The NEW year is finally here, (collective sigh). To say 2020 was rough would be an understatement. How wonderful it would be if flipping our calendars could also flip our perspective! Though I have my doubts we will see an immediate change, I’m fully committed to ringing in tons of positive energy for 2021. Who’s with me?
In 2020, we learned the so-called “experts” have been playing the guessing game just as much as the rest of us. Sure, we can run the numbers and study the algorithms, but the reality is none of us truly knows what is in store for real estate this year. You’ll likely recall the early doom and gloom market projections of last year which were quickly turned upside down and sideways. Instead, we’ve been experiencing one of the strongest buying and selling comebacks in years!
As expected, 2021 predictions are all over the place, but the consensus is our market should stay strong. Interest rates are expected to stay low (at least in the short term) so the opportunity to purchase more home for your money is real. Property values/prices may continue to climb, albeit at a slower pace. Though new home construction is seeing an uptick, overall existing inventory remains low.
The design and layout of a home will remain an important driver of sales in the new year. With distance learning and remote work still very much a way of life, extra attention to private spaces, home offices and amenities will be top of mind for many buyers. Florida kids have a completely different experience than their northern counterparts. Here, outdoor lifestyles take center stage.
The migration of northern buyers will also continue. The prevalence of remote employment has given way to the idea of working from anywhere. Why not choose Florida? Afterall, if your office is also your home, give yourself the gift of beautiful weather and gorgeous sunny views! Water cooler breaks are easily replaced with a quick jog or a lap in the pool.
Long-distance purchasing will likely increase. In some cases, the rise in Covid-19 infection rates have prevented traditional home tours, with both buyers and sellers wary of in-person visits. This is one big reason homeowners should insist on great (not good) home photography. The iPhone snaps aren’t enough anymore. Sight-unseen buyers don’t want a surprise after closing so they rely heavily on highly detailed photography. This may even include drone captures of street and neighborhood views!
As the year progresses, please know we’ll be right here to give you the most updated market data available, along with tips and tricks for making your sale or purchase a successful one. Thank you for keeping us your favorite North of the River Realtor! From all of us at Leslie Wells Realty, we wish you a happy and HEALTHY 2021!
The Perfect Gift
Over the last few months, I’ve been so proud to share news of my team’s successes with you. The truth is, we’ve been very blessed. Our local real estate market is on fire and we’ve been extremely fortunate to help so many buyers fulfill their dreams. Sellers are excited too; shorter listing times and inching prices have encouraged some big smiles! Real estate is one of the few bright spots in the pandemic environment.
But not all small businesses are enjoying a surge. The truth is, many are struggling to keep up and very few are at 100% capacity. That’s why I am honored to be invited to help promote other small businesses in our area and help bring some of that spark back to the community.
On Saturday, November 7, 2020, my team and I will be supporting the 4th Annual Fort Hamer Bridge Run. The 2020 race benefits The Parrish Foundation, Manatee County Youth Rowing, and Parrish Community High School Athletic Boosters and helps create a forum for local runners and businesses to connect with a shared passion.
My superstar agents agree this is much more than a feel-good exercise. The signature event means a lot to our community. So, when we were asked by the Parrish Foundation to donate (100) $25 gift cards to be given to participants in support of other local, independently owned businesses, of course we said “yes!” What a wonderful opportunity to help showcase our favorite restaurant owners and retail shops!
If you receive one of our gift cards to a local business, please spread the love. Spend over and above the $25 face value, tell your friends about the great food, rave about the awesome products or customer service excellence. Visit them again and consider paying it forward. Maybe consider purchasing a gift card of your own to give over the holidays. It really is the perfect gift. Your purchase helps a small business owner succeed and gives your recipient an opportunity to experience one of our many wonderful community offerings.
In the recent Presidential debate, the question was asked, “What will bring us together?” The response was, “Success will bring us together…” and I believe that is true. Supporting our friends and colleagues makes us all stronger! Imagine what we can accomplish if we prop up one another up heading into 2021.
