Seven Things You Never Really Knew About Buying or Selling a Home

Spring has sprung, people are on the move — and now pros are spilling the beans on all the go-to essentials

Nationwide, few people would even approach the home selling or buying process without first consulting a “Zestimate.” And what is that, you ask?

It’s “Zillow’s estimated market value for an individual home, and [it’s] calculated for about 100 million homes nationwide,” notes the website of Zillow, the go-to resource for many home buyers and sellers across the country.

Why is this key? “It is a starting point in determining a home’s value and is not an official appraisal,” the company goes on. It’s also “computed daily based on millions of public and user-submitted data points.”

All of this is relevant because many housing markets are right now seeing a record low number of homes for sale, MarketWatch reported; there are “fewer existing homeowners opting to move and home builders constructing fewer new homes,” the site noted.

“Tight housing inventory is, in turn, fueling rapid appreciation in home prices, all while mortgage rates have generally increased at a steady clip.”

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Sometimes, though, Zillow’s starting point can be more than a little off. Earlier this month, The Seattle Times reported on a three-bedroom property in Belfair on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State, which Zillow had overvalued by 700 percent — an example of algorithms gone awry.

Patrick Chinn, a designated broker at Windermere Real Estate in Seattle, explained how to keep all of this in perspective when beginning the process of buying or selling a home.

“Zillow has been a very good source of information as a public-facing platform — agent-facing as well — for research, and it certainly complements the buying or selling process,” Chinn told LifeZette in an email this week. “There is a lot of relevant data on every residential property on the site, and that is powerful.”

It’s a marketing company that specializes in real estate — not a real estate company per se, as California-based Sunset Vista Realty’s Mike Capelle noted on his company’s website.

“Taking a high-altitude view of inventory and sales in relevant and specific locations is a very valuable starting point in the consumer’s discovery process,” added Chinn.

As springtime blooms bring the peak season for buying and selling residential real estate, Chinn offered sellers and buyers alike a few more savvy tips.

For Buyers:
1.) View a lot of properties and follow the sales timelines and closing prices. Understanding current market conditions and value means you will know what offer to feel comfortable making.

2.) Talk to a trusted lender (or a few). Being secure in your financing and payments will give you confidence when making an offer.

Related: Before Buying a Home: What You Must Know

3.) Understand the transaction process — including, inspection, appraisal, negotiation, escrow, and the paperwork involved.

For Sellers:
1.) Scrutinize your pricing to maximize offers and exposure and then make sure your home looks its best. Expectations of what a home on the market should look like have changed over the past 20 years, cautions Chinn.

2.) Get excellent photography, and possibly have your property staged. “I’ve seen more staging, such as giant clocks and bowls of wooden apples, in these last five years and it works,” said Chinn.

3.) Understand the sales transaction process, including what addenda are you likely to see and what are the ramifications? What timelines are expected? Order the title and have it reviewed. See a sample inspection document to understand what type of report you might receive and be thorough and diligent in disclosure. Complete all of this preparation before you put your property on the market.

Make sure all the lights work — and leave the home looking great when you turn it over.

4.) Be mindful of traffic and open houses. Remove anything that could be taken. Make your home easy for buyers to access. Make sure all the lights work — and leave the home looking great when you turn it over.

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.

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