Sellers: Extend the selling season
Spring is the best time to find the broadest universe of buyers and sellers. Parents don't want to uproot their kids from schools mid-term and would like to settle in a new neighborhood by mid-summer. Many sell at the same time they buy. These days, "spring
" really means late winter. So if you're going to sell in 2011, get your house ready for showings by late February. That will give you nearly five months until this buying-and-selling group starts dwindling by mid-July.
Buyers: Check the seller's addition
Based on mounting concerns expressed in Bankrate reader mail, prospective buyers should add the following move to their due diligence lists when scoping out a home: Check for illegal additions. Revenue-starved cities are cracking down on unpermitted work. They focus on current owners, not the original step-skipping "perps." Unpermitted room additions, kitchen remodels and garage conversions are just a few areas that can haunt an unsuspecting buyer. A good agent, home inspector or appraiser should be able to spot such unpermitted work, especially if square footage doesn't match tax assessor records. If you do buy unwittingly, you'll be responsible
to bring the work up to code.
Sellers and buyers: Gather micro data
Regional real estate sales information never tells the full tale of a housing market. Search local daily newspapers, business journals and websites to find the latest foreclosed homes, housing backlogs, current versus historic median selling prices, and the average time on the market of for-sale homes in your specific ZIP code, submarket or neighborhood. The website City-data.com is a good start for this.
On a broader scale, look at population income levels, unemployment rates and the contraction or expansion of major local employers. Homes near universities, hospitals and other major employment centers usually hold their value better and resell faster. A great product and great location, at least to some degree, will transcend local trends for buyers and sellers.
Buyers: Smoke out pervs
Do a sex-offender search. The National Association of Realtors, or NAR, says it's the job of local police agencies, not Realtors, to be gatekeepers of registered sex-offender data. So do your homework. The National Sex Offender Public Registry contains national offender listings. And know that most agents are obliged to honestly answer direct questions. So ask: Do any registered sex offenders currently live anywhere in the neighborhood? Do any former registered sex offenders live anywhere in the neighborhood?
Sellers: Feel what the buyer feels
Put your ego aside, sellers. Your for-sale home is no longer about you -- it's about the buyer. So be empathic. What would you expect to see on a tour of a for-sale home? Even though you're essentially marketing brick, mortar and land, the emotional response you elicit in a buyer is often what seals a deal. Neutral colors allow buyers to picture themselves in your house. To appeal to their olfactory pleasure senses, employ the age-old tactic of baking fresh cookies before potential buyers arrive -- then leave them for your visitors to enjoy. Or at least light a candle or two. To convey an inviting atmosphere, de-clutter the place with renewed vengeance, stow away your inexpensive or tattered furniture and box up cherished mementos. Remember that the illusion of space is almost as important as the space itself.