Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 16, 2015. Housecall continues to share this piece due to ongoing requests and reader interest.
As we close out a summer marked by rising home prices and limited supply, we’re conditioned to expect the inevitable end-of-season slowdown. But the change of season doesn’t mean activity drops off completely – in fact, fall’s arrival presents opportunities for homebuyers, in part due to a “back-to-school mentality,” according to a survey by ERA Real Estate.
If you’re a prospective homebuyer, tap into that renewed sense of motivation – and consider the following perks – while hunting for a home this fall.
You can enjoy year-end tax breaks. Buying before the year’s out allows fall homebuyers to take advantage of tax breaks such as the mortgage interest and property tax deductions. “There are certain deductions that can be claimed by homeowners only,” explains 1040Return.com Founder John Gregory. “If you have taken out a homeowner’s loan, consider these deductions as Uncle Sam’s gift to you.” To learn more about the tax benefits available to homeowners, click here.
You can sidestep the multiple-bid minefield. Bidding wars dominated low inventory markets this summer, but competition tends to wane as activity slows in the fall. With fewer folks searching for homes, fall homebuyers can spend less time chasing supply and more time finding – and getting – the perfect home.
You may have more bargaining power. Aside from less competition, fall homebuyers may have the opportunity to purchase their home of choice at a reduced price, especially when negotiating with sellers who had hoped to unload their homes over the summer.
You’ll be home for the holidays – literally. As ERA reports in their survey, fall homebuying activity is also fueled by emotional motivation. “As vacations wind down after Labor Day and people become more focused, the desire to be in a new home for the holidays is a historically strong driver of fall home sales,” says ERA President and CEO Charlie Young.
Here are five reasons why listing your home for sale this fall makes sense.
1. Demand Is Strong
The latest Buyer Traffic Reportfrom the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains very strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase…and are in the market right now! In fact, more often than not, multiple buyers end up competing with each other to buy the same homes.
Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.
2. There Is Less Competition Now
Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply needed for a normal housing market. This means that, in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in the market. This is good news for homeowners who have gained equity as their home values have increased. However, additional inventory could be coming to the market soon!
Historically, a homeowner stayed in his or her home for an average of six years, but that number has hovered between nine and ten years since 2011. Many homeowners have a pent-up desire to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.
The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until this other inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.
3. The Process Will Be Quicker
Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all that they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and much simpler as buyers know exactly what they can afford before home shopping. According to Ellie Mae’s latestOrigination Insights Report, the average time it took to close a loan was 44 days.
4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up
If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up! The abundance of inventory available in these higher price ranges has created a buyer’s market for anybody looking to purchase these homes. This means that if you are planning on selling a starter or trade-up home, your home will sell quickly AND you’ll be able to find a premium home to call your own!
According to CoreLogic, prices are projected to appreciate by 5.1% over the next year. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait.
5. It’s Time to Move on With Your Life
Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you feel you should?
Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.
Mirrors cannot make a room look brighter on their own, though there is some truth to the mirror myth, since they’re excellent at reflecting natural light in rooms that already receive it.
Don’t expect to get the same effect in dim hallways and bathrooms, though, since it does no good to duplicate a dim view. So, go ahead — replace those huge panels of mirrored glass in your bathroom with more attractive framed mirrors. You won’t miss out after all.
Install new windows
Yes, installing an entire window or two is the nuclear option, but if your home is so dim that you’re forced to keep the lights on all day, then it could be taking a toll on your utility bills — or even your mental well-being!
This isn’t a decision to take lightly (no pun intended), so talk to a contractor to discuss options and pricing before you break out that sledgehammer. You might be better off installing a skylight or light tubes.
Sometimes the problem isn’t the amount of light, but rather the quality. Overhead lights can brighten up a room, but the effect is harsh as high-noon sunlight.
Instead, you want the diffuse, indirect light of early morning. Place lights near the walls, and place LED strips under cabinets to cover the wall in a soft glow. Be sure to include task lighting wherever it’s needed most, such as the home office or wherever you need to read and work.
Rethink window treatments
If your curtains cover up too much of the window, replace them with something less obstructive. Sheer and semisheer window treatments let in plenty of light, without sacrificing privacy during the day.
If you’re tired of pulling up the Venetian blinds or plantation shutters every day, replace them with blackout window treatments you can open all the way during the day and close at night.
Brighten the view outside
Maybe you’re too busy focusing on the indoors to see the forest for the trees. But all those trees and overgrown foundation shrubs can block natural light from reaching the house, so cut those bushes and trim those tree limbs. If necessary, call an arborist.
Also, use plants with variegated or silver leaves in your landscape to reflect light indoors, and consider renovating your patio and paving it with something brighter.
