A nice house with a white-picket fence has long been synonymous with the American dream. However, rising home prices and interest rates have made home ownership more of a pipe dream for some. 

In 2023, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that home sales prices have more than tripled since 2001. Soaring costs have, in large part, to do with low inventory. According to the Bureau, approximately 89% of privately owned housing units are occupied. All these factors make for a hot real estate market that favors selling over buying. 

Despite the current economic state, there’s hope on the horizon for people looking to purchase a home in the coming years. 

“The good news for most people thinking of buying real estate today… [is that] interest rates are at a very good percentage; some as low as 6.33% – one of the best rates we have had since the pandemic,” says Sherry Lewis, owner and Oklahoma regional director at Keller Williams Realty. 

There’s also been a concerted effort to address the housing shortage at the state level. In January, Governor Kevin Stitt approved emergency rules for the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency’s Housing Stability Program, which will provide $215 million in funding for the construction of single and multifamily housing units. 

Selling a Home: A Step-by Step Guide

Most people view homeownership as a long-term investment. So, when it comes to selling your home, you want to get as much back on your initial investment as possible. 

The first step is to set a timeline for when you’ll want to list the home. Warmer seasons, like spring and summer, are peak times for home-buying activity. Homes sold toward the end of April generally sell above the asking price, according to Zillow, an online real estate marketplace. Come October, homes are more likely to sell under the asking price. 

Once you’ve set a date, you’ll want to start decluttering. 

“If a person is considering selling their home, they need to really put their home in a very desirable condition,” says Lewis. “They need to remove valuable things and box them up so there is no concern.” 

The ultimate goal is to create a space that will enable potential buyers to envision themselves living it. 

Next, homeowners might want to make upgrades. Repainting cabinets and walls, resurfacing counters and refinishing wood floors are small touches that can go a long way. It’s important, however, not to get carried away with these renovations. 

“A lot of people like to redecorate and make their own choices, especially in regards to décor,” says Peter Walter, founder of Tulsa-based real estate agency Walter & Associates. “I think that it’s really the best for new buyers to do the updating.” 

As you near your listing date, you’ll want to determine an asking price for your home. One tried-and-true method is to work with a real estate agent to determine value. According to data from the National Association of Realtors, homes that were listed by the owner had a median sales price that was $95,000 less than homes that were listed with an agent in 2023. 

Shopping for homes has also become more digital over the years. To reach more buyers, you should list your home online. In doing so, the key is to take clear, professional photos and provide shoppers with an accurate description of the home. Photos should highlight selling points, such as fireplaces, pools and garages. Smaller details can be left for when potential buyers view the property for themselves.

When your house officially goes up for sale, you may receive multiple offers. Carefully consider all the factors. In many cases, the buyer may request specific repairs before finalizing their offer.  

If you decide to accept an offer, you’ll want to have all the documentation ready to go, like the title and purchase agreement. Having an attorney review the agreement before closing can also protect the seller’s rights and best interests. 

Buying a Home: A Step-by Step Guide

Buying a home is typically one of the biggest purchases someone makes in his or her life. But diving in too soon can set a person up for buyer’s remorse and financial woes. To avoid missteps, make deliberate plans before closing a deal. 

One of the first steps is to get your finances in order. 

“In today’s market, the value of homes hasn’t reduced very much, so the buyer needs to determine what amount of funds they have to invest in a home,” says Lewis. 

Financial experts recommend keeping all your housing expenses below 28% of your gross monthly income.  You’ll also want to factor in other costs, such as application fees, closing costs and insurance, to know how much you can realistically afford.

It’s also recommended to save for a down payment at least 6-12 months in advance. Doing so gives home buyers a chance to boost their credit score, which can help them secure a lower interest rate. Paying down debts and establishing a solid credit history can help put you on track, too.

The next step is to get preapproved for a home loan. There are several options beyond a conventional loan. For instance, an FHA loan can be a good fit for someone with less capital to put toward a down payment. To know what you qualify for, you’ll need to provide lenders with pay stubs, tax returns and other financial documents.

Selecting an agent to work with can help a buyer find a house that fits their lifestyle and budget. 

“Consider whatever area you want to live in, and work with an agent who has a good track record and experience,” advises Walter. 

It may be a good idea to designate certain days to tour homes. Viewing properties in person is critical to getting a feel for the neighborhood and the home’s layout. 

When you’ve found your dream home, you’ll want to make an offer quickly. Real estate agents can help you determine a fair offer by researching home sales prices in the area. They can also make the offer with certain contingencies, which protects the buyer from unforeseen expensive repairs. 

