Having an Open House

If you’re selling your home, one of the things your realtor may suggest is having an open house.  This is a great way of getting a good number of potential buyers into your home.  Unlike scheduled showings, open houses allow anyone who just happens to be driving by to come in and take a look at your home.  Of course, you won’t want to leave it up to chance—your realtor will advertise the open house and work hard to get the word out to those looking to buy in your area.

Having an Open HouseHaving an open house can be somewhat difficult if you’re still living in the home.  You’ll probably need to leave for the duration of the open house, which can be several hours.  You’ll also need to clean the entire home and make certain your pets are boarded or otherwise away from the property.  You want the house to look absolutely impeccable, which can be difficult since you’re still living there.  Do your best to make it look spotless and uncluttered.

Many realtors suggest removing a lot of your personal effects, too.  This makes the house look less cluttered and makes it appear to be a blank slate.  It also reduces the chance of a potential buyer seeing something he or she disagrees with, such as something relating to your political or religious beliefs.  Try to make your house as impersonal and uncluttered as you can.

If you’ve already moved, though, having an open house is fairly easy.  You’ll still need to do a deep cleaning, of course.  You may even want to have your floors professionally cleaned so they look perfect, and you might want to repaint any rooms that need it if you haven’t already done so (your realtor may have suggested you repaint before the house is shown to anyone).  If you haven’t been living in the house for a month or so, you or your realtor should make certain everything is still working properly (electricity, water, etc.).  Turn on the air conditioning or heating to make the house comfortable a few hours before the open house starts.

Talk to your realtor about what you’re expected to do.  Some will take care of checking the house and adjusting the internal temperature themselves, but some may be very busy.  You might want to check on things yourself anyway.  You may also need to take care of some yard work, including mowing or clearing the drive of snow.  Remember, even though your realtor will be showing the property, it’s still yours until it’s sold.  That means everything is ultimately your responsibility.

Why Trying to Sell Your Home Yourself is a Bad Idea

You might have seen a house with a “for sale by owner” sign in the front yard and wondered if that was a good option for you.  While it’s true that selling your home yourself does mean you don’t have to pay a realtor, there are a lot of downsides to doing so.  In fact, hiring a realtor to sell your home gives you a lot of advantages, all of which are worth paying for.  Here are a few of the reasons why trying to sell your home yourself is a bad idea.

Consider a Realtor-You don’t have access to any of the contacts the realtor has made over the years.  Realtors know contractors, loan officers, mortgage brokers, and more.  They can connect you with any of these people if you need their services.

-Realtors will list your house on the MLS, the Multiple Listing Service.  This gets your home into one of the largest searchable real estate databases.  Without a realtor, you would have to list your home online yourself through whatever smaller real estate listing sites you can find.

-Realtors have lists of people who are looking for homes.  They will most likely immediately know of a few potential buyers for your property as soon as they see your house.  They will also be able to direct more buyers to your property over time.

-A realtor will handle all of the showings and open houses for you.  This means they will contact the potential buyers, set up a time for them to see the property, host the open house, and more.  You don’t have to do a thing.  In fact, you don’t have to be at the property during any of these showings.

-Your realtor will walk you through the entire process of selling your house, including vetting a potential buyer, arranging the closing, and answering any and all questions you have.   Without a realtor, you’re completely on your own.  If you’ve never sold property before, there’s a very good chance that you won’t understand some parts of the process, and that can cost you a lot of money.

-Realtors know the real estate market.  They understand what types of houses are selling where and the best price range for your home.  Many of them have years of experience in the industry and have learned many little tricks for getting the most money out of a house.

What to Include on Your Must-Have and Would-Like Lists

When you’re looking for a house to buy, one of the things most realtors suggest you do is make a list of must-haves and would-likes.  But some people aren’t sure what to put on these lists, and they end up either putting things on the wrong lists or making their must-have list too long.  Here are a few different tips for making your lists that will help you figure out exactly what should go on each.

Your Home ChecklistHow large of a house do you need?  If you have a family or are going to be starting a family soon, take that into consideration.  House size is a must-have for many people.  You may want to list the absolute minimum number of beds/baths that will work for you on the must-have and the number of beds/baths you’d really like on your would-like list.

Location may be another must-have, especially if you want to have a short commute or if you need to get your children into a certain school district.  Even if you don’t have a specific neighborhood or suburb you want to be in, you may want to put your preferred location on your would-like list.

