The housing market is changing.

Much has been in the news recently of emerging trends in what constitutes a desirable home. The era of the McMansion is over. As millennials become the largest share of homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors, and the baby boomers downsize from their larger homes, the construction industry will have to make its biggest shift since the 1970s. Bigger is no longer better.

Younger millennial buyers are looking for something different in terms of amenities. Pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. Smaller houses – but ones with smart technology. Now more than ever, it is important to for homeowners to put themselves in the best position to sell their homes.

What does this mean for homeowners in North Alabama wanting to sell in 2019? The good news is that with Huntsville’s projection to overtake Birmingham in population within the next decade, the housing market is still hot. Interest rates remain low, although not as low as recent years. Madison ranking top of the state in schools continues to bring families to the community. But Madison’s increasing traffic congestion is starting to push them away also.

Moving into the busy spring and summer season for residential real estate, Business Today spoke with local real estate agents to ascertain the biggest mistakes that owners make when selling a house and also their tips on what to do if planning to sell.

Set the selling price with logic, not emotion

“Even during this extremely competitive market I’ve seen homes sit active and not sell mainly because the price is too high,” said Realtor Leslie Turner with Bill Ward Realty in Madison. “In many cases when the seller finally does receive an offer it’s less than what they could have gotten had it been priced correctly from the beginning. Homes that are priced right and are show-ready are selling extremely fast and in some cases sellers are getting over list price with multiple offers.”

“People will sometimes unknowingly attach ‘sentimental’ value to their home for which a buyer just won’t pay,” agreed Realtor Lauren Plott with Coldwell Banker of the Valley. “Homeowners need to understand that the market determines the worth of a home and buyers dictate what the market will bear.”

Clutter-free and clean

“The number one tip I give clients when they list their home is to de-clutter – which includes removing pets for showings if at all possible, remove family pictures from the walls and make sure there is a pleasant odor throughout,” Plott said. “When there is a lot of clutter around, it makes the home feel small and not very clean. A buyer needs to walk in and feel and see themselves living in the space. They need to be able to say, ‘This is home.’”

Realtor Josh Brandon of the Robin Cotton Team with Crye-Leike concurs.

“Don’t assume your unique style and decor will appeal to the average market,” Brandon said. “It may, but it also may be a turnoff to many buyers. Don’t expect people to love your home exactly as you do. No one can love it as you do because no one else has made it their home but you.”

Prep before you list

“Get the house show ready,” advised Turner. “We walk the entire property with our sellers and compile a list of things we recommend they do to get top dollar for their home. That may entail painting, decluttering, cleaning interior and exterior, etc. It is a good idea to consult with a local realtor before doing any improvements. We want the house to shine and look its absolute best when it goes on the market.”

“Don’t neglect to strategize that most people decide they want to buy a home within the first few seconds of walking in. Know the path. Make it welcoming,” Brandon agreed.

Some experts such as financial and real estate guru Dave Ramsey, advise to also have a home inspection performed. Knowing any potential problems early in the process can save time and possibly money, later when an agreement is in negotiation with a potential buyer.

“Don’t forget that this is Alabama,” Brandon said. “We have termites and if you didn’t already have a bond on your house or have it treated in a while, don’t be shocked when you have to treat to get a clean termite letter for a buyer to close with a loan.”

Internet marketing is essential

New photos – or even a video – are important because often, the first impression a buyer has is from an online listing.

“Make sure those pictures bring the people in by staging your house to sell and not be a Facebook memory photo of your things,” Brandon said.

Play up your home’s positives

“Location, condition, and schools are very important to many buyers in our market,” Turner said. “The one thing you cannot change about a property is its location. A property that shows immaculately gives the buyer the impression that the seller respects and has taken good care of the property and that can often overcome some cosmetics wishes of the prospective buyer. Our market is also very much driven by the schools, and this is often a consideration regardless if the buyer has children or not, as it has a significant effect on re-sale.”

For those already in a desirable school district or area, there are ways a seller can make their house stand out from the rest.

“Most buyers are looking for updated kitchens with granite countertops and painted cabinets, a master bathroom with a nice big tiled shower – not necessarily with a tub – and a neutral color throughout the home,” Plott said.

“Don’t paint your house anything but the current neutral trend,” Brandon agreed. “Please! It’s a trend for a reason.”

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