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Second homes, or at least the idea of owning one, seem to have become more popular this year as the coronavirus remains a concern. Here are some tips to help you work with first-time, second-home buyers and sellers.

Consider Location
In Portland, Me., Chris Lynch, founder and owner of Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, advises sellers to not let their hearts think for their heads in pricing their home. Buyers, he adds, need to watch the market carefully and be ready to pounce if a property comes on the market in a neighborhood they like.

Lynch says his state has become “the hottest cold place in the United States,” as owners of second homes look to upgrade and make Maine their permanent base, and seasonal renters try to become owners. In previous years, he says, most prospects have come from larger cities along the Eastern Seaboard, but now, “everyone is fleeing to Maine.”

“They’re coming from places where kids are not going back to school in person,” he explains. “Maine has a good public-school system, typically well-funded and not overcrowded, so they’ve decided to enroll their kids here.”

Maine’s geographical isolation, and the consequent low incidence of COVID infection, has made the state even more attractive to outsiders, especially those who can work at home full-time, Lynch notes. But, he adds, this influx of buyers has caused a shift in demand: to larger properties, or those that can be expanded.

Consider the Market Conditions
Home prices have risen dramatically, Lynch says. The Maine Association of REALTORS®’ monthly report says the median home sale price is up 17.4 percent, year-over-year, and the increase in mean price is even higher. This is partly because Maine has historically lacked a high inventory of larger properties, he adds.

“In today’s market, it’s more important than ever for agents to educate their buyers and sellers. Buyers need strong agent representation to aggressively find the one or two properties that might be available in the neighborhood they want to live in. Sellers need to price their property to attract a broad pool of buyers. Properties that come on the market at prices that don’t reflect current values will still sit on the market, despite low inventory.”

Mikki Moore, vice president of sales for Chicago-based d’aprile properties, notes that buyer demand remains exceptionally high in the latter part of 2020, with showings up 49.6 percent over the same portion of 2019. With multiple offers now the norm, she says, developing a coherent strategy is important whether you’re representing buyer or seller.

“Our buyer agents do all the work on the front end,” she reports. “When looking for that extra space, we help our clients define what that space is and the inventory available—as well as staying open to the idea of building. To find flex space in a house, families have gotten imaginative with their open floor plans and lower-level walk-outs to create homework/teaching rooms instead of playrooms or bunk rooms.

“Our agents use visual designs from Pinterest to help clients understand the possibilities for the space. Then they pair the client up with carpenters or builders who can discuss those goals well before the showing. That way, they can show up with an offer and comprehensive plans to execute post-closing. d’aprile has a network of 400 agents in four states, with 14 offices, so we have a great many connections.”

Set Proper Expectations
A seller’s rep should encourage the client to create clarity about the value and benefits of the space, using decor, staging and color, Moore advises. The space should look “whiter, brighter, bigger, better.”

“Make sure the professional photography maximizes the value of the space,” she urges. “Include the 3D floor plans in your listing. Our agents are very deliberate about the preparation of the properties prior to listing.”

Setting proper expectations, and managing them, are vital whether you’re representing buyer, seller or both, Moore says.

Real Estate Express is the nation’s premier online real estate school, providing pre- and post-licensing courses, continuing education courses, and professional development to hundreds of thousands of real estate agents across the country. RealEstateExpress along with its sister schools McKissock Learning, Superior School of Real Estate, Allied Schools, The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing and Hondros Education Group, helps real estate professionals achieve sustainable success throughout each stage of their real estate career.