Austin, Texas' sky-high home prices and low inventory make it seem like sellers dictate the market. However, many buyers are drained from being beaten up in bidding wars, and this can cause sellers problems if they're not aware of current real estate trends. To ensure a smooth sale and top-dollar price tag, take time to educate yourself on what's happening in Austin's market.
U.S. News spoke with some of Austin's top real estate agents as identified by OpenHouse Realty, an agent referral company (and U.S. News partner), about important local housing trends sellers need to be aware of before listing their property.
The market is solid. With the number of local jobs and businesses growing, the Austin economy is healthy, which has created a strong housing market with only two months' worth of available inventory. And that means homes below $600,000 go fast. "We're able to push the price point to a certain extent because there's limited inventory and sellers are capitalizing on that," says Hilary Herrin, Realtor and listing agent for Mueller Austin Homes.
If a property is priced competitively, expect multiple offers. Naming your highest price seems like a good idea in this seller's market, but if it's unreasonable or the house isn't in top condition, the property will sit on the market.
"Some sellers think they can overprice and they'll negotiate down. But buyers in this market have been beat up, and think sellers don't come off their price much, if at all," explains Aaron Farmer, president of the Austin Board of Realtors and owner of Texas Discount Realty.
Time of year matters. Austin's real estate market is seasonal. Fall and early winter are the slowest times of year, with the market picking up in January and at its peak in spring and summer. That means sellers can expect fewer offers and lower prices in the cooler months.
"We've heard how wonderful prices are and how much demand there is, but sellers need to be cognizant that seasons make a difference," Redfin real estate agent Lorella Martin says. "Fall is not as active as spring, and activity and demand are going to make a difference in price."
Staging and updating are key. By staging your home for open houses and updating outdated appliances and paint jobs, you'll see the extra sale money in your pocket and reduce the chance of your listing growing cold. "People feel like they can throw their house on the market because it's strong, but staging can make tens of thousands of dollars' worth of difference," Herrin says.
Experts also recommend quick fixes like removing clutter, cleaning countertops, trimming shrubs and planting flowers to make the property more attractive and encourage multiple offers.
"Spend time preparing your home, and look at it with the critical eye of a buyer," Martin recommends. "Everybody likes a move-in-ready home, and a property that's already fixed up will be in higher demand; there could be people fighting over it."
Even with a refreshed home, appraisals may be an issue. Danny Wilson, owner/team leader of The Home Action Team and real estate agent at Keller Williams, says appraisers don't always give additional value to updated homes. He recommends working with the buyer to determine his or her willingness to pay for extra features that an appraiser may not include.
The process tends to be quick. Because homes garner offers during their first or second weekend on the market, sellers should be prepared for a rapid closing. "You need to know where you're going next before you put your house on the market. Buyers are coming into a tight market and are looking to move into your spot in 30 days or less, sometimes 15 or 20 days," Farmer says.
If your buyer wants to close more quickly than you anticipated and you're unsure of your next destination, Herrin suggests a lease-back agreement, which would allow you to rent the property from the new owner until you find your new home. Herrin states many of her sellers make having a lease-back the No. 1 priority when accepting an offer.
Patience pays off. It's tempting to respond immediately to time-sensitive offers, but you shouldn't rush. "It's normal to get interest, early offers and pressure from buyers who've been losing out on homes and don't want multiple-offer situations," Herrin explains. "I've learned that we need to be patient. Buyers will come and we'll get the terms we want."
Farmer believes one of the jobs of a real estate agent is to set expectations about the flow of the transaction to eliminate surprises. Educating sellers on what they need to be aware of -- like a quick closing or multiple-offer situations -- helps the process go smoothly even when buyers turn up the heat.
Looking for a real estate agent in Austin? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.
Mandy Ellis is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Find her on her website.