By Bruce Cathcart

As we approach the end of 2013 we all tend to give one final glance in the rear view mirror at the events that have taken place over the past year before we move forward with plans for the coming new year. With that thought in mind I wanted to review selected real estate advice and highlights from a year’s worth of CV Weekly articles that I have shared with you each week throughout 2013.

We began this year with a lot of hope and speculation that the real estate market would recover from the crash in home values due to the unprecedented high number of people losing their homes to foreclosure as a result of the faltering U.S. economy. Over the course of the year “REO’s” (real estate owned by banks) and “Short Sales” (homes sold with bank approval for less than the mortgage owed on them) did in fact become a much smaller percentage of the total number of homes sold each month. Home prices increased across the Coachella Valley by as much as 30% this year helping many people to get out from being “Upside Down or Underwater” (owing more to the bank than the current market value of their home). We saw a combination of factors create a shortage of homes for sale which lead to increased prices and a switch from a “Buyer’s Market” (more houses for sale than Buyers) to a “Seller’s Market” (more buyers than houses for sale). This resulted in increased competition and multiple offers on nearly every home within certain price ranges in the first few days of being listed on the market. As prices increased and the interest rates went up one percent or more on home mortgages, this situation began to slow toward the end of the year as the combination of the two increased the cost of home ownership by approximately 30% to many first home buyers and simply priced them out of the market. In addition, the increased prices chased many of the investors out of the market as well leaving us in a more normal market, at least as of this writing, where we have an adequate supply of homes for the current number of buyers in the market place.

My best advice on renting, buying, or selling a home was and is to utilize the services of a licensed real estate agent (preferably a Realtor). For buyers and renters this is a “free” service to you and the right agent will provide you with expert advice, guidance and assistance throughout the entire process. For sellers you too will be provided with expert advice, guidance and assistance throughout the entire process, but in addition to receiving a higher price (according to statistics) for the sale of your home you will also have the peace of mind that comes from the knowledge that you will have limited your liability by complying with all legal requirements and disclosures necessary to complete your transaction.

Finding the perfect agent always starts with a referral from a trusted family member or a friend that has worked with the agent to buy, sell, or rent a home! Once you have a prospective agent’s name, check them out on your computer by going to the DRE website at http://www.dre.ca.gov/Consumers/ , then the local MLS website at http://www.desertareamls.com/ , and then go to their company or personal website. Finally, before selecting your agent have a phone conversation with them and set up a face to face interview. Agree to work with them only after you are completely satisfied that they are the right agent for you!

Always utilize the services of a reliable escrow company and make sure to obtain Title Insurance on your transaction. If possible, make sure to hire a professional, certified home inspector for an inspection and complete report as to the property’s condition. Yes, we have termites here in the desert so always get a termite/pest report from a reliable, local termite company. Always let your trusted agent “go first” when looking at homes for sale to avoid any unwanted surprises, be careful what you say when talking in front of buyers or sellers, and be wary of the signs that a home may have been used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines! And finally, buying a home will be the largest financial investment for most of us over the course of our lives. In order to retire with any real sense of financial security it makes sense (for the majority of us) to have a plan to pay off our mortgage before retirement.

All of these and several other tidbits of advice were covered in detail in the series of articles in the Real Estate section in CV Weekly this past year and can be viewed in their entirety on line at CV Weekly’s website under “archives” at www.coachellavalleyweekly.com. Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Bruce Cathcart is the Broker/Co-Owner of La Quinta Palms Realty, “Your Friendly Professionals” and can be reached by email at laquintapalms@dc.rr.com or visit his website at www.laquintapalmsrealty.com.

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