Sound Advice in a Booming Market: Real estate professionals share their insights for homebuyers and sellers

Realtor Jason Cook set a record for selling this Morningside home for $2.7 million.

Intown’s real estate market has remained strong, largely due to low interest rates and a shortage of inventory. While the pandemic has affected house showings, it hasn’t slowed sales or lowered prices.

Carmen Pope

Carmen Pope, Founding Partner with Atlanta Fine Homes, Sotheby’s International Realty, said everyone is following a COVID-style showing process, which includes wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer.

“There are also easy-to-do, virtual-only showings with video,” she said. Pope added that given the current shortage of inventory, many houses are not sitting on the internet for long.

“We are currently at about 2 to 2.5 months of inventory, pretty much historic lows,” said Frank Brockway with Keller Williams Realty Intown Atlanta. He explained that six months of inventory — one that doesn’t favor sellers or buyers — means that if no additional homes come on the market, it would take six months to sell everything in the inventory. “One positive for buyers is we see interest rates staying low for a long time,” he noted.

Brockway said that sellers are more likely to accept an offer prior to the listing going live to avoid extended showing periods, and they’re negotiating longer contract-to-close periods, giving themselves the best chance to find their new home and close in the same timeline.

Buyers are viewing fewer homes, on average, before submitting an offer, he reported. “Single family homes and homes with more space are in short supply and high demand,” Brockway said. He added that supply and demand for condos and higher-density dwellings is more in balance than single family homes, “and there is more opportunity in that segment for buyers.”

Pam Hughes, Senior Marketing Consultant, Harry Norman REALTORS Intown Office, said she has been in real estate for 41 years “…and I have seen a lot of changes. Since the beginning of the pandemic, agents are having to adjust daily, weekly, monthly.”

When COVID-19 first hit, many sellers were hesitant about listing their properties. “Some sellers did not want their homes shown, so they withdrew them from the market, while others were not so reluctant,” she stated.

Many listings are vacant because the sellers opted to move out of their property before it went on the market, Hughes said. Additionally, buyers are relying more on the internet than ever before.

Frank Brockway

“I’m as busy as I’ve ever been, and I’ve been selling real estate for 13 years,” said Jason Cook, Realtor with Ansley Atlanta Real Estate. “This year, April was a wash, but May, June and July were slammed. The spring market got pushed into summer. June and July are usually slow, but we’ve not seen a dip at all in activity.”

In fact, Cook set a record with the highest-priced sale in Morningside. He said that the owners bought their home for $2.15 Million one year ago, and it sold for $550,000 over what they paid for it — $250,000 over the asking price of $2,450,000. “The buyer had zero contingencies, not even an inspection period,” he said. “I got calls from all over the country about the house, and there were five offers over the asking price.”

Some sellers require that the buyers are prequalified before they let them into their homes. Still, most sellers are motivated, and Cook reported that he’s not had any buyers who were not be able to get in to see a house.

Advice for selling your Intown home

Cook said that if sellers get their houses on the market and price it close to market value, “you’re going to sell it quickly, probably with multiple offers. There are more buyers than listings right now. It’s definitely a seller’s market and it’s a great time to be a seller!”

Pam Hughes

Since the Intown market is in need of more inventory, Pope said, “many homes are not hitting the market before they go under contract.”

For anyone thinking of selling their Intown home, she suggests they “call a local Realtor who understands our market and find out more about the value of their home and its salability.”

Brockway had two important points to share with sellers. “First, make sure you’re ready emotionally, and from a safety perspective, for people to be in your home.” He noted that while COVID-19 has increased the number of virtual showings and open houses, the final purchase decisions are only going to be made after a buyer has viewed the property in person.

“Secondly, hire a knowledgeable local agent with a track record of successfully selling homes,” he said. “A great listing agent will do two things at a very high level — accurately price the home and stage it well. Pricing your home accurately is the most effective way to ensure a successful sale.” Brockway said that not only do well-staged homes look and photograph better, they also sell faster than non-staged homes.

Hughes suggested that sellers thoroughly prepare their home for marketing. “Get a pre-listing inspection and make the repairs the inspector identifies. Have that information ready for an interested buyer.”

She also encouraged sellers to paint. “A bucket of paint is a seller’s best friend. Clean up your yard, wash your windows, clean out closets and basements — the neater and cleaner the better,” Hughes said. She agreed that sellers should ask their agent to recommend a stager and get their home staged. “Resales are competing with new construction and a resale must measure up.” Finally, Hughes stressed, price it accordingly.

Advice and encouragement for homebuyers

For people looking to buy an Intown home, times are a little tough. “A buyer in this market needs to be ready to make the offer when the home they really like comes to market,” Pope said. “They need to keep their eyes open for ‘Coming Soon’ signs and call their Realtor.”

Jason Cook

She explained that Realtors stay in constant contact with each other and will usually know when something is coming available — before it hits the market. “This current market is not a ‘wait and see’ market, in my opinion.”

Brockway’s advice for homebuyers is to “gird your loins. Single family detached inventory levels are 40% lower than a year ago. With fewer homes to choose from, competition is fierce.”

He added that buyers should make sure they’re prequalified for a mortgage from the start and are working with a knowledgeable, responsive Intown agent. “If a property hits the market that fits your criteria, have a goal of viewing the home within 24 to 48 hours of it listing and get an offer in quickly,” Brockway said.

Cook also said it’s important that homebuyers get an agent who is well-networked and knows about properties that are off-market. “Agents who are connected know about properties before they get on the market, and that’s how a lot of things are selling now,” he said. “In the last 12 months, I’ve sold more than ten homes off-market through my agent network. It just shows the power of agents who are well connected.”

He suggested buyers find a real estate agent they can trust to accurately depict the properties and handle everything successfully. “A good agent is important if you’re in a multiple offer situation,” Cook said. “They know how to present your offer to edge out the competition. Mostly, though, be patient!”

This can be a frustrating time for buyers, he admitted. “If you miss out on a home, it may be a long wait to find another house that works for you. Just be patient and trust your agent.”

Buyers should get organized for the buying process, according to Hughes. “A good agent will offer a buyer consultation before you begin looking,” she said. “Some lenders are now offering pre-approval, which is stronger than a pre-qualification letter. With either, you are ready to make an offer.”

Above all, Hughes said to keep trying. “If you lose out, there will be another house on the market at some point, often sooner than you think.”

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