About This Episode
Homes are getting fewer offers. Bidding wars are on the decline. Price reductions are rising. Our Summer 2022 Top Agent Insights Survey is out now, and it shows how the real estate market is changing. But the agents who responded also said it’s not crashing. On this week’s Walkthrough™, HomeLight’s Caroline Feeney takes us through the latest data about interest rates and inflation, and three top agents join us to share how the changes are impacting their buyers and sellers.
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- HomeLight’s Summer 2022 Top Agent Insights Survey
- Caroline Feeney: HomeLight profile
- Crystal Hoggard: HomeLight agent profile
- Richard Henley: HomeLight agent profile
- Rebecca Quick: HomeLight agent profile
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(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host)
Matt: We heard from a lot of you in our latest Top Agents Survey, and pretty much everyone agreed. This
[sound effect: crash wave]
is not what the housing market is going through. Our Summer 2022 Top Agent Insights Survey is out now. And those of you who responded are in agreement. It’s not a crash, but things are definitely changing. We have three agents joining us today from across the country. You’ll hear them share stories of what’s happening in their markets.
HomeLight’s Senior Managing Editor is with us to share and make sense of the latest survey data. We’ll be talking about inflation, interest rates, what’s happening in the rental market. And you’ll hear a passionate exchange in support of first-time homebuyers. And about that crash idea? Our guests say their clients are asking. We’ll talk about that and more. This is “The Walkthrough™.”
Matt: Hello. Hello. My name’s Matt McGee. I’m the Managing Editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. Welcome to “The Walkthrough™.” This is the show where you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country. At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re here to explore how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.
I’ve seen headlines calling it a “shift” or a “correction”. I’ve seen headlines using words like “cooling” and “slowdown.” I’ve read and heard the stories of agents who, more than ever, are playing counselor and therapist for buyers who are just stressed out about today’s market. My guests are seeing and experiencing many of those things in their markets. HomeLight’s summer 2022 Top Agent Insights Survey is out now. It’s 70-plus pages of insights from nearly 1,000 agents across the country.
If you haven’t seen the survey results yet, I will share the PDF in our Facebook mastermind group. It’s, obviously, also what we’ll be talking about today on “The Walkthrough™.” Joining me, as always, for this quarterly market update episode is HomeLight’s Senior Managing Editor, Caroline Feeney. She is the mastermind behind our quarterly survey. She’s producer, director, author, you name it. Caroline does it all when it comes to the survey. She has been with HomeLight since 2018 and spent more than 2 years at Inman prior to that.
Also joining us today are agents from three different time zones. We have Rebecca Quick in North Carolina, Richard Henley in Arkansas and Crystal Haggard in California. So as a group, you’re gonna hear us talk about the impact that interest rates and inflation are having on the housing market, how renters and first-time homebuyers are faring, plus why and where eco-friendly homes are getting more popular with buyers. That and more is straight ahead. So let’s cut to the chase and dive right in. Are you ready? Here’s my conversation with HomeLight’s Caroline Feeney.
Matt: Caroline, we’ve been doing these quarterly market snapshot podcasts together, I think for almost two years now, maybe. And I remember the one we did back in January 2021, which was just about 18 months ago. Our agent guests all talked about interest rates at that point, and I remember they said that they don’t expect things to change until we get maybe to 5% rates or more. And we are there now. So are things changing?
Caroline: I remember that conversation as well, and I believe we have hit an inflection point. I think it’s partially that 5% threshold being a recent high for mortgage rates. I emphasize recent because, of course, rates have, historically, been higher in the ’80s and ’90s, but many news outlets pointed to rates hitting their highest level since 2009. And, psychologically, that does have an impact.
I think it’s also how fast rates increased, right? In the short span of the two months leading up to May, rates went from around 3.75% to eclipsing 5%, and that’s pretty aggressive. So, you know, you’re seeing some people getting priced out of the market. They may no longer qualify for a mortgage or for the same price range that they were originally searching in. Others are electing to re-examine whether they want to buy right now, and this was definitely reflected in our survey results where 45% of agents say that they’re seeing buyers hit pause with plans to resume their search in 6 to 12 months. So sort of taking a wait-and-see approach.
