Local real estate professionals are reporting positive trends in sales, pricing and inquiries for a variety of locations and price points.
Tips for Selling Your Home
Thinking about selling your home? Local real estate professionals offer the following suggestions.
Price it right
"Most people are looking for new or updated homes," said David Shuman with Petoskey's Real Estate One. "Or homes that are at a price where it makes sense to buy and renovate, and that is across different price points. For example, if someone is looking in the $400,000 range, they are fine buying a property that needs work as long as it is in a neighborhood of $400,000 homes. They are willing to pay $300,000, put $100,000 into it and have the home completely updated."
"While location seems to be an important factor, I believe price or (bang for the buck) is what buyers are looking for," said Kevin Olson of Graham Real Estate in Harbor Springs.
Turnkey with no major improvements needed
"More buyers are looking for a house that does not need a lot of improvements," said John Carr of Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors in Harbor Springs. "They want a turnkey house. Square footage is important, but it is the use of the square footage that is more important; not a lot of wasted space. Most buyers would prefer to have a bathroom for every bedroom, but most older houses do not meet this criteria, adding a bath might be a good idea."
"Homes which have had recent major maintenance or repairs such as a new roof or furnace or granite kitchen to mention a few have added value," said Bill Dickson of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Harbor Springs. "In general a home that is clean and obviously well-maintained will sell quicker and at a higher price. We suggest to our selling clients that they get a home inspection by an area inspection company and then repair anything that is pointed out as a problem. Just about all buyers these days make their purchase subject to a satisfactory inspection."
Bathrooms, kitchens and 'de-cluttered'
"Kitchens and bathrooms seem to be the smartest place for sellers to put their money," said Graham Real Estate's Olson. "Overall, just give your house a fresh look, a few thousand dollars on updated appliances can give a kitchen a whole new look and a fresh coat of paint can go a long way as well."
"It depends on the overall condition of the home, but kitchens continue to be the best bang for your buck followed closely by bathrooms," said Petoskey's Shuman. "Aside from that it is important for the home to be 'de-cluttered.' I tell people to get rid of anything unnecessary in day to day life. Move it to a storage unit if they have to. It is helpful for a buyer to be able to see the full space and easier to imagine their own contents."
Charles O'Neill Editor
Location, location, location are the three key elements to real estate value, or so they say. According to recent trends and local real estate professionals, Northern Michigan may be regaining its appeal as a good location for owning property.
Figures provided by Emmet Association of Realtors (EAR) through the Northern Michigan Multiple Listing Service (MLS) show Emmet County had 619 residential real estate transactions in 2013, compared to 576 in 2012. The average sale price in 2013 was $273,616, compared to $231,857 in 2012. The median sale price (which eliminates one high or low transaction from skewing the results) was $168,000 in 2013, compared to $153,000 in 2012.
For a bigger perspective, the EAR noted that in December of 2007, there were over 2,000 residential units on the market in the Northern Michigan MLS. In December of 2013, there were 1,280.
"In the last six months to a year, we have seen the first time home buyer market really take off," said Kevin Olson, a realtor with Graham Real Estate in Harbor Springs and board president of Emmet Association of Realtors. "A combination of competitive prices and low interest rates have really opened that market up.
"While we have seen this trend market-wide, the in-town market in Petoskey and Harbor Springs seems to be the hottest," Olson said.
Year-end figures saw 221 residential sales in the Harbor Springs School District, compared to 182 in 2012. The average sale price was $251,597, compared to $282,791 in 2012. The median price was $189,000, compared to $202,500 in 2012.
Residential sales in the Petoskey School District came in at 304, compared to 293 in 2012. Average sale price was $333,784, compared to $246,651 in 2012. Median sale price was $171,000 versus $156,000 in 2012. Petoskey also includes Bay Harbor.
"In the last year we have also seen the ski cottage and condo market out near the ski areas really soar in comparison to years past," Olson said. "Second home buyers are taking advantage of the reduced prices."
Strength in the condominium market was echoed by other area realtors.
"Our stats show that we sold more condos last year than in the previous three years," said Bill Dickson, associate broker and Regional Manager for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services (formerly Prudential Preferred Properties Network) in Harbor Springs.
"There are definitely more buyers coming back to the resort segment of the market," said John Carr, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors in Harbor Springs.
