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Last month we asked if Birmingham’s housing market is in a bubble. The answer is probably not, and still, anyone who’s trying to buy right now has some wild stories to tell. So, to help potential buyers navigate Birmingham’s crazy housing market, we reached out to Gwen Vinzant and Ryan Grater from RealtySouth’s Gwen Vinzant Team to get their expert advice. Here’s what they said.
1. Get an experienced Realtor to help you navigate Birmingham’s housing market
A Realtor’s job is to know the market, guide you through the process and help you land somewhere you are happy to call home with the least amount of pain possible. Also, if Gwen and Ryan help you, you also get friends, fun and a great sense of humor.
2. Get pre-approved
Mortgage pre-approval means you’ve gone through the full process with a lender to get approved for a loan. All that’s left is your new home’s address.
There are several benefits to doing this paperwork up front:
- You know the top price point you can afford. This helps you look in the right price range so you end up with something you love—and can pay for—down the road. Multiple offers mean contracts often have escalation clauses (we’ll offer x but can go up to y if someone else is trying to bid on the home). Just like a live auction, you need to know your cutoff point to stay out of trouble.
- You can present the cleanest offer possible. This means your offer will give potential sellers confidence that the deal will go through because you’ve already done your homework.
3. Look at houses priced under what you can afford
Let’s say you’re hoping to buy a home in the $350K range. Because of the current market, your Realtor would likely want you to search homes in the $275K range. This gives you wiggle room to increase your price in case there are multiple offers.
4. Some buyers are looking in areas they might not have considered before
Hot areas for millennials who are just entering the housing market include Birmingham Metro, Leeds and other surrounding areas, according to Grater and Vinzant.
5. Before you put an offer on a home, be prepared—emotionally + financially
- It’s important to look at recent comps, from the last 3-4 months, to see what the current price per square foot is in the area.
- Appraisers and loan officers will look at comps from the last six months.
- Get your loan 100% pre-approved.
- Put as much earnest money down as you can to show good faith.
- Write a clean contract. You may want to include an escalation clause.
- Don’t get emotional—there may be other offers that are stronger.
Know you could use help navigating Birmingham’s real estate market right now? Reach out to RealtySouth’s Gwen Vinzant Team today.
6. You may need to get creative with your offer
- Sometimes it’s good to write a letter that pulls on the heartstrings, depending on the client.
- Some people are renting homes for a little while, letting the seller stay until they find somewhere to live (though this is rare).
- Later or flexible closing dates help make offers stand out in some cases.
7. Don’t try to navigate Birmingham’s housing market until you’re ready to be all in
“When you’re ready to buy, it’s gonna be an everyday thing. When we see houses coming on the market, we’ll go and see it that day. It’s going to be exhausting, and we’ve got to be prepared and at it every day.”Gwen Vinzant
8. You have to be realistic and know what the market will bear
“As the listing agent, we’ve got to know what the market is going to bear in a particular area. Sellers sometimes see the highest price, get excited and want to take it, but the house might not appraise for that value. So we have to counsel our sellers to be realistic, too.”Gwen Vinzant
9. It’s important to build up your savings before you jump into Birmingham’s housing market
Ryan Grater’s buyers are primarily millennials, many of whom are just entering the housing market for the first time during this wild market. Since much of her family works in construction, she’s uniquely qualified to help her buyers figure out if a house is a good prospect or not. That said, a lot of what she does with her buyers falls into the realm of savings.
“I normally want to know where you stand financially. Sometimes we’ll work through six months to a year of building up savings to compete in the market before ever looking at homes, even though looking at homes is so much fun.
I don’t want someone to fall in love and be disappointed. I want them to be able to compete without putting themselves in a bind.”
Practically, this means having money for a down payment, for repairs and for emergencies.
If you’re ready to start the process of owning your own home, Gwen Vinzant and Ryan Grater will be happy to help. Reach out to them today at RealtySouth’s Gwen Vinzant Team.