Business as (un)usual: A look back at a truly unprecedented year

by Cynthia Lippert

By Cynthia Lippert, REALTOR®, Ansley Real Estate Managing Broker, Two Hummingbirds Team

As we wind down another year within the historical brackets of the pandemic, it feels as though the word unprecedented may be losing its meaning through overuse. Yet in terms of record-breaking surprises in the real estate market, 2021 did not disappoint. 2020 was like nothing we’ve ever seen, and relatively speaking, 2021 felt like a welcome return to at least an approximation of normalcy in many ways. Businesses reopened, celebrations returned, we welcomed being back in our offices among peers and colleagues. And though it seemed as though there was no better time to be in real estate, the reality of our, well, unprecedented 2021 market is worth a closer look.

The pandemic redefined home for a staggering majority of the population, which translated to an explosion in housing demand. But while the rise in demand has created new opportunities for many agents, it’s by no means become an easier paycheck. If anything, the work has doubled or tripled, competition is ever-increasing, and the pressure to lower commissions, both from consumers and competitors, continues. With the market moving quickly, pricing accuracy has become increasingly challenging, elevating to an art form like never before. And while bidding wars have assured sellers of quick turnarounds and sale prices well over asking price, agents are working tirelessly to compare more offers and decipher increasingly confounding contract stipulations and buyer tactics, all while under increased scrutiny of fair housing laws. Yet, despite frenzied buyer behavior creating the perception that homes are selling themselves, professional REALTORS® are unwilling to lower their service standards or cut corners to move inventory.

While sellers reap the benefits of unrelenting buyer demand, buyers are exhausted from bidding wars, and disheartened by low inventory and rising prices that don’t show signs of slowing anytime soon. For agents, a typical home search requires a full-scale networking campaign that can take months, and with little in the way of insight into price ceilings, may still end in their client’s bid not winning. Agent ethics have been put to the test as sellers put increased pressure on desperate buyers to take huge risks to win bids. But the best professionals aren’t willing to compromise their clients’ best interests to get a contract. It may mean losing bids and taking longer but professional REALTORS® are willing to put in the time and work to help their clients make sound decisions. And as cuts to buyers’ agent commissions continue to deepen, some agents are doing so at their own expense.

As REALTORS®, it’s our duty to act in our clients’ best interests. Unprecedented still may be the best word to describe the last year and the real estate market that continues to keep us on our toes, but our mission as REALTORS® remains unchanged. As stewards of home ownership, our purpose continues to be to help our clients make sound decisions and reap the greatest benefits of buying, selling, and owning real estate. And in 2022, it looks like we will have more of the same. Interest rates continue to remain low; inventory is extremely low and buyer demand remains high. Here’s to more unprecedented success, and the hard work behind it, in 2022!

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