Why the Rule of Location Matters in Real Estate

Why the Rule of Location Matters in Real Estate

Since I was a child I have always been intrigued by real estate, and what my parents always said “Location, Location, Location” – I have carried that lesson forward in my life, as a REALTOR and an Associate Broker in Delaware, I see examples of this rule every day, but realize that most consumers don’t really understand what that means.

The first thing to consider is the value of your time. Depending on your profession, your social relationships, education, and interests there are certain things you will find more valuable than others. Typically people value their free time, that time when they are not working, over the time they do work. How does this come into play when we are discussing real estate? It’s fairly simple really.

It matters a great deal, more so than any other factor, to better understand let’s look at an example. The best example of the rule of location in real estate is to look at any major City in the world. For this example let’s take New York City.

The location of this kitchen determines it's cost.

The location of this kitchen determines it’s cost.

I went to high school on Long Island and college there as well as in Manhattan (what most consider New York City to be, but the city proper is an area that consists of five separate boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island), so I speak from experience.

The closer you are to Manhattan’s primary business districts, the higher the cost is for real estate. Once within the City limits, in any community, the closer you are to public transportation the more premium is placed on the value of the real estate.

This rule follows to the commutable suburbs as well. For instance if someone worked in Midtown Manhattan (The area defined as between 34th Street up to 57th Street) and lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, you would have the quality of life that is most desirable to those who work and live in Manhattan. The convenience and proximity of your home to your workplace, as well as the convenience of access to Central Park, the East River, great restaurants, stores, etc. You could be at your office within 10-15 minutes with little effort or inconvenience, or expense. For this you could be paying well over $5,000,000 for a reasonably sized condo, even more for a private home (aka Brownstone).

The other end of the spectrum is the individual who works in Midtown Manhattan and lives in the suburbs, whether on Long Island, West Chester County, or a multitude of New Jersey Counties, you would be looking at 10-15 minutes from the train station in Manhattan to your office, add to that the 45-90 minute train ride, plus the drive to the train station if you don’t live within walking distance, and your quality of life drops significantly. You are potentially spending 1.25-2 hours per day, each way, commuting to your office to work. If you work an 8 hours day, that ends up eating a huge portion of your day, and therefore leaving very little time for anything else.

Most of my friends who work in Manhattan and commute leave their homes before 6:00am to get a train and guarantee they are at work by 9:00am. Then on the return home, some will stay in the city for events, meetings, meals, or just to avoid the rush hour squash of the commute, and get home after 9:00pm. To then get a reasonable amount of sleep to be able to wake and do the whole thing the next day leaves very little time to do anything else.

This is where the rule of location comes into play, and should be extremely obvious to you now. The closer you are to your place of business, the less time you have to spend getting there and back, the more time you have to enjoy the quality of life afforded you by working.

When I help my clients review their options for locations, one factor that I always try to review with them is what their goal is for their real estate purchase. We will review a list of things that are important to them in their life, and also what their goals are. Frequently people are steered toward the shiny new construction projects which tend to be a lot further from the business hubs where they work.

Everyone wants new and shiny, but most consumers don’t understand that there are more important factors in a real estate purchase than the gloss of the finish. The value of location has a direct impact on the cost of real estate because the convenience of being close to the places you want to be, or need to be, does hold a premium to many.

If you have two identical 3,000 square foot homes, what would the price difference be if you were in the Wilmington, Delaware area and purchasing in Delaware (we have quick access to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, so I don’t want to stretch out of the New Castle County Delaware area).

Let’s say that the first house is 3 miles from your place of work, was just built in 2014, has 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, 3 car garage and a half-acre lot. All the finishes are high end, a gourmet kitchen with granite and top of the line cabinets, hardwood floors throughout, iron banister for the stairs and cat walk, a stone two story fireplace, and architectural details throughout. The cost at the near work location is $750,000. From this house you have the option of going home for lunch.

The second house is about 35 miles away, and you have to cross the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal to get there, it is identical to the first house as it was constructed by the same builder, but in this location the cost is $375,000. Better pack your lunch – maybe even dinner, definitely a snack, with traffic, construction and congestion you will be lucky to make it home in time for dinner.

If price didn’t matter, which would you choose? Hopefully this has helped demonstrate the true value and reason behind the old saying “location, location, location”.

Effective Communication in Real Estate: Buyers

Most consumers don’t understand the real estate process, and why should they?  They aren’t real estate salespeople and they don’t help people buy or sell real estate on a daily basis, yet many real estate agents neglect to explain the basics of the process to their clients.

It’s like speaking another language and forgetting that there may be a need to translate the terminology and process for the client to understand.  Agency is one of those terms that isn’t clear to most consumers, and sometimes not even to agents.

When working with agents, whether new or experienced, they frequently seem to forget that the terms and terminology that they use on a daily basis are “Greek” to the consumer.   I often have to pull that agent back to the basics and work with them to establish a process to educate their clients before they ever begin showing them houses.  When we fail to do this we are much more likely to find out clients have “wandered off” in another direction.