Salute our Veterans and happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you to everyone that has supported our small business over the years.
The Post Pandemic World of Real Estate – Chapter 1
This year reads like a dystopian novel. Who would, in their wildest dreams (or nightmares), have ever believed 2020 would become synonymous with the word “pandemic?” Who could have guessed our lives would be forever changed and we would witness a virus so destructive that it would virtually paralyze our schools, businesses, and economy?
I would bet no one.
Yet here we are, and we are surviving. Little by little, as Americans have been known to do, we fight our way back and become stronger than ever. One indicator of the fight is our local housing market. It’s hot, “On Fire” and reminiscent of 2004/2005 time frame when inventory was low, and buyers were lining up to buy/invest in “anything.” However, unlike the rush of 2004/2005, we are not seeing “hocus pocus and smoke and mirror” loans. This time, interest rates are so incredibly low that the market has opened to people who never imagined they could own a home.
Understandably, not everyone is in the same place. This has been a remarkably tough year for so many. However, if you were fortunate enough to have weathered through layoffs and furloughs, you may just be lucky enough to join in on the chaos of the buying world. Those who have taken the leap are scouring the internet, third party housing sites and even posting their wish list on Facebook in the hopes that someone sends them the insider scoop on a property that has yet to hit the market.
What about prices? For now, prices are stable and there is not yet enough history to substantiate huge increases. But remember the theory of “supply and demand” and you will understand just how many of our listings are likely in multiple offer situations the minute they hit the market.
In April, sellers were taking wild offers, and the fear of the unknown was great. Fast-forward a few months and though we are still in the thick of it, sellers are less fearful and are banking on their home’s worth. Buyers, perhaps more than ever, are realizing the importance of owning a place where they feel safe and comfortable. Lowball offers are the exception and not the norm.
As the year goes on, I promise to keep you abreast of the latest market trends and happenings. Hang on tight, this is one crazy ride!!!
The New Face of Housing
So, my list of pandemic pet-peeves is growing by the day. I’ve mentioned I dislike using phrases like “the new normal” and “were in this together” because I realize everyone’s experience can be different. However, I am not so sure I can make excuses for Zoom (or the equivalent). When video isn’t activated by all participants, I am forced to stare at a black slot and a name. It feels so exhausting and mostly a waste of time. This is one exception when “where all in this together” is perfectly appropriate. Rant over.
Recently, I called each of our agents individually and asked the question, “What have you learned about yourself/your family during this unprecedented time? The answers, as you might expect, were quite similar to what most of our buyers and sellers have learned: The definition of “home” has changed dramatically! For example, one agent who was close to selling her home to downsize, quickly realized with both adults working from home and a student learning from home, downsizing was NOT a viable option!
Many buyers are now opting for homes with more work areas; the dining room table is no longer conducive to working at home every day. What once would work on a temporary basis, isn’t a realistic long-term solution. Working from home is on-trend, and we are hearing from more and more clients that their employers are willing to pay them more to work from home, thereby reducing the cost of expensive commercial space. This makes sense for both sides but may create unforeseen obstacles in the way some buy and sell real estate.
Sellers and buyers now look for homes that offer more options for each family member- complete with dedicated learning areas for homeschool and hybrid schooling. Lately, school pods (a group of friends and neighbors gathering under one roof for educational collaboration and learning support) have been thrown into the mix. These pods often involve groups of 3-10 students as well as hired tutors or parents, all battling for space. Now instead of shopping for a traditional 3br/2ba home, a buyer may now insist on a massive bonus room, oversized home office or closed space floorplan. It’s too early to know if local builders will quickly take note of this trend and design accordingly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we began seeing unique floorplans popping up by mid- next year if not sooner.
What a difference a few months can make! Last January, few of us would have predicted the scope of 2020. With no real end-date etched in stone, and no magic 8-ball to predict the future, accommodations for non-traditional living will be on the radar for a while. Sellers, if your home boasts extra flex space, extra bedrooms, converted dining rooms or converted garages you may be in the catbird seat!
What a wild ride!
