, not the least of which is the potential for Buyers who ask about the listing and then buy something else that is more reasonably priced. By then, the value of the property has been reduced, a pattern which I’ve written about extensively on this blog because it saddens me. Whether the Seller realizes it or not, they have been taken advantage of.
I’ve long hoped that I would gain a loyal following by being the Realtor who speaks plainly and honestly enough so that people understand there is integrity in my business style. Some people recognize that, but then again some people use me for a bit and then use some other Realtor who puts more effort into selling themselves than the home itself.
Once in a while I take a break from being serious on this blog and put up something fun. This made me laugh and I thought it might make you laugh too. As the person who posted the video on youtube said, “Always wear your PPE.”
Rather than again go through an explanation of my belief of why timing the market right isn’t as important as timing your own finances and other personal factors I will give you a couple of links to posts where I go through that in detail. I am writing this post because it is topical and because it is always something that the public wants to hear about. This post is geared more towards real estate investors than the kinds of readers I generally write for which is homeowners.
So, homeowners or investor, if you are under the impression that whether the market is going up or down right now is the be all and end all of making your purchase and selling decisions, please give me a chance to burst your bubble (no pun intended but I’ll take it) and let you know where I am coming from before I give you the info that I know you want to hear:
All that said… at the end of last year I had noted that the Nanaimo real estate market seemed poised for change. If you only look at the statistics you would think that prices had started going up early last year but although average sale price is the best statistical indicator that I’ve seen of what prices are doing, they are not the same thing as value of actual homes. Average sale price statistics measure what people are spending on houses overall but it’s not quite the same as what the value of properties are. The best way to suss out what is actually going on with property values is to watch what is available and what is selling in what patterns on a daily basis for years on end. That’s a core skill for a Realtor like myself and really pretty hard to do unless you are working in my or a related industry. You can get some idea of things by fervently watching listings on the MLS regularly but it’s not the same as actually going into those properties often and seeing the dynamic between Buyer and Sellers up close.
What you can tell from looking at these average price stats is the broader shape of what prices do. They do not tell a perfect story but they do have the general scope of things right. If you pay enough attention to them over time plus take other solid information into account you build an understanding of certain broader patterns. I have seen stats from the mainland that go back a few years earlier to 1977 that follow the same pattern as above. For some really long term perspective items outside of the confines of these statistics have a look at some of my historical MLS finds that I shared on this blog from 1981 here and from local newspaper ads in 1961 here. Also worth mentioning is that over the years I’ve picked the brains of many Realtors who are/were much older than myself who in some cases have been in business since the 70’s and in once case 50’s. Canadian real estate guru Ozzy Jurock also has some very good info on real estate market patterns. There are certain conclusions I’ve drawn about the real estate market cycle based upon all of these things.
One of the conclusions is that there appears to be a 6-7 year cycle. The cycle being that things are slow for six or seven years which is when we experience a Buyer’s market and busier for six or seven years which is when we experience a Seller’s market. The rises in the Seller’s market outdo losses during the Buyer’s market even when you take inflation into account.
Here is the part you were looking to read: Now is a time when the markets are starting to pick up and if the above observation holds true then we should have another six or so years before the media outlets find something to make everyone panic about again making it all snowball into the next Buyer’s market.
How to make money with this information? I consider flipping homes in the short term to be pretty risky in any market unless you are a seasoned contracting professional but if you are looking to buy a property for investment that could use a little polishing, willing to rent it out for a couple of years while you accumulate equity and then fix it up and sell it for a nice profit… this is a great time to start that plan. It’s always a good time to start that plan if you have the patience, know how and income to support it but now is looking like a really good bet for the market helping a plan like that work out. Prices have just started to show solid signs of going up and mortgage interest rates… well they’ve been ridiculously low for a couple of years now but now they’re just… I don’t know how long that money is going to be available for so cheap. Everyone I speak to in my industry and the lending industry is amazed by it, doubly so if they were around during the early 80’s when there were mortgage out there for 17-21%. The historical average is around 8% last I heard so it would stand to reason that these rates are temporary.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a narrative for this blog that illustrated some of the common errors that are made that prevents a property from being sold. This was an attempt to make it more readable and humorous by telling it as if it were from a story book. Here is a new illustration of the same sort of pattern.
