“There are no secrets, only strategies,” said realtor Allie Altschuler Wednesday, before a group meeting of would-be home buyers and real estate agents.
Altschuler and realtor Steve Clark’s Clarkliving team from Compass Real Estate presented the informal chat, “Building Your Future Together: A Valentine’s Guide to Buying a Home,” over snacks and Valentine’s candy, in the company’s spacious offices above Colorado Boulevard, in the Playhouse District.
The company serves a large and busy Pasadena market, but also markets homes in Northeast LA.
“As we’ve been meeting, here in the office,” said Altschuler, before the presentation, “We’ve all been hearing the same issues and questions and concerns. We thought this would be a good way to answer a lot of those at once.”
Clark, who leads the team, noted right off the bat that oftentimes, real estate agents bring out the skeptic in every home buyer.
“When I first started in this business,” said Clark, “I was really surprised at how low the moral bar was set for this industry. It was just people in it for the money. They have no skin in the game.”
Real estate is lucrative, to be sure, but as Clark and Altschuler pointed out, the right real estate agent can truly make all the difference in your home sale.
Both Clark and Altschuler noted the current trend towards off-market home sales. That is, homes that might be owned by a seller who wishes to be discreet, or has a deal they know will take off, the moment it is announced.
“Everyone wants those deals,” said Altschuler, “but they come and go fast. You might never see them.”
Clark also pointed out that in an off-market sale, the buyer may actually end up paying more than the market would have offered, because of the excitement surrounding the sale.
“A seller may say, ‘We were going to put this on the market next week for $900k,’ said Clark, ‘but if you want it, you can pick it up for $1 million,’ and you end up paying more for it.”
But Clarkliving agent April Kass told the group that it doesn’t always go that way since the competition can be unpredictable.
“There are still gems out there,” she said.
Clark also showed trepidation about buying through online platforms where buyers miss out on developing a relationship with a human agent.”
The same goes for discount brokerages (you know the ones, they said) who cannot provide the same intangibles that a more qualified realtor can.
Said Altschuler, “I always remind buyers to ask a realtor they’re trying to vet, ‘Is this your full time job?’ It’s a concise question that will quickly tell you a lot about the person you’re dealing with.” And, she added, the familiar adage, “If what they’re offering you sounds too good to be true…” Clark agreed, saying, “Our bottom line is “Can we help the client?”
The team also stressed that home buying is a business of minutes, and that buyers should expect their agents to understand that as well. A realtor who doesn’t return emails for three days, might have the same attitude towards a mortgage broker, for example, and that could hurt your chance on a great deal happening right at this moment.
Buyers should be less concerned with how long an agent has been in the business, and more concerned about how many transactions they’ve been involved in. An agent who’s been working for 20 years doing one deal per year isn’t likely to be as savvy as an agent who’s been working for three years and does 20+ deals per year.
Many agents come off well at first, but experience counts, as in any other field.
In regards to being financially ready, buyers should also do their own homework, said Clark.
“You may be test driving a BMW, only to find out that you only qualify to buy a Honda,” he said, noting that there’s nothing wrong with a Honda, but it’s better to have a clear idea of your buying power before you go out and fall in love.
Choosing the right agent can also be as easy as having the right recommendations, said Clark.
“Talk to anyone who has worked with them before,” said Clark. “That goes for mortgage brokers, and other agents and other buyers. Those recommendations will be the most important.”
“Do your research,” Altschuler emphasized. “It’s a relationship. Make sure you mesh as humans.”
And, keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme, Clark said, “It’s about communication. Don’t have multiple agents.”