I recently ran across a great RISmedia article How Buyers Can Work Through the Housing Inventory Effectively and Efficiently. Later, you can click the link to read the original article. But first, here’s an insider’s look at how that same helpful advice applies to our local NW Wisconsin market.
These concepts are especially relevant right now if you’re looking for a lake home, cabin, or recreational property here in Northwestern Wisconsin. Although we do have a lot of inventory out there, these tips will help you sort through it more effectively and efficiently. In the end, they’ll also improve your odds of finding the place that’s right for you.
Five years ago, a pre-approved buyer typically spent three to four weeks looking for a home and visited a dozen or more homes before finally settling on “the one.” Now, some buyers are taking much longer. I’ve worked with buyers that have looked at over thirty homes before making a decision.
I think the biggest reason for that level of indecision is that we have a lot of inventory on the market right now. For some buyers, it’s too much of a good thing. No matter what they’ve just seen, they’re hoping to find something even better. Plain and simple, they have a hard time saying yes.
Another problem is that some buyers have unrealistic expectations. They’ve seen headlines about foreclosures, short sales, and motivated sellers, and they’re certain that somewhere out there is a beautiful lake home with all the bells and whistles, a sandy beach, and perfect level frontage on a large, deep lake full of walleyes that’s also very quiet and secluded. They’re hoping to find all that in one package, and they want it for under $220,000. In one way or another, they may need to adjust their expecations.
Here are a few tips that will help you find the place that’s right for you. They’ll also make your search more efficient:
Do your homework. Do enough background research to know the local area, the type and size of lake, the recreation activities that most appeal to you. Sportsman’s Connection publishes excellent fishing and hunting guides for Northwest Wisconsin. There are Northern and Southern Region editions. I highly recommend these guides, even to buyers who have absolutely zero interest in fishing. Their maps, data, and descriptions tell you a lot about each lake. And if you read between the lines, you’ll be able to infer even more. For a starting point, you can also check out some lake and stream descriptions elsewhere on my blog.
Be ready to adjust your expectations. Each local market has its own character, and you’ll need to have realistic expectations about what’s available—even if money is no object. Some lakes, for example, are considered especially “desirable.” Prices will be higher on those lakes, and you may be able to get more for your money on another lake down the road. Here’s another example: In some areas, you might find several lakes with great fishing, but few lakes that are deep and cold with a sandy shoreline. If you really want to be in that area, that’s what you’re going to find. Which brings me to my next point…
Know what matters most to YOU. Know which criteria on your list are most important to you and your family. In some cases, you may need to make trade-offs. Here’s an example: If you’re craving solitude and seclusion, you may want to choose a lake that’s smaller and less than ideal for waterskiing. Otherwise someone else’s fun could make for a less relaxing happy hour on your new deck. At the very least, you’ll want to zero in on quiet bays that connect to large, deep lakes. In many cases, of course, the trade-offs are smaller. If forced to choose, do you want great fishing? Or great swimming?
Let your emotions help you. It’s great to be rational, and it’s important to focus on price and condition. Still, at some point you’ll need to let yourself fall in love with a home or cabin. If you can’t, you might be one of those buyers with “commitment issues.”
Know whether a distressed property is right for you. True, foreclosures and short sales can offer a great value in terms of price per sq ft. But these properties tend to have their own challenges. There can be serious condition issues, and these properties are generally sold “as is.” This means the seller won’t—or in many cases can’t—do anything to address those issues. Buyers will need to make extensive repairs after purchasing. Short sales can take six months or longer to get to the closing table, and sometimes transactions fall apart at the last minute when the lender, seller, and buyer can’t agree.
Be ready to negotiate. Buyers can miss out on a great home if they don’t move quickly enough. Be ready to make an offer at a price you’re comfortable with, even if it’s well below the listed price. Extreme lowballing, of course, can backfire; the offer still needs to be solid enough so it will be taken seriously. But once a negotiation is initiated, the seller, especially in this market, won’t want to let a viable buyer walk away.
Get plenty of advice, but trust the professionals. Of course buyers should get advice from friends and family, but at the same time should be taken with a grain of salt as it will not be grounded in detailed knowledge of the current and local market. Trust your Realtor, lender, inspector, and appraiser.
Don’t let negative comments about the housing market scare you off. There’s plenty of talk about the downside of the market. Don’t lose sight of the many positives, such as the fact that home affordability is at its highest in decades. Prices are more affordable (at least if you’re a buyer), and interest rates are at historic lows. Keep your eyes on the numbers that directly impact you—property prices, interest rates, and how those translate into monthly payments.
So there you have it. I hope these tips are helpful. And by the way… For the reasons I outlined in my last blog post, now is an ideal time to begin your search here in Northwestern Wisconsin. Both literally and figuratively, it’s a good time of year to really see what’s out there. And when you’re ready to make a serious offer, sellers are ready to negotiate.
You can see my listings at www.JeanHedren.com. You’ll also be able to search for listings in NW Wisconsin by county, community, or specific lake. Then, please give me a call when you are ready to view some properties.