Five tips to get the most real estate for your money

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An extended period of low interest rates and increasingly sophisticated access to information has boosted the area real estate market, according to one area realtor.

Sharron Huss, a realtor with Coldwell Banker for the past 23 years, said, despite some national reports to the contrary, business in the Fox Valley is booming.

“Houses are selling at more than the asking price,” she said. “Appraisers are having a hard time keeping up because the houses are moving so fast.”

The Wisconsin Realtor’s Association reported that homes sales were up 5.5 percent and median prices were up 4.5 percent this year from the same period last year. Wisconsin realtors closed more home sales in June of 2016 than any other month since 2005, according to the WRA.

Whether you’re downsizing your empty nest, buying a vacation home or preparing to purchase your first place, here are five tips to get the most real estate for your money:

  1. Get preapproved for your loan before you shop. “Buyers need to know what they can afford, rather than going to a home and being disillusioned,” Huss said. Being pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) also allows you to shop around for the best deal and lowest interest rates.
  2. Don’t make any large purchases like a boat, car or snowmobile until after you finalize the purchase of your home. You want to protect your credit score. If you wrack up too much debt or buy a bunch of big-ticket items, you might have a hard time getting a loan.
  3. Don’t try to time your purchase. The best time to buy a house is when you need one. The real estate market goes up and down. If you wait for a better deal, you may lose the house. The best time to buy a house is when you find the perfect one and you can afford it.
  4. Don’t buy more house than you can afford. This goes beyond the mortgage. You need to factor in property taxes (and whether they’re likely to rise in the near future), potential job changes, childcare costs, utilities, maintenance and repairs.
  5. Choose your realtor wisely. Huss, who has sold 133 condominiums in her career, is careful to educate the buyer. “This is the major purchase of their life, so we try to guide them,” she said. Special assessments, the difference between a mound system and a private well, condo association fees etc. can make the process scary and frustrating for the buyer. It’s very important to understand these things before you sign binding paperwork.

“This should be a happy experience, rather than misfortune down the road,” Huss said.