5 Areas to Focus on in 2014

by Christine Groves

No two years in real estate are ever the same. With the changing regulations, market and economy comes a new focus for Realtors each year.

Here are five recommended areas to focus on for 2014:

1. Calm Anxiety Over Rising Interest Rates – So many consumers forget about the days of 15 percent or higher mortgage interest rates. Although we are all glad those rates do not apply now, there is still the constant anxiety over rising interest rates. Yes, increasing interest rates do impact buyer affordability, but the general rule of thumb is that anything under 7 percent is a good deal. Buyers that are unable to afford a fluctuation of $100-200 per month may not be ready for a mortgage anyway, and the recession taught us not to overextend ourselves.

The price we pay for a healthier economy is higher interest rates. Encourage buyers to only seek fixed rate mortgages, have a good down payment and always work to improve credit. This is truly THE year to buy. We expect more inventory, more buyers, more conservative home price increases and interest rates to go to 5 percent or just over. All of these factors make for a great housing market and a better economy.

2. Serious Buyers and Sellers – As the market continues to increase, so should our standards when working with buyers and sellers. Before taking a buyer on showings, make sure they get preapproved with a reputable lender to determine if and for how much they qualify for. Some lenders even offer conditional loan approvals before a buyer even finds a home so that the financial qualification is thoroughly reviewed from the get-go and offer acceptance to closing time is greatly reduced.

Then, carefully review the buyer’s budget and home necessities to determine if their next home is truly possible. With sellers, you have to insist on realistic expectations as far as pricing, showings, negotiations and moving. If a seller is not practical, you may have to refuse a listing. We invest so much time and resources in each and every client that it makes it imperative to determine if they are just as committed.

3. Avoid Low-Ball Offers – Gone are the days of “let’s just see” and submitting low- ball offers. This is a seller’s market, and for desirable properties buyers have to show they are serious about the purchase. If there are no other offers on the table (with multiple offers, consider offering list-price or over, depending upon the comps), then a conservative reduction should be offered so that a potential deal is not doomed from the start. Also, good terms such as closing date, as-is condition, good down payment or cash, non-contingency, etc. are important to a seller. We have to strongly encourage buyers to put their best foot forward.

4. Lender Relationships – At a time with even more restrictions on mortgage loans, it is crucial to do business with lenders that have a proven track record of customer service, attentiveness, wide array of loan options, low average of days from application to close, on-time transactions and competent processing/underwriting staff. Your hard work and reputation can be derailed with the wrong lender. Make referrals to lenders who give you a better chance to close, and who provide excellent customer service to your clients.

5. Boost Your Tech Savvy & Social Media – Like it or not, technology is developing fast, and consumers are utilizing it even faster. Part of demonstrating your competence as a Realtor is by learning, using and updating various software programs, apps, devices and resources to diversify your marketing portfolio, as well as to make your business more organized.

Get involved with high-traffic social media to get your name out there, network and stay current in the industry. Use programs and apps that better organize your information and provide better materials for your clients. If you have not already joined the millions of smartphone users, get one now! Once you have setup your technology, check and update them regularly. The best resources are supposed to be user-friendly, so do not hesitate to learn something new that could potentially boost your business.

Focus on the above areas will serve to improve your business and client relationships. Your commitment as well as the commitment of your clients and providers will make for a great partnership in 2014.

christine-groves-coldwell-bankerChristine Groves is a licensed broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Wheaton.

She can be reached at 630.346.3272 or Christine.Groves@CBexchange.com.

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