Making Sense of the Hot Huntsville Housing Market!

The Huntsville housing market is positively electric and has been for over two years now with no signs of letting up. We decided it was high time to ask the real estate experts at Van Valkenburgh & Wilkinson Properties, Inc., a few questions for buyers and for sellers in order to help make sense of this hot housing market! So if you are looking to buy or sell a home in North Alabama, this expert advice will definitely come in handy.


TSG: For a home buyer, what are the most important things they can do to make their offer competitive in this market?

Elizabeth Foster: Try and make it uncomplicated and stress-free for the seller who will most likely get multiple offers.

Sarah Lauren V. Kattos: Right now, a buyer has to be willing to see a property immediately and remove any obstacles prior to making an offer. Financing or proof of funds is imperative prior to even looking at property. After that, be prepared to do a home inspection (with the seller’s permission) prior to offering or understand that another buyer may waive an inspection entirely. If buyers obtaining financing have a healthy downpayment and are willing to use their funds to pay any deficit between the sale price and appraisal, they can also make that willingness known in their offer. A good REALTOR® can help a buyer to navigate the best and most competitive offer on all these and many other fronts.

Audra Lockwood: Bring your A-game! Be prepared because the early bird gets the worm. It can be hard to over-analyze such a big investment but if a buyer waits around too long, the opportunity will be lost. Work with a trusted agent who knows the market and can analyze the data to let you know the trending price and help set your offer apart from the rest.

Katie Martz: Have your agent ask the listing agent, what is important to the seller in an offer to purchase their home? This takes some of the guesswork out of determining what terms might be most competitive. Is it that the seller needs a flexible occupancy date or maybe they feel strongly about earnest money being at least 1% of the purchase price.

TSG: For a seller what are some of the most important things they can do to make their house sell in this market?

Elizabeth Foster: Declutter, neutralize paint colors, play up the home’s best assets.

Sarah Lauren V. Kattos: Some sellers are being told that they do not have to do any preparation for their home to be put on the market, but I disagree. The better the condition, the higher price a home may garner. Also, homes in tip-top shape tend to appraise well and have buyers more comfortable asking for inspections for their informational purposes only. If a home has “ifs” that scare a buyer, they may opt to wait rather than get in a bidding war over something with a lot of work to do after the sale. Even homes that have not had extensive remodeling can be cleaned and fluffed to look their best. We are trained to help sellers choose the best improvements to maximize their dollars.

Julie V. Lockwood: A clean and organized home will be the first to sell. Clean out and give away so closets are neat and orderly. Neutralize your wall color so that it will appeal to a broader group of buyers.

Katie Martz: Price it right! Strategic pricing will ensure your home does not sit longer than it should. If your home is on the market longer than the average days on market, buyers often begin to wonder, is something wrong?

TSG: Can you explain the process of working with a realtor for listing?

Sarah Lauren V Kattos: “Listing” means much more than simply placing a home in MLS or a sign in the yard. We work with sellers to manage their expectations and needs in order to position and price the property correctly, then recommend preparations, gather data on the home that may be important to a new buyer, and discuss how we will communicate showing feedback to that seller. After the showings period, I provide strategies for my sellers on how best to respond to offers, negotiating terms that will suit their needs by securing legal agreements with complete paperwork, and coordinate with the other agent, lender, and closing attorney to oversee timelines of inspections/appraisals/repairs. Some of my greatest value is also being able to recommend service companies or individuals to my Sellers in order to help them with inspection repairs, moving, and all other aspects of the closing process. A calm, prepared closing is such a blessing in what can otherwise be a stressful life event.

Julie V. Lockwood: Usually, I will walk through the house with the homeowner to identify areas that may need to be addressed before putting it on the open market. I connect sellers with contractors (when needed) to help facilitate the process and get the best return on their investment. It’s not always easy for a family to prepare a home for sale so I give advice on the most cost-efficient projects that will net the best ROI on the sale.

Katie Martz: Prepare pertinent information for your meeting with your REALTOR®. Items such as your appraisal, maintenance receipts, taxes, average utility bill, termite bond, etc. Review the market analysis to determine pricing with your realtor. Sign your MLS paperwork and get accustomed to showing instructions. Ask questions! Prepare your home for listing photographs and get ready to list! Your agent will present all offers to you and upon selecting an offer, your agent will work with the buyer’s agent towards closing to finalize the transaction!

TSG: What is the process when working with a realtor for house hunting? What are the most important things a buyer should communicate to a realtor?

Sarah Lauren V. Kattos: I see house hunting as a collaborative sport intent on finding the right house for a buyer – like a “personal shopper” but for homes rather than clothes! Thankfully, over the last 26 years, I have learned questions to ask and how to read buyers as they look at properties to discern what they’ve told me from what they are truly looking for. Market knowledge helps me know where to find that “right” house. We discuss offer strategies and show properties, in person or virtually, and complete a full workup on details that might affect the offer. Offers are formulated and signed into contracts, after which we work with the Seller’s agent to handle all the details we can to make the transition as easy as possible for our client. As long as I live, I don’t think anything will beat the feeling of a great match made between a buyer and their dream home.

