In the past few months—the peak of the spring/summer home-buying season—I have been working with a number of prospective buyers who have been looking at houses in southern and central Westchester in the $400,000-$600,000 price range. Unfortunately, many have missed out on buying their “almost, but not quite” dream house. Here’s why.
The inventory of homes in this category is shrinking. Now that we are in the final weeks of this season, I have been seeing houses in the $400,000-$600,000 price range either move quickly or move suddenly after having sat on the market for what probably seemed like an interminable length of time for both the seller and his or her agent. One of the reasons for this is that at this time of year there is especially more pressure on buyers with school-age children who want to be in a new home by September.
These and other buyers might also be concerned—and rightfully so—about what will be the outcome of the November presidential election. Most polls and pundits are reporting a near dead-heat race. If the result is a re-elected but lame duck president or new leadership, will mortgage interest rates continue to be low? Will there be a change of leadership at the Fed and, hence, new money-lending policies? Will we see a spike in inflation? Will there be new policies pushed through Congress that will stimulate job creation, lower unemployment and flood the home-buying market with prospective buyers who have been sitting on the sidelines, thus reducing the inventory and putting the seller in the driver’s seat?
This same phenomenon of houses in a lower price range moving faster or finally moving also applies to more expensive properties in specific categories and styles of which there is lesser inventory. I have found this to be the case with higher-end, larger townhouses in compounds offering several amenities. Two times a client has lost out on houses that met his criteria because he dragged his feet.
Of course, there are exceptions. There are some really great houses in the $400,000-$600,000 price range that have been beautifully maintained or were restored and “flipped” for re-sale, yet they continue to linger. Off the top of my head I can think of several such properties that all share the same Achilles’ heel: a less-than-desirable location—whether it’s a busy street corner, a “sketchy” neighborhood, location in a weak to mediocre public school district or in a flood zone. (P.S.: A flood zone doesn’t signal water in the basement every time that it rains! Think Hurricane Irene 2011 and other abnormal torrential downpours.)
And then there are the properties in this $400,000-$600,000 that are loiterers in their own neighborhoods even though the location is fine, the neighborhood is nice and the schools are OK or better. But bringing them into the 21st century is what’s daunting! As a realtor I can only tell so much from the pictures and description posted on Westchester’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) by the listing agent. It’s not until you actually visit the property, usually with your client in tow, that you discover the property’s flaws and challenges.
Some reading this might think that a realtor should personally preview every property before having the buyer pay a visit. But when you have a prospect just wanting to relocate to almost any community in Westchester, it’s way too time-consuming to first preview every single property that meets the buyer’s general criteria. The other reality is a constraint on a buyer’s time and availability. I often get very little notice to make appointments to see houses, much less preview them.
These various real-life/current market scenarios are hopefully food-for-thought for serious prospective buyers. So when you meet an agent who is knowledgeable, accommodating and willing to do previews when ample notice is given, reward that agent with an agreement to work with them exclusively. This will give your agent an added incentive to go the extra mile or miles—even if this means driving all over the county to preview properties. By transitioning from “prospect” to “client” with an exclusive agent, you develop a more informed and committed relationship. The agent gets to know your likes and dislikes, any special needs or requirements and, also, when to call you when a house becomes available that may not be a perfect fit but knows it will resonate with you because of its special characteristics.
As a member of the MLS, an agent has access to any house in most of the Hudson Valley and the Bronx. An exclusive listing won’t cost you anything more. In fact, it may save you money and certainly it should save you time especially when time is of the essence.
Rob Seitz (firstname.lastname@example.org) brings his more than 30-years experience as a marketing and PR specialist to the business of selling and buying real estate. He can be reached by phone 24/7 at 914-393-6144.