Real Estate Guru Ryan Serhant’s Best Advice for Buying or Selling a Home in This Red-Hot Market

ryan serhant sitting on the ledge of a large bathroom window

Photo courtesy of SERHANT.

The Million Dollar Listing star shares secrets for scoring a great deal.

If you’ve given even casual consideration to jumping into the real estate market lately, you already know it’s unlike anything we’ve seen in quite a long time.

Home prices just keep climbing (while renting isn’t much better if you’re trying to hold off on making a purchase), and the demand for available property is sky-high. A single house could attract dozens of offers immediately after going on the market — many of them far above the asking price. 

The Covid-19 pandemic set off drastic changes in where we want to live, what we’re looking for in our homes, and how much we’re willing to pay, and there’s no signs of it slowing down anytime soon, according to celebrity real estate broker Ryan Serhant. 

“It’s definitely moving a lot faster than we are at all used to, and it takes a new skill set,” he tells KCM. “The classic quote I say to my agents and our clients all the time is, ‘What got you here won’t get you there.’ The way you bought and sold real estate up until 2020 will not get you anywhere in the future because we are not going back anywhere. We are just going forward.”

Serhant knows what he’s talking about. He’s sold $5 billion in real estate over the course of his career, and he’s the founder and CEO of the innovative brokerage SERHANT., which has moved some seriously incredible properties. (One of the most impressive spaces he’s ever seen, he tells us, was a penthouse he sold in “​​the only building in New York City that has a residential car elevator.”)

That’s the kind of thing most of us can only afford to enjoy from our couches as we watch Serhant showcase unbelievable properties on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York, but he’s also got practical advice that applies to anyone who’s looking to make a move, no matter your price point. Serhant recently called KCM as he dashed between meetings to give us his best tips for folks on either side of a transaction.

Ryan Serhant (photo courtesy of SERHANT.)

Tips for buying a home in 2022

Know what you’re looking for

Serhant: It’s very difficult to go looking for a house and not know what you want, but that’s how most people do it. They think they want four bedrooms, but that’s all they’ve really decided. They may say, ‘Four bedrooms, lots of land, and probably in that neighborhood — but I don’t know, let’s go look.’ That’s like going on Amazon and saying, I think I want clothes. Let me see. So I try to sit with buyers and really figure out their must-haves. And when you tour a home, ask yourself: Do you connect to it? Could you see yourself there? Does this check the boxes that you’re looking for?”

Weed out options that definitely don’t work for you

Serhant: I tell every buyer that purchasing a home is not a process of selection, it’s a process of elimination. This isn’t a world anymore where you’re driving around town and picking out lots of different options, then going home for a while and thinking it through. This is a process of figuring out first what homes are on the market that you don’t like, and we won’t go to those, and then we spend the time going to ones that you already know you do want.

Decide how much you’re willing to pay — and be prepared to move forward ASAP

Serhant: When thinking about what offers to make, figure out the number you are comfortable paying where if you do get the house, you won’t have buyer’s remorse, but if you don’t get it, then good luck to the person who did because they paid way more than they should. But be aware that buyers do lose properties for nominal amounts of money. In the grand scheme of things, an offer that’s $5,000 or $25,000 more does make a difference to a seller when you factor in the closing costs and their own moving costs.

Also think about your qualification to purchase. Can you actually close? And can you make this offer non-contingent on financing? If you’re pre-approved for a loan, that’s basically as good as cash because what a seller doesn’t want to do is accept a high offer that has all these contingencies and might not even close. In the interest of time, the seller will most likely choose the buyer who can close tomorrow with no questions asked.

Don’t bank on a personal touch making a huge difference with a low offer

Serhant: At the end of the day, everything comes down to dollars and speed to close. Lots of buyers are writing letters and showing photos of their families, and you can do that stuff, but unless you’re appealing to somebody who really cares about that, you’re not going to win a house for $100,000 under the highest bidder just because you have cute kids. A home is the largest investment most people ever make, and when they sell it, they want to make as much as possible because they need that money to carry them through to their next investment in their next house. 

If you’re a buyer with a specific value-add, like if you have a local restaurant that’s really hard to get a table at, or you have floor seats to the local basketball team, I’ve seen some people throw those things in as perks. And while oftentimes it’s eye-catching, it’s still not going to make the difference if your bid is just that much lower.

Tips for selling a home in 2022

Small improvements can go a long way

Serhant: Decluttering and painting can make a huge difference. You have no idea what a simple coat of clean paint can do for a home. You might not see it because you live there, but a buyer who’s walking in has never seen your home before, and their eyes immediately go to fingerprints and scratches on the baseboards and the dog’s claw marks by the door. You want someone to imagine your home as theirs. You don’t want them remembering it’s your house because you’ve got piles of magazines and all those magnets on the refrigerator. 

From there, if you’re going to renovate, people talk about kitchens and bathrooms, and that’s all fine, but it can be a significant amount of work at a major cost. I find that the floors are an overlooked item that people just try to cover up with rugs or carpets. But if you have older floors, or they’re really busted up, that’s the first thing your buyer touches. They’re walking in and putting their feet on your floors, and they’re going to look down when they do that. If the floors are nice, that’s indicative of a nice home. If they’re really beaten up, then maybe it looks like this whole house needs work.

Consider selling your furniture, too

Serhant: Pre-Covid, one thing we definitely didn’t sell a lot of was fully furnished homes. No one wanted to pay for somebody else’s furniture. Now, the first thing I say to the seller is, “Would you sell this fully furnished? And please do so.” You can get a premium because people are willing to pay for it due to supply chain issues. Do you have any idea how long it takes to get a couch? We have people renovating homes right now who have already moved in, but they’re still using mini refrigerators because they haven’t been able to get the Sub-Zero they want for the last six months. They just can’t get it in time, and that’s dictated the way people are looking at houses and what they’re buying. 

How to tell if a potential buyer is serious

Serhant: Your average buyer will most likely be getting a mortgage. If they have a pre-approval letter from a lender, that means they’re putting in the work to figure out how much they can spend. Now, does everyone walking around with a pre-approval letter actually intend to buy a house? No. But if they haven’t taken that step to get one — or they’re not willing to do it — then they are nowhere near close to making a decision.

You also have social media. You can learn a lot about someone on the Internet. If there’s no trace of anything they’ve told you about their life across social — especially LinkedIn, with regards to their work — maybe you’re dealing with someone who’s not being totally upfront about their intentions.

But you can ask lots of pointed questions. Why are you looking to buy? How much are you looking to spend? Are you the only person who will be making this decision? What’s your timeline? If you have kids, have you thought about schools? Ask the standard questions any buyer should know the answer to, and even if their answer is, “We’re working on figuring that out right now because we need to make a decision by April 1 since our lease is up May 1,” then you know that person’s real.