People don’t like to admit that they don’t understand something, so rather than say “What do you mean?” they will just nod their heads and go along with the flow of the conversation or tour.  Then the following week when that enthusiastic buyer is not returning your calls, or communicating with you – you will be at a loss to explain it.  The reality is this, many real estate agents are talking over a consumers head using real estate “jargon” and “lingo” that only confuses the client or customer.

The KISS principle applies beautifully here, but it’s a hard one to remember, keep it simple stupid, an in this case the “stupid” is the real estate professional who is in the process of scaring away their client.

Here are some tips to help you keep your clients, and communicate effectively with them.

  1. Start with a Buyer Education meeting.   –  When you first make contact, whatever the method of that first contact is, be sure to explain that your process involves a first meeting at your office to explain the process and answer questions on the real estate transaction, the buying process and the market conditions and practices.Part of this process is to also make sure that they are pre-approved with a lender and have a realistic and comfortable price point set for their needs.  You are also using this time to set a series of expectations between yourself and your clients.
  2. Set Expectations and Share Explanations.  – Making sure that your clients understand that you are there to serve their needs, and that part of that is to understand their expectations of you in the process is important.  This also allows you the opportunity to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about the process and the practice of real estate.Some expectations that  should be reviewed at your first meeting include how they would like you to communicate with them, any specific time restrictions on your practice, how they can reach you if it is an emergency, and discuss and explain your commitment to them, as well as their commitment to you.
  3. The Mutual Commitment of Buyer Agency. –  Explaining in the simplest terms what agency means is important, I find saying something like “What we discuss stays between us, I can’t discuss anything you tell me without your consent, and I am obligated to provide you with any information I learn about a property you are interested in.  I am your agent, I work at your direction, as long as those directions are legal.” is a simple and effective way to explain it.

    I also like to explain that when I am showing them properties in a certain area and price point, I am not also showing those properties to anyone else.I am making a commitment to them, in my time and business, and may be turning away other clients, because it would not be fair or ethical to create a competitive situation for them.  You also need them to make the same commitment to you, which is why you then present the Exclusive Buyers Agency (or related) agreement to your client.  They protect themselves, and you protect yourself, when all parties participate and understand the commitment of buyer agency.

    Nothing hurts more than a client “keeping their options open” after you have turned away multiple other consumers in the same market as they are in to keep their best interests at heart, only to have them wander off and buy with another agent.  It happens, and it truly sucks to be the one it happens to, especially after you commit time and efforts to helping people over many years, sometimes even helping them find resources for credit counseling, etc.

  4. Ask If They Are Working with an Agent. – I always do this, and I suggest everyone do this.  Whether I was on office phone duty, or at an open house, I always ask a consumer who seems to want to engage my services if they have an Agent.  Frequently they do not, but sometimes they do – sometimes they tell me they have not signed anything and their options are open.  I will typically ask who their agent is, offer a compliment about that individual, or if I only know the name say “Yes, I have heard of them but have not worked with them, I only hear wonderful things” (keep it positive always), and I will redirect that client back to their agent.  I will also call that agent as soon as possible to notify them that their client reached out to me, or was at an open house.  I direct the consumer back to their agent, letting them know that their agent can show them any property that I can because we all participate with one another, so they won’t miss out on anything.

    Occasionally a consumer will insist upon working with me, they don’t get along with their agent, or they like my experience better, or thing I will provide them with better service, whatever the reason, I make sure they don’t have an agreement with another broker before, and will frequently send a referral agreement to the agent they had been working with (after I get them to sign an Exclusive Buyer Agency agreement with me) after I have contacted them directly and explained the situation.   Do unto others as the saying goes. It’s shame more agents don’t operate on this same principle.  I can’t even fathom the amount of guilt I would feel if I did this to someone else. Ick.

  5. Provide Market Data.  – I use RPR for this, I will pull neighborhood market activity reports, and also general neighborhood reports from NARRPR.com for the clients. These reports include some amazing economic indicators, demographics and some very sexy data in the form of things like heat maps for a variety of indicators.  I will review a report with the client and explain what each section is about and what the indicators are.  RPR is my secret weapon in impressing, and educating my clients.

If you communicate openly, effectively and respect other REALTORS we will all see a better public opinion of our industry I believe.  As well as educating the consumer, we are also educating ourselves.

So stop talking “jargon” and “lingo” and start focusing on customer service and needs.  If we communicate better, everyone’s experience gets better.

Listing Syndication: The ‘Dirty’ Industry Secret In the SpotLight

Listing Syndication: The ‘Dirty’ Industry Secret In the SpotLight

Wow. I don’t believe I have seen drama at this level in the real estate industry since, well – a few days ago with the approval of the Zillow Group formation, or with the Samuelson Memo.  Then there is Move Corp and it’s Heavy-Weight match about to happen in the US Courts.  The drama only exists within the industry and because people WANT it to exist. Stop, everyone take a breathe – this doesn’t matter to your business if you are “doing it right” – this only matters to a very small segment of our industry, and in that case it is a painful lesson in diversification.

