One of the more interesting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been how anyone who was participating in the market just for fun has disappeared. It has dramatically reduced the number of the three main types of ghosts we see in the market.
Let’s start by clarifying what we mean by fewer ghosts in the market.
In the broadest possible sense, ghosts are people who are participating in the real estate market who look real at first glance, but when it comes time to getting a deal done, they disappear.
By and large these ghosts are people who are interested in real estate but are fundamentally spectators rather than participants. Some know they aren’t actually in the market whereas some are under the mistaken belief they are in fact real buyers or sellers. The latter type may genuinely believe they are in the market but don’t have the ability or desire to get a deal done when it comes down to it.
In all of the cases below, let’s be clear that genuine, serious people who are gathering information before they make a decision aren’t ghosts. That’s a valid and necessary part of the process of buying or selling and we respect and work with people who need information to decide what comes next.
Here’s some of the common ghosts we see in our work.
The Showing Specter
You see these ghosts visiting homes for sale with their unsuspecting agent. The agent is often new to the industry and hasn’t pre-qualified or gotten to know their client. In fact, they often have no representation agreements signed with these ghosts and have agreed to show places in the hope that something will come of it.
Such specters are often aware that they aren’t actually looking to buy now and believe it is nonetheless their right to see properties, enter private homes and be provided service by Realtors who are working to earn a commission.
A less common and more benign type of Showing Specter are those misguided souls that think they can buy but haven’t been given proper advice to consult with professionals before they jump into the market. Such ghosts are much more substantial initially, but when they realize that their financing isn’t in place or their circumstances don’t actually allow a purchase, they fade into thin air.
The Phantom Property
On the sale side, we sometimes see an entire property that is in fact, a ghost.
This can be a very unsettling and frustrating experience for buyers and their agents. It often appears in markets where prices are rising rapidly but it can also appear almost randomly.
On first visit such properties seem real. They have For Sale signs out front, the MLS listing gives details and showings can be booked. When buyers visit, the first cracks in the façade start to appear. Rather than disappearing as they should, owners of Phantom Properties remain in the home during showings. They restrict showing times and they reluctantly provide necessary information to prospective buyers.
When it comes time to review offers, such homes suddenly appear further away, fading into mist as the buyer, their agent and often even the listing agent gasp in horror. Whether it is unreasonable sale price expectations or onerous conditions, it becomes apparent that while this looked like a home that for sale it was in fact a home that the seller was only curious about what price they could get in the market right now. Once that fact is established, the home fades away without selling, leaving upset and bewildered buyers and agents behind.
The Poltergeist Purchaser
A third common ghost in real estate is a buyer who initially appears to be a real, live person. They sign contracts, explain their situation, show up for booked showings and move forward just like a real buyer.
Such poltergeists even sign and submit offers on properties. It is only when their agent hands them the pen to sign off on the deal that it falls through their hand and they disappear in a poof of wasted-time-and-effort smoke. In some circumstances, they even manage to sign an agreement, only to fail to provide a deposit the next day before disappearing from the earth.
These ghosts are among the saddest of apparitions we encounter in real estate, as they often believe they are real buyers. When they are exposed to the requirement to commit and to take the steps to move from looking to committing to buying, they find themselves unable to move forward, trapped forever in the looking phase.
One of the most unusual aspects of the poltergeist purchaser is that they can reoccur again and again and have the ability to convince some agents that they’re no longer a ghost. In such cases, the ghost has explanations as to why they disappeared and failed to move forward last time and promise this time it will be different. Sadly, some agents take them at their word, only to see the same result.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a marked decrease in the number of the above ghosts we see in the market. Many buyers and sellers who don’t need to buy or sell real estate are waiting on the sidelines as observers rather than trying out the role of participant to see what happens.
Real estate agents, both for listings as well as on the buying side, are also taking a hard look at potential clients before they commit to moving forward. With an understanding that now is a more challenging time to sell or buy, savvy agents are making sure they aren’t risking their health and safety with ghosts that disappear before a deal is done.
While gathering information and considering options remains a crucial and valuable part of any real estate transactions, one of the positive aspects of this pandemic has been that the market is now mostly comprised of genuinely motivated buyers and sellers. If you’re one as well and need experienced help making it happen, get in touch!