Guest Interview: Cassandra Leivas, Realtor

October 19, 2020

Our guest today is Cassandra Leivas. Cassandra is a realtor in the Scottsdale, AZ area with Realty ONE Group and specializes in residential resales. If you are looking to buy or sell property, check her out. We’ve dropped her contact info below!

Josh: Cassandra! I'm thrilled to have you join us today. Thank you for being willing to contribute to our blog.

First, if you could, let our readers know a little bit of background on you. What got you into the real estate industry? How long have you been doing it? What are some of your favorite aspects about what you do?

Also, give us one interesting fact about Cassandra that most people don’t know. :) 

Cassandra: I was a Certified Nursing Assistant, specializing in hospice care and thought I’d have a lifelong career as a nurse. I loved the medical field. Real estate wasn’t even a thought in my mind until a good friend and mentor of mine mentioned (repeatedly) that I was meant for real estate and encouraged me to get my real estate license. So, in 2014 that is exactly what I did, and I haven’t looked back since! I’m incredibly passionate and love helping others find exactly what they’re wanting and needing out of their next real estate sale or purchase.

One interesting fact about me? Hmmmm… one of my goals is to run a half marathon in all 50 states. 

Josh: Oh wow. That is ambitious! Maybe I should I have a goal to run a half marathon in 1 state. Very cool. So, 2020 has been a crazy year for all of us. How specifically has COVID affected the real estate market?

Cassandra: In early spring when the initial shutdowns took place we did see a sharp decline in demand. Buyers panicked and cancelled contracts (including large investment buyers like Opendoor, Offerpad, and Zillow). Subsequently, some sellers were hesitant to come to the market for various reasons- either concerned buyers weren’t buying or they didn’t want people in their homes during the pandemic. The overall number of transactions declined during the first quarter of the year but quickly rebounded and as of today we remain in one of the hottest, strongest markets with rapid price appreciation and above average demand.

Josh: It's amazing how quickly many aspects of the economy bounced back so rapidly. In your educated opinion, is it a better time to buy or sell in the current environment and where do you see it heading in the short term (6 months – 1 year)?

Cassandra: If you’re in the market to buy, buy now. Mortgage rates are at historic lows and home prices are rapidly increasing- delaying your home purchase is only going to cost more in the next 6-12 months.

Josh: Sounds like you probably wouldn't recommend renting right now.

Cassandra: The rental market has behaved similarly to the resale market. With low inventory and strong demand, it continues to be a race fueled with competition and not a lot of great options for those looking to rent. I would encourage the potential homebuyer to buy now if their circumstances allow.

Josh: What are some tips you might have for buyers to get their bid accepted when they are competing against other bids?

Cassandra: Have a great REALTOR on our side! An agent with strong knowledge of the current market and the ability to effectively communicate with other agents is key in getting your offer accepted.

Josh: Makes sense. I remember when we were buying here in Michigan, our realtor built a little profile for us with a photo of our family and the reason we were excited about their home. He submitted that with the offer, essentially pitching our story to sellers. It's the little things that can make all the difference and good realtors, in my experience, can help us understand the things that work that I would never think of.

So, what about a longer term outlook. I’d imagine that is tough to predict, but where do you see the market heading in the next 1-5 years?

Cassandra: Incredibly tough to predict! The Greater Phoenix area has been in a strong seller’s market for several years. Currently there is about 1.2 months of supply (the rate at which available inventory is absorbed by buyers) across all areas and home types. A balanced market would be 6 months of supply. Current price appreciation and demand trends tell us it’s possible this market will continue to move upwards for quite some time. However, no market lasts forever. Rising prices will eventually suppress demand.

Josh: Interesting. Sounds similar to the market here in Michigan as well. I'd imagine that's probably the case in most areas of the country.

Shifting gears, some of our readers might be looking to buy a home for the first time. For first time homebuyers, what advice do you have in terms of working with a realtor? What are good questions to ask and what can they do to make sure they are getting the most out of having an agent represent them during the home purchase?

Cassandra: Take full advantage of having a REALTOR on your side! Ask every question that comes to mind and be clear with your wants and expectations. Your agent should make you feel comfortable, confident and excited throughout your home buying process.

Josh: Got it. And for the rest of us who might be looking to purchase a home, besides things we might normally think of (i.e. location, sq footage, number of rooms, etc.) what is something that, in your experience, most home buyers don’t think about when buying a home that maybe they should?

Cassandra: I always encourage my clients to visit the home, neighborhood and surrounding areas multiple times at different times of the day. Practice your morning and evening commute to/from work from your prospective new home, drive by when school is in session, take a stroll around the block in the evening. You want to be sure you’re fully aware of what your new home and neighborhood look and sound like at all hours- not just at the time of your first visit.

Josh: Oh good tip! I hadn't thought about the commute, but that is absolutely important to be sure you know what it will be like at various times of the day. I'll add to your tip with one of my own: see if any of the neighbors are out and about, drop by to introduce yourself! You will get a feel for the people who might be your neighbors, you can ask them about the neighborhood and, who knows, maybe you will start off on a good foot with your future neighbors. In our experience, having a good relationship with our neighbors is imperative to having a higher quality of living! We've had good neighbors and bad ones, but having good relationships with our neighbors has sure made for an easier, less-drama-filled life.

Last question while I have you, articulate if you would: what is the value of a realtor? What are the disadvantages (or perhaps advantages) to a FSBO? I would expect you might have something to say about that. :) 

Cassandra: REALTORS provide tremendous value to both buyers and sellers. Having an agent well versed in the process, the market and the legal paperwork is key! Buyers and sellers should have proper representation to help navigate their real estate transaction.

As far as FSBO’S or For Sale by Owner properties, I think for most their main goal is to “save” on paying a commission to a Listing Agent. This can actually backfire and be a costly mistake for the seller. Demand and competition, especially in this market, help drive up the price and terms of an accepted offer. It is not uncommon to see a home listed at one price but subsequently sell for thousands of dollars more after hitting the market- often with added terms to favor the seller like waived appraisal and financing contingencies. A FSBO seller could be losing out on thousands more than the commission they’re saving by not marketing to the majority of these buyers.

Josh: Thank you for your time Cassandra! We really appreciate the valuable input. If you are in the Greater Phoenix area and would like to reach out to Cassandra regarding buying or selling property, her contact information is:

11211 N TATUM BLVD #120