Flavin Features: Episode Two with Amanda Sarvaunt | Flavin Realty

Flavin Features: Episode Two with Amanda Sarvaunt

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Flavin Features Podcast: Episode Two with Amanda Sarvaunt

 

Jackson:

This is Episode Two of Flavin Features. I'm here with Amanda Sarvaunt talking about real estate and listings. 


Hi, Amanda. How are you?

 

Amanda:

Great. 


Jackson:

Good. Do you want to get started? 


Amanda:

Sure!


Jackson:

So how long have you been in real estate?


Amanda:

This year It'll be six years. I was in banking before that, but I've been licensed for six years. 


Jackson:

Where'd you go to college?


Amanda:

I went here [in Lake Charles]  to McNeese State University for four years and I also did a study abroad program at a business school in Paris, France, for two semesters. I have a finance degree from McNeese with a minor in marketing. I went into banking right after college and then [I went into] Real Estate. 


Jackson:

Besides Lake Charles, have you lived anywhere else?


Amanda:

No. Paris is the only other place I’ve actually lived in. I'm originally from [the nearby town of] Kinder. I went to high school there, and then moved to Lake Charles for college. I've been here ever since I graduated. 


Jackson:

Can you give us a rundown of what you do when you get a listing?  When someone first approaches you and asks you to list their home, what's the first thing you do? 


Amanda:

Sure. Well, first, I would get as much information as I could get on the property; find the market information on it and go take a look at the house. Then, give them some recommendations on what they could do as far as the condition and if they need to paint or anything like that. Then I give them a type of  market analysis, which is called a CMA comparative market analysis, and that will give them an idea on what the pricing recommendations would be. 


Jackson:

So living in Southwest Louisiana, definitely a lot of [weather and geographical] problems that go on–But what are some of the most common region-specific problems you see when you go into a home? 


Amanda:

 Well, with all our weather events that we've had recently, flooding and hurricane damage has been an issue. Lately, [those two] have been a big problem. People are still trying to work with insurance to make repairs on their homes [so weather-related damage is often still present when you enter a home]. So, many people are in the process of trying to get it to a point where they can list it. 


As a realtor we have to help them make decisions about what should be done to the home before listing. Should they fix it completely? Should they sell as is? These are questions that we try to help them answer and make decisions about. Weather-related damage is probably the biggest challenge right now. 


Jackson:

How many homes have you seen this year that have had flood damage? Either listings or showings.


Amanda:

I've been fortunate enough that none of my listings have actually flooded. But, I've had some houses where clients that were buying or that were interested in have flooded. I haven’t had as many issues with flooding as I have had with hurricane damage. Almost every house has some sort of damage, whether it’s water coming in through the roof or something else. So getting the necessary repairs done has been a big issue. Even homes that were under contract during the hurricane are having issues with figuring out how they want to get the repairs done or how they want to list. I would say more than half of the homes we've listed have had some type of damage that we need to address.


Jackson:

What are some of the biggest challenges you have when you list homes?


Amanda:

As far as challenges, it can be difficult to get clients to make requested changes on their homes.


Jackson:

Are you referring to getting clients to agree on terms or a different change?


Amanda:

Sometimes, but I’m talking about how everyone has different tastes and styles. So, once we give them the market analysis and pricing information on it–whether they agree or disagree [on the pricing]– we'll usually have recommendations on what they could do to the actual house and decor itself. For example, if they have family pictures all over the house, we may ask them to take those down. We try to make it less personalized [so buyers can more easily see theirpotential home, rather than somebody else’s home]. 


Also, client’s often forget to touch up minor details like nail holes, but those small details can make a big difference in how a home feels to a buyer. Sometimes, if they have bright paint colors, we may recommend something more neutral to help the home appeal to a wider audience. It can be difficult to convince clients that these changes can benefit the chances of selling the home quickly, but these small changes really make a huge impact.


Jackson:

 When you have listings, how can they change over time? How can prices change? 


Amanda:

Well, the economy makes a big difference, of course. So, right now we're in a seller's market, but that may not always be the case. Interest rates could affect it; if interest rates go up there may be fewer buyers because people will not be able to afford as many homes. And, other factors associated with the economy affect price changes in homes.


Also, the supply and demand affects the pricing. Right now, the supply is low because many homes are damaged because of weather-related issues and there is a low supply and a high demand. People either need houses or they're wanting to move areas, so a lot of people are in demand of a low supply. Overall, [the market and home prices] can mostly change with the economy and supply and demand.  


Jackson:

What are some ways you make homes more attractive for buyers? What are some things you do to help a home appeal to your buyers more?