Doors present a great opportunity to let in more light, improve the view from inside and make the entry more welcoming.
Since your front door is a reflection of your home’s personality, as well as your own, pick a style that’s appropriate to the architecture. If you’re concerned about privacy, choose one with stained glass or small windows at the top. Even a small amount of natural light will make a huge difference.
It ought to be obvious, but when was the last time you cleaned all your home’s windows, both inside and out?
To avoid streaks on outdoor surfaces, don’t bother with the window cleaner and paper towels. Wash the windows with a sponge and mildly soapy water (dish soap will do), wipe dry with a squeegee, and finish them off with a soft chamois.
Spending a little time on DIY and professional upgrades now can pay off big come spring.
Fall is the season for posting apple-picking photos on Instagram, enjoying pumpkin spice–flavored everything, and spending weekends enjoying the autumn scenery. Just peek out your window —whether you live in Boston, MA, or own a piece of Atlanta, GA, real estate — the cooler temps and changing leaves are hard to resist. While beautiful, fall is also the perfect time for rolling up our sleeves and tackling those home improvement projects we put off during the summer.
“Enjoying the weather can put you in a great state of mind and allow you to focus on the task at hand — and do it well. Beyond that, most building materials are at their best when they are installed at moderate temps,” says Phil Eby of Eby Exteriors in Akron, PA. Plus, contractors typically have fewer projects during the fall, so you’re more likely to find help quickly if you don’t want to go the DIY route. Especially if you plan on listing your home in the spring (or anytime within the next year), you’ll want to prioritize the best home improvements for resale. To figure out what’s worth your time and budget, we asked real estate agents and other professionals for their expert opinions. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Paint the front door
ROI: 80% to 140%
Hands down, the easiest exterior project is also the one that reaps the biggest rewards. A freshly painted front doorhelps your home stand out from the block, and it can be finished in less than an afternoon. Fall is usually the perfect time for this activity; just pick that afternoon wisely. “Normally, exterior painting should be done at a time when the temps are at least 50 degrees or so and aren’t dipping below the 40s at night. This allows the paint to adhere properly and prevents it from freezing before it is fully dry,” Eby says.
2. Refresh (or repair) the deck
ROI: 80% to 120%
A deck is only as good as its condition. If the wood is splintering, the finish faded, or the rails shaky, call in the experts. “A buyer who sees a dirty deck that’s in disrepair may sour their feelings about your house, and even if they still want to buy your home, they will certainly use it as a negotiating point,” says Eby. Even if you have to outright replace the deck, it’s worth the expense. (Just remember to get a permit!)
3. Enhance the exterior
ROI: 60% to 100%
If your exterior paint job is in decent shape, a few touch-ups could suffice. But for those with chipping paint or a 1970s color scheme? Call the pros immediately. “The last thing you want is to scare buyers away before they even get inside,” says Than Merrill, former host of A&E’s Flip This House and CEO of FortuneBuilders. On average, you’ll spend $1,000 to $3,000 (for a 500- to 1,500-square-foot single-story home), but he estimates that the investment in curb appeal can help properties sell for up to 10% more than others on the block. Just stick to neutrals: This isn’t the time to try out a statement color.
4. Replace or repair your roof
ROI: 50% to 110%
“The peace of mind offered by a functionally sound roof is invaluable to its respective occupants and is weighed heavily by those intent on making a purchase,” Merrill says. A new roof can be basic or with details that enhance curb appeal, but its main value comes from instilling confidence in a prospective buyer. This holds true for repairing leaks and for cosmetic damage, which buyers often use to negotiate a lower price.
5. Power-wash the exterior
ROI: 40% to 110%
The ROI for this project can vary based on just how dirty your home was before the wash. If the home was merely a little dirty, the ROI may not be as great as it is for one that will look almost new after the wash. If your home falls into the latter category, it can be worth it to hire a pro. “The ROI could be 100% or more, even if done by a pro for $1,000 or more,” Eby says. If you decide to go DIY, Eby cautions to take care to avoid spraying water in a direction that’ll force it behind siding or under shingles.
6. Window replacement
ROI: 50% to 80%
Windows can be hit-or-miss investments, mainly because they are expensive to replace and almost invisible to buyers. “It’s been my experience that unless the windows are damaged or so poorly insulated that your utility bills are sky-high, most buyers don’t consider windows to be a major deciding factor,” says Wingfield.
7. Update your HVAC
ROI: 20% to 50%
This project ranks as one with the lowest payoff, simply because current buyers have come to expect all homes have central air. An upgrade isn’t a selling point unless the system was old to begin with. “If your existing system has been in place for more than 10 to 15 years, it’s likely that you’ll soon need a new one. It becomes an area that a potential buyer will most likely use to negotiate a lower price,” Eby says. Even then, you might have to show proof of gains in efficiency to recoup your costs.
