HomeLight Trade-In: Why Homeowners and Agents Love Real Estate’s “Easy Button”

Buying and selling at the same time is tough in almost any situation, but it’s especially difficult in today’s real estate market. You’re probably in a bidding war against several other buyers. Sale contingencies are frowned upon. And when it comes to selling your home, the pandemic makes showings a real challenge.

That’s where HomeLight Trade-In comes in. We buy your client’s current home and take away the stress of buying and selling at the same time. You help them buy a new home, then you help us re-sell the one we bought.

In this bonus Walkthrough episode, you’ll learn why homeowners call HomeLight Trade-In the “easy button” of real estate and why agents say it’s a “game changer” that’s helping them sell more homes and create happy clients.

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Links and Show Notes

Full Transcript

(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host) Let’s begin with some introductions. I’d like you to meet the Tilford family of Tennessee.

Five kids. [sound: kids “woah”]

Five dogs. [sound: dogs barking]

Five cats. [sound: cat meow]

And a couple of horses. [sound: horse whinny]

The Tilford’s lived in Northern California until a few months ago when they faced the daunting challenge of selling their home and buying another one across the country. Imagine trying to accept showings — virtual or not — with five kids, and a dozen animals around. You have to keep the house clean. You have to be ready to vacate on a moment’s notice if a buyer wants to see it.

Imagine trying to find a new home in Tennessee at the same time. Of course, you’re worried that your offer won’t be accepted because you still have to sell your California home — the one that’s really hard to show and keep clean and vacate on a moment’s notice.

And don’t forget about trying to get the financing in order so that both transactions proceed to closing, and timing everything correctly with the move out of one house and the move into the new home. And of course, you’re doing all of this during a pandemic.

You’ve probably worked with clients in situations like this. Okay, maybe not five kids and a dozen animals but the situation is familiar. You know that buying one home while selling another is hard enough, even if the homes are just a couple blocks away.

The Tilford’s made it all happen while moving across the country and everything was as smooth as could be. They had some help, a great real estate agent and something the Tilford’s called an “easy button for real estate.” The agent calls it a game-changer.

Ready to hear what it is? This is “The Walkthrough.”

(INTRO MUSIC)

Hi, everyone. I’m Matt McGee, editor of HomeLight Agent Resource Center and your host every week on “The Walkthrough.”

On today’s show, you’re going to learn about a program that makes buying and selling like an easy button for your client. It takes the stress out of trying to buy one home and sell another.

It also helps you sell more homes. Sneak peek, the agent you’re going to meet today has done more than $5 million in sales volume, and added $180,000 in GCI just this year, just from this easy button.

This is a special episode of “The Walkthrough.” We’re calling it a bonus episode. You know that we love to talk to great real estate agents and invite them to share with you how they’re growing their business, what they’re doing today to stand out from the crowd and what makes them irreplaceable to their clients. Most weeks, we feature agents talking about things like scripts to win a listing appointment or a process to convert more online leads.

Today’s show is a bit different. And that’s why we’re sharing it with you outside of the regular Monday Walkthrough schedule. We’re still talking to a great real estate agent today. You’re gonna meet Kelli Griggs, who is based in Northern California, just outside Sacramento. She’s a HomeLight elite agent. That means she’s one of the top 1% of agents on our platform.

Kelli is also one of the most experienced agents we have when it comes to using HomeLight Trade-In. That’s the program she suggested the Tilford’s use to make their move from California to Tennessee. It’s what the Tilford’s call an “easy button for real estate.” With HomeLight Trade-In, we buy your client’s home, you help them buy their new home, then you help us sell the home that we bought. You’re involved throughout the entire process. It’s your client, not ours. And here’s the icing on the cake. This is what your clients will love. If we resell the home for more than we paid, the client gets the upside.

That’s how it works in a nutshell, but for a deeper look at HomeLight Trade-In and why both agents and homeowners love it, I want you to hear Kelli describe it in her own words. So, as you listen, Kelli will share a few more stories of how HomeLight Trade-In made buying and selling easier for her clients. She’ll walk us through exactly how it works. And she’ll talk about the impact that it’s had on her business.

So without further ado, here is my conversation with Kelli Griggs.

