Fifteen years ago, a senior executive for a major retail chain fell in love with a Civil War-era house located in rural Maryland, a long drive to the nearest major city, Washington, D.C. She filled her beloved Victorian -- set on a 12-acre lot -- with antiques.
Now 71 and retired, the executive has a whole new vision for her lifestyle. She’s planning to put the iconic property on the market and buy an RV for travel all over the country.
“This woman’s house is totally unique and historic. It will sell in an instant,” says Stacy Berman, the woman’s real estate agent.
Exceptional properties like this Victorian, along with remotely located homes in resort areas such as those near the ski slopes of Colorado, continue to command high prices. That’s because many high-end buyers, including those with elite tech jobs, are still able to work from home on a full-time or nearly full-time basis.
But with the worst of the pandemic behind the nation, more employers are telling their workers to return to the office. And that’s somewhat weakening demand for properties in remote areas.
Take the case of a married couple of financial analysts who for three years worked remotely from San Francisco for their New York-area companies. This summer, they were put on notice by their employers that they needed to spend more “face time” in the office. So they packed up and moved to New York.
“It got so exhausting flying across the country just to attend an office meeting or a happy hour with my office mates. We were sorry to leave San Francisco. But we know our bosses are grateful we now live so much closer, which is good for our careers,” the wife says.
Are you planning to sell a remotely located property in the near future? If so, real estate specialists caution owners to exercise caution when selecting a listing agent. Also, it’s important to price your place to reflect changing work patterns.
“You can’t assume everybody will want to move to your quiet village just because its peaceful to live there and the cost of living is low,” says Eric Tyson, a personal finance expert and co-author of “House Selling for Dummies.”
Karen Rittenhouse, author of “The Essential Handbook for Selling a Home,” says that agent choice can have major financial implications.
“Who you select is a really big deal because you’ve got a lot of money riding on your sale. You need to ask for referrals, check references and interview every agent you’re considering. Like hiring a cancer specialist, you don’t want to just pick someone at random,” she says.
Many successful agents hire assistants to handle much of their routine work, and Rittenhouse doesn’t necessarily disapprove of this practice. But she says it’s important that your primary agent handle such core functions as negotiating on your behalf when an offer comes in.
Here are a few other pointers for sellers:
-- Examine a potential listing agent’s track record.
Maybe the agent you’re thinking of hiring is a superstar -- having won numerous awards for sales volume. Even so, this could be the wrong type for you.
“Just because the agent is a ‘big producer’ in sales volume doesn’t mean they have expertise selling in your specific area or your type of house,” Tyson says.
He urges sellers to get an “activity list” from any agent they’re considering. This should itemize all sales closed in the previous 12 months and show the property locations as well as list and sale prices. This info tells you how the agent is performing on a day-to-day basis.
Agents don’t just specialize in particular areas; they also specialize in certain price categories.
“For instance, you wouldn’t want an agent who’s earning most of his commission dollars on suburban houses worth over $1 million to list a studio worth a fraction of that. In that case, your studio might fail to get the attention it deserves,” Tyson says.
-- Consider the implications before hiring “partner agents.”
Some agents, including married couples, like to work as a professional team. They bill themselves as two interchangeable parts of a qualified whole.
“In theory, such a partnership has big advantages for clients because you get a doubling-up of talent with two people devoting themselves to your sale,” Tyson says.
However, in practice the two-agent arrangement is only advantageous to sellers if both partners are truly committed to their work.
“Sometimes the two halves don’t equal a whole, and the clients are shortchanged,” Tyson says.
-- Survey the agents you interview about their holiday and vacation plans.
Obviously, agents like to pull away from work from time to time. But real estate experts caution against hiring one who plans to head for vacation during the early weeks of your listing period. That could hinder your sale at the time when buyer excitement about your place is high.
Tyson says it’s unreasonable to ask agents to forecast their travel plans a full year ahead. But it’s fair to ask a couple of months in advance about any lengthy absence that will occur shortly after your property goes on the market.
“To avoid a timing conflict, ask the agent about his or her vacation plans as far ahead as he knows them. Then if you’re really committed to working with that person, you might still want to postpone your listing to suit their schedule,” Tyson says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at email@example.com.)