When Selling a Home, the Neighbors Matter

Getting on the neighbors’ good side can be an essential part of your sales strategy.

Few sellers consider their neighbor’s home when preparing to sell their own. Why would they? Their biggest concern is getting the soon-to-be-listed home painted, cleaned and landscaped for great curb appeal.

But all that effort could be for nothing, if just one of your neighbors doesn’t care much for appearances.

If you find the neighbor’s home unappealing, imagine your potential buyer’s first impression. The fact is, your neighbor’s unsightly property can diminish your own home’s curb appeal, no matter how much you’ve done to improve it.

The good news is, you have options — you’ll just have to plan ahead a bit. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your neighbors don’t cost you money when you sell your home.

Build good relationships

Even if you don’t have a plan to sell now, it’s good practice to maintain a friendly relationship with the neighbors. You never know when you’ll need them.

It’s not uncommon for issues to come up during a sale. Problems regarding fence repair, retaining walls or easements can often bring a neighbor into your home sale process.

Having a good relationship with your neighbor from the beginning will help to ensure their cooperation when you need them at a critical time in the home sale.

Keep them in the loop

If you plan to sell your home in the near future, it’s a good idea to give the neighbors a heads-up well in advance.

If you think you’ll need assistance from a neighbor for whatever reason, it will be easier to approach them if you’ve given them notice. Knocking on their door to tell them you’re selling and then requesting their cooperation right away won’t help.

Offer to pay for improvements

It will be difficult to ask your neighbors to reseed their lawn, pull their weeds, change their fence or paint their door to help your sale. Ask them to pay for it, and you can expect resistance.

If you need your neighbor to do some curb appeal work to help your sale, the money should come out of your pocket.

On top of that, you can’t force the neighbor to use your landscaper, painter or contractor, even if you’re paying for it. It’s their home, not yours, and you need to tread lightly.

Although many neighbors will appreciate the offer to spruce up their home on your dime, others may be hesitant. Bullying them to work on your timeframe or within your rules won’t help, and it could backfire once your home lists publicly.

With luck, a home sale can proceed smoothly without the need to involve neighbors. But if you hope to sell in the future, understand that your neighbors’ cooperation may be necessary.

If you plan in advance, open the doors of communication and offer to make things easy, you’re more likely to get what you want.

Ready to put your home on the market? Check out our Home Sellers Guide for tips and resources.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published March 20, 2017.

Source: zillow.com

4 Tips for Selling Your Home in the Winter

A little extra care may be needed to show off your property’s assets during the cold and snowy months.

Although traditionally spring and fall are the prime seasons for selling a home, circumstances sometimes require homeowners to put their property on the market during the winter. The good news is that, given access to mobile apps and so much information online, selling in mid-winter may not be so tough.

The supply of homes for sale (your competition) is light, and buyers are still looking. If you have to list your home during the winter, you’ll get a pass on landscaping and some curb appeal issues. But there are some important points to consider when listing your home during the cold months.

Be sure the home is easily accessible

If there is snow or an ice storm, clear the driveway, sidewalk and any pathways on which potential buyers may walk. If there are back steps, don’t forget to clear those, too.

You never know when a buyer will want to see the home. In markets where your agent uses a lockbox for showings, you could get a request for a last-minute showing any day.

Keep the heat on

There is nothing worse than walking into a cold home. It’s not warm or inviting, and that affects the buyer’s senses. A chilly reception ensures their first impression is not a good one.

If you have an upcoming showing, be sure the heat is on and the house is warm and cozy.

Show off your winter wonders

If you have a fireplace in your home, there is no better time to show it off than the winter months. Buyers love walking into an open house where there is a fire going. It adds to the ambiance and provides a comforting feeling.

Talk with your agent ahead of listing to make sure that they are on board to use the fireplace. If you haven’t serviced it in a while, get it cleaned to be certain that using it doesn’t backfire. Keep the kindling and logs loaded up at all times.

Let buyers see your outside attributes

In the warmer months, it’s not uncommon for buyers to step out on the deck, down into the yard and into the landscaping. They will want to see the outdoor space and get a feel for the lot and the land.

Although in winter buyers may be less likely to tour the grounds, they will still want to know what’s there. If you have a deck, pool, patio or outdoor features that add value, make sure it is visible from inside. If the winter months or snow make an outdoor asset invisible, be certain that your marketing features it so buyers get the whole picture.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published January 16, 2015.

