Every week, we ask a Houston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top three stories from the week before.
This week, we talked with Linda Jamail Marshall, the broker/owner of Linda Marshall, Realtors, Inc.
Houston Agent (HA): One of our top stories looked at the top negotiating tips that agents should keep in mind; what are the big things you keep in mind when entering a negotiation?
Linda Jamail Marshall (LJM): In regards to the Inner Loop market, on the seller side, it absolutely needs to be priced appropriately, and if it is, it will sell. If the price and condition are good, it is possible you potentially will have more than one offer; this is neighborhood by neighborhood, of course, but we are experiencing a lower than normal inventory, and what appears to be a pent-up demand in combination with people wanting to capitalize on the historically low interest rates.
On the buyer side, several things can give you an edge. Get yourself a buyers agent who knows that target area. You want to be the strongest buyer you can be when you make your offer, and by investigating financing options and getting yourself pre-approved, your chances of being successful are enhanced.
In the other situation, the seller will certainly choose a contract based on “probability of closing,” as well as the amount of the downpayment and terms. In this low inventory period, those factors can mean the difference of the seller accepting your offer at a fair price. The time of real steals was 18 months ago, but Houston has such a robust market there are plenty of housing options at fair prices. And the information is out there to determine whether something is a reasonable buy.
You want to pay a fair price, but you also want to buy location, and that would be my first tip – become familiar with the neighborhood and see if it’s where your client wants to live, and then you can actually go out and research and see if you’re getting a fair price or not. There are no steals now; they just don’t exist in the Inner Loop. Things are moving quickly, though; I sold two houses yesterday, and I told both buyers, “either send me a full price offer or do not expect to get this property.”
HA: We also reported last week on search engine optimization (SEO), and how agents could use it to increase traffic to their websites. Is that something you look into for your brokerage?
LJM: I actually do, but that’s not where the majority of my business comes from; it actually comes from HAR.com. Realtor.com, Zillow or Trulia. I have two agents, and that’s all they do is turn those leads. That’s that younger buyer – very informed, but wanting expertise.
Now with SEO, I know quite a bit about it, but I work through ActiveRain, the largest real estate blogging site. And the SEO muscle they have is just off the richter scale. Unless you’re a large brokerage with multiple agents, I don’t think it’s as time effective to maximize [your SEO]. With blog sites like ActiveRain, they are built to give smaller brokers equal footing and platforms for people like myself, who have niche markets. Most users are experts in a particular area, and I blog continuously. So if you go out and Google 77008, you’re going to pick up all my blogs, because I’m going to be talking only about that neighborhood.
HA: Could you talk a little bit about some of the changes you’ve seen in the Houston real estate market, for the better, in the last year?
LJM: The last seven months, I have seen a huge amount amount of volume [in Houston's Inner Loop]. There’s been a pent-up demand, in my opinion, of especially younger people, and they say there are two segments driving the heights market.
One is older buyers, who are coming out of that suburban house, and they’re coming in to these more closed-in neighborhoods; in the past, they haven’t been able to sell the big house in the burbs, but now they can. The other is the younger professional who is wanting location and proximity to work, amenities, restaurants and nightlife. There has been a steady steam of buyers, and the builders can’t get the stuff built quickly enough. So in my case, I am selling just renderings and they pick the lot – and for a top price.