Participants:
Colleen Hadden, Compass – The Colleen Hadden Group
Linda Aquino, Weichert – Moorestown
Heather Magladry, Keller Williams
Anne Koons, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

South Jersey’s real estate market has been something of a roller coaster ride for the past few years. Some people have been winners, but then some have not. And a lot of people have decided to just wait in the wings, patiently watching. We asked leading Realtors – who know the current market and how best to respond – what we all should know about buying or selling a home TODAY.

There’s a buzz in the media that today’s younger generation will never be able to own a house. Is that true?

If you’re young, it’s easy to feel disheartened about homeownership and feel like it’s not going to happen, but it absolutely will. We are going to continue to see prices increase, but not at that rapid rate we’ve been seeing. Young people are going to be able to afford homes. You just need to set yourself up with a team of people – a realtor and a mortgage lender – that can help you set goals and then help you achieve those goals.
Colleen Hadden

The pricing on homes is going to stay high until there’s more inventory. There are still more buyers in New Jersey than there are homes for sale, particularly in Camden and Burlington Counties. But I think young people could buy a smaller home or a townhome to start, keep it for a couple years, and then sell and trade up.
Anne Koons

Young people are still buying homes. Years ago, interest rates were much higher than now, and we all bought homes. You may have to adjust your home requirements – not everybody can have the new kitchen, new bathroom and new flooring right away. Improvements can be made down the road. Remember, this is your first home. It’s not necessarily your dream home.
Linda Aquino

Before anyone counts themselves out when it comes to home ownership, talk to a Realtor first. What you’re thinking isn’t necessarily true. If you want to buy a house, there are ways. There are many first-time homebuyer grants in New Jersey. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s impossible to own a home – that’s just not true.
Heather Magladry

Today’s Market

It’s still a seller’s market. There’s super low inventory. That’s a problem I don’t see resolving soon.
Heather Magladry

It’s going to continue to be a very competitive spring market. What’s going to start to happen, and this is very true in South Jersey, a lot of people looking to move want to get into the house before the new school year starts. So those buyers will need to be willing to negotiate their terms, until we get more inventory.
Colleen Hadden

There’s no inventory right now – that’s the biggest problem. Everybody was waiting, waiting, and and the prices just kept going up, up and up. And they really haven’t come down.
Anne Koons

The market is still challenging, but I think it’s getting better. A few more houses are coming on the market, but buyers and sellers definitely have to be flexible. With less inventory, there are options if you are selling your home and want to move into another: You could make the sale contingent on you finding suitable housing. You can also do a rent back from the buyer for 6 months. So then after you settle, you’ll have cash in hand to go buy your next house. We can always guide you through your best options.
Linda Aquino

How does a realtor help the buying/selling process

Sometimes you don’t even realize how many steps there are in the process of buying or selling a home, so it is imperative to work with someone who has your best interests in mind. For instance, when I take buyers through a home, I could explain that this home was built in a time period when they used knob and tube wiring. And this is what knob and tube wiring looks like, and here’s the knob and tube wiring implications for your homeowner’s insurance. There have been times when I’ve talked buyers out of houses altogether. You need someone who is going to be in your corner.
Colleen Hadden

The biggest thing is representation. We get to know your needs and wants, and look out for you. In negotiations, we know what you can and can’t ask for. When you get inspections back, we can point out any red flags. I want to make sure my clients aren’t getting themselves into a situation they can’t afford. You may be able to afford the house, but you also need to know what eventual repairs might cost. It becomes very personal. You definitely want to find a realtor you’re comfortable with.
Heather Magladry

If I go into a house and see that it looks like it hasn’t been well taken care of, I’ll suggest spending the money to do an inspection. Let’s know what we’re dealing with ahead of time so we don’t go through the whole deal and, bingo, we have an inspection and the whole thing blows up. I’d rather be proactive than reactive. A realtor who has years of experience will know how to do that.
Anne Koons

Your Realtor is your trusted advisor. They’re going to guide you through every aspect of the purchase. They understand the marketplace. They have first-hand knowledge of new listings that come on the market. You really do need a Realtor.
Linda Aquino

When looking for a Realtor

Ask about accessibility – will you be able to reach them? You want an agent who’s going to call you back. I treat all my clients like we’re at the Ritz-Carlton. Also ask how well the agent knows the market. I’ve lived in South Jersey my whole life – that gives me an advantage.
Heather Magladry

