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How to map out your real estate strategy for today’s housing market

Even if the market loosens up and more houses are listed for sale, there will still be plenty of competition this spring and summer

Even in a strong seller’s market, it is important for homeowners interested in listing their homes to have an agent who can help with pricing, marketing, contract review and negotiation. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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You don’t have to be an avid follower of the market to know that in the past several years the price of homes has skyrocketed while the supply of properties for sale has diminished. Here are some tips for buyers and sellers to help you map out your real estate strategy during this unprecedented time.

What sellers can do

  • Even in a strong seller’s market, it is important for homeowners interested in listing their homes to have an agent who can help with pricing, marketing, contract review and negotiation. All real estate is local. Some markets, or submarkets, may be stronger or weaker than others. A local real estate professional will know your target market and will give you up-to-date information on the market and the selling prices of homes in your neighborhood. Getting through the nuances of multiple offers can be stressful and confusing. Contracts can be complex. An agent can help you sift through the terms and conditions.
  • Have a pre-inspection completed before you put your home on the market. This can save you headaches down the road if there are problems that would-be buyers would find objectionable.

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  • Because first impressions count, make sure your home has curb appeal. The outside of the house should look well-manicured. The lawn, plants and any flower beds should be appealing to anyone driving by for a quick look.
  • Your home’s interior should look fresh and clutter-free. Go through your house and clear out nonessentials. This will make your home’s interior look larger. Don’t forget to paint the interior if rooms need a freshening up. And ask for help from your real estate agent if you need ideas in staging. This should be done sooner rather than later because of supply-chain issues and the high demand for labor.

Suggestions for home buyers

  • Before all else, plan in advance what you can truly afford. Do your homework. With mortgage rates rising, be prepared. Look up current rates and understand closing costs. Be prepared to pay over asking price — get creative with financing such as cash and/or a bridge loan.
  • Get preapproved for a loan with a trusted lender. This communicates to sellers you are serious about buying a home. In addition, it can even gain you access to earlier showings ahead of other buyers who may not be preapproved.
  • Be flexible. If necessary, co-sign with a partner or friend. Another option is to consider buying a multifamily unit and living in one part of the house and renting out the rest.

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  • Decide on your must-haves and your dealbreakers. Don’t let the housing mania trick you into buying a home without making sure it is in good condition. Watch out for red flags such as overcompensation for a bad scent or a bad scent overall; look for poor tiling, decaying windows, mold and water damage.

Even if the market loosens up and more houses are listed for sale, there will still be plenty of competition this spring and summer with prices never seen before in many neighborhoods. Basic strategies should be considered whether you are a buyer or a seller. Adhering to the above steps, such as insisting on a pre-inspection, can save buyers and sellers time and money.

Rory S. Coakley is founder and president of Coakley Realty, a full-service residential and commercial real estate company in the Washington area. He writes an occasional column about housing issues.

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