How to Sell Your Home During the Holidays

Wondering how to sell your home during the holidays? While putting your home on the market between winter celebrations, school vacations, and looming family visits might seem like miserable timing, sellers could actually benefit by using this period strategically to show and possibly even sell their place.

Here's why: Many home sellers take a holiday hiatus until the New Year—and that could mean that your house may suddenly become a hot commodity. Plus, if buyers are truly squeezing in home showings between shopping trips and holiday recitals, you know they must be serious.

So if you’re ready to put up a “For Sale” sign under the cheery glow of your holiday lights, go right ahead! Here's some advice on how to sell your home during the holidays.

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Deck your halls...

A little mistletoe will likely help rather than hurt.

“You should be festive and decorate,” suggests Jen Teague, a Realtor® with Keller Williams in Ellis County, TX. “It’s when your home looks the best and you take the most pride in it, so it will show better and most likely net more.”

“Go easy on decorations,” cautions Samuel Pawlitzki with Beach Cities Real Estate in Malibu, CA. Christmas lights and a tree in the living room are OK, he clarifies, “but I wouldn't suggest staging a nativity scene in the front yard. Going berserk on decorations can scare off potential buyers.” And, well, everyone else.

Throw a party

Yes, you have a to-do list that stretches from here until Valentine’s Day. But consider squeezing in the time to host a holiday party anyway.

“This can be a great way to showcase your house to friends, family, and neighbors,” Pawlitzki notes. “Chances are that at least one person at the party is looking for a new home, or knows someone who is.”

Preheat your oven

“It’s wonderful for potential buyers to walk into a home that smells of fresh-baked cookies, sweets, and holiday cakes,” says Joan Suzio, an interior decorator in Libertyville, IL. Sweeten them up a tad more by leaving a plate of treats out for them to enjoy.

Don’t encourage thieves

Although most people are wishing peace on Earth and goodwill, not everybody will take that message to heart. So, play it safe and don't leave gifts (particularly expensive ones) under a holiday tree during a showing. Consider leaving empty decorative boxes instead.

Let your house shine

The days have never been darker or shorter, so to ensure your house gives off a warm, comfy vibe, “replace some of your lights with brighter bulbs to add more light for evening showings,” suggests Nathan Garrett, owner of Garretts Realty in Louisville, KY.

Give a little

As in, give a little more time than you might if you were selling at a different, less frenetic time of year.

“Be prepared to let people into your home even when it's not convenient for you,” advises Janine Acquafredda, associate broker at House n Key Realty in Brooklyn, NY. “Not everyone celebrates the same holidays, so you may be asked to show on days you normally wouldn't want to.”

Use bad weather in your favor

Live in a part of the country that's hit with snow and ice storms this time of year? Make sure your pathways and sidewalks are cleanly shoveled and your house temperature is comfortable, suggests Valerie Post, a real estate adviser at Engel & Völkers Boston.

If it's raining, have umbrellas handy for people to look at outside areas. (Boot covers by the front door are a nice touch.) "This is the time to accentuate heated driveways, attached garages, updated heating systems, newer roofs, and fireplaces," Post adds.

Pour yourself a glass of eggnog and relax

 

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Tis the Season!

It is that time of year again! The weather grows chillier, the days shorter. December is one of my favorite months of the year because it reminds me of when my daughter – who is now off to college, was young. We would drive around drinking our delicious hot cocoa and admire the Christmas lights together.

Explore the Holiday Christmas Lights in San Diego schedule or visit the link below. Every event is family-friendly and will spread the holiday cheer.

Christmas Lights to Explore in San Diego 2017

Christmas 2017

What Financial Planners Wish You Knew About Buying A Home

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Financial planners don't just help people balance their budgets or plan for retirement; they also help their clients buy homes. After all, a house is very often the biggest financial investment you'll ever make—so, it makes sense that these professionals would have some strong opinions on just how to go about it.

Curious what they want you to know? Read on for their top, no-nonsense tips.

