HGTV's "Income Property" host Scott McGillivray gives you the lowdown on the spring real estate market

Spring has finally sprung, and that means one of the hottest markets is heating up heavily — the real estate market!

An expert on all things real estate, we chatted with host of HGTV"s 'Income Property', Scott McGillivray, to get the scoop on all things spring real estate — from buying to selling to closing.

SEE ALSO: 10 places you can make big bucks selling your home in 2017

Spring is the hottest season to sell your home

Shocking, we know: Nobody feels the urge to move during those frigid winter months.

Scott shares:

"The real estate market is most active in the spring, most transactions are occurring. It is typically more of a sellers market, meaning if you own a property, you have the upper hand right now."

Why, you ask?

"People are planning on the move — if you start looking in the spring, hopefully your property will close in the summer."

Moving in the summer means the kids are out of school, the weather is warmer, and as Scott points out:

"Most people start planning in the spring so they can make the transition in the summer and go into the fall well settled in."

So homeowners, it's time to start making moves (Literally!)

If you're looking to move in the springtime, you're already too late

Scott asserts:

"You're already a little late if you're thinking about moving this spring."

But fear not — if you're not on a strict timeline and want to get started, there are things you can do right now to start preparing.

Watch our exclusive interview with Scott on the AOL Finance Facebook page:

Luckily, it all starts as simply as a Google search:

"If you're thinking about home ownership in any capacity, or you're thinking about transitioning from your home, the sooner you start looking the better — most people start their search online."

In an Owners.com survey, over 85 percent of respondents said that they were willing to take on art of the real estate transaction themselves, meaning anything from finding a broker, to researching open houses, seeking out neighborhoods that fit with their lifestyles, whatever it may be.

As Scott says, "The truth is, it starts with you," and encourages homebuyers to start their research because as he points out, via the same owners.com survey, nearly 72 percent of consumers associate moving with a tremendous source of stress.

The best way to minimize this stress according to Scott?

Get your finances in order — or at least familiarize yourself with them:

"If you have good credit and if you have a good understanding of what kind of financing is available to you, you should be able to take a lot of stress out of the situation."

There are a few trends on the rise in the home buying market

Though market trends vary geographically there are some things to be on the lookout for on a national level.

Namely, are the increase of prices urban cities and the overall affordability of home-owning getting to a challenging level, as Scott points out that many are spending more on a home than they can afford.

Another not-so-nice trend on the rise? The resurgence of bidding wars, which Scott is quick to call a "terrifying experience."

If you're looking to avoid getting yourself in the middle of said bidding war, Scott has a major tip:

"Go shopping for a property on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday — you're a lot less likely to get into a bidding war on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday than you are on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday."

Another benefit of following that schedule?

"Homes that are purchased on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays are often purchased at a lower price than those that sell on the weekends."

There are things you can do right now, at this moment, if you're looking to become a first-time homeowner

Scott is transparent in admitting that it's "going to become more and more difficult for new buyers to penetrate the market," as the average income isn't increasing a quickly as real estate prices are.

But if you're ready to start preparing and getting into the market, Scott suggests setting aside money for a "practice mortgage" by putting a set amount of money aside into a savings account.

Another option is to consider buying a property where you only occupy a portion of it and rent the other portion out. Scott points out that this is more affordable, and that simply "paying rent is expensive and at the end of the day you have nothing to show for it."

Renting out rooms to roommates or services like Airbnb is an easy way to make back the money you spend on buying a property (and then some!)

Scott's third tip is to use a service that will pay you back for the research you do:

"Go on Owners.com and start looking at properties that are available...the way that real estate purchasing and selling is moving, you actually get rewarded for doing this work...you may purchase a property on Owners.com, and if you go through the process on their website, you can get a rebate of up to 1.5% in certain markets, which is cash in your pocket on closing, which is phenomenal."

We'll take it!

Here are the investments that are worth making for sellers...

Scott suggests fixing the little things, like light fixtures and hardware— keeping the home general clean and de-cluttered is important.

The simpler, the better:

"Light upgrades are fantastic and typically you'll get good returns."

