Property Views: Strong close to 2017, expect more of same

Last year closed out with a bang — December 2017’s real estate market continued to thrive. By end of month, we saw 31 homes sold, up from 21 in 2016. To put that in better context, some say April’s traditionally the height of the market — and April saw 34 sales. The expected cool-down never happened.

Diving a little deeper, in certain price points, almost every home sold for well above its asking price, with what we’ve come to expect — multiple offers and buyers willing to do almost anything to get the properties they want. Many buyers paused during the summer, only to jump back into the scrum during the later months of the year.

For the year, real estate value in the Seattle market was up 13 percent over 2016.

Looking ahead

Let’s take a look at what 2017 can tell us about what’s to come this year. Barring any sort of natural or man-made disaster, the outlook is robust. Seattle continues to add good-paying jobs, often filled by recruits from out of town who need a home quickly.

However, inventory will likely continue to be limited. Because the market is highly competitive, it’s disrupting the usual progress of home ownership. Many homeowners who would like to move up in the market are stuck — not because they can’t sell their home, but because it’s difficult to find a home to buy and move into.

If you’re thinking of buying, selling, or both in 2018, now’s the time to get ready.

Selling in 2018

If you’re thinking of selling, don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. Sure, it’s a seller’s market, but you can’t afford to be complacent. This fall, a client of mine listed his house. It was in a great neighborhood, and he was confident it would sell, as his neighbor’s did, in days for more money than he was asking. The house was generally in decent shape, but was suffering from deferred maintenance — dead grass, rotting deck, old paint inside and out, older carpets, and faded siding. I advised him to clean it up and make the repairs before putting it on the market.

He thought he’d be fine. It’s a seller’s market, right?

Prior to the listing date, I showed the house to buyers, who walked away quickly. This happened a few more times. He got the message, installed new grass, decking, siding, painted inside and out, and replaced the carpets. It took a couple of weeks, and about $30,000. We then listed the property. Within days, he had seven offers and winded up settling $100,000 over asking price.

Don’t get caught up in the same thinking. If it’s old and faded or rotten or squeaking, fix it. Buyers want a turnkey home and property. Those are the homes that move quickly, get multiple  offers, and settle for more — sometimes a lot more — than the asking price.

Spending $10,000-15,000 to realize a six-figure gain is more than worth it. Spend on preparation, and start now. We’re not talking about remodeling a kitchen or bath. There will be things you can DIY, with a paint brush, some spackle, or a power washer. For other tasks, you may find the tradespeople you need — landscapers, carpenters, painters — are booked out a couple of weeks or months. The other side of this hot market is that folks who can’t find a place to move to are renovating and improving the homes they’re already in. You’re competing for contractors and tradespeople with them, as well as other sellers prepping. Don’t sleep on improvements — even small ones can make a huge difference in your bottom line.

Planning to buy

There are homes to buy. But you — and your broker — have to be prepared to fight and win to get one you want. Starting now, get your financing together — whether it’s a mortgage or cash. If you need to liquidate assets into cash, take those steps now. If a seller is considering multiple offers, cash will almost always win out. They won’t want to wait for potential cash.

Choose your broker carefully. You want someone who will work hard for you. But hard work alone may not be enough. You want a broker who has a network, and will work those contacts to your advantage.

Here’s an example of how that happens. I and my team work with corporate relocation networks. I also actively work the phones, talking to other brokers outside of my company. This pays off for my clients. Last fall, I had sellers who weren’t on the market yet (and didn’t want to technically list, but were open to selling at the right price). I knew the home well. When a call came about a couple relocating for work, that home ticked all the boxes for them. My sellers got a great offer and an easy settlement, and the buyers got a home they loved, quickly and without going through a bidding war.

As a buyer, you need someone dialed in to this market. Interview them and ask questions — how long they’ve been working, how they work, and how big their network is.

You have to be mentally and financially prepared to move quickly and decisively — and to deal with disappointment if you don’t get the house. Your broker is your ally, and can help you stay positive and confident.

No matter what side of the deals you’ll be on, get started now to be successful this year.

Chris Sudore is a Madison Park Resident and managing broker at Coldwell Banker Global Luxury.