Sellers still have an advantage

There are a number of reasons why there are so few homes on the market today. The pandemic can take some of the credit, and the looming winter ahead — when the market typically quiets a little — is another factor. And residential homes come and go to market so quickly these days, on average selling in fractions of the time you'd get in a more typical residential real estate market.

It's an opportune time to put your house on the market, simply because there are fewer properties with which to compete, and there are still buyers out there who want and need to move, even during the winter season.

"There are several indicators of a seller's market; obviously, low inventory is a driving force," Stacey Wyeth explained. She's a Realtor with William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty in Niantic. "In a seller's market, there is a significant decrease in how many days a property is available on the market. At times in the past year, we were seeing as few as one or two days before the property was pending.

"Also, we see an increase in the percentage of list price," she added. "In New London County so far this year, homes are averaging 100.8% of their list price, and because of the overall increase in home prices, this number becomes significant. Other indicators are multiple offers on a property, buyers waiving appraisals, waiving inspections, and sellers do not need to offer any incentives to buyers."

Wyeth recently listed 546 Ocean Avenue in New London, a four-bedroom, 2,382-square-foot colonial in a walkable and bikeable community. The asking price was $320,000, and within 15 days of introducing the property to the market, the seller had a conditional, accepted offer in place.

For prospective buyers, Wyeth had a message: Get educated and be prepared.

"They need to know their budget, understand all the costs that will be incurred and the expectations, so they can make an informed decision quickly," she said.

Opportunity for Buyers

Diminished inventory isn't the only metric to follow right now. Broker Geoff Smith, of RE/MAX On the Bay in Niantic, suggested watching interest rates, too.

"We've seen a lot of rates in the high 2% to low 3% range over the last year, which has helped drive a lot of buyers to move forward with a purchase, even with prices appreciating quickly," he said.

In a more typical real estate market, winter has a chilling effect on the market. New England winters can be a deterrent for homeowners considering selling their properties. They may want to enjoy the holidays in their homes, without disruption, or use the season to prep for a springtime debut.

"Using last year as an example, in New London County, 2,253 single-family homes sold between April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020. Comparatively, we saw 2,001 single-family houses sell between October 1, 2020 and March 30, 2021," Smith said. "Sales remained steady year-round, and with the current low inventory, we expect the same for this year, as well. With the idea of taking low inventory in mind, it can also be advantageous to list in the 'off season,' when there is less competition, as other sellers may traditionally wait to list in the spring."

Despite the continued low-inventory stats, Smith also shared some advice and encouragement for buyers who are looking for homes right now.

"Easily the most difficult part of my job over this past year-plus has been riding the emotional rollercoaster with buyers, with so much competition out there," Smith said. "It is cliché, but things always work out the way they're supposed to. I've experienced the pain of losing out in a multiple offer situation personally, when my family was searching for our house back in 2017. It was upsetting to 'lose' in that moment, but we ended up finding the perfect home, and we never looked back on the house we lost out on.

"I try to convey that message when working with buyers, and I've had many clients over the last couple years who have lost in a multiple-offer situation, just to come back stronger and eventually secure the perfect house for themselves. Unfortunately, it has been a common experience in this market lately, but staying positive, optimistic and focused on your goals will always lead to the best outcome," he concluded.

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