House sale stock photo

Fact: Homes are routinely selling for more than the asking price. Fact: For-sale properties are getting multiple offers; sometimes more than a dozen within a day or two. Fact: Demand for real estate is far outpacing the supply. 

Those facts about today’s real estate market in West Volusia are well known. When we asked West Volusia real estate agents for stories about this hot market, though, we got more than statistics and numbers — we got stories of the humanity behind the heat. 

Enjoy. 

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Barb Girtman

Barb Girtman, Bee Realty 

Moral of this story: We’re figuring out what’s important. 

Barb Girtman — a member of the Volusia County Council as well as a Realtor — told a story that speaks as much to the way the pandemic is changing local housing trends as it speaks to West Volusia’s current hot market. 

A friend, Girtman said, put her 5-acre horse farm up for sale because her son was adopting two young boys, and the son had purchased a house to accommodate not only his newly expanded family, but his parents. 

There was room at the new home for the horses, the dogs and the grandparents. 

“They wanted the boys to have the fullest experience, with the grandparents there,” Girtman said. 

Then, before Girtman could even begin to market the 5 acres, a member of the neighbor’s family snatched it up. 

“So I never even got a chance to put it on the market,” Girtman said. 

The buyer wanted to be “just a gate away” from her own family. 

“What has happened in this time, in this market — and in this COVID time — is people are starting to prioritize family and coming together,’’ Girtman said. “I really think COVID has helped people decide what’s important.” 

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Maureen Kemp

Maureen Kemp, Kemp Realty 

Moral of this story: It’s important to be noticed. 

Maureen Kemp went to market with a DeLand home and, within two days, there were 22 showings and 13 offers. 

They were good offers, too. Three of them were cash allowed the sellers to remain in the home post-closing for as long as two months, rent-free. There were offers over the asking price, of course. offers, and a couple would have 

Kemp said the prevalence of cash offers — when the seller doesn’t need bank financing — has something to do with people coming from out of state and even from out of the country, who have sold property back home and realized cash from the sale. 

In recent weeks, she said, she’s seen several buyers from South Florida, along with buyers from Colorado, New York, California, Georgia and even Norway. 

“They’ve been from all over,” she said. 

In the case of this home, the buyer was from out of state and purchased the property — and closed on it — without seeing it, except through a FaceTime tour. The new owners will see the home in person for the first time in June. 

But, first, the sellers had to choose an offer. 

As they were in their home reviewing the 13 offers, Kemp said, one of the sellers stepped outside and noticed the same car passing his home several times. 

“At the moment the car drove past again, a lady (presumably one of the people who had made an offer) hung out the car window yelling, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’” Kemp said. “True story.” 

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Allen Thompson

Allen Thompson, Rupp’s Real Estate 

Moral of this story: Sometimes, it’s about a whole lot more than real estate. 

I recently listed a home for sale in West Volusia. As with many of the homes I list, the seller called me a couple of months beforehand, so she could get an idea of what she needed to do to prep the home. 

As she and her daughters prepared the home to be sold, I had many conversations with her and heard a number of stories about her time in the home. She and her husband, who had by this time passed on, had purchased the home 45 years earlier, and it was full of memories. 

Once everything was ready, I coordinated with the photographer to capture the story of this wonderful home, and we were ready to list it for sale. As with most of the homes coming on the market today, we were met with a wave of interest. Within 24 hours, I got a call from another agent. 

She says, “Hi, Allen, I am sending over an offer for my buyer, and this is a very unique case so I wanted to talk to you and prepare you for the offer first.” She continues, “This house is very special for my buyer, you see he grew up in the house and has many fond memories of his father…” 

The agent now had my attention, because my seller had owned the home for 45 years and she had bought it only a year after it was built. Following a pause just long enough to grab my full attention, she resumes, “my buyer is no longer talking to his family, so this would mean the world for him to raise his kids where he remembers growing up.” 

That’s right, the agent’s buyer is none other than my seller’s estranged son, and the two are not on speaking terms. But her offer is strong. And after a tough negotiation, my seller’s daughters and I convince her to distance herself from the hurt and fear and to accept the long-lost son’s offer to purchase the home. Reluctantly, she signs the contract, and the race is now on to get to the closing table. 