Painting also makes a huge difference, and Scott suggests neutral and grey tones, since they tend to have the most mass appeal.

A major tip Scott shares is to remember that the buyer has to envision themselves in your home, which means if you're trying to sell, keep the personal items to a minimum:

"Remove sofas, remove dressers and tables and clutter — give the space some room to breathe."

Less is more, so consider stowing away those hundreds of picture frames and toys laying around on the ground.

...And here are the ones that you're wasting your money on

Scott points out that most people want to do big-time renovations themselves — the most important thing for a homebuyer is that the home has good bones (think electric, HVAC, plumbing, etc) and that the basics are in order.

So maybe think twice before you replace all those appliances for the sake of selling.

However if your home has gone 30 or 40 years without any sort of upgrade, it might be worth it to do a renovation.

Specifically, Scott shares that there are two rooms you should be targeting:

"The kitchen and bathrooms will give you the highest return."

You shouldn't be buying your dream home, anyway

It's easy to go over budget, or to overshoot your budget, when you're dead-set on finding the home of your dreams.

But Scott advises against this, and suggests a different strategy instead:

"Buy a fixer-upper, buy a distressed property — don't buy your dream home, buy the property that has the potential to be your dream home, and then you can do the work, you can renovate it over a period of time and get it to where you need it to be at a more affordable price."

If you can't buy it, create it!

RELATED: HGTV expert's top tips to sell your home — without a real estate agent

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HGTV expert's top tips to sell your home — without a real estate agent
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HGTV expert's top tips to sell your home — without a real estate agent

1. Cut Out the Middleman

Real estate agents typically charge a 5 percent to 6 percent commission on a home sale — which is split in half if both the buyer and seller have agents, McGillivray said. If you sell your home on your own, you will save at least the 2.5 percent to 3 percent that the seller’s agent would have charged. If you sell your home for $350,000, you will save more than $8,000 by cutting out the middleman.

Additionally, you can save the full 5 percent to 6 percent if a buyer comes to you without representation. Without agents, you’ll save more than $16,000 on a $350,000 home sale, McGillivray said.

Photo credit: Jack Frog/Shutterstock.com

2. Get Your Home Listed on the MLS

“It’s tremendously important that you get on a platform that gives you exposure to buyers and agents,” McGillivray said. That platform is the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, which is the database of homes for sale in a market. Homebuyers can see properties on the MLS through websites such as Realtor.com, Zillow.com and Trulia.com.

In the past, only real estate agents could have homes listed through this service. However, today's homeowners can list their own properties on the MLS by paying a flat fee to various sites. McGillivray recommends using Owners.com, which places homes on the MLS and gives homeowners access to advisors who can help with the sales process, including the closing. The basic MLS listing package is $395 for six months.

If you don’t get your home listed on the MLS, you’ll have to rely on classified newspaper ads, online sources such as Craigslist.org or luck to find a buyer.

Photo credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

3. Use Professional Signage

Listing your house on the MLS is the best way to get your property noticed by potential buyers. However, you also want to market your home well. According to McGillivray, posting a skimpy “For Sale” sign with a spot to add a phone number in your yard is “a recipe for disaster."

Instead, the real estate pro recommends having a sign professionally made. Online services such as Owners.com and ForSaleByOwner.com provide each home seller with a sturdy sign as part of the MLS listing package.

Photo credit: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock.com

4. Get an Appraisal

McGillivray suggests hiring an appraiser to evaluate your home before putting it on the market. Doing this will help you avoid any surprises when the buyer’s lender has the house appraised to determine how much to loan. Appraisers typically charge $300 to $400, according to Realtor.com, and the price is well worth it.

Photo credit: Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock.com

5. Don't Overprice Your Home

One of the biggest mistakes home sellers make is overpricing their homes. “Everybody thinks their house is worth more than it is,” McGillivray said. “Your house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.”

If you set the price too high, you won’t get enough traffic. On the other hand, listing your house at a realistic value means you will get more offers sooner, according to McGillivray. Ultimately, pricing your home accurately will help you sell for a better rate.

