real estate

12 reliable real estate tips for 2012

Tip 6Finance 101

Realize it's harder to qualify for loans these days. Credit records are under greater scrutiny, and lenders are often demanding a 20 percent down payment and some pricing flexibility from the sellers, especially if the lender's appraisal doesn't reach the asking price.

Consider cash offers, even if they're not the highest. Reject too-low offers from homebuyers gently and with encouragement, telling them they're oh-so-close. You don't want to give away the farm, but you don't want to give it back to the bank either. These days, meeting halfway usually means meeting buyers on their half.

Tip 7Be your own spokesperson

Agents once advised home sellers to retreat from view during showings, lest they disclose something unsavory or otherwise botch the deal. That's changed. If you can control your ego and emotions and come off as an earnest, flexible seller, you can serve as your best spokesperson. Be ready to answer would-be buyers' questions about the neighborhood and area schools. Be careful about making verbal promises!

Tip 8Flight to quality

Worried about durability? Buyers who place a heavier focus on brick or concrete-and-steel housing may find they're more enduring, safer and quieter.

Are you worried about sustaining value? Buy near a prestigious hospital, university, large government employer or newly vibrant central business district. These entities typically aren't going away, and the demand for good housing around them won't either.

Tip 9Expand your buying universe

There's still an overabundance of well-priced inventory out there, which means you needn't immediately narrow your search to the first house you fancy. That's especially the case with short sale homes, which can be a nightmare to close in a timely manner. There are some for-sale gems that need only a little polishing.

Shop around. Don't dismiss foreclosures and other bank properties, pre-foreclosures, auction homes, for-sale-by-owner or lease-to-own homes. Pick at least three favorites and work from there.

Tip 10'Site unseen' equals shortsightedness

Are you perplexed by the home valuation you did on your place on the website of a large, seemingly reputable real estate organization? Puzzled how that valuation can be 25 percent or more above or below a firsthand appraisal you've had done? Well, value estimates on these sites can vary widely, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars, even by the admission of the companies themselves. There are way too many variables in the valuation game to give too much credence to blind, algorithm-based estimates that are impersonally calculated. Nothing beats a nuanced firsthand professional appraisal.

Tip 11Expand your buyer's due diligence

Aside from the financial details, contracts, disclosures and protections you typically tend to as you prep to buy a home, add these to the list:

  • Hire a title company to check the house for liens and tax arrearages.
  • Hire you own inspector. Don't use the seller's!
  • Have the inspector check for unpermitted work such as illegal room additions and garage conversions.
  • Consider the overall energy efficiency of the home with an energy audit.
  • Be sure property lines are accurate. If there's any question, hire a land surveyor to research the original deed and to stake out the property's lines and your neighbors' property lines to avoid future disputes.
Tip 10Make a quality-of-life due-diligence checklist
  • Go to the National Sex Offender Public Website at Nsopw.gov to search for neighborhood predators.
  • Spend some time around the neighborhood and briefly interview neighbors. Determine if there are noisy neighbors, signs of gang activity, nocturnal barking dogs, indigent lingerers, frequent loud parties and/or suspicious nighttime visits. Are there lots of rental homes? Is the block a cut-through point during rush hour? Does the school bus go past the block? Is there a restrictive homeowners association?
  • Determine what types of buildings can be constructed on vacant lots adjacent to the neighborhood. This helps avoid unpleasant future surprises. Is there constant noise from a nearby highway or busy street? Are there odors from nearby industrial plants?

 

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