Bob Brick, patriarch of RE/MAX Bayshore, the Brick & Corbett team, and Traverse City real estate industry stalwart has been in the real estate business for a long time. In his time helping northern Michiganders buy and sell homes, he’s seen markets of all sorts. We asked him to share some insights with us about what he’s learned along the way.
“Well, I’ve been doing this for 47 years, nearly a half-century, so I’ve seen plenty of market downturns. In fact, I count eight total recessions of various shapes and sizes in my time.”
Bob has helped clients navigate through the oil embargoes of the mid-1970s, the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, through national tragedies like 9/11, and of course through the housing crash and ensuing financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. And those are just the big ones.
“People are always going to need a place to live. No matter what is happening in the world, there are going to be reasons people need to buy and sell homes, and that’s what we’re here for; to help them navigate that. But, with everything going on in the world right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty. We’re in some uncharted waters, which is why getting the help of an experienced professional is more important than ever.”
Buying and Selling During the COVID-19 Crisis
Brick is, of course, referring to the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the shockwaves it’s sent through the financial and real estate markets. “It’s like someone just hit the pause button. Nothing is running, we are all just waiting. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t be making deals in new ways and making plans for the future.”
Bob shared with us some advice for buyers and sellers who are active in the market right now.
“If you’re in the market right now, you’ve got to adjust to a new normal. Showings aren’t going to happen like we want them to. We’ve got to get our heads around the idea of virtual showings, touring properties on FaceTime, and making offers sight unseen. If you’re a seller, be prepared for a process that’s going to take a lot longer. If you’re a buyer, make sure you’re working with an agent who you trust; you’re going to be relying on them for details about a property that you’d normally get yourself. There is no “sniff test” right now, your agent has to do the sniffing for you.”
What’s Next For Northern Michigan Real Estate?
Brick wasn’t alone in his suggestion to make sure you’ve got a trusted real estate resource at your side in times of recession and economic uncertainty. We also spoke with Maureen Penfold and Chrissy Ingersoll, a RE/MAX Bayshore duo with nearly 60 years of real estate experience between the two of them, about what the market might look like after we can all emerge from our homes and life begins to get back to normal.
“It’s hard to compare what we’re going through now to anything in the past, because we’ve never experienced this level of shutdown before, but I think we’re more likely to see market conditions similar to what we saw after 9/11” said Penfold.
“Just before 9/11, the market was really strong, just like it was for us a month and a half ago. Sellers could put properties on the market and could pretty much count on activity and high prices. That’s going to most likely change. I expect there will still be demand, but unless you’re being proactive in the selling process with good marketing and are being realistic on price, you’re going to have a tougher time.”
Ingersoll gave us some insight on her predictions for what buyers can expect in the new market:
“There may be some opportunities for buyers to get homes at lower prices after things start up again, but they’ll need to make sure they’re on the ball with their financing. Mortgages will most likely be a little harder to come by, so make sure you’re pre-approved and in the mortgage process before even starting the home search. When you are looking, you need to have a really clear set of priorities and must-haves for your home. There is likely going to be less to choose from, so being focused on your goals will be important.”
Both Penfold and Ingersoll agreed that certain segments of the local Northern Michigan market are going to be less affected by things than others. For instance, the demand for entry-level and first-time buyer homes is so great that even a slow down in buyers is likely not enough to kill prices. If you’re thinking about selling a home in the $200,000 range, you’ll likely still have decent activity on your property.
The same goes for the homes in the $400,000 – $600,000 price range. But, that depends on one big factor:
“Jobs” Penfold reminded us. “We’re seeing record unemployment numbers right now, and it’s impossible to say exactly how that’s going to affect buyer demand yet, but it won’t be good. There’s just no guarantee that the buyers for a particular housing market segment will have the level of employment they had two months ago, so only time will tell how things are going to shake out.”
Putting It All Together
Just like Bob Brick told us, the message from Maureen and Chrissy was clear: Work with an experienced real estate professional to navigate an uncertain housing market. This isn’t the time to be giving your college roommate’s son who just got his real estate license a chance to get his feet wet. Right now, buyers and sellers need a trusted voice that can speak to their concerns not just with ideas, but with experience.
Bob Brick is one of the leaders of the Brick & Corbett Team, part of the REMAX Bayshore Properties family. Maureen Penfold and Christina Ingersoll are a team of more than 25 years, also with REMAX Bayshore Properties.
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