Homebuying in Fall: Keys to Negotiating the Autumn Housing Market

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By Vera Gibbons

So, you're finally off the fence and ready to buy a home before prices -- and mortgage rates -- rise any further. Here's what you need to know about jumping into the market at this time of year.

Know Your Market: The bottom line is that different markets behave differently during the fall. According to Zillow's August Real Estate Market Reports, national home values rose 0.4 percent from July, marking the third consecutive month in which monthly home values rose more slowly than the month prior. However, markets in California, Las Vegas and Minneapolis are still seeing an extremely brisk pace of home value appreciation (2 percent or higher). As we exit 2013's selling season, we will start to see a slowdown in home value appreciation.

Selection Is Limited: Many frustrated sellers who weren't able to unload their properties during the busy peak spring/summer buying season may take their homes off the market, particularly as the holidays approach and the action comes to a screeching halt. This means you can expect the selection to be even more limited than it currently is in some markets.

There's Room to Negotiate: Was there a home you saw and loved a few months ago? Is it still on the market? If it hasn't sold after one of the hottest real estate summers since the economic downturn, you likely have room to negotiate. While some buyers will pull their homes off the market, others who have been holding out for the best possible price may now be ready to come down. While some homeowners are determined to get a set price, others may simply want out at this juncture.

Check Maintenance Areas: Fall is the ideal time to check things such as gutter drainage and the general upkeep of the yard. How does everything look? Does anything need repair? Visit the home on a rainy day and see for yourself. Then go inside and check out the furnace, looking for drafts, leakage issues and other possible structural/maintenance problems. If they're apparent, determine how much money it's going to take to get everything up to snuff and factor that into your offer, adjusting your price accordingly.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

More from Zillow:
What Is 'Risk' in Real Estate?
Top 5 Mistakes Home Buyers Make -- And How to Avoid Them
How to Investigate the Neighborhood Before You Buy

HALLOWEEN'S COMING -- TOTALLY CREEPY LISTING PHOTOS:
22 PHOTOS
Halloween's Coming: Totally Creepy Listing Photos
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Homebuying in Fall: Keys to Negotiating the Autumn Housing Market

Listing photos are supposed to put your home in the best light possible. But sometimes, they just make your house look like a den of evil, scary things. We've rounded up some of the creepiest listing photos we could find (seemingly possessed children, bloody bathrooms and crazy dolls, oh my!). Click through the gallery ... if you dare!

This listing is somewhat of a nightmare when you see what's lurking in the corner of this room. It's a figure that is sure to scare off any prospective homebuyer ...

It's Freddy Krueger, who is, for whatever reason, haunting this home. We're not sure you'd want to point that out in your listing photos. (And by the way, if you want to see the real home that Krueger "haunted," click here.)

Five-year-old girls can be precious -- unless they look vaguely possessed. In this listing, the little girl standing limply in the middle of a doorway, staring blankly into open space, reminds us of Cole Sear in "The Sixth Sense." We suggest that she save her creepy movie poses for when pictures aren't being taken to sell the house. Little girls should be the stuff of sweet dreams, not nightmares. 

Would you want a home where it looks like someone died? We appreciate the whole "full disclosure" thing, but now we're sure this place is haunted with the spirit who died tragically there. Let's keep the full-body floor stains out of listing photos, please.

Have you ever seen "Child's Play"? What that movie taught us is that dolls come to life and kill people. So sorry, but we're not chancing it on this listing housing a dozen potential plastic serial killers.

Everyone wants to leave their mark on their home -- but, please, not like this. You might think this is funny, but potential buyers will more likely think it's terrifying.

The creepiness in this photo is on the part of the person taking the picture. We're pretty sure that whatever those people in the bedroom are doing, they don't want anyone else to see.

OK, does this not look like a still shot from "Paranormal Activity"? Not everyone thinks a toddler standing transfixed in front of an eerie, darkened window is adorable. (Although the owners of this home apparently do. "He's such a curious boy!" they'll tell you.) That's nice, but we think he sees dead people.

We really hope something in this house is burning. Because if that's not smoke, then it's your new houseguest.

This home's greatest feature: A bathtub perfect for committing murder.

Are you sure you want to go trick-or-treating at this house? One of the wax figures is bound to be real ...

Haven't we discussed the doll thing already? They are creepy! In this listing, the same doll pops up in every room. First, it's by the fireplace ...

... then it's on the couch ...

... then it's by the tub! Next thing you know, it will be holding a knife to your throat! Don't say we didn't warn you.

Snakes symbolize evil. So if there's one on your bed in the listing photo? See ya!

We can only hope that this is a really good Photoshop job. And even if it is, why is it in your listing?

You know those legs are attached to nothing, so don't even say it's cute. It's terrifying.

That mannequin is so going to come to life and chase you, it's not even funny.

Thanks to cinematic masterpieces like "Paranormal Activity 3" and "The Others," most of America harbors an irrational phobia of little children and old people lurking about in empty houses. So, please, tell Grandpa to steer clear of the camera when you're taking listing photos -- because he looks like he's haunting this home.

We love "CSI" -- on TV. But we don't want to actually live at a crime scene. The "Caution: Do Not Cross" tape on this home in Dover, Del., might as well read, "Caution: Do Not Buy!" And by the way, some of our readers have said that they see a ghostly figure in the top right window....

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