Ask how well they know the area you’re in and what they’re going to do to promote the listing. You want to be sure they will promote your listing everywhere to get the best price and the best deal for you.
Anne Koons

Real estate is so hyperlocal. Sometimes I have buyers who come to me and we have a 10-minute call, just to see if I would even be a good fit. I am very transparent, and I will tell them if they’re looking at an area that is not my area of expertise. Sometimes people say, “I understand but I still want to work with you.” But hyperlocal means you want someone who lives, works and knows everything there is to know about the town. Plus, they should have a network of people there.
Colleen Hadden

Ask how long that Realtor has been in the business. And you want them to be a full-time agent. And a very revealing question to ask would be: Do they enjoy their work? If they enjoy it, they’re going to be there for you. And they’re going to put their best foot forward.
Linda Aquino

The Digital World

I work with a lot of people who are relocating to the South Jersey area, and I use technology to help them get to know what our towns are like. I have an online book that has detailed town tours. I had clients who did a few town tours with me, and they narrowed down where they wanted to be. So I filmed two houses for them, and we did a FaceTime tour on a third house. Then I made videos of the homes so they could refer back to them as they were making their decisions.
Colleen Hadden

Technology has greatly improved over the years. The best thing is being able to instantaneously send pictures of new listings to clients and being able to have buyers view a house without actually setting foot in it.
Linda Aquino

I was probably one of the first people that jumped on Facebook for advertising. The good thing about being online is that people might not be looking to buy or sell now, but if they continually see your presence online and the kinds of homes you sell, when they are ready, they remember you.
Anne Koons

When a buyer wants an unrealistic price for their house

I try to understand where that person is coming from. Is this the price you need financially to pay for something else? Where did you get that price from? Then I’ll back up my recommendation with a realistic look at what homes in your area are selling for. I may suggest paying for an appraisal now, because a buyer can only get a mortgage for what it appraises for. So if you’re way off base, you’re going to need somebody who has the cash to cover the difference. You’re reducing your pool of buyers if you need them to have the cash to pay for what they can’t mortgage.
Heather Magladry

Sellers have an emotional connection to their home, so sometimes it’s not easy for them to hear the number that you professionally are advising them to list it for. But I don’t sugarcoat anything, and I tell them what the market data shows. I will also show them how they might make improvements like, “Hey, if you paint the interior of the home, here’s the cost for that but then you could list it for this.” It’s important to give all the options.
Colleen Hadden

The price is determined by the comps to a point. You take those comps and if the seller has more things in his home, then you can raise the price. But if they don’t, and you’re comparing apples to apples, then you tell them if they really want the house to sell, this is where the price should be. Occasionally I’ve listed a house higher than I’ve liked, and most times you end up lowering the price.
Anne Koons

Staging a home

The most important thing is to declutter. I always tell people to think of your home as a sample home. If you see things out of place in your home, get rid of them. They may have too much furniture, so I’ll ask them to take a piece out, store it in the garage. Sometimes they just need to reposition their furniture to make it more attractive.
Linda Aquino

You make an impression of your property within the first 15 seconds, so curb appeal is huge. Because if someone has cared for their property, then they’ve also cared for things you can’t see. Once a buyer walks in, they want to know that this is a place they can call home. Staging helps make it so they can see themselves living here. They aren’t just seeing your house, they’re seeing a house that could be their house.
Heather Magladry

Staging sells. There’s a lot of work that goes into getting a home ready for the market, because first impressions are very important. And sometimes sellers are so excited, they think they’re ready to go and they just want to get the house on the market. I work with the best stager in our area, and she will come in and do a design consultation. If you’re going to debut something for the first time, you should put thought, care and detail into it so you’re not having to redo it later. You can’t make a second first impression.
Colleen Hadden

Today’s hot trends

Gray is 100% out. Cream is definitely the color of choice. We’re also seeing pops of personality in homes, like powder rooms with colorful wallpaper.
Heather Magladry

People still love a kitchen that opens into a family room, but now they are looking for a few extra spaces that are not open, so you don’t walk in the front door and see every single room. Wallpaper is making a huge comeback. People are going back to wanting that homey, warm feeling and having some character in their home – not just everything being gray and white, and stark and sterile.
Colleen Hadden