Amanda:

Well, certainly, pricing the property correctly is going to help appeal to buyers. If the house is overpriced, then people are not going to view it, even if the seller is willing to lower the original price. That's one big thing about getting it listed at the right price: buyers are going to look at things that they can afford, but are not going to make offers on houses that are too highly priced. 

As far as the house itself, I keep my process simple. I try to have the property looking as best as it can; First impressions are important. I make sure that the yard and landscaping looks nice and will even paint the front door to give it more curb appeal, because those things are what peoplesee first at a showing. 


Jackson:

What do you do when a seller is unhappy with a listing? Do you work with them on the listing price?


Amanda:

We always want the seller to feel comfortable with the listing price and the recommendations we give them. Of course, if they've reached out to us, they are wanting to sell their house and are seeking our expertise, so sometimes we have to help them understand that [our recommendation] is the best way to get it sold. I show them factual information on what the market is doing, what other homes in their area have sold for, if there's any types of repairs that need to be done and what those repair costs are going to be [to help them understand a listing price]. Simply put, I try to show them very concrete information on the listing price recommendation to help them understand why our recommended price is beneficial. 


If the seller insists on a higher price, then it’s the agent’s choice to continue with the higher price or to remove themselves from the listing. But, we always try to work out a solution that pleases the seller and helps the home sell. So, we may suggest a plan where we start at a higher price but reduce it every week that it does not sell. 


Jackson:

So you can change the price if you need to?


Amanda:

That's right, you can reduce the price if you need to get some more attention. You don’t want to overprice it at all, but you can always reducethe price as you go. But, you want to make them understand that an agent’s pricing recommendations are made with evidence-based statistics, so they really are the best price to list your home at. 


Jackson:

I’m sure lately, especially with the recent weather, agents and inspectors have been finding damage to homes that was unknown to the sellers that could drive the price down. Could you expand on this more?


Amanda:

Absolutely. Yes, there's a lot of issues that are uncovered during the inspection that are related to hurricane damage and the owners did not know about it. And, ideally, these issues are going to need to be repaired before it’s listed, which will cost money. And, even if you have a buyer but the inspection uncovers some issues that nobody knew about, it’s still going to cost the sellers in one way or another. Maybe the home needs a new air conditioner or maybe the home has foundational issues, both are very big ticket problems. In order to sell the house, they will either have to pay out-of-pocket to fix these issues or reduce the listing price. It’s important that sellers understand that finding these issues is a possibility when selling their home.


Jackson:

 So, MLS is a website agents use for the home buying process. What is it and how do you specifically use it? 


Amanda:

It's a multi listing system (MLS). We use Greater Southern MLS. It’s a website where agents list all of their properties. It shows properties in the greater Louisiana area, not just in a few nearby parishes. So, it gives a lot of exposure to our clients' homes. Agents in New Orleans or Shreveport can see the same listings that are in our system [in Lake Charles]. And, of course, we can see in those other areas too. So, MLS just gives a lot more exposure for the listings. 


Jackson:

If I'm a realtor in Lake Charles, and I see someone wanting to sell a house in New Orleans, can I go on MLS and become that person’s agent, even though it’s not in my area?


Amanda:

 Sure, if you're licensed in Louisiana. Flavin agents are licensed in the whole state, so we can sell anywhere in the state. You might not want to be their agent because of the drive, so you might refer it to an agent that’s closer, but MLS is a good way to see what’s available. And if you have a client that wants a house outside of your area, then you can refer them to an agent that lives there. But, you can always send your client that information. MLS saves you from having to go to someone else, like an agent in that specific area, to get the information you need. 


Jackson:

So if my house was damaged during the hurricane, could I still get a readable listing? 


Amanda:

Sure, it just depends on prices of construction materials, which have gone up recently. Because of this there are a lot of people who just want to sell their homes as is. If you have a damaged house, you just don't want to fix it, and you've gotten your insurance money then you can still list it just as it is. At Flavin, we do have access to investors, cash buyers, so if your home does not qualify for certain types of financing you can just sell it for cash. Selling for cash is probably your best option in that case. 


Jackson:

Last question–So, let's say I’m a first-time home buyer trying to purchase a home with multiple offers? What’s your advice?


Amanda:

Well, first, if you’re working with an agent then they would write the offer for you in a way that is most likely to be accepted by a seller. And, if you're limited to what you can spend, or if you are financed and don't have the cash, then you're going to want to make the absolute highest offer that you're comfortable with. But, there’s only so much you can do. As an agent, you have to help clients decide what is best for them. You might have to ask the client if they have cash they can put towards it. And, if it’s financed we have to look at the appraisal and make sure that it’s not too high of an offer. But, your agent would be able to help you with this.


Jackson:

That makes sense. All right, Amanda, thank you so much. This has been awesome. 


Amanda:

Yes. Thank you.


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