WUFW: There’s a lot of apprehension right now. Sellers have a lot of apprehension about listing and buyers have a lot of apprehension about buying. What’s your first gut response to these fears?
JS: My goal is to be honest and put our clients at ease. Yes, some feelings of apprehension are natural — this is somewhat scary and there are a lot of unknowns. At the same time, if you approach the market wisely, there are ways you can get the exposure that you need as a seller or see the properties that you need to see as a buyer, without placing anyone at risk. We use a lot of the same techniques and methods we employed before, we just approach it differently. Whereas before a buyer might express interest in a property and want to take a look, now we don’t knee-jerk respond to interest by touring a property. We collect as much information as possible to understand the buyer’s situation, we use video tours, self-guided 3D tours and FaceTime tours. We’ll go through all the disclosures in advance, all of the market research in advance, to make sure that it’s a sound home, that it’s priced properly. The last thing we want to do is look at houses in this sort of situation that truly aren’t viable options.
Even though we’re always data-driven, sometimes the market predicates that we quickly look at a property to rule it out…great homes sell fast. That was the old way. Now, we try to do all the legwork up front so that we know it’s a contender and we aren’t taking clients to tour homes prematurely. A lot of times, I’ll go explore a house personally and do a FaceTime walkthrough, give them a self-guided tour to answer a lot of questions that way. Sellers are open to this too. I’ll let the seller know that I’m wearing a mask, that I’m using hand sanitizer, and they feel comfortable with this sort of interaction. When a client wants to tour a home, we take the same precautions.
Say we’re representing a seller – we have sellers right now who have requested that before a buyer is approved to tour the property, they provide a pre-qualification letter for financing, and we have them execute a disclosure stating that (to the best of their knowledge) those touring the property haven’t recently been exposed to the Coronavirus. And of course we ask that buyers touring homes wear masks, use hand sanitizer and refrain from touching things as much as possible. These are just a few of the mechanisms that we’ve deployed to protect our clients and facilitate the sale of their properties.
WUFW: What is your counsel to someone who isn’t absolutely needing to move right now? Maybe they want to upgrade but they’ve been told that the market isn’t ready.
Here’s the answer people hate to hear. It depends. All of those concerns are valid and there may be truth to those concerns in some situations. But if someone has been considering making a move – in my experience, based on what we have on the market right now, we are selling at prices that do not reflect market fluctuations. We are pricing homes using market data and sales comps that are pre-COVID and those prices are being supported. I’m not seeing a discount right now. We’ve made offers and been in situations where multiple buyers are at play. Sales and listing volumes may be down right now, but it appears to be a balanced market.
WUFW: The Small Business community is just vibrant the last couple of years, Fort Worth is developing a reputation as a seedbed for entrepreneurial enterprises. That hasn’t necessarily stopped because of COVID — it has made the situation a bit more precarious. What is your advice for the small business owner who is exploring the market, looking for a place?
JS: Retail and office are two totally different spectrums in the commercial area. If someone has a business that they need to find a home for — if they’re optimistic about where their business is headed and they’ve got a plan for how they’re approaching this market — you can’t stand on the sidelines indefinitely. There are great spaces available in a lot of areas. Landlords may be more open to working with small businesses that may not have been tenant candidates previously. There may be finish out allowances and other opportunities that will give small businesses access to properties that they might not have had access to.
Alternatively, there may be businesses that decide they don’t need as much space as they currently have, perhaps because remote work is an option for some of their team. There are so many scenarios — a lot of people’s real estate needs may change. As long as you have a plan and know what you need, there are great spaces all over Fort Worth.
WUFW: Motive Real Estate has drawn a lot of attention since you launched. You’ve got a unique mission. Tell us about what makes Motive distinct.
I’ve personally been in various facets of the real estate, development, and the construction world for twenty years. I’ve always loved the realm but felt that there might be a different way to do it with more of a purpose and that’s more personally fulfilling. I’ve always been relationship-driven, and I’ve always wanted to give back. I’ve been really lucky and blessed to do what I do, and I’ve always felt it plays into giving back in some form or fashion. When I was brainstorming starting a brokerage, I wanted it to have a big give-back component.
I’ve always loved the one-for-one models. The biggest that comes to a lot of people’s minds, at the forefront, was Blake Mycoskie at Tom’s Shoes. If you buy a pair of Tom’s, they give a pair of shoes to someone in need in a developing country. I always thought it was just amazing. I thought, “What would be the most impactful thing you could do from that kind of mindset in real estate?” For every home you helped a client buy or sell, could you give a home to someone in need? So after a lot of exploration and research and networking, we figured out a way to do that. So from day one, after our first closing as Motive — we helped someone buy a house and we donated a house. We do this in developing countries. Right now, we’re working primarily in Zambia. For every home we help our clients buy or sale locally, we build and donate a home in Zambia for a family in need. And as you can imagine there’s a lot of need. Zambia is in the top 15 poorest countries in the world, but it’s a safe place and the people there are just amazing and beautiful and cool and open. It worked out that that’s where we were able to help initially.
It’s worked out that as we’ve grown and we’ve had different opportunities and leveraged the skills that we have, we do more and more commercial work. In keeping with our one-for-one model, when we help clients buy or sale commercial properties, or when we sign a significant lease with a commercial client, we then in turn do micro-grants to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Zambia. We’ve helped start a Tailor shop, a Chicken farm, just basic businesses serving basic needs. You can have a wonderful idea and all the desire in the world, but if you don’t have the money to launch a business in Zambia it’s very difficult to get off the ground. Banking structures and investment networks aren’t an option, it literally takes a grant of some sort to get a business started.
It kind of blew us away — we started this a few years ago, we helped a women’s group in a very remote village in Zambia start a chicken farm. We got the birds and the chicken coop and feed and watering systems, and we lined up training from an agriculture extension. We brought all of these people to start a chicken farm. The next year we visited this farm — it was immaculate and perfect, the cleanest chicken farm I’ve ever seen. They’ve grown their flock of chickens and they’ve developed a rotation system to manage and feed and clean. And we asked, “What are you doing with the proceeds? Are you buying more chickens or paying yourselves dividends to improve your families lives?” As it turns out, they’re donating the funds they make to sponsor orphans in their community so that they can go to school. We were blown away, thought they might be benefiting their families or setting money away or improving their homes, but they were giving it all away. That’s the kind of people we work with. And none of it would be possible without the support and partnerships we build with our amazing clients right here in Fort Worth.