6 tips for timing a real estate purchase

How fence-sitters can get a jump on the competition

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 18, 2011

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How fence-sitters can get a jump on the competition

Dian Hymer
Inman News™

In mid-June, interest rates on home loans were lower than they were a year ago. However, this failed to ignite the housing market. Many buyers and homeowners would like to make a move, but some find it impossible to make a decision. They are commonly referred to as fence-sitters, poised to make a move when the time seems right.

The housing market is unlikely to turn around soon, but this doesn't mean that now is not a good time to buy or sell. It depends on your personal situation and market conditions in the area where you plan to buy or sell.

Become an expert on your local market. Knowing a good deal when you see it or what price to ask if you decide to sell depends on having a good understanding of how much properties are selling for in your neighborhood.

While you're trying to decide what to do, line up a team that can help you accomplish your goal when you decide to move ahead. You can do this by researching online, attending open houses in the area and asking a real estate agent to keep you on top of market fluctuations.

Your decision to buy should be based on your personal financial situation, not on the national or global economy. For example, if you bought during the bubble market and are now getting divorced, you'll probably sell for less than you paid.

But, if the house is too expensive for one to support, it may be cheaper in the long run to cut your losses and sell now. No one knows how long the housing downturn will last. Prices could move lower before rebounding. This is not an ordinary recession.

HOUSE-HUNTING TIP: Don't get caught up following the herd. Just because most people in your area aren't buying or are having difficulty selling doesn't mean that you shouldn't make a move. Just make sure if you're a buyer that you have job security, a relatively healthy economy in your local area and a plan to stay put for at least 10 years.

The housing market will be volatile going forward. Good economic news will help fence-sitters make the decision to get serious about moving. Bad news of any sort can cause the market to stall. To take advantage of the upticks in the market, you need to be prepared in advance.

Find a good local real estate agent to work with who understands your needs, and wait to buy or sell until the time is right for you. It could take you a year or so to make the final decision. Some agents don't have the patience to stick it out.

Select an agent who will educate you about the market and the idiosyncrasies of the home-sale business in your area. Ask to be kept informed about sales in the area. Many agents are set up to do this electronically, which is an easy way to keep you informed without taking up a lot of the agent's time.

One of the most difficult aspects of the current home-sale business is financing the transaction. Find a loan agent or mortgage broker who is a real professional, has been in the business for years and who understands what current underwriters will require from you to process your loan.

Assemble all the financial documents you'll need for loan approval even before you start looking. Ask your agent or broker to have your loan package previewed by an underwriter so that you know beforehand if there are any problems.

THE CLOSING: Remedy these in advance so that they don't cause last-minute delays in closing.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."

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