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 Tara Waggoner, the market manager for Redfin in Houston. As the head of the team, Waggoner responsible for growing the team and Redfin’s presence in the Houston market, but she is also a licensed agent and actively helps clients buy and sell on a daily basis. She has been in the real estate business for approximately 15 years.
Houston Agent (HA): A national study said that young Americans are expressing an interest in home buying this year, even though mortgage rates have increased. Is this something you’re noticing in Houston?
Tara Waggoner (TW): Absolutely. We’ve noticed that the customers that we’re currently working with have increased their offers by 4 percent. The total number of customers that have actually wanted to go and look for homes has increased by 1 percent and this has all been since June 21st.
However, the new customers that are contacting agents has decreased a little bit. So if they were already working, they’re stepping up to the plate a little bit more. And if they haven’t really started (they were just searching on the Internet), they’re stepping back just a little bit.
I don’t think they’re more “interested” in homebuying; I think that people have gone through so much financially over the last few years that maybe they’ve prepped themselves a little bit more financially.
We’re seeing a lot more informed consumers who know what they’re getting into. They’re doing their research online and they’re utilizing all of our tools that we have, as far as data analysis, what the homes actually are selling for, so they’re a lot more educated than what they were over the last few years because they have more tools to use.
It will never go back to the “normal” market because all of the consumers are more educated. They’re able to search more online, have access to more information, so I don’t think there will be any point in time where they go back to a “normal” market. I think it’s going to slow down a little bit after this year as rates increase, but I don’t think it will ever completely.
Houston’s never had a bubble like any other city has. We’ve always maintained value, so we’ve never had that issue.
HA: Reports have shown the housing economy is slowing on its way to a recovery. Are you noticing this in Houston? What do you think is driving the recovery?
TW: Yes. Innovations and technology will result in the real estate market never slowing back down. Again, that comes with education and consumers are able to take matters into their own hands a lot of times. And they can be picky and they can be choosey. And when it comes to agents, they can choose someone who is an actual asset for them in the market.
Our housing economy is also improving because of our energy corridor, and the fact that we have people coming in and out of Houston all the time. We have a lot of young business professionals who are transferring from Chevron in the oil and gas industry, but also you see a lot of young professionals able to start their families here because we don’t have extremely high-priced homes and it’s still affordable for them.
We noticed also in our industry here in Houston, especially, that a lot of the buying market is based around the calendar of the school year. At the end of the school year, tours for homes slow down a little bit because people are celebrating graduations, taking their first vacation for the summer and things like that. And then the market starts to move back up because they want to move and get situated before the school year begins.
HA: There are a lot of ways to market yourself in this business. Which ways work effectively for you and why?
TW: A lot of people have a big misconception about what Redfin is and that we’re only an online real estate brokerage, which is not true. We’re a full-service, real estate brokerage firm.
What sets us apart from other agents is this: Redfin agents don’t get paid on commission. We have salary, benefits and bonuses based on customer satisfaction. We get customer reviews on every agent, we get surveyed throughout the whole process. If our customers aren’t satisfied, we don’t get that bonus. Regardless of whether they close on a home or they don’t close on the home, we have to make sure our customer is first.
With Redfin, that’s how we market. We don’t have to do much else. Our customer satisfaction speaks for itself.