116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / HER take on navigating a hot real estate market
Lorraine Bowans, RE/MAX real estate agent, has had a pretty hectic year. The housing market, both locally and nationally, has been hot. So hot, in fact, that some of her clients have written as many as seven or eight offers on different houses, each one above the asking price, and still not had success.
“When your offer is over asking price and you aren’t even in the top five, it can be discouraging,” Bowans said.
A multitude of factors have contributed to the current craziness, but Bowans said there are a few key things playing out. First, the cost of building materials has gone up, meaning fewer new homes are being built. Second, just like in so many industries, it’s been difficult to find skilled labor to work on the houses that are being built (not to mention workers to make repairs to existing houses). And third, the pandemic caused a lot of people to want to move for a whole host of reasons.
“Some people wanted to be closer to family, others wanted to go be near a beach or lake,” Bowans said. Still more found out that their home simply wasn’t as functional as they thought, particularly if they’ve permanently shifted to working from home.
Bowans said the result has been a lower inventory of homes, which is the primary driver of rising prices and the lightning-fast speed houses sell. “It’s the perfect storm…and then there was a literal storm,” she said. She noticed that the hectic market was causing many buyers to wave inspections – something that she said is never ideal, particularly post-derecho. She said it’s still important to protect yourself no matter how crazy the market is. “As the Realtor, you want to protect your buyers – and the sellers,” she said.
Instead of totally waiving inspections, Bowans said another option is to ask for repairs only if they’re over a certain dollar amount. That way, there’s no risk that a denied request for a small repair will sink the deal. Another way she’s tried to sweeten deals is by encouraging clients to increase the amount of earnest money. And on one occasion, Bowans personally paid part of the cost of a home warranty so a deal would go through. “It was the wild wild west this year,” she said.
Bowans has been a Realtor since 2015, but she’s been a self-described real-estate “junkie” for 30 years. “I love historic houses, and I went to open houses frequently before becoming a Realtor,” she said. She worked in the engineering department for the city of Iowa City for many years, where she learned a lot about the town and the houses in the area. She also helped fix up an older house she lived in. “I wasn’t allowed to take shop class because I was a girl, but I learned skills from my parents,” she said.
Today, with the busy activity schedule that many families have, she’s noticed that many people have less time to learn skills that would be useful for fixing up houses. Even relatively easy fixes or changes sometimes scare people off. “When I first started, one client said they didn’t like the carpet in a house, so they weren’t interested,” she said.
However, she also noticed that people became a little more open to taking on projects themselves during the pandemic. And even as people get more comfortable letting workers into their homes, it might be hard to find help. Bowans said it’s always valuable to learn how to fix some things yourself. “You might not be able to buy that HGTV move-in ready house. You might have to buy one that needs a little work,” she said.
1. First-Time Home Buyer: The Complete Playbook to Avoiding Rookie Mistakes by Scott Trench and Mindy Jensen
2. How to Invest in Real Estate: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Getting Started by Brandon Turner and Joshua Dorkin
3. What Every Realtor Should Know About Home Inspections: A Guide to Avoiding Traps and Common Mistakes by Cesar Costa
Quotes about home
1. “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou
2. “Nothing you will ever do in your lifetime is likely to make you as much money as buying a home and living in it.” – David Bach
3. “The best time to buy a home is always five years ago.” – Ray Brown