Thursday, August 10, 2017

What Makes a Good Real Estate Agent Great?

I've spent several hours over the past few days talking to past Pearce clients about their real estate buying or selling experiences.  It was so useful, and so gratifying, that I've decided that I need to do it on a regular basis!  I asked each of them to tell me what qualities s/he found most important in the agent used in a particular transaction, and which services offered were most appreciated.  And here are the results:

1.  Overwhelmingly, the number one factor that made agents great was communication.  Clients were happiest when agents kept in touch regularly, yet this simple fact was not taken for granted, as many agents don't do that.  People I contacted told me over and over again that it was really important to their selling or buying process that they be kept informed, and that their agents were excellent at living up to this need.  It was mentioned so often that it should be the first thing buyers and sellers ask about in an interview.  However, the fact that you ask about it and someone says that they will communicate often, does not guarantee that s/he will.  Tip for clients:  Make your expectations clear upfront.  Tip for agents:  Don't prejudge what a client will want to hear.  Tell him/her everything.

2.  The second point that arose again and again was that great agents control the process.  They serve as backups for clients, who may be buying or selling from far away, who may never have bought or sold a property before, and who almost always have a lot going in, in addition to the transaction in question.  Many people mentioned that their agents kept track of dates and deadlines, always reminding them not to drop the ball or let an important clause lapse.  Great agents anticipate the next need, and regularly remind clients to stay ahead of the curve.

3.  Great agents are knowledgeable about local customs.  They can explain mill rates and closing practices.  They can talk about differences from town to town.  They serve as sources for questions and research help.

4.  It was surprising how many people mentioned that their agents went above and beyond.  We don't always know that clients recognize what is part of the job, and what qualifies as doing "extra".  I heard of an agent getting the mail, checking the property often, taking care of repairs that needed to be done before the closing, and other tasks big and small.  It was gratifying to know that clients do appreciate that such service is more than the basic representation.

5.  Flexibility was a key trait mentioned.  Buying and selling are activities often done outside of the regular working day, and clients were impressed that agents rolled with the punches.  Also, great agents accepted that needs ebb and flow, and that sometimes searches would get back burnered, while at other times people were ready to move quickly.

What did they not tell me?  I was a little surprised that they didn't mention help with pricing or offers, or advice on choosing among properties.  That doesn't necessarily mean that clients don't look to agents for actual real estate advice, but it does seem to indicate that all the points above are what made the difference.  That suggests that there could be less emphasis on how long an agent has been in business, and more on service.  One seller used a questionnaire to choose an agent, and got pushback from those who didn't want to answer questions formally.  From everything I heard, great agents have no reason not to make promises upfront, because they really deliver down the line!  In fact, I should close by quoting one client:  "She really became a friend".  That's right, everybody.  While you are buying or selling, you may talk to your agent more than anyone else in your life, for that period of time.  Choose someone you like!

Monday, July 24, 2017

New Haven Outperforming Other Connecticut Cities

Fairfield County, with its big corporations, is still reeling from the actual, but even more the psychological, effects of GE's move to Boston.  GE is still leaving a lot of employees in Fairfield, but both the home and office market reflect the strain.  Hartford, on the other hand, is losing Aetna after a century and a half, and other big insurance companies have moved, downsized, or merged as well.  In addition, the city itself is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, which doesn't improve its chances to pick up new office users.

That leaves New Haven, with its startups, biotech related to Yale, and medical complex, to pick up the slack.  New Haven also has an easier time of recruiting young professionals, since there is a vibrant nightlife scene, and many residential choices, from close-in city neighborhoods to high-rise condos and apartments.  New Haven officials and developers are banking that this will continue, and the future is looking bright for that trajectory. 

Now, if only Connecticut could solve its fiscal problems, we'd be all set.  Come on, legislators, help us out here!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Southwestern CT housing prices strain owners and renters (From CT Mirror)

The following article is from the CT Mirror and was written by Schae Beaudoin, please click here to visit CT Mirror online

