I’ll let you in on a little secret: Some real estate agents think that real estate is weather-driven. As a manager, I frequently hear from agents that “this is a bad time of year” for real estate because of the cold, ice and snow. Then, in spring, they tell me “this is a bad time of year” for real estate because of the spring thaw, mud, no flowers or trees in full bloom yet, allergies, etc. Along comes summer and guess what: “This is a bad time of year” for real estate because of family vacations, allergies (again!), summer rec programs for the kids, and so on. By August, I’m told, buyers and sellers are focused on getting their kids back to school. Here comes fall and guess what: “This is a bad time of year” for real estate because of high school sports kicking off. And then, well, it’s the holidays.

So, here’s the even bigger secret: HOMES SELL ALL YEAR ‘ROUND!

Not every potential buyer or seller follows the same calendar. In fact, given the above excuses, I’m not sure I could even be convinced to make this my career! According to my calculations I might have a month or two out of 12 to make my living!

So, Buyers, when IS the best time to buy?

Answer: The best time to buy is when you’re ready. We live in Wisconsin. There will always be snow and ice in winter, rain and mud in the spring, heat in the summer, holidays, school activities, etc.

Be realistic: In the summer we want to know how well the home holds heat and how sound the foundation is come the spring thaw. Serious buyers ask serious questions: They want to see the heating and electric bills for the prior 12 months of the home’s occupancy (many utility companies now make some general information available on-line). Buyers want to see the property condition report provided by the sellers. Serious buyers hire a certified home inspector to review the property and assess it’s condition.

Here’s another tip: Ask your insurance agent for a CLUE report* on the property to see if there have been claims filed for water intrusion. This is a particularly good strategy when purchasing a foreclosure property. (There may be a fee for such a report.)

By the way, no matter how bad the economy was, there were always lenders approving buyers for home mortgages.

No more excuses! Get out there and get looking!

* C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) is a claims history database created by ChoicePoint that enables insurance companies to access consumer claims information when they are underwriting or rating an insurance policy. (information courtesy of http://oci.wi.gov/pub_list/pi-207.htm , from the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance).

When people find out what I do for a living, they always ask how things are going. I always tell them that it’s great! Real estate will continue to sell; people will continue to relocate, down-size, out-grow their homes and do all of the other things that have always caused people to want to sell a home and move.

As signs emerge that we are on our way out of the economic distress we’ve been in (for real estate, anyway), it’s worth noting what the changes are to this facet of our economy.

  • We will continue to see foreclosures, bank-owned properties or REO properties, and auctions of foreclosed properties – for a couple of more years, unfortunately.
  • Short sales: While it’s easier to get a lender or representative to return your call, if there is more than one mortgage on a property, or if there is a mortgage with mortgage insurance, then that means that there is more than one level of approval needed before the new buyer’s offer will be accepted. The primary lien-holder isn’t getting enough money to pay off their debt, let alone what will be available to anybody else in line waiting to be paid.
  • Buyers are worried they don’t or won’t qualify for financing. While foreclosure properties require a letter of pre-approval, buyers need to be more confident in approaching their banker or mortgage broker for approval.
  • Reeling from the tightened restrictions of loan approval underwriters and appraisers, there is still some reform coming; this could potentially get worse before it gets better.
  • The “traditional” real estate transaction: a home owner selling their home to a qualified owner-occupant home buyer, is making a come-back!
  • Buyers are recognizing the importance of having their own down-payment for a home, rather than relying on a bank to finance it for them. Many banks and loan programs require a minimum of 3-5% down payment. Some loan programs allow a seller to credit the buyer for this at closing. Essentially, the buyer is financing their down payment.
  • “Second Home” or “Luxury” home sales are on the rise. Buyers in this market generally have cash or a significant down payment, and they are not afraid to make an investment in real estate.
  • More than ever before, there is an emphasis on the importance of home and the security and nurturing feelings that go with it. “Family” is a message, a feeling. “Value” is also at the top of buyer’s lists!
  • Prices for homes will begin to level out, with some markets experiencing continued depreciation. There are glimmers of hope as we see some markets across the country begin to gently increase in average sale price, or at least stabilize.
  • Interest rates are expected to rise but not dramatically from one month to another. And, buyers are recognizing early on that the savings in the price during negotiations with a seller can be eaten up by a higher interest rate over time.

In the markets that I serve in Southwestern Wisconsin, I have noticed over the past year that if a home is priced well, staged well, and has no remarkable “flaws” – either in design, condition, or location – sales are occurring on average within 60-90 days. And, these homes are STILL selling for approx. 95% of the list price, in most cases.

Thinking of selling? Always interview more than one agent and don’t sign anything until you’ve had time to think about which agent will best represent your property. It’s critical to differentiate between what you WANT for your home, and what you CAN GET in this market.