Listing Syndication Doesn't Matter to a Consumer a REALTOR DoesIf you took a poll of 1,000 consumers asking them what ListHub is, what this all means, they would have no idea and probably not notice a thing.  Why would they notice anything?  If a REALTOR is doing their job well, then a client would never know, a consumer won’t know either but a consumer might not find you if you spend a lot of your marketing monies nested over with only Zillow or Trulia.  This is a reason that marketing diversity is a very wise idea.

The True Effect on REALTORS
There really should be none.  In 2015 most agents have their own websites, many have a product that offer “Broker Reciprocity” feeds via their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  For example, I belong to TrendMLS in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, through my IDX provider I have completed paperwork, and received Broker approval to get a direct feed from the MLS for my website with my Market Listings.  I did have three such websites at one point, but today I only have one.

The Point: ListHub Dropping the Feed Won’t be Noticed by Consumer
Or it won’t be noticed by most consumers.  What I think the problem is that Trulia had a legitimate feed, and that might have been part of the value of Trulia to Zillow, or maybe not.  Don’t forget Market Leader with RealEstate.com, this is more about PR than anything else in my opinion.   I never understood WHY ListHub was providing data to a competitor, in 2013 in Orlando I asked that question directly of some folks at the Move VIP party, when I was told that the competitors were to be at a ListHub party and event – “They are our customers and pay us for the data, there isn’t really competition” the conversation went on to cover the benefit of the business relationship.

I will add that one of the people at the table for a portion of the conversation was Errol Samuelson, and I will say Errol never said a bad word about anyone ever when I spoke to him, he was always positive and believed that competition led to improvements in the industry and offerings.   Errol was very pro-Move and Realtor.com in my opinion and experience, so the news of his “defection” to Zillow was a total shock to me.

Anyone else notice the Starbucks location PR blitz via Spencer Rascoff?  It grew some nice media legs, and a few other things in the last week, in the run up to the approval of the merger you had the media blitz of the book, then a few other small and intriguing concepts like the Starbucks relation to property value, which in my opinion was a purely a PR move to get more traction – that’s what a business does to promote itself right?  This might be another move for traction, but so far the public opinion I have seen has NOT been terribly supportive, nor positive.  Don’t discount Rascoff, he is a brilliant individual and business person, his track record speaks for itself beginning with Expedia.

What REALTORS Should REALLY be Upset About
You spend your time building your real estate business, you work hard for your Seller clients and spend time and money preparing listings for market. You spend even more time managing the listings, posting them, sharing them, marketing them, and if they don’t sell – you don’t make any money.  Lots of other people do make money from your listings, but no one asks about that.

We pay to get an IDX feed from our own MLS’s, which we also pay to be members of, and then in turn that data is moved through various systems and channels to become syndicated and shared to multiple media websites focused on attracting consumers, selling advertising to real estate professionals and selling the listing leads back to us.  This isn’t the case with EVERY MLS or Association, but the practice is a common one.  I could rant on for pages, but the MLS/Big Data topic is another blog post coming soon.

The Data is the Power
The Data is where the power is, in all industries, the more reliable and accurate it is  the better the reputation of the provider.  That is really what this entire conversation is about.  The reliable data feed that ListHub provides is the basis for the value of a media site that serves consumers real estate listings, if the data isn’t accurate then the consumer will go elsewhere, without the consumers then the REALTORS won’t pay to advertise.  You go where the business is, or should.

Agents do not understand how this business really works, it’s not about your sales and the portion of the commission, it’s about the peripheral services – the title policies, escrow companies, mortgage lenders, and so on – included in this is listing syndication, training and coaching programs, partnerships with other organizations, each and every thing your Big Broker sells you have a percentage that is most likely going right into the Brokers pocket.

That’s where the money is made in the real estate business, strategic partnerships and alignments, not in determining which website the consumers will find the data on.    ListHub saying it doesn’t want to share is fine by me, they are aligned with Realtor.com and therefore REALTOR.org and NAR, so it’s about time someone stood up for us – since we won’t do it for ourselves.

There is one other factor, the question of the idea of a National MLS – is that coming?  I believe that it is, but real estate is an ancient business with many archaic business models, it’s difficult to break the mold and truly innovate, or is it?  Behind the scenes there is an amazing tool that is available to all of us, it’s our NAR member benefit known as REALTORS Property Resource aka RPR.  The power of RPR is rather remarkable, I believe it is a preview of what we COULD have available at a National level, but that isn’t what it is about – it is about serving the needs of the REALTOR Member with a lot of AMAZING data, more amazing than any public, and many premium, websites I have seen.  Why are some MLS’s resistant to join and share the data WE provide them with our PARENT organization?  That’s a pretty good question, maybe a more important one to ask than getting involved in the ListHub/Zillow Group conversation.

Why not just work with what we have – I think a public facing side of RPR partnered with Realtor.com – combining the marketing power, and the lobby of the RPAC – consumers would have the best and most reliable quality of data EVER. Right?  What do you think?