“It’s sad,” Discher says. “You really want to help your client. If you’re a VA [loan], you’re at the bottom of the list. If a house is on the market 30 days, I say you have a chance. I set my clients up right away and tell them, if you’re VA/FHA, you’re at the bottom of the barrel. It sucks being on both sides. When you have a VA loan, you get pissed off at the other agent for not accepting it; but at the same time, when you get a listing, you do the same thing. We have a duty to our sellers’ best interests. You’ll see compelling stories, with great cover letters, but you’re still going to go with the cash offer. It’s a better deal for your seller. I have the devil on one side and the angel on the other. The angel is writing offers, getting mad at the listing agent, saying, ‘Give us a chance.’ At the same time, if I get a listing the next day and see all cash after ten offers, I’ll say, ‘Let’s go with that one.’ It’s sad.”
I wrote seven offers — none were accepted
Real-estate broker Viki Navardauskaite has considered getting a part-time job.
“I don’t want to switch careers, but it would be nice to have something on the side that’s more stable. I love what I do. It’s very exciting. In real estate, there are a lot of emotions involved. You get married, you buy a house, and you have a baby. Those are the most important steps in life.”
Some of that excitement is starting to dwindle.
“When I show my clients the right house and see a smile on their faces when we write an offer, it gives me such a sense of hope. But things are changing. Now, the listing agents will say they already have 15 offers when I place one. Imagine the chance of getting the house! Last week, I submitted four offers for clients. On Wednesday, the emails started coming in. Not a single one was accepted. It’s so disappointing. Unfortunately, that’s not uncommon.”
Viki tells her clients to remain positive. She encourages them to get their offers in quickly. “I tell my buyers, ‘Roll with the punches.’ It’s almost like, ‘Just take what you can get.’ It’s getting to that point. It’s sad.”
Viki has seen the market go through drastic changes in the past six months.
“With the lack of inventory and the high demand, what we’re experiencing are buyers running around making offers. Everything has multiple offers. It’s really hard to get anything accepted. It’s driving prices up. People submit over asking price and they still don’t get in. I urge my buyers to make their offers as clean as possible. Nowadays, listing agents won’t even counter you. They go ahead and choose the highest offers. Since the summer, there’s been a new rule: make your highest and best offer right away.”
Due to these changes, Viki has seen many clients become discouraged.
“I have clients get into the market and see how hard it is to buy a home. I have a lot of buyers saying, ‘Oh, my god! I will never get into a house.’ I went through the same thing. In spring 2012, my husband and I started dipping into the market, to see what we could afford. We started submitting offers over the summer. I wrote seven offers — none were accepted. They were all clean offers. I didn’t ask for termite expectations [where the sellers would pay for termite damage] or repairs. Nowadays, if it’s a townhome or condo, the buyer has to pay for the homeowner-association document fee. In a traditional market, a homeowner’s fee, which can add up to $500, used to be a seller’s cost. In our current market, that’s out of the question.”
Viki’s cell phone vibrates on the table between us. She looks at it. “I get alerts when something new hits the MLS,” she says with a shrug.
“Right now, I feel like I’m chasing properties. It’s very stressful. My stress levels have gone up this year. I’ve had nine sales; in 2011, I had fifteen or sixteen.”
Viki is training herself to work with more sellers.
“If you have a listing right now, you’re a king. It doesn’t take much effort to sell. Three years ago, it was much harder. You had to do open houses and market on the internet. Now, you really don’t have to do any of that.”
No pickup lines
“I had a short-sale property listed in Lemon Grove in early September,” says 30-year-old real-estate broker Dave Rice. In less than 24 hours, I had 21 offers. Of those, 18 were all cash. Cash buyers bring bank statements to verify that they have the funds. I verified $16 million in cash chasing this one $230,000 house.
“[Of those offers,] I had one FHA loan. I would love to get someone in who actually wants to live in the house, but it had some issues. The heater was broken, and the sellers didn’t have $4000 to fix it. I’m stuck going with this investor who’s going to pay more. You really feel bad for the buyers.”
Dave Rice was raised on real estate. Both his parents and younger sister are brokers. His wife just passed the Department of Real Estate state-board exam after spending the past six years as a property manager; she works in a separate brokerage run by her father. When he was 16, Rice was already processing loan applications, doing filing, and learning the ins and outs of the paperwork.
In 2012, he feels both the pinch and the rewards of dwindling inventory.
“If I were primarily a seller’s agent, it would be great. All I’d have to do is put a house on the market, and I would be set. It’s challenging. You’re going into such competition with other people. It can get frustrating as an agent, writing all these offers and keeping your buyers’ spirits up.