“Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote, the droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote…”
If Chaucer were writing “Canterbury Tales” today, his pilgrims would not be on a quest to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket in Canterbury, but rather on a quest for a new home. Spring is definitely here, and with it, the “flowering” of increased real estate listings visited by many pilgrim homebuyers. These sellers and buyers have been dormant through the winter, but are now eager to sell or buy a home.
In addition to the change of seasons, there’s also a pent-up desire to buy or sell a home fueled by the fact that the average American used to move every 4.9 years. However, it’s now nine years since the housing bubble burst and people have been cautious during this time about moving up or even entering the market to buy a home. That situation seems to be changing, as any buyer making the weekend tour of open houses will tell you: With the supply of housing still limited, there’s a lot of competition out there for good properties. These properties are often selling within a week for prices at or above list price due to the competitive nature of this market.
Chaucer populated his work with a variety of characters from English society of 1475, each of whom got to tell a tale, with the prize for the best tale being dinner at the Tabard Inn in Southwick (London) upon their return from Canterbury. With apologies to Geoffrey Chaucer, I offer this sketch of characters making the homebuying pilgrimage. If you’re in the market to buy or sell, see if you recognize yourself:
The Millennial Single/Couple
After waiting a few years to enter the market, millennials are just now beginning to buy. Surveys have shown that they believe home ownership is a good thing, and they’re savvy about using the Internet to identify properties they like. However, they’ve been waiting to buy in order for the market to calm down a bit, meanwhile saving up for a down payment or paying down student loans. The millennial buyer is a good candidate for programs like HPAP or DC Open Doors to help with their down payment.
The New Baby Boomer Couple or Family
This buyer may or may not have already been living in their own home (usually a condo or coop), but now they’re ready to start a family and they need more space. Having already been through the homebuying process once, they are comfortable with the process. Their challenge is to find homes with amenities that will serve a young family, not the least of which is good neighborhood schools.
The Move-up Buyer
This couple or single buyer is looking to maximize their equity on their existing home by getting a good sales price for it, then using all or part of that equity as down payment on a new home with more amenities. They may be a cash buyer.
The Empty Nester
This couple or single buyer is looking to downsize from the big family home once all their children have left the nest. This buyer may often want to move back into the more urban parts of the District after raising their family in a more suburban location, whether inside the District or the neighboring suburbs. This is often a cash buyer.
The Small Investor
This buyer is looking for one or more single- or multi-family homes to purchase as rental property. They may be move-up buyers converting their previous home into a rental. They will usually put the minimum down (20 percent for investment properties) in order to leverage their cash to buy multiple properties.
This buyer is looking for homes to renovate and flip, either as single-family homes or as multiple flats within a larger house. This buyer pays attention to the zoning for candidate properties in order to maximize their profit on the project. They may or may not be paying cash.
Unlike Chaucer’s pilgrims, your prize for winning this game is a home that you will love. And since D.C. also has a Tabard Inn (at 1739 N St., N.W.), you can always take yourself out there for dinner to celebrate your purchase. Happy Hunting!
Ted Smith is a licensed Realtor with Real Living | at Home specializing in mid-city D.C. Reach him at TedSmithSellsDC@rlathome.com and follow him on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. You can also join him on monthly tours of mid-city neighborhood open houses, as well as monthly seminars geared toward first-time homebuyers. Sign up at www.meetup.com/DCMidCity1stTimeHomeBuyers/.