Thirty-five percent, so a smaller percentage, say that they see buyers dropping out of the market permanently. All in all, this is expected to have a cooling effect on the market, but at the same time, inventory remains very depleted. I believe the National Association of Realtors put that the inventory of existing homes in their most recent report was 2.2 months of supply, whereas 6 months represents a balanced market. So we’re still on that inventory deficit. So that’s acting as a bit of a counterbalance to rates at the same time.
Matt: I love that you mentioned how quick the change was because I get a sense that there really was some, I don’t know, whiplash maybe going on with agents and buyers, just going from that three-something, to five-something so quickly, and in already what was a very challenging market on all sides, and just having that extra thing to sort of adjust to, it’s no wonder that you would see buyers hitting pause and some dropping out, right?
Caroline: Yeah, absolutely. This isn’t the only obstacle that buyers are increasing right now. We’re also seeing home prices near, you know, $400,000 for the median price of an existing home. And there’s also inflation at play, right? So people are facing, especially at the gas pump, crazy increases in prices, and that’s cutting into their budgets along with, you know, mortgage rates.
Matt: We had our conversation just a few days ago, as we always do when the Top Agent Insights Survey comes out. We spoke with three agents. And so why don’t we bring in some of what they had to say about what’s going on? We asked specifically, you know, “Are you seeing any impact on buyers on your market from the new, you know, plus 5% interest rates?”
So first here, we’re gonna hear from two of our three agents. First, we’ll hear from Rebecca Quick. She is in Jacksonville, North Carolina, which is near Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps Base there. And then we’ll hear from Crystal Haggard in Ontario, California, east of Los Angeles. So here’s what they had to say about the impact of interest rates in their area:
Rebecca: Yes, they are definitely impacting buyers in our market. They are backing off somewhat and actually waiting to see what happens. Some people, you know, are able to buy less because they qualify for less because the interest rate has taken up some of their buying power. And so they aren’t sure how they want to move forward. So some people are taking a break. Others are still trying to get in, but I do see it making a difference on how many people are actually looking to buy right now.
Crystal: Yeah. I agree with Rebecca. Buyers are seeing how it’s affecting their payment. So, they are definitely having to adjust the price of what they want to explore, as well as only writing offers on very specific homes. Very few buyers that I am seeing are aggressively still trying to lock in that rate.
Matt: Okay. So there’s Rebecca and Crystal both talking about how the rising interest rates are impacting what they’re seeing in their market. I thought it’s interesting when you talk about, you know, whether or not buyers are trying to lock in rates before they go even higher.
You know, for the last couple of years, sellers have been kind of trying to time the market to some degree to maximize their home value. Now buyers are having to do the same with interest rates. So it’s interesting just to see how things have changed on both sides.
Caroline, when we talk about rising interest rates, I have a feeling that probably one of the groups most impacted by this is first-time homebuyers. You wrote in our survey report, you said, “In their responses, agents overwhelmingly spoke to first-time homebuyers bearing the brunt of the impact from interest rates rising so quickly.” Why do we think that is?
Caroline: Fundamentally, first-time buyers tend to be at a stage of life where they have less money in savings and they also don’t have an existing home to pull equity from or other assets to leverage typically. They’re gonna be more reliant on getting that low interest rate to ensure that their monthly housing payments are manageable over time. It’s also the case that, generally, a larger down payment means you’ll be able to obtain a lower interest rate.
Well, first-time buyers can’t say, “Well, I’m gonna put down the $75k in equity that I gained from my last home, and use it as a down payment for my next purchase.” And the same applies to other strategies like making a larger earnest money deposit to strengthen their offer. So all in all, it just puts them at a disadvantage against other buyers who do have that equity to tap into. And it means they’re usually going to feel the impact of a rate increase more so than other segments of the market. And that’s what we’re seeing now.
Matt: And when we talked to our agents last week, it was…I thought this was really interesting during the conversation when we brought up the subject of first-time homebuyers…they got really passionate about this, Caroline. You know, when we do this episode, the conversation with the agents is often like really analytical because we’re talking about numbers and data, and all that sort of stuff.
