With its access to beautiful balmy weather, moderate cost of living, and access to great education options like Shorecrest, St. Petersburg is a growing market for relocating families. The real estate market has been steadily rising and many families who already reside in St. Pete are considering buying or selling a new home.
As we move into 2017, the local residential real estate market in Pinellas County and the St Pete area specifically is expected to remain a strong Seller’s market with low inventory in most market segments and price bands. Whether you are a Buyer or a Seller in a Seller’s market like ours, there are things to be aware of to position yourself for the greatest chances of success. Here are some specific keys to success to consider:
1. Understand the Importance of the Buyer’s Agent (REALTOR®). When your search heats up and you are ready to get serious about finding and buying a property, for best results, select a Buyer’s Agent who uses a consultative approach to understand your criteria, timeline and budget and will guide you competently through the entire real estate process. Ensure that they have a solid web presence and command of online search tools and listing alerts to help you. Do this early in your process and leverage them in your search. A Buyer’s agent can help you find the right property, negotiate the best deal possible and avoid costly mistakes. Best of all, a Buyer’s agent’s services are generally FREE to you since the Seller typically pays the commissions at closing. Use caution when dealing with the Seller’s agent directly on the property. Though legal in the State of Florida for an agent to have a Transaction Broker relationship with both parties in the same transaction, the Seller’s agent (listing agent) is often most motivated to bring the highest offer to the Seller and that may in some cases be in direct conflict with your best interests and may adversely affect your ability to negotiate the best deal possible. Using a Buyer’s agent who represents your interests only in the transaction is often the better approach to take.
2. Get Your ‘Letter’ Ready Before You Start Seeing Homes. A good agent may show you a property or two before you produce your ‘Pre-Approval’ Letter or ‘Proof of Funds’ Letter, but you should anticipate that they will expect to review your letter from your lender or financial institution early in the process so they know how to assist you with showings and can see that you are legitimately positioned for success as a serious Buyer who is ready to buy when the right property presents itself. If you don’t have a good local mortgage lender, your agent should be able to recommend one or more of their trusted local lenders to assist you with a mortgage pre-approval.
In a highly competitive, fast moving real estate market like ours here in the St Pete area where nice properties are snapped up quickly, few things are more frustrating than losing out on a great property because your letter was not in place first and your agent could not submit an offer for you and somebody else then beats you to it on buying the same property. Often this happens on a weekend when you find it and your lender or bank is closed or not available to quickly produce a letter for you that same day. At that point, you are looking at starting your process all over again. Don’t let that happen to you! The letter, regardless whether the offer has a mortgage or is all cash, is required for any offer in our market. Get the letter in place early. Enough said!
3. Importance of Timely Communication and Specific Feedback. Once you engage the assistance of your Buyer’s agent, you both then have a vested interest in your success. At that point you have a business relationship and key to the success of any business relationship is good communication. Plan on having regular and timely communication with them regarding on your objectives and your progress together. Your Buyer’s agent will show you properties and seek your feedback. Be specific about what is important to you in a property and also in your feedback about properties that you see together. After any showings, they are also responsible for providing specific feedback to the listing agent about your showing experience. Help them keep your process moving and provide them with timely feedback that they can provide to other agents after the showings! If you have any changes in direction, objectives or timeline, let them know immediately so they can adjust course appropriately with you. Once a property is under contract, ask them for a timeline of action items with important dates and ownership assignments. As you move through the contract process, work down through the checklist of action items and milestones together as they are achieved. This is an excellent way to ensure a successful outcome and to keep the closing cycle on track right to closing!
1. Make Repairs. When you are planning to sell your home in the near term, you should plan to prepare your house well in advance to ensure its market readiness and appropriate repairs are essential. Plan to fix or address any major issues or problems with the house (especially with roof, A/C, electrical and plumbing) touch up painting, and making smaller repairs. Sometimes it also makes sense to have your home inspected by a home inspector who can point things out to you that you may want to address, well before actually going onto the market. This helps to minimize or eliminate the potential for surprises when you house goes under contract and the Buyer has your house professionally inspected. You don’t want anything coming out at that time that you were unaware of that is a major issue which could adversely affect or worse, be cause for the Buyer to terminate the contract. Buyers want houses in good shape without any major issues and minimal amounts of smaller issues. Getting your house into this condition before it goes on the market is essential and strongly recommended.
