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A buyer for every home – if it’s priced right

Published: Sunday, April 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The new year brought good news for metro Chicago real estate home sellers: The Illinois Association of Realtors reported that Chicago-area home prices and sales rose in January and February.

This means that buyers are re-entering the market in greater numbers, and this provides hope to those sellers who worry that a small bathroom, older kitchen or irregular lot will keep buyers away. Broker associates with Re/Max Northern Illinois say there is a buyer for every home today, as long as that home is priced properly.

That is especially true in a real estate market that is rebounding so steadily, they said.

“In every case, every single house will sell in every market if it is priced right,” said Kathleen Healy, a broker with Re/Max Town and Country in Aurora.

Buyers can be awfully specific. They’ll want a two-story house that sits on a quiet block near good schools and parks. They’ll also want that home to be within walking distance of public transportation, restaurants and shops.

Not all homes, however, fit this description. Some are close to busy streets. Others are near railroad tracks. Still others feature irregular lots and smaller back yards.

But the owners of such homes shouldn’t worry that they’ll struggle to find a buyer. As Healy says, the features some buyers view as drawbacks, others will consider positives.

For instance, some buyers like living near busier streets. It helps them get around town faster. Other buyers seek out smaller back yards because they don’t want to spend their weekends mowing lawns. And many buyers don’t even care that a home is smaller than their neighbor’s. These buyers might be empty nesters who want a smaller residence that doesn’t require the daily upkeep of a larger property.

“The sellers of such homes have to remember, though, to set the right price,” said Eric Egeland, a broker with Re/Max Suburban in Libertyville. “They need to remember that they probably paid less originally for their home because it was smaller, lacked a back yard or backed up to a busy street.

“Sellers need to remember what they originally paid for their home,” Egeland said. “That was something that attracted them. Maybe it allowed them to move into a neighborhood that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. That same factor will attract other buyers.”

The median sales price of homes in the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area stood at $140,000 in February, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors. That’s up a bit from the $135,000 median price for the area in the same month of 2012.

Home sales themselves, though, soared an impressive 36.8 percent in the region this January and 20.2 percent in February when compared to the same months of 2012.

The IAR said that 12,779 single-family homes and condominiums sold this January and February in the Chicago metro area. That’s up from the 9,500 homes that sold in January and February of 2012.

This means that more sellers, of all homes, are finding buyers for their properties. And many of these homes don’t boast huge master bathrooms or remodeled kitchens.

Last year, for example, Healy represented a client whose home backed up against the railroad tracks. Healy researched the situation and found that local ordinances prohibited trains from blowing their horns as they passed by her client’s home. She also found that trains came by just twice a day.

The information Healy uncovered made the railroad tracks seem like less of a nuisance. This is an important lesson: The right information can make a potential negative far less of a problem.

“There are always going to be those buyers who don’t care about your home’s issues,” Egeland said. “For instance, some buyers really like living across the street from retail. No house is perfect for every buyer. You can always find your buyers if you price your home properly.”

It’s important, too, for sellers to heavily promote the positive aspects of their homes. Their home may face a busy street, but it might also boast a large, wooded yard that muffles the sound of passing traffic. The brochures and web listings promoting the home need to focus on that backyard retreat.

And, as Healy says, make sure that your home is staged, clean and free of clutter when you show it.

“You can’t have anything that gives buyers a reason to look elsewhere,” Healy said. “You can’t have old wallpaper or carpet. You can’t have unusual colors on your walls. It has to be spotless and in move-in condition.”

David Beakey, an agent with Re/Max Suburban in Arlington Heights, points to a home he sold that backed up to railroad tracks and sat under a high power line.

“Guess what? It sold. And not just once, but twice,” he said.

The first buyer’s loan fell through. But a second buyer agreed to purchase the home because he liked the home itself, a foreclosure that needed just a small number of repairs. The buyer didn’t mind the railroad tracks or the power lines. It helped, too, that the house was priced right.

“Buyers always find what they want,” Beakey said. “And they’ll often want exactly what you’re selling.”

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