Talking the South Jersey Real Estate Market with an Expert

Q&A: South Jersey Real Estate Market

Sheri SmithIndustry vet Sheri Smith was first licensed in the real estate industry 30 years ago, and is now selling homes in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties in New Jersey. We had the chance to talk with her about the South Jersey market and tips for buying and selling your home.

What are the hot areas right now?
Haddonfield, Marlton and Cherry Hill are hot right now, and so are areas you might not think of, like Oaklyn. Collingswood is always desirable. We’re really busy right now—it’s like someone turned on the spigot and then the dam broke.

So the market is good right now?
Excellent—for both the buyer and seller. The mortgage rates are still low, but I think what’s helping fuel buyers is that rates have recently crept up—not a ton, but enough to make the realize it won’t stay this low forever.

What do sellers need to do to sell their homes?
I always recommend getting a home inspection before it goes on the market. The home-inspection period is really nerve-wracking for owners. They may have lived in their home for 15 years and think it’s fine, and then learn that there is a lot the buyer wants fixed. It’s worth the money to have an inspector come so you’re not shocked when you get the report. It gives you the chance to fix things ahead of time.

How much work should sellers put into their home to get it ready for market?
Buyers are looking for location and price, but they’re also looking for the condition of the home. There’s a whole generation raised on home-buying shows, so they know what to look for when they go in. If your kitchen hasn’t been updated in years, have a conversation with your realtor to decide if you should invest the $10,000 for upgrades or sell it as is. You also have to declutter. Start packing boxes and clear out the stuff you can live without. Touch up the paint and buy a few Magic Erasers to remove any fingerprints or marks on the wall. It takes a lot of effort to get a home prepared.

What advice do you have for buyers?
One of the most important things buyers should do is get pre-qualified. The mortgage process today can take time and is frustrating. As soon as you start looking, find a good mortgage company and get the ball rolling. It’s also important to get your own agent. There is such a thing as dual-agency, where one agent represents both parties in the same transaction. I always say you wouldn’t have a prosecutor representing the defendant too. If you have an agent representing your interest, it’s more clear-cut. There is never a question of “could I have gotten the house for a little less.”

What mistakes should buyers try to avoid?
Buyers shouldn’t compromise on their original list of necessities. Say they want a four-bedroom house, but they find a three-bedroom home with a kitchen they really like. If they have two kids and are planning a bigger family, they’re going to outgrow that three-bedroom home very quickly. Stick with your list of must-haves. People stay in their homes much longer these days.

Also, know when to walk away from a negotiation. We’re finding multiple offers now, and emotions can get in the way. If you’re at the top of what you can afford, you shouldn’t go any higher when bidding. Set your limits and stick with it.