Best Times to Buy, Sell or List a Home

A common question from a buyer or seller is: what is the best time to buy or sell a home? In the clothing world, it makes sense to get the best “deal” on winter clothes at the end of winter and that you will likely will pay top dollar for a swimsuit in April. Does the same trend hold true for real estate purchases and sales? Not really. But there are some considerations a buyer or seller should make as they enter the market that could have an impact on the transaction.

Spring and fall are better times for buyers

CalendarLet’s be clear. You can’t ever time a home purchase. Buying a home isn’t like buying a car or an iPad. The home buying process is a journey, one that happens on your own time and only after you’ve done enough research, seen enough homes and have your financial house in order.

At any one time there is a brand-new buyer entering the market and then another who has done enough research and becomes a very serious buyer. Nobody can control the evolution. But something for a buyer to consider is thatreal estate inventory tends to fluctuate by season. Each spring and fall we tend to see an increase in home inventory due to the seasons. More inventory means more options for buyers.

Holidays and winter are best times for sellers

It’s not conventional for a seller to list their home before the holidays or in the dead of winter for obvious reasons. But serious, eager buyers don’t care about the season or timing. At any one point of the year, there will be a very motivated, experienced buyer ready to make an offer, no matter the season. I’ve written contracts on Thanksgiving, closed escrow on New Year’s Eve and even had a serious buyer make an offer using DocuSign from a beach in Hawaii. Sellers believe that it’s more conventional to list for the spring “selling” season and then again after the summer. If you go the conventional route, you will see more competition. If you can sell “off season” you might fare better because there are still serious buyers, but less homes for sale.

Best time of day to list a home

The Sunday open house, particularly the first Sunday, is the holy grail of real estate. For decades, agents and sellers worked hard on a listing with a deadline being the first open house. The “for sale” sign, which made the listing official a generation ago, would go in front of the house the days leading up the first open house. In the digital age, the listing goes “live” online. Sellers and agents work hard to clean, paint or prep the home in time for the photo shoot. Agents and sellers tend to rush to the finish and you will see many listings hit the market late Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, with Sunday being the first showing. Instead, try listing on Monday or Tuesday and don’t do any showings until the open house on Sunday. You can build momentum and have a very strong first open house.

As much as buyers and sellers try to strategize the timing of a real estate purchase or sale, its never that easy. Unlike Macy’s or Target, who control inventory and monitory competitive activity, there isn’t one seller in real estate. Sellers are unrelated and disconnected and the types of homes are different making it nearly impossible to “time” a purchase or sale.



Things to Do Before You Sell Your Home

Given an improving economy, more confidence and the prospect of higher mortgage rates, many homeowners are gearing up to list their homes in what is expected to be a very busy and competitive selling season.

As you spruce up your home to make it warm and welcoming, you must begin by cleaning and eliminating clutter. Buyers need to imagine that they are already living there, and things like family photos, religious decor, kitschy memorabilia and other knick knacks, make it all the more difficult. You should be making minor repairs. Little things, like a leaky faucet or chipped paint on a baseboard, can suggest to buyers that you might not be maintaining the house in other ways, too.

Here are a few other things to consider:

Price it right

Sure, inventory, while expected to rise, currently remains limited. This allows you, to some degree, to name your price. While it’s easy to fixate on what you paid for the house or the dollar figure you need to get out of your home, it’s smarter to price your home by taking into consideration the industry standards for determining its market value: age, square footage, number of beds/baths, appraised value and what comparable homes in your area have recently sold for. Remember that today’s buyers may be motivated, but they’re also savvier than ever.  And rightly so – they’ve got a wealth of information available to them.

Get your listing online

To sell your home at the best possible price, go where the eyeballs are: Online. Surveys show that 94 percent of buyers start their home searches on the Internet. Work with a real estate agent who will make sure that a virtual tour (even if it’s only two spins) and a vibrant description of your home are widely available on multiple websites, and easy to navigate from mobile phones and tablets. Your online listings must also include an ample supply of professional, high-resolution photos; according to one estimate, professionally photographed homes priced between $300,000 to $400,000 sell for about $3,000 more than those with amateur photos.

