Local brokers say many Ballantyne buyers are looking for a master suite with a luxury-spa feel. Photo courtesy of Joan Goode

Coveted Inventory

Top local brokers share tips on buying and selling homes in a tight market

By Nan Bauroth

Now that many Ballantyne homes are roughly 20 years old, the area has matured to become more attractive than ever. Ballantyne continues to lure more home buyers than sellers, and in a tight Mecklenburg County real estate market, Ballantyne could be the epitome of this competitive landscape.

Pools, golf courses and other neighborhood amenities are big draws for buyers. Photo courtesy of Katy Bradfield

Inventory is so tight that to get the house of his dreams one buyer in Ballantyne offered to purchase the property as is, waive the appraisal, pay the sellers a substantial amount over the best offer — plus give them a free week at his ski condo in Vail, Colorado.

According to Jo Butterworth, the real estate broker for Helen Adams Realty who handled the deal, the over-the-top offer was too good to resist.

“The Ballantyne market has been and will continue to be insulated from any negativity in the market because Ballantyne is a destination neighborhood,” Butterworth says. “People aspire to be here.” David Huss, a broker with Allen Tate who has been selling houses since the creation of the community, agrees. “It’s the quality of life,” he maintains, citing the original live, work, play concept. “There’s so much to do here now that many people never (leave the area).”

Joan Goode agrees the scale of amenities is a big draw. “We have a lot of restaurants and retail, along with great schools and campuses of CPCC (Central Piedmont Community College) and Wingate,” notes the broker with Dickens Mitchener. “Ballantyne also offers accessibility. You can get anywhere from here easily — the airport, uptown, the beach or mountains.”

Photo courtesy of Katy Bradfield

According to Katy Bradfield, a broker at HM Properties, “Buyers today in Ballantyne take a holistic approach. They aren’t merely buying a house, but a community and a lifestyle. The other reason they buy is that Ballantyne is a great value,” she says. “You can often find more house for your investment here than closer in town.” As Huss also points out, savvy buyers know Ballantyne resale values are high because of good schools.

Christine Hotham, a broker with Helen Adams who focuses on Ballantyne Country Club, says with so few homes on the market some buyers are willing to wait. “If they have flexibility to do temporary housing, they may choose to wait to buy until the new spring inventory of homes arrives,” she says.

But Hotham sees the selling season starting earlier for more expensive homes. “I am a believer that higher-price homes should be listed earlier because there are buyers getting year-end bonuses who need to move a family, so sellers don’t need to wait until spring. Data show higher-end homes are going under contract closer to the start of the year,” she says, noting that in 2018 her highest-dollar homes that sold closest to the original listing price went under contract in February, March and April. These homes also sold in the fewest number of days and had multiple offers.

Wow Kitchens, Outdoor Spaces

All five brokers say the top two selling features in Ballantyne today are a fabulous kitchen and a spectacular outdoor space done in transitional style. In the kitchen that means using a color palette of white and/or bright colors and having high-end appliances like Wolf and Thermador, top-end cabinetry, and quartzite, marble or light-colored countertops.

“Buyers today don’t want to deal with your lack of updates,” Huss stresses. “They want to move in fast and keep right on living their lives.”

In Butterworth’s experience, buyers are fixated on outdoor living areas. “They don’t want just a patio or deck, but a covered porch with an outside kitchen and beautiful landscaping that can become an extension of their indoor living space,” she explains.

Quick-selling homes tend to have a transitional style, bright color palettes and high-end appliances. Photo courtesy of Joan Goode

Resort Touches

Hotham says buyers are also seeking a resort feel. “They love pools, hot tubs, lighting and a fireplace.” A master suite with a luxury-spa feeling to serve as a retreat from life’s craziness is another request.

Bradfield says neighborhood amenities also rank high with buyers. “That includes country clubs, pools, tennis and basketball courts, fitness facilities and our YMCAs. Ballantyne also offers the unique selling point of nine first-rate golf courses within 5 to 10 miles.”

Goode finds another major buyer demand these days is a new HVAC system and a new roof. “Buyers are more concerned about these issues because they know the replacement costs,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Jo Butterworth
“Buyers are fixated on outdoor living areas,” says Jo Butterworth. Photo courtesy of Christine Hotham

Given the tight inventory in Ballantyne, an innovative technique such as the free ski week can make a deal happen. Ditto for one buyer willing to rent the sellers’ home back to them until they moved to California two months later. “The buyer got the perfect house and the sellers were able to stay until end of the school year — a win, win.”

Huss has recently had success with virtual walk-throughs, powered by relatively new technology in which a photographer with a special camera, such as a Matterport, does a 3D video tour of a home. The prospective buyer uses a computer or tablet to access the virtual tour, which goes room to room and includes a top-down view of the home as if the roof were removed. “We use this in cases where the layout or flow of a floorplan might be hard to capture through photography,” Huss says.

Looking to the future, all five brokers insist Ballantyne will remain an attractive market because it has a certain cachet. “Ballantyne has got that name, its own brand,” Huss observes.

Make a Good First Impression without Breaking the Bank

Top Ballantyne real estate brokers insist curb appeal is critical. “The exterior of your home must present just as show-ready as the interior,” says Jo Butterworth, a broker with Helen Adams Realty.

Christine Hotham, also of Helen Adams, concurs. “I have had buyers pull up to an exterior that looks unkempt and insist they don’t even want to walk inside, so the exterior is of paramount importance because it is the beginning of the blind date for that house.”

If you are thinking of listing your home, these ideas may help improve its appearance from the street without having to spend a fortune.

Pruning Green Monsters

“Builders put in landscaping, but over time it grows, and some homeowners don’t do a good job of managing that, so the front of the house looks like a jungle,” says Allen Tate broker David Huss. He suggests hiring a good landscaper to cut back overgrowth and remove shrubs that are old or stick out like sore thumbs.

Mulch and Pressure Washing

Fresh mulch in all the planting beds is a must, as is pressure washing the driveway and front stoop to eliminate mildew, says Dickens Mitchener broker Joan Goode. “You never go to a car dealer and look at the dirty cars,” she says in comparison.

“Front Door” Smile

In addition to fresh trim paint and sparkly clean windows, Hotham suggests sellers put in a fashionable new front door with updated hardware. Sellers can also add attractive planters filled with fresh foliage and colorful flowers, a door wreath, front-porch chairs and clean, fresh outdoor lighting/lanterns.

Welcoming Outdoor Area

With so many buyers today wanting to entertain outdoors, Butterworth encourages sellers to create a welcoming area in the backyard as a way of extending the home to the outside, such as staging trendy patio furniture with a fire pit.

Splashes of Serenity

Huss has helped several sellers with a home near a busy street add a water feature in the backyard. “Or, if they have a private courtyard, a running fountain creates a sense of peace about the space,” he says.