Tight real estate market becomes game of ‘first to know’

After walking through the first house they looked at, first-time home buyers Megan and David Stricker followed their Realtor’s urgent advice and made an offer.

“She told us how fast things are selling and said if you like it, you need to make an offer,” said Megan Stricker.

That turned out to be good advice. Several other potential buyers toured the home later that day and made offers of their own. If the Strickers had delayed, they would have lost the house.

When they bought it last November, their house had been on the market one day.

“In our neighborhood, as soon as they’re put up for sale, they’re sold,” said Megan Stricker.

That’s not unusual, said ReMax Realtor Sharon Kipp, the Strickers’ agent. In some neighborhoods, there are two or three — or more — potential buyers for every house for sale.

“There are people feeling desperation because they can’t find a property,” said Kipp.

The first to know

To help their clients find a home, Realtors are employing a variety of strategies.

Knowing about a home for sale the moment it hits the market — or even before — helps clients beat the crowds. That’s how Kipp made sure the Strickers were the first buyers to see their house.

She also warns clients that the days of taking your time to ponder a decision are in the past.

“They see a sign and think, ‘I’ll drive by.’ By the time they go to look, it has three or four offers,” said Kipp.

Matt Redman discovered the hot Middle Tennessee real estate market after moving from Orlando.

“We’d try to find a house and they’d be gone before we got there,” he said.

With the help of Paige Thompson, vice president of relocation and corporate services for Zeitlin & Co. Realtors, Redman found a new home in Thompson’s Station. He bought it before construction was complete.

Scott Troxel, a broker with Keller Williams Realty, describes the problem of too many buyers and not enough homes like this: “a lot of sharks chasing the same fish.”

To help buyers cope, he has them to sign up for automatic, twice-daily updates from the MLS so they’ll be aware of new listings.

Alternate routes

Troxel also encourages buyers to walk through a neighborhood looking for houses they’d like to buy even if they are not for sale.

“I’ll contact the owner and see if they’re interested in selling,” he said. “It works.”

Troxel also data mines old listings of houses that did not sell. If the property is desirable, he asks the owners if they are still interested in selling.

Realtors are doing their best to learn about “pocket listings,” homes that aren’t listed on the MLS but are unofficially for sale.

“Some sellers don’t want to go online, don’t want to officially be on the market,” said Parks Realtor Chad Wohlers.

“They might say, ‘I’ll sell this property for the right price and the right contract terms,'” he said.

Angela C. Wright, broker for the Lipman Group Sotheby’s International Realty, said pocket listings are common.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sold something before it comes on the market,” she said.

Wright has become so skilled as a sleuth, investigating homes that might be on the market tomorrow, that she’s prepared for a second career.

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