But, we had what I thought was a really interesting exchange with Crystal and with our third agent who is Richard Henley in Conway, Arkansas. I wanna play just that exchange that we had when the subject of first-time homebuyers came up because that’s really where the passion came out. So first, we’re gonna hear Richard, and then a little bit of me, and then Crystal, all talking about how it gets emotional when they’re dealing with first-time homebuyers.
Richard: It’s always irritating to me. I’m walking down the hall of my church or wherever, and somebody says, “Well, I bet you’re loving this market.” You know, they’ve heard that it’s such a strong market. “I bet you’re loving this market.” No, I work with enough first-time buyers, I’m frustrated by the market. I feel bad for them.
It hurts me whenever they make an offer on a house that they would just love to be in, and they lose that offer by a few hundred dollars or whatever. So, it’s frustrating. I love my first-time buyers. It’s so rewarding to get them started down the pathway of homeownership. It’s one of the joys of real estate. And these last couple of years have been tough.
Matt: Crystal, you’re shaking your head.
Crystal: I totally agree with that. I love a first-time homebuyer. It brings so much joy and emotion, but it has been very difficult as an agent to get their offers accepted. It’s emotional. You know, I love the first-time homebuyers that really listen to what you have to say and take our advice on how to write offers, but it’s hard to take the emotion out of it for them. It’s such a big deal. So I love me a first-time homebuyer, but it has been very difficult to keep the faith.
Matt: So, I thought that was a really interesting exchange that Richard and Crystal specifically had. And I don’t know, I mean, as difficult as it is, Caroline, for you know, what they’re going through with first-time homebuyers, I just think it speaks to the care that they have for their clients, and the passion that they have to try to get, especially, a first-time buyer into homes in such a difficult market.
Caroline: Absolutely. The current challenges of the market are taking a toll on buyers’ mental health, their anxiety levels, and buyers are looking to their agent for guidance more than ever. Sixty percent of agents in our survey say that buyers are now more likely to seek constant reassurance throughout the home search process. And 32% of agents have had to coach their buyers through tears during this journey, which is, you know, you hate to hear that.
It’s reflective of these mounting obstacles and also the increasing value, I think, of the real estate agent as that person who can stay objective and who can build up their client’s competence when they need a boost. As I mentioned earlier, I think we have to consider that there are other affordability factors at play here. It’s not just rates, it’s also the cost of homes. It’s also inflation. This is a difficult housing environment to navigate.
And we’re at a point where rates have been raised to curb demand and combat inflation, but supply and housing remains low, and prices really have yet to correct. So rates, at this point, are just only adding to the challenge.
Matt: Yeah. So much more stress right now overall, not just for buyers, but for the agents as well. Being married to an agent for so long, I know agents very regularly talk about, “I’m not just your real estate agent, I’m not just helping with the financial side of things. I am a therapist, I am a counselor.” Like, that’s always kind of been a part of how real estate agents do their job, but I think that’s probably more true today than ever that there’s just so much more hand-holding. And as you said, you know, buyers seeking constant reassurance.
So, hey, props to the agents that are, you know, navigating this with and for their clients. I mean, you know, they all deserve just a huge pat on the back right now.
Matt: We’ve been talking about higher rates. We’ve been talking about inflation, just, you know, the difficulties of the market. It is also impacting renters right now. Is it not, Caroline? Now many renters are first-time homebuyers as well, but certainly not all of them are first-time homebuyers.
Caroline: Correct. Yeah. We’ve talked a lot about why now is a difficult time to buy, and what’s causing buyers to back off. But at the same time, we have this counterbalance in inflation that, you know, namely rents rose 11% last year, that’s according to a CoStar research report that I cite in the survey. And this is really causing people to be fed up with the prospect of having to rent. So people are seeing it’s expensive to rent right now.
It’s also expensive to buy. If you already own a home at this point, you’re probably thanking your lucky stars that you know how much your mortgage rate’s gonna cost 6 months from now, 12 months from now, you know, assuming your mortgage rate is fixed. So we asked agents in our survey, you know, “Are you seeing any trends around this?” And 40% said that they’ve seen an increase in lifelong renters approaching them wanting to buy a home.
