Buying or Selling Your Sonoma or Napa County Home By the End of 2021? Here’s What You Should Do Now
Here’s the month-by-month breakdown of what you can expect if you’re buying or selling by the end of the year.
Whether 2020 put off your plans to sell your home or enter the market as a buyer, or you were aiming to do either this year already, 2021 is shaping up to be a great year to make your move(s). For sellers, there are plenty of interested buyers out there — in fact, more buyers than there are available properties in many markets. Buyers, don’t let that put you off of making the leap to homeownership. Sellers are seeing the steady demand and becoming more eager to list their homes.
Of course, achieving your goal doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re realistically looking at buying or selling in 6-9 months (the most common timeframes for buyers and sellers), here’s how you can best break up the months ahead with minimal stress.
Month 1-2: Making Goals & Going Over Numbers
If you’re buying: One of the biggest mistakes potential buyers make is focusing on the type of home they want instead of its location. Yet, location determines everything from how much house you can afford to the length of your commute to your lifestyle. While you can always change a home, you can’t change its location. So, narrow down the locations you’d like to live in. If you’re still having trouble deciding, make a list of what you’d like in your ideal neighborhood (or your deal-breakers) and let it guide your research.
Your other priority will be developing your financial picture, so to speak. What are your debts? What are your assets? What’s your income-to-debt ratio? Where will the down payment come from? Ultimately, what would you like your monthly mortgage payment to be?
If you’re selling: Many sellers think that once they make up their mind to sell, they can call up a real estate agent and have them handle everything. However, an agent can best help you meet your goals when you’re prepared to answer what those goals actually are. Is your goal to get the highest price for your home — and you’re willing to make possible changes that may be needed to achieve that? Are you comfortable with your agent hiring a stager, or do you prefer to be heavily involved with the staging process? Or, would you prefer to focus your attention on your upcoming move rather and do not want to get too involved in making changes? Do you have a timeline for a move?
Everything you can do right now to give your real estate agent a strong idea of who you are, your goals and your expectations will help them develop the best action plan tailored to your needs. While you’re taking time to answer the above questions, we can start by developing a CMA (comparative market analysis) to help you understand what your home may sell for today.
Month 3-4: Getting Your “Team” Together & Putting a Plan Into Action
If you’re buying: The real estate market continues to move fast. Tight inventory means that homes sell in days. So why speak to an agent now when you’re months away from seriously looking for a new home? Because you’ll be able to take the time to interview a few agents to see who is the best fit for what you’re looking for, without the pressure of potentially missing out on a promising home.
Though the market might change when it is time to buy, it’s also good to get an idea of the trends in your desired areas when you speak to agents. Are cash buyers dominating? Have there been a lot of flippers? Are there signs that inventory is getting better? Are there properties that are getting overlooked?
If you’re on a 6-month timeline to buy, month 3 is a big one: It’s when you should decide on an agent, set a budget for your potential home, select a lender and go through the prequalification or preapproval process for a mortgage. (Preapproval is more thorough and will be more time-consuming.) If you’re on a 9-month timeline, consider month 6 to be your working deadline for these tasks.
If you’re selling: Selling your home starts with hiring a real estate agent you can trust. Our recommendations and testimonials are full of stories from clients that we've helped over time. Check them out here.
You may want to interview multiple agents to see who will work best with your situation. Pay less attention to promises about price and more about the plan for achieving your goal. Does the agent listen to your concerns? What’s their track record for selling homes similar to yours? Will they give honest feedback about your home’s strengths and weaknesses — and have a plan for overcoming any weaknesses?
If you’re on a 6-month timeline to buy, shift the interviews to month 2 and have an agent in place for the beginning of month 3. You may need the time to make changes to your home, whether it’s decluttering completely (and renting a storage unit) or making a necessary repair. If you’re on a 9-month timeline, work towards the goal of having an agent in place for month 5. The only exception would be if your home will need extensive work, or you anticipate seasonal weather to impact your ability to make necessary changes — then the sooner, the better.
Month 5-7: It’s Go Time — or Time to Get Ready for Go Time
If you’re buying: If you’re on the 6-month timeframe, your search begins in month 5. In a busy real estate market, you will likely have to compete with more buyers than there are homes. If you’re in a Groundhog Day of making offers that don’t get anywhere on multiple properties, regroup with your agent to see what you can do to stand out from the competition.
If your offer has been accepted, it’s time for a brief celebration. Then, you’ll go into escrow and begin the countdown to closing. A lot happens during this time: Inspections, appraisals, finalizing your mortgage, and plenty of paperwork.
If you’re on the 9-month timeline, this period will be when you’re finishing up hiring a real estate agent and getting your mortgage prequalification or preapproval. Resist the urge to rush and jump into the market out of fear of missing out because there was a reason you wanted to go with a 9-month timeline in the first place. Keep your eye on the prize.
If you’re selling: For sellers on the 6-month timeframe, get ready for the days to fly by. Month 5 will likely be spent putting the finishing touches on staging and photographing your home for its market debut at the end of the month. Make it clear to your agent what times are off-limits for showings, then have a plan in place on where to go (and where to put day-to-day clutter) when impromptu showings do happen. At this point, though, your agent will be doing the majority of the legwork for selling your home. They’ll guide you through the offers received and everything that happens after you accept an offer.
If you’re on the 9-month timeline, months 5-7 are when you have a real estate agent in place and are spending a lot of time getting your home in its best shape to sell. You’re decluttering, packing up rooms, making repairs (or renovations if needed), and getting ready for staging. If you’re more hands-on here, expect to paint your rooms in neutral colors, think a lot about landscaping and other curb appeal projects.
While time is on your side, ask your agent if you should consider a pre-market inspection. This is a thorough inspection that can surface any and all issues that would normally come up during the inspection that occurs after you accept an order. Doing a pre-market inspection allows you to correct any issues and gives you a firm footing if negotiations come up.
Month 8-9: The Other Finish Line
If you’re buying or selling: If you were on the 6-month timeline, congratulations! You’ve either successfully bought or sold a home. If you’re on the 9-month timeline, scroll back up to month 5-7 to see what those on the 6-month timeline experienced and prep for the same.
In the end, achieving your dream result starts by creating a plan. Whether you’re buying and selling, the process seems far less daunting when you know what to expect and when. While you can’t predict everything — and wasn’t 2020 a great lesson about that? — having a plan in place means that things will get done no matter what.