Austin Property Tours: Beneficial to Sellers and Listing Agents?

Today I attended a property tour for my listing in Great Hills. There were 11 homes on the tour, including our listing. The other agents on the tour were the listing agents for the other 10 houses. This gives us a chance to see each other’s listings and to offer feedback on pricing, staging, etc.

This particular tour was a van tour. There are two types of Realtor tours – caravan or van.

Caravan Tour
On a caravan tour, agents travel in a caravan either alone or carpooling. This limits interaction and always results in the caravan getting stretched out with the faster ones getting way ahead and the slower ones getting way behind. So, the last few listings end up having the agents straggle in at staggered times and then that listing agent has to lock up and in turn becomes the final straggler on the next home. This is a bummer, but that’s how it goes. It’s also a huge waste of gas to have 11 agents travelling in 7 cars.

Van Tour
On the van tour, we all ride together, talking on the drive in between homes, and there is more interaction and discussion about the houses and the market. This is better in every way except one. When riding in the van I lose track of where I am because I’m not driving or paying attention to where we’re going. This affects my ability to offer an accurate pricing opinion on the feedback sheet. It’s not easy to say how much I think a house is worth if I’m disoriented and fuzzy about the neighborhood I’m in.

Imagine being blindfolded, driven to a property and let out in the front driveway. You walk inside, look around and then have to write down a price opinion. That’s what it’s like. Yes, I know I’m in Millwood, but which side of 183? Which schools does this one attend? Wait, are we down the street from that park? Can you hear the railroad tracks from here?

This disorientation doesn’t happen when I drive myself into a neighborhood and up to a house with buyers. When I’m driving, I have a clear sense of where I am. I’m taking notice of the street and the other homes as I approach the subject property. Now I see why buyers sometimes get turned around and confused about where certain homes were that we saw, because they are riding instead of driving.

So, are property tours even worth the time and effort and is the opinion I wrote down on the 10 feedback sheets today worth anything to the listing agent and the seller? Are the 10 feedback sheets I received for my listing helpful? Yes, here’s why.

More Sets of Eyes
We offer feedback on more than just price. Often, a listing agent (and sellers) just don’t notice things that a fresh set of eyes picks up. Make it 10 sets of eyes and you get some instant feedback about the awful accent color on that dining room wall that the listing agent and seller thought was ok. When a listing agent can tell a seller “9 out of 10 agents today said we need to repaint that wall and tone it down – it’s distracting”, that’s valuable and useful feedback.

Sometimes the agent already knew this and has already told the seller, but hearing it from a “group” of Realtors finally drives the point home and the seller agrees to call the painter.

Pricing Reality Check
On a lot of pricing feedback I simply have to write “seems high but I’m not an expert in the neighborhood”. I don’t want to dog the other agent if I’m not sure (though some agents are hoping for as many “price drop” recommendations as possible because  the seller is being stubborn and the too-high price).

But offering a legitimate pricing opinion is hard sometimes on these van tours. I’m looking at one house, for which I just stepped out of a 15 passenger van on the driveway and I wasn’t really paying attention to how the neighborhood looked as we drove in because I was talking with the other agents. Yes, I have a general sense based on the part of town, type of home, price per square foot, but do I really know if $225K is too high? Not really. I’d need to run a CMA. Maybe in my main stomping grounds of South/SW/Central Austin I do, but less so up in Millwood and Northwest Hills.

Now, if I walked into the same home in Millwood west of Hwy 183 as the 8th one I’m showing to buyer on 10 a home outing in a that same area, I walk into it with a context of the other similar homes we’ve been looking at that day because they were all in a more narrow price range, size and geographic location. I can in fact stand there and say “this one is priced too high. It needs to be in the low $200s instead of $240K. And I can be confident of that because I’m viewing that home relative to its direct competition.

Today’s tour ranged in prices from $184,999 to $429,990 and was stretched across vastly disparate areas of Northwest Austin and a wide range of ages and sizes of homes. It’s harder to zero in on a pricing opinion when viewing a mismatched batch of homes from different neighborhoods. No buyer would have had the set of homes I saw today on a list of candidate homes, because it wasn’t a group of homes that would result from a focused search in a narrow range of criteria. This makes these homes harder to judge.

Nevertheless, if 10 out of 10 say a price is too high, that agent should take note and discuss with the seller.

Shop Talk
Finally, other than being more efficient from a logistics standpoint, the other advantage of riding in a van with a bunch of listing agents is that we can trade notes and thoughts on the current market, how things are going with their listings, etc. What did I learn? Sylvia and I are in the same boat as a lot of other agents.  Some listings sell faster than we thought, at better prices than we expected, and others sit with no offers.

Frankly, a couple of the houses I saw today seemed like really good buys (including our own listing) but the agents say they are not getting any nibbles. If it’s price right and staged well, it’s hard to know what else to say to the agent for feedback other than being patient or trying a price drop. Austin is indeed a frustrating and schizophrenic market in many ways.

If someone would have told me 3 months ago that we would list one in Avery Ranch at top value and sell it in 3 days with multiple offers, I would have said “fat chance, not in Avery Ranch”, but it happened. If someone would have told me that we’ll list a home in Round Rock in Vista Ridge and go under contract in 1 week, I would have been just as skeptical. There are a LOT of homes for sale in Round Rock. Conversely, our listing in Great Hills is a fantastic home in great shape and priced well for that area, but we’ve had no offers yet. That surprises and frustrates me. It’s a tough market to read right now.

The Takeaway: The Property Tour process is helpful as it adds just a bit more context, additional opinions and sets of eyes to help us decide whether to hold tight or make a change with our listings. If you have a home listed for sale right now, ask your agent about getting it on a property tour. We so do with all of our listings because we value the feedback.

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