If you own a home in the suburbs and list it for less than $500,000, you will likely benefit from a strong "seller's market" that exists because of a shortage of inventory in the lower price ranges. But do not make the mistake of thinking you don't have to update that house or condominium, paint it, stage it and price it well.
"If you want to get top dollar for your home, it still has to be priced right, be in good repair and be updated with the items that today's buyers are looking for -- like fresh neutral wall paint, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, granite or quartz countertops and updated bathrooms," said Terri Hunt of RE/MAX Suburban in Schaumburg.
"Today's buyers have much more information at their fingertips and can easily compare listed homes," she said. "They are also very aware of housing value and are willing to sit back and wait for the right house to come on the market."
Hunt recommends staging of homes.
"So, sellers definitely need to work to depersonalize their home before they list it. They need to remove all family photos, for instance, so that prospective buyers can imagine themselves in the space instead of your family," she said. "Painting the walls neutral colors will also make it easier for buyers to envision themselves in the house."
The location of the home is another major factor for buyers in today's market, Hunt said. School districts, their ratings and particular programs they offer, are hugely important to buyers. Many actually shop based on school districts and often choose one home over another because of the school district it is located within. Proximity to public transportation, expressways and shopping are other important considerations.
"It has also been interesting for me to see young people who grew up in a particular neighborhood, returning to it to buy a home. If it was a close-knit neighborhood where they had wonderful experiences, great memories and maybe their family still lives there, many are going back so they can give those same great experiences to their own children. I think that is very cool to see," Hunt said.
There is no shortage, however, of available homes in the $600,000 and higher price range. Those houses have been slower to recover in Chicago's suburbs, she said.
In addition, other parts of the country can have widely differing housing markets, so beware what you read in the national media and don't assume it applies to your home.
For instance, the condominium market in Chicago is very hot and multiple offers are commonplace because most of the new buildings now being constructed are rentals.
In San Francisco, there is virtually no inventory of available homes. Buyers are routinely offering $50,000 to $60,000 over the asking price just to get a home there.
Similarly, Hunt said a Realtor friend in Washington, D.C., has told her real estate agents there advertise that a home will be available for showings from noon to 5 p.m. on a given day and offers will be accepted until 8 p.m. That is how difficult it is to buy a home in our nation's capital.
In the Chicago market, high rents and making smaller homes attractive to younger buyers, she said.
"First-time buyers are out there shopping for a first home because the interest rates are still good and they understand that a mortgage payment could be more affordable than a rent payment," Hunt said. "But they are much more careful about not overpaying for a home than earlier generations were. So I would say that the housing market has recovered, but it is still very cautious."
Hunt has been in the real estate business for 31 years, starting with Annen & Busse Realty, but spending most of her career with RE/MAX. She handles real estate transactions all over the Northwest suburbs from Arlington Heights to Barrington and Bartlett. Most of her sales take place in Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg area.
For more information, visit terrihunt.com.