Spring real estate market robust

The market is looking up in both sales and homes under contract; the key is making sure there is enough inventory.
The market is looking up in both sales and homes under contract; the key is making sure there is enough inventory.

It’s that time of year when crocuses and real estate signs are sprouting up on lawns around Chittenden County. Traditionally, spring is the time when the real estate market blooms, and this year is showing to be even better than those in the recent past. The trouble, experts say, is that in certain price ranges, inventory is low.

Doug Boardman, a Shelburne resident and realtor with Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty, said, “It’s a great time to sell in Shelburne,” and that the figures there are different from those in the rest of the county. He said there are the same number of listings as last March, but the number of sales is up 65%. “More people are snapping these houses up,” Boardman said, “which creates a problem for buyers because they just don’t see anything out there.”

In Shelburne, Charlotte, and Hinesburg, the most activity is happening in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range, he said. Jane Kiley, also with Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman, said it’s because these homes “are attractive to both buyers either moving up from their first home, or eager to stop renting.”

Though pending sales are up 30% in Charlotte over last year, and new listings are up 70% in comparison to the first quarter of last year, Kiley said, “There continues to be an oversupply in the $500,000+ range with 27 listings in Charlotte and five in Hinesburg.” The most activity is in the $500,000 and under price range.

This mirrors the situation in Shelburne, with more homes for sale and slower movement in the $700,000 to $900,000 range. Husband-and-wife real estate team Kevin Farley and Nancy Warren Farley, who work with Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty, said, “Shelburne has a larger inventory of newer housing and houses continue to be built. Hinesburg is growing quickly, but the village may run into septic, water issues.”

Warren Farley is optimistic about the near future of area real estate, pointing to low mortgage rates and low unemployment as positive indicators that the market will continue the upswing it has experienced since 2009. She said that in particular, “neighborhoods are very hot right now with out-of-state buyers, as they want to feel connected to the community.”

The lack of inventory in the $300,000 to $500,000 range might concern potential buyers, especially those who need to sell their current home before they move, but Boardman says not to worry. He said he encourages people to “put their house on the market and have a contingency the realtor can put in their listing agreement that it’s contingent upon them finding a house to buy, so that at least gets you in the market…and hopefully your house is the one that one of these other people are looking for.”

Sellers looking to maximize the potential for a sale should pay attention to what buyers are looking for. All four realtors agree that the more turn-key and move-in ready a house is, the more likely it is to appeal to a future owner. Kiley said that homes “that have a lot of deferred maintenance [appeal to buyers] only if they are getting a very ‘good deal.’”

Boardman suggests that homeowners plan two or three years into the future for home repairs; he suggests that people who know they’ll be moving within that time frame start working on improvements now. That way, he said, they’ll get to enjoy their homes more and manage costs at the same time.

Kiley recommends that no matter what your plan is, it’s good to “have an experienced Realtor come to your home to do a buyers’-eye tour of your home, so that any dollars you invest in preparing your home for sale will get you the highest return possible.”