Are “Exclusive” listings really exclusive in our current market?

This topper on a For Sale sign may indicate an Exclusive listing 

What is an “exclusive” listing anyway?
An “exclusive” listing is one which is not listed on MLS® but is being marketed by a single Realtor, who has a signed listing agreement from a seller, allowing/directing them to market the property. (by law, Realtors must have written instruction from a seller to market their property)  In balanced markets or buyers markets, it is rarely used, as one of the many strengths of the MLS® system is to generate the widest possible exposure and this it does via an MLS® listing on the realtor.ca site and affiliated real estate websites in the realtor.ca ecosystem or network.  By employing the “exclusive” listing, the listing sales person and brokerage are not posting the property on realtor.ca and instead are relying on only their own marketing efforts to find suitable buyers for the property.  It has historically meant that other Realtors are not providing buyers for the property, so in essence, that listing is proprietary or exclusive to the listing agent and brokerage.

While there are some circumstances where the exclusive listing makes sense, it is impossible for a single agent or brokerage to generate the same interest or number of buyer prospects as can be generated by the other 3,000 sales people in our Board and the ubiquitous online power of realtor.ca and its affiliates.

So why are we seeing more exclusive listings in our current market?
Our listing starved market has spawned the ever increasing use of holding back offers and bidding wars, due to the imbalance of supply and demand.  This means that properties are selling very quickly and there is also a relatively limited level of listings available for real estate professionals to represent.

This brings a couple of challenges for Realtors who typically “list to exist”: The shelf life and personal marketing/advertising value of each listing to the Realtor is greatly diminished.  It does not allow much time to be able to leverage that listing to gain ancillary prospects, who contact the listing agent and even if they don’t buy that particular property, could end up buying another or listing their current property with that Realtor. The exclusive or non MLS® listing, gives the listing agent the opportunity to leverage that property and try to gain a buyer to “double end” the sale or generate additional buyer or seller prospects.  With high demand and use of social media and other advertising/market campaigns, the listing agent can generate additional footsteps or buyer traffic to their own “store” (so to speak)

Secondly, with many properties selling in only a few days, it is important to get as many people as possible exposed to the listed property prior to the offer date.  The “exclusive” listing is most commonly used in this market, simply as a “pre-marketing” campaign and this is one sees so many of those “Coming Soon” sign toppers on For Sale signs. Listing agents publish the listing a week or two (sometimes more) ahead of the anticipated MLS®/realtor.ca launch date on their own websites and other marketing channels, including a large variety of online realtor groups that act as a portal for such properties.  Savvy buyer agents stay on top of these on a daily basis.

Why exclusive is not really exclusive these days!
this pre-marketing of the non-MLS® listing is done under the contracted agreement called an “Exclusive” (as opposed to an MLS® ) listing but will in most cases contain provision for a payment to a co-operating brokerage and salesperson who brings a buyer to the property during the pre-marketing period.  So while the type of listing falls in the “exclusive” category, it does not really preclude other Realtors from participating and bringing their buyer to the property.  This can vary by listing, however, so buyers should have their buyer representatives contact the listing agent when they see a For Sale sign that shows the words “Exclusive Listing”  &/or “Coming Soon” Note: Buyers please try to stop and get the address and name of the listing agent on these signs.  We frequently see on our Realtor groups, postings that say something like:  “my buyer saw a coming soon sign on Smyth Rd., does anyone know who is listing that property?

“The secret or off market listings” spiel:
Creative buyer representatives are often spinning their services as being unique in having access to listings “not yet on the market” and use this as a ploy to generate buyer (and seller) leads.  In a market where we have a dire shortage of listing inventory, it is understandable that some buyers will succumb to this type of mantra but most will recognize it is simply a slick sales pitch.

Buyers should always consider Exclusive listings, sellers not so much: A buyer should definitely go and see any property that meets their requirements (if allowed) but should be careful not to sign any representation agreement that binds them to that particular listing agent.  Some agents may ask you to sign a “Buyer Representation Agreement” if you want to see this special property to which “only their buyers have access”.