"Vacant land inquiries are up quite a bit as well, which is a good sign for the building industry as well as real estate sales," Carr added. "Waterfront and resort inquiries and sales are up too. All indicators point to a better year for the real estate market than the past few years."
"We are seeing strong activity in all segments of the market due to the continued low mortgage rates and reduced but slowly climbing property values," Berkshire Hathaway's Dickson said. "The purchase of foreclosed homes and condos is still very active especially with first time buyers who do not mind putting in some effort to repair and improve the home. We expect this to continue for another year or so as lenders and asset managers release more homes to the market."
While all the realtors agree that waterfront and water views command a premium, there are other sectors that also have a big draw. As well, there is a draw to more than just Lake Michigan and Little Traverse Bay waterfront.
Paul Fairbairn of Fairbairn Realty in Alanson said the Inland Waterway and inland lakes like Crooked, Pickerel, Burt and Mullett are all showing strong gains in overall sales and sale prices.
Among the statistics Fairbairn shared about Inland Waterway properties:
-Crooked Lake had 15 active listings and seven sales in 2012; 18 active listings and 10 sales in 2013.
-Burt Lake had 53 active listings in 2012 and 23 sales; 64 active listings and 37 sales in 2013.
-Mullet Lake had 51 active listings and 32 sales in 2012; 42 active listings and 24 sales in 2013.
"These are great statistics for the Inland Waterway real estate sales and values," Fairbairn said, "but even better is days on market dropped 14-percent from 2012-2013. The average sale price went from $352,500 in 2012 to $436,200 in 2013, a 19-percent increase. And the average list price (as opposed the actual closing price) went from $419,200 in 2012 to $454,600 in 2013, an 8-percent increase.
"I attribute this turnaround in sales on the Inland Waterway to the great values that are offered the buyer of waterfront property," Fairbairn said. "There is no other place in northern Michigan where you will get 43 miles of freshwater lakes and rivers at the values that are out there. If the interest rates remain low, I look for prices to keep inching up for waterfront properties along the Inland Water Route."
When it comes to overall interest, Berkshire Hathaway's Dickson said most activity is in lower end and the very high end ($1 million-plus) waterfront property on most area lakes.
"Lake Michigan was quieter than Walloon Lake, Lake Charlevoix and Burt Lake," Dickson said.
Being close to downtowns is also a big draw.
Petoskey realtor David Shuman of Real Estate One noted interests can shift year to year.
"The trends in Petoskey are constantly changing, sometimes with the seasons," Shuman said. "In 2012 we saw a lot of high end waterfront homes find buyers, as well as many of the larger homes within in the downtown (Petoskey) neighborhoods.
"In 2013, that shifted a bit as waterfront continued to do well but not nearly as many large downtown homes changed hands.
"It seems that the further away from the economic downturn of a few years ago we are, the more evenly spread across price points the sales become," Shuman noted. "There currently doesn't seem to be one type of property that is selling more so than any other. Regardless of the niche, if a property shows well and is priced appropriately, it is a finding a buyer relatively quickly."
"The majority of my buyers either want to be in town or close to town. In the Petoskey school district so far in 2014 only 21 homes have sold; the average price has been $160,000.
"Our biggest challenge at this point is available inventory. We are just not seeing as many new homes coming up for sale," Shuman said.
Coldwell Banker's John Carr said of best selling spots: "After waterfront it would be water view, resort communities, and of course, location, location, location. Most buyers prefer being close to town rather than out in the country - closer to schools, shopping, health care, restaurants, etc."
"It is always helpful for a home to have easy access to one of the many trail systems, or nature preserves," Petoskey Real Estate One's Shuman noted. "Being able to walk downtown is also a plus. About a quarter of the homes that sold in the past six months are within the city limits of Petoskey."
Graham Real Estate's Olson also pointed another positive trend. Some notable commercial sales have taken place recently.
"In the last six months we have also seen some commercial properties in the area that have been on the market a while sell. For instance, the Juilleret's building in downtown Harbor Springs, the old Flying Dutchman building on M-119 and the old Maple River Golf Course," Olson said.
"When it comes to residential property sales," Olson said, "what seems to be of critical importance (besides location) is square footage, number of bathrooms, garage - or it is strictly on a case by case basis.
"While location seems to be an important factor, I believe price or 'bang for the buck', is what buyers are looking for. Updated or newer houses seem to be attracting buyers. People like updated kitchens and baths," Olson said.