And like every great real estate transaction, there’s a hurdle around every corner. The trip that we thought was going to take just a few weeks turns into two months as underwriters shred through the buyer’s financials and an inspection identifies a drain field desperately in need of replacement. 

While this is going on, I get a call from my seller that the buyer had stopped by while the seller was at the home checking on things and they had a “nice little talk.” They even exchanged numbers to continue the conversation later. She just wanted to make sure it was OK that they were talking while we were working to close the transaction. I told her that it was perfectly acceptable. 

The permits finally get approved for the new drain field and while I’m talking to the seller, she lets me know that she is greatly comforted and quite happy that her son is buying the house. 

In a couple more weeks, we get the coveted “clear to close” that everyone in the transaction has been holding their breath for. I called the seller to let her know. She says, “My son already called to tell me. I am so excited for him! And I am elated that we are now speaking daily.” 

Following a grueling two months, we finally closed one of the most emotional transactions of my career and reunited a family who hadn’t spoken in nearly a decade. 

This was a true reminder to me that home is a magical place that brings us together and that we need to forget our silly little grudges because, in the grand scheme of things, that’s all they are, silly little grudges. Let that anger go, and keep your family close. 

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Linda Hannon

Linda Hannon, Charles Rutenberg 

Moral of this story: Sometimes it really is a win-win sale. 

My seller decided to take an offer from a buyer we had been working with. This buyer’s husband is long-distance working, so she had to do it on her own. She has a young child, and she’s also pregnant and supposed to be on bed rest. 

She found this house after being under contract with multiple other houses that fell through due to inspection problems and the like. 

This house was pristine. It’s in perfect condition; the sellers had kept it well. The buyer was also going to purchase some of the furniture — and it was perfectly furnished. It showed like a model.

On the final walk-through, the seller let the buyer know they were not going to take any money for the furniture. They had agreed on the price, which was right at the list price, and they felt very happy this family was getting this house. 

The seller had met the buyers early in the process. They probably could have let the process go on for a while and they would have gotten offers above their asking price, but the sellers felt an immediate connection with these buyers. They were happy someone would get the house who would love it as much as they did. 

They felt it was going to be a wonderful fit. 

At closing, the buyer is in tears, the agent’s in tears, we’re all in tears. In this crazy time, it was one of the smoothest, calmest, best closings we’ve had. It was so nice to see something work so perfectly for people. The sellers were happy, the buyers were happy. 

There was so much human connection, instead of everybody trying to beat out somebody else — which I totally understand; that’s our market. 

This one just worked out so smoothly for everybody. To a good end for all parties. 

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Tom Milton

Tom Milton, Cornerstone Group

Moral of this story: Keep in mind what we don’t know.

None of us understands it, and I’ve been at this for 30 years. 

For example, I put a house on the market on a Tuesday afternoon, and it was sold the following Wednesday. We’re talking five, six offers in the first few hours. 

I’ve got a personal policy that we want somebody to come look at the house before they make an offer. So often, people will go online and say “I wanna buy that house,” but when they actually get to see it, they change their mind. It’s a big waste of time. There’s a difference between seeing and walking around a house and seeing it on the internet. 

It’s great for getting information, but not for buying homes. People need to come see the property.

Besides, here’s the reality: You’re not just buying a house or renting a house, you’re buying or renting a neighborhood. 

With this listing, I didn’t need to schedule showings, because it was vacant. I just had people go directly to the property, and, boy, they did. We had close to a dozen showings. 

It sold above the list price. And that’s the other problem I’ve been seeing. Everybody’s offering more in hopes of getting the property they want, and we’re starting to see something we haven’t seen in years, called an “escalation clause,” where the buyer says, “I’m willing to pay more than the highest offer you get, up to a certain amount.” 

The last time I’ve personally seen anything like this was around 2005 or 2006, when the market started heating up. 

Of course, none of us knows what the future’s going to bring or where the market’s going to go. There’s just no way to know that. I’m a firm believer in what goes up must come down 

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Grace Gutierrez

Grace Gutierrez, Central Florida Home Pros

Moral of this story: Sometimes it’s a matter of principle, not profit.