Sellers should rarely consider accepting an offer via an exclusive listing unless it totally blows their minds.  Why?  Because until you have exposed the property to the complete market via an MLS®/realtor.ca listing, then you don’t really know what the true market value is and that seller could well be leaving “money on the table”.  Granted there could be situations that warrant an exclusive listing and sale and whatever a seller and their listing agent agree is fair ball.  However, a seller should be 100% sure they are getting full market value and not simply a quicker sale, double-ended sale or are being used to generate more clients for their listing agent.

Does a listing agent advertise their listings or vice versa?
A good way to tell if a Realtor advertises their listings or uses their listings to advertise themselves, is to look at previous or current listings and marketing materials and see whether the property or the listing agent is most prominent.  In many cases, it is clear that the listing agent accomplishments, photo, logo, tag line etc. are more enhanced than the particular property being marketed.  Does the listing agent leave out key information like address or selling price or interior photos?  This can be a key clue, as it means the ad is intended to generate enquiries not simply sell the property.

Our approach:
We like using the Exclusive listing and “Coming Soon” marketing as a pre-announcement (assuming our seller is in agreement) but only a relatively short time ahead of the MLS® launch. (perhaps a week ahead)  During that pre-announcement period we can then advertise the property via our own channels and generate interest but we typically do not provide access to the property to any buyers during this time.  Making the property available for showings with the MLS®/realtor.ca posting, is to us the most sensible way to provide equal access to all buyers and generate the maximum marketing opportunity for our sellers and thus generate the best market value possible.  While it is nice if we generate additional prospects, it is a totally secondary issue, though we would not say this is true of all Realtors and we believe too many are trying to manipulate sellers for their own ancillary purposes by leveraging the listing and the exclusive listing process in a way that is not always in the best interest of the seller.

So sellers should be a little leery of the ulterior motives of a prospective listing agent pitching the Exclusive listing and buyers should likewise be very careful about signing up to see the exclusive listing,  private listing, pocket listing or off market listing being touted by some agents.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Principal Broker, Ottawa Real Estate Board
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage 613-435-4692
oasisrealty@rogers.com
www.oasisrealtyottawa.com 

Seller tips and strategies for Ottawa winter showings

winter showing tips and strategies

There are some important decisions to make with your listing broker to help you plan to accommodate winter showings, in this busy sellers’ market in 2019/2020.  Here are just a few:

Initial showing period:
How will you manage access to accommodate the largest number of buyers to your property?  High demand and low listing inventory right now means properties are highly sought after and buyers will want to see the property as soon as possible after it is listed. 8 to 10 showings a day (or more!) in the first few days is not out of the question.

Some buyers are even vacating their properties for the first 4-7 days to provide for easiest access for buyers.

Are you holding offers?
If you are holding offers back to a certain date, you will want to take this in to consideration also.

Do you want to schedule overlapping showings?
Realtors normally book a 1 hour showing window.  Do you want to allow for potentially overlapping showings where more one buyer and their agent may be in the property at the same time?  This is a quite normal practice but if you want individual buyers to enjoy a private showing, you may request that your listing broker does not schedule overlapping showings.

What part does an open house or open houses play?
Open Houses work for most properties and provide a scheduled time for buyers to visit.  When trying to maximize or optimize the number of visitors in a short time frame, they can be very strategic.  We often hold dual open houses on listing launch weekends, as this gives buyers two choices to visit plus it may help us, if a winter storm impacts a single open house day and time.

Do you continue showings after a conditional sale?
Do you continue with buyer showings (and open houses) if you have signed an agreement for a conditional sale on the property?  Sales cancellations are at an all-time high of 10-15% of conditional sales, so it may be a good idea to continue accepting showings and holding any already scheduled open house, just in case, the buyer financing does not come through or for some other reason the buyer chooses to opt out of the agreement.

