There's a saying that Wauwatosa real estate agents have used lately: 'If you sleep on it, you may not sleep in it.'
It's a reference to the city's current hot housing market and the degree of aggressiveness required to buy a home, said Beth Jaworski with Shorewest Realtors.
'Wauwatosa has been a hot community for many years,' she said. 'And it has only grown hotter in the last three to five years.'
Jaworski attributed the increase in popularity to the introduction of large, new stores like Nordstroms, the GE Healthcare Research Park, development along North Avenue and revitalization happening in the Village of Wauwatosa.
'The walkability of Wauwatosa in general makes our town highly desirable,' said Colleen Sprague, broker and owner at Firefly Real Estate. 'The trend is for people to buy into a community that allows a short walk or bike ride to schools, shops, restaurants and Wauwatosa fits that perfectly. The walkability factor of Tosa neighborhoods is typically very high on our buyers' priority lists.'
It's a classic supply and demand scenario, said Sprague, and Wauwatosa, like many other desirable cities, is experiencing a shortage of listing inventory. Today's buyers want to take advantage of the 'incredibly' low interest rates, she said. The general feeling is the historically low interest rates won't last long.
When a house is put on the market, it usually doesn't last very long, said Jaworski, especially in popular areas like East Tosa, the Pasadena neighborhood and Olde Hillcrest.
'A well-priced house, well-marketed in a hot part of Wauwatosa will sell in two to four days,' she said. In March, she said, one home received 14 offers.
Sprague concurred: 'It is not uncommon for our sellers to have 15 to 20 (or more) showings the first day on the market,' she said. 'Multiple offers have become the norm. Strategizing is very important for sellers and for buyers in this market.'
Sprague recalled a recent listing that was bid up by 20 percent during a multiple-offer bidding war.
'This can get very emotional for buyers, it is hard to see yourself in a house when you are touring it and not know if you are going to be the lucky ones to call it home,' she said. Home prices these days are reaching or beyond what they were in 2005 and 2006 — a time considered to have been the high point for Wauwatosa, and also when home prices peaked nationwide before they started to decline in 2006 and 2007 when the housing bubble burst, she said.
'Our economy is much healthier than what it was in 2006,' Jaworski said, adding that some homes have appreciated by $20,000 over the last two years.
And yet, just because homes are selling fast doesn't mean that a seller should list their house far over what would be considered reasonable. Jaworski described a recent occurrence where a homeowner listed their house for $209,000, a price she felt was too high. More than 32 showings were done at the house in the first month, but there were no offers.
When the seller decided to back the price down to $199,000, there were two offers made within 48 hours, Jaworski said.
'It just shows that even though the market is hot, people will not pay more than they think the market value is,' she said.
Sellers should still properly prepare their homes for the market, too. Just because homes are selling fast, that doesn't mean a seller shouldn't apply a new coat of paint or refinish the hardwood floors, if needed, she said.
Spring is a good time to sell your home, Jaworski said. Many people who normally rent will look to buy a home in the spring as their leases come to an end.
'It can be a trying process, but once you and your family land in a home and neighborhood that is a great fit for you, there truly is no place like home,' Sprague said.
The agents offered the following advice:
· Consult a real estate agent that's had success in your neighborhood and ask about conditions, best timing, pricing and staging ideas
· Don't get overly optimistic and price your home reasonably
· Properly prepare your home: complete what upkeep and repairs are needed
· Find an agent that knows your market and understands your wants and needs
· Ensure you have a clear understanding of the buyer agency before you sign a contract with them
· Have the buyer agency share with you how working with a local lender may help them
· Be patient