(BEGIN CONVERSATION)

Matt: How often do you have clients who need to sell their current home before that they’re able to buy their new home?

Kelli: I would say more often than not, right? They’re either downsizing, or they’re upsizing, or perhaps they’re moving out of state. Generally, we’re working with families and they have children and they have pets. And it’s about keeping the house at a certain level or perhaps getting the home to shine like a model home so that they can get multiple offers and have multiple people be attracted to that particular property. We know that a house that has fresh carpet and paint and is staged is also generally gonna sell for more money than a house that’s occupied with boxes and boxes of kids’ belongings.

Matt: And on the financial side too that becomes a challenge as well, right? With just sort of the timeline involved and the timeframe of being able to sell one house and time it right to close on the new house?

Kelli: Right. That is just always the problem. Usually, especially here, because I’m in Northern California, we have multiple offers on properties that are listed. So, people are not even considering an offer from somebody who is contingent upon the sale of that home. So, that really is the biggest problem, is how do I sell before I can buy? How do I solve that problem?

Matt: Earlier this year, HomeLight launched a product that we call HomeLight Trade-In. And this is our solution to this challenge. You have used this, if I understand correctly on like a half-dozen of your transactions, at least this year. How has HomeLight Trade-In made your job easier? How’s it made your clients’ lives easier?

Kelli: Game changer! That’s all I can say. This is the greatest tool that I have gotten in the last 10 years for my business. I think I’m more excited about this product than anything else right now in my business. So, we are actually on our seventh transaction right now. So, it has allowed my sellers/buyers to get approved, and then go out and find the home that they’re in love with and be able to write a very strong offer, not contingent on the sale of their house, and win. Then move into that home, give me the keys and let me sell it for top dollar.

Matt: You call this a game-changer, and you said you’re on your seventh deal that you’re working on right now. So, of the first six that you’ve done, can you tell us about one or two of them? Are there one or two of them that you think sort of illustrate like what the benefits are of Trade-In both for you and your clients? Like, what do you wanna start…? Pick one and tell me the story.

Kelli: Oh, gosh, I think I should tell you about the first one and then a little bit about the last one. So, the first one is a dear client, her name is Patty. And I have sold probably three homes for her family as they transitioned, you know from property to property. And the last time they fell in love with the house and had a house to sell, they had to do a bridge loan, and it cost them thousands of dollars. I think it was a 10% interest rate and four points. And they really technically probably weren’t even supposed to do that because it was an owner-occupied property. So, they really had to number one spend a lot of money to do something that probably was a little bit out of the box to be able to get their dream property. Well, when they told me that they fell in love with a new property out of state in Idaho that they wrote an offer on, but it was not accepted because their house wasn’t on the market yet. And could I please sell their house as fast as possible? Just price it low, get it out the door and I’m, like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, you know, this is a really large asset, we need to do this right.”

And fortunately, I had just been approved to be a Trade-In agent with HomeLight. And so I’m like, “Hey, I have this great new product, do you wanna try it out?” And so, we actually kind of learned the program together and it was so easy for my client. They were able to get approved, they wrote an offer on Idaho, they gave me a hug and gave me the keys and said “bye.” And we were able to go ahead and help get that property to market. So, they also had a large family and dogs. And so, that home would not have showed in the best light, right, with all of them there. So, we were able to come in and do fresh paint, and carpet, and staging, and get the home shiny like a new penny. And they got their instant, you know, offer from HomeLight and then they got their additional check in excess of $200,000 for their second check. So, that was so exciting. They were just ridiculously happy. So, I think that they’re like the number one fan.

Matt: And that was the very first transaction. You were learning this…

Kelli: That was the first one. Yeah.

Matt: You’re learning this as you go along, what was the biggest surprise of this experience, that very first one?

Kelli: The biggest surprise was how easy it was. First of all, the HomeLight team that we work with are amazing. They actually care about my clients as much as I care about, you know, as much as I care. And their clients too. And at first, as a real estate agent, you’re a little standoff like, “Hey, these are my people.” But they made it very clear that they had absolutely no interest other than helping me shine, and really providing amazing support for them. So, one of the things that was so surprising was just how easy it was to get the house, right? Normally, you’re waiting and waiting and waiting and trying to coordinate a move in and move out and do all these things. But I think it was just such an enjoyable experience for everybody.

