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5 Tips From Real Estate Experts Across The Country
Spring and all its glory is right around the corner—just take a look at the signs all around you.
No, we’re not talking about the budding flowers or the chirping birds—we’re referring to those “For Sale” signs that start popping up on lawns across the country as the weather starts heating up.
And once the home-buying season commences … so do the bidding wars and mad dashes from one open house to another.
Since the housing market can be a tricky one to suss out, we asked agents across the country to give us their assessments for this season’s real estate landscape.
Their overarching observation? This will be a competitive home-buying season—so if you snooze, you may lose out on that four-bedroom colonial you’ve been eyeing.
“The major pitfall is lack of preparation,” says David Yocum, a Redfin real estate agent based in Chicago. “The [housing] recovery appears slow due to a lack of inventory and a low participation rate among first-time buyers, but it’s still a competitive seller’s market.”
Spring House-Hunting Tip #1: Close That Laptop—and Canvass Old-Fashioned Open Houses
These days, using real estate sites to explore your options is par for the course: 90% of people search for listings online during their home-buying process.
Kicking off your search online is a good move, but don’t dawdle too long behind the computer screen—inventory is expected to be tight in many major markets, so you literally want to hit the ground running.
“In our market we hope for a burst of new inventory in the spring, but that doesn’t always happen,” says Richard Seaton, vice president at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in the Washington, D.C., area. “Even if that burst comes, demand will outstrip supply, so buyers have to be in a position to make a decision quickly.”
Spring House-Hunting Tip #2: Educate Yourself on Market Values and Trends
“Buyers need to get up to speed quickly on market values so they know the right decision when it presents itself,” Yocum says. “The more quickly buyers can educate themselves, the more successful the home search will be.”
This, of course, is where it’s really all about location, location, location. According to the Case-Shiller 2014 home price index, San Francisco saw the largest annual regional gain at 9.3%, while other major markets—like New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.—saw less than 2%.
Spring House-Hunting Tip #3: Nab Low Mortgage Rates—Now
Another reason not to dawdle too long? You want to take advantage of low interest rates while they last.
“Mortgage rates are still historically low, allowing buyers to wrap up the most house their money will afford them at payment levels that should be affordable for decades,” Yocum says.
In fact, interest rates are so low that, in many markets, monthly mortgage payments are less than rent, adds Seaton. “Most predictions are that the fabulously low interest rates will stay that way through the spring, and that the variety of loan packages available to buyers will continue to multiply,” he adds.
Spring House-Hunting Tip #4: Build Your Home-Buying Dream Team Before You Bid
If spring-cleaning season has you in a hyper-organized mood, channel some of that spirit into your house hunting—in order to be a serious frontrunner in a bidding war, you’ll need to have all of your ducks in a row.
So not only will you need a savvy real estate agent, but you’ll also want your lender, inspector and attorney at the ready so you can act fast, says Yocum.
Spring House-Hunting Tip #5: Keep Sweeten-the-Deal Moves in Mind
So you’ve finally found that dream Tudor on a half-acre—but you’re stuck in a bidding war with another equally prepared buyer. How do you win by a nose?
For one, include an escalation clause, along with your offer, suggests Seaton. This is an amount that you’d automatically be willing to pay above a competing bid.
For example, let’s say you add an escalation clause of $3,000 to your bid of $200,000. If a second offer comes in at $205,000, your bid would get bumped to $208,000. If you’re in a hot market, a significant escalation factor could really pique seller interest, Seaton adds.