I doubt anyone could argue that 2020 hasn’t been one of the strangest years yet. From COVID-19 symptoms and virus hotspots, to masks, to dust storms, to killer hornets and beyond. This year is historical on so many counts. Yet, arguing is all we seem to do lately. It seems as if families and friends are truly divided on just about EVERYTHING! What seems true today is likely disputed tomorrow.
Who can you trust? Everyone has their “go to” source for the facts, but the contrast of information has never been more divisive and confusing. With easy access to social media and worldwide news programming, it is nearly impossible to zero in on the facts or even determine the definition of a “fact.”
On an average day, Realtors face a great deal of unknowns. However, add COVID-19 to the mix and we are subject to an entire new layer of uncertainty. Though we’ve always taken on the role of counselor, the new expectation is that we have become health advisors as well.
This selling environment can be extremely challenging. Do we allow potential buyers to see the interior of homes or should we expect them to make a buying decision based on photos and a video? Must buyers wear masks and booties? Can they open doors, touch cabinets or open closets? Who turns on the lights, the fans, adjusts the AC, etc.? What about greeting new clients? Do we elbow bump, fist bump, or shake hands of those who still extend theirs? You get the point. Every single business has been challenged to re-think HOW to do business.
Adding to the confusion is the market. Inventory is low. Is that because sellers are fearful of strangers in their homes? Is it because everyone is self-quarantining? Is it the realization that if we must work from home, we need a home that works? The interest rates are favorable, and buyers are plentiful. Maybe it is all that pent-up energy after months at home watching HGTV!
As I write this, I must chuckle. There is no way to know with any certainty that my words will be considered factual next week; we are truly living and making up new rules daily.
In an aim towards becoming less divided, let’s all make a pledge today to stop saying “the new normal” and “we’re all in this together.” It is new, and we are all experiencing whatever “it” is, but the time has come to move forward and try to be respectful of each other’s ways, fears, and individual realities.
🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸Fly your flag, honor your country, HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
To all the homes I’ve loved before…
If you follow this column with regularity, you may remember an emotional article I wrote about moving, packing up memories and looking forward to my next chapter. I don’t mind telling you tears streamed down my face as I wrote the words “We’re moving” and there was a big, loud, ugly cry when I locked the door for the last time.
It was in that moment I truly related to every seller who had experienced the emotion of leaving a long-standing home. It was our “home, our happy place and over the years, it was a backdrop for endless sleepovers, graduation parties, a wedding reception and numerous political events. It was indeed everything the word “home” embodies.
Fast forward three years and, yep you probably guessed it, we are moving again! My husband claims that there are still boxes that he hasn’t opened (which is probably true) and that he’s barely had time to settle in here. I suspect he was beginning to enjoy the completed projects and rejoicing that the seemingly endless parade of construction professionals had come to an end.
Too bad he married a real estate agent!
Each week, I see new listings, visit new construction sites and tour many wonderful communities. Along the way, I gain an extensive network of real estate family, friends and colleagues- some of whom give me sneak peeks of properties hitting the market soon. Cue the inspiration! My life is like a 24/7 version of every show on HGTV. Who can blame me for being tempted to try something new?
I realize it may sound a little crazy, but now that there’s less of an emotional attachment, it becomes easier for me to play “Love it or List it” with our home. It’s only been 3 years, but the kids are grown and have homes of their own. I now look around and see grown-up things, no toys or kid stuff (unless you count the special closet earmarked for the grandkids) and I suppose my adventurous spirit is kicking into high gear. The winds of change are always blowing…
With all that said, I know my house is going to be someone else’s dream home and they will love it and cherish the great memories that they will make here.
And, as a side note, who could have ever imagined that as our moving day approached, the Governor would announce a lockdown? It was mid-March and we were in the beginning phase of learning the breakout of who could work, who could be on the road, what stores would be open and what businesses/tradespeople would be available. Though real estate agents and movers were deemed “essential workers,” the process took on a quite different look and feel for me. Our new location needed some repair work before we could move in. Finding anyone willing or able to come into the home was a project on its own! It has been an interesting 2 months and we shall see what life’s next chapter holds for us…To be continued.
