Real Estate Update: Brisk Spring Market, Choosy Buyers

By Grace Kuikman

Local real estate professionals report two spring trends in Beverly/Morgan Park: A brisk market where well priced homes sell quickly, and an increasing number of buyers who want a home in “move-in” condition.

“It’s been a very busy spring,” said Mary Ellen Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Real Estate. “Lots of houses have been going under contract.”

Bernadette Molloy, Molloy & Associates Realtors, called the market “thriving.” “When we get a listing, it’s sold right away. Beverly is still a draw. It’s a vibrant, active market for young families.”

Local real estate prices have stabilized and are starting in inch back up. Like other commodities, real estate prices are affected by supply and demand observed Bill Biros, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Biros Real Estate.  “Demand is increasing and we expect to see prices gradually increase,” he said.

With people generally more confident in the economy and interest rates still fairly low, there’s also an expectation that this upward trend could continue.

Randy Papp, President of Pacor Mortgage Corp., said that real estate markets are seasonal, and the mild weather plus the approach of the end of the school year are also factors that compel more prospective home buyers to start looking.

“The market looks strong,” Papp said, who also observed a modest influx of higher priced homes on the market in the community, a positive trend.

Barbara Thouvenell of PRS Real Estate Services notes a recent experience that she hopes becomes a “lucky trend.” Of a dozen appointments to show a house, almost all of the people came from outside the neighborhood – mostly Oak Park, Hyde Park and downtown. “That’s unusual,” Thouvenell said. Sales trends formerly monitored through BAPA’s housing survey indicated that for many years, the highest percentage of home buyers came from an apartment or another home within the community. Other factors that have historically driven buyers to Beverly/Morgan Park are the stability of the home values and the quality of the housing stock.

Today’s buyers are also a little older than in past years, and often their “starter home” was a condo. They’re looking for a home that does not require a lot of work.

“The typical first time buyer today wants everything done,” Biros said. “Sweat equity does not exist anymore.”

Fitzgerald agrees. “Back in the day there was a Bob Vlla [This Old House] mentality – people bought a big house and fixed it up. Not anymore.”

According to Thouvenell, houses in good condition in a moderate price range sell quickly. Although buyers are more demanding, it’s not just about wanting everything done. Thouvenell said that lending standards are also stricter, and even more strict for homes that need a lot of work.

Because home inspections are now routine and the inspectors are meticulous. buyers and lenders want a better prepared property. “If there are moisture issues, it’s not just ‘Why didn’t they fix it?’ it’s, ‘What else have they left undone?’” Molloy said.  “Buyers are fussier. It’s important that sellers are mindful of the big connect between condition and price.”

What can sellers do to get their homes market-ready? “Declutter and clean, clean, clean,” Fitzgerald said. “Walking into a house that’s clean and fresh works better than having cookies baking in the oven.”

Thouvenell advises sellers to “look at Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn to see how they set up their rooms. Paint in those colors.”

“Clean, paint and make minor repairs, and, if you can, make major repairs,” Biros said. Basement seepage, really bad windows, flooring that’s coming up or peeling, curling shingles – they can all bring down a home’s price. But Biros also advises buyers not to pass up a great house that may need a little work. “If a buyer finds a house in good condition but not updated, and they have the ability to update, that could be the best value in the neighborhood,” he said.

“Buyers and sellers need to realize that real estate is local,” Biros said. “What’s trending in the Loop or the suburbs is not necessarily what’s trending here. This is a unique neighborhood. There’s city demand, access to the Loop, diversity in the people and the housing. There will always be a demand for our neighborhood.”

Next month: Why use a local real estate professional