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Broker open houses indicate buyer demand, little inventory

Even with all of the fancy photos and videos available, there’s still no substitute for getting out and seeing a house on the market.

A broker caravan gives exposure to properties while also helping agents learn more about the area they cover.

The agents attend a marketing -- or pitch -- session prior to driving around and walking through open houses. They’re given a packet, which includes a list of the open houses and a list of buyer wants and needs, such as area, number of bedrooms and size.

The Carlsbad/Encinitas tour in early February included a list of more than 100 buyer wants and needs.

“It shows that the market today has extremely low inventory and pent-up demand,” said Dee Marie Fisher, Realtor at Windermere Homes & Estates.

During a pitch session, agents announce new listings that may not have hit the MLS yet, known as pocket listings. Fisher said there have been fewer of those lately, further conveying the low inventory in the market.

“This is only the first week in February,” Fisher said. “[Properties] will continue to come on the market.”

Bill Richard, broker, owner and agent at Richard Realty Group Inc., said that if interest rates go down, there will be more buyers and there could be another surge in the market like last year.

He said he expects interest rates to tick down and then by next year be up near 5 percent.

There might be more inventory as prices increase, said Garrett K. Lund, broker with The Lund Team Inc. But he expects this to be a lower-volume year because homeowners are locked in at good rates.

It’s hard to sell unless a homeowner really wants to move up, because rates have increased to more than 4 percent, Lund said.

Fisher feels a pulse for the market through her open houses, and said she has been amazed at how many people are ready to buy and how few options they have to choose from.

“Buyers are still looking for the perfect home,” Fisher said. “When you have high buyer demand, it’s a seller’s market and typically buyers will compromise -- they still aren’t there yet and neither are the sellers.”

Lund said the caravan is an opportunity to show a property to a lot of people at one time, and the agents looking are able to preview many properties in one trip.

“The market is pretty active right now -- there’s not a lot of inventory,” Lund said. “The available inventory is pretty light, and for very unique [properties], it’s going pretty fast.”

The house at 1194 Via Zamia in Encinitas has five-bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms, with a pool and spa. Staff photo by Samantha Henry

Lund said he had heard someone talking about an offer at the five-bedroom, 5.5- bathroom property he was showing at 1194 Via Zamia in Encinitas, which he said was one of the best lots on the street, right next to the golf course with a “dynamite” pool-spa area.

“I’d say unique houses definitely are moving -- and the lower price point is still very active,” Lund said.

The caravan puts a lot of eyes on the property, which Lund said he did premarketing for with videos and photos to draw more traffic.

“A lot of top agents do participate in the caravan -- it makes sense to get the word out. It’s a great day to get out and see the properties, and it’s generally at a time when you’re not showing homes to traditional buyers, anyway,” Lund said. “There’s no substitute for seeing a house. We have a lot of videos and that helps, but seeing it, feeling it -- you can’t duplicate it. Getting in and having a preview, you’re able to tell your buyers about it.”

Seeing the properties also helps the agents when they have a listing down the street, Lund said.

“It’s a sold comp that you know the value of,” Lund said. “That’s why you want a Realtor who specializes in a certain area. We couldn’t do all of San Diego. … It’s good to get that specific agent who knows the niche area, just for all the nuances.”

New agents will go out and see every house they possibly can on caravan, while more seasoned agents will see the properties that fit their clients’ needs, Fisher said.

Shannon McCall, office manager at Willis Allen Real Estate’s Reed Team, said any “solid” agent is going to caravan his or her listings and go on caravan to see what’s out there.

“You need to know what the inventory is, but you may not need to go to every single complex if you already know the area. As a new agent, you should,” Fisher said. “Going on caravan and knowing what’s on the market is essential in the real estate business.”

If a potential buyer walks into a real estate office, the Realtors should be able to talk to him or her about what’s on the market, Fisher said.

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Willis Allen Real Estate

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Leslie Kilpatrick

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