Thank you Parrish and North of the River friends for allowing us to continuously be the top area firm. I am truly blessed to have a great team of dedicated professionals.
Lucky ? to be a Realtor
The world of real estate looks extremely glamorous on TV. Everything seems easy and the viewer gets the best of it all. You rarely see deals that fall through or houses that are beyond repair. You never see the face of the person foreclosed on and money (or the lack thereof) isn’t ever the highlight on most shows. Even the “flippers” tend to win in the end.
Over the years I’ve watched a lot of agents come and go. In 2014, NAR reported 87% of all new agents fail after five years in the industry. I haven’t seen updated numbers, but I imagine that needle hasn’t moved much.
There is a huge turnover in this industry. Many find the long days, sometimes lengthy negotiations, and lack of a stable income daunting at best. In reality, buyers and sellers don’t naturally flock to you. There isn’t a weekly paycheck, and contract negotiations can be difficult at times. It isn’t always a “win” no matter how hard you try. I’ve seen agents become super stars only to burn out after a few years.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I can honestly say, these last 44 years have been kind to me. I wake up each day with passion and enthusiasm about my “job”, my chosen profession, my career. Sure, there are difficult days. Some nights you toss and turn, hoping the simultaneous closings scheduled for the next day work out of for all the parties involved. You ruminate over the reality of the advice given to a grieving spouse about selling their home. You hope the young couple that just bought their first home can really afford those payments. Your life is no longer your own. It’s 24/7 brain power.
Still, the passion is there. For those who can stick it out, learn to juggle and keep all the balls in the air, the work is extremely satisfying. There are very few careers with this kind of impact on others. We are people helpers and we make a difference. If you put in the time, understand the pitfalls and rejoice in the wins, this career can bring many years of joy.
Thank you to all the true professionals in our field, the ones that still strive to provide buyers and sellers with a positive experience. Cheers to the agents that still answer their phones, texts and emails even after the office hours say “closed” and kudos to the agents who respect and admire one another for all the right reasons!
Congratulations to all our great agents. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
The Human Touch Still Matters!
Several months ago, I finally gave in to the dreaded task of looking for a new vehicle. My lease was expiring, and I’d been putting off the shopping experience long enough. To some, all the test driving, bargaining, and dealer research is invigorating. To me, it feels like a chore and, at the time, something I would have gladly paid someone else to do for me. I have many connections, but strangely I don’t have any close friends in the car business able to guide me through this type of painstaking venture.
I started online and began narrowing my search down to several brands, models and price points preparing to head to the dealerships with notebooks full of facts and figures. I was ready! However, when online shopping became in-person shopping, my confidence wavered. I quickly learned excellence in customer service is not the norm. Sure, the first two dealership representatives were polite enough, but I quickly sensed they were looking for a faster transaction. They wanted someone that had a better handle on what they were looking for. I wasn’t an easy sale so their interest in me wasn’t strong. Incidentally, no follow up calls from either salesman.
Dealership three was amazing and the vehicle I purchased was everything I was never looking for. However, it was the customer service that sold me and fully captured my interest from the minute I walked in the door. Sure, there were the bells and whistles -the smell of baked cookies wafting through the dealership, the offerings of fresh brewed coffee or juice, and the shopping voucher I was given to use while reviewing paperwork. But it was the kindness, the patience and the overwhelming sense that my business mattered that made all the difference.
Have we become so conditioned to mediocrity that we become excited when someone acts like they want our business?
I liken my experience to real estate. While 92% of home shoppers begin their search online, at some point human contact becomes a necessity. Buyers and sellers should be valued. They should feel, with each contact they make, they are truly seen as unique and not just a means to a quick sale. Quality service and trusted communication must be the baseline for doing business. Excellence should be the expectation, not the exception.
Thank you to everyone who has done business with our team over the years. You aren’t a number and I hope you feel just as valued and appreciated as I know you are. Many of you have become valued friends and our continued resolution for 2020 and beyond is to make your real estate experience with us a positive memory!
