When it comes to the global pandemic, the phrase “no one saw this coming” is an understatement. Once it arrived, it altered our lives in ways no one could have expected—sending the Chicago-area real estate market into a frenzy that is as unprecedented as the virus itself.
“We had a seller’s market in 2014 but this is insanity,” says Maria Devins, a real estate agent and broker who has specialized in putting her buyer’s needs first for nearly 15 years. “As a buyer’s agent, it is war out there right now and it is hard.”
Fortunately for Devins’ clients, her experience and reputation for being your “broker for life” have uniquely prepared her for this battle. She’s tough and won’t back down, especially when it comes to what’s in the best interest of her clients.
Case in point is a transaction she worked on earlier this year. Her buyers put in an offer that was $16,000 over the asking price and just when they were sure they got the house, the agent called and gave them bad news. Another bidder not only went over the asking price, but waived the appraisal and inspection. Devins was shocked.
“As a buyer’s agent, I would never, ever, put my buyers at risk,” she explains. “You have to have an inspection. You have to know what you’re getting. It’s too high of a risk and ultimately, where does that put the buyer?”
Three days later, the agent called her back. The deal fell through and the house was back on the market. Were her sellers still interested?
“I said ‘my offer stands as is … your client cannot have their cake and eat it too’,” she says. “I told her that ‘yes, it is a seller’s market and we addressed that with an offer that is $16,000 over, but I won’t let my clients walk in blindly’.”
And it’s a good thing they didn’t. As it turns out, this house did not have a working furnace.
“So I went back to the agent and said ‘now that we’ve told you, you know as an agent that you will have to disclose it on your disclosures’,” she says, explaining that her buyers still wanted the house but not until the issue with the furnace was resolved. “I said ‘wouldn’t it make sense for your seller to stay with us and address some of these issues?’ That’s the kind of strategy I will do as a buyer’s agent.”
It’s this level of expertise and tenacity that Devins brings to every transaction, regardless of the market, which she predicts will begin to settle down over the next six months.
“Last year was crazy. We all started out with anticipation of an even-keeled market but when the pandemic struck, sellers and buyers were frightened. I had a few buyers who said, ‘we’ve got to buy … we just have to’,” she explains. “We did go out but it was a different ballgame. As a buyer’s agent, my whole car was a medical vehicle with Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels, booties, gloves.”
Devins admits she was nervous a year ago that the market might spiral downward, especially considering how many people were out of work.
“I didn’t think we’d be going into a crash but knew there would be short sales coming. I felt bad for newer agents but for me, I just braced myself. I braced my clients,” she says. “I remember I had probably over a dozen sellers and they froze, said they didn’t want to list right now. We respected that, of course. We want everyone to be safe.”
The reluctance to list is, in part, what continues to drive the current seller’s advantage because it has created a shortage of inventory. Another undeniable factor is how the pandemic fueled the need for homes that not only function for living but also for working and learning. When those two things were combined, Devins says it was the perfect storm to what we are seeing right now.
“As a listing agent, it is also very difficult for sellers. They are overwhelmed as well,” she adds. “At the end of the day, it’s a give and take. It’s not always about the biggest price. The nicest transaction is where all come to the table and they both gave a little and got a little. Nobody wants to feel taken or abused or bullied, because this is what we’re seeing in this market.”
She refuses to allow that to happen to her clients, even if it means walking out of a showing. “It’s got to be 100 percent, working for your client, but secondly working together with the agent to really bring the two together.”
When it doesn’t work, Devins does what she does best—lifting up her clients and continuing to fight for them.
“I say ‘I’m sorry. You didn’t win the bid. That’s not your house. Your house will reveal itself.’ Just like I tell my sellers that ‘your buyer will reveal itself.’ I believe there is a house for every person and a person for every home.”
Maria Devins is a Broker Associate at Baird & Warner’s Palatine office. For more information, call 847-840-2520 or visit mariadevins.bairdwarner.com.