I’m thinking spring. No matter that today, on a late January morning, we’re having an ice storm. It will melt.
It’s time to get ready for the spring real estate rush.
Upstate New York real estate has always slowed down, at least a little, in the winter months. Sellers want to concentrate on holidays, and they’re not keen on strangers tramping through their homes with their slushy boots. Buyers back off, too – unless you’ve got a specific reason that you must move and fast, it’s a lot more pleasant to look at houses when the mercury holds steady above forty degrees.
The red hot mid-Hudson Valley is the current exception to that rule. The area with Kingston at its epicenter has always drawn downstate buyers, but that market now resembles a feeding frenzy. Multiple offers are the norm. Buyers find themselves shut out of two or three homes before they finally win the bidding war.
Further to the west, Delaware County and Otsego County have been seeing an increase in activity as well. I sold two large properties just days before Christmas this year. And prices are going up.
So if you’re a potential seller, here are five tips to make the most of the spring market.
1. Spruce up before you list. You can add thousands in value and cut your marketing time in half.
Take advantage of the indoor weather to take a critical look at your house. What can you de-clutter? Be ruthless. Box up those beloved dust catchers. They’ll look great in your new house. Where could paint be freshened up? Are the rugs worn or dirty? Either clean them, or, if you have hardwood underneath, pull them up and clean the floors. There are a million how-to videos on home staging online. Watch a couple and try it.
Outside, make sure to optimize your home’s curb appeal as soon as the weather permits. Rake up the winter mess. Touch up outside paint and repair any damage. Power washing can do wonders for any home. Trim overgrown bushes. If you’re not a gardener, place some strategic potted and hanging plants, or plant some annuals.
Not sure what your home needs? Call in a professional. Any realtor worth his or her salt can give you free tips and point you in the right direction. Sellers willing to do what it takes to prepare a home for marketing are a realtor’s dream.
2. Don’t wait for summer.
Buyers look all year long. They may get more active in March, but they’re already shopping online in January. They want to be in their new home by summer. If they have children, they’re usually hoping to move before a new school year begins. It takes time to find the right place, so they start early. Make sure your home is one they see before the late spring listing rush begins.
3. Hire a realtor.
Yes, I’m a realtor. Of course I’m biased. But I’m a realtor BECAUSE I know how essential this job is to help people buy or sell a home. What can a realtor do for you that you can’t do for yourself? Everything.
A full time realtor is just that – a professional whose job is selling your home. We have the systems in place, the experience, the knowledge, and the time to do everything necessary to market and sell a home in today’s marketplace.
We know the community, we know what’s selling and not, and why. We have a long contact list of clients, former clients, and other agents. They will help spread the word about your house.
We understand the process of buying and selling homes, we can handle the paperwork, answer your questions, and save you hours of frustration.
We know how to negotiate. And good negotiations are essential for a good sale experience.
You want to sell it yourself? Prepare for hours online inputting data, researching websites to see if they’re worth the money they’ll charge you. You’ll pay for professional photographs or you’ll be investing in a good camera and learning how to use it to attract buyers. You’d better be a good writer, too, because your marketing information is part of what draws buyers to your listing. And if you get defensive when people are critical of your home, you’re going to hate being a For Sale By Owner. Buyers are always critical. It’s how they negotiate.
For a percentage of the sale price, you can have a professional guide you through the process and do all the work. Plus, because you’re the client, you can (and should) be clear about what you expect and be sure you get the service you were promised. If that’s not incentive enough, remember this: your realtor doesn’t make a dime unless it sells. That seems like a deal you shouldn’t refuse. Hire a good realtor.
4. Keep it tidy.
Your house is for sale. It looks amazing. Your realtor tells you you’ll get 24 hours’ notice before a showing. Nobody tells you the ongoing struggle to keep your house showing-ready once it’s on the market. I’ll be frank – it’s a pain in the neck. But it’s completely worth it. Live like you’re visiting a cranky relative – keep it neat. And when there’s a showing, get the animals out of the house if you can. Some folks are allergic. Some don’t like cats, dogs, whatever. And even if they’re animal lovers, you’re trying to sell your house, not Fido. Keep the focus on the house.
5. Keep an open mind.
There’s a fair chance you’ll get an offer that you think is too low. Don’t let it bother you. That’s today’s real estate market. Buyers want a bargain. But if they want your house, and only your house, that first offer is just an opening bid. Here’s where your realtor proves why you were smart to hire one. A good realtor will work to get those buyers to a number that works for everyone. A good realtor will explain to you what benefits an offer might have (a slightly lower cash offer can be much more attractive than a higher offer with a lot of contingencies and some tricky financing) and help you understand where there may be room for movement and where everyone is standing firm. A good realtor has been through this before. A lot. And the voice of experience is a real comfort in the heat of negotiations.
A final word on the entire process of buying and selling a house. Be realistic. It’s exciting, it can be fun, but it’s also stressful. Be ready for that. But use those five tips and you’ll cut down on the stress, and be well on your way to your next chapter.