FOR THE BUYER

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO BUY?

Because many buyers prefer to move in the spring or summer, the market starts to heat up as early as February.  Families with children are eager to buy so they can move during summer vacation, before the new school year begins.  The market slows down in late summer before picking up again briefly in the fall.  November and December have traditionally been slow months, although some astute buyers look for bargains during this period.

IS A LOW OFFER A GOOD IDEA?

You should always do your homework reviewing comparable prices in the neighborhood to help determine a fair market value, how long the property has been on the market and understanding what the seller’s motivation(s) before making an offer.   While all offers must be presented, the seller has the option to accept, reject, or counter. 

Your low offer in a normal market might be rejected immediately.  In a buyer’s market a motivated seller will either accept or make a counteroffer.  Full-price offers or above may be more likely to be accepted by the seller.  But there are other considerations involved:

-Is the offer contingent upon anything, such as the sale of the buyer’s current house?  If so, a low offer, or even at full price, may not be as attractive as an offer without that condition;

-Is the offer made contingent on a home inspection? Will the buyer want the seller to make some repairs or lower the price instead?

-Is the offer all cash, meaning the buyer has waived the financing contingency? If so, an offer at less than the asking price may be attractive to the seller than a full-price offer with a financing contingency.

IS THERE A SECRET TO GOOD NEGOTIATING?

There are several cardinal rules to negotiating effectively.  One is do your homework and learn as much about the seller and/or buyer as you can.  Another is to not reveal too much information to the other party or their agent.  Don’t let yourself get rushed into any decision, no matter how tempting it may be. 

FOR THE SELLER

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS WHEN SELLING MY HOME?

Price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home, even in a down market.  The first step is to price your home correctly.  Use comparative sales information from your agent, or pay a professional appraiser (usually $300 to $600), to objectively evaluate your home’s worth.  Second, go through the house and repair any obvious cosmetic defects that could deter a buyer.  In a down market, you may have to consider lowering your price and/or making a major repair, such as replacing a roof in order to attract a buyer.  Additionally, make sure that your home is getting the exposure it deserves: open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage and listing on the local multiple listing service or online listing providers.  If this isn’t happening, take it up with your agent or agent’s broker.  If you are still not satisfied you are getting the service you need, you may need to consider switching agents.

HOW IS THE PRICE SET?

It is very important to price your home according to current market conditions.  Since the real estate market is continually changing, and market fluctuations have an effect on property values, it’s imperative to select your list price based on the most recent comparable sales in your neighborhood.  When you prepare to sell and are interviewing agents, study each agent’s comparable sales report (sales data should be no more than 6 months old).  If all agents agree on a price range for your home, go with the consensus.  Watch out for an agent whose opinion of value is considerably higher than the others.

WHAT ARE THE STANDARDS WAYS OF FINDING OUT HOW MUCH A HOME IS WORTH?

A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the standard methods for determining a home’s value.  Your real estate agent will be happy to provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on comparable sales in the neighborhood.  Be sure to get listing prices of current homes on the market as well as those that have sold.  You also can research this yourself by checking on recent sales in public records.  Be sure that you are researching properties that are similar in size, construction and location.  An appraisal, which generally costs approximately $300 to $600 to perform, is a certified appraiser’s opinion of the value of a home at any given time.  Appraisers review numerous factors including recent comparable sales, location, square footage and construction quality.

HOW DO I PREPARE MY HOUSE TO SELL?

Doing whatever you can to make your house show best is very important if you want to get highest price and sell as quickly as possible. Short of spending a lot of money, here are several ideas:

  • Sweep the sidewalk, mow the lawn, prune the bushes, weed the garden and clean debris from the yard
  • Clean the windows inside and out
  • Clean and spruce up all rooms: furnishings, floors, walls and ceilings. Especially important that kitchen and bathrooms are spotless
  • Organize all closets and storage areas
  • Make sure all appliances and fixtures work: repair leaky faucets, replace lightbulbs, batteries in smoke detectors, etc
  • Miscellaneous details to set the stage: make sure house smells good, fresh flowers throughout the house, background music.