For years, both buyers and sellers have been sitting on the fence.
Buyers have been waiting for the market to bottom out, so they can purchase at the best price. Sellers have been waiting for prices to improve, so they can sell at a better price.
With the housing recovery underway, 2013 is shaping up to be the perfect time to resolve those concerns.
Buyer or selling, here are some top-of-the list resolutions you should consider.
Resolutions for buyers
Monitor your credit - Stop paying for a credit monitoring service and do-it-yourself. You get one free credit report from each of the big three credit reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - as well as from any smaller credit reporting agency regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau .
If you begin in January getting a report from one agency, get the other two over the course of the year, ideally four months apart - January, May and September - effectively creating your own credit monitoring service - at no charge.
Dayle Snyder with Snyder Group Luxury Real Estate in Las Vegas, NV, says look at your credit score from the lender's perspective. The least expensive loans are available at a score of 670 and above.
If you have blotches on your credit report, take action to correct mistakes, rectify late and missing payments and pay down bills, all to improve your score. It takes time to improve your score and fix credit issues, so don't procrastinate, especially if you plan to buy a home this year, says Snyder .
Landlords, employers, insurance companies and others also consider credit scores.
Rent to own. Prices are rising and if you aren't quite ready to buy, position yourself to buy by renting a home with an option to buy it.
Thomas Myers with Foreclosure.com says, "Think of it as home-ownership-in-training."
In a rent-to-own deal, you pay rent, but a portion of your monthly payment goes into a down payment to buy the home.
If you don't have pristine credit at the onset of the rent-to-own deal, you'll have time to get you and your credit standing ready for a purchase.
With some lease options, you can lock in at today's low prices for a purchase down the road, when price could be higher. You'll build equity while you wait to buy.
Resolutions for sellers
Purge - You've binged long enough on knick-knacks and this-and-thats says Tara-Nicole Nelson a broker with REThink Real Estate in San Francisco, CA. By the time you begin to remove the clutter you are likely to find small dead animals under all that junk.
If you haven't used it in the past six months, chances are you never will. Get rid of stuff you don't want buyers to see and stuff you don't want to move to your new home. It's probably too cold, wet or snowy to hold a garage sale right now, but you can donate items for a tax deduction.
"Tax break or not, getting all that stuff out of your attic, your closets, your shelves and your rooms will clear up loads of mental space and energy...and it might even surface a few things you can sell to boost your down payment or your home staging budget," says Nelson, who offers other tips .
Be a strong competitor - Snyder says your home is just another product on the market. Buyers compare its price, condition and location with competing properties.
Along with clearing the clutter, spruce up your home or go all the way with staging. Then, price it right to compete with like homes - nearby homes for sale and recently sold homes that are the same age, in the same condition and have a similar floor plan.
Refinance - Give your home more time to grow equity, says Janna Conroy , a Coldwell Banker broker in South Clackamas County, OR.
Many homeowners are taking advantage of record low interest rates to refinance to a lower rate or switch from an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed rate mortgage (FRM) even if the FRM gives them a slightly larger payment. An ARM, on the other hand, could rise well beyond today's FRM rates.
Conroy also says a recent study reveals more homeowners are switching from a 30-year FRM to a 15-year FRM and bringing additional funds to closing to shorten their mortgage debt period and reduce their mortgage payment in the process.
Remodel right - If you want to sell your home down the road and enjoy a home improvement now, keep the sale in focus by completing home improvements that come with the best return for your money.
Conroy says 80 percent is the ideal return on a remodeling investment . That is, if you spend $10,000 on your home, you want it to improve your home value by at least $8,000.
The improvements most likely to give you that kind of return include, kitchen improvements, new siding, a bathroom addition, and energy-saving window replacements.
Buyers and sellers
Hire early - Don Seitz, a broker associate and attorney with Modern Property Groups in Columbia, MO says if you plan to buy or sell this year, hire your agent now and beat the recovering housing market's spring rush.
Looking now for an agent gives you time to vet him or her and you'll have an expert in your corner to help your build your sale or purchase plans. Agents don't just sell homes.
They are also strategic advisers, well in advance of the transaction, says Seitz, who offers other resolutions to consider .
Brendon DeSimone at Zillow.com says hiring an agent early is particularly important for sellers who also plan to buy.
"One of the biggest stresses on a seller is trying to plan a purchase and a sale at the same time. Selling and buying at the same time brings up all kinds of financial, emotional and physical stress," DeSimone advises.