We are in a transition period from a frenzied seller’s market to, well, the real world. As you adjust your perspective on selling, keep in mind that a balanced market is ultimately better for everyone. Even though selling a home was incredibly easy during the recent frenzy, then you had to turn around and buy your new home which was incredibly challenging. As the market normalizes, prices level off, inventory increases, and consumer confidence improves. It’s a win-win for most of us.
As you plan your real estate transactions, it’s helpful to understand who is likely to buy your particular home and why different homes should be marketed in specific ways. Agents are never allowed to target specific groups in their ads; however, it makes sense to advertise those features that appeal to your likely buyers.
There are exceptions to every rule, but here are some general guidelines to consider. Below are the comments sellers often make and the response to those comments.
Seller: “My house is perfect for a doctor or affluent professional moving into this area.”
We hear this a lot. In this area, we are blessed with great, ever-expanding hospitals; and yes, they do hire both newly licensed practitioners as well as experienced physicians. But consider this, have you ever tried to give your adult children your old dishes or furniture? Once they have their own income, they want new dishes, new furniture and a newer home. That generation is all about experiences, not home projects and yard work. They are also not interested in homes with a lot of square footage. With busy working households, who has time to clean a lot of rooms? Most of the members of that generation who can afford a lake house are looking for a simple lifestyle, proximity to good schools/work and smart investments. And regardless of the size of their income, price does matter. While the monthly mortgage payments are not usually the problem, the down payment may be. (By the way, there are special financing options for doctors for this very situation.) These buyers want a manageable sized home with minimal maintenance in a great location. They are typically not interested in a 6,000 sq. ft. home that hasn’t been updated since the ’90s.
Seller: “I’m not going to update my house because the buyer may want different finishes.”
Sorry friends, but this no longer flies. During the frenzy, prices rose at a staggering rate to record highs. Since the end of the buying frenzy (summer of 2022), there has been a relatively modest decline which appears to have leveled off. That means prices are still very high and likely to stay there. Buyers are painfully aware of this, and they’re determined to get their money’s worth. Instead of choosing which house to buy, they are choosing whether to buy or simply wait. If they’re going to pay top dollar, they want the house to be updated and in great shape. The telltale signs of an inadequately maintained home include a weedy yard, rotted wood on the exterior of the home or dock, soiled walls, cracked sheetrock, water stains on ceilings or basically any flaw that shows a problem that was not addressed. In addition to fixing the flaws, consider updating the kitchen and bathrooms if you want to get the highest market value for your home. In a more balanced market, it matters.
Seller: “My house will be the perfect rental property.”
It might be, and there is definitely demand for Lake Lanier rentals. Keep in mind that there are short and long-term rentals. Some counties don’t allow short term rentals such as VRBOs. Other counties allow it, but you have to get a business license and pay a hotel-type tax on the proceeds. Many HOAs don’t allow any rentals. Before your property hits the market, find a local agent who specializes in investment property and see what the limitations are in your area. Be aware that investors are always looking for bargains, pay higher rates on loans, and often have an upper limit of $500k or less. That’s well below the average price on Lanier. But if you have a fixer upper and don’t have the means to update your property, an investor might take on that project for the right price. Most buyers looking for a residence want a garage; so, if your house doesn’t have one, it could very well be a second home for someone. The vacation home market on Lanier is very strong, but most second homes sell for prices below the median. Many buyers supplement the cost by renting out their vacation homes when they’re not using them. Again, this needs to be allowed in your area, so be sure to check.
Seller: “My house is perfect for retirees.”
Lake Lanier is one of the most popular retirement destinations in the country, so your house may very well fit that profile. Many times, that category of buyer is looking for a newer ranch home (everything on one level) and an easy walk to the lake. In a lot of cases, they sold their big fancy home and want to use that equity to pay cash for their new home. They do not want to do yard work nor are they looking for a fixer upper. This is why 55-plus planned communities on the lake are so wildly popular, though sometimes those HOA fees are a deterrent. In general, ranch homes with a view and an easy walk to the lake are the most popular on Lanier. If that’s what you have, pat yourself on the back.
Seller: “My house is the ideal (insert any category or demographic here) home.”
Under the law, real estate professionals cannot target any particular group in their ads or descriptions. It would be considered discrimination. We can list the features and location of the home so buyers can determine whether it’s a fit for them or not, but we cannot use any words that state or imply that a home is right for one group but not another. There is an art to writing an effective description so that buyers can decide if the home has the features they need, and the right pictures help.
Seller: “I can sell my house for top dollar to the people fleeing high-priced markets like New York or California.”
It’s true those populations are shifting. New Yorkers tend to land in Florida or North Carolina, and Californians tend toward Texas; but many have discovered the magic of Lake Lanier. Unfortunately, they are not going to spend Cali prices on Georgia real estate. They, too, have the internet. If they’re smart, they also have a local buyer’s agent who knows this market. More than any time in history, you should not expect to pull the wool over the eyes of an uninformed buyer. They are all incredibly savvy these days. You need to price your home according to the current market. As you might imagine, our most active feeder market is Atlanta. It may surprise you that the second most active feeder market for our lake is south Florida. If you’re not advertising to these markets, you’re missing an opportunity.
The key to a successful sale is to be realistic. The frenzy is over, but it’s still a great market for sellers. Your home is worth exponentially more than it was a few years ago. Consult a lake expert who will market it wisely. The buyers are out there.