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buy_like_proThe housing market predictions are in and 2016 is set to be an active real estate year with a 3 percent increase in total home sales over 2015.

Hoping to ease the home buying and selling process during this busy real estate timeframe?

Below, Mike Clear, vice president of operations for American Home Shield offer some tips and tricks for homebuyers and sellers to make smarter real estate decisions.

Sellers: Improve Curb Appeal – First impressions matter. Take your home’s exterior from drab to fab. Trim shrubs, mow the lawn and remove all dirt/debris from outside. Make sure the house numbers, mailbox and lighting fixtures near the front door look inviting. Add plants and comfy furniture to the porch for a welcoming touch.

Sellers: Optimize The Space – Add the illusion of extra square footage using the same paint in a lighter shade across rooms to create a seamless transition. Remove family photos and any customized decorations so the buyer can picture living in the home. Be sure to keep the master bedroom “gender neutral,” since you don’t know the gender of the buyer. Lastly, have a professional cleaner shine the home, especially often-neglected areas like carpets, ceiling fans and baseboards to make a bigger impact.

Buyers: Do Your Homework – Narrow your home search to particular areas and neighborhoods that appeal to you with regard to housing prices, school districts and work commuting times. Determine your budget and stick to it. Familiarize yourself with the real estate market and your rights as a homebuyer. Know your credit score and take steps to improve it, if necessary.

Buyers: Ask the Right Questions – Don’t be afraid to directly ask the seller “what’s wrong with the house?” Ask to see disclosure forms around any issues with the house and check the age/condition of major home systems, like heating, plumbing, electrical and air conditioning.  This can save you costs in the long run. Additionally, an independent professional home inspection is highly recommended. This is an investment that can pay for itself many times over, especially if hidden defects are found.

For both home buyers and sellers, AHS recommends preparing for what will happen vs. what might happen. A home warranty not only helps protect a home’s systems while it’s on the market, but also helps provide buyers with additional confidence in their purchase. For an already financially stretched homebuyer, it’s important to know that a home warranty covers what homeowners insurance doesn’t – the repair/replacement of home system appliances. According to a 2015 American Home Shield consumer survey, over the last five years, homeowners have spent an average of nearly $1,300 on repairing or replacing major home systems/appliances. What’s more, two of five homeowners (39 percent) say they don’t have an emergency fund for these unexpected costs.

For more information, visit www.ahs.com.

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