The season is upon us. Everywhere you look, “For Sale” signs are popping up on lawns. Realtor.com commercials are running nonstop. And if you hadn’t thought of selling your home, suddenly it’s all you think about. Such is the power of advertising.

Having spent more than a dozen years as a homes editor, I am very familiar with the tactics used to sell homes. Conversely, I have a keen sense of what people should know/ask when looking to purchase.

Granted, for many years, the buying-and-selling process was relatively leisurely. Homes tended to stay on the market for several months, or even a year. It was what they call a “buyer’s market.” That certainly has not been true for the last three to four years. Northeast Ohio real estate is hot, hot, hot. Values and prices are going up exponentially and the number of houses on the market is shrinking. That means high prices and quick decisions for anyone looking to buy, and quick (sometimes same-day) sales for those selling.

Houses in truly hot areas, such as Lakewood, Rocky River and Fairview Park, sometimes sell without even going on the market officially. In certain parts of West Park, where I live, houses sell through the grapevine with nary a sign in a yard. Many longtime residents will find notes in their mailboxes, asking if they want to sell.

It’s that easy to make such a huge, can’t-turn-back decision. To me, that is still mind-boggling.

We lived in Lakewood for more than 20 years. From about 2006 until 2016, our house was “underwater,” in other words, we owed more than it was worth. We had taken out a home equity loan literally the same month housing values plummeted in what was the first sign of what is now called the Great Recession of 2008. We weren’t alone. By the second quarter of 2012, some 15.3 million homeowners, or 31% of all U.S. homeowners, had negative equity.

But as I said, the housing market is in full recovery. As of the third quarter of 2016, when we finally decided to sell our home and buy a condo, the number of underwater homeowners had dropped to 2.2 million, the lowest number of homeowners in negative mortgage equity since early 2007. Thanks to rising home prices and an improving economy, 1 million more homeowners reached positive home equity like we did during the first nine months of 2016.

Last year, we again entered the housing market after deciding condo living wasn’t the life for us. Our Lakewood home had sold in one day. Our Rocky River condo sold in only a couple of weeks. Our new West Park home will not go on the market again as long as I’m breathing. I do not want to see another packing box again. Ever.

For those entering the fray, I have some advice. Even with the hot market, you can’t just assume you can leave your clutter, dirty laundry and breakfast dishes out for all to see. I still look at pictures on Realtor.com and I am truly astounded at some people thinking that the home will sell because it’s a seller’s market. Sure, it may sell, but it won’t get the top dollar you want and it probably won’t sell as fast. Unclutter. De-personalize. Paint. Clean. Clean. Clean.

When looking at new houses, remember the value of a home inspection. Look beyond the decor and ask about the electrical, plumbing, foundation and water issues. Be smart. You can fall in love, but don’t make that a blind love.

That’s my advice for the day. Because I’m never, ever moving again. Twice in two years is more than enough.

Contact this reporter at editor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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