Local Realtors helping clients through challenging market By Colin Anderson
Anyone who has grown up in a special place has quickly come to realize it’s harder and harder to keep a secret these days. The past two years have greatly accelerated many families’ and retirees’ desire to live somewhere with a slower pace of life, and they’ve definitely zeroed in on the communities in the South Sound.
While the scenery and recreational opportunities have always driven people to the South Sound, a new swath of residents are moving in due to many other factors. These include purchasing a retirement or vacation home, or real estate investment, and families leaving larger markets because of personal politics or the global pandemic’s impact on the workforce, with many salaried workers now able to work from home. The ability to make major market income while residing in a somewhat more affordable area like the South Sound, where the cost of living is lower, has hugely impacted the local real estate market. With already low inventory and low interest rates, the market has become extremely competitive.
“I believe heading into summer, the trends we've experienced in the strong sellers market will continue with a majority of homes receiving multiple offers in the first week, and many will sell over list price,” said Jennie Wetter, owner/Broker at Infinity Real Estate. “It's challenging and frustrating for buyers having to waive contingencies and agree to pay over appraised values to be successful.”
While some people thrive on quick decisions, others have decided to wait out the hectic market before buying or selling. This has created very low inventory, but there are signs that could be changing in the near future. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by .25 percent in March and will likely add another rate hike or two before the year is out. The move is meant to help curb inflation but will also drive up rates on loans, including mortgages. If mortgage rates continue to creep up as forecasted, home prices will eventually stabilize, and more people might look at getting into the market.
“Buyers continue to move out of the city and metro market because they have more buying power. They can buy larger homes, on larger lots, oftentimes with views or waterfront for the same price as the homes they sold in the metro markets,” explained Linda Helm, Managing Broker at Windermere Professional Partners. “The most important thing for many buyers is space, both interior and land, and a strong internet connection so they can work from home.”
Being prepared in this market is a step echoed by seasoned realtors all throughout the South Sound. With homes selling within a week of listing and multiple offers coming in, buyers need to be ready to be pre-approved, willing to go over asking price, and possibly wave inspections or pay closing costs. Sellers might be wowed at what their current home is worth, but you will still want to maximize your home’s value. While major updates aren’t currently needed in order to sell, a few simple steps can help to maximize your home’s appeal to potential buyers.
“We're in a time where a house that doesn't sell in the first couple of weeks on market is deemed to ‘have something wrong with it.’ As such, sellers get one shot to create a ‘wow factor’ first impression online and for in-person visits,” said Wetter.
Helm recommends her clients look through the eyes of the potential buyers and make their home as turnkey as possible. “With the shortage of labor and supplies, we help our clients make any necessary repairs or updates so that their home appeals to the largest number of buyers,” she added.
When staging a house, two of the most popular features continue to be a beautiful kitchen and a comfortable master bedroom. As one would expect with the remote worker migration, a space for a home office is also tops on many buyers’ priority list. “Homes with land and privacy are coveted. It's getting harder to find quiet locations due to all the growth in the area, making places without any traffic noise extremely popular,” said Wetter.
When it comes to out-of-town buyers or retirees, new construction, move-in ready, and large lots with water views top many priorities. Older buyers are also looking for low maintenance and a home that is easy to navigate. “One other key feature that puts a home at the top of these buyers’ list is a primary bedroom on the main floor,” explained Helm.
While the thought of selling and finding something you can afford in the local market might seem daunting, it never hurts to contact a professional to assess your situation and provide meaningful advice. This includes lenders, appraisers, real estate agents, insurance companies, home inspectors, property managers and title companies. Each location is unique, and you’ll be relying on local experts to guide you through the process. Although prices seem high for buying homes, your home sale will also likely be higher than it once was. If you put the equity back into your new home, combined with favorable interest rates, buying and selling in this market may not be as challenging as you think.
There are numerous factors that can greatly affect a housing market. The South Sound is clearly in a boom, but as we’ve learned in recent times, the boom eventually comes to an end. If you are a current homeowner, you have equity and likely more buying power than you think. For those looking to make a move or find their first home, it might be a struggle, but being prepared and flexible might just be the ticket to finding your place to call home. “Gig Harbor and the surrounding area is a fantastic place to live—and the word is out.
Regardless of our experience in the market, we don't have a crystal ball to be able to know exactly what's going to happen,” said Wetter.