By Sue Loudon
If your home felt small and overcrowded during the pandemic, and you’re thinking of buying something bigger, local realtors recommend not waiting for warmer weather to start looking.
“It’s a seller’s market now. We have low interest rates and low inventory,” said Judith Unruh, a realtor with Lettiann & Associates Real Estate. Houses in the price range at or below $350,000 are especially selling fast, she says. “Today’s interest rates are 2.75%.” she says. “That can change daily but it has been staying low for a while.” Once you’ve seriously made a choice to move, most realtors agree you should hire one.
David Castellani, a realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate explains why. “Sales prices for houses sold by the homeowner are much lower than when using a realtor.” Before putting your house up for sale, he recommends decluttering it. “Throw away junk and/or store it. Put away personal items that keep your prospective buyer from visualizing themselves living in your house. For instance, diplomas and group photos,” says Castellani.
All realtors agree that cats and dogs must leave the premises before showing your home. Kennels in the basement are not good enough. Prospective buyers may be allergic to animals.
“Some people think they need to put in a new kitchen in order to sell an older house but that’s not true in this market,” says Julie McLarney with Reece Nichols Real Estate. “If you have old wood cabinets, paint them white and put on new hardware. Paint is cheap and makes a big difference.” She also recommends painting the front door and any rooms that look drab, have bright colors or outdated wallpaper.
“Curb appeal is also important. Add some potted plants as soon as possible this spring and maybe a brightly colored flag,” said McLarney. “Hire professionals to stage your home as well as create a video tour for your online showing,” advises Dana Benjamin with Reece Nichols. “If your home doesn’t look good online, buyers will not come to a showing.”
Sales are happening so quickly that sellers might find themselves homeless.
“We have 50 percent less inventory now than we did last year at this time,” says Benjamin. “It would be smart to sell your home now while prices are high even if you had to rent for a short time because prices will come down.”
McLarney has a different strategy. “I tell my clients, ‘I’ll take you out on Friday to look at possible houses and if you find one you like, we’ll put your house on the market Saturday morning,’” she explains. She recommends not putting the buyer’s house on the market until another one has been secured “because you could end up with no house at all.”
Unruh recommends this advice to win the house of your dreams: “Cash is king in this market so conventional financing is preferable to FHA, or VA loans. If you are really interested in a house, you need to get in to see it quickly and possibly include in your contract an escalation addendum which increases your offer in incremental dollar amounts to beat out the next highest offer.”