Matt: That was the first one you said. Tell me about the most recent one that you had, number six, I guess that would be.

Kelli: So, now I’m feeling a little cocky with this Trade-In program, right? Because I got my people down at HomeLight, they know me, I know them. I know that, you know, I can lobby a ball right to someone and they’re gonna just take care of it instantly. So, I am working with a seller on a very nice home in Serrano, which is in Eldorado Hills, and a buyer comes to our home that doesn’t have an agent. And I have multiple offers on this property and so I assigned this buyer to my buyer’s agent. And guess what, they have a house that they have to sell. We are able to take that client, quickly get them approved for the Trade-In product, they were able to win by being the best offer on the transaction. And I picked up a new trade-in. So, just by having this always on the ready and having a relationship with my HomeLight team, I’m always able to quickly zig and zag and make it happen for somebody. But what a blessing for my team, my buyer’s agent got a million-dollar sale and I picked up a new $950,000 listing.

Matt: Oh, that’s, I mean, that sounds awesome. And that’s all made possible because of what, the simplicity … because of the simplicity and ease of using this.

Kelli: Yeah, my HomeLight loan officer is always available to me. And so, I’m able to say, “Hey, do they qualify? How does this look?” And, you know, he said yes and we immediately get the team together to do a Trade-In pitch. And we’re just a really a well-oiled machine right now. So, it was wonderful. And of course, the clients are thrilled because they won the house. And they see how well I presented the listing and the house that they wanted. So, there’s a lot of trust there for me to go in and do that with their home, too.

Matt: It’s such a new concept, I would think, for a lot of consumers. What is the experience like explaining to them how it works?

Kelli: I think that’s probably my biggest challenge. I think with every transaction, I get a little better at it. But it’s something that they’ve never heard of, right? Like, “Wait a second, you’re gonna buy my house three days before I close on the one that I really want?” And so, what I’ve been doing lately is I’ve been running people, I want everyone to know about this. So, I’ve got family from the Bay Area, they’ve always dreamed of coming up here. So, I’m running my aunt and uncle through and they’re getting approved just in case that dream house comes on the market, they’re ready to lock and load. So, I keep practicing my pitch. But I would say that it takes a second, especially because we’ve been running through COVID and we’ve been doing these presentations over Zoom. And it’s a lot of new that they have to kind of understand.

Matt: And you just mentioned the — sort of how the real estate process itself is different because of the pandemic that’s going on. Does HomeLight Trade-In make it easier to buy and sell in times like this?

Kelli: Oh my goodness, yes. Like, I had one family that had a child with asthma. And they didn’t want during, you know, the height of it to have a bunch of people coming through the house. But you have to realize we have been preparing to get their house on the market for weeks and we didn’t know a pandemic was gonna hit. Then one of our families that we helped, they were frontline medical workers. So, one was a firefighter and one worked in the ER, and, you know, they needed their sleep and their rest and didn’t wanna have showings, you know, 24/7. So, I told somebody HomeLight is doing for real estate what Uber did for the taxi cab. Right? It’s just eliminating the waiting and the, you know, process and all of that. It’s just giving people an opportunity to have an easy button. It’s like, I wanna buy a house, that’s the one I wanna buy, how do I make that happen? And the secret is getting your people who have a home to sell and they’re transitioning, approved, whether or not they know they need it, right?

Because that’s power to have all these different opportunities available to your customers, it just makes you the star, because if they can use it, great…don’t need to use it, then they don’t have to. So, it’s just, it’s like for the cost of it, I mean, if you’re using a HomeLight, and you are using their financing, the cost is only 1% and 0.5% per month. That is nothing compared to what I make them. So, when they’re out of their home, I’m generally, like, it’s almost free because I’m generally making them more money on the house because they’re not in it. And I’m able to negotiate and not write $25,000 over because they’re contingent. So, why wouldn’t somebody do this?

Matt: So at this point, I think we should probably talk about what that process is like. Like, how does HomeLight Trade-In work? You’ve told us a couple of the stories that you’ve had with your clients. So, to recap the process, it begins — and you jump in here and sort of illustrate this — it begins with HomeLight making a guaranteed offer on the existing home, correct?

