Every week, we ask an Boston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top trends in Boston real estate.
This week, we talked with Marilyn Messenger, a broker with Andrew Mitchell & Company.
Boston Agent (BA): In a real estate market that is embracing the Internet, potential buyers and sellers are more and more willing to tackle the process on their own. How do you explain to clients the value of hiring a real estate professional?
Marilyn Messenger (MM): First, while it may seem that with the availability of information on the Internet more buyers and sellers are willing to tackle the process on their own, according to the 2014 National Association of Realtors Profile of Buyers and Sellers, the reality is that more people are hiring a real estate professional than before the Internet. Nationally, 85 percent of buyers used a Realtor in 2014, compared with 69 percent in 2001; and 88 percent of sellers hired a professional. Of the 9 percent of sellers who actually sold their property, 44 percent knew their buyer previously, so it was really a very small percentage that completed a sale on their own. And by the way, agent assisted sales sold for an average of 13 percent more money than unassisted sales!
The Internet is certainly the first resource for most buyers and sellers to see what properties are for sale and to try to find out what their neighbors’ houses sold for, but that seems to be as far as they go. In the towns west of Boston where I work people know they need a professional to guide them through the process. They want someone who is in the field every day to explain their options, tell them how to prepare their home for showing, manage the negotiations, recommend home inspectors, lenders, attorneys, plumbers, meet with appraisers, handle the paperwork and disclosures, and make sure all parties are kept in loop so that everyone is on-track to meet deadlines. There are so many details, and the need for communication is constant. On the buy-side, there are questions about zoning, lead paint, radon, septic systems, conservation land, home-owner associations, protective covenants, etc.; buyers don’t have time to track down and assimilate all of this information on their own. And, they want an agent to represent them and make sure they are getting the best information available. My clients are busy people who appreciate the knowledge, experience, personal service, efficiency and peace-of-mind that I provide.
BA: Cultivating yourself as an information source is important for attracting serious clients. How do you maintain your position as a real estate authority?
MM: I have had a strong Internet presence for many years and I use it to provide information about home buying and selling and regularly update market reports for the towns I serve. I send email newsletters including my market updates, helpful tips, etc. to my personal sphere. I have a blog and publish on LinkedIn, Google+, and share on Twitter and Facebook. I network in-person with local business associations and also real estate professional organizations; especially CRS® (Certified Residential Specialists®). I have become in contact for several media people who have included me in various publications. I love to learn, and share information and ideas. And of course, nothing replaces a phone call to a friend, neighbor, client, colleague to say “hello” and give them some information that they might find helpful and worth passing along.
I am also very fortunate to have many great clients who have taken the time to post recommendations on LinkedIn and other outlets and that is extremely helpful. Real estate is a relationship business and authority comes from genuine caring and interactions with people.
BA: CoreLogic’s recent home price report showed Boston home prices rising 7.4 percent in November, year-over-year. How have these increasingly high prices affected your business, and, with its low inventory, do you think Boston can maintain these increases without falling into another bubble?
MM: Nothing lasts forever, at some point things will moderate. I don’t think anyone can predict the future but bubbles tend to happen as a result of people buying on spec and paying more than they can afford. My clients in the Wayland and Sudbury area are buying places to live and plan to stay in their houses for a long time. First-time buyers have the most difficulty finding something they like and can afford but for the most part higher prices have been offset by low interest rates and it is becoming easier to get a mortgage. Most of my clients are pretty conservative and won’t spend as much as lenders say they can qualify for. Also, even with low inventory, prices have not yet returned to peak so they still feel like there is an upside.