"I'm worried about the war in Ukraine," the Seller said. "How quickly can you get my house on the market? (We're all worried about the war; we are sending our prayers and donations.)
And while we live in a global economy, AND there are certainly bound to be major disruptions here at home as a result of increased instability overseas, with respect to the war's impact on housing prices here in the Bay Area, it's important to note that the U.S. housing market is still woefully short of the required housing stock we need just to fill current demand - four million units short NATIONWIDE, in fact!
Moreover, inflation is outpacing interest rates by a couple of percentage points, (interest rates actually dropped slightly this week), making real estate a smart place to invest. Additionally, demand is exceptionally high, and people still need to house their families - no matter what - which, unfortunately, adds up to HIGHER housing prices (not lower) in our neck of the woods.
In short, Real Estate experts forecast that prices will continue to climb for the foreseeable future. (I know, it seems counterintuitive.) Whether that changes dramatically at some future point in time remains to be seen. For years, many of us have felt that the rapid pace of rising prices was unsustainable, and yet, here we are with multiple offers on nearly every sale. In short, it's too soon to panic!
But for argument's sake, let's say you allow fear to get the better part of you, and we sign your listing agreement today . . . there's still a fair number of hoops to jump through between a signed agreement and a "market-ready" house. Assuming your home needs NO window dressing (and I've yet to walk into that house), we will still need to set inspections, order a permit history, photograph the property, establish a marketing campaign, create a disclosure package, and hold the house open for a period of 1-2 weeks. If there's work to be done, add at least 3-4 weeks to that schedule. Substantial work? 6-8 weeks.
Here's the tricky part: good stagers, painters, and handymen are already calendared well into May. Contractors are booked into 2023. In other words, it's not just YOUR schedule we are working with, but most of the trades as well (not to mention our own.) Let's also remember that deliveries are on hold for refrigerators, windows, lighting, and other goods that are stuck out on a barge somewhere waiting to be unloaded. Make no mistake, it takes a village to get your house ready for the market which is why Sarah and I employ a full-time project manager to help oversee the 101 tasks it requires to bring your house to market in its best light and ready to compete.
Today, Jill is at the commercial nursery retrieving yet another truckload (yep, we've got a truck!) of plants for a property that's due to hit the market next week. She'll also copy keys, organize the vendors, drop off donuts to the stagers, make a million-and-one trips to Home Depot, specify and order lighting, and set calendars and budgets for several properties that are currently in different phases of preparation. Meanwhile, Sarah is meeting some heavy hitters to show a property privately, and is encouraging a Seattle couple to fly down this weekend to beat a potential interest hike. Me? I'm combing through contracts, coaching clients through their disclosures, making sure properties are in the MLS, writing the blog, and leaving no stone unturned . . . It's ALL hands on deck!
"What about an off-market sale?" (I'm glad you asked.)
Here's our pat answer:
"There is more than one way to successfully market a property and depending on the Sellers’ circumstances and goals, 'off-market' sales have the benefit of delivering certainty and far more privacy. Moreover, they don’t require the Seller to move out as is often the case when homes are publicly open and on full display. But take heed, off-market sales require a steady hand as - by virtue of their covert status - they will not be 'market-tested,' thus, are inherently full of question marks on both sides of the transaction. For Sellers, it’s "Could we have gotten more had we fully exposed the property?" And for Buyers, it’s “Did we pay too much?” The answer for both parties is “No one knows for sure.” However, if everyone is in agreement and both sides understand the risks and rewards, an off-market sale can - when appropriate - be an elegant and viable solution."
Do Sarah and I recommend an off-market approach in today's current buying frenzy? No, we do not, but ultimately, it's your house, your money, and your call. (We work for you.) For some Sellers, the priority isn't the bottom line, but about time and flexibility in the house, including a potential rent back through the school year. For others, they simply don't want the neighbors knowing their business. (That's fair. Piedmont is a small town and it's tough to keep things confidential in a village.)
In the meantime, whether you decide to sell on-market, off-market, or by some creative hybrid approach, we believe the current marketplace is still favoring Sellers of all stripes and persuasions and will be for the next several months at least.
Just know that whatever you decide, proceed with rationality and a clear way forward. BIG decisions should never be made in fear or panic, but once made, we'll get right to work ASAP! However, don't expect your house to hit the market this Sunday. We're fast, but we're also thorough, and that takes some time and good planning.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.