There is tons that I as a Realtor do to make sure that every listing I have has the best chance it possibly can at attracting as much attention as possible from other Realtors and their Buyers. I would go on about it at length here but my competition is watching so you’ll have to contact me and ask. One thing not I, or any Realtor can do, is sell a home for more than it is really worth. Any Realtor telling you otherwise is lying to you, period. There are many things that can and should be done to get top dollar for a property but one of the big ones is a decision that lies with the Seller. That decision being pricing. One of the greater pitfalls that is all too commonly fallen into is that of overpricing or even just overpricing in the beginning and waiting too long to fix it. (See the Selling homes section for more on this.)
I know, this is a counterintuitive concept. Usually in life if you ask for more you will get more and this is why it’s often hard to convince Sellers to price correctly. At least, in the beginning which is when it counts most. For the Seller, the property represents the culmination of years and years of work both on the home and in the workplace, so very many personal memories and so very much money. The thing is, and this is hard to say to people, the market doesn’t care about any of that. The market doesn’t care about anybody’s hopes or hardships. It only cares what the best deal is. And if your property is the best deal out there you will get more money for it and you will get it faster. If it’s not it will get ignored and pushed aside over and over by many people no matter how great of a job your Realtor is doing and how much they are spending on advertising. By the time you get the pricing right, Buyers will think there’s something wrong with it (even though it’s just price) and they will lowball offer you even if your new price is objectively good. Getting more money more easily sounds like the sort of thing people want, but again… it’s counterintuitive so some illustration helps. Read on.
Even in the hottest Seller’s market, many listings will not sell, and more than 95% of the time it’s due to price. The importance of correct pricing is not always easy to illustrate to Sellers but for us Realtors who see on a daily basis how things play out, pricing realistically is not just a detail. It is paramount in determining how much a Seller can ultimately sell the property for and if they can sell it at all. It’s hard to illustrate because the stories of what happens to properties that aren’t priced correctly sound more like a carefully chosen anecdote than something that is as common as it really is. You don’t have to be a Realtor long to have seen this pattern many, many times in the various listings that are out there on the market. Not all Sellers have unrealistic expectations but it’s the thing that worries me the most when I see it because I can see how things are going to play out for them. I imagine my Doctor would feel a similar way if he told me my cholesterol count was too high and I said “But bacon is so gooooooood! I must have it all the time!” He would quite rightly be concerned because he sees on a regular basis how things play out for people like myself.
A Realtor (and the Buyers they are working with) doesn’t need to look at very many properties in a category to be able to tell which ones are better priced and more likely to sell or less likely to sell. All the advertising and quality photos and well written listings are a means of getting those Buyers into the house. Once they are there the house will speak for itself as to whether it is a better deal for the money than the other 5 or so they are likely looking at that day plus who knows how many more overall. Every Buyer is terrified of the idea of not having gotten the best possible option for the best price and as a rule they won’t buy anything until they have, to some extent, looked at everything. The Realtor does this daily for years on end and becomes very quick at processing what adds value to a property. If the balance of those factors that add value is lower than any other properties in its price range it is not going to be the next one to sell. The best priced one is the one that sells.
Recently I came across a listing that had a history that made me mutter “Yeah, you’re not helping yourself by doing that…” as I see it as a long and frustrating method of someone costing themselves a great deal of money. It’s not the first I’ve seen and it certainly won’t be the last but I thought it was clear enough to share so I took a screen shot.
Have a look at this listing history. It starts back in 2005 and didn’t sell for five long years. White house icon on left means expired/cancelled and didn’t sell, red house icon means it sold and it will show the selling price as well as asking price. During this time the Seller went through five Realtors and even though the place wasn’t selling they went through periods where they thought the price should be higher, and then lower, and then much higher, the whole time they would be paying taxes and utilities whether they live there or not, and then gradually lower before it finally sold in 2010.
