Don’t Wait to List: A Seller’s Guide to a Changing Residential Real Estate Market

Gone is the pandemonium of recent years. But sellers still shouldn’t wait to put their homes up for sale.

TC Brown
Melissa Fischer at her Upper Arlington home, which was for sale at press time

As winter wound down, Melissa Fischer and her fiancé, Roger Burns, were putting the final polish on their Upper Arlington home to put it on the market. Fischer, a teacher at Fast Forward Success Center in Lancaster, says a new job in Cincinnati prompted the sale.

To prepare, the couple cleaned out and cleaned up the house, essential chores. Unnecessary for them—or for most Central Ohioans selling their homes—is pouring major money into upgrades or renovations, local real estate agents say. “We redid the master bathroom in the fall, but we were doing that anyway,” Fischer says. “We’re just doing little repairs, like a doorknob. Fixing the kind of things you might otherwise live with.”

In part thanks to rising interest rates, potential sellers have become more cautious, slowing the pace of the Central Ohio real estate market. New listings were down by 9 percent from the end of 2021 to the end of 2022, according to the Columbus Board of Realtors.

But homeowners considering a sale might want to rethink a cautious approach. Sellers still maintain an upper hand, especially with a low inventory of available housing. Thus, local agents are still urging clients to jump into the market as early in the year as possible.

“It’s not as crazy as 2022, but it will be a seller’s market with more demand than supply,” says real estate agent Bob Sorrell, owner of Sorrell & Co. “We tell people to put it on the market and beat the onslaught of springtime.”

And sellers are still likely to get multiple offers, just not as many—or as much over asking price—as they did a year or more ago. Plus, because of the market’s health, they shouldn’t need to spend thousands of dollars for upgrades.

Al Waddell of Re/Max Partners says potential sellers should get a professional analysis of their property’s value to avoid overpricing and then take a page from house flippers. “Flippers hire professional stagers because they know what buyers react to,” Waddell says. “If buyers see grandma’s furniture and the home’s original kitchen or every family photo you’ve ever collected or anything dirty, it’s a huge turnoff.”

Waddell gives clients a 15-point home-selling checklist that focuses on cleaning, organizing and small repairs. “In high-demand areas, people just need to declutter and depersonalize and get the place sparkling clean,” he says.

Shawn Parker, the broker and owner of Parker Realty Associates, says potential sellers must fix anything that is problematic, especially for younger buyers. “Gen X and millennials are about life experiences and have little appetite to buy a toolkit to fix things,” Parker says.

But the bottom line if you’re a seller? Don’t wait.

“We still see everything selling that is listed. It’s just not the pandemonium we’ve seen in the last three years,” Parker says.

This story is from the April 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.