Buyers’/Sellers’ Most Asked Questions Answered!

By Jennifer Ritzman

The real estate market is hot these days. An increasing shortage of available homes, compounded by historically low mortgage rates, has created a truly unique market. Sellers are getting top dollar for their homes, yet this is offset by historically low interest rates for buyers. I am going to touch briefly on the most common questions I receive from both sellers and buyers as how to best navigate this unusual market.

For sellers, the number one question is “Which updates will yield a return for my money?” Here are some general guidelines, in order of least expensive to more costly:

• Inexpensive or free: deep cleaning; painting over bright colored or dingy walls with “greige” (or some variation of gray or beige); painting kitchen cupboards and/or replacing the hardware in the kitchen, bathrooms, doorknobs, etc. Updating very visible dated light fixtures doesn’t have to break the bank, yet can have a huge positive impact. Repair or replace any missing, worn, broken or non-working small items in the home that the buyers would see during a showing.

• Repair (wood floors) or replace (carpet or vinyl) flooring that really needs it.

• If your kitchen is really dated and you can afford to do it, replace the appliances (stainless steel is still popular, but we’re increasingly seeing black stainless) and the countertops with a stone surface (granite and quartz are still the most popular). The return is often 100%+ for these two items; the rest gets more expensive and it varies.

• Use a professional Realtor who will use other professionals (photographer, staging, etc.). Statistics show that the sale will result in a higher net for the seller when professional services are utilized.

Buyers’ number one question is “How do I strengthen my offer?” When competing in multiple offer situations, strategy is very important. Here are the most desirable features of an offer for most sellers:

• Cash or a conventional mortgage. The appraisals for government backed programs such as FHA and DVA (VA) loans can be more stringent, and require that the sellers perform repairs.

• Do not ask the seller to pay the buyer’s closing costs. Buyers often add these costs on to the price of the offer, but then it can run into appraisal issues.

• Flexible closing date.

• Non-contingent upon the sale of another property – not always something that can be helped, but it really weakens the offer in a multiple offer situation.

While there are many other important aspects to buying and selling a home in this unique 2020 market, I find these to be the top questions on sellers’ and buyers’ minds today. It’s not a science, but armed with information, selling or buying a home can be a pleasant experience, even with today’s challenges.

Jennifer Ritzman, REALTOR, BRI with RE/MAX Advantage Plus MN Real Estate Team can be reached at 507-298-1388 or

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