Allow a REALTOR® to expand the search area to find best home to meet your needs

by Todd Lewys

If you take a cursory glance at the local real estate market, you might think it was 2009.

That’s because bidding wars have erupted in traditionally popular areas such as River Heights, Crescentwood, St. Vital, as well as several other areas of the city.

WinnipegREALTORS® president Blair Sonnichsen said there’s a reason for the high level of activity in these traditionally popular areas of Winnipeg.

“There’s been a limited supply of homes for buyers to choose from,” Sonnichsen explained. “When demand is high and supply is low, buyers end up paying according to supply (i.e., home inventory).

“In other words,” the association president added, “prices are subject to an area’s value at a given time of year, and people have been paying higher prices to make sure they obtain a home in the area they want to live in.”

Sonnichsen said that while the  Winnipeg housing market has been hotter than it’s been in the past year or two, that doesn’t mean that is has reverted to being a sellers’ market.

“It’s still a balanced market. If you look at the numbers, approximately 23 per cent of homes are selling over asking price, and much of that can be attributed to new homes with improvements, such as finished basements, that have increased selling prices,” said Sonnichsen.

“The reality is that there are still excellent opportunities to find a home for a reasonable price in a good area if a buyer is willing to look further out and do a bit more driving.”

Jennifer Berthelette, chair of the WinnipegREALTORS® sales division, concurred.

“The first thing I do with a buyer is sit down and have a meeting to deal with their buying criteria,” said Berthelette. “We’ll make a list of their buying priorities: what’s a must-have, what they’d like to have, and what’s not very important.

“For example, maybe a must-have would be a triple-car garage, but realistically, they’d be happy with a double garage, or even a single-car garage if a home fit their overall criteria.”

From there, Berthelette then takes action to open buyers’ minds to areas of the WinnipegREALTORS® market area they may not have considered previously.

“I’ll actually take them out to areas that they may have seen as too far out or unflattering to live in,” she explained.

“We’ll walk around and look at the neighbourhood and its amenities. In many cases, they didn’t realize an area had so much to offer.

It’s paramount for buyers to have an open mind.

“It’s not about settling, but about expanding your criteria to see some of the great opportunities that are available.”

Sonnichsen said that’s where Realtors come to the fore — helping buyers see possibilities where they may not have before.

“A Realtor will help you to broaden your search. When a Realtor says, ‘Let’s try looking at this home in this area,’ then you should take a look.

“By re-ordering your priorities — lifestyle, payment and location — you can avoid missing out on some great options. Location doesn’t come without a price.”

Berthelette agreed with Sonnichsen’s assessment of today’s housing market conditions.

“You might have to pay a bit more in gas by buying a home in an area that’s not as convenient, but you won’t be paying an extra $50,000 for the cachet of living in a trendy, established area,” said Berthlette.

“There’s lots of great, established areas in the north and northwest (areas) of the city, good places where you can get great bang for your buck and start building equity.”

She said that buyers also need to have an open mind about the type of home they want to live in.

“Instead of a two-storey home in an established neighbourhood, look at buying a duplex, townhome, condo or home with unfinished basement in an area that’s a bit further out.

“There are options out there,” added Berthelette. “People just have to change their thinking.”

In other words, trust your Realtor when they suggest broadening your home search area. It will pay off in the long run.

Sonnichsen said a Realtor always has their client’s best interests in mind.