Home, Sweet Home

HomeForSale2Spring is in the air here in Charleston. Flowers are blooming and there are wonderful smells of Jasmine and Gardenia everywhere. And there are some other things popping out all over town: for sale signs! It is the season that many think about moving and Charleston has a very hot housing market. There is real estate fever galore.

There are many things to consider before jumping in to the real estate market. Having a little knowledge can really save you some time and money. One important thing I learned recently through my own buying and selling process is that you must be your own advocate! The other professionals involved: real estate agents, mortgage representatives, and closing attorneys are there to guide you, but they cannot always watch every detail of the transaction, particularly when buying and selling at the same time. Do not be afraid to ask questions to better understand every contract and settlement statement. This is your money and you are ultimately in charge. Furthermore, DWM is here to be another set of eyes for you. From advising on how much house is appropriate, to working on short-term bridge/margin loans, to assisting with the paperwork required by your lender, let us help make a complicated process easier.

When you decide to sell your home, the first thing to do is PURGE! This activity cannot be stressed enough… try and objectively evaluate everything in your home and realistically decide if it should stay or go. You will have to pack everything when you move anyway, so spend the time now sorting those things to keep and what can be donated, sold, or disposed of before you are rushed into just throwing everything into a box. Pretend that every belonging you have must justify a place in your new home. Decluttering and “staging” your home to showcase its greatest assets and appeal are worth the time! Box up all the family photos and personal knickknacks and set up each room up to make it appealing and spacious. Now is the time to make sure everything in your home looks as good as it can. And don’t forget the landscaping: curb appeal is a big selling point to a buyer. The general rule is that any modest money you put in to repair your home up front can be three times less than what a buyer will estimate it is to do it themselves. It may be worth it to repaint a tired looking room or replace worn out carpet. Before you take on larger projects like an updated roof or heating and cooling system, it is a good idea to have a professional evaluate this for you.

Next, you want to find a knowledgeable real estate agent or spend some time investigating how to sell your home yourself. Certainly, For Sale By Owner (FSBO) is an easier task in a hot market, but it is not for everyone. You will certainly save on the commission fee, but experienced real estate agents can advise you on properly marketing and selling your property. It is always a good idea to have an outsider look at your home with more scrutiny than you can. You want to ensure you get the highest and best structured offer in as short of a time as you can. While your home is on the market, think about fresh flowers, good lighting and keeping everything very tidy. You will become proficient at good places for hiding clutter at the last minute: think washers, dryers, and under beds!!!

Now, you may be ready to start looking for houses and vetting neighborhoods, whether local or across the country. Nowadays, with sites like Zillow and Trulia available, it is so much easier to shop online and find answers for many of your questions about schools, neighborhoods or local amenities. Make sure you ask pertinent questions about every house – remember the sellers are also trying to make their home look as good as possible to you, the buyer. Ask about taxes, insurance, utility bills, the age or condition of the roof and heating and cooling system. Find out if there is a neighborhood homeowner’s association – many have newsletters which can give you some good information. There can be high costs and stringent rules for an HOA – which can be great as long as you know what you are getting! It can be a good idea to look at the house at different times of day or talk to neighbors. For example, is there a lot of rush hour traffic or unwanted noise from a nearby school? Make sure you get a home inspection during the purchase process. In both South Carolina and Illinois, it is common to have contracts contingent on the inspection. You will want to check the comparable prices in the neighborhood, so you can make an educated offer when the time comes. You want to learn as much as you can about any new home before you sign a contract!

There is so much involved in buying and selling a home. As your primary home is often your largest asset, you want to protect its value and get the best return on your investment. Working carefully with a lender, real estate agent, closing attorney, and financial advisor, will make the processes of obtaining a mortgage, negotiating a selling and/or purchase price, and completing all the deed and title transfers less daunting. Asking questions and understanding as much as you can will make for the best experience. Moving is one of the top 5 life stresses, so hopefully you will find the right experts to guide you. But don’t forget that by educating yourself and managing some things up front, you can be your own best advocate and find your new home, sweet home.