The Real Estate Market: Advice for Buyers and Sellers

Karen Wagner of Mike Thomas Realtors lends her expertise on the current real estate market.
3/6/2017
Amber Foster

The Fort Wayne real estate market is booming—in fact, according to Realtor.com, it’s ranked seventh in the nation—up from eleventh as recently as September 2016. Sellers are receiving multiple offers within the first few days of their home being listed, and many are getting more than the asking price. Inventory is low. Prices are on the rise. 

What are some of the factors contributing to Fort Wayne’s booming real estate market?
There are several factors: affordability of homes in our area; our Midwest location—
close to places where people want to go; great place to raise a family; and lots of amenities
and things for young people to do. 
We’ve also had low interest rates for a long time, which help people qualify to buy a home. Though interest rates vary between lending institutions, the average right now is 4.375%. Interest rates have been artificially kept low to boost the economy. We remain hopeful that they will stay low under the Trump administration, but there’s always a chance they will go up. If you have been thinking of buying or selling a home, now is the time to do so.
 
What advice do you have for sellers in this type of market?
How can they position themselves to get the best price for their home?I tell my sellers to make sure their home is in pristine condition. We get one opportunity to make a first impression, and it begins at the curb. Your front door should be welcoming. Inside, your home should smell nice and be decluttered and depersonalized. We want potential buyers to envision themselves living there. I also tell my sellers to be sure to make repairs. If they have a broken cabinet in the kitchen, for example, it will stick out like a sore thumb and turn off potential buyers. The return on investment for cleaning, decluttering, and fixing is high. If you have a lot of stuff, it may be a good idea to rent a storage unit to help with decluttering. Professional staging isn’t necessary. I typically suggest it for unique properties that may be difficult to envision.
 
What advice do you have for buyers in this type of market?
How can they position themselves to get a good deal on a house? Make sure you get your own realtor—someone who watches the market every day. Since Fort Wayne has such low inventory right now, you need an agent who is looking for you and taking you to see houses quickly so you have time to say “this is the one I want.” Houses are on the market for days, not weeks, and they typically receive multiple offers. Also, make sure you have a lender and have been pre-approved so that you can be a bona fide buyer when a house becomes available.

Would you recommend buying new/building or buying existing?
You will always get more square footage for your money if you buy existing. When you buy new construction all your mechanicals are brand new. When you buy existing, your furnace may be fifteen years old. It boils down to whatever you are comfortable with. If you need more square footage and choose to pursue an existing home, ask yourself if it has been updated and what will need to be replaced—that should play into your decision. If you are looking for something that has an open floor plan and won’t require a lot of maintenance right away, then new construction is the way to go.  If you decide to build, I still recommend using a realtor to work on your behalf. They can walk you through the process and handle the follow up to make sure the project stays on time, and it doesn’t cost a dime more.

How important is the pre-approval process and what are the steps?
The pre-approval process is critical. It helps avoid disappointment and will give you a realistic idea of what you can afford. A good lender can help you get qualified and identify areas for improvement. It’s an easy process. You’ll have to gather information and paperwork, but it is nothing that you can’t put your hands on. Once you have all the paperwork, the lender does their work behind the scenes.  Since the market is so competitive right now, it is essential that buyers are pre-approved. As mentioned before, houses are going quickly, and you don’t want to miss out on your dream home because you can’t get approved for a loan after making an offer. 

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