Now here’s the important part. The new owner decided to sell it four years later. Property values had declined a bit between 2010 and 2014. Not a ton, but enough so that one would expect it to go for 10-20k less or possibly lower. But it sold for pretty much the same price as it sold for four years earlier in the higher market. To me, that’s a clear example of what the overpricing pattern did to the property value when it was on the market for all that time. A few years off market, especially with a different owner who starts with a reasonable price gets a different story. Three months is still a fairly long time to be on market but it’s a much better story than the previous one.
Yes, this is an extreme case. That’s why it is usable for illustration I would say that less less than 5% of listings are as clear cut an example of self destruction via overpricing as this. However, if I go and see ten randomly chosen listings, I would say that on average I would expect to see 4 or 5 where the price is high enough so that it should be lowered before it sits on the market too long and starts to only attract lowball offers if any at all because Buyers will assume there is something wrong with the property as well as be aware that there is no other interest from other Buyers.
For an intro to this series, please see the first post of the series, here.
Everyone has a slightly different idea of how they want to balance convenience with privacy. Some want to be right near downtown so they can walk out their door and have everything right there. Others want total quiet and isolation and don’t mind longer drives to where things are going on. Most people are somewhere in the middle and a strategic blend of both is what they are looking for. That’s how I see this neighbourhood.
The area I am talking about falls within the confines of what the MLS map calls ‘South Jingle Pot’ but is more specifically the area that is down the hill from and on the north side of Westwood Lake.
The area is big enough to include a variety of types of housing including mobiles and condos but it is mostly houses. Even within the category of houses we have everything from what I would say is a step up from a starter home to some very high end houses with stunning panoramic views of the city, islands and the mountains on the mainland. But what makes this such a great neighbourhood is not so much the houses that are in it, but what is in the neighbourhood and what is is easy access to.
The most outstanding thing in the neighbourhood is one of my common stops when I am introducing a new arrival to Nanaimo. Westwood Lake. It’s just up the hill from town but when you are there you feel like you have found a secret. It is in the middle of a thickly forested mountainous zone, has a large and beautiful beach and a trail that runs all the way around. And that’s exactly what so many people go there to do; run all the way around the lake. The trail takes about 40 minutes when walking and I suppose the run will depend on the runner. Lots of walking the dogs goes on there, people ride bikes and so on. It’s nice to have a place like this in your town as I consider it to be one of Nanaimo’s gems. It’s even better to have something like this in your neighbourhood. Imagine living next door to that.
Also within the neighbourhood are other pretty locations to have your home next to like Cathers Lake and a variety of green zones which you can see in the image above. There is also a local pub, a fun bowling alley, some neighbourhood stores to pick up this and that on the way home and what is arguably Nanaimo’s finest restaurant which is at the racquet club… on the lake.
But more than that, it has access to other areas. No matter what part of Nanaimo you work, shop or play in, getting there by car isn’t that hard from this location. Jingle Pot road goes right to the parkway which is your fast route to everywhere both inside and outside of Nanaimo and the only traffic light in the neighbourhood is the one that lets you onto the time saving parkway. The heart of downtown is right down the hill too. You’ll be there probably in five or at worst ten minutes and on the way you could stop and the giant ice arena, sports fields or aquatic centre as well. Or you could just walk to those instead since they’re pretty close.
For my entire real estate career I have been suggesting to Buyers who are looking for nice homes with great views in the north end that they at least have a look down here to see what is in the area. They can get comparable homes for much cheaper. Some listen, some don’t. The ones who do are usually glad they took the time to see what the other options were.
It doesn’t make that huge of a difference for the most part. It is more important that you are ready both financially and situationally than what time of year you buy or sell.
Sort of long answer that is actually somewhat abridged to keep people from dying of boredom:
The classic line of thought, or belief, is that spring is the time to do it. I’m not really sure where this idea came from and most Realtors don’t do much to stop people from thinking this way because there are so many far more important misconceptions to clear up. In fact, I’ve heard quite a few Realtors use talk of the spring market as a motivator to get Sellers ready to sell. I think this is a tactic that uses an existing belief to motivate people into doing something now rather than putting it off. You see, Realtors know that when people put things off it so often turns not doing it at all or worse yet, getting snagged by a different Realtor.
How I see the idea of buying or selling real estate in the spring? Well, it’s definitely the busiest time of year. There are more Buyers…. and more Sellers too. The homes will look prettier with all the green and flowers and maybe some sun.
