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Standing out in a challenging market

The reach of the COVID-19 pandemic extended to Airdrie’s housing market, causing home sales to drop nearly 14 per cent between April and June, compared to the same period last year.

The reach of the COVID-19 pandemic extended to Airdrie’s housing market, causing home sales to drop nearly 14 per cent between April and June, compared to the same period last year. The Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) second-quarter report indicated the dip was in large part due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, which occurred during what is traditionally the busiest quarter for real estate sales.

“Unquestionably, COVID-19 will continue to impact the housing market over the next several quarters,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie in the June 27th release. “However, the extent of the impact may not be as severe as estimates from three months ago.”

Local Realtor Gary Lock with CIR Realty agreed. He said, though home sales in March and April were “horrible,” the market started to stabilize when Stage 2 of Alberta’s economic relaunch plan came into effect.

“Things just picked up right away,” he told the Airdrie City View in August.

Indeed, CREB monthly statistics for July indicate that – though down 1.3 per cent year-to-date (YTD) –overall sales increased 30.7 per cent from July 2019. Lock said June and July saw big numbers for local home sales, with 166 and 163, respectively.

The real estate market always responds to the current economic climate, he said. He added 2006 and 2014 were good years for sales, but economic and political circumstances led to market drops in the following years.

“There have been improvements relative to the lowest sales levels caused by COVID-19, but it is too early to say things are shifting back to pre-pandemic levels,” Lurie said.

"We are still facing record-high unemployment rates, significant government aid, and uncertainty throughout the business community; this will continue in the coming months."

Other markers, compared to those of July 2019, indicate declining inventory, an upward trend in sale prices and decreasing months of supply, which are key factors lending to a more balanced market.

Lock said the rising numbers indicate a recovery, considering the market conditions. He added homes in the $300,000 to $400,000 range sell quickly, regardless of circumstance.

“Those houses are moving well,” Lock said. “Airdrie has a better value to your dollar.”

Despite the gains made in July, selling a home in tough market conditions is hard enough without the added difficulty of a pandemic. While many of the challenges of selling a home are not in your control – unrealistic home buyers, local market conditions, etc. – there are things you can do to make your home more desirable to buyers.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to successfully selling your home is setting the price correctly at the beginning of the process. An overpriced home is an almost guaranteed way of scaring off potential buyers.

“You need to be very realistic with your goals when you are selling and you must do your homework,” states CIR on its website.

Home prices are set by comparable properties in the area – not just what they are listed for, but what they are selling for – and market conditions.

Many buyers feel if a home has been listed for a long time that there is something wrong with it,” according to CIR. “Most agents will tell you that the best activity occurs during the first two to three weeks of the listing begin date. After a few weeks, the activity will begin to taper off and showings will cease. If your home is priced incorrectly from the beginning, it will not get a lot of showings and the longer your home is on the market the more buyers will feel that it's tainted or something's wrong with the price.”

When pricing the home, you will also need to consider any improvement you’ve made and whether they have added value to it – some renovations are worth more than others.

According to Consumer Reports, the kitchen is king when it comes to attracting buyers. Improvements to update the kitchen include new appliances and modernizing countertops and flooring.

“Bigger isn’t necessarily better in today’s market, but strategically increasing the amount of living space is sure to boost home value," Consumer Reports stated, adding the best bang for your buck on this front is to develop an unfinished basement.

Lowering your home’s energy costs is another valuable improvement, with “energy-efficiency” coming only second to a “safe community” on the list of attributes that influence a purchase decision, according to a 2015 survey by the National Association of Home Builders.

Consumer Reports suggests energy-efficient windows and water heaters, and LED lightbulbs can increase your home's value by one to three per cent.

Once you’ve determined what to list your home for, it’s time to think of presentation.

“If a buyer doesn’t feel comfortable in your home, you can forget about the sale,” according to CIR.

Give the home a good cleaning. Buying a home is a huge expense, and buyers will inspect every nook and cranny, including opening the oven and refrigerator so ensure a deep clean is complete before listing. A dirty home could give buyers the impression of neglect and the presence of other issues.

“It’s a good idea to have your carpets cleaned or your hardwood floors polished or waxed. This is normally not too expensive and can usually add a lot of appeal to potential buyers,” according to CIR.

Also, make sure to address any unpleasant odours in the home. You've likely become accustomed to your home's smell, so it is a good idea to ask a friend or Realtor to take a sniff and identify areas where odours persist.

Cleaning is an opportunity to declutter and remove personalized décor that makes it difficult for potential buyers to envision themselves living in the space.

“Usually, too much décor can make the rooms look smaller and hurt your chances of selling your home,” according to CIR.

This is also time to tackle non-functional components such as appliances that aren’t working, a leak in the roof or other items in the home that are not up to snuff. 

“If you try to hide it or don't address the issue, then in the buyer's mind, it will drastically reduce the quality and price of the property,” CIR stated. “If this is wrong, then what else is wrong?”

Few potential homeowners are looking for homes that need costly repairs, and components that aren’t working will scare them off. If you are unwilling or unable to make needed repairs, this will impact your listing price and the desirability of your property.

“Most buyers appreciate a good fresh coat of paint, and this will help enhance your properties value,” according to CIR. “It will also help brighten your rooms by giving them a new clean appearance.”

Avoid bold and bright colours and instead opt for lighter and softer earth tones that help make the rooms feel larger and appeal to a bigger group of potential buyers.

Address outdated furniture by adding minor updates such as trendy carpets, lighting fixtures, modern slipcovers and new linens and towels. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your friends, family or your Realtor what is popular now.

“If possible, hire a staging company to help show you ways to maximize room appeal and value to your residence,” CIR said. “Many real estate firms have a staging company or people on staff who can aid in this service.”

Ensure blinds and draperies are open, as this brings light and warmth into the home, giving it a “good feel.”

Once the interior is in tip-top shape, ensure the home's curb appeal makes it stand out positively, as most buyers will drive by properties they are interested in. An unsightly exterior is sure to turn them off.

“Curb appeal is important, and there is nothing worse for a real estate professional to try and market a home that has peeling paint or is in desperate need of painting,” CIR states. “Of course, depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, you might not be able to paint the exterior but, if at all possible, paint the exterior.”

Week-groomed landscaping, flowers and a clean property do much to entice buyers.

“A few hard hours of raking, cleaning and picking up odds and ends could add ‘thousands’ to the sales price of your home,” stated CIR.