I had a seller who listed a home at the top of the range, based on recently sold comparable homes. This home was priced in the low $200,000s and, of course, had many offers. The offer chosen was an all-cash offer, no inspection or appraisal contingencies, and was $13,000 more than the asking price. 

The seller was not happy, and wanted the buyer to pay some of the closing costs. 

I explained in great detail and in so many different ways that the buyer was offering $13,000 over asking, so, in all actuality, the buyer was paying a large portion of the seller’s closing costs. 

But, to make the seller happy and accept the offer, the buyer’s agent and I drafted an addendum that changed the offer to the asking price and added that the buyer would pay $10,000 toward the seller’s closing costs. 

The buyer signed off on this, and the house closed. I explained so many times that this resulted in $3,000 less to the seller, but they just could not see it. 

But, in the end, the seller and the buyer were happy.

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Robert Aponte

Robert Aponte, Central Florida Home Pros

Moral of this story: There’s more than price and offer to consider.

I recently had a seller list their home. Of course, it had multiple offers, and went pending over the asking price. 

As the transaction progressed, the home inspection revealed a few items of a magnitude significant enough to jeopardize a normal sale. The appraisal came in just short of the offer price, but well over the listing price. The seller stated they did not want to make any repairs, and did not want to lower the price to meet the appraisal price. 

Seller’s theory, in this market: If this buyer does not want to continue, another buyer will step up. As an agent, I keep explaining that appraisals and the condition of property are still key factors in selling a home, not to mention disclosure of known material facts affecting the value.

Bonnie Hoffman

Bonnie Hoffman

Bonnie Hoffmann, Charles Rutenberg Realty

Moral of this story: Extra effort can win the day.

I listed a house in Deltona with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and 1,200 square feet, at $204,900. We received 10 offers in two days. Two of these offers we discounted right away, so that left eight good, acceptable offers. 

Buyers now will go way over the asking price, asking for VA or FHA financing. The problem is that the home will not appraise at that higher price. 

We received sweet letters from five prospective buyers, and one even took a picture of themselves in front of the home that said “Thank you for making this our home.” 

We ended up taking a cash offer where the buyer paid the closing costs, and we did not have to worry about what the home appraised for.

I wrote an offer on a home in DeLand listed with another Realtor. That Realtor told us she had 13 offers. We wrote one $10,000 over the asking price, cash, with no inspection period. We also wrote a letter explaining how great the family was. We got the home.

I listed another home in DeLand, and did something I had never done before. We listed the home on Thursday, and showed it all day Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We put it in MLS with the note: “All offers will be looked at on Monday at noon.” That way no other Realtor would bug me to get their offer signed right away, because all the Realtors knew the offers would be looked at on Monday at noon. We also received letters from buyers trying to make their offer look best. We ended up with 10 offers and picked one of them.

I listed another home in Trails West. I did one showing every half-hour, and got 12 offers. I went over all 12 offers with the sellers, and the sellers picked a cash offer with an “escalation clause.” That meant the buyer would offer $1,000 higher than any other offer we received. That clause got them the home.

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Jennifer Alsbrooks

Jen Alsbrooks, Keller Williams Heritage Realty

Moral of this story: If there was ever a time to definitely use a Realtor, it’s now.

We had a house that we sold last year reappear on the market by mistake in Deltona. It was a new-construction home, sold by a builder I represent quite often.

The house went “live” back on the market as a technical glitch. It wasn’t supposed to be live. I hadn’t set it up to be live again. 

When it went live again, my phone started going crazy over a property that wasn’t actually for sale. 

I reached out to the MLS, but had to field phone calls for probably two hours while they got the glitch fixed. In those two hours, I had more than 36 phone calls and two offers in my email inbox. 

I had to explain to the agents. I had to say, “Please don’t show up at this house; it’s not really for sale.”

We sold that house over a year ago for $220,000. Today, it would sell for $267,000, because of the rising cost of lumber. 

With the market increases and low inventory, the market is booming. It’s definitely a great time to sell right now. There’s less than one month’s supply of inventory. For every listing we get on the market, we can have 10 offers easily. 