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Source: zillow.com

Mercury in Retrograde: Your Guide to Buying and Selling While the Planets Go Crazy

If the sh*t really started hitting the fan for you right around Oct. 13, you wouldn’t be the only one. Mercury is in retrograde until Nov. 3, which explains why your mood might be all over the place and why you and your S.O. got in those epically dumb fights last week.

It might also explain why the grocery store was out of nearly every single thing on my list—and this after what was supposed to be a quick oil change turned into a half-day of pricey car repairs.

But let’s back up for a second: Several times a year, planet Mercury is said to go retrograde—meaning it moves in an opposite direction to Earth. (“This backward movement is actually an illusion, similar to the one you experience when you’re in a car on the highway moving faster than a train alongside you,” according to Mother Nature Network.)

Regardless, astrologers believe that this brief planetary upheaval also throws chaos into life down here on our planet.

While there’s no need to stock up on your favorite instant mac and cheese and prepare for the apocalypse, you might want to be a little extra cautious during this time, says astrologer and psychic Suzie Kerr Wright—especially if you find yourself about to make a particularly huge and consequential decision, like, say, buying or selling a house.

“Mercury rules our communication and thinking, so all of that can become murky,” Wright explains. “The period messes with our minds so we may misplace or lose things, we might feel a little off, or, if we’re rushing to send an email, we may reply to all instead of one person. We may find we’re a bit clumsier too.”

So how does Mercury play into buying and selling?

“Some people out there are more sensitive to Mercury retrograde than others,” explains Mary Dunne, real estate broker at Warburg Realty in New York. “In many instances, I believe a Mercury retrograde can add some complications or delay some aspects of the process, and generally highlight the need to read the fine print.”

With all of the craziness happening, you might start thinking a moving Mercury might wind up derailing the close on your new house. But both Dunne and Wright insist this isn’t the case.

“I don’t highlight the timing to clients unless it’s brought up,” Dunne says. “I just play more cautious around the time.”

And despite all of the spilled coffee and drama-filled days, Wright actually insists that Mercury in retrograde can be a positive thing.

“The real purpose of a retrograde period is to get us to slow down, rethink what we’ve been doing, revisit old ideas, and reconnect with ourselves and others,” she says. “It’s a break, not a curse.”

How to get through a retrograde sale

The key to getting through a big decision while Mercury does its business isn’t to hole up and hide away. Get out there and keep on keepin’ on—just do it thoughtfully.

“Make decisions from the perspective you had prior to the retrograde,” Wright says. “In other words, if you want a Craftsman home and that’s what you’ve always wanted, but you find a ranch during a retrograde you feel you can’t live without, step back. Think, think, and then think again. Is this really what you would want long-term and why did you want a Craftsman for all this time?”

Some fine print details to get you through the crazy

  • Check contract numbers twice, and double-check everything before signing anything.
  • Overcommunicate your expectations to everyone involved in the deal. That means your real estate agent, and possibly even your buyer or your seller. Make sure everyone is on the same page, and avoid any miscommunications.
  • Avoid last-minute changes. “Buying and selling during retrograde is fine,” Wright says, “so long as contracts have been drawn up before.” If any major last-minute changes take place, consider waiting until after retrograde to sign the paperwork.
  • Don’t be swayed by your own change of heart. Lots of folks are changing their minds right now, so don’t let your new inkling for a ranch make you throw out weeks of negotiating on your former Craftsman dream home.

The bottom line

Sure, weird stuff might happen during this period. But ultimately, everything is going to be OK.

“Starting something new in a retrograde period is not advised, but life goes on and you won’t die if you do,” Wright says. “Just double-check everything, and stay out of the panic mode.”

Source: realtor.com

Four Signs that a Buyers’ Market is Coming

Since February 2012, home prices have been rising at an accelerating pace, fueled by a combination of extraordinary demand and inadequate supplies of homes for sale. Over the past year, prices have been rising faster than incomes, reaching an annualized rate of nearly 7% a year. Median prices in more than half the nation’s housing markets had reached all-time highs. Now, sales are lagging and prices are rising at much slower rates. Fundamental changes are underway in the real estate economy that should bring a degree of relief to the record-breaking millions of millennial first-time buyers who are struggling to save enough for a down payment.

The laws of supply and demand govern real estate markets. High levels of demand deplete supplies and prices rise until homes become too expensive for average buyers, and demand declines. High prices also encourage sellers to list their homes and builders to build new ones. Supplies increase until prices moderate and decline. Buyers’ markets occur when the supply of available properties for sale exceeds demand (the number of buyers actively shopping for properties). Sellers’ markets occur when demand exceeds the supply of available homes on the market.

