How We Sell Bellingham Properties to Out-of-Area Buyers

We have the privilege of working with several local employers to help their new hires buy a house in or near Bellingham.

When things line up, that often means meeting the client for *at least* a day-long tour of the area — if not several days showing them the lay of the land, as well as multiple tours of specific, Active listings.

But things don’t always line up that way.

People are often next-level busy, and even a weekend trip to B’ham just isn’t an option.

It has recently been highly likely, too, that there may not be a single Active listing that matches their criteria when they’re here visiting — so it’s more of a “stay alert and ready to pounce” situation.

Also, these people often don’t want to rent, for several reasons:

  • They (justifiably) fear that prices might escape their ability if they let a year pass while renting.
  • Shorter-term or open-ended / flexible rentals that would allow them to end their tenancy when they buy a house, are a harder find here.
  • They don’t want to move twice… they just want to get settled and on with life.

In short: these re-locators want to get straight to buying.

For most, if they’re selling in the market they’re moving here from, it’s a frenzy-of-buyers there too… and once their house hits the market, it’s a matter of days before it’s pending.

***Nationally, year-over-year inventory is down FIFTY-SEVEN PERCENT. Read more.

The sum total of the info above is, though not at all “desperation”, it can certainly be described as “extreme resourcefulness.”

We start the process with the normal buyer orientation meeting, and that’s done on phone or with Zoom.

(That call/meeting is the subject of its own future blog post and is obviously quite multi-faceted. I’ll skip most of that for now).

The one element I will touch on, though, is the mandatory “sobriety check” on their understanding of the level of competitiveness in the market.

80+% of buyers we speak with are, I would say “well-calibrated” and ready for battle.

15% are somewhat astonished by what we show-and-tell them about the market, but they’re grateful to get up to speed and are willing to make the necessary adjustments to be a threat.

The remaining 5%… give or take a point or two… aren’t convinced. They might even say something like, “I have never, and WOULD NEVER, pay full price for a house.”

We do take pride in meeting our clients wherever they are in their journey. I will just say that some of these 5%’ers ultimately choose another area to move to.

It is a critically important understanding, though, as we are likely going to coach this remote buyer through an over-list-price offer — possibly waiving any number of contingencies as well — without the benefit of their actual, physical presence.

High-trust decisions and actions, high-trust sales and service, at the highest level.

Directly after that initial meeting, we have their house-search criteria established and:

  • We set up the MLS to automatically email matching listings as they hit the market;
  • We check in with the firm’s other partners for anything coming soon that might be a match;
  • We begin networking among the other 1370 Realtors in Whatcom County;
  • We use the criteria to create a mailing list of possible matches — the subject of the last blog post.
  • And a handful of other techniques that can turn up a willing seller.

Then, To Tour, We Use Video!

When a candidate house hits the market, we head out there to do a “video tour.”

(Even if there’s a Matterport 3D tour of the house, we want to get our own eyes on it for an objective, we’re-here-to-pick-it-apart overview.)

If there’s a good enough connection, and schedules align, we will Facetime, FB Messenger, WhatsApp, or Zoom through a full tour.

If it’s more appropriate to do a narrated, captured video and then upload to a private YouTube link, we do that.

It works remarkably well and oftentimes one visit/video is enough to inspire an offer.

Virtual Reality?

NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER that virtual reality will become a MAJOR part of real estate buying selling.

I do believe, though, that you and the friends and family you recommend to us, will still want our in-person, hands-on connection and review of the property before you drop a healthy six or seven figures on it.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know.

All The Normal Due Diligence

Other than replacing the buyer’s physical presence with video, all the normal pre-offer investigation, and then transactional due diligence, takes place.

We might make a dozen return-trips to the property before close, for countless reasons.

The other parties including financing, title and escrow, inspection, 1031 intermediaries, etc., are all set up to communicate and execute their tasks remotely anyway, so it’s not a stretch at all for them.

Closing documents can be FedEx’d or printed and signed with a mobile notary, or at the buyer’s bank in their hometown.

If the buyer is out of the U.S., they might have to travel to a US Embassy in the country they’re visiting or living in.

(We helped clients in the US Foreign Service buy an off-market house at $1M, having never seen it in person. They then rented it back to the seller for a year, and will have completed a transformational remodel before ever sleeping one night in the house.)

On The Selling Side

We’ve also helped many sellers liquidate primary residences and investment properties without ever meeting them, and without them being anywhere near Bellingham or WA State.

We’ve also taken on every single task for a seller who inherited his mother’s house, had no desire to come and deal with it in person, so relied on us to:

  • Have every single piece of personal property professionally packed and readied for transport;
  • Have all that personal property driven to a Seattle storage facility and unloaded;
  • Have the house painted and floors refinished;
  • Have the inside and out deep-cleaned and optimized;
  • Have all staging, photos, marketing assembled;
  • Negotiated offers, reached mutual acceptance, negotiated inspection repairs, oversaw those repairs, and closed escrow…
  • Without ever meeting our client or having him drive 2 hours from Seattle.