Kelli: Correct. Yeah. So, the way that it works is we would present the concept to our clients. And if it was something that interests them, we would take it a step further by getting a consultation with HomeLight. So, the only thing that it takes is that if they are financing, we wanna get them pre-approved with HomeLight Home Loans for their purchase. Then the next step is, is do we have a house that HomeLight is willing to buy? We wanna make sure there’s no major structural defects. So, we’re generally doing a home inspection and a pest inspection. And then once we have those reports, HomeLight will make them an offer that they can really take to the bank. And so they have that in their back pocket. They don’t have to sell the home if they don’t find a home. That’s the biggest question I think that sellers out there have is, oh, well, you know, what if I don’t find a house? Well, then if you don’t find a house, then we’re not selling yours.

So, once they’re fully approved through that process, they can take generally, I’ve done them in a day, because I have an amazing team but generally, it’s usually like three to five days. I had a home inspector actually go out at 6:00 a.m. to get a home inspection done for us because we were in a hurry on one of these transactions that we did. So, it’s really about making sure we have a sound house. And we’re not necessarily fixing things that they need repaired, we’re just kind of putting that money aside, just in case. So, let me give you a real-life, for example. Let’s say we had active infestation on a pest inspection. And that property needed about $4600 worth of termite work. What we would do is HomeLight would just put that money for that repair in their little personal savings account. And if the buyer who wrote an offer on their home was in a multiple offer situation and said, “I don’t care, I’ll take it as is,” the money in that savings account would be returned to the seller. But let’s say we only had two buyers and both buyers wanted a clear section one, then we would use those funds to actually do the work and then that money wouldn’t be returned to the seller.

Matt: And when we talk about HomeLight making a guaranteed offer on the existing home, what are we talking? 80%, 90% of estimated value?

Kelli: You know, I do believe that’s a little bit negotiable. There’s 85%, most of mine run at 90%. I’m in a market with kind of newer homes and I have a track record of getting them closed. So, I would say my average is about 90% guaranteed offer price.

Matt: And so, once that happens, then the consumer is free. They know that they’re gonna get a guaranteed offer on the existing home, then I guess you know call it step two, if you want, is the consumer is then free to go out, find the home that they love and make an offer on that with no contingencies as we talked about, right?

Kelli: No sale contingencies. Yeah, and it’s up to them and their agent should they choose to put other contingencies on for inspection, appraisal, that kind of thing.

Matt: Okay. Then, let’s say that offer gets accepted, they have found the new home that they wanna buy, their offer gets accepted, then at that point, HomeLight comes in and completes the purchase of the existing home. Is that correct?

Kelli: Well, actually, they close about three days before you close on your new purchase. Because let’s say you’re buying in Sacramento. In Sacramento, most of the sellers do not do their inspections upfront. So, that buyer might have a 10 to 17-day inspection contingency and they might find something about the house that they don’t like. So, they’re free to cancel that escrow and start again. So, HomeLight waits until the buyer is ready. And so, usually that’s about you know, three to five days before, and then they close on this transaction and the money is put into escrow for their new transaction. So, it’s a real seamless kind of easy process.

Matt: The consumer then closes on the new home, moves out, that leaves the existing home empty. And that’s when you as the agent and HomeLight go to work with getting it ready to put it on — to list it, taking care of any upgrades or repairs that need to be made, and going through the, you know, the last step of the process, which is getting their “old home” sold. Correct?

Kelli: Correct. So, in addition to any known repairs, HomeLight is also gonna ask me, “Hey, Kelli, what do you recommend gets done prior to, you know, us going on the market?” And I’ll say, “Hey, you know, I really think it could use a coat of paint, that room is a weird funky color.” And then I will get a quote to have that done. I really would like to have the house professionally staged and the quote for this. So, all those monies are put in that savings account as well. So, we usually because we have so much time, right? If we wrote an offer on a property, we knew that we were closing in 21 or 30 days, we would organize the carpet, the paint, the staging, just be boom, boom, boom, on the day we get the keys. We help the customer by coordinating their move out into their new home and it’s really a happy time. I think one of the most stressful things for a seller is getting their home to market. It’s getting their home in their best light while they’re living in it. So, this eliminates all the things that sellers hate the most, which makes them think that you’re the most amazing real estate agent on the planet.

