Marianne Aleardi, Publisher, SJ Magazine
Mark McKenna, Pat McKenna Realtors
Naoji Moriuchi, The Moriuchi Group at Compass
Melissa Young, Drayton Young Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach
Erin Finazzo, Compass
Michelle Carite, Compass
Craig Worton, Compass
Anne Koons, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach
Kenyon Hunter, Evolution Ave Group at Compass
Rosalie Conaty, Keller Williams Realty
On the current market…
We’re experiencing one of the best markets in the past 10, 12, 13 years. The challenge isn’t people wanting to buy homes, the challenge is homes being available for people to buy.
The low interest rates are causing this, but when you go up in price – a million dollars or more – there is more inventory and you’re not seeing bidding wars.
There are many people coming from New York, North Jersey, Philadelphia – they’re all trying to get out of the cities. We’re seeing an influx of people moving from different areas.
There are several trends impacting us right now: Millennials are starting to flex their home-buying muscle. 90% of people 65 or over want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Covid-19 slashed our inventory by 50% in 2020, and we are still trying to catch up. Some people don’t feel safe in the city because of Covid, and interest rates are incredibly low. All of these factors make it a really good time to sell in SJ.
This year is probably the one year I did my least amount of staging, because it didn’t matter. From April on, it really hasn’t made a difference in the sale of the property as much as it had prior. You want to get your home on the market, because it’s going to sell.
Sometimes we’re writing offers after just touring the property on FaceTime.
On selling a house in the Covid-era…
We’re seeing people leaving Metropolitan areas because they want to be in the suburbs, due to the pandemic. They want more outdoor space.
I think we’ve all adapted to doing every single piece of our job in a virtual way. We’re listing homes virtually, and we can walk through homes virtually. I had a 70-year-old do a virtual walk-through, because his 90-year-old mother was coming over for Christmas and he didn’t want me in his house. Title companies are asking that a minimal number of people attend a closing. We’re able to do amazing things virtually.
Covid has accelerated all the trends: the adoption of technology, virtual showings, how I do buyers’ consultations. I’m using Zoom, and I can share my screen and we can walk through their must-haves. I do miss the personal interaction, but I think the way we do business has changed forever.
On getting your home ready to sell…
I talk about pre-packing. I don’t talk about decluttering, because when you talk about decluttering, you’re telling someone they have too much stuff. So, you have all these books here. You’re going to take them with you, so let’s pre-pack. I’ll also hire a staging professional. If you’re going to hire me as a realtor, I will hire a stager for you, and they’ll help you.
When someone comes through your house, they’ll look at your pictures rather than look at the house. You don’t want them doing that – you want them to look at the house. That’s why it’s smart to put away your personal pictures.
Most people today will narrow down their search based on what the pictures and video look like online. They have to be able to focus on what their things will look like in your house. It’s really important to put your personal life aside when you’re listing the house.
You want to price your home competitively. We can go to a little bit of an extreme, but we don’t want to go too far, because then you’re going to run into a lack of competition and maybe appraisal problems. I like to price a little bit aggressively, so we can have competition, so we can have multiple bidders and get the best terms and conditions for the seller.
How to help your agent sell your house…
Whenever a buyer and a seller become chummy during a transaction, there usually turns out to be a problem at closing: “You said this, and I said that.” The buyer and seller shouldn’t talk beforehand. It’s a business transaction, please leave it that way. If you want to go have beer and pizza after closing, go knock your socks off.
It’s always best to leave the property during a showing. Some sellers think they’re helping by lingering around, but it makes the buyer uncomfortable. The buyer now can’t speak freely with their agent. They’re rushing through the house to get away from the awkwardness. A seller should not be home for showings.
Be flexible about scheduling showings. I’ve had some clients where I’m only allowed to show the house 2 hours on a Saturday and 2 hours on a Tuesday. If you really want to sell your house, be ready – anytime.
On the latest trends in homes…
Open-concept houses – with one big massive room – used to be so popular. Then Covid hit, and now all of a sudden, no one wants to be in that one big room together. People are looking for their own private sanctuaries, so you’re going to see more separated rooms. We don’t all want to be in the same room with the whole family 24 hours a day.
Everybody wants a pool. If you went to a contractor to put a pool in right now, there’s probably an 18-month wait. And a nice pool is going to cost $125,000-$150,000 to do it right. So they’ll buy a house instead and pay a little bit of a premium on a house with a pool. Houses with pools have been flying off the shelf.
I have people who are downsizing, and they don’t want a 55-and-over community, they want to be on a lake. Medford Lakes has become so popular, if you can get on the water. I’ve got 3 buyers right now. They all moved into temporary housing while I look for the right house on the lake.
Homes that were built from 1995 to 2005 had the big master bathroom with the big soaking tub or jacuzzi. Now people are pulling them out and putting in massive showers. That is a big trend right now.
