Timing can be just as important as location for home sales
March 20, 2017 12:00 AM
First-time homebuyers Josh Tobolski, 26, and his fiancee, Denise Dougherty, 22, are in the process of buying this home in Ross. The sellers left a note in the house to tell potential buyers what they have enjoyed about the home and neighborhood.
The house on Hetherton Drive currently being purchased by Mr. Tobolski and Ms. Dougherty.
By Tim Grant / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
After looking at more than 15 homes for sale throughout the North Hills since the beginning of the year, there was something about the Ross home that filled Josh Tobolski and Denise Dougherty with a sense of happiness when they pulled into the driveway.
When the engaged couple walked into the house and read a note that the sellers had left for potential buyers, they cried, knowing they had found what they were looking for — a home where they could build a family and experience a close-knit community.
“Dear visitors, welcome to our home,” the note read. “We have enjoyed 29+ years in this house. Our children played in this yard, as well as Reis Run Park, which is right across the road at the Brookmeade Hill entrance way. They participated in the many fun holiday events that Brookmeade offers.
“There are many social events for adults also that we have enjoyed and have made special dear friends over the years. Brookmeade is a very welcoming neighborhood. We hope you will enjoy it. Tony & Diane.”
Mr. Tobolski, 26, and Ms. Dougherty, 22, are set to be married June 10. They expect to close on the three-bedroom home in the Brookmeade Hill subdivision on March 31 for a purchase price of $235,000.
What sealed the deal for the couple was knowing that their dream of planting roots in a nice community had been the sellers’ reality. They wrote a letter to the sellers describing who they are, how much they appreciate the way the sellers have maintained the house, and how nicely the home fits into the future they envision.
“We dream of living in one spot for many years and raising a family,” Ms. Dougherty said. “The big appeal for us is just knowing what they did is what we want to do.”
Now that winter has run its course in this area, the homebuying season, which typically starts in March, has arrived.
Data collected by RealSTATs, a South Side-based real estate information service, shows that not only does the number of home sales increase during the spring months, the average sales price for existing homes is higher in the spring as opposed to December.
For instance, in 2015, 5,147 existing homes sold in the Pittsburgh region around December. In April, that number spiked to 9,233. As for the price tag, the average sales price for existing homes around December was $149,618. But around April, the average price jumped to $177,515.
The school calendar is a big factor in the spring real estate fever. Many families prefer to be in a position to close by mid-to-late summer so they can move in before the start of a new school year. The homebuying market in the Pittsburgh region tends to slow down in the winter due to the weather, the holidays and the fact that kids are in school.
Real estate industry professionals say metropolitan areas such as Phoenix and Miami have less pronounced peaks and valleys for real estate sales due to their year-round warm weather. Also, because these cities tend to be retirement locations, fewer buyers in these areas have children, which allows them to buy and sell without being as concerned about school schedules.
Demand outpacing supply
Howard Hanna Real Estate agent Stu Kretz, who represented Mr. Tobolski and Ms. Dougherty in their home purchase, said the buyers began their search in January rather than waiting until spring because they wanted to get ahead of the curve.
“The general public believes the buying season starts in March,” Mr. Kretz said. “But those who wait until March find there are way more buyers coming on the market than inventory to sell, which drives up the price. They wanted to beat the rush and they realize [interest] rates are starting to creep up.
“They made offers on two of the 15 homes they saw and they were outbid on both of them,” he said. “In fact, someone paid the full asking price for one of the two houses.”
Adam DeSanctis, economic issues media manager for the National Association of Realtors in Washington, D.C., said home sales across the nation last year were as high as they have been in a decade, and going into the spring season, demand for housing is far outpacing the supply of homes for sale.
“The key to higher sales this spring will be if there are enough new and existing homes for sale to meet that demand,” Mr. DeSanctis said. “Home price growth will continue to be elevated until there is more supply.
“What we have right now is two or more people bidding on one house for sale and it causes prices to rise and it accelerates price growth across the board,” he said.
Mr. DeSanctis pointed out that homes are selling at a faster pace due to the lower supply of inventory. For example, in January, the median time for a home on the market was 50 days compared with 64 days in January 2016.
Avoiding a bidding war
Mr. Tobolski, a mail carrier in Millvale, and Ms. Dougherty, who works as an assistant at a financial advising firm, currently rent a one-bedroom apartment in West View for $910 a month.
They managed to save $13,000 for a down payment and closing costs. The sellers will also contribute $5,000 toward closing costs. With an interest rate of 3.625 percent on a 30-year mortgage, their monthly payments on the house will amount to $1,511.
The couple met in 2013 while working at Sam’s Club. Mr. Tobolski was a parking lot attendant. Ms. Dougherty worked as a greeter. They said it was love at first sight.
“Our lease is up the end of April,” Ms. Dougherty said. “We heard looking for a house in the winter is a down time and we would have a better chance of getting one without a bidding war. So we decided to do that rather than sign a new lease for another year.”
Their agent, Mr. Kretz, also represented the sellers in the transaction. He said prior to listing the house for sale, the sellers, Anthony and Diane Chiappetta, replaced the roof, installed a new central heating and air-conditioning system, replaced the front door and the electrical panel, threw in a new washer and dryer, and gave the buyers a $2,000 carpet allowance.
“Normally sellers don’t always write a note,” he said. “Sometimes they do. I ask my buyers to write a note regardless because what happens sometimes is they will get the house even if they are not the highest bidder. Sellers have a heart.
“You have sellers in their 60s who don’t want to sell their home to a flipper or somebody who plans to rent it out. Writing letters can work. Not every time, but sometimes.”
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