People want earthy colors now, like greens and creams and taupes. And really great lighting fixtures or recessed lighting is important. People are also looking for calm and inviting master bedrooms, especially with a space for their hobby. And of course, outdoor spaces are very important – they never go out of style.
Linda Aquino

Most buyers are in a 2-income family, so they’re looking for convenience. They want large kitchens and family rooms, and 3 full baths upstairs, plus a 2- or 3-car garage. Outdoor spaces are also very important.
Anne Koons

Sabotaging the sale of your home

You can hurt the sale of your house by making it hard to show. The easier it is to show and the more open you are to last-minute showings, the more people you’ll get in. I would also say aromas in a house – smoke, pets, cooking odors – can be a huge turnoff.
Heather Magladry

If you have to be home for a showing, go sit in the living room and read a book. Never walk around the house with a buyer and point things out to them.
Linda Aquino

Not decluttering the home can hurt the sale. I always tell people to pack up all personal pictures – you’re not selling your family. You bought that home based on the size, and that’s what people are really looking for. The less stuff you have in your home, when buyers are walking through, they can visualize their own stuff. That’s exactly what you want.
Anne Koons

You can sabotage the sale by pricing your home too high, because people are not going to come look at it. The best thing you can do is figure out what the market value of the home is and go slightly under that to attract more people coming through the home so you get multiple bids and end up getting over the listing versus continually bringing the price down. Because the second you decrease the price, buyers ask, “What’s wrong with the home?”
Colleen Hadden

What people don’t know about buying or selling a house 

You don’t need 20% down to buy a house. That’s a big myth. You can put down as little as 3 percent. If you’re a veteran, you can put down 0%.
Heather Magladry

People often don’t realize how much goes into the purchase or sale of a house. It’s quite a process. I have created sheets that go through every last painstaking detail of a transaction. You can continuingly revisit that list as often as possible. The worst thing that can happen is you had no idea something was going to come up or you didn’t understand, contractually, how many days you had to get your inspections done and repair requests in. We’re making sure there are no surprises.
Colleen Hadden

One thing buyers don’t know is the tax advantages you get just for owning a home. They’re always pleasantly surprised when they hear about the tax breaks.
Linda Aquino

People often don’t realize they are going to need to maintain their homes after the sale. They move in and don’t think about doing simple things like caulking your windows every couple of years, particularly if you have stucco on your home. You need to do that so you don’t have any water coming in. But people don’t do a whole lot of maintenance on their home unless it’s a major issue, and they should. They become blind to their house. They’re wearing rose-colored glasses when they walk around their house.
Anne Koons

Advice for first-time homeowners

With the cost of rent being so expensive, look into buying a townhouse or a smaller home. I would rather be paying a mortgage than paying rent and getting nothing for it. At least when you buy, you build up some equity. Then you can trade up in five years. Financially, buying is a better deal than renting and throwing away money.
Anne Koons

Remember that location is the most important thing. You want to be in a neighborhood you love. And if the house doesn’t have new bathrooms? You work on that over time.
Linda Aquino

Save your money. Make a list of your wants and needs, and be flexible. Research the towns you’d like to live in to see if they’re in your price range.
Heather Magladry

 

Tips for empty nesters

Just stay open. There’s an easier lifestyle available than the big traditional house, which could give you more flexibility. You wouldn’t have to worry about shoveling snow or mowing the lawn. Try to stay open to the reality that there could be something else out there that will make you just as happy, or happier.
Heather Magladry

Empty nesters have a lot of options. They can go into a 55 and older community. They can go into high rise condominiums in Philadelphia or down the shore. There’s also one or two new 55 and older developments down the shore now. They don’t always have to move to Florida.
Anne Koons

Everyone immediately thinks the second the last child goes to college they need to get ready to sell. But as much as we would love to have your home on the market, it really comes down to deciding what’s best for you. Take a few years to see what it’s like being an empty nester in the home you may have raised a family in, and see if that’s something you want to continue.
Colleen Hadden

If empty nesters are looking to downsize, I try and create a sense of excitement about beginning a new journey in life. I promise I’ll find them a great home, and they’ll still have room for their loved ones to come visit.
Linda Aquino  

March 2024
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