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September 3, 2013

5 Tips for Surviving the Fall Real Estate Market

It’s officially “after Labor Day,” and that means one thing in the real estate world: Time for new inventory, new buyers and sellers entering the market, lots of sometimes chaotic activity and mostly, a mad scramble to get everything done before the end of the year.

Spring is typically a high point in San Francisco real estate. But it’s been my experience over the past eleven years as an agent that the Fall can be even busier, and also carries with it more of a sense of urgency. This is driven by leases ending in December, or transactions closing by the end of the year for tax purposes, to name a couple motivators.

Sellers have been watching the prices their neighbors have been getting all year, and buyers are starting to lose patience after writing offers on multiple properties for the past eight months. But agents, buyers and sellers need not go off the deep end.

Here are five tips for maintaining sanity between now and New Year’s:
1. If you’re going on the market, stay on the market for at least a few days. You’ve staged your house, moved out and should want to expose that property to as many buyers as possible before taking offers. If you’ve scheduled open houses and a broker tour, commit to having those open houses and tour. This lets buyers and their agents at least take a crack at the purchase, and having an offer date can only benefit you if there’s significant buyer interest. (Incidentally, it’s really annoying to arrive at a broker tour and find a handwritten sign saying that the tour has been deleted.) It is ultimately a very sound idea to also have a backup offer in place when you accept an offer, and it’s hard to do that if you just take the first offer that comes along.

2. If it’s a long shot offer…It probably is a long shot. I define “long shot” as an offer situation wherein there’s overwhelming interest in a very hot property. That extremely appealing, 3BR house in Noe Valley that has it all? You know, the one that’s about 20-40% underpriced? Unless you’re willing to write super high and waive contingencies, you’ll probably be better off avoiding a situation that will chip away at the emotional reserves you’ll need to be successful in your house hunt.

3. If you’re a listing agent, notify buyer agents of offer outcomes promptly. Yes, you and your sellers are thrilled with the eight offers that came in on their property. As the listing agent, you’ve already called the agent representing the buyer with the accepted offer and have given them the good news. But there are seven more agents you need to call before the night is through. Those agents have buyers who probably won’t sleep very soundly until they get word of the outcome.

4. Buyers, update your loan preapproval. You may have been preapproved a couple months ago, but interest rates are up and so are prices. Before you start running to open houses, run some updated numbers to make sure you’re not looking at homes that will be out of your price range.

5. Sellers, plan ahead. When you decide to sell your house, a lot of activities and people are thrown into action. Yes, it’s a seller’s market and everyone will be excited to see your home in Mission Dolores when you list it. But if you’re planning to stage the house, that will typically require some notice, if only for logistical purposes. And there’s no better way to create buzz around a home than to give your listing agent some time to pre-market the property on the MLS and with a house sign. Remember, there will be more inventory with which to compete now, and you don’t want to get lost in the mix.

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