And these clients recognize, “Hey, that, you know, if I can get my foot in the door of the housing market, I can avoid going through this rent volatility ever again.” Now that’s also assuming they’ve gotta have [a] certain, you know, credit level and possibly down payment in place. So it’s not an option for everyone, but it’s interesting to hear how renters are seeing that homeownership can be a hedge against inflation. And that that might be acting as, you know, a counterbalance to some of the dropping out that we’re seeing from buyers from high mortgage rates.
Matt: And it is definitely something that the agents we spoke to are seeing. Let’s listen in to what Rebecca in Jacksonville, North Carolina said, and then Richard in Conway, Arkansas. Both of them talking about what they are seeing in their markets as far as renter activity.
Rebecca: I’m having renters who have been saving, and they are getting their rent increased so much that they cannot stay where they are. They’re gonna have to move one way or the other. And I have been working with several people this year who have been long-term renters who now want to no longer pay someone else’s mortgage, and the rent’s just keep going up so high that they will settle for something smaller that’s theirs.
Richard: I really am concerned. I see a sense of desperation with our renters. Honestly, I see more renters that are just giving up before they’ve even started to fight than those that are successfully getting out of the rental into their own home. We closed one last week with a young lady. So proud of her. She had to fight for it. And she was tough, and she had hurdles to overcome. The mortgage was difficult. We had all kinds of issues. She fought for it. But she’s a rarity. For every one of her, there’s 8 or 10 that are just throwing up their hands and saying, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
(Matt: Hi, this is Matt McGee. How would you like to have a say in future episodes of “The Walkthrough™?” How would you like to ask my guests your own follow-up questions and connect with other listeners to help them and learn from them? Well, you can do all of that and more in our Walkthrough™ mastermind community on Facebook. Go to Facebook, do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough™. It should be the first group you see. Click Join and come be part of our community.)
Matt: Inflation is also impacting the real estate market in some other ways, Caroline, especially on the buyer side, as we’ve been talking about. The most obvious way is that, as you said, you have less money to spend on rent, less money to spend on a monthly mortgage. There was another interesting impact that I thought as I was paging through the survey results. Inflation is having an impact on energy efficiency and eco-friendly homes. You wrote in the survey, “High energy bills are making energy-efficient homes more attractive.”
Caroline: We did hear that 48% of agents in our survey have seen buyers, increasingly, start to prioritize energy efficiency in their home search, in part due to inflation, specifically rising energy costs. So their heating and cooling bill’s going up. We got a dollar figure amount for that question as well. So, we asked “How much value does energy efficiency add to a home?” And agents estimated that 12 months ago, that figure was about…let me see here. It was $6,600 of value. And 12 months later, so current day, it’s now $8,200 in value. So that represents an over 25% increase.
We also asked about specific energy-efficient features. So we looked at solar panels, artificial turf, environmentally-friendly construction materials, and we got a variety of responses telling us that, you know, interesting green home features remains highly market-specific. It is trending, I would say, overall in a lot of places and might be expanding into places that you wouldn’t expect, or perhaps catching on, just catching on in a neighborhood.
We heard from an agent in the Woodland, Texas, who was like, “Well, we’re just starting to hear people or see people or see people put artificial grass in their lawn for it to be recognized as valuable,” because people love their lawns. In the Midwest, you’re not gonna see an artificial lawn. So, it’s so market-specific. But it does seem like when buyers can think about eco-friendliness as part of their budget, it is something that they’re more mindful of giving, “Hey, I’d love to save on these monthly energy bills.”
Matt: Speaking of market-specific, we certainly heard that when we spoke to our agents just a few days ago. It was really interesting to hear because, you know, we had North Carolina, we had Eastern Time Zone, we had Central Time Zone, we had Pacific Time Zone. So, it was interesting to hear the different replies we got on this. Let’s hear two of them.
So first, we’ll hear from Crystal, who is in Southern California, talking about the value of having an eco-friendly home, followed by Richard in Conway, Arkansas saying that it’s not popular at all in his market. So let’s listen in.
Crystal: The new builds, you know, on the West, they all are coming with very energy-efficient homes, with the solar [as] a must. It’s extremely popular, and almost expected, right now, with the newer generations purchasing homes. They are very attracted to artificial grass. It’s all the little things that add up that light up their eyes.
