Realtors get this question multiple times a month. Typically a person’s single largest investment is their house. They ask about the market when they see a Realtor because they want to protect their investment. If they are young they might want to move into a larger house. If they are middle-aged they might want a house with a larger or smaller yard. If they’re nearing retirement they could be planning to move to a retirement community. Everyone has a reason to ask. The problem the Realtor faces is how to provide the maximum amount of data in a format that can be easily understood and assimilated, and doing it multiple times each week.
I meet this need with a process known as a Real Estate Review. It’s not an appraisal, it’s not just a list of sales pulled out of the Multiple Listing Service, and it’s not even a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). It’s just the facts with a personal touch to give the individual the basic information he or she needs. If they want to go further into the process, fine; but this isn’t it.
A review consists of two, maybe three, parts.[dropcap]1[/dropcap]First, there is a market overview. What has sold, what hasn’t sold, what is on the market in the area where the person lives. This could be as broad as a city or county, or could be as detailed as a neighborhood. It shows trends, recent sales and houses currently on the market. Wouldn’t you like to know what the houses in your neighborhood are selling for? Sure you would. And what the Jones’ are asking for a house that’s similar to yours? All that’s in the first part of the report. [dropcap]2[/dropcap]Second there is the review of all the local property the person owns. It could be multiple residential units, lots in developments or raw acreage. Agents can pull all this up in a matter of minutes and compare it to the latest monthly, quarterly and annual market trends. The Real Estate Review does not give you a price for your property. It will tell you what you already know and will confirm that the tax department thinks your cottage is a mansion. But it really isn’t a CMA. It’s certainly not an appraisal. It’s just an overview. None of this is a sales pitch, and none of it incurs an obligation. You could ask several agents to help you understand the market in this manner and you might use the experience you gain as a filter to choose between them for when you are ready to buy or sell. But don’t go to the bank and say your $200,000 house is now worth $250,000. Could be, might not be. All the Review gives you is the overview at the macro level. [dropcap]3[/dropcap]For most everyone, steps one and two provide sufficient information. If you want more you can ask for it, or do it yourself to some extent using Zillo, Trulia, Realtor.com or other websites that give consumers information on properties currently for sale. But what good is that, really? The Jones’ property might never sell at the asking price. If you price your house the same as theirs then you’ve just joined the ranks of folks whose houses are listed but aren’t really on the market.
To really get good information you have to know what has sold. I suggest you take a look at the www.Beverly-Hanks.com website. To my knowledge this the only local site that lists recently sold properties as well as those currently on the market. You can’t get this information at Zillo, Trulia, etc.
To utilize this feature, get into the search engine on the right side of the home page and fill in your search criteria. When you finish and click on SEARCH you will get a page showing photos and basic data on up to 12 properties. It will also tell you that you are viewing 1 through 12 of 32, or 132, or whatever your search produced. Note these are ALL the MLS listings that match your data, not just the Beverly-Hanks listings.
The next step is to pick a property similar to yours. Say 123 Mystreet in Asheville. Click on that and the listing will open with all the MLS data plus informative videos, charts, graphs and slide shows. At the bottom right you’ll see an area entitled Related Properties. There are two links there. One is for Nearby Properties that are currently for sale. The second link, however, is unique. It is Sold Properties. Click on it and you’ll see similar properties that have sold recently. It will give you the address, the basic characteristics of the home (bedrooms, baths, size, lot size), asking price at the time of the sale, the selling price and the date the transaction closed. All wonderful stuff that is typically known only to local real estate professionals.
When your agent provides your review you’ll have to spend time looking it over either with your agent or by yourself. This can be tedious stuff but charts, graphs and videos can help break the monotony of lines on spreadsheets. Add in your own search information (as described above) and you are going to be very well informed.
How is your neighborhood doing? Is it ascending or descending? Are the yards neat, are the streets clean? Look at your house from the street. Is the vegetation overgrown? Part of my checklist for a Review is to go to the appropriate county GIS website and rummage around for a tax photo taken back in the old days. Sometimes I’ll take another snapshot with my tablet computer and display the two for the client during the review.
The process of understanding the market is thus underway.
Real estate reviews are both enjoyable and helpful so long as both parties realize it isn’t a listing appointment. The objective is to provide enough basic information so the consumer has a handle on what’s really happening in the market. It also gives the agent some exposure to a person who might become a client somewhere down the road.
A real estate review is an hour at most, and it’s clearly a win-win situation. Call your local friendly Realtor today and get the ball rolling.