In addition to securing an appraisal, you can take advantage of information that’s available for free from online real estate listing sites. Check the list prices of comparable homes in your area and see how long they’ve been on the market. Then, consider whether your home offers more or fewer amenities than competing properties.

Photo credit: Laura Gangi Pond/Shutterstock.com

6. Look for Anchor Properties in Your Neighborhood

When someone posts a house for sale and lists it too high, the home becomes what McGillivray calls an anchor property. Sellers will assume that other properties in the neighborhood are better deals, if they’re listed for less.

Not only can an anchor property drive more traffic to your home, but it can also allow you to list your home at a higher price than it is actually worth. For example, if your neighbor puts his house up for sale at $600,000, and you know your property is worth $525,000, you can list it for more because it will still look like a deal next to your neighbor’s house.

So, look for overpriced homes in your area and then list your house for less.

Photo credit: romakoma/Shutterstock.com

7. Depersonalize Your Home

Before you open your doors to potential buyers, you need to depersonalize your home so someone can see himself or herself living there. For best results, remove those family photos and collectibles that might be dear to you but a turnoff to others.

“You don’t want a picture of you and your dog wearing a tuxedo hanging on the wall,” said McGillivray, who actually saw this image in a house that was for sale. “Strip it down and make it appeal to 90 percent of the population, 90 percent of the time."

Photo credit: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock.com

8. Make Minor Repairs

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to remodel your home before you sell. However, you should at least clean the space thoroughly, make small repairs, replace worn carpets and add a fresh coat of paint to walls.

You want people to walk into a house that looks well maintained. If buyers see that you can’t take care of minor details, they’re going to assume you’ve let bigger problems escape your attention, too, McGillivray said.

Photo credit: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock.com

9. Improve Curb Appeal

McGillivray revealed that some of the best deals he's found were properties that looked bad from the road. “People do judge a book by the cover when it comes to real estate,” he said.

By the time potential buyers reach your front door, they’ve already formed opinions about your house. For best results, spend a day — and a few hundred dollars — painting your front door, hanging new house numbers and installing updated fixtures, he said. Additionally, sellers should clean up their yards by pulling weeds and trimming shrubs.

Related: 20 Cheap Renovations That Increase Your Home's Value

Photo credit: Alexander Raths/Shutterstock.com

10. Stage Your House

You can stage your house on your own to make it look more appealing by searching for tips on sites such as HGTV.com. However, if you’re in a competitive housing market or selling a high-end property, you should consider spending some money to have your home staged by experts.

Professional stagers have been trained to make houses appeal to buyers by removing clutter, depersonalizing rooms, rearranging furniture and creating a "model home" feel. You can use the savings on real estate commissions to help pay for a stager so your home sells for more, faster.

Photo credit: Breadmaker/Shutterstock.com

11. Disclose Problems to Potential Buyers

Most states require sellers to disclose all of the home problems they're aware of. These issues include past problems, like plumbing leaks that resulted in mold growth.

Don’t try to hide anything, or you could face a lawsuit if an issue is detected after the home is sold.

Photo credit: goodluz/Shutterstock.com

12. Be Ready to Negotiate

A home's list price is a suggestion, not a rule. Said McGillivray, you shouldn’t be afraid to negotiate with buyers when they make offers on your home.

Because real estate negotiations are conducted on paper, sellers don't have to worry about confronting buyers directly. You can also negotiate on both price and terms. If you don’t want to come down much in your asking price, be flexible with your terms, such as the closing date or appliances you are willing to leave in the home for the new owner.

Owners.com and other listing services of for-sale-by-owner properties connect home sellers with licensed real estate agents who can guide them through the negotiation process.

Photo credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

13. Don't Make a Misstep at Closing

When you and your buyer are ready to sign on the dotted line, a mortgage lender will typically be involved. He or she will likely provide you with an escrow officer to walk you through the final steps of your home sale.

However, McGillivray recommends taking the time to understand the legal requirements of your home sale. You might want to hire a real estate attorney or, if you used a flat-fee listing service, request assistance for your closing.

Photo credit: tsyhun/Shutterstock.com

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