Buyers are prepped and ready to go. If they’re working with a Realtor, they are moving quickly. If they are not working with a Realtor, I can tell you, “Good luck finding an opportunity to buy a house.” We Realtors are on top of it right now. 

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Susan Ekalo

Susan Ekalo, DeBary Realty

Moral of this story: All’s well that ends well.

I received a call from a prospect. They were coming into town to buy a winter home, and were interested in golf communities. 

We met at the first property they were sure they would like, but it just wasn’t right. They asked if I could show them some other homes the following day, and that day they decided on one. 

Before I could get back to my office, they had decided not to make the offer, and just wait. 

They sent a lovely thank-you note with a gift card for me and the lender who was helping them with pre-qualifying, thanking us for our time. I told them if anything changed, that I was here for them. 

Well, things changed, and they wanted to go ahead with the offer. We came to terms, had inspections, and the seller was packing. Then we got the appraisal. 

Yes, it came in low — way low. After a few choice words from everyone, the seller came down, the buyer came up, the agents all contributed, and we came to terms.

All set for closing! The buyers drive down from their home out of state. We are scheduled for a walk-through and closing starting at 10 a.m. 

The sellers needed more time to clean, so we agreed to walk through starting at 1 p.m., with closing to follow. 

We arrived for the walk-through. The sellers’ pods are all in the front, the sellers are there, and they are exhausted. They did not have the help they thought they would have, and they felt beat up and were very upset over everything. 

Within 30 minutes, after everyone thought everyone else was mad, and with both Realtors going between buyer and seller, we came to terms and proceeded to head to closing.

We closed the transaction with buyers and sellers and agents all happy and smiling and wishing each other well at the same closing table, which has not happened in a long time. 

It was way better than the parking-lot drive-up closings we were encountering through the pandemic. 

The pods had all been picked up by the time we finished signing, and a cleaning crew was already there! 

The buyers turned to me and asked, “Does this always happen?” I said yes, maybe not all these hitches in one transaction, but there is always so much to consider. They said, “You should write a book!” 

In the end, I love it when everyone is happy.

Jennifer Isenberg

Jennifer Isenberg

Jennifer Isenberg, Cardinal Row Real Estate

“Why Cardinal Row?” It’s probably the second-most common question I’m asked (after “how is the market?”). There are a few reasons that Cardinal resonated when suggested by my colleague, Mitch Feinsod. Among those reasons is the spiritual meaning behind the appearance of the handsome red bird. Many people believe a loved one is near when a cardinal appears. Seeing cardinals has taken on a new twist as Cardinal Row has grown into the successful real estate brokerage it is today. Our agents love seeing cardinals at properties, because good outcomes are sure to follow. In this frenzied market, one buyer saw a cardinal in a tree at a beautiful new listing. This was at a showing squeezed between a dozen or more occurring there that afternoon. Following the skilled negotiations by her agent, this buyer was awarded the contract in a multiple-offer situation. Personally, the sight of cardinals at my backyard bird feeder brings me the enthusiasm needed to best serve our customers and my agents. And why Row? We just like it! 

Mitch Feinsod

Mitch Feinsod

Mitch Feinsod, Cardinal Row Real Estate

One day, like most, I was looking through Facebook and came across a property for sale being advertised in Ormond Beach. It was an investment property to buy 10 individual mobile homes on their own land in a bulk deal. I reached out to a mobile-home-park buyer of mine who proceeded to purchase it. Less than two months after the sale, I was still advertising the units as I knew my previous buyer would sell if they made enough profit. Hence the second sale occurred, with the original buyer making close to $50,000 and the second buyer still getting a great deal. 

Well, I kept on advertising and, sure enough, I got a third buyer to purchase all 10 units.

The second buyer made $30,000 and was happy to turn that profit in two months’ time. 

The third buyer is renovating and holding on to the mobile homes for now … The story may continue.

It just goes to show how wealth can be made through real estate.

Editor’s note: We thank the Realtors for their stories, which, in some cases, the Realtors wrote themselves. The Beacon wrote others based on interviews. All the stories were edited for clarity and length.