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How urban agents are adapting to 2021

Urban markets are in flux, but agents can still succeed. Top performers explain how.

There’s a reason real estate professionals are paying attention to the city. After the major disruptions of 2020, urban centers are already back to being some of the busiest markets for luxury listings—but the aftershocks of last year still reverberate, and some unusual dynamics are at play. Examining the trends affecting both buyers and sellers right now, three experts in the luxury real estate space share their advice.

The buyer’s market for coveted condos

“Our market in Richmond hasn’t closed down a bit, and actually has been busier than in 2020,” says Jeannette Mock, Global Real Estate Advisor at The Steele Group Sotheby’s International Realty. Though her team is based in Virginia, Mock’s optimism applies across the board. “Buyers are more motivated this year, especially millennials living at home since the entire family is there too. Combine that with low inventory and low-interest rates, and buyers are feeling the urge to get in the game and purchase a home.”

When it comes to city living, some of the previously common asks are different this year. “Some people want to live on the ground floor so there’s no need for an elevator, while others seek green spaces around them, great views, or outdoor spaces,” says Monique Badun, Senior Vice President, Sales at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “But yes, buyers are more motivated. Any hesitations are gone; they are looking to make the change now.”

Tip: Clients are viewing and buying virtually

An important trend to keep in mind is that motivated buyers are often willing to put in offers on properties that they have only seen online. “Most people have become accustomed to conducting their jobs and businesses via video, so looking for a home online isn’t as foreign to them now,” says Aimee Denaro Becker, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson at Sotheby’s International Realty – East Side Manhattan Brokerage. “Don’t underestimate the buyer who is still out of town. People can’t freely come to the city, so I’ve been doing FaceTime tours, video showings, and Matterport 3D virtual stagings to make up for this. They are really great tools, and not just for the tech-savvy.”

Likewise, Badun advises her fellow agents to stay relevant and close deals by stepping up their marketing initiatives. “Stay on top of the current marketing trends, know your product, and work hard,” she says. “There are a lot of agents vying for the same business, as well as websites that help people appraise their own homes. Agents really need to be a source of solid, correct information, and digital marketing has moved to the forefront in all that we do.”

The seller’s market for spacious houses

For detached housing, Badun notes that it’s a seller’s market through and through. “For those that we're unable to sell over the past few years, the time has come; record-low inventory has driven demand way up and prices are starting to creep that way as well,” she says.

Agents should be proactive. “We are in touch with any of our clients who have expressed interest over the past few years about selling, and letting them know how the current conditions favor the sellers,” Badun adds. “We have to keep expectations in check, though, because while we are seeing an increase in prices, we are not at the peak levels we saw in 2016.”

According to Denaro Becker, it’s important to manage buyers’ expectations as well. “I think some sellers if they have the time or finances to wait a little longer, are holding out for a pre-pandemic price; so however my sellers feel, I’m honest with the buyers as they come through. I think the key to getting an accepted offer is being as candid as possible so that the buyer comes in with the right expectations.”

Tip: With rising prices, clients may be willing to sell

With sellers fetching higher prices for their properties and buyers facing limited options, Mock urges agents to think strategically about how they can find additional inventory. “I’m writing notes for buyers to homeowners whose homes aren’t on the market to see if any of them will sell,” she says.

This strategy is a good way to get around the lack of inventory, and Denaro Becker says that she’s also active in searching for off-market listings and matching them with the right buyers. “This is when brokers really earn their stripes. We are out there, in person, working creatively to help those buyers who have been struggling to find their perfect place.”

Being there for urban buyers and sellers

Mock explains that it’s more essential than ever for agents to be of service to past and potential clients, because with properties selling so quickly, some may be tempted to cut the agent out altogether. “Check in with your clients who you know want to sell at some point, and do it early enough so they don’t try and do an FSBO. The market is so strong that sellers often now think they don’t have to use an agent—but they’re mistaken.”

Ultimately, it’s about helping clients discover—or rediscover—their dream homes in the city, and being there to assist as they make their move to the urban communities they love and miss. “As people start plotting out their plans for the next few months, they are realizing that it’s time to come back to the city and they need a home for when they arrive,” says Denaro Becker. “I’ve had many clients from other states find new apartments, and they will be closing just in time to make their long-awaited return to our wonderful city.”


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