House Hunting in One Day: 6 Tips for Maximizing Your Time

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In the ideal home-buying scenario, attending open houses and pinpointing the perfect place is a breeze. But in a seller’s market, finding a home is no small feat, which is why it’s important to make the most of the time you spend touring houses. Since most open houses happen on the weekend, you’ll need to do some prep work to manage your time wisely, so you don’t waste the better parts of your Saturdays and Sundays. We’ve got you covered with these tips to help you make your home search as productive as it can be.

1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Do not start touring houses before you are pre-approved for a mortgage. Not only will this crystallize exactly the price range you should be considering, but it will solidify your status as a serious buyer when the time eventually comes to make an offer, says Spencer Chambers, real estate expert and owner of the Chambers Organization in Newport Beach, CA.

2. Clarify which amenities matter most

You won’t be able to zero in on the right property if your wish list is a mile long or too vague. “Make a list of your absolute necessities and another of your wants; together, these will become your guide on which houses you’ll look at, based on the boxes they check,” Chambers says.

Beyond the physical house, brainstorm other variables that will help you narrow down the neighborhood: school district, walkability, proximity to downtown, etc. “Think about what you like to do on the weekend and what you need access to,” says Wendy Hooper with Coast Realty Services in Newport Beach, CA. Do you love dining out? Is a thriving music scene important? Do you need to live in a top-notch school district? “All of these factors help narrow communities quickly,” Hooper says.

Finally, if you’ll be commuting, check out typical drive times during the hours you’ll be on the road, using Google Maps or Waze. “Just because a property is near a highway doesn’t mean you’ll have smooth sailing if the highway is clogged with daily bumper-to-bumper traffic,” Taylor notes.

3. Find a savvy real estate agent

Once you are clear on your parameters, it’s time to start touring these homes. You’ll really want a real estate agent who knows the area. One way to find one is to start perusing listings in your preferred location and see what names keep popping up; they are likely to be the local experts. In many instances, they will be familiar with the homes for sale, and they may even catch wind of homes that are about to hit the market, so you can have a first look.

The goal is for your real estate agent to help you whittle down the list of homes you like online to a handful you’ll tour in person during the weekend.

4. Plan your route wisely

Once you’ve settled on the houses you’ll tour that day, have your agent create an itinerary of the most efficient route to see them. Grouping properties by neighborhood helps clients get their bearings on relative distances and a feel for what each neighborhood offers, says real estate agent Jake Tasharski with Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

However, if you’re short on time, Taylor recommends prioritizing by preference to make sure you’re able to see your top prospects. Or front-load your schedule with the newest listings, since those are the hottest homes that other buyers are eager to tour.

5. Take notes (and photos) as you go

When you are touring many houses in one day, they are naturally going to blend together. To keep them all straight, take plenty of photos—at least one of each room—and take notes of anything you notice, both positive and negative. Spencer also recommends giving each house a nickname, something that stands out to you, so that you can easily remember it.

Remember, this is the time to be judgy. Tasharski encourages clients to eliminate homes as they go by comparing each current home to the previous showing, and to their favorite home so far. “Seeing so many properties in a short amount of time can get overwhelming, so if my client knows a home they just saw isn’t ‘the one,’ we throw that listing sheet away, so it’s out of sight and out of mind.”

6. Block out the last half of the afternoon to revisit your top choices

If at all possible, leave the final hour to revisit your favorite properties. Still have extra time? Get to know the neighborhood. enjoy a snack or cocktail in a local bistro, and soak up your new neighborhood vibe, Taylor suggests. You’ve earned it.

 

Posted by Cathie Ericson on realtor.com

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The Ins and Outs of Showing Property

Whether it’s a last-minute private visit or an open house for anyone who stops by, homes need to be seen to sell.

Showing a property is essential to the home-selling process. Every market works differently, but buyers and sellers will quickly learn the ropes by working with a competent local agent.

The last-minute call to show a property is par for the course. Should the listing agent and seller accommodate? Is it better to hold off a buyer for a day or so?