Almost half of Americans pay too much for their rent, and in southwestern Connecticut those numbers are even higher, says a national study.
Harvard University’s annual State of the Nation’s Housing report says 18 million renters across the nation are burdened by their housing prices. Homeowners and renters are considered “burdened” if they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
In Fairfield and New Haven counties, about 55 percent of renters are considered burdened. Both counties are in the top ten in the nation for percentage of burdened renters. The national average is about 48 percent.
Additionally, over 11 million renters in the U.S. were considered “severely burdened” in 2015 because they paid at least half of their income for housing. The number of homeowners considered severely burdened was at its lowest since 2004, but there still were more than 7.5 million Americans in that category.
In their proportion of burdened homeowners, Fairfield County is behind only the New York City and Los Angeles metro areas. The Hartford metro area, which includes Hartford, Middlesex and Tolland counties; the New Haven metro area; and the Worcester, Mass., metro area, which includes Windham county, also are above the national average for burdened homeowners, which is 24 percent. About one out of every three homeowners in Fairfield and New Haven counties are burdened, according to the report.
Burdened renters and homeowners
Percentage of burdened renters and homeowners in CT, surrounding metro areas and the national average
AreaPercent of burdened rentersPercent of burdened homeowners
Fairfield County metro55%35%
New Haven metro55%31%
Hartford metro47%27%
Worcester metro46%27%
New York metro53%36%
Boston metro49%28%
National average48%24%
Rents in Fairfield County are among the highest in the nation, with median rents higher than those in the New York and Boston metro areas.
Pete Gioia, economist at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said Fairfield County’s high prices aren’t new, and Connecticut is relatively affordable compared to the larger surrounding cities. In Boston and New York City, housing prices are growing faster than they are in Connecticut. Affordability problems arise when houses in buyers’ desired price range aren’t available.
“Is the housing stock that’s available comparable to what purchasers are looking for? That’s where you get into some affordability issues,” Gioia said. “This is not just true of Connecticut. This is true of other areas. There’s a lot of buyers out there for reasonably priced housing. There’s fewer buyers out there for very high-end, expensive and large properties.”
While median income for renters in New York, Boston and Fairfield County are similar, the median rent in Fairfield County is about $100 higher per month than in Boston and New York, suggesting higher rents, not lower incomes, are behind the burdens on renters in Connecticut.
Fairfield and New Haven counties have some of the lowest percentages of 18- to 24-year-olds heading households. About 10 percent of 18- 24-year-olds are independent heads of households in those counties. The national average is closer to 20 percent.
Gioia said affordability probably keeps some younger millennials from moving out on their own in Connecticut, and many who do leave for other places. Gioia said students who leave the state for college are more likely to stay out of state. Larger metro areas also appeal more to younger people, he said.
“If you’re an unmarried 23-year-old, you want to be where the action is, and there’s a heck of a lot more action in New York City or downtown Boston than there is in Connecticut,” Gioia said, adding many young people come back to Connecticut later in life when they begin families.
However, Gioia said there is economic opportunity here. “If you’ve got the skills, you can make a pretty darn good income in Connecticut, even if you’re fairly young,” Gioia said.
The report found that nationally, higher rents may become a norm. The number of rental units costing less than $800 per month has decreased between 2005 and 2015. In the same decade, units with monthly rents over $2,000 increased by 1.5 million.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Think Ahead

I've been posting recently about the lack of listings in many parts of Connecticut, and about our need for certain types of property in particular.  What we haven't stressed is the lead time for many sales to consummate, given environmental and zoning concerns, plus financing contingencies and the usual delays and detours.  Given the demographics of our state, and some of its fiscal issues, we know that there are lots of people out there that may have property they hope to sell in the coming years.  Many of those putative sellers should be talking to us now.  We have investors who are flexible about occupancy and who might be likely to prefer a seller who wants to continue to use the property for a period of time.  We have buyers with longer lead times that would be interested in knowing what would be available at a point in the foreseeable future.  We have tenants in leases that are not yet up, but who are looking to move at the end of their terms.

All of this is to say that there is no time like the present to think about the future!  Call us today to see what your property is worth, and to strategize about the best time to market it for best results.  The answers could surprise you.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Where are the Listings?

Our commercial real estate sector in Connecticut is short of listings!  On the sites we monitor, and in the meetings we attend, new listings are thin on the ground these days, all over the state.  Some of it is time of year--people are thinking about vacations, not real estate.  However, there are companies and investors out there looking, and there's not much new to show them.  Many of our leads these days come in from online sources, and there it's the most recent that attracts the attention.  When nothing changes in the inventory, we get fewer leads. 

What's the takeaway here?  If you've got something you have been thinking about selling, now is your chance to get the greatest response.  If you are offering something new, you'll be in very select company, and those looking will respond.  So ignore the weather, and the season, and list now.