Spring is the kick off to moving season. From buying a home to selling a home, the action really gets going in March and continues through the summer, slowing as the weather cools. Nationally, the ideal time to list your home in order to minimize time on the market and to maximize your returns is mid-May, according to a study by Zillow. But that’s a national average. So, how do you know what signs to look for in your local market, especially when you’re in a market as active as Seattle? To find out, we interviewed real estate broker Heidi Ward, who specializes in luxury and modern homes across the greater Seattle area.
360modern: Spring is a busy time for selling homes. What is the most noticeable factor you have seen to help a home sell quickly in a busy market like this?
Heidi Ward: In any market, it’s critical to price to the current market conditions. In a ‘Seller’s Market’ such as we’ve been experiencing in Seattle in recent months (the last couple of years, really) the market reality is that demand far outstrips supply and there are frequently several buyers competing to purchase a home. Once buyers become accustomed to this reality, setting a list price that that allows for them to see some room for upward trajectory in the ultimate sales price is very important. If buyers perceive that the list price is too close to the ‘just right’ price, they may opt out of submitting an offer.
Beyond pricing, properly preparing your home for market is always important (in ANY market!) Any combination of painting, cleaning, landscaping., etc., will almost certainly reward you with a tidy return on your investment.
360modern: If someone is thinking about selling their home, what are a few first steps they need to take to get it ready?
HW: Hopefully step one is to call me! Actually, it’s just about finding a broker with strong experience in your market and who is someone you can trust. Once you have your broker, this is still a tough question to answer because every home is different. I walk into every new listing with a fresh set of eyes, and really try to understand what each homeowner’s goals and capabilities are. And a lot depends on if the owners are planning to live in the home while on the market, or if they are planning to move out then prep and stage the home.
Some homes require more advance preparation than others, of course. That said, I often say, “Nobody doesn’t like a clean house!” And if you’re talking about selling your home, ostensibly you’re moving somewhere anyway, so why not start packing/de-cluttering right away? Tidying up landscaping is also a no-brainer.
360modern: As a seller, how can someone differentiate their home in the midst of a competitive Seattle market?
HW: Staging! Staging! Staging! If it’s a situation where the owners are (or can) move out, having the home professionally staged is without a doubt the single smartest investment they can make in preparing their home for market, with the largest ROI. But not just any staging. I have relationships with a few trusted stagers, and I make sure I’m bringing in the right professional for the home. I’ve got my go-to stager a classic mid-century modern home, and another for my more ‘contemporary’ modern listings, and a third for any traditional (Tudor, Craftsman, etc.) listings.
Beyond that, I would say that working with a professional Realtor® who truly understands how to guide you to make the right decisions in terms of prepping and pricing, and then who will make your home jump out in people’s online searches.
360modern: As a buyer, how can someone differentiate their offer on a home in the midst of a competitive Seattle market?
HW: The most important tool that a buyer can have with them when putting in an offer is a broker with a strong understanding of the market. It isn’t always a done deal when someone else brings cash to the table. There are several strategies that I use to help buyers prevail in heated competitive offer situations. I’ve successfully gotten buyers with Financing Contingencies homes even with cash buyers putting in counter offers. Without going into too many trade secrets here, the real strength in an offer comes from having someone on your side who knows what they’re doing and knows how to negotiate.
360modern: Do you see the market inventory going up or down in June?
HW: There has been an uptick in inventory recently, likely due to sellers watching their neighbor’s homes sell for crazy amounts back in March, and now they’re putting their homes on the market. In terms of inventory, there does seem to be something of a seasonal cycle even in this very active market, with spring representing the high water-mark. I like to keep tabs on how busy my stagers and photographers are, as that is usually an indication of upcoming listings. Both have reported they are busier now than they were in early spring, so hopefully that means we’ll continue to see inventory increase into the summer.
360modern: Was there anything about the market in May that was unusual or interesting to you? How can buyers/ sellers use this information to get the most out of their home purchase/ sale?
HW: May was an interesting month. March was without a doubt one of the hottest real estate markets I’ve seen in my 18 years. We all heard the stories of crazy bidding wars and homes selling for WELL over asking price. April softened somewhat, (as it frequently does, due to tax time and spring break distractions) and I’ve found May to be a bit mercurial. Certainly we’re still hearing stories of competitive bidding, but it does appear there is some “Buyer Fatigue” that is tempering the craziness a bit. This could be a bit of market correction that is actually healthy in an over-heated market, although I will say that press around Seattle’s Head Tax doesn’t seem to have done our local market any favors.
My advice when a market shows subtle (or not so subtle) signs of a shift such as this:
For Buyers: This could be your opportunity to purchase a home without quite as much bidding insanity as was experienced earlier in the spring. There’s an odd phenomenon where buyers sense other buyers retracting so they themselves retract, when in fact that is precisely when they ought to be aggressively looking to strike. Don’t wait for other buyers to jump back in again, get out there and see if you can find a ‘deal!’
For Sellers: My biggest caution is to price your home to the current market. Don’t embark upon a pricing/offer-review strategy that is in line with a heated March market when you’re heading into June. June can be fraught with distractions, with the school year nearing a close, and sunny weather offering up a major distraction for potential buyers. Work with a broker who really drills down on what is happening at a micro level in your community, and make sure you are pricing your home for the current market conditions.
Each month, we will touch base with Heidi to find out her thoughts on the current market, the future market, and what you can do as a buyer or seller to get the most from your home. Sign up for the 360modern newsletter by registering on the 360modern.com site to get real estate news on Seattle and beyond in your inbox. Have a question for Heidi? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we could answer it in the next blog!