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Topeka Realtors discuss real estate market, schools, interest rates – The Topeka Capital-Journal

Schools tend to be among the first things people ask about when they’re looking to buy a house in Shawnee County, say highly regarded local Realtors Cole Cook and Del-Metrius Herron.

School district arguably plays a bigger role than anything else in relation to demand for a property, Cook said.

“Families with kids want to know they are setting up their kids for success,” he said.

Properties in most demand tend to be located near good schools, according to Cook.

“In real estate, location is king,” he said. “You can always improve a house, but you can’t move it to a new area.”

Herron agreed that schools are “a big deal” for families, though she said not every potential homebuyer is necessarily looking for the most affluent district.

A sign invites potential homebuyers into a house in Shawnee County being marketed for sale in May 2020. Schools tend to be among the first things people ask about when they're looking to buy a house here, local Realtors say. [May 2020 file photo/The Capital-Journal]

Some want a school that’s diverse, while parents with special needs children tend to look for whichever school can best meet their child’s needs, she said.

The Capital-Journal posed questions about real estate last week to Cook and Herron, two of the real estate agents elected as finalists last year in the newspaper’s annual “Best of Topeka” contest, in which Cook finished first. The other Realtor from the top three didn’t return phone calls and text messages left by the paper.

Herron is with Keller Williams Realty One Legacy Partners, LLC. She started selling real estate here in October 2018 after finishing a deployment with the Army National Guard.

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Del-Metrius Herron was among finalists for "Best Realtor" in The Capital-Journal's 2021 Best of Topeka Contest

This is his seventh year selling real estate in the Topeka area for Cook, who is with Berkshire Hathaway. His mother was a landscaper while his father was a contractor who worked for a real estate investor.

“During high school and college I worked on rentals and did landscaping on the side, which naturally led to me learning quite a bit about houses,” he said.

Cole Cook finished first as "Best Realtor" in the Capital-Journal's 2021 "Best of Topeka" contest.

How has this month’s interest rate hike affected the market for homes here?

The Federal Reserve sought to curtail a historic spike in inflation earlier this month by raising its key short-term interest rate by a half percentage point, which marked its largest increase since 2000.

But Herron said this is still a great time to sell their homes for owners who are looking to do that.

The real estate market in Shawnee County is currently “very competitive,” with residential real estate prices being higher than ever before, she said.

“If you are a first-time homebuyer who’s kind of getting into the game, it might take you a little bit longer, but it’s still possible to buy a home,” Herron said.

The Topeka home market as a whole remains “an extreme seller’s market,” Cole said.

“Even with the increase in interest rates, houses on land and building lots remain in high demand,” he said. “Overall, if you have plans to sell in our area this year, I believe that you will be happy with the end result.”

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Cole said he regularly saw homes that were on the market receive more than five offers at the beginning of last year, and again early this past spring.

While such situations are no longer as common, Cole said he’s still seeing an average of two to five offers on most properties.

Cole said it was important to note that the market varies not only by school district but also by neighborhood and subdivision.

“We have several unique neighborhoods in Topeka with a lot of history,” he said. “These neighborhoods may have an increased demand, even over similar houses just a few blocks away.”

What else do people ask about?

Cole said that in addition to asking him about schools, people looking to buy houses here often ask about crime.

“People want to know they are going to be safe,” he said.

“After safety and schools, the next-most questions would be about activities and organizations,” Cole said. “I’ve found most people to be quite impressed and almost shocked by how much there is to do in the area for a city of our size.”

Herron said people looking to buy homes here tend to ask her about what this community has to offer in terms of quality of life, such as good places to go shopping.

“I end up being a tour guide/ambassador for this community,” she said.

Herron also works with real estate investors looking to buy property here.

Those investors generally want to know about such things as job availability, the health of the community, how effectively the city is growing and what its future looks like, she said.

What sets Topeka apart as a real estate market?

Topeka offers some of the most affordable home prices in the nation, which is one thing that sets it apart from other communities, Herron said.

She and Cole agreed that the people who live here are also a key selling point for this community.

“Working with hundreds of people over the years, and meeting so many more, I’ve found the majority of people in our area to be genuine, empathetic and honest,” Cole said.

Herron said residents here tend to know their neighbors, which comes as a surprise to people looking to move here from other communities.

“We truly have a strong sense of community, where people know each other and look out for other,” she said. “I don’t think you can translate that in an average listing.”

Tim Hrenchir can be reached at threnchir@gannett.com or 785-213-5934.

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