Find a home in this overheated market


Peggy Bellar, a real estate agent from the West Hamlet of Catskills in Margaretville, New York, recalls the languid days of two years ago, when homes stayed on the market for an average of 200 days before being sold.

“Now we have a listing up on Wednesday morning and generally have it fully under contract with several offers by Sunday night,” Ms. Bellar said. “So when an ad takes longer or doesn’t reach the expected level of activity, we naturally wonder why. “

In this manic, thin-picking market, a harsh light is cast on homes that don’t sell right away. In a few weeks, the remains are soiled. It sinks at the bottom of Zillow and Realtor research. Buyers notice the paltry agglomeration of “views” and “savings” and ask, “What’s wrong?” “

A better question may be: is there an opportunity here that others overlook?

“If a home has been on the market for more than 90 days, it’s quite possible that you are getting a purchase of real value,” said Dale F. Stewart, a salesperson at Houlihan Lawrence in Millbrook, NY.

Ms Stewart said she was working with a buyer who has an accepted offer on a property just outside of Hudson, NY, in Columbia County that has been listed for over a year. “This is a real diamond parcel in the rough with a few run down outbuildings,” she said. “My client has a vision and is able to see beyond what previous buyers could not.” The offer is approximately $ 100,000 below the asking price of $ 575,000.

According to the dozen or so agents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who were interviewed for this article, homes are languishing in the market for reasons that are both obvious and mysterious. The property may be close to a busy road or a cemetery. It can have a sagging roof or a very small lot. The style can be an old-fashioned log cabin or duplex rather than a chic, modern farmhouse or cottage. The interior can look dated (dark, compartmentalized tones) rather than modern (fluid and white).

In the age of online marketing and invisible shopping, a home also may not sell quickly if it has been poorly staged and photographed, or if the photos exaggerate the sizes of rooms or touch up faulty surfaces, so that buyers are disappointed when they shoot. for a projection.

“Since 99% of listings are viewed online, photos are very important,” said Kyle Hinding, of Coldwell Banker Realty in Essex, Connecticut. “Some agents still refuse to use a photographer and I think it is to the detriment of the seller.”

Even when the images are professional, the story they tell may not be flattering. For example, nothing says a house was destroyed like the image of a snow-covered lawn in June. A 1989 Tudor on three pastoral acres in the county town of Dutchess in Milan, NY, has been squatting the market since December, dropping 11 prices from its initial request of $ 925,000. Why? Gary DiMauro Real Estate’s listing agent declined to comment, but current photos showing bare trees and an indoor inground pool do him no favor. (The current price, by the way, is $ 699,000.)

While real estate agents agree on the importance of marketing, they are divided on other characteristics that could prevent a property from rushing into a contract. Like a location on a busy road. In rural mountain areas, Ms. Bellar highlighted the convenience of city-maintained roads that provide access to shops and services, especially in winter. Amy Samett, a sales associate at Ellis Sotheby’s International Realty in Nyack, NY, said she would have ranked a busy road higher on the cons list before the pandemic, “but that seems to be less of a factor now. Maybe because so many people come from the city, noise is not so much of a problem? “

The interior styling of lagging properties can be off-putting or spark the imagination. Ms Hinding had to convince reluctant clients to look at a three-bedroom apartment farm house in Ivoryton, Connecticut. He needed “all the cosmetics” and had a lousy above-ground pool, she said, “but the vendors had done all the heavy lifting: roof, furnace, water heater and central air conditioning.” Its customers paid slightly less than the asking price of $ 317,000 and received septic tank repairs and asbestos remediation. (Buyers looking for bargains should take note when the ad displays a single exterior photo, like this one. When the interiors are out of sight, the buyer looking for a turnkey property doesn’t is probably unlucky.)

Ms Stewart described a sum of $ 650,000 house in Kinderhook, NY, in Columbia County, which has been on the market for over 275 days, as a “70s love shack – it’s a wall-to-wall rug and super dated, but damn it could rock with 100 $ 000 “.

The other obstacles to a sale are not easily visible.

It could be a homeowner who is emotionally attached to a home and repeatedly cancels contracts, or a homeowner who is willing to wait months or years for the ‘right buyer’ to show up and pays whatever is asked of him.

In the case of a tailor-made four bedroom lodge on 64 acres near Cooperstown, NY, which has been on and off the market since April 2019 and is currently listed at $ 549,000, the sticking point is the lack of high-speed internet. “It’s just outside an area that has already received fiber optic cable,” said Hazen Reed of Keller Williams in upstate New York, who shares the list with her business partner. and his wife, Susan Muther. Mr. Reed expects the service to be available soon, but unless buyers know they can get it right away, “they’re nervous about taking the next steps.” (On the bright side, they didn’t seem fazed by the house’s obnoxious-sounding street name: Bedbug Hill Road.)

And some stubborn announcements are simply inexplicable. “I can’t figure it out,” said Catherine A. Mondello, a broker in Dutchess County, of a 1950s ranch in Hyde Park, NY Priced at $ 369,000, the house has been sitting ever since. more than two months. “It’s very neat, very well maintained,” Mondello continued. After showing it a dozen times, the only negative feedback was wishing it was bigger. “I think you just have to wait for the right person,” she said.

Agents say that at the end of the day, the three things that determine whether a home sells quickly are: price, price, price.

“Proper pricing is essential not only to sell a slow-growing property, but also to get the optimal price for any property in a sellers market,” Bellar said. Or, as Ms. Stewart said, “buyers are impatient, but they’re not stupid”.

Sandi Park, an associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Dutchess County, regularly advises sellers to treat transactions “gracefully and at fair prices.” She warned that any buyer – even a highly motivated one with a wheelbarrow of cash – can’t stand being a victim of a pandemic. And with house prices at an all time high and the easing of Covid restrictions, she said, “people are becoming sensitive to the question: ‘what if the market adjusts? Am I going to have an overpriced potato? ‘ “

So when Mrs. Park was fixing the price of a house in Millbrook, NY, which needed updating but was on a quiet country road on five bucolic acres, she listed it for $ 287,000 and had 62 hits and 32 offers. “The house is selling well above the asking price,” she said, declining to give the figure because it had not yet closed. A comparable house in Millbrook, with much less square footage, was listed in May for $ 310,000, reduced in June to $ 299,999 and is still on sale.

For buying clients, Ms. Park intensely examines homes that have remained as pieces, including those for sale by their owners and even listings that have been taken down. If she spots a rough gemstone, she goes for it and offers a lower price before the seller makes a formal discount online which triggers multiple auctions. “I just made a deal with a client for $ 35,000 less than asking this way,” she said. His clients call him “Swoop Sandi”.

When it comes to pricing, third-party websites like Zillow and Realtor offer useful transparency (up to a point), but also contribute to slow property issues, agents said. Buyers see a home’s sales history and draw their own conclusions about why a price was reduced. But sometimes the story is more complicated than some stats suggest, and the agent may never get a chance to explain it. Zillow’s habit of reporting how many people are viewing or saving a list further shapes negative perceptions. If the numbers are meager, viewers might assume something is wrong and move on.

Then again, a house that is not suffocated by interest has its own charms. If enthusiasm for a home is dampened, said Peggy Bellar in Margaretville, it may be for no other reason than buyer fatigue. “A lot of people have been in a lot of bidding situations and are shy at the moment.”

Ms Bellar had one final explanation for a dying announcement: “when everything has been done right” (including the very important pricing), then “maybe just a slight adjustment factor in the real estate market”.

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