Audra Lockwood: When I start working with a buyer, I want to understand what they need in a space and where they want to be in our community. No one likes to talk about money- but that is one of the first things that needs to be flushed out. Getting a pre-approval from a local lender is one of the very first steps and one of the most important in this market.

TSG: When buying in this hot market what should come to the attention of the buyer that they may not think of at all?

Elizabeth Foster: I think making it as easy and stress-free for the seller is key. When a seller is looking at 10 offers and they are all about the same monetarily, the less complicated offer (no contingencies, quick closing, etc.) will probably be more appealing.

Lauren Holliday: Ease and flexibility for the sellers (i.e. closing date accommodating to sellers’ needs, minimal requests).

Sarah Lauren V. Kattos: Escalation clauses seemed to be all the rage from 2020 on, though they have become less innovative in recent months. Consider offering your highest and best from the start, and work to minimize the other “ifs” of your offer for the seller. Agents these days don’t want to give too many of their strategies away, but it goes without saying that, in a competitive market, having an experienced agent matters.


TSG: When selling in this market what should come to the attention of the seller that they may not think of at all?

Elizabeth Foster: Even though it is a seller’s market it is important to have your house clean, decluttered, and priced within an appropriate range.

Sarah Lauren V. Kattos: We recommend homes not inspected within 5-10 years have a pre-listing home inspection. It is much easier to deal with issues ahead of time when you are in preparation mode than when a buyer is present to provide another layer of approval during an already stressful time. Pricing at a fair price, in this market, tends to attract multiple offers but bidding wars tend to make for skittish closings. Buyers and Sellers who have been treated fairly through the process tend to make for very courteous closings.

Julie V. Lockwood: In today’s market empty homes are really hard to sell in the higher price ranges. I usually suggest staging the home to yield a higher return. Also, photos of a home are key to catching the eye of a buyer online.

TSG: In one sentence, why should a seller use a Realtor?

Elizabeth Foster: Getting an offer is just the beginning of the selling process…negotiating repairs, dealing with the appraisal, and actually getting to the closing table is the tough part!

Sarah Lauren V Kattos: We provide value, order, normalcy, market knowledge, service providers, and experience that can navigate many of the pitfalls that can come with a multifaceted process, all the while allowing clients to go about their own jobs and lives with ease.

Audra Lockwood: For most people, their home is their biggest investment- it’s best to use the advice of a professional to make sure the seller is getting the most out of the transaction.

Julie V. Lockwood: An effective REALTOR® brings knowledge and experience to the home selling process in order to obtain the best terms for a seller.

Katie Martz: A REALTOR® will ensure you maximize profits and protect your best interests!

TSG: What have been the greatest challenges or greatest rewards of working in a market like this?

Elizabeth Foster: I will say I have had some really ecstatic buyers in this market! A few years ago when it was a more balanced market I would show my clients a few houses and they would choose which one they wanted. Now, with all of this craziness, they feel like they’ve won the lottery when they get the house!

Sarah Lauren V. Kattos: The greatest challenge has been keeping nimble and on top of negotiation trends and listing tactics that change on a daily basis. The greatest reward is winning the bid on a perfect house for a client. I had one, in particular, that was exactly what they wanted, exactly what they needed, and in the exact location, they hoped to find. When we made the offer, I devised a new tactic that, along with a trusted relationship between myself and the seller’s agent, sealed the deal in negotiations. It made for a really happy message to my buyers to announce they had finally landed “the one.”

Audra Lockwood: When you work with a home buyer who has a challenging time and loses out on several offers, it can be discouraging for them. It has been an amazing experience being their cheerleader and advocate for them through the process. When they finally get the house they love, it is a big celebration!

Julie V. Lockwood: I have been licensed since I was 19 years old and I have never seen anything like today’s market. The greatest benefit is also the largest challenge—higher sales prices. The higher prices are great for sellers but are removing many first-time homebuyers from the market who can’t compete with cash buyers and investors.

Thank you so much to Elizabeth Foster ([email protected], 256-652-9063), Lauren Holliday ([email protected]), Sarah Lauren V. Kattos ([email protected], 256-348-2311), Audra Lockwood ([email protected], 478-973-0009), Julie V. Lockwood ([email protected], 256-797-4028), and Katie Martz ([email protected], 256-656-6999) for taking the time to give us sage advice and expertise in this crazy housing market! Feel free and contact them or any of the Van Valkenburgh & Wilkinson Properties, Inc., realtors when you decide to buy or sell your home.