It’s a dilemma, but sellers and their agents should have a concrete strategy for showing. While homeowners need to be as flexible as possible to show their home, serious buyers and smart buyer’s agents know that last minute scrambles aren’t always desirable.

When it comes to showing and viewing homes, buyers, sellers, and agents need to understand how to best use their options, which include open houses, lockboxes, and private showings.

Open houses

Most people make their first foray into the real estate market by cruising listings online on Sunday morning and deciding to check out open houses that afternoon. Attending open houses helps buyers get a feel for the market without committing to an agent or the process. It is in the fabric of the real estate industry.

Open houses are great for some sellers, too, because they ensure that, within a two- or three-hour period, a good number of buyers can get in to see the property.

Lockbox showings

In some markets, the lockbox showing is the easiest and best way to see a home for sale. To make entering the home convenient for everyone, the listing agent places a special digital lockbox on the front door for agents to access with their buyer clients.

For home shoppers who are unavailable on the weekends, lockbox properties can be a good way to start getting a feel for the market and learn from their buyer’s agent. Also, if an agent has an out-of-town buyer coming in for just a day to see properties, lockbox listings might be the way to go.

Lockboxes can also enable buyers and their agents to quickly pop in and out of a house, and it’s an easy way for buyers to get up to speed quickly on the types of properties available.

Private showings

Most buyers who are interested in a particular home will have attended an open house and viewed the home once or twice with their agent. But when they get serious, they’ll want to go back another time. In this case, the seller’s agent will accompany the showing.

The seller’s agent can answer questions and represent the interests of her client. The buyers will likely have numerous concerns as they walk through with a more critical eye. This private showing provides the seller’s agent an opportunity to be the eyes and ears of the seller.

Advice for buyers and sellers

Buyers and their agents should be mindful of the home-viewing process, and always be respectful of the seller’s and the listing agent’s time.

Sellers who are serious about getting their home sold should be ready for anything. Showings can sometimes happen at a moment’s notice. As a result, they must maintain the home in its “staged” appearance at all times.

Posted by Brendon DeSimone on Zillow

Making the Most of an Open House Visit

Here are some best practices for buyers at all ends of the home-buying spectrum.

Open houses are the gold standard in real estate. They’ve been around for decades and will be ingrained in the buying and selling of homes for years to come.

The average buyer attends three open houses, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report, a survey of more than 13,000 homeowners, sellers, buyers, and renters. Seventy-one percent of all buyers attend at least open house, and first-time buyers are even more likely to go (77 percent attend one open house or more).

But as a buyer, are you making the most of your open house visits?

Here are some best practices and helpful questions for buyers at all ends of the home-buying spectrum.

Use the open house to learn the market without committing

For the most part, open houses are just that — open. They make it possible for anyone to see a property in a certain time period, without an appointment or even being a very serious buyer.

New buyers should leverage the open house opportunity to get a feel for the market. In today’s world, using online search tools, mobile apps and the open house, a buyer can start to get a feel for pricing and the market before committing to an agent. Most importantly, open houses are some of the best ways for buyer and agent relationships to start.

You don’t have to sign in (but don’t be rude)

The biggest fear of some newer buyers is that a real estate agent at an open house will be all over them, ask for their contact information and then start harassing them for the next three weeks. It does happen, but it’s also common courtesy to at least recognize and say hello to the agent at the open house. Don’t forget, in addition to trying to sell the home for her client, for safety reasons, the agent is keeping a look out for who is coming and going. It’s polite to say hello and introduce yourself to the agent, but you can also politely decline to sign in.

If you’re an active buyer, you should make yourself known to the agent. Let the seller’s agent know who your agent is and don’t be afraid to express interest. When it comes time to review an offer with a seller, listing agents like to put a face to a name.

Watch the other buyers

You can tell a lot about the activity and marketability of a home by watching the other buyers. If you observe a lot of people walking in and out quickly, the home probably has some issues. Are the buyers hanging around, asking questions of the listing agent and huddling in the corner talking to their spouses or partners? If so, it could be a sign this is a well-priced and “hot” listing. If you’re interested, too, observing other buyers at the open house could help you learn about the competition.

