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Tampa Realtor offers tips for busiest time of year for home sales

TAMPA - Planning to sell your home? April marks the start of the spring-summer selling season, the busiest time of year for residential real estate in most parts of the Tampa Bay area.

A Tampa native and Realtor since 1986, Barbara Jordan has seen great seasons, horrible seasons and a lot in between. Her peers think so highly of her that last year she served as president of the 8,000-member Greater Tampa Association of Realtors, the bay area's largest Realtor organization.

Jordan, an agent with Coldwell Banker, recently spoke with the Tampa Bay Times about the market and offered tips for both sellers and buyers.

Why is April such an important month for home sellers?

It's when most people start thinking about moving because, normally, they try to be in place by the time kids get in school. It is the best time to put your house on the market because more people are looking. Our highest month for sales (closings) are normally May, June, July. The beaches are more of a winter market — that's when they have the most people looking around — but for Pasco, Hillsborough and most of Pinellas, this is the best selling time.

How do you think this season will compare with last year's?

It seems to be a little bit busier this year; I think this is going to be as good or better. I just heard that 1,000 people each day are moving into the state and Tampa is certainly one of the big destinations; there's better job-creation than in some other cities. Even though people have sort of a question mark about the election, the stock market has kind of turned around from the beginning of the year and (real estate) just seems to be moving very quickly.

Is the tight inventory of homes affecting the time it takes to sell?

It depends on the price range. When you have a six months' supply, that's a market that's neither a buyer or a seller's market. In some price ranges, it's as low as two months of supply, and that's a shortage of houses. So once you get under $500,000, that is kind of a sweet spot where you truly have a seller's market and things don't last long. But when you start to move into that $500,000-and-over range, you're at seven months of supply. People aren't running out making multiple offers on those.

Are some sellers unrealistic in what they expect to get?

Some of them are. I think they hear on TV and elsewhere that things are moving very quickly and they are automatically assuming we are back at some of the prices we saw in 2008, and that's not the case.

What is the No. 1 thing a seller should do before putting a home on the market?

You need to really look at the outside of the house. What's the curb appeal like — does the flower bed need to be weeded, does it have mulch? The yard needs to look very manicured. Plant something colorful. Pressure wash or paint (the house) if it needs it. Remember, the first thing that appears in the MLS and then in Zillow and realtor.com and all those is the front shot of the house. There may be 20 other shots beyond that, but the front shot has to make a good impression. Inside, declutter. Clean. If the carpet is bad, replace it. Paint if you need to paint.

What are some inexpensive changes that can make a huge improvement?

Anything you can do to spruce up your kitchen and your bathroom, like changing out the knobs or light fixtures. Wallpaper, at least the kind that's really dated, get rid of it and paint. That's an easy one and gives the room a fresh look. Home Depot and Lowe's carry little tile back­splashes that don't cost much but maybe give a little punch for the kitchen. Maybe a new bedspread. I've been in houses where the bedspread is kind of ratty. Go to Stein Mart and buy something that's really cute with matching pillows and spruce it up a bit.

Are most sellers receptive to suggestions?

Some people are very receptive but then you have somebody who's very resistant to doing anything but wants top dollar, and the two are not compatible. People expect that the appliances are in working condition and that the kitchen shows well. And if you have someone who's resisting (improvements), you either have to price below market or offer to replace at sale or give a credit.

Would most buyers prefer a credit — say, $5,000 to replace the carpet — or have a house more or less move-in ready?

I would say a majority of people want to find a house they really like and can move into. They might do some tweaking, but most people don't want to have to go in and redo the whole thing.

Any tips for buyers as the big selling season starts?

A home inspection, for sure — get an inspection. But the first thing is to get preapproved (for a loan) and know exactly what you can afford. Looking at things you can't afford — that's no fun.

TAMPA BAY TIMES

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