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The New Rules of Real Estate: What You Need to Know about Buying, Selling and Renting

March 13, 2015
by Kelly Gurnett
Contributor

Think you know all you need about how to sell your house because you watch a lot of HGTV? What about buying or renting a home?

You may know the basics, but I can guarantee you don’t everything — especially not the 13 strange new “rules” of the real estate market recently reported by Fortune.

When online real estate database Zillow purchased online real estate database Trulia in 2014, it cornered the market on data for the housing industry. The company compiled some of its more interesting findings in the new book Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate.

Some of these rules contradict conventional wisdom, some are counterintuitive and some are just plain weird. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Best Time to List Your Home is Right Now

That’s right — if you want to sell your house this year, you’d better get cracking. Data suggest that people start looking to buy homes in May or June, so your best bet is to put your property on the market in late March. That way, by the time peak buying season hits, all your local realtors will know your home well.

Don’t delay — “On average, homes listed in late March sell faster and for 2% more than comparable homes that are listed at other times,” notes Fortune.

Don’t Buy the Worst House in the Best Neighborhood

This one flies directly in the face of traditional real estate advice. Whether you’re looking for your next home or a potential house-flipping opportunity, we’ve been told for years to look for the worst house in the best neighborhood because it’s a way to get yourself into a great location for less than the average listing price. A little elbow grease and DIY time, and you could turn that loser into a winner that’s worth way more than what you paid for it.

Except that this advice is apparently all wrong.

Zillow argues that buyers looking in expensive neighborhoods “tend not to be cheap,” as Fortune put it — which means your fixer-upper bargain might not have the same appeal for them as it did for you. Compared to other neighborhoods, homes in the bottom 10% of pricier areas actually do worse on the market.

Homeownership Isn’t Always the Best Way to Climb Out of the Lower Class

A home is an an investment.

You’re better off paying for a home you own than pouring money down the drain renting from someone else.

Homeownership is part of the American Dream.

We’ve all heard these common cliches, and Zillow cries foul on them all. For those in the lower class especially, homeownership can actually be more of a burden than a boon — from not being able to afford a significant down payment to being stuck living in neighborhoods where home values fluctuate wildly, the risks aren’t worth the cost.

Instead, Zillow recommends viewing homeownership as something that comes as a result of an increase in financial standing, not a magic solution that will grant you better standing.

Starbucks is Good, 666 is Bad, and Renters are “Luckier”

Not all of the new rules are as practical and prosaic as the first three examples.

For instance, you may want to consider buying a home close to a Starbucks as that can be a sign of a neighborhood that’s up-and-coming. (Plus, you know, then you’re close to a Starbucks.)

You should not include the number 666 anywhere in your listing, as homeowners are superstitious and this can cause your house to sell for 3.2% less than expected. (If 666 is in your street number, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about that.)

And if you’re looking to get some “action” of the non-real-estate variety, you may be better off renting, as it appears renters engage in… intimate activity… more often than homeowners. This isn’t simply because renters are normally younger; the data holds across all age groups. Maybe it’s because renters have more time since they don’t have to do things like mow lawns and fix leaky faucets?

Your Turn: Which of Zillow’s new “rules” do you find the most surprising, and why?

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Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.

by Kelly Gurnett
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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