Real estate: Buying in a sellers’ market

July 04–TRAVERSE CITY — Everything is changing in the real estate business, and Charles Lahaie has a plan to leverage that change.

He already works from a non-traditional angle. One of his services concentrates on representing only buyers in real estate deals.

Now he wants to approach the real estate market with an eye toward speed. He is well aware that housing is in great demand in northwest Lower Michigan. But he also knows that houses typically remain on the market for months before deals are finalized.

It still takes time to sell a house despite advances in technology that have led to many potential buyers scouring the internet for properties before they ever talk to a real estate agent.

“Things are changing. People can make deals anywhere,” said Lahaie. “But you’ll still need boots on the ground.”

Lahaie has connected with private investors to launch a service that will buy houses immediately, so sellers can move on without delay, and later resell them.

“I’m a rabid watcher of data,” he said. “I think there is potential there to make money.”

It takes time to connect seller and buyer even in a seller’s market like the one that currently rules Traverse City.

Traverse Area Association of Realtors data shows that the 140 homes sold in May in Grand Traverse County were on the market for an average of 76 days. Houses in Leelanau County sold in May were on the market for an average of 143 days, in Benzie County 267 days.

Lahaie is sure that a few of those sellers would have been happy to cut that delay, and cut red tape, by selling immediately. And he’s decided to take on the role of immediate buyer — for homes he is confident he can resell.

“People want to move,” said Lahaie. “This allows people to establish what timeline they can move on. They know they’ve got a cash offer. It gets the seller out of there and gets the house back on the market.”

Some homeowners need to leave town quickly because they land a job elsewhere. Some find their dream home on the other end of town and want to sell their current house to avoid dual mortgage payments. Whatever the reason, Lahaie is sure some sellers will seek him out to unload their homes quickly.

Lahaie’s business plan is to leverage investment money to buy houses, find buyers and resell them. He doesn’t characterize his new venture as “house flipping.” He sees it as a middleman service to expedite both sale and purchase. His website is

“It’s not an uncommon business model,” said Kimberly Pontius, TAAR executive vice president. “It’s a strategy, it’s another business model.”

Lahaie’s buy-and-sell operation will join others already active in the region, Pontius said. Even national real estate companies, including Zillow, have begun buying properties in some markets for resale, said Pontius.

But the average time it now takes to sell a house in Grand Traverse County, about 2 1/2 months, is actually quite short, said Pontius.

“The days on market have come down so much, so quickly. We were up over 250 days not that long ago. If the property is right, and is priced right, it doesn’t last long. There are micro markets out there where houses move immediately,” Pontius said.

Some properties can linger unsold for years, he said, perhaps because they are run down or in geographic pockets where demand is low.

“There’s been an uptick in for-sale-by-owners,” said Pontius, “and they may all of a sudden decide they don’t want all these people showing up to look at their house during dinner. The FSBO market may offer some opportunity” for real estate agents who offer to buy houses, he said.

Lahaie already has private investment money lined up for his new venture. He may approach credit unions for more funding.

He’s aiming for a maximum 60-90 day turnaround on each deal. Lahaie plans to earn a percentage of any profit his investors make on each deal.

“I figure I get in and do five, 10, 20 deals,” he said, as he explores the concept’s viability. “My thinking is it’s better to help on a small scale.”

Lahaie moved to Traverse City from Cheboygan late in 2016.

“I love my hometown, but it just hasn’t recovered,” he said, from the Great Recession a decade ago.

He relocated so his business could grow. Traverse City provides a prime real estate market, he said — but he considers all of northern Michigan his territory.

No matter where a house is located, Lahaie will be looking for properties that he is confident will sell.

“Three bedroom, two bath — that’s the plum,” he said.

This article provided by NewsEdge.