Ask the agent questions

The real estate agent is there for a reason. It’s his job. If he is the listing agent, ask him questions. He is a direct line to the seller. He should know more than anyone about the property and the seller. Your agent can funnel your questions to the listing agent. But if you’re there, ask away. Watch the agent’s facial expression and reaction to your questions. If it’s a competitive market, ask questions such as: “Why is the seller selling?” “Is there a certain day to review offers or have you had a lot of showings?” In a slow market, ask how long the property has been on the market and what the seller’s motivations are. A good agent will engage you because it’s good for his seller.

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Be open to meeting your future agent

When considering a new doctor, lawyer or CPA, you don’t get the chance to see them in their element until you’ve decided to work with them. Not true for real estate agents. Some of the best buyer/seller/real estate relationships begin at open houses.

A good agent is wearing two hats at the open house. In addition to watching the serious buyers and getting feedback for the seller, an active agent is also looking to interact with future clients.

Face to face, informal and relevant, the interaction with an agent at an open house is important. You can get a feel for a person just from a brief meeting. If you sense the agent could be someone you could work with, ask some open-ended questions, such as “How’s the market?” and “What areas do you cover?”

Why open houses have been around for decades

At any open house, there are people at every stage of the home-buying game, from just testing the waters to looking at homes daily, making offers and working closely with an agent. For someone new to the market, it’s helpful to know the best practices for visiting open houses and interacting with the real estate agent. For more experienced buyers, the open house is an opportunity to make a second or third visit, getting a closer look at the details and uncovering things you may have missed earlier. There are lots of reasons why open houses have been around for decades — and why you should take full advantage of them.

Take full advantage of the open house by asking questions to learn all you can about the home and listing.

Posted by Brendon Desimone on Zillow

5 Types of People Who Attend Open Houses

Not everyone who walks through the door is a potential buyer.

In real estate showings, the Sunday open house is the gold standard. As the name implies, a property is open to just about anyone who learns of the showing in an online or print ad, drives by and sees the agent’s A-frame sign, or receives a notification postcard in the mail.

But not everyone who goes to an open house is a potential buyer. Here are five types of people likely to pass through a property during an open house.

1. The real buyer

These people are somewhere in the home-buying process. They’re either testing out the market or they’re serious and fully qualified, ready to take action. For the seller, these are the ones you want coming through the door.

Buyers may use the open house as their second or third visit, after having seen the home with their agent during the week. The open house provides them the opportunity to get more comfortable in the home.

2. The nearby neighbor

This guy or gal has been waiting for years for an excuse to get inside your home, for various reasons. Their home may be similar to yours — maybe even designed by the same architect — and they want to compare their property to yours.

There might be other reasons to see it, too. Once, at an open house of a view property in San Francisco, a neighbor came into the house and made a beeline for the back deck. Meanwhile, in the neighboring home across the backyard, the neighbor’s son sat in the window. What followed was a cell phone conversation in which the father instructed his son to move to the right, to the left, go upstairs, and so on. The father’s goal was to determine from exactly which points in this home he and his family were visible to their neighbors.

You’ll no doubt encounter nosy neighbors, too. They live nearby and just want to satisfy their curiosity about your home — or even about you.

3. Agents scoping out the place for clients

Agents constantly check out properties for their buyer clients. The vast majority of the time, they’re professional and courteous.

There are exceptions, of course. Not long ago, in the living room of a packed Sunday open house, an agent sat on the couch and spoke to her client on the phone. The agent summarized the property loudly and in none-too-complimentary terms.

“The finishes are cheap, the floor plan is off, and the bathrooms need updating,” she said. “Don’t waste your time coming over here.”

The listing agent politely asked the other agent to continue her conversation outside.

4. The agent who lost the listing

In many cases, a seller interviewed multiple agents before selecting their listing agent. Sometimes agents spend a lot of time, and even some money, working with a potential seller to secure a listing. Obviously, not every agent interviewed will get the listing.

