Times have changed since the real estate boom of the 1980s. New technology, the flow of information, the global economy and a shift in societal structures have altered the real estate game forever. This isn’t our parents’ real estate market. And some of the strategies that were put to use in the ‘80s, if implemented today, would cause financial harm or result in missed opportunities — or both.
Here are five tips to consider as you explore buying or selling in this next generation of real estate.
1. We have evolved: Owning might not be for everyone
The typical home buyers of last generation got married in their early 20s, moved to a single-family home in the suburbs, got a 30-year fixed mortgage and planned to pay it off. Buying a home happened once, maybe twice in a lifetime.
It’s no longer standard practice to live in your hometown after high school or college. In fact, it’s more common for today’s professional to take a job in Denver, Dallas or even Dubai. Additionally, that stable long-term job, with access to a pension after retirement, has all but evaporated. Buyers change jobs more often than ever. The flexibility granted by renting has provided a different picture of today’s American Dream for many.
2. Technology speeds things up: But don’t rush a real estate purchase
Not unlike most industries, technology and the Internet have sped up the processes of looking for, transacting or selling a home. A great new listing could hit a buyer via a text from their agent, an email alert from the local MLS, a notification from Zillow on a mobile device and maybe even an old-fashioned phone call from the buyer’s agent. The actual real estate transaction process has been sped up as well. Clients can sign contracts or review property inspection reports and disclosures on a mobile device during their beach vacation. Even so, no matter how quickly we move or how much technology can make our world efficient today, buying or selling a home should never be rushed.
3. The real estate agent’s role has shifted: But a good agent still matters
Before the Internet and online listings, some people believed the real estate agent’s only value was to provide access to the listings. It’s always been a highly emotional and financial decision, and a good local agent likely did more than just open doors in the 1980s. Today, an additional part of the agent’s role is to make sense of the information. Data alone is meaningless without color. A good local agent, living and breathing their market, will add more value than ever. Finally, in many parts of the country, where attorneys are not involved in real estate transactions, the agent is the center of the transaction. Don’t settle. If you are not impressed with your agent, find another. The right agent can make all the difference.
4. It’s a seller-beware culture today: Do your homework
Search is in the DNA of millennial or Gen Y buyers today. They simply won’t take anyone’s word for anything. They will search, research and double-check everything. A smart seller today needs to be armed and get one step ahead of the buyer. Today’s buyers have much more at their disposal, and so it’s the seller who needs to beware. Not knowing what the buyers are seeing or staying one step ahead of them can affect your bottom line when going on the market today. Leverage today’s resources and technology and think like a buyer before going on the market. Once you go live, there’s no turning back. If you aren’t completely ready to sell, don’t list.
5. Know all of the loan options available today: Choose carefully
Access to dozens of loan products didn’t exist just 15 years ago. Banks have developed new products to evolve with the times. The acceptance and use of some of those products, for some people, led to a steady stream of foreclosures years later. When I bought my first home in 2004, my father suggested I get a 30-year fixed mortgage. I thought he was crazy. I didn’t know what I’d be up to in five years, much less 30. A buyer today needs to spend some time researching loan options and consider them in the context of their personal situation. Work closely with a good local mortgage professional to help decide which type of loan makes sense for you – now and in the future.
It’s emotional — and that’s not likely to change
No matter the decade, the changes in consumer behaviors, or the type of home, real estate transactions will always be more personal than any other. Add to this the changes in technology and the access to information, and it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. Unlike buying a new flat-screen TV or selling a used car online, buying or selling a home will always be an emotional purchase. A home is where people have made some of their most important memories, a place that has been constant through the ups and downs of life. While the world may be speeding up on what seems like a daily basis, it’s always a good idea to take it slow when buying or selling a home.