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For Sale: Signs That It's Spring in Real Estate Market
It makes perfect sense, especially as the weather is warmer and getting around to view Philadelphia’s diverse dream homes is a much easier proposition.
“Spring is always the best season, no matter what the economy’s like,” affirms Keller Williams realtor Nadine Simantov. “It is the time of year where there are the largest number of buyers in the market. However, depending on the condition of your home, you need to weigh whether you want to put your home up for sale during the most competitive time of year, or want to be in a market where competition for buyers is less of an issue.”
Sellers, it is pointed out, are best served if they learn some ins and outs of the ever-changing real estate market ahead of time.
As Simantov sees 2013 shaping up, she notes the busy spring season actually has started early for the past several years, especially when the real estate market was a buyer’s market. However, strategic selling and weather conditions also have played roles.
Agent Harvey Sklaroff, who focuses on condominiums out of his self-named realty company in Narberth, feels that while any season can potentially be a good season with people moving all year round, there are many practical and personal reasons why the conventional wisdom about spring still sticks — from the weather to getting the family moved and settled before the start of a school year.
Len Scannapieco, managing partner at Weichert Realtors, the Asbury Group, in Atlantic City, meanwhile, says what makes spring a perennially good time to sell is the correlation between better weather and heightened buyer expectations. However, “despite all the positives for kick-starting the buyer” that spring brings, “expectations and enthusiasm could be tempered quickly by factors like consumer confidence, interest rates and proper pricing.”
“Normally, spring is the best time to sell a house in the Northeastern U.S.,” says Val Nunnenkamp of Prudential Fox and Roach in Marlton, N.J. “However, we noticed our winter market was much busier than what we expected, and saw a dramatic change in supply and demand during this time. It has a lot to do with” an increasing number of buyers seeking homes “because of favorable interest rates as well as a lower inventory of available homes. Buyers are more motivated because they see other people buying, and feel they should, too.”
Damon Michels of Prudential Fox & Roach, specializing in real estate on the Main Line and Center City, agrees that because of favorable interest rates that benefit both buyers and sellers — as well as the continued economic recovery — 2013 marks the earliest onset of the spring season in recent memory.
“Remember real estate is local and not national, and the Philadelphia market is very strong right now,” Michels advises. “I sold $55,000,000 last year, and 2012 was my best year yet. I have 47 pending sales right now. While there is a shortage of inventory now, by the middle of spring, a lot more people will be listing, and there will be buyers looking to buy.”
Realtor Allan Domb, specializing in luxury condos, likes to look at the bigger picture in terms of what has led to the current mini-boom in Philadelphia metro. In his analysis, he points out that during the depths of the recent recession, many people observed the shellacking taken by buyers who purchased homes in 2005-2007. At that time, they figured it was a better financial decision to rent instead of buy. In the six years since, however, the market corrected itself to the point where rental prices have now dramatically gone up.
“Prices have come back, and now we realtors are seeing shortages of product inventory in Center City and other areas,” Domb says. “Many owners who had to sell did, but there were others who opted to rent their home while waiting for property values to rebound. Now they are finding that they like the idea of renting their property rather than selling it.”
And what are they getting? “They are getting a 4 percent return on their money versus putting their money in the bank and getting a tenth of a percent.”
For what it’s worth: Negotiate with buyers, comes the advice
But, says Simantov, the seller is likely to be offended by a low bid. She also stresses that verbal offers should never be accepted, and that sellers should avoid guilt-based counter-offer situations.
“The advice I offer my seller is that you will be entering a business relationship with a buyer. Through bidding, buyers are testing the waters to see what the seller’s situation is like and how they can make it work for them financially.”
According to Scannapieco, a seller’s respectful response will keep a buyer from having his feelings hurt from a declined offer. Scannapieco adds that while online information on current market values can prove to be a leveling tool that keeps buyers from overpaying, it can be used by sellers to better help them market their property correctly.
“Buyers are conditioned to feel they should be able to purchase a home below the asking price,” says Scannapieco. “Let the prospective buyer know that if anything changes, and the asking price is reduced to something closer to what they are willing to pay, you will certainly let them know.”
Adds Scannapieco: “This preserves something in that relationship for the future, as well as protects the realtor’s relationship with the buyer who needs to be taken to properties in his or her price range.”
Nunnenkamp suggests sellers and their agents keep on hand trend sheets that track quarterly results and the number of a comparable home’s days on the market, showing competing listings and what sold and at what price.
Says Nunnenkamp, this is intended to offer proof that home prices have stabilized. He suggests counter-offers be a natural part of the process.
Though Domb notes that keeping one’s home and renting it out is a good option for some home owners, for those looking to upgrade, now is the time to sell, calling it “one of the best times to trade up that you will ever see in your life. That’s the story. You can lock in the lowest interest rates we’ve seen in 60 years, sell your home for a pretty good price and buy your new one for a pretty good price.”
Even in an auspicious year like 2013, where some realtors in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are short on inventory, Amy Bly of Great Impressions Home Staging (www.greatimpressionsinteriors.com) notes curb appeal can make or break a home sale. She suggests:
• Adding color and style with landscaping, particularly to hide the foundation of the house, and at the start of longer pathways leading to the house. Colorful ceramic pots of flowers flanking a front door, steps or porch lead the eye to the door and create instant beauty.
• Paint doors in deeper and brighter colors, such as navy blue, medium blue, burnt orange, or emerald green, for more interest. Of course, the colors need to work with the siding, paint, and shutter colors.
• Remove all lawn statue and non-natural decorations.
• Keep bushes and trees trimmed below or around windows to let in the light.
• Update house numbers and light fixtures.
Elyse Glickman is a freelance writer based on the West Coast whose articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers nationwide. This article originally appeared in the Real Estate Special Section.