2. Clean, De-clutter and De-personalize. Before you put your house on the market, you should de-clutter and de-personalize it. Consider using a PODS storage box or storage locker to remove unnecessary items from your house and store them offsite. This is also an excellent opportunity to sell any no longer needed items of value, give them away to a charity or just simply dispose of them. Your house should also be deep cleaned inside just before going onto the market and you should maintain cleanliness during the time on the market, especially the kitchen and bathrooms. Buyers need to be able to envision their lives in your house. A clean house that is de-cluttered and de-personalized, is best for a potential buyer to envision how their life could be in your house.
3. Maximize Curb Appeal. Homes with a great curb appeal have an increased chance of selling faster. Make sure your lawn, landscape and exterior paint all look good to maximize the aesthetics of the property for a great first impression. Keep your front door area swept and clean as well. Your backyard should also be well maintained while on the market.
4. Update Where Possible. Buyers generally like homes with updated kitchens and bathrooms. They also like homes with newer roofs and A/C systems. Ideally, to command best price in the market, these features should not need updating after a Buyer closes on your property. Selling a house with dated a kitchen and/or bathrooms (20+ years old) or an older roof or A/C system (without issues) is often ok, but don’t expect it to command a top of the market range premium if the Buyer thinks it needs $25,000+ worth of updates soon after they close. Update where you can relative to your timeline and budget and within the normal range for the neighborhood. On the other hand, if you spend too much on updates, relative to the rest of the neighborhood, you may not be able to recover the full investment at the time of sale so exercise appropriate discretion relative to the market and the rest of the neighborhood.
5. Listing Agent Selection. There are a range of brokerage listing options in the market today ranging from limited to full service. The commissions charged are commensurate with the service that will be provided. If you select a limited service brokerage option to save money on the commission, expect that you will need to do much of the work to market and expose your property. A full-service brokerage on the other hand will charge more in commission and usually that means they will invest substantially in professional photography and marketing your home through multiple channels of exposure to put the highest visibility possible on the house in the least amount of time to attract the best offers quickly. They will also guide you through the contract cycle and interface with the Buyer’s agent. If you prefer this route for marketing and selling your house, select a listing agent with substantial competencies in these areas and that knows your local market and neighborhood. Interview 2-3+ agents and ask each for a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) with a pricing recommendation and ask to see their marketing plan for your house. Specifically, you want to know (A) that there is a marketing plan and (B) what is in it and how comprehensive it is. Use caution when considering a relative or close friend who is either part time in the business or may not know how to guide you appropriately in a competitive market. Using a full-time, professional agent who is local and has a solid game plan for you and demonstrates competence in how they will guide you start to finish is often the best way to go. Select and list your property with the agent and their brokerage based on best fit for your needs overall and that communicates well with you. This is a very important transaction for you and agent selection is a very important decision which will have a very direct effect on your selling experience and the outcome of your sale. Choose your agent wisely!
6. Appropriate Pricing. When considering a pricing recommendation from the agent you select, be competitive with your initial price and avoid the temptation to overprice. The initial market price for the house is very important. The market may bear a nice premium for your property, but consider all options closely. Overpriced homes will not sell and most serious buyers come through the house in the first two weeks. Ideally, you want to capitalize on this audience and attract one or more competing offers because you priced it right. It is very difficult to get them back through again after a price reduction. The market ultimately determines what your house is worth. If your house has not sold after 30 days, be ready to make a price adjustment (reduction) at the specific recommendation of your agent and also be ready to be on the market for possibly a much longer period of time.
About the Author:
Chris Ewing is a Commercial Real Estate Broker Associate at Commercial Partners Realty Inc. in St Petersburg, FL. Chris’ areas of expertise include:
- Landlord and Tenant Representation
- Sales and Leasing for Users and Investors
- Acquisition and Disposition
- Investment Analysis
- Development / Re-Development
- Permitting and Zoning
- Deal Structuring
- Contract Negotiation and Process Management
- Project Planning and Management
Chris is a Shorecrest Parent and Business Partner as well. Contact Chris today for a free consultation about your specific commercial real estate objectives. He can be reached at 727-871-3300 or through his website at www.TampaBayCommercialProperties.com.