Matchmaker, Matchmaker….Working as a Buyer’s Agent: Using the MLS

During my initial meeting with the buyers (telephone, email or in person), I always take careful notes about what my buyers want.  This starts the matchmaking process!  The list expands and contracts as we search for homes.  Making the list is where the trust begins….when I listen to my buyers’ requirements and watch the expressions on their faces as they open up to me with their wishes, hopes and concerns, I feel that first “connection” with them.  They need to know that I “get it” and that I am working for THEM…I need to understand them and what they want, and I have to prove that I can find the best match for them.  Once I have my list of requirements, it’s on to the search! 

But wait a minute…. Here’s another part of the story…. it seems to me that EVERY buyer these days has spent some time on the internet and, as we are getting that list of requirements assembled, they are already working off of a short list of houses that they want to see. They have cherry-picked this list from one or more of the real estate websites…and there are lots of websites that have information about houses on the market.  I get the sense many times that buyers think they can find the perfect house without an agent…so why bother with the agent?  If I can avoid using an agent, maybe I can get the house for a better price???

Access to these websites is free for the buyer, but nothing compares to the Agent’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in terms of information, history, and searchability!  Not only does the MLS have all of the homes on the market (not all of the public websites have ALL of the homes for sale….) but the MLS permits me to manipulate the price and characteristics of the house along with customizing my search for the specific buyer, i.e., the size, lot, special features, pool, neighborhood, etc.  It also provides me with a map feature so that I can work on more of the important requirements that the buyers want. 

Here are some recent ways I used the MLS to make that perfect match:

First-time buyers send me 14 homes that they want to see*:  Not too long ago, I started working with buyers who had already identified 14 houses that they wanted to see.  They had been working for weeks on their own on one of the popular public access websites and had all of these houses that they said met their requirements.  OK, good…this gives me a start.  I can really see what they want. 

I took the list and starting plugging each one into the MLS to do some research and (hopefully) narrow the search to a manageable number.  Here’s what I learned:  9 were already under contract (public websites are not always updated in a timely manner), 2 had small lots (they had two large dogs and needed at least .25 acres/fenced), one was a short sale (didn’t want that), and two actually turned into possibilities (although neither was the one that they bought).  What a colossal waste of time for them.  They were upset, but it drove home the point that Buyer’s Agents do have a valuable function!  So, I went back onto the realtor’s MLS, did a fresh search and identified several homes for their consideration that were not even on their list. 

Sometimes the search is not very difficult.  But other times, I have to change the parameters, change the city or zipcode to expand the search or mix it up in other ways to find good choices.  We found the perfect match fairly quickly and are now under contract.

Buyers want to make an offer*:  Here’s a fairly common scenario….buyers finally fall in love with the house and want to make an offer.  Typically, in this market, buyers don’t want to offer full price at the start…so they will ask me about the best starting price.  I can’t—and—don’t tell them what to do.  I tell them that I will check the MLS for comparable sales in the neighborhood.  (This is important because the house will not appraise at an unrealistic price, even if the buyer and seller agree on the price….I’ll chat with you about the appraisal another time.  It deserves appropriate discussion all by itself!)   If there aren’t enough recent sales in the neighborhood, I’ll usually expand the search to the zipcode and/or a close-by zipcode or neighborhood that has similar features.  With this information in hand (and this is information that the public sites do not have in one repository), we can go over how to craft the offer.  The MLS easily gives the Buyer Agent important information on recent home sales, comparable features, days on the market, and homes under contract but not “settled.”  Now the buyers have the empirical data that they need to negotiate from a reasonable position.

I can’t find a match for my buyers*:  Much as I hate to admit it, sometimes there is nothing on the market that makes my buyer fall in love.  I recently worked with buyers who had a really, really, really narrow and inflexible list of “must haves.”  We looked for months while their home was on the market.  Then finally, their house sold and they HAD to move.  Again….nothing currently on the market pleased them.  Reluctantly, they were considering renting a short-term apartment and putting their things into storage.  Ugh…that just took all the joy out of FINALLY selling their home.  Now they thought that they would have to move twice.

So, I had an idea….the MLS has a feature where I could search for homes that, for one reason or another, were once on the market, but now are off the market.   Maybe there would be a match in that group.  The MLS gave me all the information that I needed to expand my search to possible homes that no one was even considering because they weren’t in ACTIVE status.  Well, you can no-doubt figure out the rest of the story….I found a great match!  The “former” listing agent was so pleased that I found the property and the buyer went on to successfully bid and close in 30 days.

Again, the journey of the Buyer Agent has a lot of twists and turns.  I have my fair-share of stress but I love what I am doing because it gives me the opportunity to be creative in the ways I bring buyers and homes together.  In the end, matchmaking is lots of fun!  The right tools sure help!

Next:  Matchmaking with Seniors!