Do you have any time-of-day restrictions you wish to add to your listing?
In most cases, you want to make the property as accessible as possible for buyers but there are circumstances like children’s bedtimes, shift work schedules and other family matters may dictate a time window where showings cannot be accommodated.  Discuss these with your listing broker.

What is your pet management plan for showings?
Discuss with your broker, how best to manage pets to accommodate showings.

Here is an update to a previous post with specific tips for prepping for buyer visitors in winter:

Here is a checklist to things to consider when prepping for winter showings:

  1. Please shovel the driveway, walkway, front porch, decks and patios and make sure it is both accessible and safe for visitors. Ditto for snow or ice on roofs, eaves, overhangs or garages. Also, please make sure all windows and patio doors are frost and ice free and can be opened by visitors, if they wish.
    check to make sure the house numbers are visible as is the real estate “For Sale” sign and not obscured by snow, ice or snowbanks.
  1. For evening showings, please leave an outdoor light on so it is quick and easy to access the lockbox and then open the front door.
  2. Leaving all house lights on, saves time and shows your home to its best. Best to turn off the security system for scheduled showings also.
  3. Please make sure there are ample floor mats and boot trays to accommodate visitor footwear, especially for Open Houses.
  4. Please keep floors dry and clean! Few things are more irritating or distracting than walking through a puddle or having to walk through a dirty basement.
  5. Keep a moderate temp in the 19-20 C range (65-68F).  Many vacant properties are like meat lockers temperature wise and this does nothing for a buyer trying to “warm up “to a property, particularly when walking through in their sock/stocking feet on a cold floor. Visitors are wearing coats at this time of year, so please don’t make it too warm, either.
  6. Keep curtains and blinds open to admit as much natural light as possible, this is especially important in our low light winter conditions.  Light, bright homes show better and buyers are very much interested in this.
  7. Have a pet management plan which includes daily removal of any pet droppings that are emerging through the snow and ensure cat litter boxes and the area around them are cleaned regularly.
  8. Check for cooking, pet or other odours (hockey equipment?) and ventilate the home using your HRV, as home odours are more noticeable during the winter when houses (particularly newer more air tight ones) do not get as much fresh air from opening windows and doors. Moisture control is also important, as excess condensation on windows can be a worrying sign for buyers.
  9. Minimize distractions:  we don’t need cooking smells, music, vanilla on the stove, excessive air or carpet deodorant, personal photos, etc.
  10. Leave out some good colour photos of what the house and yard look like in the summer time, this really helps a buyer “see” the property.
  11. Have a plan for any fireplace.  Wood burning fireplaces don’t need to be lit but should be clean and with wood or fire log ready to light.  Gas fireplaces should also be clean and ready to turn on with directions on how to do so but resist the urge to leave the gas fireplace “on” or a wood burning fire going.
  12. No smoking…even in the garage!14.don’t run dishwasher or laundry when showings are anticipated
  1. Leave out copies of any pertinent neighbourhood information, your property survey or other items that may be potentially of interest for buyers or their representatives.
  2. Don’t be afraid to post a note about turning off lights or not locking inside garage door.

We would love to share our other thoughts on how to get your property sold, so feel free to give us a call at 613-435-4692 or oasisrealty@rogers.com , if you are not already working with another real estate professional.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker Oasis Realty Brokerage
www.oasisrealtyottawa.com
613-435-4692 oasisrealty@rogers.com   https://www.facebook.com/oasisrealtyottawa/ @oasisrealtyOTT

For a great list of top real estate blogs in Canada, check here: https://blog.feedspot.com/canada_real_estate_blogs/

Is a “pre-listing” home inspection a good idea?

can a pre-listing inspection save a sale?

A “pre-listing” home inspection is just like a regular home inspection but is completed by the homeowner/seller prior to listing the property for sale.  Buyers are very familiar with the advantages of a home inspection when buying a property but few sellers take the time to have a “pre-listing” home inspection done.  Here are a few thoughts on why this rarely happens and why it is probably a very good idea in this market.

