TAMPA, Fla. – March 14, 2016 – Sellers, start your pressure washers. Buyers, hold off on purchasing new furniture for your future abode.
April 1 marks the beginning of sellers' season for residential real estate, a four-month span during which more than 37 percent of homes for sale in the Tampa Bay region will get new owners.
Right now, it's a sellers' market, but that doesn't mean those putting their homes on the market don't have to spruce up and make repairs before sticking that sign out front.
"You have buyers coming out of the woodwork after the winter and looking to purchase," said Daren Blomquist, chief economist for real estate research firm RealtyTrac. And a lot more houses will go on to the market, so there will be competition.
"Homes tend to sell faster in the spring because of the demand," Blomquist said. Once school starts winding down, people are ready to look for their new locations.
"The first thing sellers need to do is look at their house with a critical eye," said Barbara Jordan, immediate past president of the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors. "They really need to look at curb appeal, number one. Pressure wash the driveway, make it bright, get rid of the mold from last summer's humidity and rain."
Weed out the flower beds and throw down some new mulch, Jordan said. And pressure wash the front door – first impressions matter.
It is also really important to make sure all major systems in the house are functioning, including electrical, plumbing and air conditioning.
"If you have been living with leaking fixtures for months, fix them," Jordan said.
A roof can be a real show-stopper, she said. "In order to get insurance, a roof must have three years of life left on it. The typical lifetime for a roof is 15 to 17 years. If you are coming up on 12 years, you need to take a critical look at it."
Realtor.com suggests all homeowners do their own walk-throughs. Look for leaks under sinks and around toilets, water stains on ceilings or near doors and windows, wood rot around outside door frames or window ledges.
Cracks in walls and floors or doors that don't shut correctly can be red flags to buyers, Realtor.com warns. Inspect for these things inside and outside the house.
In between all that, get rid of the clutter, Jordan said. "Too much stuff and boxes in corners need to go.
Patio areas, especially in Florida, can sell homes, she said. "Make sure the patio is pressure washed, get rid of the weeds between the pavers and put out some flowers."
And here's a critical tip, she said. Get wide-angle professional photos of the house that can be posted on the Internet. That's where buyers will first find a house they are interested in purchasing.
For those looking to buy their first homes, a pre-approved home loan is No. 1, Jordan said. "That's the very first thing I tell buyers. That tells you how much money you will need and that you have no problems with your credit." Companies doing pre-approvals will pull credit reports, and they will want to see tax information.
"Most lenders will tell you to not make any major purchases while you're shopping for a house," Jordan said. "No furniture, no new BMW." Major purchases like that can change a buyer's debt ratio, she said. And try to be frugal. Don't run up credit cards. If you already did, work to pay them down before your house hunting begins.
Define the areas for the search, including target schools for the kids, Jordan said.
"Sometimes it's nice to have two areas where you target. We have a tight market, so you may need to branch out your search."
Once locations are nailed down, consider the commute time to work. "Try the commute. You don't want to buy in Wesley Chapel if you work in West Shore. You need to really understand that commute."
Lastly, know your surroundings, she said.
"Sometimes, buyers get carried away with the house's looks. But what if it backs up to a major road or a railroad track? What is the zoning on that vacant property nearby? You can back up to a really nice piece of property that two years from now could be developed into a Kmart or Wal-Mart.
"If you are thinking of either buying or selling, get ready to go by April 1," Jordan said.
The 2016 market is forecast to continue as a sellers' market with increasing home prices and relatively low inventory, Realtor.com reported.
Among the advice it gives: price a home to the market and offer incentives, like paying a portion of closing costs, which could move the house faster.
Buyers should be prepared to move quickly, exceed the asking price and be flexible, Forbes recommends. Pay a compliment to the space you are considering and connect with the owner, who may be more willing to sell to someone who will occupy the house rather than to an investor.
Copyright © 2016 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.), Yvette C. Hammett. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.