By Amy Daniels
“A successful real estate closing is like putting together a little tapestry,” broker and realtor Deborah Randolph explains. “You’ve got all these dangling threads—the buyer, the seller, the bank, the appraiser, the inspector, and even parents or grandparents that come in to give their seal of approval.”
A native of Nova Scotia, Randolph moved to Greenville in 1981, where she professes that it took some time to come to terms with the heat and humidity. “I moved to Greenville on July 17, 1981, which turned out to be the hottest day of my life up to that point. Growing up in Nova Scotia, there was little need for air conditioning.”
Randolph taught elementary school for six years and found Greenville to be a wonderful place to work and raise a family.
“My husband has built homes and developed land in Pitt County since 1977, so we have both witnessed many changes over the past 30-40 years. Greenville has more than tripled in size since that time. I get excited every time I drive through Uptown Greenville,” Randolph reflects.
Randolph has 32 years of real estate experience, working with buyers, sellers, and new construction.
“My goal is always that the buyer and the seller come to the closing table and both feel like they have been treated ethically and fairly,” vows Randolph. “That doesn’t mean they always get exactly what they want, but I don’t want people walking away from a transaction feeling that they have been poorly used or poorly represented. There is a lot of anxiety and a lot of emotion. Sometimes people are moving out of the house where they have raised their kids, and there’s fear about leaving that house going to a new one.”
ADVICE FOR HOME BUYERS
“The buying process is not complicated, there’s just a lot of steps,” counsels Randolph. “Most of the complication is on the lender side because it requires so much documentation. So, talk to a lender first. Then, based on what the lender says, proceed and find a good real estate agent. [In North Carolina] it does not cost a buyer anything to work with a real estate agent,” Randolph continues, “the seller pays the commission, so usually the only expenses to the buyer are their inspections and fees related to their loan closing.”
Whether working with bank with which you have a banking history or taking out a mortgage at a new bank, it is critical to have financial documents accessible and ready to share with your mortgage lender. Mortgage lenders typically want to see:
• Tax returns for at least two years
• Pay stubs, W-2 forms, or other proof of income
• Bank Statements
• Investment Assets
• Credit History
Obtaining a preapproval letter from a qualified lender can simplify the buying process, especially in a seller’s market.
“With the market being fast and interest rates being down, I tell buyers to make sure you have your pre-approval letter from the bank. Make sure everything is in place so that when you make an offer, you can make a good offer. There’s a possibility you may be in a multiple offer situation,” says Randolph.
In situations involving multiple offers, it is not uncommon for sellers to go with the party who has the cleanest offer.
Once you have established how much how much you can afford to invest in a home, the next step is to find a real estate agent who can help you navigate the local market. Ask friends and colleagues for referrals, suggests Randolph.
“It’s like dating,” Randolph says. “Sometimes it’s just personality. Some people you click with and others you just don’t and that’s okay. Ask questions about things that are important to you, like financing, or neighborhoods, or what the process looks like. Just get to know that person.”
Ask questions to find out how well they know the area, do they work with buyers and sellers, do they work with new construction, and how long they have been in real estate.
“If they don’t know those things or they don’t have a sense of confidence about what they’re selling, it would give me pause. It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be a good agent. It just means that they may have not been around as long,” explains Randolph.
The real fun begins when you start looking at houses. Maintain an open dialogue with your real estate agent about your likes and dislikes, must-haves and negotiable features. When viewing a house, don’t focus too much on cosmetics.
“When you look at a house with an agent, study that house, look at the components of the house, ask questions about the house. Don’t just walk through and say, ‘Oh, that’s a nice color,’ Because color can change. Look at the roof, the windows, the landscaping, the foundation. Those big components of the house, those are the big-ticket items. Cosmetic stuff can be changed.”
ADVICE FOR SELLERS
With buyers eager and ready to purchase homes, it is not uncommon for listings to go under contract after a very short time on the market—a week or less. To take advantage of this rapid buying, Randolph suggests sellers consider how their home looks to a potential buyer.
“Right now, in this market, things that are updated and pretty are selling very, very quickly. If you have something from the 80’s and 90’s, and it still has dark cabinets in the kitchen, popcorn ceilings, all that shiny brass, or site-built bathroom cabinets that are low, and it just looks worn, those things need to be fixed,” Randolph says.
Making repairs and updating certain aspects of a home can ultimately save a seller money. While there are upfront costs associated with upgrading before listing, sellers are more likely to get offers at their asking price when the house if “move in ready.” A fresh coat of paint, replacing worn carpet with an attractive but affordable option, and new bathroom fixtures can be the difference in a house going under contract quickly, or it sitting on the market, receiving low-ball offers, or offers with a lot of conditions.
“It’s either going to cost the sellers on the front end to fix it, or they’re going to get less for their house. It probably will be less to fix it or updated than what they’re going to get dinged on the sale. New carpet might be $3,000, but to the buyer looking at it, they’re thinking $6000 just to have to deal with it. If it is updated and clean and ready to go it’s going to sell quickly.”
Greater Greenville Real Estate Trends
“The two engines that drive Greenville are the hospital and the school system,” says Randolph. “Pitt Community College is the sixth largest community college in the state, East Carolina University, the public school systems, private schools, charter schools and homeschooling—that’s a lot of quality education. Less than 1% of cities in the United States have a medical campus comparable to ours. If you look across the board on Greenville, and look at the demographics, overall, our population is better educated, percentage wise, than other cities of equal size because of Vidant and the University. The median age is 33. They’re having kids, buying houses, they’re involved in softball and involved in the school. The next spike in age is actually 66. People are moving here because this is where their grandchildren are. They have retired, they have income, they can go wherever they want to and they want to be near their children and grandchildren.”
Many transplants to the area enjoy the slower pace of life than that of a big, bustling city, and Randolph often hears clients mention the friendliness of the people of Greenville.
“A lot of people who are looking to come to Greenville for a job are looking at other places, too. They don’t have to come here, but they do because they fall in the love with the people,” Randolph explains. “The thing that that I’ve heard more than anything else over the years when I asked what people liked about Greenville, number one was always ‘the people’.” It’s the people that have made them feel comfortable”
Growth in locally owned restaurants, breweries, entertainment venues, and other small businesses allows newcomers a taste of Greenville’s unique culture. In the past, Randolph says, potential residents would be turned off by the small-town vibe. “There’s just not a lot of places to shop,” was a common criticism. With a rise in on-line shopping and direct sales, there is less of a push for large chain stores and more emphasis on small boutiques and places unique to Greenville.
HOT REAL ESTATE TIP
“If there were a neighborhood that that I think is a sleeper and it’s going to really become something special, I would say West Fifth to West Third, around the Third Street School. It’s on the edge of that little grid; it’s called Skinnerville if you look at an older map. It’s pretty. There are some beautiful old Craftsman and Prairie style homes. They just need to be fixed up. You can literally walk downtown for dinner. In 10 years, I think that’s going to be quite a neighborhood.”
Deborah is a Broker/Realtor with Pirate Homes and Realty, Inc. Pirate Homes & Realty is located at 700-B Cromwell Drive in Greenville. To contact Deborah, call 252.917.4556 or email Deborah@DeborahRandolph.com. Deborah’s current listings can be viewed online at DeborahRandolph.com.