Richard: This is a fun topic. It’s really interesting to me. I love hearing the perspectives from the other parts of the country. It has had no effect at all in this part. As far as like solar energy, we read about it all the time, we hear about it, but when we check into it, there are so few homes with solar panels on them that the appraisers give it no value. None whatsoever.
Matt: All right. So there’s Richard and Crystal really just giving us, you know, a good reminder, I think, that real estate is local, right? Like, what’s happening in one market doesn’t necessarily happen in the other market. And Rebecca in North Carolina also agreed with Richard. She said smart homes and smart thermostats are about as far as things have gotten so far in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Caroline, did the survey reflect, as well, the geographic differences that we heard during the conversation?
Caroline: It did. So, locations where we saw a lot of agents responding that buyers are starting to become more interested in energy efficiency, included certain locations throughout California, certain pockets of Florida, particularly the West Coast, such as Tampa and Port Charlotte, Phoenix, where a desert climate has made some of these features more…you know, like low-maintenance landscaping and hardscaping more of a necessity.
Also in the Midwest, we saw some agents from like Cincinnati, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, talking about some of these features gaining traction. But there were a lot of areas too where this was a no-go that, you know, this wasn’t top of mind for buyers, according to the agents we surveyed. So, a few barriers to interest in these features include: number one, the upfront cost, since energy-efficient features can make a home more expensive. They’re often a nice-to-have, but ultimately not a factor, a deciding factor for many of today’s homebuyers.
Some agents, particularly in the Northeast, said that some buyers prefer traditional homes. They like the character of a home, and they would rather have that than energy efficiency, which tends to be more popular with the new construction. One agent I thought was interesting, I believe it was in the Pittsburgh area, said that “As long as the house has, you know, four walls and a roof and a little bit of charm, it’s gonna sell in today’s market.” Like energy efficiency isn’t top of mind.
And so, I think also the culture of the area has to be one that’s, you know, putting energy efficiency first. And if that’s not the case, then buyers aren’t going to be looking for it.
Matt: Let’s wrap up our conversation this way. I mean, we’ve been talking about some of the real, you know, struggles and challenges that agents and buyers are facing, especially in this market. We’ve heard some disagreements from our agents, especially on the eco-friendly side of things right there. But I think where all three agents agreed, it’s still a very strong seller’s market, right, Caroline? Things are changing in some ways, but if I recall correctly, no one that we talked to was worried about a crash.
Caroline: Correct. We didn’t see really any commentary in the survey of agents saying that they think there’s gonna be a crash. They talked about how buyers are asking them if there’s gonna be a crash, and that this is a topic that frequently comes up at open houses. But one stat that we’ve been collecting in the survey since it began is, “Do you believe your market is a buyer’s market, seller’s market, or bounce market?”
And as recently as this past survey, we found that 95% of agents say that it’s a seller’s market. That’s down only from 98% the previous quarter. So that’s, you know, not a huge swing. But, I believe we heard from at least one of the agents we chatted with that this could be, you know, the tail end of the seller’s market, or at least the extreme seller’s market we’ve become accustomed to in recent years.
So, in addition to that 95% seller’s market stat, we also found that 44% of agents say bidding wars are on the decline. So, that was up from 13% who said the same in Q1 and 3% the year prior. That’s quite a leap. And 66% of agents say homes may still get multiple offers, but with fewer total bids per home. So, I think that’s happening a lot where you’re still seeing maybe one or two offers on a home, but it’s less likely to see 9, 10, 12 offers that we were seeing in 2021 much of the time.
Matt: And let’s listen to what Rebecca had to say about what she’s seeing. It mirrors almost exactly the data in the survey.
Rebecca: It’s possibly less offers than it was six months ago. Maybe you got 9 offers in 48 hours, now you’re getting 4, 5 offers in the same amount of time. Still, the prices are still soaring and people are still multiple offers. And the prices being reduced on some homes, if they’re not the tip-top properties, if they’re not in really good condition, I’m starting to see some sellers actually happen to reduce their prices, but it’s something you didn’t see really six months ago.
Matt: So there’s Rebecca Quick talking about what she’s seeing, some of the shifting things happening in her market. As we said, all three agents that we talked to agreed that they don’t foresee a crash. Things are definitely changing, yes. But, Crystal said her clients are definitely asking about a crash. Let’s listen to what she had to say about that.