If your offer is accepted, you have the option to set up a home inspection next. Many mortgage lenders do not require home inspections; however, they’re strongly recommended as they give the buyer a better understanding of necessary maintenance or repairs. 

Before signing the real estate contract, the buyer will get the opportunity to do a final walk through of the home. 

Finally, it’s time to close the deal. Make sure to read the purchase agreement to verify that all the terms meet your expectations. Items that should be included in the sale, such as a dishwasher or refrigerator, must be noted. 

When you’ve signed the agreement, you can officially celebrate your new home. 

Creating a Smoother Ride

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’re about to go through a big transition. Save yourself a portion of the headache by planning ahead to make the process easier.

Homeowners and buyers alike can benefit from working with an agent, who will have firsthand experience in navigating the entire process. 

If you’re selling your home, one of the simplest ways to cut down on the chaos is to give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Some homeowners spend weeks, or even months, getting their house ready.

Homeowners may also want to consider paying for an inspection before listing their home. Doing so can help avoid unexpected surprises as you’re trying to close on a deal. 

If you’re buying a home, you may want to seek out advice from the experts. Financial advisors can guide you through the loan application process and let you know if you qualify for special assistance, such as a First-Time Homebuyer Credit. In a seller’s market, buyers may find it hard to beat out other offers. Making an offer that is above the asking price and setting aside a chunk of cash for an earnest money deposit can increase your odds of sealing the deal. 

Succeeding as a Real Estate Agent

Have you ever considered becoming a real estate agent? If you have a knack for networking, it may be just the career path for you. 

Some of the advantages of the role include flexible work hours and the ability to multiply your earnings from commission. But before you get your real estate license, you’ll need to take a state-approved, 90-hour salesperson course. A comprehensive list of approved courses is available on the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission website – oklahoma.gov/orec.

The next step is to take the official salesperson exam and pass with a score of 75% or higher. If you pass the exam, you can apply for a real estate license. Newly licensed agents are issued a provisional license until they complete additional hours of continuing education. 

Beyond education, successful real estate agents often possess a combination of soft skills that help them win new clients, including time management, clear communication and resourcefulness. 

“The key element is to provide the consumer great service – to be fair, honest and helpful,” says Lewis. “Many times, the buyer will have already worked with an agent, and if they have had a great working relationship, it is quite common that they will work with them again.” 

Nailing Curb Appeal

Home shoppers may decide if they like a property before they even step foot inside. A messy yard or chipped paint job can ward off potential buyers and prolong the time that your house sits on the market. Adding a few small touches to the exterior of your home can drastically boost its appeal. 

Excellent landscaping and gardening can make your home stand out from other properties. Cleaning out your garden beds, planting flowers and shrubs and adding lighting fixtures can breathe new life into your home. 

Don’t underestimate the power of color, either. Repainting your front door can boost your home value by up to $6,000, according to a study from Zillow. Slate blue-gray and black were some of the top performing colors when it comes to maximizing return on investment. 

Before getting carried away with paint, consider pressure washing the outside of your home. A pressure washer can quickly remove dirt from most exteriors and can also be used to clear driveways, decks and patios. 

Don’t forget to show some love to your trees. If you have a tree in your front yard, treat it as a focal point. Mature trees can add character to a home and provide shade in the summer heat. Pruning dead limbs and adding mulch around the trunk not only adds aesthetic appeal, but it also can improve the tree’s health.

Hot Ticket Items

Nearly four years later and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape the world. Real estate is no exception. Many people have shifted toward prioritizing amenities that balance comfort and function, and the demand for outdoor living spaces remains high. 

According to the Luxury Agent Poll published in 2023 by Forbes Global Properties, real estate agents selected outdoor kitchens and entertainment areas as the single most important luxury amenity. Indoor and outdoor pools ranked second on the list.

Designated home offices and fitness spaces continue to be hot-ticket items as more people work from home and focus on their physical and mental wellbeing. Home shoppers also are on the lookout for rooms that they can easily convert depending on their needs, such as hosting a guest or taking up a new hobby. 

The rise in technology is also making an impact on the real estate market. Voice-activated assistants, smart light switches, and integrated home security systems are popular for their convenience and automation. 

Undeniably, there are home amenities that will always be in demand regardless of market trends. “The most important elements of a home are to have a nice, functional kitchen and sufficient bedrooms for the size of the home,” explains Lewis. “And usually in [Oklahoma’s] market, a 2- or 3-car garage.”

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