Avoid surprise property problems

The last thing you want is last-minute problems like surprise liens and taxes, for example, that must be paid to close the deal. These problems can complicate or delay your sale, or even result in a cancelled contract altogether. Get inspections and key reports in advance — long before the buyer’s on the hook — and make sure to read them. In many markets, it’s now standard operating procedure for sellers to actually have home, pest and roof inspections — as well any government-mandated inspections — conducted before the house even goes on the market. The more problem-free your home is, the faster it’s likely to sell.

Generate (more) attention                   

Once your property is marketed, it typically gets attention right away.  In fact, 80 percent of potential buyers will see your home within the four to six weeks of when it’s first listed. If you don’t sell to them, however, it takes an estimated three months to replace this initial pool of interested buyers with an equal number of newcomers. And it may take a special something to garner interest.  Loathe as you may be to do so — and a lot of sellers share this sentiment — perhaps you should sweeten the deal to make it more attractive?


5 Myths and 5 Truths About Selling Your Home

Seems everyone has advice to offer about the real estate market. Unfortunately, not all that unsolicited information is true.

Misinformation can waste your time and cost you money. When it comes time to list your home, you’ll need to do your research so you can separate fact from fiction. Real estate agents participating inZillow’s 2014 Home-Selling Season Survey identified five top real estate myths; the debunking of them should put you on the fast-track to selling your property:

Myth No. 1: I need to redo my kitchen and bathroom before selling.

Truth: While kitchens and bathrooms can increase the value of a home, you won’t get a large return on investment if you do a major renovation just before selling.

Minor renovations, on the other hand, may help you sell your home for a higher price. New countertops or new appliances may be just the kind of bait you need to reel in a buyer. Check out comparable listings in your neighborhood and see what work you need to do to compete in the market.

Myth No. 2: The outside of my home isn’t as important as the inside.

Truth: Home buyers often make snap judgments, often based simply on a home’s exterior. Therefore, curb appeal is very important.

“A lot of buyers I work with have done some preliminary online searches or they’ve driven by properties before they even enlist my services,” says Bic DeCaro, a real estate agent Westgate Realty Group in Falls Church, VA. “If a property looks bad, if the yard is cluttered or the driveway is all broken up, there’s a chance they won’t ever enter the house – they’ll just keep driving.”

Curb Appeal

The great news is that it doesn’t cost a bundle to make some big changes to your home’s exterior appearance. Start by cutting the grass, trimming the hedges and clearing away any clutter. Then, for less than $50, you could put up new house numbers, paint the front door, plant some flowers or install a new, more stylish porch light.

Myth No. 3: If my house is clean, I don’t need to stage my home.

Truth: Clean and tidy is a good first step, but as more and more home sellers across the country have enlisted the services of professional home stagers, the bar has risen. It’s not enough anymore to toss dirty laundry in the closet and sweep the front steps.

Stagers strive to make homes appeal to a broad range of tastes. They can skillfully identify ways to highlight your home’s best features and compensate for its shortcomings. A stager might, for example, recommend removing blinds from a window that has a great view or replacing a double bed with a twin to make a bedroom look bigger. It’s common for stagers to de-clutter and depersonalize homes by putting furniture and family photos into storage. Or, if you’ve already moved out, a stager can move in furniture to give potential buyers a sense of how rooms might be used.

You don’t have to hire a professional stager. But if you don’t, you better be ready to use some of their tactics to get your home ready for sale.

If staging is a trend where you live, an unstaged house will pale when compared to others on the market. And if staging is not yet something buyers in your area are used to seeing, your results will be even more impressive.

Myth No. 4: Granite and stainless steel appliances are no longer “in.”

