There’s no doubt about it: Buying a home can be extremely stressful—as can be selling, renovating, or renting one. So if you did any of the above in 2017, you really had your work cut out for you! Between all of the upheavals and natural disasters sweeping across our fine nation, real estate became an even trickier game than usual.
The good news, though, is that we here at realtor.com® were working hard this year to bring you expert advice on how to ace all things real estate. Our goal has been to make your housing journey a little easier—and, in case you missed any of our greatest hits, we’ve compiled our best advice stories from 2017 below. Read on for a refresher, or to gear up for any property-related plans you’ve got in 2018!
So let’s get started…
By the time you get to the closing table, you might feel like you’re home free (and can finally stop watching what you say). But nope—until you’ve signed on the dotted line, your chatty tendencies need to stay in check.
“There are things that home buyers could say that could stop the closing entirely,” warns Jennifer Baxter, associate broker at Re/Max Regency in Suwanee, GA.
Yikes! Not only could that mean a delay on moving into your dream home, you could also risk your locked-in interest rate expiring, losing your mortgage commitment, or worse. So keep your cards close to your vest for just a little longer, or else.
Can’t-miss tip: If you’ve recently had a change of finances—like maybe you quit your job that morning or bought a bunch of new furniture on credit—don’t say anything at the closing! Chances are your lender already knows; but if not, don’t rat yourself out.
On another note: Don’t make the sellers feel bad about the deal. Keep any snarky comments about what you’ll tear down to yourself. Selling a home is emotional—imagine how you’ll feel when you’re on the other side of the table.
Buyers aren’t the only ones who need to learn to keep their thoughts to themselves. Home sellers should watch out, too—and giving an answer that is both truthful and not too truthful isn’t easy. It’s like the “What are your biggest weaknesses” job interview question: Any answer you give could potentially hurt you.
“Home buyers are looking for any indication that you’d be willing to accept an offer that’s below list price,” says Annapolis, MD, real estate agent Greg Beckman. “If you say the wrong thing to a buyer, the person might make you a lowball offer.”
Can’t-miss tip: If at all possible, let your real estate agent do the talking! If you’re forced into answering the question, give the shortest, most neutral response you can. Practice this line: “We love the home, but we’re ready for a change.” Got it?
A home inspector’s checklist has over 1,600 things on it—stuff you probably never even thought to worry about being broken. This story will help you understand what to expect your regular inspector to check out, and what you might need to call in a specialist to examine.
Can’t-miss tip: Don’t count on having your roof inspected if your home is more than two stories or it’s difficult to get to.
“We’ll go up on roofs if it’s safe,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors. “But if it’s raining or it’s too high, we’re not able to get to it.”
If your regular inspector can’t make it all the way up, find a roof specialist to give you a sense of what you’re working with. The extra cash will be loose change compared with what it costs to replace a roof.
Even the pickiest cleaners can’t think of everything, right? And the rest of us are usually missing all kinds of hidden dust, scum, and crud. The next time you do a deep clean, remember to go outside of your line of sight to some of the frequently neglected areas.
“If it’s up high, down low, or behind something, it may never see your scrub brush,” says Cheryl Reed from Angie’s List. See what you’re probably forgetting, and how to clean these hidden dirt collectors.
Can’t-miss tip: Don’t forget your refrigerator coils! That may sound like going overboard—after all, who on Earth is going to run a white glove over the back of the fridge?—but dusty coils can make your refrigerator work harder, which can shorten its life span. A quick vacuum and dust should have your coils functioning better in no time. It’s easy to do, too!
Yes, yes, of course your design sensibility works for you. It’s just that it might not exactly match what a buyer is looking for, and when you’re selling your home, that’s a big problem. Nobody’s suggesting you completely redecorate your living room for staging (unless, of course, that’s your living room with the leaping bighorn sheep taxidermy above). But if you’re already planning to do some touch-ups, here’s a list of looks to avoid. After all, living rooms themselves are starting to go out of style. Don’t make things even worse!
Can’t-miss tip: Your over-the-fireplace TV has to go. Sorry. You can put it back after the house sells, but when you’re showing a home, you need to hide the screen and whatever mounting equipment or holes were lurking behind it.
Buyers don’t just hate your living room, they might hate your bathroom, too. And yes, it matters.
The bathroom “can actually be a deal breaker for some people,” observes Bee Heinemann, an interior design expert at Vant Wall Panels.
And the bathroom blunders buyers are rejecting aren’t just tacky, dated looks. Major trends from the past few years (e.g., all-white bathrooms) are turning up on buyers’ pass lists. Is your bathroom more in need of an update than you realized?
Can’t-miss tip: Dual sinks are going the way of pink tile. Homeowners would rather bump elbows brushing their teeth and keep the extra counter space. And medicine cabinets are being replaced by open shelving in the world’s more fashionable bathrooms. Sorry, party snoopers, the medicine bottles are going elsewhere for now.
That’s right, we’re not just coming for your living room, dual sink, over-the-fireplace TV, and medicine cabinet. We’re raiding the kitchen, too. If you’re nostalgic for overly processed childhood foods, then this list is probably going to hurt. But consumers are ditching junk and going for more fresh, natural, and local products. That’s good for our bodies, bad for Chef Boyardee. And it’s not just outdated foods; people are down on family heirlooms, too. Sorry guys, your old china collections are probably not going to be cherished by the next generation.
Can’t-miss tip: Still measuring out dishwashing powder? You’re in the minority. In 2015, 70% of all dishwashing detergent sales were in pack or tab form. Why not make doing the dishes just that much easier?
People do all kinds of goofy stuff in the pursuit of homeownership. We get it: It’s a complicated process. But there are so many avoidable mistakes that you can, well, avoid if you just know what you’re doing. Here are eight mistakes that people make all the time. Don’t be one of those people. You’re too smart for that.
Can’t-miss tip: For first-timers, pre-qualification and pre-approval sound like the same thing. They are most certainly not. Especially if you’re in a seller’s market, you need that pre-approval letter. It takes more documentation to get and requires underwriting, so yeah it’s a pain—but that’s exactly why it’s more valuable if you’re serious about buying a home. So stop cutting corners already!
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