My wife and I recently sold our home in Winnipeg and are in the process of buying one in the Chicago suburbs. I’ve learned a lot about home buying and selling, and would like to share some tips with you, in case you’re daring enough to buy or sell a home. I use the word “daring” because I strongly advise against it, just as I strongly advise against committing murder. And trust me, at some point during your home buying or selling process, you will want to kill someone, most likely your real estate agent.
I don’t mean to scare you – I just want you to be prepared for the bitter feelings that might arise if the process doesn’t go the way you hoped, such as if you’re forced to sell your home for less than you owe the bank. (This is known as a short sale in real estate terminology, because you will be short of money to pay the bank, the bank manager will get short with you, and achieving your retirement goals will be nothing short of a miracle.)
If you still feel compelled to buy or sell a home, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the process. Let’s start with some home selling tips:
De-clutter your home. It’s important to make your home look spacious, so please rent a storage unit somewhere and fill it up with everything you don’t require for your day-to-day living needs, except perhaps your husband. Trust me, potential home buyers are not going to be impressed with your collection of seashells from all over the world, even if you’ve glued them together in the shape of Barack Obama. Remember: home buyers want to be pleasantly surprised, not shell-shocked.
Update your kitchen. This is really important to women, as I discovered when my wife and I walked into a gleaming new kitchen and her eyes lit up – more brightly than on our wedding day. Too bad we were just visiting a friend’s house.
Don’t hang around during home viewings. When a real estate agent is showing your home to potential buyers, it’s really not a good idea for you to be lying on the couch in the living room, watching an episode of “Wife Swap.” It’s better to disappear for an hour or two, and by “disappear,” I don’t mean in the walk-in closet. Trust me, if there’s anything more off-putting to a home buyer than seeing a row of leisure suits from the ’70s, it’s seeing a pair of eyes behind them.
Put away your photos and other personal items. Home buyers want to picture themselves living in your home, not picture you on a beach in Hawaii. You don’t want them to get the wrong idea.
Wife: “That bikini seems a little tight on her.”
Husband: “Not as tight as our finances will be if we buy this home.”
Tight finances are certainly a good reason to be careful when buying a home. Here are some tips to help you:
Always verify facts. The seller may claim that “the roof was installed in ’06 and the carpet was installed in ’08” but you need to make sure it wasn’t 1906 and 1908.
Do as much research as you can. Google the home, Google its owner, Google the neighbor, Google the neighbor’s dog. The latter may seem extreme, but wait until you need to retrieve an errant ball. Pretty soon, you’ll be calling the police to retrieve part of your butt.
Location is important. If a home is next to a busy road, you can count on getting a good price. If it’s next to an Indian grocery store, you can count on getting good rice.
Don’t let your agent pressure you or mislead you. Real estate agents can be very helpful, but they’re also eager to see you making a purchase. If your agent sends you a text on his iPhone that a particular house “will be scooped up within a week,” what he’s trying to scoop up within a week is his commission. Not all agents are like this, of course. Some have Blackberries.