Real Estate Forecast for Tampa Bay in 2021

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Each week, we bring you real-time information for real estate markets around the nation. We interview our Top Agents and this week we spoke with veteran Realtor© Jason Pithers, one of the top selling agents in the Tampa Bay region, selling over 60 million dollars in real estate, just last year.   Effective Agents: Jason, thanks so much for joining me and for granting this interview for I have a list of 10 questions aimed at highlighting what makes you one of the country’s top real estate agents, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to jump right in with the first one: What sets you apart from other Realtors—what makes you stand out in your market?   Jason Pithers (JP): I think really the biggest contributing factor is our experience and our backgrounds; my wife and I, we work as a team. We both have legal backgrounds. My wife was a corporate finance attorney with a top law firm in Manhattan and Atlanta, and I was the Chief Operating Officer of a Barrister's Chambers in London. So we have a very strong command of the contracts and very, very little fallout of contracts. Once we go into contract, we usually get to the closing table.    Effective Agents: What do you enjoy most about your career?   JP: The two biggest contributing factors are meeting completely different people every day and seeing so many different properties. It certainly isn’t boring or monotonous. We meet some fantastic people, and we are always learning something new - new areas, new homes. I find it's a fun career.    Effective Agents: What is unique about the City/town you work in, the Tampa Bay area—why do people love it there?   JP: Well, we are the City of sports right now. We've got the Tampa Bay Lightning who are current Stanley Cup winners. We have the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team. We also have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and as well as Tampa Bay Rays who made their way to the World Series this year. All sports have a big following in the Bay area. We are also a relatively young City. When I moved here the median age was about  thirty to thirty-three but I think now we are around thirty-seven to thirty-eight.  When you take into account Pinellas County, including Clearwater & St Pete where a lot of people have vacation homes and many retirees, the age group jumps up. So, Tampa is a very young, vibrant City that’s also becoming a bit of a mecca for foodies as well as lots of breweries. There is a very sociable environment.  We also have a fantastic domestic and international airport, which caters to a growing population and expansion as well as many visitors.    Effective Agents: How should people prepare and what should they expect from their first meeting with a Realtor?   JP: On a buyer basis, it is so important, really getting to know your buyer's needs, what are their true wishes, where are they willing to compromise, what won’t they compromise on? Often, in the past, I have had clients say that a pool is an absolute must when buying a home. I am only sending pool homes for them to see, and then, all of a sudden, they are sending me non-pool homes they are interested in. So, when you prepare to interview your buyer’s agent have a clear written wish – must have’s and what might be negotiable.   Also, be honest about your budget. As an agent, I always say that I'm going to stay within their given criteria, particularly when it comes to price. Over the years I have had many buyers work with me who said they got frustrated when they gave a budget of say up to four hundred thousand, and their previous Realtor™ then starts sending homes for four hundred and fifty to five hundred thousand. I never go above their price range without their permission.  The same is true for the client though – if they set a price maximum but then open up the budget when searching, they must let their agent know.   I think when you have those frank conversations, that set the boundaries. In the current market, buyers need to be prepared to compromise more as inventory is so low and many properties are in multiple-bids.   Lastly, check the agent’s experience, history of sales and availability and be prepared to take their recommendation for a loan officer.   Effective Agents: What are the top three points of advice that you would give to someone seeking to sell their home in your market right now?    JP: Point number one would be to take your time and prepare the home properly for market. Don't rush - thin out and de-clutter. My advice is that if you haven't worn it, touched it, read it or played with it in 12 months, get rid of it or pack it. You want the space to look open and minimalist - as large as possible. Preparation is absolutely key.    Number two—neutralize the home. In today’s market our buyer is typically a younger buyer and prefer the minimalist look with cleaner tones: whites & grays are popular right now. No wallpaper, borders or dark colors. I have nothing against these and being different whilst you live there, but our job is to maximize your sales price and appeal to a broader audience. Our job is to sell the home, so let’s get rid of that purple wall, repaint the orange bedroom.    Lastly, always be prepared for a showing, because you never know when to expect a call. I try to give 24-hours notice with my buyers, but they're going to call me with two- or three-hours notice at times. So, make sure every morning you do that once-through the home as well before you leave for work or a day out.   Effective Agents: What would be the top three tips that you would give to a buyer in your market right now?    JP: Number one, make sure you have a very strong preapproval. Ideally, you’ll want this from a local recognized lender. Absolutely crucial. You know, sometimes when you go to some of the larger banks or online banks, you become a little bit of a statistic and a number, and they often don't offer that personal level of service that you would receive from a local loan officer who is also known within your community. This really matters. For me, having a local well-known lender will often help you get the home in a multiple bid situation. As a list agent I welcome seeing the name of a known local lender as they do not want to let anyone down and keep their reputation in the local market – they do their diligence. They are also more responsive for updates and general communication.    