Jim’s Note | Misspellings, Thanks, Uncertainty, and a Consistently Nuanced Market | Note Archives – August 2023

Archives of my subscription-only monthly notes. This is for August 2023. Interested in not waiting a few days to read it, and want it straight to your email? Subscribe here.   For the re-posts here on the blog, I don’t do much formatting/changing as I’m more concerned about simply having the content here forever (because I own the blog, and I don’t own Substack. If you’re interested, these are all the monthly notes I have written.

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An early August note. Best laid plans and all.

Happy late August! Questions, comments, ideas? Please let me know; just reply to this email.


A Note

Sometimes my clients send me notes. One of my favorites is one that had a banana on the front.

This one was perfect, and not just because they gave me beer and cookies after we finished our journey!

Thank you so much for:

  1. Always answering our dumb questions
  2. Teaching us to ask smart questions
  3. Being our designated Cville guru
  4. Always keeping us motivated
  5. … and always keeping it real. We are sincerely grateful to have had you alongside us through this process. In March, you told us to hang in there – and you were right. We can’t be more excited to have found this house and to finally call it home.

Much of what I do when representing clients is providing context to the myriad and varied questions they find online and through peers. Knowing how to prompt questions and when is a skill, and one I keep working to hone for my clients.



Risk Management

I send this to some of my clients when we go under contract. (I wrote it in 2014):

1) Don’t get excited. Really. Until closing. I mean it. Seriously. Buying or selling a home is an inherently stressful and emotional process. I counsel my clients to minimize their emotions as much as they can. Things happen. Petty things happen. Big things happen. There’s (almost) always a reasonable solution, but emotions cloud and distort judgment.

2) Detachment – keeping that professional and not personal association with my clients is crucial, yet still being empathetic. I’ve heard it said (and I’ve said it myself) that competence + empathy are the killer combination.

Another way to put this is in the words of a client years ago who is a lawyer. He said his wife (lovingly) said that he was “the wet blanket on the fire of life.” I embrace that, professionally.

Emotions are a thing to be mindful of in real estate, whether you’re the buyer, the seller, or the agent.

A good agent recently said, as we were nearing the end of negotiations, “You don’t have a problem until you have a problem.”

A challenge we face now is that the stress in our market — and our world — is such that emotions can take over, and that’s a challenge all around.

Apple Watch telling me that my grandson is screaming and fighting a nap.


Buyer Brokerage’s Future

What happens if and when buyer brokerage as we’ve known it for 20+ years goes away, and buyer commissions are not able to be wrapped into the loan/purchase price?

We don’t yet know, but things are going to be different in the next six to twelve months.

Working by hourly fee does not work in situations that have undefined scopes and timelines. Market analysis? “Should I do this renovation?” Things like that make sense in some situations.

What a good buyer agent does is listen — and that takes time — the things that matter often come about in conversation, not in a questionnaire, and don’t want the client (or me) staring at the watch while talking, or not asking the questions because they are focusing on the clock/hourly bill.

Learning that a client has an elderly parent or that they like to run and need trails. These are important things to know and often only come out during conversations.

But buyer agents need to be paid. We’re in for an interesting near-term future, and the only thing certain is uncertainty.


The state of the Charlottesville market

The Charlottesville market is highly nuanced, more so than I can recall in nearly 20 years.

I rarely trust big market reports unless someone I know pulls the data, and even then I find the numbers to be mostly irrelevant to my clients. Some of the bigger reports pull data in ways that are irresponsible.

In “the market,” sales volume is down, and prices are stable to up. What I’ve told clients — buyers or sellers — has not changed over the past few months.

But …

What does the data above mean if you’re looking to put your home on the market next week, or make an offer on Tuesday night? I’d argue: not much.

My opinion on the Charlottesville market is pretty much the same as it was in July and June, and frankly, for most of 2023.

  • Inventory is low.
  • Prices are stable to increasing broadly, and declining in some segments of the market.
  • Multiple offers are still common, but less irrational, thankfully.
  • If you’re wary of the market, ask questions. A client recently asked, “I don’t think I can sell because the market isn’t great.” For their product, the market would be great. A buyer recently thought they could afford something, but ultimately could not.
    • Headlines range from worthless to deceptive.

Curious about the market? Ask me. Really. I’m always up for a coffee or beer to talk about the market, and whether you might want to be in a position to consider buying or selling. I’m happy to try to clarify your thoughts on the market.

Believe it or not, now is the time to start planning and strategizing for 2024, whether you’re considering buying or selling. Let’s have a conversation over coffee or beer.


I Misspelled Something

A friend takes great pleasure in giving me grief when I make mistakes in my notes.

“I love finding errors in your monthly note. I know you put a TON of effort into them, and they’re always great, but I also know it drives you CRAZY. And selfishly, I like to drive you a little crazy.”

I responded, “Thanks. I hate mistakes. But don’t mind making them.”

And he said, “[Name of his daughter] doesn’t like ballerina camp because she’s making mistakes, and can’t remember the moves. Had this very conversation this morning with her, how it’s okay to make mistakes if we’re trying, and we learn from them.”

When I was in high school, I printed something and taped it to my wall:

Make New Mistakes.

Mistakes are fine; you’re doing something for the first (or second, or third, or fourth) time. Doing something new in and of itself is great. Doing it again and again is also great.

I aim for perfection when representing my clients, but I’m fallible and so are they sometimes. We all are.

I do this every day, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, but I’m learning every single day, and when I make a mistake, I own it, apologize, work to fix it, learn, and move on.

(related — How to apologize like a pro)

Unsubscribe. Please. I led with that request a couple of notes ago, and a kind reader let me know that she found that surprising, and poorly worded. She was right. I can be more blunt than intended. What I meant is this — if you don’t find this note valuable or interesting, please consider unsubscribing. I want my note to be received as a thing that people like, not more inbox clutter.

That said, if you like this, maybe consider sending it to a friend who you think might find it interesting. And thank you!


Next month – there’s a what in the crawlspace? I really am going to get to solar panels and HOAs one day.

Snippets of a conversation, to be expanded upon next month

  • Mirrors: We have to be out doing the work and interacting to get inspired. Connecting with others , not watching the news, and traveling to see how okay we are here.
  • Being out and about, interacting with humans, is a diminishing skill, and is leading to a more myopic society.

What I’m Reading

What I’m Listening To

Thanks for reading!

— Jim — 434-242-7140


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