I won’t try to predict what is going to happen to the real estate market in 2016. What I will say is sellers are sellers, and buyers are buyers.
Sellers generally think their home is the best one in the neighborhood and surely must be worth more than the one next door. Likewise, every buyer interested in a home think the property has flaws and issues and, therefore, is significantly overpriced. In the end, these two parties need to come to terms if they want to make a real estate transaction.
When I got into real estate years ago, I was a young and naïve real estate agent. I joke that I didn’t know the ways of the world like I do now.
I remember one instance early in my career when I helped out another real estate agent who was on vacation. His seller had received an offer. The negotiations were tough. Neither side wanted to budge.
Even though this deal involved a fairly low priced home, it wasn’t going well. The seller, who I had to represent, didn’t want to move off of her price. As I tried to get her to agree, she eventually questioned who I was working for. Having little experience in life’s lessons, I told her, "I was working to try to get her house sold."
I knew it almost as the words were coming out of my mouth, but it was too late. She hung up on me and called the other agent in my office who she actually had hired. I felt terrible, but I learned a great lesson. Agents represent their client – first and foremost.
She didn't share the same goal that I had. I thought helping her sell her home was the goal, but she didn't see it that way. In the end, the client’s best interests are what the client wants. Sometimes, this is hard for agents to remember.
After that experience, I started to ask my clients more personal questions like, “Why do you want to sell?” “Why are you looking to buy?” “Why do you want this neighborhood?” And, “What’s your bottom line or highest price?"
As I became more seasoned, many clients either came back to me or referred me to their family and friends because I took their transaction seriously, as if it were my own deal. I learned from my experiences that every deal is different and every client has their own motivation – buyers and sellers alike. With this prospective, I could better represent their interests.
As you look forward to 2016 and think about buying or selling property, consider your motivations. Why are you looking to buy or sell? You can list important elements to the transaction as you see them and then rank them. Most importantly, be sure to share these realizations with your real estate agent.
An agent needs to know what is important to you and why. These motivators can be helpful to an agent when they are trying to find your perfect home. A seller's agent also needs to know your motivations and whether it is more important for you to just "get it sold" rather than getting it sold for a certain amount.
We can worry all we want about the real estate market in 2016. Will interest rates rise? Will prices stay low? Will the government add more obstacles and costs? But in the end, we have no control over those questions.
Let’s grab hold of what we can control – think about our goals for the new year and make 2016 a great year for real estate. The best place to start is often a consultation with your local real estate professional or financial planner.
• Jim Haisler is CEO of the Heartland Realtor Organization, a nonprofit trade group based in Crystal Lake serving real estate professionals throughout northern Illinois. Reach him at 815-459-0600.