In sellers’ markets, homes sell faster and for prices at fair market value or higher. Often, more than one buyer will make an offer, creating a multi-bid situation where buyers may raise their offers to win the contract. In buyers’ markets, houses take longer to sell and sellers may decide to settle for offers below list price. Sellers may offer incentives, such as including a home warranty insurance policy that covers appliances and systems like air conditioning at the time of sale.

Buyers’ Markets Are Inevitable

Real estate markets are cyclical. Even the longest sellers or buyers’ market will eventually end as demand, price, and supplies change. Over the past year, the laws of supply and demand have been at work, changing the dynamics of hundreds of housing markets. Prices in half the nation’s markets have reached peak heights, and they continue to increase in most markets, albeit at a slower pace than last year. Sales began sagging 18 months ago, then stabilized recently as more buyers became active to take advantage of lower interest rates.

Most markets today favor sellers. However, many are in the early stages of becoming buyers’ markets and your market is probably one of them. Eventually, your market will make that transition. With the help of your real estate agent, who has access to local data from your local multiple listing service or other sources that are not readily available to consumers, you can read the signals in your market data that professionals use to anticipate the change before it occurs.

When using real estate data to track market trends, be careful to account for seasonality. Prices, sales volume, inventories and the time it takes to sell a home all change with the seasons. Spring and summer months are traditionally more active and, on a month-to-month basis sales will usually rise, and supplies will probably decline during the warmer months. That’s why real estate economists compare data on a year-to-year basis, or they will adjust monthly data using a formula to account for seasonality.

buyers marketbuyers market

Here are four signs that decipher the direction in which your market is headed:

  1. Houses take longer to sell. The time that passes from the day a home is listed for sale and the day a seller accepts an offer is an excellent indicator of demand. When demand is weakening, houses in a market will sell less quickly than they were selling a year ago. Demand can be measured by days on-site, the time that has passed since the home was listed on a web site like Homes.com or days on market, the number of days since the home was listed on the local multiple listing service. To express the effect of demand on the domestic supply of homes for sale in a particular market, some economists prefer months’ supply―the number of months that it would take to deplete the local inventory of homes for sale at the current rate sales.

There is no specific definition for buyers’ and sellers’ markets in terms of time on market, but generally, the average listing time is 46 to 55 days. By itself, time to sell a home is not enough to define a buyers or sellers’ market. However, a lengthy time on market during the fall and winter months is a sure sign of a buyers’ market. When a listing takes six weeks or less to sell in the spring or summer, you are probably in a sellers’ market. By comparing changes in the time on market over the past two or three years, you can identify trends and get good sense of whether conditions are improving for buyers or sellers.

  1. Sales slow down as demand drops. Home sales quickly reflect changing supply and demand. When sales decline from levels of a year ago over a period of several months, it’s a reflection of either falling demand or low levels of inventory. Demand may fall for one or more reasons ranging from consumer confidence in the economy, changes in mortgage rates, or price increases that exceed what local buyers can afford.

Your agent should be able to provide you with monthly data on local sales trends in the form of closings and contracts or pending sales. Though about 15% of contracts fail to close, pending sales are an indicator of future sales trends.

  1. Prices appreciate at rates lower than 3%. Prices reflect changes in the relationship between supply and demand. Prices rise in a sellers’ market and are flat or trend down in a buyers’ market. As a rule of thumb, residential real estate appreciates about 3% in a typical year. In July 2019, home prices rose 4.3% over 2018, suggesting that we are still in a sellers’ market, but less so than in July 2018, when prices were 6.9% higher than in 2017. If price appreciation falls below 3% next year, it’s a sign than a buyers’ market is here. To get a sense of recent price trends, ask your real estate agent for a graph illustrating price trends in your market over the past three years.
  2. Supplies of homes for sale exceed demand. When inventories of affordable homes fell so low that they started to hamper sales, many housing economists were caught off guard. By 2017, the month’s supply of available homes for sale in the nation’s largest markets had declined 25% over the preceding two years. Inventories continued to fall quickly, until the point that the lack of affordable homes for sale was making the problem even worse by pushing prices up so high that middle-class homeowners in many markets could not find move-up homes which would free up the houses in which they were living for first-time buyers. By late 2017, the first signs of relief appeared in hotter markets. On a year-over-year basis, new listings started to improve, and supplies of active listings stopped shrinking every month.

Several factors contributed to the inventory drought: low levels of new home construction, the conversion of 7 million homes from ownership to rental, move-up buyers who could not afford the move up, and above all, the coming of age of the largest generation of prospective homebuyers in history― the millennials.