8. Clean the gutters
Here, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “While you may need to wait for inclement weather to realize your return on investment, a mere 30 minutes of routine rain gutter maintenance could prevent thousands of dollars in damage to the foundation of a home,” Merrill says. If you outsource this chore, expect to pay $3 to $9 per foot.
Spring and summer usually get all the real estate glory with lofty accolades as the best time to buy a home—and, of course, the busiest. Meanwhile, their seasonal sibling, fall, often gets tossed to the leaf pile by potential buyers who might think autumn is just about haunted houses and turkey dinners rather than house hunting.
But surprise! Fall is not only a great time to buy a home, it might also be the best season to find the perfect property (and not just because you can browse the listings while cupping a pumpkin latte).
Read on to discover the many reasons.
Reason No. 1: Lower home prices
The best month to snag a deal when buying a home? October. This isn’t just some random guess; it’s based on RealtyTrac’s analysis of more than 32 million home sales over 15 years. The resulting data showed that on average, October buyers paid 2.6%below estimated market value at the time for their homes.
For a house that would normally be $300,000, 2.6% translates into a $7,800 discount. Those savings are nothing to sneeze at, so bargain hunters should get hopping once autumn rolls around. (For an even better deal, aim for Oct. 8, when buyers get a home, on average, at 10.8% below estimated market value.)
“For buyers looking for a better deal, fall is a great time to make offers,” says NewYorkCity Realtor® JoanneR. Douglas. (In case you’re wondering, the worst month for buyers is April, when homes sell for 1.2% above estimated market value. The worst single day is Jan. 19, with an average 9.6% premium.)
Reason No. 2: Less competition
Like a beach after Labor Day, the realty market clears out as the days turn crisp. Most summer buyers have already found a home, meaning a fall buyer will have way less competition for the available houses on the market, says Bill Golden of Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside. And don’t worry about those buyers who didn’t close before August, either.
“Many folks will drop out of the market until after the new year,” says Golden, giving a fall buyer even greater room to roam at open houses. There may not be as many properties to choose from, but as Golden says, “a little patience and perseverance could reap big rewards.”
Reason No. 3: Worn-out home sellers
Say hello to your little friend, leverage. Sellers who have their homes on the market in the fall “are generally people who need to sell, which can make for better negotiations for the buyer,” says Golden. And if a home you have your eye on has been on the market all summer, you’re really in the driver’s seat as far as making an offer the seller can’t refuse. The longer a home sits on the market, the more negotiating power the buyer wields.
Reason No. 4: The holidays are around the corner
Not only are most home sellers worn out after the summer selling season, they’re also caught between a real estate rock and a hard place in that the holidays are barreling down on them. If they want to move and settle down in time to host Thanksgiving and put up their Christmas lights, they’ll have to close, fast. So use this preholiday window to your advantage by offering to help them vacate fast if they cut you a deal.
Reason No. 5: Year-end tax credits
No one wants to buy a home purely to make their accountant happy. But there’s a sweet added incentive to closing on a home at the end of the fiscal year. Come the following April 15, you might be able to take some nice tax deductions, including closing costs, property tax, and mortgage interest, to offset your taxable earnings.
Reason No. 6: More quality time with your real estate team
As the year comes to an end, fewer buyers also means you should have the full attention of your real estate agent, mortgage broker, real estate lawyer, and everyone else on your house hunting team. You can take your time to ask all those questions you have aboutearnest money, due diligence, title transfers, and more without feeling like you’re horning in their busiest season to turn a buck.
Reason No. 7: Home improvement bargains
Once you close on that home you found in the fall, you may want to upgrade your appliances. Luckily, December is when major appliances—refrigerators, stoves, washers, and dryers—are at their very cheapest, according to Consumer Reports. It’s also the best time of year to buy cookware and TVs.
So once you’re settled in (and provided you have any money left), get ready to renovate!
Here’s a treat for you: a look back at frightful Halloween trends and customs through the years.
No matter how many great political or lion-eating-dentist costumes we’ll see this year, being an adult at Halloween can be a bit of a bummer. Between obligatory “clever” costumes and the egregious lack of candy at most adult-themed Halloween parties, there’s not a lot of giddiness left in the holiday for the grownups.
In honor of the bygone days of candy-trading and itchy wigs, we rounded up a few of the fun, quirky, nostalgic spooky traditions of yore — some of which are alive and well today.
Maybe we can’t trick or treat anymore, but we can delight in remembering the highlights of our childhood Halloweens.