Truth: The majority of home shoppers still want granite counters and stainless steel appliances.Quartz, marble and concrete counters also have wide appeal.

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“Most shoppers just want to steer away from anything that looks dated,” says Dru Bloomfield, a real estate agent with the Realty ONE Group in Scottsdale, AZ. “When you a design a space, you need to decide: ‘Am I doing this for myself or for resale?’ If you’re not planning to move anytime soon, you can decorate any way you like. If it’s likely your house will be going on the market within the next couple years, stick to elements that have mass appeal: neutral paint and tile colors, matching appliances or top-of-the line appliances.
“I recently sold a house where the kitchen had been remodeled 12 years ago and everybody thought it had just been done because the owners had chosen timeless elements: dark maple cabinets, granite counters and stainless appliances.”

Myth No. 5: Home shoppers can look past paint colors they don’t like.

Truth: Moving is a lot of work and, while many home buyers realize they could take on the task of painting walls, they simply don’t want to.

That’s why one of the most important things you can do to update your home is to apply a fresh coat of neutral paint. Neutral colors also help a property standout in online photographs – which is where most potential buyers will get their first impression of your property.

Hiring a professional to paint the interior of a 2,000 square-foot house likely will cost $3,000 to $6,000, depending upon labor costs in your region. You could buy the paint and do the job yourself for $300 to $500. Either way, if a fresh coat of paint helps your home stand out in a crowded market, it’s probably a worthwhile investment.


How to Get Multiple Offers on Your Home

Homeowners hear that the real estate market has finally turned a corner and assume that means multiple offers and bidding wars are back. Even if your town is buzzing with real estate activity and sales are picking up, it doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed multiple offers, or even one offer for that matter. For a seller to get lots of activity on their listing, there are three must-haves: location, price and presentation.

Must have a good location

One thing is common among all properties that receive multiple offers these days: the home is in a good location. Location is nearly always what drives homebuyers in their search. Before considering price, number of bedrooms or size of home, a buyer looks for location.

If your home is on a busy street, not in the best school district or near a freeway on/off ramp, chances are you won’t receive the kind of activity that a well-located home would. In that case, work closely with your agent to price the home correctly.

Must be priced right

Buyers in any market look for perceived value. Homes priced 10 percent (or more) over their market value won’t get noticed. Pricing isn’t an exact science, and it’s nearly impossible to pin a precise number to a home until buyer and seller sign a contract and close. Then, the price officially becomes the home’s market value. Until that time, agents can provide sellers with a value range. Have a good location? Does your home show well? Are you in a strong sellers’ market? Price your home on the bottom of that price range and you’ll be sure to attract buyers — and possibly multiple offers.

Must show well

A generation ago, sellers simply did some deep cleaning and maybe some de-cluttering before their first open house. Presentation wasn’t as important then as it is today, given online listings. More buyers today develop an emotional connection to a home. They want to imagine themselves in your home and not feel like they’re a guest. What does that mean? Appeal to the masses. If you have a good location and you plan to price your home realistically, then you need to make sure you give buyers what they want. If you can afford it, make cosmetic upgrades; invest in some staging and work to turn your home into a “product.” Emotionally disconnect from your home and try to see it more objectively.

Plan on having the home in perfect condition for the photo shoot. A buyer’s first impression of your home likely will be via the Internet or an email from their agent. Make them want to step inside. The more buyers you attract to your home, the more activity.

Know your market

Don’t assume that national trends apply to your region, city or neighborhood. If you’re not in a strong sellers’ market or you spend a fortune on last-minute upgrades, you could be in for a giant surprise. Just because you hear about bidding wars and multiple offers on the national news doesn’t mean that applies to your market. For example, while properties in San Francisco may receive multiple offers, a town like Port Chester, NY, still sees short sales and homes often spend many days on the market.

