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Things To Do In December If You Want to Buy or Sell in 2013

 

1.  Handle your credit horrors.  Maybe you don’t have any credit horrors – kudos to you! But let’s get real,  this year will be a year in which many post-foreclosure,  post-bankruptcy, post-layoff Americans will find themselves sufficiently recovered, post-recession, to get back into the real estate market and  buy a home. If you count yourself among the number of 2013 wanna-be  buyers who experienced a financial glitch of any degree during the  recession, December is the right time to start pulling your credit  reports and doing a damage assessement and control campaign.

  • Visit AnnualCreditReport.com (the only website through which you can access  your government-mandated free reports) and order your own credit reports from all three reporting bureaus.
  • Review them all, line-by-line, checking for errors and discrepancies. It is  extremely common for paid-off accounts to still be reporting as  delinquent, for foreclosed mortgages to still be listed as open and  past-due and for bills that were settled in collection to be reported as behind. Follow the instructions to dispute any such errors you see.
  • When you talk with your mortgage broker (see #4), go over the reports with  them again, getting a read on precisely when your foreclosure,  bankruptcy, delinquencies, gaps in employment or other credit woes will  be sufficiently “seasoned” (i.e., long ago) to allow you to qualify for  another loan, and get their advice on any action items, like paying a  particular debt or set of credit cards down to $X amount will be  important for you to complete before you try for a legitimate  pre-approval next year.

In fact, this last point applies to everyone – whether or not you think you have any dings on your credit report. It’s essential to get clear  on any of the work you’ll need to do to optimize your credit standing  now, as the payoffs, disputes and other credit work that can move the  needle on your score may take some time.

2.  Purge.  It’s time.  Time to get rid of all that things you know qualify as clutter – all of the stuff you know buyers won’t want to see when they tour your home, and all the stuff that you won’t want to move to your next place. If you donate your junk before the end of the year, you might be able to get a receipt and deduction for the taxes you file in 2013.  And tax break or not, getting all that stuff out of your attic,  your closets, your shelves and your rooms will clear up loads of mental  space and energy, minimize some of the overwhelm latent in the prospect  of moving – and might even surface a few things you can sell to boost  your down payment savings or your home staging budget. Clutter clearing gets overwhelming when you simply lack the time, in the face  of everyday urgencies, to invest a few hours or days to go deep, pull  out all the minutae and memory-laden How better to spend those wintry  days between Christmas and New Year’s than to clear out the clutter in  your home – and your mind?

3.  Plan your prep. If you’re thinking of selling your home in 2013, now is a great time to  start organizing your list (or spreadsheet, or Evernote file) of home  preparation tasks that need to get done before you put the place on the  market. Things like painting, carpeting, landscaping and other  preparation tasks can be less taxing and less disruptive to your life if you have plenty of time to collect bids, sock away the cash to cover  the costs and arrange projects at your family’s convenience or during  off-seasons, when contractors might be wiling to charge a bit less.  Talk with your agent before you put a plan in place; they can help you make  good decisions which projects to do (and which to forego), as well as  choosing finish materials and colors that will appeal to the broadest  segment of buyers – to boot, they often can refer you to the most  cost-effective contractors in your area for these sorts of pre-listing  projects.

3.  Save. More. There’s no such thing as saving too much cash up for your down payment. If you  have a home to sell, you have no idea how much you’ll take away from  that transaction until it closes. And even if you’re currently renting,  having maximum savings set aside allows you maximum flexibility in terms of selecting homes, competing with other buyers, covering closing costs (which can run as high as 3-4% on average for an FHA loan) and even handling post-closing repairs, appliances and property personalization.

4.  Collect your gift money.  Buyers who get gift money from a relative to apply toward their down payments  are often subject to seemingly strange and definitely invasive  documentation requirements – the most onerous of which is to produce  copies of the gift GIVER’s bank accounts proving the source of the  funds. If you know Mom, Dad, Granny or Aunt Bernie is going to chip in  some cash toward your down payment in the Spring, consider asking them  to go ahead and give it to you now, so you can put it in your own  accounts and begin “seasoning” it as yours, which will help you avoid  all those documentation demands.  Your benefactor should check with their financial and tax advisors to be  sure the gift is structured so as to avoid any tax implications, before  they give it.

5.  This is where I can help. Connect with an agent and a mortgage broker – stat.  Don’t wait until the month before you want to buy or sell to ring up your  trusty agent and initiate the conversation. Ask around for referrals or you can  find agent recommendations on Trulia, you can read all of  my clients reviews about me here… http://www.trulia.com/profile/johncantero/recommendation/

Also you should get a mortgage broker (or 3) on the phone, and ask them to help brief you on topics like:

  • Whether your market is a buyer’s market or seller’s market, and how that  translates into what you can and should expect when you plan to buy or  sell next year
  • Whether there are any area-specific timing issues you should factor in as you map out your timeline
  • What – given the specifics of your financials, your savings, any past credit or other issues you have – you should be doing now in terms of paying  bills down, settting savings targets, and such
  • What changes, if any, you should plan on making to your property before listing it
  • What sort of property you can get for your money in the areas you’re  targeting as a buyer, and what kind of money you can expect to command  for your property in your local market (this, obviously, will change  over time – even over the few months or so between now and the time you  list your home, but it still helps to have a general ides of the current market values).

6.  Go Open House hunting.  If you’re selling next year, it’s essential to get a real-life read on  what the competition’s like, everything from what sorts of houses in  your area are listed at various price points to what your target buyers  are going to be seeing on their way into or out of your house.  There’s  no reality check on your own home’s preparation and staging – its  overall readiness for listing – like putting on a buyer’s shoes and  taking a tour through similar homes in your area.  And there’s no time  for this reality check like right now: when Open Houses are still  a-plenty, you have more time to attend them, and you still have plenty  of time to process your takeaways and incorporate them into your own  property preparations. Open House hunting is also helpful for those who have home buying on their  2013 to-do lists.  It’s the only way you can start understanding how to  decipher the listings you see online into a reality-based set of  expectations about a property.  It’s also the best way to get  indoctrinated deeply into the realities of what you get on your local  market at various price points, and it’s the most impactful strategy for starting the process of negotiating compromises with your co-buyers. Feel free to give me a call.

7.  Think hard about your deductions, if you’re self-employed. In the wake of the recession, most mortgage guidelines for  self-employed borrowers changed, so that your income for purposes of  qualifying is assumed to be the average of your last two years’ Adjusted Gross Income, as reported on your federal income tax returns.  That  means lenders calculate your income after all your business-related and other deductions, not before. So, yes,  this does mean that maximizing your deductions may impact your ability  to qualify for a home loan in 2013.  But them’s the breaks – better to  know this before you file your tax return, in the event it might change  something about how you file.  Loop your tax advisor, business  bookkeeper and mortgage broker into your decision-making process about  your 2012 taxes before filing, if you’re self-employed and plan to buy  or refinance your home next year.

I look forward to hearing from you and helping you find the perfect property.

Posted on December 21, 2012 at 10:10 am by John Cantero (918) 313-0408

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