In 2010, as the Seattle housing market was clawing its way out of the Great Recession, my husband and I set out to purchase our first home. We stopped at an open house in Loyal Heights on a whim, where the cheerful seller’s agent patiently answered our multiple (probably stupid) questions about the housing market and how exactly one goes about buying a home. Our conversation lasted all of 10 minutes, but in the end, my husband and I decided she was nice and should be our broker.
That was the best dumb luck I could have asked for. Eleven years later, Kim Hobbs—along with her recently retired husband, Mark—has helped us buy and sell three homes. During various car rides to open houses and showings, they’ve regaled us with tales of their adventures in real estate and shared their market know-how. Here are some of their most memorable stories and valuable advice.
Who: Kim Hobbs, broker with Rain City Homes of Windermere Real Estate, and Mark Hobbs, recently retired broker
Years in the business: 21 (Kim), 23 (Mark)
Elevator pitch: “I try to be more of an educator. I think if you focus on helping your client get the information they need, they will make the best long-term decisions for themselves,” Kim says.
When showing homes turned into Fear Factor
Mark: I had booked a home tour, and when I arrived, the key box was not in the customary spot, typically the front door. So I asked my clients to wait and I went around back to see if the key box was back there. I was able to get the key and entered the home. When I opened the door, all of the blinds were closed and the lights were off. I started switching on the lights. As I entered the third room, there was a boa constrictor that was easily eight feet long, probably bigger, that was loose. Thank goodness I turned on the light because if I hadn’t, I would have stepped on that boa constrictor, and I don’t want to find out what happens when you step on a boa constrictor.
When a buyer roused suspicion
Kim: There was one time when Mark started to get an inkling that something wasn’t right. We were representing the seller, and Mark started to do more investigation into the buyer. Lo and behold, after more research, he discovered that the buyer had actually placed an offer under a false name and social security number, and this was pre-2008.
When they walked in on a scene from Bridgerton
Mark: I had clients interested in a downtown condo, and I set the appointment with the listing broker, who said the occupants would not be in town and I was free to show the condo. The front desk provided me the key, and I arrived on time with clients in tow. As I opened the door, I announced loudly that I was from Windermere. I received no reply. We toured all of the rooms, and as I opened the last bedroom door, there was a threesome having a grand old time. And they didn’t stop, you know, they just kept doing their thing.
Their secret for winning a bidding war
Kim: It’s communication with the listing broker. Many of the brokers wait till the offer review day to ingratiate themselves, but if they wait until the offer review day, the broker is completely overwhelmed. You know, they might be sitting with three to 15 offers on their desk or in their computer, and they’re trying to basically check the boxes, right? They’re looking for the best price and the best terms for their seller. And they’re not necessarily taking into account the level of professionalism of the buyer’s broker. Pricing and terms are surely key, but it’s common to consider the buyer’s broker as a tiebreaker when comparing offers. So having a good sense of who will be the best broker to carry the multitude of steps through closing seamlessly, along with someone who can easily navigate a bump with some grace, I think is incredibly important because our market is really too frenetic to align ourselves with people that we don’t have mutual respect for.
When bidding wars get out of control
Kim: We have probably represented a seller with 15 or so offers and a buyer with around 25. We have not actually seen that ourselves, but I’ve heard of people competing against 35–40 offers…. Our listings, the highest was about 15 percent over asking. For buyers, I think the highest we went was 30 percent over asking. And I’m actually happy with 15 percent. I think why we don’t get 25 offers is that I think we tend to list in what I’d call the sweet spot. We don’t recommend listing below the sweet spot to cause this crazy energy because if you list anything at $500,000 that’s worth $800,000, you’re going to get 30 offers, right? I don’t want to promote that.
What they predict will be the next hot Seattle neighborhood
Kim: I would say the Central District and Beacon Hill near the new light rail on Rainier, and then the International District and Northgate and Maple Leaf in Victory Heights and Licton Springs. On the other side, I’d say White Center and South Park. All because of transportation and the proximity to businesses and services that are going to be nearby or are currently nearby.
Where they think the Seattle real estate market trends are headed
Kim: I think we’re back in a normal summer market, a very, very brisk summer market. But last summer, there did not seem to be an end in sight. It did not have that typical kind of calming downturn as we lead into July and August. In what I’d call our cyclical market, it tends to calm as we get into July and further decrease as we get into August, and then upticks again in September and then starts to calm again as we lead into the end of October and the middle of November before Thanksgiving. And then we see a gradual incline again, back in January, and then the spring months are typically very busy. I believe we’re seeing a more normal market trend for summer. But I think that we will be back into an increase of sales in September.
The real estate clients they try to avoid
Kim: The thing that’s interesting is that typically our clients are coming from direct referrals. And direct referrals tend to get another person that is like-minded. They may not be the same personality, they may not be the same background or what have you, but they tend to be nice people. Nice people tend to refer nice people. It’s very uncommon for us to get someone that isn’t smart, collaborative, and kind. It’s very rare that we have a client that is a Jekyll and Hyde. But once in a while, you’ve got Jekyll and all of a sudden, you’ve got Hyde. And that’s when your professional experience becomes incredibly more important to navigate those really difficult situations. But, you know, we try very hard to avoid jerks.