Work with a good local agent. A local agent has likely toured all the nearby homes for sale as well as ones that have sold over the past six months to a year. Knowing those homes, having walked inside and personally knowing the agents who have sold them matters. This is market data that an outsider just doesn’t have access to. This knowledge empowers good local agents to educate their sellers.


For more insights into the important changes happening in real estate, read Brendon’s new book “Next Generation Real Estate.” Brendon’s practical real estate advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets including FOX News, CNBC, USA Today, Bloomberg, FOX Business and Forbes. A licensed Realtor and an active investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the U.S. and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York. As a trusted real estate expert,consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.


Tips for Sellers in a Buyers Market

Selling your home in a market where there are more homes available for sale than there are buyers means that you really have to work at it. Buyers in a seller’s market are looking for value. They want the best house for the money. Buyers can be picky and simply won’t settle. You have to get in front of the buyers, have your home showing in its best possible condition and have the home priced right from the start. You must know the competition and see your home as a “product” listed on the open market. Make it stand out from the competition, either in how it is delivered to the market or how it’s priced.

Know the competition

It’s common that a would-be seller will receive “comps” from their agent around the time that they agree to work together. As part of the comparative marketing analysis, an agent will show a seller what is on the market, pending and sold. Oftentimes, it could be weeks or months before the seller actually lists his home. A slow market means more inventory and more competition for sellers. A seller must know what other homes are available and price their home accordingly. Hit the open house circuit the weekend before you list or keep a search going online of similar homes. Knowing the competition will help you decide how to price your home. You want to be the home that stands out from the crowd….in a good way.

Consider pre-marketing your home

A generation ago, buyers needed an agent to know exactly how long a home had been on the market. Why? Because that data was locked up in agent-only databases. Today, once a listing goes active, the days on market or DOM starts ticking for all the world to see online. The DOM is the best way for a buyer to gauge how your home fares in the market. If the DOM hits three months and your home is still listed, chances are slim you will get a full-price offer. These days, it’s smart to put out feelers before your listing goes live. Work with a good local agent and have them do some pre-marketing of your home to test the price and the market’s response to it. How does this work? In most communities, it’s not uncommon for agents to announce upcoming listings within their firm or on social networks. In some communities, there are entire websites dedicated to “pocket” listings.

Make sure your home is widely marketed

Buyers are everywhere today and your listing needs to be where they are. Most are online, specificallyon mobile devices at all times of day and night. If your home is not listed where buyers are looking, that’s one less opportunity. In a buyer’s market a seller can’t afford to miss one buyer. If your agent doesn’t understand the concept, you should be working with another agent.

Work with the right agent

Speaking of the right agent. Having the best agent representing your home will make the difference between selling and moving on or having your home sit on the market. A good agent is someone who actively sells in your local community. They know the customs and trends, not to mention governing laws. Agents like to work with agents they know. Work with an out-of-area agent or someone not familiar with your area and you risk being poorly represented.

Photos are key

A generation ago, a photo shoot wasn’t always necessary when selling a home. Today, it is potentially the most important part of the home-selling process. A buyer’s first impression of your home today will likely be online, via an email alert online or a text with the listing from their agent. You should spend as much time and attention on your photo shoot as you would for the first open house. Also, make sure that your listing photos are high resolution and optimized for the web and mobile.

Spend the right money to get the home ready

There is nothing worse than an eager seller spending a fortune to renovate their home prior to selling, only to do so in a manner that is not neutral or buyer friendly. A recent survey by Zillow Digs shows that the ROI on these projects isn’t high. If you want to get your home ready for sale, take a step back and spend money the right way. The best thing a seller can do is to clean and de-clutter. Investing in storage is one of the smartest things a seller can do. Also, smart cosmetic fixes like painting, cleaning and changing out some fixtures or finishes is money well spent when getting your home ready to sell.

