WEST JEFFERSON-Even in the dead of winter, real estate continues to be red hot right here in the High Country.
While common wisdom might dictate that winter should probably be one of the slower real estate sales periods of the year, locally that’s just not the case. In fact, according to the High Country Association of Realtors, some $5 million in real estate changed hands in just the first 10 days of 2017.
Andrea Witherspoon, owner and lead broker of West Jefferson-based Regency Properties, sat down with her team to explain just how much effort goes into brokering a deal everybody can love at the end of the day and exactly what buyers and sellers can do to make one of life’s most stressful periods flow a little smoother.
If only closing a sale were as easy…
as slapping a sign in the yard. Witherspoon said one of the most common misconceptions clients have when it comes time to buy or sell a property is that all brokers and agents have to do is put a ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard and just wait for the money to come rolling in.
“I think some folks think it’s just that easy, and maybe sometimes it might be,” Witherspoon said. “More often though, there’s so many moving parts happening behind the scenes that need to work out to make a dream deal come together.”
Everything leading up to a sale is essentially free
So it pays to get your money’s worth, Witherspoon said.
“The buyers or sellers don’t pay us until we sell that house,” Witherspoon said. “Remember: the comparable analysis is free, the advertising is free. The point is that we’re always on the move, always working our hardest to get that deal done because, until we sell your house, we don’t get paid.”
And don’t wait for the ‘perfect time of year’
Whether you’re a buyer or seller, there is no ‘right’ time of year to approach the buying or selling of a home or property, and that includes the most frigid point of winter, according to Regency Properties Broker Hugh O Rees-Jones.
“Shopping around in spring or summer, yes it can be an idyllic time and the fall can be absolutely spectacular,” Rees-Jones said. “But don’t discount trying to find what you’re looking for in winter. It’s easier to get a good lay of the land with all the leaves off the trees, and you’ll probably be able to move at a more thoughtful pace.”
Find a Realtor who can show you everything
“I think another major misconception is that you need to switch agents if you’re casting a wide net,” Witherspoon said. “One Realtor can show you every house you’re interested in – whether that’s in Ashe, Avery, Watauga or Alleghany – and probably should. If you’re interested in anything throughout the region, we can show you every bit of it.”
The key to a successful real estate transaction?
Embrace the search.
“Whether it’s with us or somebody else, some of the best advice we can give is to stick with an agent,” Rees-Jones said. “Everything is a learning process. After a couple showings, we usually narrow down pretty quickly what a buyer wants and what they need, what they’re willing to tolerate and what they simply can’t deal with.”
For instance, the longer an agent works with a particular client, the faster they can help whittle down the difference between a good deal and a bad one, based on their client’s needs.
“Sometimes a buyer wants four bedrooms but they absolutely need three and it’s helpful to figure out the difference in a hurry,” Witherspoon said. “So find someone who is respectful to you and is a good listener.”
Somebody wants to help you
And is willing to go the extra mile and handle the details to prove it.
Whether that’s working early or late to fit your schedule, find somebody who wants to work with you.
“It’s not the easiest job, and it can be incredibly stressful,” Witherspoon said. “But it’s honestly a really pleasurable thing to help someone through what can be a pretty confusing process. It’s fun to sell that $500,000 home, but it might be even more satisfying to help close a $50,000 deal on a place I know is going to help a family move from renting to owning and is going to be a safety blanket for them. That’s incredibly gratifying.”
Buyers, understand what you need
But realize it’s OK to sort through what you want
“Folks have this idea of the perfect place zeroed in their head,” Rees-Jones said. “If they say they’re looking for log cabins but then say it’s too dark, we’ve got to change tack and find something that they really like.”
Witherspoon told potential buyers not to be frustrated by changing minds or attitudes as they move through the buying process.
“For us, it comes back to being a good listener,” Witherspoon said. “The more we work with somebody, the more we figure out, OK this is what they’re actually looking for. Sometimes you just don’t know when you start, and that’s OK, too.”
Wide open spaces are great – to a point
Some buyers believe they want 20, 50, 100 acres to get away from it all, Witherspoon said.
“It’s tough to visualize just how much space is available with 10 or 15 acres,” Witherspoon said. “They’re coming from a subdivision and they know they want more land but it pays to take a little time to figure out what they’re going to use the house for. The same goes for figuring out whether or not you want to call the county home year-round. You might want peace and quiet for a seasonal property, but if you’re going to call a place home 12 months out of the year, you might want to be closer to town. You’d be surprised how many folks don’t walk themselves through those concepts first.”
Help yourself: get pre-qualified
Buyers can help themselves move faster on their dream home by getting pre-qualified. It can also move them up a broker’s pecking order by proving they’re committed to the process.
“Deals fall through all the time because buyers aren’t pre-qualified,” Witherspoon said. “It can take up to a week, but usually less and I’ve seen it happen in just a couple of hours. It solidifies exactly what buyers have to work with but it also takes pressure off of them as they consider a deal.”
And reducing stress is never a bad a thing.
The big takeaway?
Communicate, with everyone: what you expect from the people you work with and what you really want and need from a transaction, Rees-Jones said.
“If you’ll speak with lenders and agents beforehand, you’ll know the kind of information you’ll need to pull together for lenders and everyone else in the process,” Rees-Jones said. “If you don’t have certain things, you’ll inadvertently slow down a process you may want to move much quicker. It’s a domino process, and you can do things to make it easier on you.”