The kitchen is still the heart of the home for almost all buyers. And now it might also be used as a classroom or office. So people are looking for extra storage and organization – a walk-in pantry and wall-to-wall cabinetry. They also want quartz countertops (yes marble is still in), islands (multi-level or double islands) and great lighting accents. Buyers are also thinking about the environment not only with material, but natural air circulation and filtration options.
They want not 1 but 2 home offices, because they are working from home and that’s going to continue.
On unexpected setbacks….
I think the competitive nature of the marketplace is something a lot of buyers are aware of, but then they get really frustrated when they put an offer in on a property that’s sat for a while and, all of a sudden, there are 3 other offers that day. That’s one of the biggest surprises buyers are seeing in this marketplace.
The home inspection is always the biggest bump in the road for many buyers. A lot of people have this expectation that a house is going to be perfect and everything is going to be in working order. What they fail to realize is, someone else has lived there. It’s like buying a car. If you want a car that is perfect, you have to buy it brand new. Otherwise, it’s going to have a couple blemishes and dings.
At the Shore…
We have a really unique situation where interest rates are incredibly low, and people are able to work from home, which means they’re able to work from the shore. People are saying, “hey look, instead of that 2 weeks, maybe I can get 6, 7 or even 8 weeks down there,” so it makes sense to buy. It won’t cost all that much more than paying rent.
On working with a Realtor…
There are about 75 homes in the market today in Moorestown, where there are usually 215. I can tell you 5 homes that are going to pop up soon. You want to work with a leader in the business, an agent who knows their individual market with their eyes closed.
If you want to sell real estate, get a Realtor. So much goes on behind the scenes you want a full-time, successful agent, especially in this competitive market.
Nine times out of 10, if you try to sell your house by yourself, you won’t get top dollar. You don’t know how to qualify the people coming through your home. You may not know the best features of your home to point out to a buyer. Some people think they’re going to save money because they don’t use a Realtor, but they end up costing themselves money.
I explain it like this: Real estate agents are the pilots, and we’re flying the plane. We can tell you turbulence is coming, so we might have to redirect over here or we’re going to have to take a new path. Our goal is to land the plane safely. As an average person, you cannot fly a plane. Anyone who has had a positive real estate experience knows their real estate agent was priceless.
I had a buyer for a house in Princeton that was a for-sale-by-owner. One day before settlement, I get a call from the attorney’s paralegal, and she says, “Hey Kenyon, I didn’t realize we need to get a CO on this house before we sell it.” If we’re representing a seller, we know the process. We know what has to happen. That’s just a roadblock you don’t want.
I believe everyone should work with a Realtor who is ethical, knows the market and has deep relationships and experiences. If you find this person, they will be an invaluable advisor similar to your financial advisor. Yet, some people go it alone and have an E-Trade account. Nothing wrong with it. I’ll be here to help if they decide they need that.
On working with people getting ready to move…
People who have been in their homes for 20 – 30 years are attached to their house. We get them mentally ready to say, “Okay, this is not going to be my house. I am ready to move on.” We sell real estate, but it’s a psychology. We have to be able to say to the client, “yes, I understand little Johnny grew up in this bedroom, but Johnny is now 35 years old. It’s time to bring a new Johnny to that room.”
On home inspections…
People should look at the systems of the home, like the ages of the roof and the HVAC. You could have 2 homes that are very similar but if one has new HVAC and a new roof, that could be a $30,000 difference, which is huge, especially to those first-time buyers or people with young kids who don’t have $15,000 sitting in the bank to make major improvements.
If I list a house that’s 20 years or older, I suggest the seller does a home inspection before we even put it on the market. I don’t want the deal to blow up in the middle of home inspections. All of us can attest to that happening. When I explain to the seller that in the long run this will be beneficial for them, they understand.
Houses are moving at such a quick pace, a lot of people – against my advice – are waiving appraisal contingencies and home inspection contingencies. You have to make sure you advise people to be very sensible in the decisions they’re making, so in 6 years they don’t want to strangle you when something turns up.
On selling South Jersey…
South Jersey is so convenient. You’re an hour to the shore, hour and a half to New York and 20 minutes to Philadelphia. You just can’t beat the location.
I think South Jersey has been underpriced forever, and it’s finally starting to catch up with North Jersey. But certain parts of South Jersey have been a bargain for a long time.
When I first moved to South Jersey, I was one of those people who said, “What am I doing in South Jersey?” But that only lasted about 2 weeks, because I just started exploring. South Jersey is a hidden gem that most people don’t know about. It has something for everybody. And I don’t think you can say that about a lot of places.
Avalon and Stone Harbor are amazing towns. It’s an area that handled its zoning really well, so it’s not as crowded as other towns. We’ve got amazing beaches, great restaurants and beautiful homes. It’s a killer spot. Craig Worton Gosh where to begin with selling in SJ. I love SJ.
Published in South Jersey Real Estate Roundtable: https://sjmagazine.net/people/south-jersey-real-estate-roundtable