Succeeding in a buyer’s market is not simply a matter of hiring an agent and listing your home. You need to do your homework: Know the competition and what is selling. Work with an agent who has relationships with the local community and knows your market. Don’t list your home with an agent who doesn’t have a plan to make sure that your home is widely marketed across the Internet and on mobile devices — that is where buyers are today. Be open to non-traditional means of marketing your home. One misstep in the selling process could set you back weeks or months.

Want to know whether you’re in a buyer’s or a seller’s market? Check out Zillow’s recent analysis.


For more insights into the important changes happening in real estate, read Brendon’s new book “Next Generation Real Estate.” Brendon’s practical real estate advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets including FOX News, CNBC, USA Today, Bloomberg, FOX Business and Forbes. A licensed Realtor and an active investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the U.S. and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York. As a trusted real estate expert,consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.


Are Open Houses Still Necessary?

Zillow Open houseListing agents often argue that in our digital world, open houses are a waste of time. The majority of people who attend are nosy neighbors, ‘looky-loos,’ or other types of tire-kickers. Instead, their argument goes, serious buyers today don’t want to wait for an open house. When someone likes a home’s online photos, he or she will make an appointment to see the property during the week. So is it time to close the book on open houses? Not at all.

Why our parents needed open houses

A generation ago, the Internet, with its virtual tours, high-resolution photos and online floor plans, didn’t exist. Our parents relied on real estate agents to preview properties for them or to present them with the basic details of homes to consider: how many bedrooms and bathrooms, in which school district, on how much land, and so on. Buyers needed to get inside of as many homes as possible to learn the market and identify what would work for them — and not work. Today, buyers can easily vet potential homes by looking at photos and floor plans online through Zillow or using tools like Google Street View. But there’s only so much you can glean from that. By visiting a home, you can see how the online floor plan actually looks in the ‘real’ world. You can see details you’d probably miss looking at photos. You can get a feel for the property and compare your reactions to the home to others you’ve visited.

People can turn into serious buyers through open houses

Serious buyers don’t materialize in a puff of smoke; they become serious over time. Many spend a good deal of time looking at properties online or at open houses on their own before even engaging an agent. They spend months or even a year actively looking with their agents. Buyers need to become educated about the market, the types of homes available in their area, as well as what to expect in their price range. Open houses give buyers a no-pressure environment in which to deepen their education about the local market, so they can make a more informed decision. A buyer may use an open house as a first showing of the property. But when buyers become serious about a home, an open house provides them another opportunity to spend time in the home, to get to know it better, without the confines of a 15-minute private appointment.

The convenience factor

Open houses are also a lot more convenient for the seller. Rather than having to clean the home and vacate it 10 times during the week, a two-hour Sunday open house allows as many people as possible to take their time and view the home thoroughly. While a lot has changed in real estate in the past decade, open houses are a tradition that still makes a lot of sense. If nobody held open houses, buying and selling homes would be quite different. The same listing agents who complain about open houses would be frustrated by having to constantly run around town, showing properties to buyers who probably aren’t serious. Sellers would have to live on eggshells 24/7 to accommodate countless private appointments. If nothing else, open houses can help weed out the tire kickers so that when you make an appointment to show your home, chances are it’s with a serious buyer.

Open houses help sellers gauge the market’s response

Opening up your house to the masses is the best way to get a feel for how the market responds to your home. A good listing agent will want to see as many buyers come through as possible to gauge their reactions to the home. Are people walking in and out quickly? Or are they hanging around? What questions are they asking? What are their biggest hang-ups or concerns? This is the kind of valuable information you can’t get online. Ultimately, the same reasons for holding an open house 40 years ago are the same reasons you should do it today. In a sense, it’s like going to the movies. Sure, you can download or stream movies at home to your heart’s content. But there’s something about seeing a movie on a big screen, in a theater full of people, that will always make the experience richer and more meaningful.


How to Get the Best Home Loan for Your Needs

iStock_000004085541XSmallLocation, school ratings, number of bedrooms, outdoor spaces. These are the things potential homeowners focus on when they start house hunting. They’re all important factors, for sure. Even more crucial: How will you pay for your home?

