Buying a home can be daunting. Selling in this market — even tougher.
With prices in many areas still sinking at an unpredictable pace, how can you know when a “buying opportunity” won’t turn into buyer’s remorse? Or know how to cut the price on your home by just the right amount to spark a bidding war rather than the sound of crickets?
You can’t, without some risk. But boning up on the process — by reading books, talking to experts and studying the market — is your best defense against a bad mistake. And learning the most cost-effective ways to spruce up a house is good for any house, whether you’re coming, going or staying.
BEFORE YOU BUY! THE HOMEBUYERS HANDBOOK FOR TODAY’S MARKET, by Michael Corbett; Plume, an imprint of Penguin Group Inc.; $15 (paperback); Available for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader.
“Before You Buy” is Michael Corbett’s third book on real estate. The first offered advice on how to find, buy and flip a house. The second was geared toward home sellers. Here he focuses on the other side of the transaction and walks through the process of assessing how much house a buyer can afford. In 260 pages it addresses improving credit, finding the right home, shopping efficiently, assessing a home’s true value, making an offer and closing the sale.
Corbett, a correspondent on the NBC entertainment news magazine “Extra” and host of the network’s “Extra’s Mansions & Millionaires” show, is a recognizable name after spending much of his acting career starring in daytime soap operas including “Ryan’s Hope” and “The Young and the Restless.” He bought his first home at age 19 with his first $10,000 bonus check from “Ryan’s Hope.” He has since bought, fixed up, rented or sold more than 35 houses and rental units.
Qutote: “The good news is that today’s market offers unprecedented opportunities for homebuyers — if you understand today’s market and the new rules. After the explosion of bad decisions, overspending and badly structured mortgage programs, the smoke has cleared to reveal a new market of real estate standards and practices that provide a safer, more secure and healthier climate for homebuyers and homeowners.”
— David Pitt
FINDING THE UNCOMMON DEAL: A TOP NEW YORK LAWYER EXPLAINS HOW TO BUY A HOME FOR THE LOWEST POSSIBLE PRICE, by Adam Leitman Bailey; Wiley & Sons; $19.95 (paperback); Available for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader.
Bailey recounts the lessons he has learned as a real estate lawyer, broker and investor. He offers a battle plan for homebuyers in a market reshaped by the bursting of the housing bubble. His tips reflect the new realities about assessing your finances, getting a mortgage, finding the right home, negotiating a deal and estimating closing costs.
He also examines how to buy homes that are at risk of foreclosure or are bank-owned, and when to seek help from a real estate attorney. Besides the standard advice, Bailey offers insider secrets, legal maneuvers and assorted tricks of the trade. There’s also a series of personal stories about his clients’ home-buying experiences.
Bailey warns that buyers face plenty of risks these days. But they’re offset, he says, by the opportunities that price declines and distressed property sales have created.
Quote: “Before the Great Recession, homeownership allowed owners to garner large profits without having to make any significant investment decisions and with limited risk. As the bubble burst, so did real estate’s traditional buying rules. In the aftermath, savvy buyers can now find some of the greatest buying opportunities in the history of real estate.”
— Mark Jewell
BUYING REAL ESTATE FORECLOSURES, by Melissa Kollen-Rice; McGraw-Hill; $22.95 (paperback); Available for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader.
The glut of foreclosed properties on the market can seem like a golden opportunity for buyers; homes in foreclosure sell at a 20 percent discount on average. But there’s still widespread confusion about what the process entails.
The author, a real estate attorney, assumes that readers have little to no background on the subject and walks them through how foreclosures work from start to finish. Much of the ground she covers is very basic. For example, she starts by explaining how a home comes to be in foreclosure to begin with.
Rather than weaving a narrative, each chapter then delivers straightforward explanations of terms and procedures buyers might encounter. This includes what buyers can expect depending on whether they buy a foreclosed home at an auction, from a bank or from a government agency.
In subsequent chapters, Kollen-Rice goes over how to secure financing, researching the home and preparing a bid sheet. There are also plenty of sample forms and checklists to help readers familiarize themselves with the paperwork.
It’s important to keep in mind that the book doesn’t address the risks of buying a foreclosed home in today’s market, as it was published in 2008. But it covers the basics that should help the uninitiated feel more at ease with the process.
Quote: “Now, I am not going to tell you that buying foreclosures is a ‘get rich quick’ endeavor. With few exceptions, everything that is rewarding in life requires some investment of our time and effort. But the ratio of the effort expended in relation to the success that is generated makes purchasing foreclosures incredibly worthwhile.”
— Candice Choi
THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO SELLING YOUR HOME, by Katie Severance and Nancy Gentile; Alpha Books; $18.95 (paperback);Available for iPad, Kindle and Nook.
Hiring a good real estate agent and touching up your house used to be enough to get it sold. Not any longer. You need to understand the market, buyer’s psyche, presentation, pricing and negotiating and all the other things your agent should be watching with you in order to realize a sale in a market glutted with choices for buyers.
The authors, veteran real estate agents who have been featured on HGTV’s reality-based series “Bought and Sold,” run through all the basics in easy-to-digest fashion in this home-selling crash course. They explain the difference between good and bad renovations, how you’ll know not to “over-improve,” how to maximize a home’s appeal and how to make it smoothly from open house to closing.
You’ll still need an agent unless you have lots of time and experience to go it alone. This is a starter’s guide and can be a valuable tool to help you navigate the process and make sure you don’t overlook any key steps.
Quote: “Selling your home is not just about hitting all your marks and completing checklists. What it’s really about is the understanding of the process and the people involved in it. There is a huge element of psychology in the sale of real estate. Knowing how to use it to your advantage is what makes you more money than another seller who does not.”
— Dave Carpenter
DECORATE: 1,000 PROFESSIONAL DESIGN IDEAS FOR EVERY ROOM IN YOUR HOME; by Holly Becker and Joanna Copestick; Chronicle Books; $35.
“Decorate” encourages homeowners to take a floor-to-ceiling approach to designing their living space by offering a visually stunning book that relies on showing rather than telling.
With liberal use of photos and floor plans, it breaks down the design process, starting with a hefty section that outlines how to think about different types of spaces. The book reviews a variety of design styles and offers 10 guidelines for each. It then moves through each room in the house to offer specific recommendations, relying on quotes from designers and photo captions, rather than long explanations, to get the message across.
Becker and Copestick emphasize the importance of planning a room and putting the plan into action. That involves considering the potential uses for the space, putting the furniture and other accessories that you already have to work, and deciding what needs to be added or replaced. Topics such as the use of natural light, choosing paint colors and finishes, and creative storage solutions are all covered.
Whether staging a home for resale or designing a space to live in, readers will find dozens of ideas and inspirations in this beautiful book — which might find a spot of its own on a coffee table when the work is done.
Quote: “You need to think about your style and what works with it, and whether your home reflects that style or dictates a certain design direction of its own.”
— Eileen AJ Connelly