The Death of the Midtown Middle Market

By on 29 January, 2015 in Historic Midtown, Real Estate, Sandra Nickel with 0 Comments

I don’t usually write “hard” real estate information for this publication, but today I’m making an exception. It’s worth making a rare detour because it’s really important for Midtown property owners to understand that there is no longer a “middle market.”

There was a time (like when my husband and I were first time homebuyers) that lookers looked at houses knowing they would not get perfection. We expected to have to fluff and puff our first home to make it really wonderful. Heck, many of us even had to clean—and I mean deep clean—before the fluffing and puffing (decorating and accessorizing) could begin!

Photo: Images Money

Photo: Images Money

Those days are no more. A weekly report of Midtown real estate transactions brought that to the forefront of my mind today. The statistics showed that “greasy little houses” (usually distress sales and foreclosures) in the $50,000 and under category were flying off the real estate shelves. That price range was the only one in Midtown clearly identified as a seller’s market.

A co-worker pointed out to me that “cream puff” houses fly off the shelves as well — often within days of hitting the market. And frequently for full price — or more than the seller was asking (if more than one buyer made an offer).

But woe be it unto all the other houses in all the other price ranges. Houses that were “OK” were going begging.

Here’s the deal: Investors grab up cheap little houses, regardless of condition, because they know they can fix and flip them to “cream puff house” buyers at a tidy profit. Or they can keep their purchases and rent them profitably as well. All this because the cheapie little houses are selling for 25 or 50 cents on the dollar!

Owner occupant buyers want no part of anything that needs more than dusting! They’ve been trained by HGTV and all the other real estate shows to expect the best: granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, gleaming and blemish-free hardwood floors, and light-filled open floorplans. Anything less — regardless of the price range — goes on the “scrap heap” and may take a year or more to sell. And only after one or more serious price reductions.

So my message to you as a prospective seller is this: You know all the upgrades you think you’ll have to move to get? Go on and make them in your current home. Make them and enjoy them for awhile. Because you’re going to have to do it for the next buyer anyway, you might just as darned well do it for yourself today!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 30 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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