Surviving a seller’s market the likes of the past few years can be exhausting, especially for buyers. Many realize this isn’t the market for them. When most of the COVID restrictions to purchasing a home in Pennsylvania were lifted in June of 2020, homebuyers raced into bidding wars and other highly contested situations. The climate wasn’t on their side and some could argue it was a little caustic for those who needed to move due to career or lifestyle changes. Whatever the case, potential buyers are beginning to see some relief in terms of a smaller pool of competition searching for their dream home.
Nonetheless, a buyer’s market can only be seen in the distance and many would-be buyers remain secluded behind their firewall and smart devices, browsing homes from a greater orbit than most sellers or REALTORS® might care to admit. What opportunities wait in the wings? Is there a path to homeownership for those who are looking to buy, but have been disenchanted by the market over the last few years? Here are three main courses of action buyers should undertake now to stay ahead of the game. In the words of Din Djarin, “This is the way.”
Lock Down An Agent
The absolute best way to spot which homes are entering the market before they go live is to seek the services of a competent real estate professional. But not just any agent will do. We would suggest finding one who is experienced, successful, reputable, hard-working and well-connected. Isn’t this too much to ask? Not necessarily. In fact, even though this certainly narrows the field quite a bit, an agent with a few of these qualities will likely possess them all.
It greatly benefits you to work with a REALTOR® who has a large network already in place, one that’s been working for them. In markets, such as the Greater Scranton area, where housing supply is exceedingly low, real estate professionals are constantly in touch with one another. Get inside intel by utilizing their strengths to your advantage. Yes, you might be the “metaphorical bait” cast out to entice would-be sellers, but it could pay off. By asking your agent what other reputable agents in their business have been sharing, you could get the inside track to finding a home before others even know about it. Your agent may also have presented their services to other homeowners who were thinking about selling. They might know of homes, which are set to debut on the market in the immediate future. Your agent might also be seeing “coming soon” listings from other agents in their MLS.*
While we’re not advocating for anyone to go on private property nor play the creeper in their search for the perfect home, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of buying in this market (or any market, for that matter). First, search out neighborhoods that are desirable, whose location fits the profile you’ve created. Next, walk the streets and find properties that grab your attention. Maybe there are for sale by owner (FSBO) listings or homes that are on the verge of foreclosure that interest you. Of course, your REALTOR® will assist you throughout this whole process, connecting with owners of FSBOs or those trying to avoid the bank from ceasing their property. They’ll see if the owner would have any interest in selling their property to you, a serious buyer. Often, FSBOs have little luck selling on their own, and thus are likely very interested in selling to an agent who has an interested party.
Homeowners’ associations (HOAs) can be another channel for prospective buyers as well. Have your agent reach out to the association to see if there have been rumors of residents who are about to move/sell. That internal chatter might be just what you need to locate your next house. Some of these HOAs regularly have community (digit) bulletin boards, which seek to share information with other members of their association.
Another great strategy to employ is direct mailings (letters of interest or postcards). While snail mail isn’t as effective for real estate agents to deploy, mass mailings straight from buyers could open some doors. This tactic will allow you to avoid the open market. It shows select homeowners that you’re very interested and would strongly consider buying their home at the right price. If you’re willing to put the extra time and money into your home search, this approach can be a game-changer.
Don’t Be Shy
While it is important to routinely stay in touch with your REALTOR® and have them do a bulk of the heavy-lifting, don’t fear getting your hands dirty too! Those looking to buy, need to get out there and leave no stone unturned. They need to network, establish connections (prior to their search is ideal) and get the word out that they are serious about purchasing a home. Share this desire with everyone you meet, but especially family, friends, co-workers in addition to your sphere on social media. There might be opportunities on Facebook to join neighborhood or community groups (though some are private) and identify what you’ve been seeking all along. Social clubs, open houses, country clubs, professional and charity organizations can all be great avenues for gaining worthwhile information in your home search.
If you’re looking to gain the upperhand over other aspiring buyers, keep your ears attune to life events such as the birth of a baby, weddings, divorces, obituaries, just to name a few. These occasions are legitimate leads for those looking to buy.
Finding a home that’s “off market,” either presently not listed on the MLS (i.e. a pocket listing) or not for sale in the first place, can be challenging for most, but it can and has been done. Stay focused and stay up to speed with the inventory in a particular locality. Of course, lean on your agent at all times and good things will develop as time begins to take root in this grand adventure you find yourself in.
For more insight prior to purchasing a home, make sure to read this.
* According to local MLS requirements, unless a listing is filed at the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® office (GSBR) and a seller(s) has explicitly requested in writing that their property not be displayed on the Internet, the listing information must be disseminated by the MLS. Furthermore, any member of the National Association of REALTORS®, and likewise the GSBR, must adhere to the clear cooperation policy, which states that “within one business day of marketing a property to the public [i.e. a “coming soon” listing displayed on social media], the listing Broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants.”