I have long held the belief that the real estate market picks up for the year once the weather gets nice. Every year, once we get our first week or two of happy weather, people seem to get optimistic about life and want to make a positive change for themselves. I’m told the same pattern is true for the other big ticket item, cars. There is also the perception that a lot of people are trying to time their move, which typically happens a month or two after the contract is written up, to coincide with when their kids are out of school in the summer. But does any of this translate into better prices for Buyers or Sellers? Not as far as I can tell. It’s really just a pleasant time of year to do it. No real downside except that maybe the Realtors are more strapped for time and you may not get quite as much personal attention as you might at another time of year.
Summer is usually a little more quiet than spring as most people are on the beach and later on the the summer many people are off on vacation. Somewhat fewer homes on the market but less Buyers too. No major advantage or disadvantage here.
Fall is usually a bit busier than the summer but not as busy as the spring.
Sometime in November things usually slow right down as most people are focusing on the holidays at this point. Realtors are likely to take some time off at this time of year. Some Buyers follow the line of logic that any property that is on the market during the holidays must have some serious (desperate) Sellers so they are expecting to find something good. This is why I tell Sellers to keep it on the market anyway at this time of year if they can muster it because Buyers who think like that are serious about Buying and you don’t want to miss the timing for meeting those kind of Buyers. Every strategy has a counter strategy and this is just one.
So ,back to my intial statement. Time your move around your life and your finances first as these will make a bigger difference than the other factors. There are many ins and outs to real estate and having the guidance of a seasoned pro helps you navigate the seas of information that you find online, via word of mouth or on the news.
Watching what goes on in the real estate world is always pretty interesting to me and this year has been more so than usual. For much of it I was too busy to put up much in the way of posts. If you are a regular to this blog you may have noticed that. Here is my current perspective of recent, current and likely future events.
I always say that anyone who tells you they know for sure what the future holds is either lying to you or lying to both you and themselves. No matter how deep your knowledge is on the topic, there is still a lot of unknown. That said, I do feel that predictions are possible and have their place, we just have to keep in mind that even the best ones are like a weather report: probably true, but not definitely true.
I have made a lot of comments on this blog about how the media is what creates the society wide moods that drive the markets. Now that the real estate market is starting to show signs of picking up again I believe it won’t be long before the media starts reporting that little bit of uptick and then people will start to jump on the bandwagon and sales/prices will start to take off in a meaningful way. Following the media isn’t the best way to make your real estate decisions if you ask me, but it is the major driving force so we have to contend with it.
It’s things like this, that once reported enough will change the mood of the market and tip the scales: Average sale prices in Nanaimo have gone up pretty steadily from $347,000 in April of 2013 to $368,000 last month. As I like to point out, average sale prices measure what people are spending on real estate not the actual value of real estate in the area. I have not seen real estate getting more expensive during this time. What I have seen however, is the inventory getting smaller and the inventory that is there is getting more bland. That is, the gems are gone quickly and not sitting around for a little while before selling like they were even a year ago. If the demand is reasonably stable, or increases, I think that this is a sign that things will be picking up price wise soon. I don’t think increases will be dramatic like we saw a few years back but there will be a new mood in the air.
What does this mean for the average homeowner? As I have said in many previous posts, what the market is doing is less important for the average home owner than they typically think. The people who are most directly affected by a change in the market are those of us who make a living building, selling or inspecting homes. If you’ve been waiting to sell and get out of the market or downsize, the market will be more forgiving. For Buyers it means they can’t be as picky as the decently priced individual properties will sell faster and what they have in mind criteria wise will gradually get more expensive. Is that good? Is that bad? Depends which cards you’re holding. These past few years have been a great time for buyers. It’s just that the economy was slow too so not that many people were able to afford Buying.
A more in depth look at these things here. Notice the timing of the series of posts, this was written while everyone was panicking back in 2008. The principles have not changed.
It’s the end of the year which is when I like to create a list of which posts I think are the most useful reads. Here is that list for 2014:
The first step of buying is, as I so often say, finding out what you can afford. If you are planning on buying or even just wondering if you are ready to buy going to see a Mortgage Broker is a crucial first step.