"Better" is not good enough. We’re told the housing market is getting better, and that’s great. But when a homeowner wants to sell - or has to - "better" may not be good enough.

In many locations, prices are rising and home buyers are out in greater numbers. But is that true for your street or suburb? Are you confident you could sell your current home for enough to cover your existing mortgage and provide an adequate down payment for the next home, plus moving expenses and closing costs at both ends?


  • If you are confident, even optimistic: Positive thinking is important to achieving goals, but they must be realistic to start with. If you’re sure about real estate values, why are you sure? Have you arranged an update of the last real estate market evaluation of your home? If not, contact the real estate professional you’re confident knows your neighborhood and get the facts on what’s sold and which listings expired without a sale.

    Learn what’s actually happening, not what the media is promoting about locations far from yours. Get used to going directly to the source of local real estate knowledge and information. Check with neighbors and local businesses to learn who the recognized real estate experts are in your area. If you discover you could sell and net more than you originally expected, there’s still time for "staging" to get the best price possible in the spring market - the prime selling season.



  • If you are not confident about your local market, but you remain hopeful:The advice above applies and is even more important to search out. Get rid of assumptions and seek the facts from neighborhood real-estate specialists. If the real estate value you need is not there yet, ask what you can do to help it along. What boosts value on your street or in your condominium complex? Create a plan to build extra equity in your real estate, and then start shopping around for the best contractors or do-it-myself classes. Transform spring into a productive starting point for you and your real estate.


  • If you’re sure real estate prices are lagging in your neighborhood, but you want to move on: Getting the facts, not just self-serving promotion, from knowledgeable real estate professionals is essential for your sanity. When I speak to groups of real estate brokers and salespeople, I always ask them whether they believe property owners understand what they can afford, based on the real estate they currently own and what they could buy next. They always answer, "no" - home and condominium owners don’t understand what they could accomplish by selling their current home and then buying in the neighborhood that is a natural next step for them. (This comment is true for property owners in the first two bullets, too.)

    Ask a few select real estate professionals to help you clarify what the big picture is for you. Gather more than one point of view to add to your own to clarify your choices. If you sold, what could you net, and what would that allow you to buy? Before you sell and risk the pressure of a buying deadline, investigate the area you’re buying into. Since neighborhood housing markets are rarely simultaneously all at the same level, you may get a great deal in an area where prices are currently running on the low side. Could you make up, or exceed, any loss in selling by buying more house or a better neighborhood, or both?

    Survey after survey confirms that owning your own home remains at the heart of the American dream. The difference now is that ownership is no longer a no-brainer. We’ve learned the hard way that homeowners benefit from understanding the business of homeownership when buying, selling, and owning their piece of the dream. nemmar.com is loaded with forward-thinking articles on elements of the business of homeownership, as is this column "Decisions & Communities," but it’s up to you to put these ideas into action.

    Your business of homeownership can’t survive on media sound-bites, headlines, and reality shows. Solid information and creative know-how are essential. "Better" regarding anything to do with real estate will never be enough unless we all become "the best" at homeownership.


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