Ten Ways to Get More Out of the Home You Want to Buy, Sell, or Rent

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Has the real estate market hit bottom? Is it time to buy? Time to sell? Should you rent rather than buy? Should you rent the home you own instead of trying to sell it? No matter your housing needs and desires, here are some ideas that’ll help your cause.

1. Don’t believe the hype of realtor-speak. Phrases used in home listings are misleading, and are never to be trusted. A Consumerist post offers a home listing phrase decoder: “Easy access to everywhere,” for example, probably means that the property is backing up to a highway.

2. Take advantage of the first-time home buyer tax credit. The credit is equal to 10 percent of your purchase price, up to $8,000. It’s available for first-time buyers who close on their homes by November 30—meaning if you’re not in contract within the next few weeks, you probably don’t have a chance. But be sure that you qualify: If you or your spouse has owned a home in the last three years, you don’t qualify. Toddlers also do not qualify, even if they’ve never owned a home, or a doll house for that matter, before. Yes, people have tried to buy homes under the names of their three-year-olds.

3. Buying a home in foreclosure is not for amateurs. It seems like an easy way to snag a house on the cheap, but much research is required if you want to do it right, avoid hassles, and actually get good value for your money. Check out some safe ways to buy homes in foreclosures.

4. “6 Reasons Your House Won’t Sell.”

5. How to take photos of the house you want to sell. Since many photos that go along with online home listings are terrible, here are some tips for showing your place in the best light.

6. Cost-effective advice for sprucing up your house in order to sell it. Among the tips: Don’t bother fixing the gutters or the roof. Do some painting and plant some flowers instead.

7. Buy only as much house as you need, no more. Overextending is the reason many homeowners are now having trouble paying their mortgages, and the reason many, many other homeowners don’t have more money in the bank.

8. If you can’t sell a home, rent it. Some estimates say that more 27 percent more homeowners are doing just that. The WSJ reports on the trend and offers tons of tips for reluctant first-time landlords.

9. Seriously consider renting rather than buying—even if you qualify for a mortgage. Owning a home brings on a mix of stress and pride, aggravations and satisfaction. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not always a good investment.

10. If you’re going to rent, negotiate before signing a lease. Landlords in Washington, D.C., for example, have been trying to attract tenants by waiving amenity fees, security deposits, and two months’ rent.