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Hi! My name is Helen Melhorn, and I’m a real estate agent at The Janet Jones Company in Little Rock, Arkansas. Today I’m here to share some advice with you. We’ll be talking about tips for first-time home buyers, how to get your home ready to sell, and how to navigate this hot market (which is like nothing anyone’s seen before!).
TIPS FOR FIRST-TIME HOME BUYERS
+ Get Pre-Approved
First things first: GET PRE-APPROVED by a lender! I cannot stress the importance of this step. It’s always been important, but in this market, it’s crucial. Showing that you’re pre-approved eases sellers’ anxieties about your financial ability to purchase their home. These days, getting pre-approved is easy and can be done quickly. Getting pre-approved also establishes a “known” price range of homes you can afford – avoiding that heartache a buyer experiences after putting an offer on a home he later finds out he can’t afford!
+ Finding a Realtor you Trust
You would be shocked at how many people believe they can handle this roller coaster ride alone. If that’s your vibe, go for it! However, here are a couple of reasons I think working with a trusted Realtor is very beneficial:
1) Realtors have access to the MLS. The Multiple Listings Service is an effective tool in the home buying process. You don’t have access to it unless you are working with a Realtor. It provides your Realtor quick and easy access to new listings, open houses, price changes, and houses that are back on the market.
2) Realtors know the area. Although you may have lived in the same city for years, you won’t necessarily have the expertise that a Realtor has in knowing the different neighborhoods, including such things as the average price per sq. ft., crime rates, HOA fees, etc.
3) Realtors know their markets. The real estate market is something that changes week to week. Agents are constantly monitoring these changes and working to keep their clients informed.
4) You have nothing to lose. Many buyers have the misconception that they will be paying their real estate agent, when in fact, SELLERS typically pay the listing/selling commissions!
+ Know What You’re Looking For
It will help so much if you can narrow down your search to the criteria you need for your new home before you just jump into the market clueless, e.g., what neighborhood you want to be in, what amenities you want to be close to, is there a certain school you want to send your kids to, are you willing to make improvements, or does it have to be move-in ready…the list goes on and on. The more straightforward you are with your Realtor, the easier the house hunting process will be for you AND your Realtor!
+ Have Patience & Stay Open-Minded
One thing I always tell my clients from the start is not to expect to necessarily get the first house we put an offer on. Due to low inventory, most sellers are receiving multiple offers. It could take two weeks, or it could take two years…the key is to stay positive, patient, and undaunted.
+ Maintain Your Credit
One of the biggest mistakes buyers make before closing is making large purchases of other items, like a new car, new furniture, etc. By doing so, your credit score can go down enough where you no longer qualify for your loan. Lenders pull your credit report when you apply for a mortgage AND before you close. They do this in order to see patterns that may affect you making payments on time. So try to continue to pay bills on time and don’t do any heavy spending.
HOW TO GET YOUR HOME READY TO SELL
+ Curb Appeal
The first step in getting your home “market-ready” (my company likes to say “parade ready”) is to evaluate the current curb appeal of your home. Think about it…you only have one chance to make a good first impression on the buyer who drives by your home! To start, begin with your lawn and flower beds. It’s crazy how transformative new mulch in beds and a manicured green lawn can be! Next, assess the exterior of your house. Does it need a new coat of paint? New light fixtures? Even a new paint color on your door can change the whole look of a house.
The second step in getting your house “market-ready” is staging! Staging can be one of the most crucial steps in this process. If done right, potential buyers can more easily envision their future lives and themselves in your home. It doesn’t matter if your home is vacant or not – staging is always beneficial. As staging companies have exploded in the last few years due to the robust real estate market, you should have no problem finding a staging company that fits your needs. And of course, your agent will always be happy to help you in finding a good stager. Finally, if you believe you can do this step by yourself, HGTV and other home-improvement networks are great places to get awesome ideas!
+ Make Sure Everything is Light and Bright
The next step in getting your house ready to sell is making sure your interiors are light and bright. When it comes to successful showings, the brighter, the better! It’s very important to have your drapes and blinds open to ensure you are highlighting every room. By letting in natural light, it shows potential buyers how bright and cheerful your home can be. It also helps to have all the lights on in your home. With just this simple step, buyers feel more welcomed, giving them one more reason to imagine making your home theirs!
+ Declutter & Keep Things Minimal
Another tip for getting your house market-ready is to de-clutter and utilize storage. LESS IS MORE!! This may seem like a small step, but I can’t stress how important it is when trying to sell your home. Clutter, knickknacks, and walls of family photos can be extremely distracting, mentally blocking potential buyers from visualizing THEIR things in your home. It’s a good idea to put away things such as loose papers, toys, and personal items before showing your home. Not only does decluttering significantly tidy up your home, but it also makes your home look more SPACIOUS. It’s also beneficial to keep closets, garages, basements, and attics as neat as possible during this time. It might be worth your while to rent a storage unit during the time that you’re selling your home. You’re also able to stage your house more effectively when you have more space to do so!
HOW TO NAVIGATE IN THIS DIFFICULT MARKET
+ Be ready to move quickly
If you find a house that interests you, you should act as quickly as possible to get in to see it. Many houses are only staying on the market anywhere from one to three days.
+ Be prepared to offer over asking price
In this current hot market, almost 9/10 houses are selling for over asking. There is really no magic number that will get your offer accepted. The best thing your agent can do is to run comparables in the area and see what other houses have been selling for. When making an offer, it really comes down to what price threshold you can tolerate. If you absolutely can’t live without this home, you need to give it your very best shot.
+ If possible, cash is best
In multiple offer situations where there are cash buyers and buyers taking out loans, most sellers will pay more attention to cash offers. Receiving a cash offer with proof of funds and typically no appraisal required, sellers are more assured that the cash buyer will make it to closing. But if you have to take out a loan, try to make the other terms of your offer as clean and as competitive as you can…but always within your comfort zone.
+ Have a knowledgeable agent that can negotiate terms of the offer
Another benefit of having a seasoned, knowledgeable agent is that he or she has experience in effectively communicating with the listing agent. To help your chances of getting your offer accepted, your agent can find out what terms work best for the sellers, their preferred closing date, rent-back requests, etc. They can also include things to strengthen your offer such as an appraisal gap clause or non-refundable deposit after inspection.
I hope this information has been helpful. Best of luck to all of you home buyers and sellers!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on IG @realestatebyhelenmelhorn – I’m always happy to help and I have some fun series happening on my account!