When the property lands on the open house circuit, an agent who lost the listing may visit. They want to know if the seller took any of their suggestions. Did they paint the orange room a more neutral color, or renovate the kitchen or bathrooms as suggested? It ‘s their chance to run through the property anonymously, as most agents usually won’t know with whom they competed for the listing.

5. A previous owner, or one of their relatives

Over years of open houses, a busy listing agent will surely run into an old seller, or their children or grandkids who grew up in the home. These people come to the open house to see how it looks and to reminisce. Lots of memories happen in a home, and the opportunity to go back in time can be a real treat.

A good listing agent will welcome any and all visitors to an open house. They solicit feedback from buyers and make notes of their comments, reactions and questions.

If you’re attending an open house with no intentions of buying, keep it to yourself. Be as subtle and unobtrusive as possible, and don’t waste the listing agent’s time — unless you have some helpful feedback for the agent or seller.

Posted by Brendon DeSimone on Zillow 

Freshly Baked Cookies Are So Yesterday—Instead Try These 5 Wacky Tricks to Sell Your Home

A plastic box stuffed with brochures at the curb, a Sunday afternoon open house, and chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. If your marketing plan to sell your house feels a little “been there, done that,” you might need to step up your game.

To help you, we searched high and low, asked the pros, and came up with a list of unusual, bold, and even downright wacky marketing tricks you (and your Realtor®) can use to get your house sold.

Start with social media

Everything is on the Internet these days, including, of course, your house. Your Realtor has likely already hooked you up with an online listing, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Put into action a full social media plan to attract buyers.

  • Twitter: Who says you can’t sell a house in 140 characters? Some sellers are creating Twitter accounts for their houses. Be creative! You can do a lot with 140 characters, trust us.
  • Facebook: Use personal stories about your favorite home memories and photos to connect with buyers. Maybe create a meme or two.
  • Instagram: Attract buyers with artsy home photos or advertise your upcoming open house.

 Turn your open house into a party

Open houses can be boring. Why not liven things up with an actual party?

 “We throw eventsnot open houses—at a lot of our listings,” saysJosh Myler, director of the Residential Division at The Agency in Beverly Hills, CA. “We do everything from a simple cocktail party to a bigger affair. We’ve even hired professional chefs.”

To pull it off—and keep things cheap—Myler recommends looking for event planners, caterers, and other pros who are just getting started. Many newer companies will work inexpensively to get the exposure.

Set the tone with music

If a party sounds like too much work, you can still spice up your open house with live music. Myler often hires professional musicians to play softly in the background during an event or open house.

“It depends on what you’re looking for,” he says. “We’ve hired DJs, but we’ve also hired violinists.”

To keep things affordable, ask family and friends for suggestions. Many amateurs are as good as the pros and a lot cheaper.

Make a game of it

To keep potential buyers hanging around longer, it helps to get them invested in the experience.

Try adding a game or a raffle event to your open house, suggests Seattle real estate broker Jana Schmidt.

“Have a contest for the biggest ‘loser’ renter,” she says. “Have buyers enter the amount of rent they have paid over the years into a drawing for a gift card.”

Spread the news with swag

Myler is a big fan of swag (who isn’t?), and The Agency uses a lot of free merchandise to promote itself.

“We offer tote bags, T-shirts, baseball caps, mugs,” he says. “Basically anything you can think of, we give out.”

You can pull off the same thing to promote your house. While people probably won’t be wearing baseball caps sporting a picture of your house, smaller (and blissfully more affordable) items will get used. For example, many companies are happy to make magnets, pens, mouse pads, and notepads in smaller quantities.

And potential buyers will snag them. After all, stuff we all get is the best.

Posted by Angela Colley on realtor.com

This Is the Scariest Open House Ever (Good Thing It’s Fake)

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?

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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.

Posted by Lisa Davis on realtor.com

Amp Up Your Curb Appeal for the Open House With This Exhaustive Checklist

We know—selling your home is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a big decision that can take years of dreaming, years of waiting for home values to return all while second-guessing yourself, your life choices, and the market.

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You’ve been patient. The house you expected to live in for a few years has turned into a 10-year hold. Rejoice! The housing market has rebounded, and the time to sell may be now: Home prices are up, interest rates are still low (but rising), and inventory is tight.

Of course, the first thing a potential buyer sees is your front yard and your home’s exterior. Is your house as attractive as it could be? According to the 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value report by the National Association of Realtors®, home buyers are big on curb appeal. So here’s our checklist of everything you need to do to get the outside of your home looking as good as the inside.

Replace the entry door. Buyers are looking for safety and energy efficiency. Replace your dingy old door with a new steel entry door for a 102% return on investment, according to NAR. It is attractive, comes in different colors, and won’t break the bank (price range is $99 to $500). This, however, is good only for median- to lower-priced homes (those priced below $200,000). For high-end homes, be sure your front door reflects the grandeur of the price and neighborhood.

Replace the garage door. Sometimes it’s the first thing potential buyers see when they drive up to your house. If the garage door is dirty, worn, and hanging from a hinge, replace it. A new door can add pizzazz and, according to NAR, return about 89% of its value.

Wash the windows. If you don’t do windows, hire someone who does. Clean windows show potential buyers you take good care of your house. This attention to detail makes them want to see the inside.

Repair/replace the roof. This is a big one. Roofs are expensive; we know that. But a leaky roof can end up costing even more. Buyers always, always ask their agents how old the roof is. They want to know that they won’t get stuck with your postponed repairs. If you can’t replace it, have a roofer patch spots that show wear. It’s best to get this big-ticket item done before the inspector finds it and potentially destroys your sell.

Clear the gutters. If your gutters resemble potted plants, it’s time to clean them. If they hang lower than the roofline, reattach them. A cluttered gutter signals to potential buyers that you’ve given up, and they likely will, too.

Replace the siding. Buyers place a premium on fiber cement siding, according to NAR. If you home is sagging from warped siding, upgrade from vinyl to cement. Make sure your agent tells buyers about your recent investment.

Tuck-point the bricks. If you live in a brick home, be sure to have it tuck-pointed. Not only does a freshly tuck-pointed house look better, it is also sealed against water damage.

Replace the windows. Yes, this is another big-ticket item. Replacing windows can cost thousands of dollars. A quick hack: Replace the windows seen from the curb. New energy-efficient, double-paned windows are high priorities for buyers. You may not be able to afford all new windows, but some are better than none.

Paint the exterior. If you live in a painted house that used to be yellow but now looks beige, it’s time for a fresh coat. Don’t underestimate the value of a freshly painted house.

Mow the lawn. Do we have to say this? And while you’re at it, edge it, too.

Trim the hedges. There’s no need to get fancy—just trim the outgrowth.

Plant flowers. Adding pops of color with flowers and ornamental grass can boost curb appeal while making buyers feel welcome. If you want to landscape, try adding low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants to entice the eco-conscious.

Trim trees. Don’t make buyers duck down while walking to your front door. If the tree branches are hanging too low for the average person, trim them back. There should always be a clear path to the front door.

Powerwash the porch/deck. Buyers will always check out the backyard. If you have a deck, make sure it’s washed, sealed, and ready for entertaining.

Check the doorbell. While it doesn’t affect your curb appeal, a working doorbell matters. Sometimes open house visitors ring the bell before walking in. Make sure yours works!

Leave a light on. You can bet buyers are driving by your house at night, checking out the neighborhood. Sometimes they will drive by to make sure they want to attend the open house. To attract them, add strategically placed solar lights around your yard. Highlight your newly planted mums, your blooming roses. Make the house look as good at night as it does during the day, then watch (from a distance) as buyers line up to attend your open house.

Published by Chrystal Caruthers on realtor.com. Chrystal Caruthers is a Chicago native and a former Realtor, TV news producer, and newspaper reporter. Chrystal, who covers real estate news at realtor.com, enjoys cooking, hiking, and Bikram yoga.