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Now’s a great time for home buying and selling on the North Shore. “The market has been robust since spring,” says Jon B. Gray, president, CEO, and Realtor® at J Barrett & Company, an independent real estate firm with offices in Beverly, Gloucester, Ipswich, Manchester, Marblehead, and Prides Crossing. “Interest rates are expected to remain low at least until December 2015.”

New construction and multifamily investment properties are in high demand. Moreover, Gray says there is currently a shortage of homes for sale in many North Shore communities, and buyers are even sometimes making offers that are over the asking price.

Despite the great market, there are certain things that people should know, do, and understand as they buy and sell their homes. Here are a few of Gray’s top tips.

Top 5 tips for buyers

Start with financing. Gray says the first step for homebuyers is to get a preapproval commitment for financing. “Every buyer should have a clear understanding of what they can afford,” he says.

Get to know the place. “Learn about the towns you have interest in,” he says. For instance, find out the town’s tax rate, whether there are any overrides or sewer betterments being discussed, or whether there’s an additional charge for trash pickup or recycling.

Consider home improvements. “Think about buying a home that may need some updating to build equity in your investment down the road,” Gray says. He also suggests making a list of the top 10 “must haves” for your potential home and then considering how many of those things you could actually add to the new home yourself. If renovations are in the cards, remember, they’re not as quick and easy as they look on TV. In reality, a kitchen remodel can take several months, Gray says. “Talk to a respected contractor (your Realtor likely knows a few) and get a sense of what it might cost and how long it’s likely to take,” he adds.

Find a Realtor familiar with the market. “You want an agent with ‘feet on the ground,’ who understands the community and specifically what the community has to offer you,” says Gray. For instance: Is it accessible to the train? How are the schools? Is the town walkable? A Realtor can also help a buyer find a home with specific attributes, such as one that doesn’t need work or an antique home with period details.

Wait to buy that new refrigerator. “Your credit score is crucial to how much you can borrow and at what rate,” Gray says. “One of the biggest mistakes buyers make is to go shopping for new furniture and appliances before their loan closes; this can put them in a very precarious situation!” He also recommends keeping open lines of communication with the lender.

Top 5 tips for sellers

Honesty is the best policy. “Be up-front with your real estate agent as to your goals and objectives, the debt service on your home, and any condition issues,” Gray says.

Staging your home for sale is important. “Declutter as much as you can. Thin out the attic, basement, and garage, as well as the closets,” Gray says. It needs to be done before you move anyhow; doing it sooner is a bonus because it will make your house look even better to buyers. “Buyers want to be able to look past your things and place their belongings in their mind as they view your house. Help them with this by decluttering,” Gray says. “Walk through your home as though you were buying it.” Also consider whether rooms need a fresh coat of paint, if the carpets need cleaning, or if the landscaping could use some sprucing up.

Be prepared for in-the-know buyers. “Buyers are fully educated with regard to the market and pricing: They know what your neighbor’s home sold for three years ago and also the one that sold last week,” Gray says.

Put your best foot forward. “Keep in mind that the buyer’s first introduction to your home is likely going to be via computer, and then a great Realtor,” Gray says. That’s why it’s important for sellers to make a strong first impression with touches like great photography for the listing, detailed floor plans, and a well-written property description.

Work as a team. “Remember, your Realtor looks at homes and home values on a daily basis,” Gray says. “They should provide you with a Current Market Analysis and a price range that they would suggest to list your home for sale. You and your Realtor should become a team, talking every week on the current status of the market and its effect on how buyers are reacting to your home.”

Article appears in the Fall 2015 issue of Northshore Home magazine.