Crystal: That’s a daily conversation. It’s a daily conversation. It’s like, are you a crasher or are you not a crasher? And the majority of homeowners that, you know, understand what happened in the last market crash, understand that most homeowners right now have equity. So if their mortgage is sustainable, they’re not gonna be listing their home for sale. Therefore, we’re not gonna be seeing this huge inventory of homes anytime soon.
Real estate’s all about supply and demand. And we still have that lack of supply to meet the demand of homes. So that’s where, you know, homeowners with their equity, they have skin in the game, they’ve put a large amount of down payment. They’re just not gonna jump ship.
Matt: So there’s Crystal talking about why, you know, she is not seeing it as a crash. You know, Rebecca and Richard said the same things. I’m seeing a lot of the same thing, Caroline, when I, you know, am on social media and hearing the agent conversations, seeing the agent conversations. Let’s sort of wrap this up, Caroline. Big picture, where does the market stand right now?
Caroline: I believe one of the real estate agents who participated in the survey, she was from Georgia, put it really well when she said, “It’s hard to have a housing market crash when you have no inventory.” So, that’s telling. I do believe we’re entering new territory with the housing market for the first time since, probably spring of 2020, when the pandemic real estate boom really started to take off.
For a long time now, we’ve known that the current state of the market wasn’t sustainable with prices continuing to increase at an abnormal rate. And the thing is, you can’t build more houses overnight. It’s quicker to reduce demand by raising rates. At the moment, we’re kind of in an awkward transition time where rates have yet to really balance the market as far as bringing prices back down to earth. And for now, it’s just compounding all of the existing challenges that buyers had before.
But, I’m interested to see what the second half of the year brings. It could be that things start to change. And I don’t believe that, really, anyone in the real estate industry is seeing this as warning signs of a crash like we saw in 2008.
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Matt: The times, they are a-changing, but a crash? No, that is not what any of the agents we spoke to or heard from in the survey are seeing. Remember, if you missed the Summer 2022 Survey, I will make that available in our Facebook mastermind group. I’ll tell you more about that in just a moment. You can also check the show notes from today’s episode. I will link to the page on our website where you can download the survey results yourself.
Let’s do our takeaways from episode 86. This is our housing market snapshot with Caroline Feeney and guests. Takeaway number one: Rising interest rates and inflation…look, they are definitely impacting buyers across the country. Forty-five percent of agents in our survey said buyers are pausing their home search, and 35% said they are dropping out completely. Our agents said rates are also forcing some buyers to change the types of homes that they’re searching for and even to be more selective when it comes to writing offers.
Takeaway number two: On the flip side, while some buyers are pausing, rising rents are bringing other buyers into the housing market. Rebecca Quick talked about some renters in her area having no choice but to find their own place to live. Even if it’s smaller, at least they own it.
Takeaway number three: In our survey, agents overwhelmingly agreed that first-time homebuyers are bearing the brunt of the impact of rising interest rates. You heard both Crystal Haggard and Richard Henley talk, passionately, about how much they love first-time buyers, and how tough it is to see them struggle in this market.
Takeaway number four: Eco-friendly homes are getting more popular, at least in some parts of the country. One of the big reasons is that buyers are looking to save money on their energy bills.
And takeaway number five: The market is definitely shifting, but not crashing. Both in our survey and our conversation, agents said they don’t see a crash on the horizon, especially not with inventory so low. But things are changing. Homes are getting fewer offers, multiple bids are less common, and price cuts are on the rise. And those are your takeaways this week.
If you have any questions or feedback for me or for Caroline Feeney, you can leave a voicemail or send a text. The number to use is 415-322-3328. You can send an email. The address is walkthrough[at]homelight.com. Or find me and Caroline in our Facebook mastermind group. Just search HomeLight Walkthrough™. The group should come right up. And again, that’s where we’ll have the PDF of those survey results later today.
All right. That is all for this week. Thanks, again, to Caroline Feeney for joining me. Thanks, also, to Crystal Haggard, Rebecca Quick and Richard Henley for joining us. And thank you for listening. My name’s Matt McGee, and you’ve been listening to “The Walkthrough™.” At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re here to explore how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable. Go out and sell some homes. I’ll talk to you again next week. Bye-bye.
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