Is this a good idea?
Doing such a home inspection prior to listing is an excellent idea for a number of reasons.  It can be part of listing preparation and a sensible piece of due diligence to perform.  Most home inspectors are happy to do these and generally, they would be conducted well enough in advance of the listing date, to allow time to rectify any significant issues discovered.  (Or at the very least, to obtain professional quotes to understand the cost of remedies that can be built in to pricing strategy or negotiations)

In our sellers’ market one might say “what’s the point? there are lots of buyers out there” and forgo such an inspection and the associated cost.  However, having a home inspection report on file and available for serious buyers and their buyer representatives can be a very handy tool.

Some buyers may choose to forego the need for their own home inspection, if the report on file is deemed satisfactory.  This can mean a “cleaner” offer and possibly a quicker firming up date which benefits both buyer and seller.  It might also mean more offers in a multiple offer situation.

It can also provide buyers with confirming data on the property under consideration which can add to their confidence level or inform them of details that they may not have known.  This may help prevent a sale “falling through” or being cancelled during the conditional period.  Because of our sellers’ market, we are seeing extraordinarily high levels of such sales cancellations and these really hurt the seller, so on this basis alone, a pre-listing inspection is warranted.

If a general pre-listing inspection suggests more specific, expert consultation then a seller may choose to further investigate the matter and obtain additional reports, quotes or information that will help facilitate a sale or negotiation.  If done well in advance, then a seller has the opportunity to address some of the items pointed out and thus ensure success when a buyers’ home inspection is conducted.

A Professional Inspectors thoughts:
Mike White, owner of Homepro Inspections here in Ottawa and a very experienced home inspector, says perhaps 3% of his total inspections annually are pre-listing.
“I do several of these a year. Many are estate sales where the sellers are really not aware of any information about the house.

Most of the issues found are the same for any other inspection. Asbestos is something that many homeowners have no idea is in their homes.

The main difference when I am performing a pre-listing inspection is that I will typically give the sellers some tips on preparing their home for the next inspection. This would be information beyond what some agents provide in their services.

Some of this would be:
– Cleaning the furnace, or changing filters.
– Recommendation of increasing attic insulation
– Caulking and other general maintenance which can give potential buyers an impression of how the home has been maintained.”

You can reach out to Mike for a variety of home inspection related services at: http://homeprocanada.ca/ or by calling 613-860-4848

Why don’t more sellers and listing agents do these?

Timelines:
Quite often sellers are on a tight timeline to get a property listed and there just isn’t time to get a pre-inspection done.  Inspectors are in high demand in peak season and may or not be as readily available to do such inspections during the busiest months in the spring.

“Don’t-ask-don’t tell” or “don’t poke the bear
Most sellers are also very familiar with their homes and either don’t feel a home inspection is necessary, don’t want to shoulder the cost (approx. $500) or don’t want to “poke the bear” and potentially find out some negative aspect of the property that could affect their selling process.  Many listing agents also apply a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” principle to the pre-listing inspection, as anything significant discovered by that inspection may be a material fact which must then be disclosed to buyers or may delay the listing process.   “Why ask for trouble?  many listing agents may ask themselves.

Today, only the most cautious sellers are having pre-listing home inspections done in our market and in many cases, probably only upon the suggestion of their listing agent/broker.  Some brokers may choose to include the cost of this inspection in their listing fees.  Homes that have had (or have) some specific issue, (ie foundation, structural, latent defect) are good candidates to show buyers what needs to be done and what it will cost or to prove that the issue has been resolved. Often, a trade specialist or Engineering inspection and report may be provided for this purpose.

