Editor’s Note: This is the eighth installment in the “Industry Warriors” series, a collection of profiles on veteran real estate professionals and lenders who produced high volumes pre-9/11 and pre-2008, weathered those economic downturns and rebounded even stronger.
The tale of metropolitan Detroit and its real estate in the last two decades is well-documented. In the Great Recession, homes were selling for less than cars. In 2009, amid sales slumps, two powerhouses and large Detroit employers — General Motors and Chrysler — filed for bankruptcy. Then in the last decade, the city and its suburbs have seen upward momentum.
“Our market started coming back ’15, ’16; ’17 was fabulous; ’18, ’19, and ’20 would have been even better, but then we hit COVID,” said Realtor Lisa Reichert Adams, who has sold homes in the greater Detroit area since 1996. “We had the best economy of our lifetime in January.”
Adams started her career in 1996 with listings in Detroit and now specializes in the affluent Grosse Pointe area. Her keys to navigating the ups and downs of the market over the past 24 years: habitually checking listings and consistent communication with her buyers and sellers.
HousingWire spoke to Adams, of Real Estate in the Pointes, about her strategies for succeeding in today’s real estate market.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
HousingWire: What are you doing within your real estate business to adapt to the current market situation?
Lisa Reichert Adams: I can’t show homes. I can do virtual tours on these homes, but if I didn’t have the tour already in place, I cannot get my photographer in to put the tours in place. I also would not advise a buyer to purchase a home by a tour only. My photographer takes some amazing photos. Every single home I list, I list with professional photography. Some I do drone shots, some I do tours, but a buyer really needs to see and touch and feel.
One of my listings is in a refinance, and then they’re going to add some appliances, do some closet inserts and do some other improvements. So we hope that by May 1, we can get out and show these properties.
My main focus now is just keeping in touch with my sellers, keeping in touch with my buyers, and communicating with my team at Real Estate in the Pointes, as well as other Realtors in the general vicinity.
HW: Are you seeing any activity right now in terms of buying and selling or has everything pretty much been put on pause?
LRA: There is a lot of activity in the Pointes. Every day we have one or two homes that have pended.
We have 71 pending homes currently in the five Pointes (Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Shores and Grosse Point Woods); that does include rentals as well, and we currently have about 160 residential homes in our community that are actively for sale. Homes are coming on.
What’s happening now is we have disclaimers per MiRealSource (the state’s largest broker-owned multiple listing service) and National Association of Realtors that state, nobody is allowed to go into this property, that you may make an offer and that offer is subject to personal review by the buyer once the lockdown has been lifted. So that’s what’s happening quite a bit. We have 71 pending homes; we had up to about 90 so every day when you go onto the computer, there are new homes coming on and there are homes pending. But the majority that are closing have been under contract prior to full-swing lockdown in March.
I had a close two weeks ago on Monday, the 6th of April, and I felt very comfortable, very safe. The buyers and the sellers were in opposite rooms. I represented the sellers. Everyone had masks, gloves, and the rooms were thoroughly cleaned with a bleach product prior to and after. They are also willing to come out to your car as well. So I feel very safe in that process. I’m truly blessed to actually have something closing at the end of this month, and I’m looking forward to getting back to work next month.
HW: How are you staying positive during this time?
LRA: I am walking every day, which I did before anyway, and I’m taking a Zoom yoga class through the yoga shelter. I’ve done a lot of FaceTime with family and a lot of communication, as much as possible with family.
HW: What did you do in past economic downturns to successfully navigate that period?
LRA: It was completely different. Today I track the market. Every day I’m on the market, five times or more a day, seeing what’s coming on. Every day I send new listings to my clients, buyers that are looking. So that’s a constant. I still have people texting me all day about houses so that’s been constant, but right now we have about 160 single family homes on the market.
I think the market’s going to come back even stronger because our inventory is so low. A neutral market is roughly when one and a half percent of your single family homes are actively for sale, and we have an estimated 18,000-and-change single family homes. I just rounded up to 20,000, so 300 homes actively on the market would be neutral. We’re at about 160 and that doesn’t include condos, it doesn’t include leases. So we’re way down on inventory.
During 2007, ‘08, ‘09, ‘10, the crash, we had over 770 homes on the market. At that time, we did short sales. We sold bank-owned properties. We did everything we possibly could. At that time you wanted buyers; now you want sellers. Historically I’ve always done both, but for some reason over the past four years, maybe five years, my business has been a lot of listings — and buyers — but predominantly 75% listings and 25% are buyers.
Everybody knows a Realtor in the community, so when you give your sellers and buyers good service, they will refer you and continue to refer you. I always respond to everybody as soon as possible. I don’t wait 24 hours.
HW: What were some strategies you used during 2007, 2008, 2009 to get you through that time as a Realtor?
LRA: We had attorneys involved in a lot of our sales because many of them were short sales. The prices had come way down. I hired this company, Rick Linnell. His team navigated us through all our short sales. The bank-owned properties were a lot of work, and they were very difficult to deal with because the Realtors that usually had those listings were not the people that we had been used to.
So you just had to stay on top of the market like you are now. It was very difficult to do because there were so many homes on the market. But if you’re on top of it, you’re checking every single home that comes on the market to see if it fits your client’s needs. You could set your clients up — back then they didn’t have Homesnap — we had listing books, so the clients would get it.
But I’m pretty much on top of everything that comes on and off every day, whether it’s 770 homes or 160, and if a home came on that met my client’s criteria, I sent it to them. If a home came on that was competition for one of my listings, they got that, too. So it was again communication, lots of communication and consistency all the time.
HW: Given your history in those past economic downturns, how can we pull through now that the spring buying season has been drastically impacted?
LRA: I think we’re still going to have a buying season. Historically in my business, I’ve had spring buying, I’ve had summer buying, I’ve had Christmas time buying. They buy all year long, January through December. I’m in Michigan; I like to have my houses that I list, I like green grass, and I like the plants to be up. It definitely helps sell the houses when your gardens are in bloom, you have green grass, and you don’t have five inches of snow, because people can’t get the full effect.
It’s going to be a slow process getting started this time, but we will do it. We will survive. Our economy was fabulous before, and we need to get it back to where it was. … Obviously people are going to have to be cautious, but I want to get back to work. Let’s get back to work.
HW: What piece of advice from your history in downturns would you give to others in your field trying to navigate COVID-19?
LRA: Be positive. Try to take care of yourself. Keep your schedule as normal as you possibly can. Communicate with your clients; send them new listings, send them listings that are pending — constant communication and not just communication with housing. Reach out to your past clients; see how they’re doing. Reach out to people that you expect to list their homes; see how they’re doing.
It’s not just about real estate right now; it’s about seeing how other people are doing and handling this situation because each family is going through exactly what everybody else is going through. The more communication you have with past clients and future clients, the better. It helps to reach out to people. Get outside, walk, keep your distance from people, but keep yourself busy.