Buy Side: 'We've all had to pivot' to adapt to the market
Charlotte agent Joan Goode says a lot has changed for buyers over the past few years, and upfront conversations about inventory, compensation are important.
Lawsuits and speculation around the future of compensation have put buyer agency in the spotlight. In this series of stories, we hear directly from buyer's agents about what they do, their paths to success and their thoughts about how their jobs could change.
Joan Goode has represented both buyers and sellers for 19 years, but never both at the same time for the same property.
"I'm either listing your property and only working for you, or I'm helping you find a property and only working for you," says Goode, an agent at Dickens Mitchener Real Estate in Charlotte, North Carolina. "I just don't find that I can have fiduciary responsibilities for both sides of a transaction."
And each side takes different skills, Goode says. Sellers are looking to make money, while buyers are often looking for something less tangible: "How does it feel when you walk in? How would you celebrate a holiday in the space? Will all my stuff fit in here?"
"It's less about finances and more about feelings on the buy side," Goode says.
Start with a conversation about the market
With the pandemic and the fluctuating housing market that followed it, the buy side of the market has changed as much as, if not more than, the sell side, Goode says.
"We've all had to pivot," she says. "That's what I've tried very hard to do, and I think buyers appreciate this because I have a conversation with them about today's market when we initially meet. … I explain to them about how limited inventory changes the way we go about searching for homes.
"We don't have the luxury of time that we used to have," Goode adds. "It used to be I would say, 'OK, we'll look at these, we'll narrow it down, and when you find your top one, go sleep on it and we'll make a decision.' Now — maybe not as much in 2023 — but in 2020, 2021, 2022, it was 'OK, you have five minutes to make a decision.'"
'Everyone refinanced or moved' when rates were low
Goode is finding that in Charlotte, high interest rates have limited options for buyers.
"Quite truthfully, everyone either refinanced or moved when the rates were below 3%," she says. "You'll see a lot of home improvement now in Charlotte, and that's because people are saying, 'I have so much equity in this home, my mortgage is at 2%, I'm just going to add on or remodel or upgrade. I'm not going to look for another home.'"
That's creating challenges for buyers, and represents shifting homeowner attitudes. "In the past, no one wanted to deal with that headache. Everyone said, 'OK, I'll just move.'"
Agents should feel comfortable talking about compensation
On the horizon now are lawsuits that could potentially change how buyer agents get paid. Though she declined to talk about the lawsuits specifically, Goode said agents must have conversations with their clients from the beginning to ensure they understand the process of buying and selling a home, including how agents are compensated.
"I think no one ever wants to be caught off guard, but if you explain upfront that this is what you'll see moving forward and this is what you can expect, I would say the majority of people I work with are very reasonable," Goode says. "I think we as Realtors need to explain the process of this as a cost associated with buying a home."
And, she says, clients need to know that agents aren't compensated at all until the transaction closes.
"They want to make it to the finish line with you, and it's in everyone's best interest that we are compensated that way," Goode says. "That way, in my opinion, you know that your buyer agent is going to stay with you until the bitter end."
And Goode says she likes working with her clients to the end, which usually isn't bitter at all.
"I love making people's dreams come true when they find their dream home, and a dream home looks different to every person," she says. "When they find that dream home, it is magical."