Inventory shortages may be the most destructive cause of home price inflation. When supplies cannot meet the demand, buyers find themselves bidding against each other for a house they can afford. By the time the bidding ends, winners often turn out to be the real losers because they have stretched their budgets to the maximum. Also, shortages can creep up on buyers and their agents if they are not following market reports carefully which will artificially drive up prices.

The nation’s housing markets have not recovered from the inventory drought. The relationship between prices and inventories is very delicate. For example, in June 2019 demand improved when mortgage interest rates fell unexpectedly. Many buyers became active to take advantage of the rates. With demand up, inventories fell slightly below levels of a year ago. Should rates continue to rise, demand will return to its slow decline.

Pay attention to inventories and new listings in your market. Your market with not make the transition from sellers to buyers’ market until supplies of homes for sale outnumber sales on a monthly basis.

Markets do not change quickly from sellers’ to buyers’ or vice versa. The process is a slow one, giving you time to prepare. If you are a potential seller, you can track these trends to help you decide when to sell in advance of a changeover. If you are a buyer, particularly a first-time buyer, get your ducks (credit score, down payment) in a row so that you will be ready when the market turns in your favor.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

What’s the Best Time to Sell a Home in Utah?

When you’re thinking about selling your home, you’re probably using somes strategy to determine when the best time to list is. You’ll want fewer homes on the market or a high volume of buyers. Each market varies on times of supply and demand, so what is the best time to sell in Utah? Here’s your guide.

High Demand

May, June, July, August, and September are all hot months for buying. Usually this is due to nice weather, but can also be connected to the school year. Many families like to plan a move around the summer break.

If you’re looking to sell during a time of buyers galore, you’ll want to consider listing before that season starts or in late June to jump in as back to school buyers start shopping.

High demand means that a desirable home can create bidding wars, which means multiple offers to you as a seller to consider or negotiate. It also means that there is likely more competition, so knowing your market is important.

Low Competition

People need to move at different times of the year. Changing circumstances aren’t limited to breezy spring days. If you need to move during winter months, you could benefit from lower competition as a seller.

If it’s snowing or cold, there will be fewer sellers but there will still be some eager buyers. As a seller, this means that you still have the chance to attract more attention and likely get a price that makes you happy due to the low supply.

During this time, be aware of the time it takes to sell. The literal cold weather may make buyers come at a slower pace to avoid super chilly days or snow storms.

Pricing Matters

In the winter you may get a price that makes you do a happy dance due to low supply for buyers, and in the summer you may create a bidding war due to high interest in your home.

Pricing too low could leave money on the table, but if your home is priced too high for what it is, you won’t get what you’re asking to matter the season. It’s important to price your home accurately. A licensed real estate agent that is local to your area is a great resource for pricing your home. They should provide you with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to help you understand how homes in your area are selling and what the prices look like.

The Entire Process Takes Time

Keep in mind that the entire selling process does take time. Once you find the perfect buyer, they will need to finalize financing, you’ll need to go through due diligence, and then closing. If your first offer doesn’t pan out during financing or due diligence, you should also be prepared to find another buyer and go through the process again. The earlier in the season you list (or when you list before the season starts), the more runway you’ll have if things don’t quite keep to your original timeline.

Find a Homie

A local real estate agent can be your MVP when it comes to selling your home. Homie agents help you price, list, and close on your home sale in Utah. Click here to learn more about selling with Homie or here to learn more about what Homie agents do differently.

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Source: homie.com

How the Home Buying and Selling Process Has Changed During COVID-19

Summer is usually a busy season for home buying and selling, but in this season of the coronavirus, it’s anything but typical.

As states are in various staging of opening up, sellers are dealing with new procedures with putting their homes up for sale and buyers are working hard to thoroughly search while still practicing social distancing.

I’ve found myself in the middle of this as I’m helping my mom this summer. She’s looking to retire in a few years and wants to be closer to the grandkids.

She’s already found work here in Raleigh and now during summer break, she’s selling her house and hunting for a place.

Being a Smart Home Buyer or Seller During This Pandemic

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home during the pandemic, you need to be extra prepared and willing to adjust as needed.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Louis Guillama, VP of Real Estate Operations at Coastal Credit Union a few times to get his take on what it takes to be successful with buying and selling.

Here are some ways my mom and I have adapted. I hope they help you get a great deal while still practicing social distancing.

Selling Your House

Every seller I know wants to get the most out of their house when they list it. With the pandemic, it can be a real challenge.

