Last spring and summer witnessed a home buying frenzy in the most popular north metro Atlanta neighborhoods and school districts. Going into 2013, buyer demand for homes in these areas was steadily increasing, while home inventory was at a record low. In spring and summer, demand swelled as families entered the market, determined to be in their next home before the start of the school year. Inventory, however, did not keep up. Many buyers were caught with their pants down – it was no longer 2011 – the best properties were receiving multiple offers and were under contract within a few days of coming on the market. It was common to see frustrated buyers “chasing the market” – missing out on several homes before, in desperation, finally getting something under contract.
As we begin 2014, we expect homebuyer demand to again be heavy, peaking with the “school year shuffle” in late spring through mid-summer. While we may see a better inventory situation this year, the good properties will sell quickly.
A successful homebuyer operates from a position of knowledge, control and confidence, NOT from frustration and desperation. This means knowing the right property when you see it, knowing what to pay for it and being in position to decisively pull the trigger. Getting and staying ahead of the competition (i.e., other buyers) is critical in this market. Success comes from starting the process well before your target time to be in a new home. Specifically:
1) Have a fairly well-defined idea of what you are looking for in your new home. Engage a good real estate agent early on to help you reality check your new home vision against your budget.
2) Speak with an experienced mortgage lender to help you understand different financing options, identify any financing challenges, establish your purchase budget and pre-qualify for financing.
3) Start getting into homes with your agent – quickly see everything currently on the market, and immediately see new listings as they come on the market. The goal is to be confident that you have seen every option before being put in a position to make a decision. Every home you see increases your education, helps you refine your criteria and ultimately makes you a more confident, decisive and successful home buyer (see our previous blog post: How Many Homes Should You See Before Buying?)
It seems like only yesterday that homebuyers ruled the market. The game has changed. My advice to 2014 homebuyers is to pull your pants up – be prepared to act quickly, confidently and decisively.