2018-03-01 / Local News

Home sales dip in Jan.; be ready to buy

By Jen Murphy
of the Enterprise staff

For anyone in the market to purchase a home in Leelanau County, one thing is key: Be prepared to buy.

And fast.

That’s the advice from John Watkins of Real Estate One Leland.

“It’s a seller’s market,” Watkins said. “Have financing in place. If you’re interested in a home, look quickly, and know what you’re looking for.

“Appropriately-priced homes aren’t lasting long,” he said.

Changes in the mortgage industry may also affect a would-be buyer’s timetable, he added.

“And rates are going up ... We’ve already seen mortgage rates rise and there’s talk of rates going up again, so earlier in the year is a better time to buy than later in the year.”

According to sales figures provided by the Traverse Area Association of Realtors (TAAR), home sales closed in January dipped in both the number exchanging hands and total volume.

Some $6.7 million in home sales was recorded on the Leelanau Peninsula by agents associated with TAAR, down from the $8.2 million in sales for January 2017. The number of homes sold in January fell from 26 in 2017 to 20.

However, the value of homes sold keeps increasing, as the median price rose from $240,500 to $269,000. Over the past five years the median price of homes sold on the peninsula grew a whopping 54 percent.

The higher prices is good for sellers. And Watkins had some tips for these folks.

“If you’re selling a home, declutter completely,” he said. “People can’t get past clutter. Clean closets and storage rooms. Also, if things look dated, freshen up. Bright colors, primary colors, slow people down. Go with more basic colors.”

Along with organizing and possibly repainting, Watkins suggests improving kitchens and bathrooms. “Because all of the home TV shows make it look so easy, redone bathrooms and kitchens are expected.”

That work can be expensive, however. Sometimes owners of an older home cannot or will not make improvements.

Watkins said he advises those owners to “make things as clean and bright as possible. Older homes are not what most people are looking for. I tell (sellers) to play up exactly what it is so people aren’t surprised. That will attract people who are looking for that type of home.”

Watkins said the number of homes for sale is still low, although he anticipates that sellers will list homes earlier in the spring market. Many people thinking about selling property in the county pull their listings for winter when sales slow down.

So far, those properties have not reentered the market.

“Inventory is very tight,” he said. “We have a lot of activity for houses priced right.”

“An expensive home (about $600,000) usually takes about 35 months on the market. That’s because so many are specially designed or somebody’s dream house, instead of a basic home. If you take that away (the high end homes), we just have low inventory,” Watkins said.

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