Trick or treating
Ah, door-to-door sweets retrieval from strangers. It’s the day every kid looks forward to all year, but how on earth did this tradition come about?
Turns out trick-or-treating actually has a couple of sources. One is the early Celt tradition of dressing up like demons at the end of the year — the idea being, if you ran into one, he’d think you were part of his posse.
The other is a later practice from the Middle Ages known as “souling,” in which poorer members of the community would go to wealthier homes on All Souls Day and offer prayers for their dearly departed in return for “soul cakes.”
Over the centuries, soul cakes gave way to Snickers and prayers gave way to tricks, but the practice of going house-to-house remains.
The classic witch costume
Before TV and movies made vampires and werewolves and witches ridiculously attractive, there was the classic witch, made famous in “The Wizard of Oz” and beloved as everyone’s last minute go-to costume.
All you needed was a broom, which your parents were no doubt super happy to surrender for a night, and maybe a pointy hat — which, as it turns out, wasn’t actually associated with witches until the 18th century. Bonus points for green facepaint and nose warts.
Front lawn graveyard
Let’s be honest. We’ve all been secretly terrified by this. Maybe you passed the yard while out on a jog, maybe you were a kid trick or treating, but at some point, those bones sticking out of a well-manicured lawn took you by surprise.
Yearning to re-create this childhood favorite in your own yard? If you can’t get your hands on plastic gravestones, there’s always the classic “dead body in the front yard” thing. Just make sure everyone knows it’s fake, unless you want the cops to show up. Seriously.
The Monster Mash
Okay, so maybe it’s not “cool” to dance to, and you still regret that time you chose it at karaoke, but you gotta hear this song at least once in October, right?
Inspired by ’60s dance records and the simultaneous horror movie craze, Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash” actually topped the charts when it was released in 1962 — and again in 1973. How about a 2015 revival? Put it on repeat at your Halloween bash and see if it catches on.
The Singing Ghost
Speaking of Halloween music: Once motion activation got going, you couldn’t trust any doorway.
Things have gotten a little more sophisticated since, but step under any awning on Halloween night in the ’90s and there was a solid chance you were going to hear this “eerie” tune.
The ‘Scream’ mask
Ah, “Scream.” It brought Neve Campbell back to the silver screen, knocked off Drew Barrymore in the first scene (spoiler alert?), and gave teenage dudes everywhere the perfect Halloween costume to terrify and annoy their friends from 1996 to this very day.
The Addams Family
Whether you watched the show in the ’60s or the movies in the ’90s (ideally both), the Addams are the iconic “all together ooky” Halloween family you know and love — and fear. (Unless, of course, you were a fan of “The Munsters,” instead.)
Bonus points to the mysterious and spooky gang for offering a huge variety of fun Halloween costumes, most of which are relatively easy to pull off —except for, say, Cousin It. Nobody wants that much hair in their Halloween candy.
Believe it or not, the reason we all have to struggle with these kits every October is because of an Irish folk legend about “Stingy Jack.”
This Jack dude apparently tricked the Devil — twice! — and wasn’t allowed to go to Heaven or Hell upon his death. Instead, he was doomed to roam the earth forever with a coal lantern which, for some reason, he put into a turnip. Fast forward a few centuries and “Jack of the Lantern” becomes jack-o’-lantern, pumpkins take over for turnips, and Stingy Jack, for all we know, is still wandering around, turnip in hand.
What Halloween decorations, costumes, and traditions are you looking forward to this year?
Fall is upon us and what a great time to get some quick cleaning done that we often forget. Getting this tasks completed can easily be done every couple of weekends when the weather starts getting cooler and we are stuck inside. Use this checklist to get you started on your fall cleaning schedule.
A lot of strange things have happened at open houses—agents have found voodoo dolls and naked couples, among many other odd sights. But how many times have mirrors cracked, microwaves sparked with static electricity, and pictures randomly dropped to the floor at an open house?
At least once, at an open house at an infamously frightening setting: the home used as the setting for the first “Paranormal Activity” film. Marketers for the next film in the franchise, “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,” staged the faux haunted open house as a promotional stunt and posted a video of it to YouTube, to get some Halloween traction for the movie. (Guess it worked—we got sucked in.) They brought real people in and gave them a tour of terrifying shakes, sparks, and cracks that sent them screaming and scrambling out of the house.
How authentic was it? The open house–goers are suspiciously good-looking, and a few seem to be suppressing smiles. One assumes they had an idea that some kind of unusual activity was on the docket. Maybe they just weren’t expecting it to be paranormal.
As for as we know, the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home isn’t actually up for grabs.Our records show it was sold in February for $760,000.