Next, you've really got to be flexible on time to see these properties as well. Be ready to see properties in person, virtual walkthroughs and Face Time, because homes are selling within 24 hours. So, if you’re stuck at work, have an arrangement with your Realtor™ so that they are prepared to run out and Face Time a property with you and be prepared to see the property virtually. Be technology savvy so you can sign offers electronically. You're going to have to be flexible. Far too many properties have been lost by not doing that.    Thirdly, be open to compromises on what you want from a home. You're never truly, even if you've got several million dollars, going to be able to find that ideal home, especially in this market with so little inventory. Be open minded to the items that you can easily change such as paint and flooring. They are easy to replace. You know, everybody would love that new wood tile look throughout the entire property, but that's an easy fix after closing. So be a little bit open minded on the cosmetics.   Effective Agents: What should a buyer consider when making an offer?    Well, listen to your Real Estate Professional, you should work with a strong realtor who knows the market and can give you a true value range for a property—that’s key. But, as I mentioned earlier, it's a little bit difficult right now with such low inventory. Our prices are  increasing dramatically. You need to understand and be open to using an escalation clause. This states that you will be prepared to pay X thousand more than the highest competing offer up to a maximum of Y – your threshold.    My clients always say to me, well, what's my Y, Jason? I’ll say, well, I can't tell you that. But your Y is that if the house is listed at 400, and you want to do an escalation clause up to 410 and you find that it's sold for 420, would you kick yourself? Would you have sat on the couch afterwards and say: I would have paid 420 or 425. Well then you need to make that your Y. Because you're always going to be protected by the bank's appraisal anyway from a valuation standpoint. So, yes, you’ll be paying market plus a little bit, but you're always going to have the appraisal to protect you.    Effective Agents: What are some costs that clients should consider when buying and selling the home that they may not think about right up front?    JP: A lot of that is driven really by the loan officer or the lender fees and things like that. And the escrow that they're going to be required to contribute towards at closing. But, you know, generally, I always say to my buyers that they need to think of three to four percent of the sales price for closing costs.    Plus, there are some upfront costs which are cash costs prior to the closing. Those costs are going to be your home inspections, termite inspections etc. In our market many of our homes are aging up so you may need roofing specialists or HVAC specialists as well. So, I often advise clients to bring in specialists for those two particular components of the home as well. These could be running an additional thousand to fifteen hundred dollars, depending.    You do all of this in the hopes that, you know, you will be able to get through the transaction as well. It also could be a lost cause if you find things that are too big of a problem, and the seller is unwilling to negotiate with you.    Effective Agents: What notable current trends in real estate should people know in your market?    JP: We're starting to see the trend, what I'm seeing is a lot of people are going back to old school values, going a little bit further afield, you know, in these times of Covid. I think this is giving everybody a hint to take stock and think of more quality of life, more family time, and therefore, I want a more spacious environment at home. It was a bit of a trendsetter to be downtown in a fast, tight environment, compacting condos and townhomes, bars, restaurants etc.. However, most recently, we're seeing a lot of people from our downtown area now moving out to the burbs and beyond the burbs to go for that quarter or half acre homesite or swop the 2/2 condo for a 3/2 single family with garage and yard. Many people used to commute a long distance but now they work from home they want more space.    So, if you're coming into the City, this might leave you open to some deals downtown potentially down the line, but certainly new construction and larger pieces of property in the suburbs are hot right now.   Effective Agents: What can a homeowner do with renovations and upgrades to improve the value of their home?    JP: Two things: kitchens and master baths. They're the big two contributing factors. As I mentioned earlier, the initial thing is neutral tones of paint throughout ideally and solid flooring – no carpet. Today’s buyer love single surface kitchen islands and breakfast bars – not the two tiered breakfasts bars that were popular in early 2000’s.   If you know you will be moving in two to three years think about doing it now so you can actually get to enjoy it yourself. I have had so many clients do this prior to selling and not get to appreciate it. I also had one client who took my recommendations and decided to stay – they fell in love with their home again. I was a victim of that, myself, so I know the pain. When I left London, I put in a brand new kitchen in my flat just before I sold it. I enjoyed it for about two weeks. Why didn't I do that three years ago when I could have used it myself.   Effective Agents: And is there anything else that you would like to add that we haven't covered yet?    JP: I would just say that your real estate professional is not a mind reader, so therefore, please be honest, please be candid and communicate, communicate, communicate, and make sure that you explain what your expectations are and if they do not meet them then it is time to end the relationship. However, they're not going to be able to meet your expectations or find that perfect home if you don’t communicate candidly about your wish list and your negotiable points.   On another note, for me, and I've been doing this for 20 years, there is nothing more frustrating than to get a phone call to say, I'm so sorry but last weekend I walked into an open house, which did not match their wish list in many ways, and we made a deal then and there and didn’t want to lose it. Obviously, a home I had not sent them because it did not match their criteria.   Honesty and loyalty are very important to me.    Photo Credit: arno-senoner-dzSrwiImFlA-unsplash

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