Matt: And then the very last step, you sort of hinted at this, when you were talking it through the case studies, is that if you sell the home for more than what HomeLight guaranteed to buy it for, the client gets the difference.

Kelli: Yeah. That’s what makes HomeLight Trade-In the coolest thing on the planet. Because we’ve got a lot of iBuys out there. We won’t, you know, mention those companies, but you guys know who they are, right? And they’re just doing the instant offer, push a button, get your money out and go. But HomeLight is the only company that I work with, or even know about, that really puts the customer first and lets them have 100% of the upside. And so far, to date, our customers have been the most excited about that, is about getting the extra.

Matt: I would think agents listening to this right now might be wondering, “Kelli, does this squeeze me out of the picture in any way?” What do you say to that?

Kelli: No. I think at first, you know, we’re all a little protective. Because we’ve been burned by other things in the past, but HomeLight really has made an alliance to the agent. And so, from the very beginning, I’ve just embraced this with open arms and they have just embraced, you know, me back. And so, if anything, I feel more celebrated in the transaction because the lender, the escrow company, they’re all saying your expert, you know, your agent, your this, your that, they’re all pushing the customer back to me. And they’re letting me have, you know, all the glory for them creating an amazing product.

Matt: I mean, as the agent you are still involved in, you know, helping the consumer find and buy their new home. You’re still involved in figuring out the listing plan, the selling price for the existing home, right? Like you’re still doing all the stuff you normally do.

Kelli: Yes, it’s just easier because I’ve got a team that’s helping me.

Matt: How has HomeLight Trade-In impacted your business so far this year? Has it been a noticeable amount of business that you’ve done? Has it, like, had a noticeable impact?

Kelli: I would say so. Yeah, I ran the numbers, I added them up. It’s additional $5,474,000 and the GCI on that is $180,000. That’s additional income that I would not have if I was not able to do the HomeLight Trade-In program.

Matt: If an agent came to you and said, “Kelli, like, what are the three or four biggest benefits to me as an agent to using, you know, from using HomeLight Trade-In?” What would you say?

Kelli: The ability to close deals now, today, versus in the future, right? To give the consumer an experience, a five-star experience, have an easy button to say, “Hey, look, this is the most stressful part of selling your home right here and we’re gonna eliminate all of it. So, we’re going to do all the fun stuff with you, and then the not-so-fun stuff without you.” Because at that moment in time, when it’s time to get the house on the market, it’s actually HomeLight that’s the seller, because they’ve already bought the house. So it just kind of lets you be the star and give that consumer a really amazing experience. But it all happens very quickly compared to how long it would take if you didn’t have it. I can’t imagine why an agent wouldn’t want to take the time to learn about this program.

(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host) And if you want to learn more about HomeLight Trade-In, the fastest way to do that is on our website. Go to homelight.com/trade-in. There’s a hyphen in the word trade-in, by the way. And when you get there, you’ll find all kinds of information on that page for you and your sellers.

There’s also a signup form to get more info. And let me tell you what’s gonna happen when you fill out the form there. HomeLight Trade-In is already available in both California and Texas. So, when we hear from agents in those states, we’ll treat it as sort of an application. Agents in other states can still use the same form and what we’ll do is send you updates about HomeLight Trade-In as it expands. Sound good? Again, the URL is homelight.com/trade-in, and that’s trade-in with a hyphen. I will put that link in today’s show notes.

I hope you enjoyed this bonus episode of “The Walkthrough.” If you have questions or feedback for me or HomeLight, there’s three different ways you can get in touch. You can leave a voicemail or send a text, the number is 415-322-3328. You can send an email to walkthrough [at] homelight.com, or number three, find me in our Facebook listener community. Just do a search on Facebook for HomeLight Walkthrough and the group should come right up.

That’s all for today. Thanks to Kelli Griggs for joining me and thank you for listening. My name is Matt McGee and I’ll be back with you Monday for another episode of “The Walkthrough.” Talk to you then everyone. Bye-bye.

Header Image Source: (Roberto Nickson / Unsplash)