We believe that doing such an inspection protects both seller and listing broker and paves the way for a smoother sales process overall but don’t expect to see a much higher % of listed properties being supported in this fashion.  Those contemplating a sale, should at the very least discuss this with their listing broker and determine if there are sufficient reasons to proceed.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage
613-435-4692  oasisrealty@rogers.com 

 

 

 

Why dual open houses is a great strategy for our sellers

We are big fans of open houses, unlike many agents who tend to pooh-pooh their use.  (That’s a topic for another day!)
We have found tremendous success for our sellers by using a dual open house strategy during the first week our listings launch.  Here are some of many reasons this strategy works:

Facilitates access for buyers:
Buyers like open houses.  It is an easy way to have a look at a property with a low commitment level, regardless of where a buyer may be in their purchasing cycle.  Many buyers fall in to the “I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it” category and may watch or browse the market for an extended period, before finding one that ticks all their boxes.
These buyers often “don’t want to bother their agent” and would probably not otherwise book a showing to see the property, without open house availability.  Many buyers don’t wish to engage their agent until they are really ready to buy.  Many an agent will get a phone call on Sunday evening or Monday morning, from a client who has seen a property at an Open House on the weekend.

We get to “sell” our client’s property!
The MLS® network is remarkably effective at putting buyers and listed properties together.  One drawback is that as a listing broker, we rarely get to speak directly to a prospective buyer of the property, since that buyer contact is normally managed by another agent in the buyer representative role.  So, while we can sell to the buyer rep, we rarely have the same opportunity to speak directly to the buyers.  Open Houses give us that opportunity and who better to speak to our own listing than us?

Many open house visitors are quite cautious and reserved (wonder why that is?…we’ll have a post on that in a week or two) but generally speaking, the most interested buyers are very engaged and detailed in checking out the house.  Many ask excellent questions too and it is a great time to field those questions and address any objections or possible misconceptions.

The better informed a buyer is and the more chance they have to investigate a property, the less the chance of a conditional sale falling through which is happening with almost frightening frequency in this hot sellers’ market.

We can get a read on potential buyers:
We can gauge interest levels by the amount of time a buyer or couple spend in the house.  Usually, the longer the stay, the greater the interest.  We can also often tell if one half a buyer couple is more interested than another.  We can often get a feel for the buyer’s level of interest and key features that may come in handy at offer/negotiation time.

Buyers can get multiple chances to see the property:
Too often in our hot sellers’ market, a buyer gets to see a property once and then has to make up their minds about submitting an offer.  This is leading to an unprecedented number of conditional sales falling through.  By providing two additional chances to visit the property via our open houses, buyers may get a better feel for whether the property is the right one for them.

We even see some buyers twice when the visit both open houses, which is also a good sign that they are activity considering the property.

Buyers see level of interest from other buyers:
While we don’t intend to create a boiler room high pressure sales environment, (and we are not high pressure!) we think it is very much in the sellers favour for all buyers to see a house full of prospective buyers at an open house.  This shows everyone that the house is getting strong demand and may help motivate them to make an offer and make a strong offer.  The fear of loss and need to compete motivation of some buyers is tweaked when a busy open house is experienced.

Open Houses are very democratic:
We think open houses allow a wider cross section of buyers to consider the property and in generating more face-to-face visits to the property, we are engaging a larger cross section of the buyer pool.  This is both fair to all buyers (not just the early-bird-gets-the-worm buyers and their agents)  Many properties are publicized in advance of MLS® publication which often skews the playing field in favour of just a few buyers.  While this may be good for those buyers and their agents, it is not necessarily best for our sellers.  More exposure-more buyers should equal better and true market value in our opinion.

Best when holding offers:
Dual open houses are a great strategy when holding back offers, too.  It gives Realtors and buyers ample access to see the property 2 or even 3 times and determine their level of interest and how they plan an offer strategy.  Some may even choose to do a pre offer inspection which would help strengthen their offer.

There are a ton of other intangible benefits to dual open houses too but we’ll leave some of those for another post.  Right now, it’s late Saturday morning and we have to get ready for our first Open House this weekend!

 

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Principal Broker, Ottawa Real Estate Board
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty  613-435-4692 oasisrealty@rogers.com