Is January the new April? When it comes to the real estate market, experts say yes.
Regardless of whether that famous groundhog sees his shadow, a recent article on CNBC suggests spring will arrive early this year—at least when it comes to the housing market. In fact, some are speculating that January may very well be the new April.
What’s causing this already-busy buying season to kick off ahead of schedule? Low inventory and rising home prices are spurring house hunters to come out of hibernation months before they previously would have.
With that in mind, whether you’re buying or selling, or both, it’s time to get moving. The following checklists will help you prepare yourself or home property so don’t get left behind!
If you’re hoping to put your place on the market and capitalize on those early bird buyers, you want your property to be in the best possible shape. That means you’ll want to tackle the following tasks:
Clean: Scrub like you’ve never scrubbed before! Some recommend hiring a cleaning service as new eyes will find old stains and smudges you no longer even notice.
Paint: Nothing brightens up a room like a fresh coat of paint. Don’t forget the moldings and trim. Buyers notice every detail.
Declutter: You’re going to have to pack up anyway, so why not do it sooner rather than later? As you go through each room, start storing non-essential items that you plan to take with you to your new address. If you find items you no longer want or need, donate them or try to sell them online for a quick influx of cash you can spend on your new place.
Tackle repairs: Take care of anything that would pop up on a home inspector’s report. Chances are you’ll need to fix it before you move, so why not do it now and enjoy these improvements for as long as you remain in the home?
Work on your curb appeal: Your home’s exterior is what’s going to make that all-important first impression on buyers. If your lawn boasts more weeds than grass, your shrubs are dead, and your fence is falling apart, you can count on that prospect driving on to the next house.
Find the right real estate agent: Often sellers want to hire the agent who says they’ll list the property for the highest price. Or, they’re tempted to select one who’s willing to take the lowest commission. But, really, you want an agent with a track record of success who is familiar with the area and comparable listings, and has a marketing plan that will help you realize the maximum value. A sky-high listing price sounds great, but not if it takes you three years to sell, right?
If you’re ready to purchase a new home, there are several things you can do before you hit your first open house to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Clean up your credit: Your credit score not only impacts your ability to secure a mortgage at all, but it will also determine the interest rate you’ll pay. If you’re worried about your credit score, start working toward raising it by paying all your bills on time and making sure your balances are low. Check your credit report by contacting the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You’re entitled to a free report from each agency once per year. If you spot an error, having the report amended will boost your score.
Pro tip: Speak to an experienced mortgage professional. Sometimes they can advise you on what (and what not) to pay down or off, in order to improve your credit score.
Save for a down payment (and then some!): Being able to put 20% of the purchase price down at your closing isn’t necessary, but it could help you in terms of better rates and overall monthly payments. It can also help you to avoid paying for private mortgage insurance (PMI). It’s also wise to save for emergencies because once you’re in your new home you never know what may suddenly need repair.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage: Getting preapproved lets sellers know you’re the real deal. And, it let’s you know what you can afford, so you focus on the right price points, and can choose the perfect one to go after with confidence.
Rather than just prequalification, which is more like an estimate of what you can borrow, a pre-approval means the loan is much more likely to get through underwriting once you get a home under contract, because the lender has already assessed your credit, income, debts, and assets.
Plus, if you find yourself competing for a property, being able to tell a seller you’re pre-approved can give you the advantage you need against others who are not.
Do your due diligence: Think you’ve found an area you like? Check out neighborhoods at different times of day, and be sure to notice traffic patterns. For example, is the home you like on a street drivers use to dodge traffic on Main Street. Will you encounter school drop-off or pick-up congestion that will make getting in or out of your driveway a hassle? How about early morning church bells or that fire house whistle? Consider all these factors, and anything else that may appeal to you, or bother you personally, as you’re driving past potential homes.
Find the right real estate agent: Whether this is your first or fiftieth home purchase, it’s still wise to enlist the help of a buyer’s agent. After all, it doesn’t cost you anything out of pocket typically, and a good agent will help you by sharing their inside knowledge not only of the neighborhood, but also help establish what’s a good value in your price range.
Plus, they’ll arrange showings on your behalf and they may also be able to alert you to red flags you’d otherwise miss while touring properties. These seasoned experts will be happy to refer you to other pros you’ll want on your side, such as home inspectors, attorneys, and lenders.
Whether you’re planning on selling, buying, or both, you may be competing with plenty of other buyers and sellers once Spring is in full swing. So, taking care of the items listed above can help you get the edge you need. Especially with the Spring real estate market getting it’s own head start!