Can you believe the holidays are almost here again? Soon we will be setting the Christmas table, carving the turkey, and unwrapping gifts. It is so easy to get distracted and put things off, especially the overwhelming nature of getting your house ready to list, or the stress of finding your next home. But just like the spring market will not be taking a break for the holidays, the reality is that you can’t either.
The phrase “spring market” is really a misnomer. Although most people think of spring as starting when the flowers bloom and May showers come along, the actual spring real estate market starts in February or March. And the earlier that you get a jump on listing your house for the new year to come, or seriously preparing to look for a new home, the less competition you will have.
According to statistics, 60% to 65% of home sales happen in the spring. The spring real estate market contains both the most inventory, as well as the most transactions. If you don’t want to miss the great window of opportunity, don’t put off today what you can do after the New Year! Whether you are looking for a new home or considering listing yours, now is the time to act.
What Buyers Should be Thinking About Before the New Year
It is All About the Timing…Will you Have Enough Time?
Build a rough calendar, by determining when you want to be in your new home and work back from that date. Ask yourself if your house hunting timeframe coincides with the housing market calendar in the area (e.g. school calendar, tourist seasons, climate, etc.) and your particular moving calendar requirements. And how will your timeframe impact you if you need to sell a home first? (Hint: Alot). Remember, the national average to find a house, receive mortgage offer, find a lawyer, exchange contracts, complete the sale, and take occupancy is over 6 months. And that estimate doesn’t take into account if you need to sell a house first.
Do Your Research
If you already know which neighborhood you prefer, great…you are ahead of the game! If you don’t, now is a perfect time to research what areas and neighborhoods suit you best. It is important to know about the schools, commute, taxes, activities, entertainment and the “personality” of your new neighborhood. You should spend time in the neighborhood, learn about your possible neighbors, do a practice commute, meet with the school, and do a “test” of the activities that are important to your life. Take the time to really examine important conveniences like restaurants, health clubs, dog-runs, hiking trails, shopping, etc.. That all takes time. Utilize your Realtor’s experience in various neighborhoods to help you start your search – they are experts so don’t be afraid to take from their experiences to save time!
When searching for a home, it helps immensely to know what you have to spend. Nothing can be more frustrating than finding the home of your dreams and then discovering that you can’t afford it. And while one can generally get pre-qualified for a loan in a few days, it is always a good idea to get pre-approved. Pre-qualification only gives you a rough estimate of the loan you might qualify for – while pre-approval means you’ve actually been approved by a lender for a specific loan amount. Pre-Approval takes a lot more time, and requires documentation and credit checks, but going though the lengthy process can help in three ways. The first, you will know what your price point is and only view those houses that you can realistically afford. Secondly, when you make an offer, the seller will take it more seriously knowing that you have already done your homework and know how much you have to spend, which is especially important in a competitive market. And third, you will have the opportunity to see any credit issues that need to be addressed.
What Sellers Should be Thinking About Before the New Year
Come to Terms With Reality – How Far Will Your Money Go?
If you are one of the many homeowners thinking that you’ve plenty of time after the New Year’s ball has dropped to get things in order, think again. It takes several months for the average homeowner to prepare their house for sale. Things like cleaning, making home repairs, decluttering, and staging will all help your home sell faster and for the best price. But preparing a home doesn’t all just fall together easily, nor in a timely manner.
Develop a Strategy and Marketing Plan With Your Realtor
Your realtor will be your greatest tool before you list. They can provide sound advice about what needs to be done, an appropriate and realistic timeline about how long it will take, and what marketing tactics will work best once your home is listed. Finding the right niche market to target takes more than just putting up a for sale sign. Now is an excellent time to talk about how you want to “brand” your home and what a potential buyer will look like.
How Long Will Home Repairs Take?
Before you think you have time to sit back and relax until the New Year passes, it is important to take stock of what needs to be done around the house. If you have several projects that have to be tackled, it is going to be a matter of how much time things take to be repaired. And that is going to rely heavily on scheduling different contractors. Since in the contracting world, everything seems always to take more time than anticipated, knowing what type of time frame you will need to get things on track is critical to have it ready to list!
The Complexity of Getting Ready to Sell
If you have renovation projects that you would like to get done before you list, then timing is going to be important for many reasons. If you plan it right, you might save yourself from being put far down on the list, dealing with a small pool of contractors who are available and paying more than you should. And the weather is a huge factor when it comes to the availability of labor.
According to Nino Sitchinava, the principal economist at Houzz, “While there are perfect times of the year to do this or that, ultimately, the schedule of your project is conditional on the schedule of the contractor you are going to hire”. So finding the right person at the right time, is essential!
And if you want to try to keep material costs low, the winter is when manufacturers offer the best discounts on paint materials. And it is also the best time for bathroom and kitchen remodeling. Both materials and contractors are more available before than after the New Year when people commit to getting things done around the house.
Staging Companies are Important too…Which Means you Have to Clear out
Staged homes sell 25% quicker than non-staged homes. But the quality of the staging is important. So interviewing stagers to beat your competition is a must. If you wait too long, the best ones in the business will be gone, and you will be left either leaving your furniture in ill-repair or investing in buying new things that you might not want. Also, it takes time to pack things up and move them to a storage facility or to find a place to put your belongings. So if you are going to stage, now is the time to sign a contract and reserve your stager!
Think About the Timeline Once you do List
According to statistics, homes sell fastest in June. So how long do you want to list before homes start going fast? Getting ahead of the competition is highly critical. And since it takes, on average, about 68 days for a home to sell, if you don’t get your home listed until May, you are going to be in the height of a buyer’s market with lots of inventory for homebuyers to choose from. It is ideal to be in the thick of things when homes start selling quickly. But if you want to get your house on the market before the competition gets fierce, then you only have two months to get it all together.
Consider Paying for a Home Inspection
Most home sellers wait for a potential buyer to pay for a home inspection. But if you wait, you could be missing a huge opportunity! A home inspection might cost you money, but it will give you the upper hand when it comes to negotiations. And having it done in advance of listing will tell you what needs to be repaired. And it will also allow you the time to do all that you, in advance, to make sure that once your house goes into contract you can close on the transaction. The average home inspection can cost anywhere from $315 to $450, depending on the square footage of your home and how extensive you choose to look under your own hood. That is a small price to pay for a heads up that will give you the upper hand.
Although it might be tempting to think about sitting back and relaxing over the holidays, it could be a huge mistake! You not only want to be ready for the spring market, but you also want to be slightly ahead of it, so you aren’t scrambling to get your home ready for sale. Now is a perfect time to get yourself on a contractor’s schedule, look for your next home, and have an action plan to be house-sell ready when the New Year bell rings, not after.