Buying and selling a home can be complicated, stressful, and emotional. Having some inside scoop however, can help improve your experience. To get a better understanding of the current real estate market and today’s trends, GOOD Morning Wilton‘s associate editor Kristin Johnson sat down with our panel of real estate experts–Peg Koellmer from Realty SevenLisa Bender and Susan Larsen from William Raveis; Sarah Fair, Linda Sweeny, and Kara Williams from The Fair Group/William Raveis; and Eric Weitz from Coldwell Banker  Here’s what they had to say.

All agreed that it’s a buyer’s market today, and that buyer, according to Susan Larsen, is increasingly more sophisticated and savvy. Eric Weitz adds, “As technology continues to transform our industry, we get buyers who are more informed and educated about the homes they want to see and the areas they want to live in.”

Home Features that Buyers Want

That doesn’t necessarily mean that homes have to be formal or high style, but there’s significantly more focus on, and interest in, rooms that are highly functional and convenient. With busy lifestyles and two working-parent families more of the norm, what’s important to today’s buyer are rooms like mudrooms that keep everyone organized, laundry rooms that are utilitarian and easily accessible, and an office space instead of an unused living room.

Also key? A house that’s move-in ready. That means, according to The Fair Group, “Don’t put your house on the market until it’s HGTV ready,” Kara Williams elaborates. “It’s absolutely critical that buyers do not come on to the market, unless they’re ready to put their best foot forward.”

But creating that outstanding first impression doesn’t  doesn’t happen overnight. “What goes on behind actually creating a polished image online is where realtors shine,” explains Lisa Bender. “It involves coaching clients through prepping a home for sale. Purging, painting, fixing up a home and staging it so it pops in photos and online are an exhausting part of the home sale process.”

Exhausting and, truthfully, a very lengthy process. Peg Koellmer advises starting to work with a realtor “…a good six months before you want to put your house on the market.”

The goal, according to Williams, is a clean palette, “…so it’s easier for buyers to visualize what [a room] would look like with their own furniture.”.

Another option that’s helpful for both buyers and sellers is virtual staging.

“It’s a brave new world,” laughs Koellmer. “There’s a lot of virtual staging going on right now. It’s another, very effective way to help open up the buyer’s eyes to the possibilities of a room, or a home. It’s a tactic that helps remove the distraction a client might feel when walking into a living room with dated furniture or paint colors.”

What is s resonating with today’s buyers are modern paint colors, shaker cabinets in the kitchen, and navy as an accent color. Larsen describes an example she’s seen that stands out–”Some high-gloss, navy built-ins in the office which makes a fresh look and a great statement in a home.”

Showing Off with Technology

Once a seller’s home is “HGTV-ready,” there are a host of photo and video options to consider to keep up with buyers’ expectations around the use of cutting-edge technology.  

Since buyers start their search for a new house on the Internet, first impressions are critically important. Larsen asserts, “The marketing and photos of a home will directly impact whether a buyer will even walk into the house.”

Real estate agents not only use photos but videos with music, night lighting to add a different look, and Matterport which is a 3D virtual tour of a home that actually lets you, the potential buyer, walk through the home yourself.

Drones for overhead shots are very popular. “Drones are an evolutionary change in our marketing approach and are used frequently,” says Weitz. “The drama they provide and the ease by which the public can access it, has made it a very effective tool.”

Also expected by the public? A social presence. While Bender is loathe to admit it, print is dead. People are on their laptops, iPads, and phones; they’re not carrying around a newspaper. So they’re reading about trends, sales, and the sharing of ideas online. That carries over to not only marketing a home properly online but using social media to share that marketing.  

The Fair Group concurs–everyone expects to see a realtor’s presence and listings on social channels, and with that in mind, the trio maintains a consistent presence on social media that not only includes their listings, but serves to share both tips and insights into the local area.

It’s all important, as getting sellers noticed by buyers means cutting through the quantity to be recognized as quality. And taking advantage of every tool to capitalize on each trend becomes that much more important. That pressure won’t be letting up any time soon. As Koellmer ponders what’s ahead for Wilton in the near-term, she says there are always surprises in our market–like the surprising amount of new inventory coming on in the summer months. “It’s definitely unusual for this time of year, but could mean that we’re having a delayed market this year.”