By Dian Hymer
We're getting close to the end of the year, which begs the question of whether it's worthwhile trying to sell your home now. Is it a waste of time? Will it sit on the market and become shopworn? Should I take my house off the market for the holidays? Will the home-sale market be better for sellers in 2012?
The first question you need to ask yourself is: Are you emotionally prepared to sell? Selling is a challenge for most sellers, although some markets are better than others. Unless you bought more than eight to 10 years ago and preserved your equity, you may not be able to sell for enough to pay off the mortgages secured against the property and the other costs of selling.
For sellers who have no additional assets, a short sale or foreclosure may be the only option. If so, first look into government programs that might help you out financially. Also, talk to your attorney and tax adviser.
Sellers who have the resources to make up the difference between the sale price and the amount they owe need to ask themselves if they are willing to pay the additional cash in order to sell and move on.
There are two reasons why you might prefer bringing cash to closing. One is that your credit will not be negatively impacted, as would be the case with a short sale or foreclosure. The second is that many buyers shy away from short sales because of the lengthy and uncertain process involved.
The next thing to consider is the condition of your home. Is it ready for the market? The most salable homes are those that are in move-in condition.
Before racing to the hardware store, ask your REALTORÂ® about how much competition there would be for your home if you put it on the market before the holidays. Some areas are shy on inventory of good homes on the market. If so, now could be a good time to sell.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: The supply/demand ratio plays a significant role in the health of a local real estate market. No matter what is said about the housing market nationally, it's the local picture that tells the tale in terms of the possibility of selling your home at any given time.
Most sellers don't put their homes on the market during the last or first couple of months of the year. The inventory of homes for sale tends to dwindle during the winter months. Interest rates are low. So, if there are buyers in your local market, you may be at an advantage selling when most sellers are waiting.
Some sellers feel that if they've waited this long to sell, they should put the process on hold until spring and get the house ready in the meantime. Certainly, it's not a good idea to put your house on the market until it looks great. But if you and your house are ready to sell, move ahead.
The market in general tends to slow down over the holidays. But rather than pull your house off the market and miss a likely prospect, change the showing procedure to require advance notice. And enjoy your holidays. A sale before year end could be a great holiday gift.
There is a lot of pent-up demand, on both the buyer and seller sides. Sellers have been waiting for a better time to sell. Buyers have been waiting for more quality inventory and a sense that prices have bottomed or are close to it.
THE CLOSING: Recent projections call for another five or so years of bouncing along close to the bottom of this market cycle. Many experts believe that the big price declines are behind us.
Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."
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