- Associated Press - Monday, July 6, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - First-time homebuyers are hoping a personal touch can help them nab a house in a tight market.

Homes under $200,000 are selling quickly — sometimes within hours, in bidding wars and over asking price, area real estate agents say. They credit that to low inventory and good interest rates.

In an effort to stand out, some buyers are writing letters, explaining why they deserve a particular home and how they would care for it, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1FRclYC ) reported.

Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, says Colleen Hines, an agent with Ameri/Star.

“They are doing all sorts of things to be creative,” Hines says.

Homes that are priced right and are in good condition go fast, she says, often getting an offer in the first few days on the market.

The demand for homes lies in all price ranges, but is particularly high in homes under $200,000, which are typically where first-time buyers are going.

New listings are down about 11 percent for May, the most recent month available in the Realtor Association market report. The report also showed that the median sale price rose 4.4 percent year over year, from $171,875 to $179,450.

Homes are sitting on the market — from listing to closing — for just shy of three months right now, the report said, and sellers are averaging 98 percent of asking price.

The strong seller’s market is a national trend, says Dawn Aspaas, the president-elect for the Realtor Association of the Sioux Empire Inc.

“Interest rates are fabulous,” Aspaas said. “I don’t know the exact reason other than buyers are deciding with interest rates, it’s time to move.”

In Sioux Falls, Aspaas recently took a buyer to see a newly listed home, but it had sold by the time they arrived.

Melissa Eberhard knows the struggles first hand. She recently bought a home near McKennan Park after looking at five other homes.

“It was insane. There were at least three or four other people waiting to go through the house,” she said.

What Eberhard learned is that homebuyers need to know what they want. After touring the house, Eberhard and the real estate agents went straight to the office to write an offer - it was the fourth one the homeowners received.

The sellers took an extra night to decide what offer to go with, leaving Eberhard on edge.

“The real estate agents said it’s important to think about how this house (fits) you and what you think it’s worth,” she said. “Don’t look at what it’s listed but what I would pay for it.”

Because of the high demand, sellers are getting at least asking price, and sometimes more, particularly when there are multiple offers. Hines says buyers need to move fast.

“They just can’t sit around anymore,” Hines says. “They have to jump right in and make their offer. It’s hard for them.”

Aspaas advises buyers to be diligent on what they need and to be prepared. They should get their finances pre-approved, have their paperwork done and know how much they want to spend.

“There is no time in this market to wait,” Aspaas said. “Buyers need to sit down with their real estate agent and let the Realtor work with them and find exactly what they are looking for.”


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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