Even home sellers are getting some breaks in this
competitive environment, through Web sites where real estate
agents will compete for listings
Mark Beydoun, a
Realtor with RE/MAX Team 2000, just bought a bundle of yard
signs advertising zero-down financing for homes.
"It might give
them pause and (they will) say, 'I didn't know I could get
zero down,' " he said.
Sterling Heights agent Jason Strat has mortgage information
on nearly all of the signs for his resale listings. They
provide one-stop shopping for potential buyers, he said.
"It's becoming more visible mainly because there are
more homes on the market," he said. "In the past,
these homes didn't stay on the market too long, so these signs
Real estate market hit hard
At the suggestion of her Realtor, Furhad Waquad, Courtney
Tursi decided to give away a two-year lease on a new BMW X3 to
the real estate agent who finds a buyer for her $699,999 house
in Commerce Township.
She figures it could reel in agents and the potential
buyers who come with them.
"Whether or not they're looking for a house like this,
it will increase traffic and the more traffic you have, the
more people seeing your house, the better off you will
be," Tursi said.
Unusual incentives like the BMW lease are symptoms of how
the state's sagging economy and low consumer confidence are
sapping the real estate market, said Waquad, a Realtor with
Real Estate One in Bloomfield Hills and president-elect of the
Michigan Association of Realtors.
"We are a single-state recession in the United States,
real estate-wise. Our real estate market has been affected so
much because of our manufacturing base," he said.
"We are a product of how confident the consumer is in the
market, or lack thereof."
Builders also offering perks
Whether with 99-cent upgrades on new homes (such as
stainless steel appliances and better carpet) or free gas,
builders are also stretching for buyers. A National
Association of Home Builders survey of 500 builders in January
found 41 percent are offering free appliances, 31 percent are
paying closing fees and 15 percent are paying up-front
BRG Custom Homes just completed a stretch where it offered
$3,000 in free gas with the purchase of a Rivergrove Village
Condominium in Ypsilanti Township.
"The market being what it is today we decided to spice
it up a little bit. Who can't use $3,000 worth in gas?"
said Louis Beaudet, a principal with the Southfield-based
The eye-catching ads brought in foot traffic and one buyer,
Beaudet said. Now the company is offering to pay up to $3,000
in closing costs in addition to throwing in a free washer and
But Beaudet predicts the flurry of incentives will be
"We're doing a disservice to ourselves as an industry
because we're artificially deflating the price of our
homes," he said. "Homes need to sell on virtue of
their quality. I believe that as the market corrects itself,
you will see the incentives diminishing across the
In Lyon Township, slowing sales of new homes in the
Hornbrook Estates subdivision has prompted developers to
sweeten the deal. The next person to buy a ready-to-go home
will get a free two-year lease on a Dodge Dakota pickup.
"The truck is not going to make somebody buy the
house, but it is a nice little incentive," said Faye
Armstrong, sales manager for the subdivision.
Sellers turn to the Web
Home seller Matt Bontomasi switched the tables on
incentives, with the help of a recently launched Web service.
Bontomasi posted details about his 1,100-square-foot St. Clair
Shores ranch on HungryAgents.com, a Web service where real
estate agents "bid" for sellers' business with their
Realtor Tony Dabaldo offered and Bontomasi accepted a 4.5
percent commission, versus the typical 6 percent. The house
sold in seven days for $165,000, just $4,000 less than the
"I wanted to get a discount on the commission, but I
wasn't going to go with an inadequate agent," he said.
"For me, it was excellent. I got a discount on the
commission, I got hooked up with an excellent real estate
agent and I was able to sell my house in about a week for
almost the asking price."
For Dabaldo, earning a loyal client and the referrals they
may bring is more important than a one-time commission.
"The referrals alone outweighed (the cut in
commission) and I know he's going to be a customer for
life," said Dabaldo, a Realtor for Utica-based RE/MAX
Metropolitan. "That's what it's all about."
Saving on the commission is especially attractive now for
sellers, many of whom will have to bring money to their
closing because they're accepting offers for less than they
owe on the house.
"Across the country, about 40 percent of sellers will
have to bring a check to the closing table," said Jim
Tullman, general manager and chief marketing officer for
Missouri-based HungryAgents.com. "Because of that, they
need to save money on the sale of their property and if they
can save thousands on the commissions, that helps them pay
part or all of the amount that they would need to bring to the
Those looking to unload their houses quickly are
increasingly looking at house auctions.
An auction offers a quick sale -- the pre-auction process
takes five weeks and bidding usually lasts five minutes -- and
a competitive bidding process.
"It works very well not only for the buyer but also
for the seller," said Gary M. Berry, owner of Gary M.
Berry Auctioneers in Rochester Hills.
Agents also choosy
Other strategies real estate agents are employing these
days: Being choosy about the kind of homes they list and
making sure they have a strong Web presence.
Beydoun won't take
on clients who insist on selling their house for a certain
amount when the market won't support that price. "If I
know it's not going to sell, I won't take the listing. I won't
make myself look bad."
Cathy Tishhouse, a Realtor with RE/MAX Showcase Homes in
Birmingham, is trying to beef up her presence on the Web,
where home sellers often go to do research before calling an
"You'll see more and more people, I think, looking at
what they can do on the Web."
Views of market differ
Depending on their vantage point, sellers, Realtors and
builders have varying views on where the market is going.
"People kind of lost faith in the real estate
market," Beydoun said. "The bright spot is I don't
think it can get any worse."
For Tursi, who is trying to sell her home, the market is
"It's like the last person out of Michigan shut the
lights off," she said. "People are leaving and
there's nobody coming into the market. Somebody's gotta do
something to bring the jobs back here. (People are) all
putting their house up for sale because everybody's
But developer Beaudet is optimistic.
"I'm very positive, but I'm disappointed to see how
negatively the state of our economy has been taken by our
target market. People are doom and gloom, and it's just
"We can decide whether our cup is half-full or
You can reach Dorothy Bourdet at (313) 222-2293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
** all photos courtesy of the Detroit News - copyright