*identities have been changed to preserve the privacy of all parties


Distressed Listings Remains a Factor in Some Areas

The percentage of Active Listings that are Distressed is rising seasonally. Montgomery County Active Listings typically fall in the Holiday Season, as homeowners do not like to have to show thier homes during the Holiday season. One segment of the market has no choice in this matter,namely, distressed listings. If they are Real Estate Owned (REO) they are usually empty. For owner-occupied short sales, they must get out and so they generally need to show the mortgage holder that they are trying to sell, even during this season. In some markets, distressed listings are a looming factor keeping sales prices down.




Active Listings Fall to Very Low Levels

Montgomery County Active Listings typically fall in the Holiday Season. This year, we are really down low. If you are interested in selling your home and it does not terribly inconvenience your holidays, this may be an opportunity.

Active Listings


Observations on November 2011 Market

As usual, I wait about 10 calendar days to look at last month’s data and so today, I ran my software and reviewed the November 2011 sales in comparison to November 2010. I knew it had been a slow month but, the data only reinforces that view.

Across Montgomery County sales volume was down about 7% from 746 closed sales in 2010 to 693 closed sales in 2011. Average Net Sales Price was down 5.51%.  For Silver Spring sales voulme decreased about 10% (down from 187 sales in 2010 to 168 in 2011). Sales prices for Silver Spring were down 10.49%. There were similar results for Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Rockville, with Sales Prices down across the board by 14.54%, 6.56% and 9.75%, respectively.

The only brght spot in all this is to let you know that I now have most of my older listings under contract and that the number of active Listings across the County is down about 11% from last year. This may be the early signs of a stabilizing market.


Market Snapshot Report: Dollar Sales Volume Down 11%

Right now you can see how the Washington DC region real estate market performed in November 2011 versus November of last year. If you want you can wait until January 2012 for Case-Schiller results!

My Daily Market Snapshot Report and My Month-to-Month Comparisons are there for you to see every day. The Monthly Market Snapshots provide automatically processed reports comparing Month to Month, Year to Year and 90-Day to 90-Day periods in the MRIS. Prior monthly data usually takes 10-12 days into the next month before most of the data is entered (remember this is done by individual agents). Hence, we use a Monthly or 90-Day comparison periods that typically lags by 10 days from the Daily Report.

As of today, we see that in Montgomery County the # Units Sold in November 2011 was 686, down 8.05% from last year’s November level. While November 2011 sales prices were down 5.17% versus last year’s sales prices.  Comparing November 2011 to the previous calendar month, October 2011, shows that both number of units sold and average sales prices were both up, 5.53% and 6.06%, respectively.

I believe that the best indicators of the market are My 90-Day Reports. If we look at the Last 90 Days of 2011 versus last year, we see how the Montgomery County market has really come down significantly in volume (-8.86%) and slightly in sales price (-2.29%). However, the combined effect is that Total Dollar Sales Volume in Montgomery County for this 90-Day period in 2010 was $971,370,273, while for 2011 it was $865,143,622. This represents a 10.936% percentage drop which unfortunately, more truly reflects the overall downturn in the county market.

I would like to be more positive about the future. But, with active distressed accounting for 22.74% of the total listings in the county, we are in for more headwinds.




Welcome to the D.C. Regional Real Estate Resource

  • This web site provides regional, city and local community information drawn from the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS), the regional multiple listing service, and is presented as a community service by Barbara Ciment, #1 Long & Foster Team
  • The Daily Market Snapshot provides an analyzed overview of all Active Listings, Recent Sales and a breakout of Distressed (short sale and bank-owned) Active and Recent Sold, that are affecting the overall market, for the following jurisdictions:
    • Maryland Counties: Montgomery, Howard, Prince George’s
    • Virginia Counties: Arlington and Fairfax; and
    • Washington, D.C.
  • The Market Snapshot provides Sales Averages, Months of Supply and Days on the Market for all highlighted areas.
  • No Registration is Required.
  • The purpose is to help buyers and sellers quickly gain an overview of the real estate market by “Viewing” a wide array of active listings and sold transactions that have been processed and analyzed into a Market Snapshot.
  • This site provides automatically processed reports from the regional multiple listing services, MRIS Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. Reports are automatically updated periodically. Information is believed to be accurate, but should not be relied upon without verification. Accuracy of square footage, lot size and other information is not guaranteed. For the most timely information, Call Barbara at 301-622-7002, email

 Wide Range of Reports on this Blog:  We are expanding our sharing of information on this Blog. You may already be aware that the Blog provides Daily Montgomery County Active and Recent Sold reports. Here you can view reports by Zip Codes, Cities, Subdivisions or Condos by the following simple URLs.

Zip codes: Subdivisions: Cities:     Condos:

If you want to see reports on cities, zips, subdivisions or condos not reported, then, just send me a note and I will add your desired areas to our site. You can always also sign up for eAlerts from the MLS by using my Search widget on my main web site, In the future, I will be developing eNewsletters that I will send to registered users.

Barbara Ciment, Realtor