Briggs Freeman President Talks Pandemic-Inspired Home Wishlists

Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International CEO Robbie Briggs announced this spring that he would promote chief operating officer Russ Anderson to president of the brokerage, tapping someone who has more than 30 years of experience in the industry.

Anderson, who joined the brokerage in 2018, and I chatted recently about the market and how the pandemic has spurred more people to look for new homes. 

“I’m a big believer in cycles instead of linear,” he said. “What ends up happening is people re-prioritize what’s important to them. Some things may have been mildly frustrating and became majorly frustrating, but then when we change back, it may become only mildly frustrating again.

“I do believe that for the next decade, people will be looking at different things,” he added. “People will be looking for more yard. People will be looking for more at-home offices. People will be looking for places where they can create independence in their homes.”

And as those pandemic-inspired wishlists get bigger, the houses aren’t getting any smaller.

“We hear that pretty steadily – the desire for bigger homes, the push to get as big a home as possible. And we’ve seen a lot of people that were talking about downsizing that were like, ‘What was I thinking?’”

“I can say that I was very glad we moved to a slightly bigger house before the pandemic,” I told him. “I remember telling my husband that if we had been in that tiny house during all of this, I would have probably straight-up murdered him.”

“I don’t think that was an uncommon conversation,” Anderson said, laughing. “Pretty much my wife had told me on a couple of occasions that if I ask, ‘What’s for lunch?’ one more time, she was going to smother me in my sleep. I know this whole thing pushed a lot of people to the edge.”

But to answer my question, yes, he said, the pandemic will change the way people feel about their homes and what they’re looking for, but “not forever.” 

“Your question was, is this going to change people’s patterns? I do believe that it’s going to change patterns,” Anderson said. “I don’t think it’s forever. I don’t think it’s for the next decade.”

He also is watching this red-hot market with the practiced eye of a longtime real estate professional. 

Right now, it’s not just that more people want to buy than there is inventory at some price points — it’s that it’s hard to convince people in those price points to sell, because they are afraid they won’t be able to find another home they can afford.

“It’s tough. You may get a big premium on the sale, but if you have to spend all of that premium on the buy, you’re no better off,” he said. “And if there’s no inventory or very light inventory, you might not necessarily find what you really wanted. 

“I have a very close friend who, kind of on a lark, decided to sell his house. And he got a great price. The first people that came through it made him a full price, all cash offer,” Anderson recalled. “And they said, ‘Yeah,’ And, um, and they said, yeah, and kind of all in the exuberance, went for it and now have had to move into a rental and there, and then he says, ‘I’m paying a crazy premium on my rental, and we just couldn’t find anything that we wanted.”

“Do you think we’re ever going to get back to three or even four months of inventory?” I asked him.

“Yes – I do,” he said. “The DFW market has so many positives — a good business climate that is centrally located in the country, plenty of airlines, good roads, good tech. You’ve got all these positives and a great quality of life. The whole DFW marketplace just looks so positive relative to so many other places. I think that’s the long-term environment.

“Interest rates are going to go up and down, and that’s going to create some variability in the market,” he said. “I just think we’re going to soften. It’s not going to be a bubble that explodes. I don’t think it’s going to be where one morning we’re gonna wake up and the market’s down 35%.”

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, former Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy.

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