In addition to blooming flowers, chirping birds and warming temperatures, spring in Central Virginia generally signals an uptick in real estate activity.
Sellers have spent the winter prepping their homes to go on the market. Buyers are eager to get out and start searching for their dream properties.
So what types of homes do area experts say are moving quickly in the area? What do current residential buyers have most often on their wish lists? And what can sellers do to make sure their properties are positioned to sell quickly?
“New construction and ‘affordable’ single-family homes—under $350,000—are selling more briskly than ever in our region,” says Billy Flint, managing broker of Flint Property Group. “We’re also seeing a rise in popularity for residences that have been updated.”
Nadine Blakely, a real estate agent with RE/MAX 1st Olympic, says activity is strong across many sectors “from first-time home buyers who allow others to move into larger homes, and the snowball continues through to median-priced homes and luxury homes. [There are] a surprising number of cash buyers, even in the luxury market. And first-time home buyers, the millennials, are definitely ready to buy, not rent.”
Flint says properties within walking distance of restaurants, shops and other conveniences are also hot in the Lynchburg area.
“Closer to amenities is a theme that’s here and likely to continue,” he says.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) points to a number of emerging trends that it expects to influence real estate choices in the near future, including use of materials with a handcrafted style, reclaimed wood floors and better integration of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Blakely says, “Many buyers appreciate the character and charm of older homes, or a newer home with classic designs of yesteryear to avoid the renovation work needed with older properties. Yet some are willing to forego the new for something they can put their sweat equity into, and be proud of the remodel they create.”
According to NAR, many buyers today prefer their future home to have distinctive features such as wide trim and wood floors that show the patina of age with unique markings. These are all elements that provide “character,” which Flint says can be difficult to define since it means different things to different buyers.
“It can be an architectural style such as Arts and Crafts or Cape Cod, or it can mean specific features,” he says. “For example, a quaint covered porch, unique windows or copper roofing accents are appealing to many buyers.”
Blakely says formal living spaces are definitely less appealing to today’s buyers who instead appreciate a more open floor plan with a combined kitchen, breakfast area and great room for entertaining.
“The larger the rooms, the better, and that goes for bedrooms, too,” Blakely says. “Light-filled spaces are a must, and buyers are leaning toward the white kitchens once again. [They also prefer] shades of gray in everything from cabinet color to granite with white/gray hues.”
For baby boomers, Blakely says, main-level master bedrooms are still extremely popular and she’s seeing an increase in demand for a second, main-level bedroom suite for those caring for aging parents.
“Several bedrooms and baths—not necessarily suites—are important for those with older children, guest spaces, and even ‘grandchildren spaces’ are becoming very popular with buyers,” she says.
Screened porches are always popular, as are sunrooms with windows that can be opened to screens, says Blakely. Also on the rise as a solution to integrating indoor and outdoor spaces are large-scale door panels that fold up like garage doors. Once in a price range out of reach for many, they’re now available at more affordable prices and offer homeowners a better connection with their outdoor space without blocking daylight or views like some porches.
“Buyers love the idea of having a home serve as a ‘staycation’— a place to relax and enjoy their friends and family,” says Blakely, noting that “outdoor patios with kitchens are really hot right now, too.”
For sellers who plan to list their properties in Central Virginia this year, Flint and Blakely offered a number of suggestions.
“It’s always a good idea to have the windows washed,” Flint says. “Another tip is to pay particular attention to the entrance since this sets the stage for potential buyers. Paint the threshold and the door. Add flowers at the entrance. These are small, inexpensive touches that create an environment that makes prospective buyers feel welcome and want to stay awhile.”
Blakely, who also offers home staging services, adds, “It is very important … to ‘cross the street’ and look at your home from the eyes of a buyer driving up to it. Shrubs should be trimmed, the grass mowed, front porch cleared of toys—everything your eye would capture to see your home before you ever enter the front door. Anything that the buyer sees as work will be cause for the buyer to offer much less.”
Flint says he also tries to impress upon sellers the importance of presenting the house to be as appealing as possible to as many people as possible.
“Clean, clean and cleaner! Seriously, it needs to be clean and smell good,” he says. “I also stress to sellers that they should eliminate dark spaces. The home should be as light-filled as possible.”
Blakely agrees. “Cleanliness and the smell of a clean home are key. You need to have pristine kitchens and bathrooms,” she says, adding that sellers should also declutter spaces, removing unnecessary furniture and accessories.