However, there are some crucial things you can do to really make your house shine.

Create buzz for your house with incredible pictures and videos. Great photos will help you sell in any season, but are especially more important now. Photographs were a wonderful way to attract interested buyers for a tour, but in some cases where restrictions are strict, they are the tour!

Some tips to make your house looks its best for photos include:

  • Stage your home. Make it easy for buyers to fall in love with your home by taking the time to define and decorate your space.
  • Declutter and depersonalize your space. You want your buyers to imagine that this is their home, so pack away your photos, certificates, and other personal stuff for your next place.
  • Take photos with natural light. If possible, choose a sunny day to take pictures as it can make your house look more inviting.
  • Shoot from the corner of the room. You can highlight rooms better based on where you stand. The ‘directly in front’ method isn’t usually the way to go. Instead, tuck yourself into the corner so you can get a wide shot of the space.

Video is practically a must now as there are potential buyers who have health conditions. Being able to see your home online allows you to cast a wider net. Many agents today are able to create a video based on your photos.

If this all seems overwhelming, then you may want to talk to your agent and ask for a referral. They may know someone with experience who can showcase your home perfectly!

Pictures are wonderful, but there are still some other key pieces you want to watch.

Be objective in your pricing. One huge mistake sellers typically make is mixing up sentimental value with market value. Sit down with your agent and review comparable sales so you can get a clear idea of the best price to list it.

You also have to be mindful if the market has shifted in your area. Hard hit cities may become buyer’s markets now.

Be prepared to go virtual with closing. The closing process has changed to accommodate the social distancing requirement. My mom had a choice of signing at home with digital documents or meeting up at an office.

Buying a House During the Pandemic

Buying a house under normal conditions can be stressful under normal conditions, with a pandemic, you can understandably be anxious. Preparing for your house hunt can make it more enjoyable.

According to Louis Guillama, VP of Real Estate Operations at Coastal Credit Union, snagging a great deal when buying a house requires doing some key legwork.

Run your own numbers. Yes, this is especially true when you’re the buyer. Some lenders will approve you for a loan higher than you can comfortably carry. When you consider other goals -like saving for retirement, taking care of kids, and yes, vacations  – you want to be conservative with your finances.

While 30% of your income is given as a guideline, you may want to use 25% of your net income as a better guide so you can have a good financial buffer in your budget.

Nail down your need and wish list. Now is not the time to tour every single house that comes on the market. You have to be strategic about the houses you visit, so sit down and define what you absolutely need and what would be nice to have.

For my mom, she was adamant getting a house with about 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and that was 15 mins or less from her job and where we live.

She was flexible on the yard size and the town she was in (there are several great ones around Raleigh).  With that information and her budget, we’ve been able to weed out many homes and focused on one that she would absolutely love.

Being a Savvy House Hunter

Adding a layer or two of stress, besides being out of town, my mom also has an underlying medical condition.

To assist, I volunteered to do the actual tours with her real estate agent. If you don’t have someone to go to the in-person visits for you, you’ can still work with your agent and have a successful house hunt.

First off, go through the virtual tour of any home you’re interested in. This will allow you to get a general feel of the layout and whether or not it’ll work for you.

You’ll also want to comb through the photos to see which areas you need to check out further. Are there any signs of damage like cracks, stains, or are certain rooms missing? Either can be a sign of trouble. You can then have your agent call you through video and go through those details.

Don’t be an HGTV kind of buyer, where you focus on things like paint and decor. Instead, Louis advised that you hone in on key systems like electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. You don’t want to get hit with a big repair after you buy your house.

Speaking of home tours and taking a careful look, please make sure you protect yourself. While some areas have restrictions on visits, that doesn’t mean it’s enforced.

In one house I looked at, the agent and I were alone to inspect while the next interested buyers were outside waiting. Another house had us make an appointment as well, but halfway through our tour, several other buyers and agents were in and around the property.

Since part of the in-person tours involves checking around appliances, cabinets, switches, and so forth, you want to bring gloves and a mask.

During your tours, make sure you check the neighborhood as well. When you have neighbors who are taking care of their property it can give you more confidence about your choice.

Speaking of neighborhoods, if you’re looking for a great deal, don’t limit yourself to only the popular neighborhoods (which can be overpriced). Instead, dig for the hidden gems in your city or town.

Stay Safe!

I hope these tips not only help you sell and buy a house during these unprecedented times but also give you ideas on how to stay safe!

I’d love to get your take – how have you adjusted with buying and selling your home?

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