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Buying a home is a lot like running a race: Once a listing goes live, buyers have to sprint off the starting block before throngs of other buyers start bidding. Talk about stressful!

What if there were a way to buy a house before it's officially on the market? Well, there is—and it can help you snag your dream house long before your competition even knows it exists. Want to get ahead of the curve? Here are some secrets for beating the crowds.

Read more: How to Buy a House Before It Officially Hits the Market

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Summer is peak season for home selling—but also for barbecues, vacations, and long, lazy beach days. In other words, there are lots of things to distract even the most diligent would-be buyers. And that’s not even counting those dog days when it’s too hot to even venture out to view homes.

But for home sellers who are eager to drum up an offer before Labor Day, having their sale sidelined isn't an option. And luckily, there's plenty you can do to lure buyers through your door. Check out these five smart tips for getting buyers to brave the heat and squeeze your house into their summer schedule.

1. Embrace 'rush hour' traffic

Long weekends out of town are the stuff summer dreams are made of. But they're also the reason many Saturday and Sunday afternoon open houses end up nearly empty. