It's a good idea to do some fact-finding before you start looking at homes - before you get caught up in the excitement and stress of the shopping process. Hopefully you've gotten to know the communities you're considering during the organizational phase. Now it's time to narrow the search and find your new home.
Review your notes and decide where you want to conduct your home search. Use our community research checklist to help you decide on the right location. Your agent can help you review recent sales activity in the area to get some idea of what you can expect to find in your price range.
Gauge Market Conditions
Real estate markets are highly cyclical. The current status of the market can have a significant effect on your homebuying strategy. Try to develop an understanding of the state of the market, so you'll have some idea of the conditions to anticipate when shopping - and a feel for how hard you can bargain when negotiating.
What's Best - Hot or Cold Market?
Unless you're a first-time buyer, you've probably got a house to sell while you're shopping for a new home, so it's not easy to determine if a strong market is helpful or harmful. As a general rule, if you are moving up - looking for a new home significantly more costly than your old one - you may want to act during a weak market, when the savings on an expensive, new property will more than outweigh the losses on the older one. Conversely, empty nesters looking to switch to a smaller home may want to plan their move during a hot market, when they can maximize gains on the sale of a larger home.
When is the Best Time of Year to Sell?
In most markets there are two primary selling seasons - spring and fall. Spring is the strongest, since many buyers want to move in before the next school year begins. Summer and winter are generally poor selling periods. Avoid marketing your home at these times if you can. Of course, some areas have their own specific seasonality. If you are selling a home in a seaside vacation spot, for example, summer is an excellent time to be on the market.
Understand Recent Area Sales
Don't listen to anecdotes about bidding wars and homes getting snapped up in one day. There is no substitute for accurate information. Check out the actual sales prices of area homes, and try to get a feel for what is really happening in the marketplace.
Your real estate agent is very familiar with the local market and has access to a number of research tools, including the Multiple Listing Service and records of recent sales. Take full advantage of this resource - count on having a research and planning session with your agent.