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Watching Your Wallet: Spring housing market secrets revealed

Experts share insider tips on interest rates, bidding wars and getting your home ready to sell

By: Rachel DePompa, InvestigateTV and WWBT

(InvestigateTV) – Spring is typically known as the season to sell in the real estate market.

It’s still a seller’s market, but there is also some good news for those looking to buy a house.

“It’s a great time to be looking for a home,” real estate agent Eric Morris said. “We’ve got people wanting to sell. We’ve got people who are wanting to buy with interest rates being at a great rate.”

Morris and experts at NerdWallet gave InvestigateTV tips for those on both sides of the equation: the buyers and the sellers.

Sellers: Increase your curb appeal

Whether it’s slapping on a fresh coat of paint or spreading mulch in the flower beds, curb appeal is still king according to Morris.

“You want to tell you story from the minute you say go. From walking up to the door,” Morris said.

He said that’s especially important when these days home buying starts on the web.

“95% of the buyers is seeing the home online before seeing it in person. You want to make sure your pictures represent your home as best as possible,” Morris said.

He also suggested opening all the blinds and turning on all the lights when showing your home to make it more inviting.

Real estate agent Eric Morris is known as the “Kat in the Hat” by his friends and family. “I put the hat on a long time ago. I think it stems from my military career,” he said.

Buyers: Entry-level homes trickier to negotiate than higher-end homes

It’s still considered a seller’s market right now, but there is room for good deals for buyers.

“It’s just that it’s less so. Less of a seller’s market, and that’s especially for homes that are not at the entry-level price,” said Holden Lewis, a housing expert with NerdWallet.

Lewis said that’s really good news for buyers.

“They just face less competition than they did in previous years. There are more houses on the market. Houses are taking a little bit longer to sell,” Lewis said.

He said buyers are less likely to get into a bidding war for homes above the midpoint in a given market.

But, he said, those bidding wars are still a possibility for entry-level homes and first-time homebuyers because homes are holding their value.

“But prices haven’t risen as dramatically in the last 12 months as they had in previous years, so that’s good news,” Lewis said.

Another factor to consider is the mortgage rate. It’s low – dropping to 4.08% at the end of March.

A “too late” sign hangs outside a home recently sold in Virginia. Lewis said in a May 2019 NerdWallet column that the number of homes is expected to rise this year; however, there is still more demand than supply. Buyers looking for less-expensive homes and sellers with more-expensive homes will have the toughest time, he said.

Experts advise shopping for your loan

Lewis said when looking at how much house to buy, a good rule of thumb is to only pay a maximum of about 28% of your pretax income on your house payment.

“That includes homeowners insurance and property taxes,” Lewis said.

For those interested in buying, he said you want to get preapproved for a loan. That preapproval is not only going to make your offer more credible, but it’s also going to help you figure out exactly how much you can afford to borrow.

NerdWallet also said buyers should comparison shop for loans – the experts said to apply with at least five lenders to find the best rate. Applying with several lenders in a 45-day window only counts as one inquiry on your credit score.

Finally, Morris said if you don’t get the first house you put an offer on, don’t get discouraged because it wasn’t meant to be.

“I’m a firm believer that your home is out there,” he said.

Read more about Lewis’ predictions for the 2019 housing market in his NerdWallet column.

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