1. Buy only if you plan to stick around

When you purchase a house, you have to shell out a significant amount of cash for closing costs—fees paid to third parties that helped facilitate the sale. Closing costs can vary widely by location, but they typically total 2% to 7% of the home's purchase price. So on a $250,000 home, your closing costs would amount to anywhere from $5,000 to $17,500. That’s a serious chunk of change!

Consequently, Craig Jaffe, a certified financial planner at United Capital in Boca Raton, FL, says it's important to calculate your break-even point—i.e., how long it will take for you to recoup those costs.

“Typically, you want to own a home for at least three years in order to recoup the initial costs of buying the home,” says Jaffe. You can use realtor.com®’s rent or buy calculator to see whether purchasing a house makes financial sense for you.

2. Factor in the full costs of homeownership

When weighing whether it makes more sense to buy a house or continue to rent, don’t focus solely on your mortgage payments—you’ll also have to pay property taxes, interest, home insurance, utilities, and other expenses.

“A lot of people don’t budget for hidden costs” such as maintenance and repairs, says Jaffe.

You should also have an emergency fund set aside in case something goes wrong with the house.

“If your roof gets damaged or a major appliance breaks, you want to have cash on hand to pay for those costs,” Jaffe says. (If you don’t have a rainy day fund in place for those kinds of expenses, you could be forced to take on high-interest credit card debt.) Jaffe recommends building an emergency fund of 1% to 2% of your home’s value.

3. Try to make a 20% down payment

Unless you qualify for a Department of Veteran Affairs loan or Federal Housing Administration loan, you’re going to need to obtain a conventional home loan from a private mortgage lender.

When doing so, “you want to aim to make at least a 20% down payment,” says Jaffe. Why? Because if you put down less, you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance, an additional monthly fee that protects the lender in case you default on the loan.

PMI can be pricey, amounting to about 1% of your whole loan—or $1,000 per year per $100,000. The good news? You can typically get PMI removed once you’ve gained at least 20% equity in your home.

4. Don't raid your retirement funds

While it's tempting to borrow from your IRA or 401(k) to amass a down payment on a home, “a retirement account is the last place you’d want to go for your down payment,” says Jaffe.

Indeed, if you borrow from either plan before age 59½, you’ll get slapped with a 10% excise tax on the amount you withdraw, on top of the regular income tax you pay on withdrawals from traditional defined contribution plans. Making early withdrawals also obviously prevents the money from accruing interest in these accounts, which could force you to delay retirement.

A better alternative? You could qualify for one of over 2,200 down payment assistance programs nationwide, which help out home buyers with low-interest loans, grants, and tax credits. Home buyers who use down payment assistance programs save an average of $17,766 over the life of their loan.

5. Make sure your credit score is up to snuff

You need to have solid credit—typically at least a 650 credit score—to qualify for a conventional home loan, and you need to have excellent credit (think 760 or above) to qualify for the lowest interest rates.

Hence, “you want to get pre-approved for a loan when your credit is at its strongest point,” says Jaffe.

To assess where you stand, pull a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major U.S. credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) using AnnualCreditReport.com. Your report doesn't include your credit score—you'll have to go to each company for that, and pay a small fee—but it shows your credit history, including any black marks (e.g., missed credit card payments, overdue medical bills).

If you notice errors on your report, contact the credit-reporting agency immediately, Jaffe says.

6. When buying a home, watch your spending carefully

In the months leading up to your home purchase, make sure you don’t take any actions that could hurt your credit score. These mistakes include closing old credit card accounts, opening a new credit card, maxing out your credit cards, and making a large purchase such as a new car, says Jeremy David Schachter, mortgage adviser and branch manager at Pinnacle Capital Mortgage in Phoenix.

7. Don’t bite off more house than you can chew

This one might sound obvious, but a lot of people make the mistake of buying a house that’s simply outside what they can comfortably afford.

“You don’t want to stretch yourself so thin that your housing expenses are going to stress you out each month or prevent you from saving for retirement,” says Jaffe. You can use realtor.com’s home affordability calculator to determine a price range that fits your budget.

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