Home loans are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. They differ based on their type, such as fixed or adjustable rate, and their loan term. Loans also vary in interest rate and annual percentage rate (APR).

To ensure you’re getting the best home loan for your situation, you’ll want to do your homework, talk to reputable credit counselors and lenders and follow these tips:

Fixed or adjustable?

There are two main types of mortgages: fixed rate and adjustable rate.

Most homeowners today opt for fixed-rate mortgages. With a fixed-rate mortgage, you are locked in to a set interest rate, resulting in monthly mortgage payments that remain the same for the entire term of the loan. The No. 1 benefit of this type of mortgage is inflation protection. If mortgage rates go up, your rate will not follow suit. Conversely, if rates drop, your interest rate will not drop. (Of course, you could refinance your mortgage if rates dropped significantly.)

Most lenders offer 15- and 30-year fixed mortgages, and some also offer 20-year terms. The longer the term of your fixed mortgage, the lower your monthly payment because you’re paying over many years. With a 30-year term, however, you will end up paying more interest over time.

A 15-year fixed mortgage will have a higher monthly payment because you’re paying for fewer years. On the other hand, you’re building equity at a faster rate and will pay less interest over the life of your loan. The shorter the term of your loan, the lower your interest rate will likely be.

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is a loan with an interest rate that will change over the life of the loan. ARMs have adjustment periods that determine how often their interest rates can change and they have initial “fixed” periods during which their interest rates won’t change at all — most often 3, 5 or 7 years. After this period, rates can readjust. These loans are often considered riskier because the interest rate and payments can increase when the loan adjusts. However, if you’re planning to live in your home for a shorter period of time, these loans may make sense for you, especially because you’re likely to obtain a lower interest rate than with a fixed mortgage.

Clear up your finances and credit rating

Even before you start shopping for a mortgage, you need to take a good, honest look at your finances. Most financial experts agree that your mortgage payment — including taxes and insurance — should not exceed 30 percent of your take-home pay. Yes, you may get a raise down the road — or you may not. Your mortgage payment should correspond with your current financial reality.

You’ll also want to check your credit rating. Why? Because your credit rating may be the most important piece of financial information you have to obtain a mortgage at the best possible interest rate. Checking your credit rating before you find your ideal home will give you time to correct reporting errors and to clean up less-than-spectacular ratings. It can take up to 90 days to get erroneous information off your report, so don’t delay.

Shop for several quotes

Home loans are available from commercial banks, mortgage companies, thrift institutions and credit unions. You’ll want to get quotes from several different lenders to make sure you’re getting the best price. If you don’t want to shop for loans yourself, you may decide to work through a mortgage broker. Rather than lending money directly, brokers find lenders for clients. Working through a broker may give you access to an even broader selection of loan products and terms. Brokers are not obligated to find the best deal for you unless they have a contract with you and are working as your agent. Consequently, if you go the broker route, you’ll want to talk with several, just as you should with banks or credit unions.

Get ratings and reviews

After you’ve narrowed down the list of lenders or brokers you’re interested in working with, you should check into their backgrounds. How long have they been in business? If found online, are they accessible? Can they provide third-party reviews and ratings? This unbiased feedback from people who have worked directly with the lenders can prove invaluable when separating the great from the not-so-good.

Once you settle on a lender, you’ll want to get pre-approved. Through this process, the lender will determine how much you can afford to spend on your new home. You can get a pre-approval letter in minutes through Zillow. Fill out this form, pick your pre-approval lender, and if you meet the lender’s guidelines, you’ll get your pre-approval letter that you can print and email. In a competitive market, pre-approval letters are almost essential. If you make an offer on a house without a pre-approval, your offer will not be taken as seriously as an offer from another person with a pre-approval and you could lose your dream home. Most bank-owned properties require a pre-approval letter from a lender before an offer can be accepted.