In my last column, I wrote about how important it is to get pre-qualified for a loan before starting a new home search. If you’re a seller you also need to understand the thought processes that buyers go through when they’re choosing a new home.
For buyers, a great place to start your home search is online. Likewise, sellers can use the web to see how their house compares to other similar homes, evaluating how their home stacks up to the competition. Websites such as www.realtor.com can help you determine what houses look like and what their asking prices are by ZIP code, city or price range. They often have tools which you can use to calculate what your mortgage payment might be, too.
If you are a buyer, there are a number of things you need to consider when deciding the city or neighborhood in which to live. What neighborhood amenities are you looking for? How far do you want to drive to work or other activities such as baseball and ballet for the kids? What school district, zone or specific school do you want your children to attend? Our local schools no longer automatically allow out-of-district students so it’s best to do your homework ahead of time.
Then there’s the age, style, size and floor plan (how many bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.). When you get down to these wish list items, remember you’re not likely to find everything on your wish list, especially in our current market of limited inventory. Flexibility and compromise are important, because you are, according to many real estate analysts, likely to remain in this home for 15 years. How well will your family grow into the home or can you stay there into your retirement years? Will the home site allow for expansion or other structural changes?
For a seller, does your home offer the most likely purchaser up-to-date features such as access to high speed technology? Cosmetically, is your home comparable to other homes in your neighborhood or are you offering an outdated home? Energy efficiency is a must-have for today’s buyers including energy saving appliances, windows and features such as energy-saving ceiling fans that help regulate heat and air.
If your home has aged features such as harvest gold-colored appliances or a 20-year-old roof, you need to take these into consideration when pricing your home. Even though these items are working perfectly well for you, they are not likely to be considered positive features by a buyer. In the buyer’s mind, all they’ll see are big dollar signs for things they’ll have to replace now or in the near future. Today’s buyers often put all or nearly all their expendable savings into the purchase and don’t have the flexibility to make expensive changes after closing. Try to look at your home from a prospective buyer’s eyes: Will it appeal to your most likely buyer? You might also want to have a pre-listing home inspection to identify and correct problems before they become a bigger and more costly negotiation item later.
So now that you’ve got an idea of what and where you might like to buy, or a price range you might expect for your present home, who’s going to help you navigate the precarious home buying/home selling landscape? Buyers and sellers will find a wealth of information when working with a local Realtor. Studies have shown that buyers and sellers who “go it alone” often either pay too much or leave money on the table. An experienced local Realtor can help you navigate today’s complex real estate issues and make the home buying and selling process less traumatic for everyone.
There are Realtors who specialize in all aspects of real estate, in both the residential and commercial fields. You may want to consider a Realtor who offers flexibility in providing you listing information from other areas or markets, or who is licensed in more than one state. A Realtor who’s involved in the community can also provide you better information about our quality of life in the Carpet Capital.
How do you want to communicate with your Realtor? Are you technologically savvy? Do you prefer to text, email or talk on the phone? Seek an agent who is the right “fit” for you and who will understand what it is and how you want to accomplish it. Friends, family and work colleagues will often have strong feelings on which agent you should work with, but in the end, you need to find someone who is right for you and your needs. Establishing a working relationship with an agent who becomes your real estate partner creates the best possible scenario for both home buyers and sellers.
Carolyn Roan is president of the Carpet Capital Association of Realtors and a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Kinard Realty in Dalton.