Real Estate is a game. Are you playing to win?

My daughter is 11 and plays volleyball. She started with the pee wee club when she was 7 and has been playing on the 12U rep team for the past 2 years. She practises about 11 hours a week with 2 to 3 different coaches. As she is developing into a stronger player and has the foundational aspects of the game behind her, I watch her play during her tournaments and notice how she is changing her game. No longer is she just happy to get a serve over the net or keep a rallying going. Now she plays strategically. She is aware of her teammates on the court, and in this age category not all the players are developmentally at the same stage of strength or skill. I observe that she knows exactly who is playing where and deliberately will set a volley over a weaker player’s head to the next position. She takes control of her position and covers for the next girl if they are more timid. Her determination to keep that ball in the air is fierce. She plays not to lose, but to win. She’s a quiet competitor – focused, determined and consistent. I typically hear comments in the stands as the other parents and spectators watch. When first stepping onto the court, I hear the soft whispers: “look at number 3. Look at how small is she is.” I know they have picked my daughter out. Yes, indeed the smallest on the team by a good 1-2 feet compared to the taller 11 and 14 year old year old girls. At this age, some of her competitors are more like grown women. I kinda chuckle because I know what is coming next. Just wait until she makes her first serve. Then I wait to eavesdrop on their next comment. “Did you see that number 3!” There it is. Proof she deserves to be there. And now the respect comes. Now the other team adjusts their playing strategy. Watch number 3’s serve. Back up. Get ready for it. Be ready. It’s going to be coming in fast.

Her serve is pretty awesome and definitely fun to watch. She has worked hard on it. She knows now how to toss the ball. At what height. How her shoulders need to be aligned. How to step. How to hit the ball just right amount of the base of her hand. If it’s done right, you’ll hear that perfect sound. The right slap of her hand hitting the ball with just the right amount of force. It’s a satisfying sound. I wait to see where she’s placed it. Where will it land? And will the other team be ready for it?

It’s the sequence of all the timing that makes it the perfect serve and the one that becomes the “Ace”. Sailing across the net at a speed that shocks the other team. They didn’t have a chance. Point scored. An ace.

I’ve always said to clients that real estate is a game. You need to know the rules. But apart from just the rules, you also need to watch your timing and know when to make your move. As my daughter practises and develops her craft I see how much volleyball compares to what I do in selling real estate. It all comes down to the timing and knowing when is the right time to make your move.

Right now we have an opportunity that I don’t think many are aware of. There’s a move to be made and it’s going unnoticed. Right now, our January stats are 9.9% lower in the number of houses sold than last January. That’s just 290 residential properties sold this January. Last year’s polar vortexes and ice storms ravaged our real estate market. Our market didn’t really take off until June. And then we had a record year for the number of sales from June to December 2014. A seven year high record in fact! Our memories are long and in many ways, I just don’t think many folks have recovered from our deep freeze of last winter. This year the weather has been shaping up to be much the same as last year. Could it be happening again? Last year, many sellers told me that they didn’t want to list their houses because they felt that no one was looking. “The snow was too high. It’s too hard to drive around and maneuver the streets. It’s just too cold to go out. Buyer’s aren’t looking at houses.” Here’s the truth. We always have buyers. And the buyers from last November, December, January and now February are still looking. The problem is there is hardly any inventory of homes to show them. What’s on the market now, is the same properties that were on the market last October and November. And there is a reason why they haven’t sold yet. They’re crap. Typically, priced way too high and/or the condition of the house requires too much money, time or effort to bring it up to speed. What’s left is a buyer group with “pent up energy”. They want to buy. Some need to buy. Some have to buy! And they are getting frustrated, disappointed and nervous.

So, just last weekend, a house came on the board on a Friday afternoon. My clients have been watching and waiting. We spoke immediately about this house and their desire to see it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it out Friday night for a showing appointment. We booked our showing for Sunday at noon. I’m notified throughout the weekend that the sellers accepted an offer on the house. We haven’t even had a chance to see it yet. Sunday arrives and I meet the clients at the house. I explain the situation – an offer has already been accepted by the sellers. We decide to go in and tour the house. They still haven’t seen it yet and don’t even know if they are going to like it. We step inside and start the tour. “Crap” says the wife, “I like it…” We tour the entire house and yes, they both like it – a lot. I start to discuss strategy with them. We come up with a plan and later that evening we submit an offer. I explain to my clients that the best I can do for them is to get them locked into second position. This means writing up an offer, and making the offer attractive enough that the sellers will pick it. I want the sellers to feel like they have nothing to lose by also accepting our offer as the back up offer. The offer is signed up, presented and accepted. Fabulous. Hurdle one has been jumped. Now we wait. The first buyer has the privilege to execute against their conditions. They have until Thursday to do so. All we can do now is wait. On Wednesday night, the listing agent tells me, yes, the first buyers have firmed up their offer. The sellers have sold their house for full list price. My buyers are disappointed. The sellers had the benefit of low inventory levels and pent up buyers just waiting in the wings to jump on their house. And this is happening right now for every price category. This listing wasn’t a $250,000 house. This was a $600,000 house.

Now, on the other hand. I have another set of clients who on the same weekend see a different property come up on the board that is in a different area. It hits the board Friday afternoon. Same day as my other clients. My teammate takes them out immediately as I am booked with a prior client appointment. They see the house Friday night. They love it. They decide to do an offer Friday night. Saturday morning the listing agent is putting them off. She claims she doesn’t have time to present the offer. My teammate is sitting in his car first thing Saturday morning and almost stalking the listing agent. He’s waiting outside her home! He’s waiting to catch her as she comes out of her house to present the offer! The listing agent is selling her own private home and is trying to avoid him so that another agent can bring in another offer and drive it into multiples. The other agent says yes, another offer is coming in. My teammate is ready to threaten to rescind our client’s offer. The deadline to deal with our offer is coming to a close. The offer is going to expire soon. The listing agent decides an offer on paper is better than the hopes of maybe another one coming in, only then to maybe lose the offer she already has. The listing agent accepts our client’s offer. Our clients get the house. $850,000 and no conditions. They are thrilled!

If you are a Buyer or a Seller, the name of the real estate game is to know the timing of the market. Know what is happening right now, this week. The real estate market is like a human being and it has a pulse. That pulse is always changing. It’s the ebb and flow of inventory available and the demand of buyers. Right now, if you are considering a move and have a house to sell. Start there first. Get the highest possible price right now by listing your home when the competition of other houses being on the board are very low. Staged the house, price it appropriately and negotiate a great offer for yourselves. Then give it a few weeks, as soon as this snow starts to melt, the rest of the sellers holding off from listing their homes right now, will be then getting their houses on the board. Once you have a firm offer on your own property right now without competition, you will then have the benefit of selecting from a larger selection of houses when the bigger bulk of houses will be on the board. As a buyer in a few weeks you will have a greater selection of homes to choose from.

Real estate is a game. The best way to play is strategically. Know when the best times are to make your move. Judge the timing. Watch it closely and go for the point. Play it to win, not to lose.

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