Can you routinely climb up and down stairs?  Some people have bad knees and simply cannot handle the stairs, while others may have an elderly family member living with them who couldn’t go up and down stairs.  You may need to put “one story house” on your must-have list if this is going to be an issue.

If you or someone in your family is in a wheelchair, you may also need to include wide doorways or a wide hallway on your must-have list.  Some homes simply aren’t laid out in a wheelchair-friendly way.

Do you prefer gas or electric cooking?  What about a gas or electric hookup for your dryer?  These preferences may be on your must-have list or on your would-like list, depending on how strong your preference is.

Is there a specific type of neighborhood you’d like to be in?  You may want to live in an area where you’ll have neighbors who are similar to you.  In some cases, that may mean a specific demographic.  For example, a gay or lesbian realtor would know areas where many LGBT families live.  For some, this is a must.  For others, it’s less important.

Finally, remember that things like a pool, fireplace, or high ceilings should never really rate as a must-have.  Even if you’d really like them, you may find a house that is absolutely perfect, but is lacking one of these amenities.  Don’t make them deal breakers; otherwise, you might miss out on a great property.

Buying a Home in Another State

Buying a house in your neighborhood is complicated enough, but it gets even worse when you’re trying to relocate to another state.  Trying to make a long-distance purchase makes the entire process much more stressful, but there are a few different things you and your realtor can do to make it easier.

Packing Your ThingsWhile it’s always good to have a realtor you trust when looking for a home, it’s almost vital you have a great one when you’re trying to buy real estate in another location.  Since you won’t be able to look at every house yourself, the realtor will have to do some of the leg work, and you’ll have to rely more on his or her recommendations.  You may only have a weekend or a few days to look at potential properties, so you can only look at the ones that best fit you.  Finding a great realtor should be at the top of your list, especially one who fits your needs—one who works in a specific neighborhood, a gay or lesbian realtor, etc.

If at all possible, you want to schedule at least a few days to visit your new home and look at the properties your realtor has selected for you.  This may be expensive, however, since you may need to pay for airfare, a hotel room, and a rental car.  Some people might not be able to afford that, so they may have to rely on the realtor’s expertise even more than usual.

Fortunately, if you’re relocating for work, many businesses do offer a small amount of relocation pay.  This may not let you visit the area first, but it is often enough to pay for a hotel for a few weeks while you search for more permanent housing.  That may be enough time to find a great house, but it may not be enough time to actually go through closing.  In that case, you should be prepared to pay for your temporary accommodations for a little longer.  If there are any complications with the sale, you may end up living out of a hotel room for a few months.  Your employer may pick up the tab, but they may not.

There is one other option: find an apartment or other house for rent with a short-term lease and use the time to find a home.  Doing this allows you to look at the options yourself, and you have time to handle any emergencies that occur during closing.

Why Should You Get Pre-Approved?

One of the things you’ll hear about when you begin to the house-buying process is getting pre-approved for a mortgage.  Some people don’t go looking for financing until they’ve found the perfect house, but there are a few reasons why you should talk to a financial officer first and get pre-approved for a loan.

Mortgage ApprovalMost people assume that they need to have a house in mind before they can go ask for a loan from a bank or other lending institution, but usually, the cost of the house has nothing to do with it.  Instead, the amount you can borrow is almost always based on your financial situation, savings, and credit.  The loan amount you’ll qualify will be the same before you find your dream home as it will be after, so there’s nothing to stop you from finding out how much money you can borrow before house hunting.  In fact, doing so means you won’t have to worry about falling in love with a home just to find out you can’t afford it.

Being pre-approved may also help you in securing your home.  Sellers who see that you have been pre-approved will take your offer more seriously.  They know you have the financing to back up your offer, so there’s less of a chance that something will go wrong and the deal fall through.  You both know you can afford the home and that a bank will lend you the money.  It’s also actually becoming more and more common for sellers to reject any potential buyer who isn’t pre-approved.

Your realtor will also appreciate you being pre-approved.  It actually makes their job a lot easier because they can search for homes that are in your price range in addition to looking for those that meet your other criteria.  They will know that they’re not wasting their time showing you properties that you may not be able to afford.

It’s important to note, however, that being pre-approved does not mean you’ve already secured a loan.  It simply means that a lender has looked over your credit history and has verified your income.  You will still have to go through the entire approval process once you’ve found the house you want to buy, and there’s always a chance that you will be denied even after being pre-approved.  However, there’s much less of a chance of that happening since you won’t be trying to get a loan for more than you can afford.