Chicago managing brokers share their insights on the market

by Kerrie Kennedy

What’s happening with Chicago’s market amid the national concerns that are affecting the economy? What are buyers looking for? What can agents do to stand out? These are just some of the topics that were addressed by a panel of some of Chicago’s top managing brokers at Chicago Agent magazine’s Accelerate Summit, held March 4 at the Merchandise Mart. Led by moderator and Compass senior broker Amy Duong Kim, here’s what this group of industry leaders had to say.

Natalie Carpenter, Kim Kerbis, John Matthews, Joe Stacy and Amy Duong Kim

Tale of two markets

The market in Chicagoland is heating up a bit ahead of spring, but how much depends on which area you’re talking about. “There’s no blanket answer, because there are thousands of micro markets in Chicago,” said Joe Stacy, senior vice president and general sales manager of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago. “We coach our agents to do deep dive analyses about these different markets.”

On the North Side, momentum picked up in December and it hasn’t slowed down, according to @properties managing broker Kim Kerbis. “Our spring market began Jan. 2. We’re getting multiple offers every day. If it’s in a great location, priced well and shows well, it’s moving off the market very quickly,” she said.

But on the South Side, it’s feast or famine, said Natalie Carpenter, managing broker in Coldwell Banker’s Hyde Park office. “In certain communities, inventory is flying off the shelves in two or three days,” she said. “But at the same time, some areas are really struggling, mostly due to older residents and deferred maintenance issues.”

Fix ’er up . . . or take a haircut

By now, most agents are aware that millennials want turnkey properties, but they may not know how much more they’re willing to pay for it. “There’s a 32 percent difference in price between properties that are updated versus similar properties that are not updated,” Stacy said. “Think of it as Nordstrom versus Nordstrom Rack. Your clients need to know that.”

If your sellers are not in the financial position to do necessary upgrades, Carpenter suggested looking into a concierge service that will cover the cost upfront. “At Coldwell Banker, we have a program called RealVitalize, which helps sellers fix up their homes,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s really the difference between selling and not selling.”

But if the home is in a prime location, sellers might not have to do any updating at all, said John Matthews, senior vice president of residential sales at Baird & Warner. “I’ve seen this trend before where buyers only want updated, but they’ll still choose location first every time.”

The year of distraction

Between the election, coronavirus fears and the stock market’s reaction to it, there are a lot of worries to occupy people’s minds right now. “Twenty-twenty is going to be the year of distraction, and it’s already started,” said Matthews.

Stacy said he made the decision to stop watching the news a while ago, and recommends agents utilize the power of their minds to avoid getting sucked in. “We have to stay focused on what we can control,” he said.

Carpenter has been through eight elections while in real estate and agreed with these sentiments. “There’s always that panic, but the reality is the market is the market. As an agent, you just have to stay focused,” she said.

Luckily, Chicago’s real estate market has yet to be affected by national issues, according to Kerbis. “Markets don’t like instability, but what’s weird is we’re somehow the outlier. We have a strong market that is overriding national instability. Maybe pent-up demand explains it,” she said.  

Human contact is now a luxury

While all the managing brokers on the panel agreed that technology offers great tools for agents, they also felt that it’s making personal interaction more valuable and meaningful. “I personally take a low-tech, high-touch approach,” Kerbis said. “I find it has 10 times the value of something tech driven.”

Picking up the phone — rather than texting, hand-delivering thank you gifts, and putting yourself out there in person are just some of the ways that reaching out can be especially impactful, said Kerbis.

“It’s still all about the relationship,” Matthews agreed. “Tech is just something you can use to maintain that relationship.

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