||The Real Estate Adviser
Top 10 resolutions for home
buyers and sellers
Planning to buy or sell a home in the New Year?
Then there's no time like the present to gyrate into action.
True, the peak home-selling/home-buying
season starts around early April and ends in July, say the folks
at the National Association of Realtors. That's when the most home
inventory is available and when most buyers are looking.
But there's plenty of prep work to do in the meantime
that can spare you a lot of stress, and maybe even spare you some
extra bucks come spring. So make your New Year's resolution to be
ready for the selling or buying process, or both. Be that first
robin in the winter. Some early-bird spoils may await you!
If you're selling, resolve to:
Clear. That lived-in look makes your home feel
comfy. But chances are, you've accumulated a lot of "stuff"
that may detract from its presentation when potential buyers are
touring the place. Do a pre-spring cleaning -- in January or February.
Put unneeded items and attic fodder aside for an early spring garage
sale. If your place is "generously" furnished, shop around
for a self-storage unit and plan to put some of the bigger pieces
there before your home goes on the market -- ideally, using the
proceeds from the garage sale to pay the storage fee. Buyers want
to see space and envision what they can do with it.
Clean. Spruce up the oven and other appliances,
windows and window treatments, overhead fans, bathtubs, commodes,
sinks and other fixtures. Clean smudges around door knobs, door
handles and light switches. Replace, or at least clean, old carpets.
If you're going to paint or wallpaper (and you probably should),
go white or light if possible. And replace burned-out bulbs inside
and out. Brightness emphasizes space. A new exterior paint job might
be in order, too. Know that most of your fix-up investments will
be recouped in a higher sales price.
Clip. Trim the trees and hedges, rake the
leaves and remove other lawn debris. When it gets closer to "show
time," cut the lawn frequently and plant some new flowers near
Give your house curb
appeal. First impressions are huge in the home-selling game.
Contact. Secure a real estate agent weeks
in advance of your market debut, and have him or her tour your place
and make suggestions. But interview several first before you pick
a real estate agent. That is, if you plan to use a real estate agent.
If you're going the "sell-owner"
route, consult the various sell-owner Web sites for tips or
call their local offices for helpful materials. Ask a friend (or
maybe just an acquaintance) for an objective perspective on your
home's marketability. Ask if there are any noticeable lingering
odors or other detractors. Hire your own home inspector, who can
point out any unseen major flaws in your property, particularly
with plumbing, heating or your foundation.
Consider. Realize your local taxing district's
appraisal value of your place may not reflect its true market value.
A professional real estate appraiser might give you a better frame
of reference to determine your asking price by factoring in the
home's condition and recent "comps," or sales of comparable
residences. A good agent might have the same "comp" data.
If you'll be buying a house in 2004, resolve to:
Set priorities. Ask yourself questions about
your basic needs to build a solid home-search foundation. What parts
of town would you live in? Would you consider an older home in the
right part of town, even if you had your heart set on a new one,
or vice versa? Do you need to be near public transportation? What
school district would be the most advantageous for your kids? What
style of house appeals to you most? Do you need a fenced yard for
your dog(s)? How much square footage do you need and how many bedrooms
and bathrooms would you prefer? What community amenities would you
like? It all sounds perfunctory. But write it down anyway. This
is helpful data you can quickly offer to an agent or refer to yourself.
And it can be the beginning of a journal you can keep to help organize
Examine your finances. See where you stand.
Get a copy of your credit report and correct any errors on it. Establish
much you can afford to spend, based on your income, debt, assets
and any equity you may be getting out of your current home, if you
currently own. Familiarize yourself with the fees involved in home
buying (appraisal fees, application fees, points). Then do a little
preliminary comparison-price shopping for a mortgage loan, either
through local lenders or the Internet or both.
Do your homework. Know what you're getting
into. This is especially important if you're moving to another city.
If you're being transferred, and you have some buffer time, make
more than just a cursory visit to the city where you'll be living.
Research neighborhoods, schools and crime rates. Talk with a few
residents in your target subdivision or community. You might even
put your belongings in storage and rent a place for six months while
you scope out a new town's offerings.
Find an agent. If you'll be using an agent,
interview several before you pick one. A buyer's agent, you can
be assured, will be representing your needs only, and not another
party in the transaction. But you needn't wait for agent. Get a
head start by checking out the dozens of Web sites that have photos
and information of hundreds of available homes in virtually any
Get loan approval. Get pre-approved -- not
just pre-qualified -- for a mortgage amount in your desired price
range well before you make an offer to buy a home. This way, your
credit, down payment, and employment history have all been checked
and you won't be wasting anyone's time, including your own, when
you're ready to wheel and deal.
-- Posted: Dec. 29, 2003