Happy New Year!
Holiday Home Shopping
Is December really a good time to list our home? Are buyers really shopping for homes during the holidays? Year after year we hear sellers asking these questions, and the answer is YES…and sometimes no.
You see, the holiday season can be a bit tricky and December is traditionally thought to be one of the worst months to put a home on the market from a national perspective. That said, we live in Florida and traditional schools of thought are usually thrown out the door. We don’t have snow to impede driving. We don’t have dead lawns, trees bearing no leaves, dirty road slush, etc. We don’t have to pile on the coats and mittens or drag out an ice scraper just to leave the driveway. Our homes tend to look bright and cheerful no matter what the season. This nuance makes it much easier to buy and sell during winter months.
If your home is currently listed or if you’re thinking of listing, consider the following:
- Don’t deck the halls out too much. This is the same advice I give no matter what month we’re in. Decoration overload can kill a sales opportunity. Maybe this is the year to cut down on a few strands of lights, 86 the yard blowups and minimize the Santa themed knickknacks. Remember, a buyer wants to picture their living space, not yours.
- Do embrace the scents of the season. Faint hints of cinnamon, citrus or vanilla help to bring warmth to your space. Just don’t overpower the nose because doing so can turn buyers away.
- Make sure your real estate agent will be in-town for the season. Holiday buyers are serious customers and it’s no different when applied to real estate. If they are making the effort to see a home during one of the busiest times of the year, be ready and prepared to sell.
At last month’s sales meeting one of our agents cited a recent poll which revealed most individuals can only do about 4 hours of family time during the holiday season. Smile. One might assume those needing an escape will seize the opportunity and call a real estate agent about the house they drove by on the way to the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner!
Last year, on Christmas Day, as we were finishing up the last bites of the third or fourth meal of the day, I heard an email ping on my phone. One of our listings had received an offer! I hesitated to call the homeowner but decided the news could be a happy holiday surprise for them. Shortly after finishing their family dinner they opened the offer and felt this was the sign they were looking for! It was perfect timing. It’s a great holiday story they will certainly share for years to come.
Don’t feel bad for your agent. After almost 44 years of wearing a real estate hat, I can tell you with great certainty there is no such thing as a true “day off.” Even when we are out
Meaningful contribution comes in all shapes and sizes. For so many small business owners, “giving back” to the communities we serve is really at the heart of why we exist in the first place. We’re also overwhelmingly appreciative of the larger businesses and corporations showing their support locally too!
As a parent of 3 children who attended north river schools, played sports and actively participated in various community activities, I can fully relate to the seemingly endless volunteer hours and fundraising efforts. Yes, that $2.00 candy bar or $20.00 cookie dough purchase can make a difference not just on your scale! You see, while the size of the contribution may seem small, it all adds up. That’s why our office, made up mostly of Realtors live north of the river, (specifically Parrish) make sure to participate in activities benefiting our neighbors. The youth, the seniors and those less fortunate than we are, make it to the top of our must-do list each year. As realtors, our “job” is to list and sell homes. However, our collective mission is to build neighborhoods full of people who can count on one another and make a difference. We’re very proud of that mission!
From local pizza establishments and hometown grocery stores, to banks and the assorted Mom & Pop shop favorites, we are all in this together! Parents, grandparents, teachers, community leaders and YOU! We collectively have so much power to give back and to give often. A simple gesture or even a contribution of your time creates such a huge difference in the lives of many. Together, we make our community stronger!
It’s hard to believe the year is almost over. Goal setting, budget projects and year-end calculations should, when possible, include financial assistance or sweat equity to our schools and community. I’m proud to say my team is right there with you! Leslie Wells Realty is once again a drop off center for The Mayors Feed the Hungry Program thru November 20th. Let’s make it the best year ever! A heartfelt thank you to all who volunteer their time, energy and financial support to those who need it most.
Wishing everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!
Saluting our Veterans and thanking them every day for their service.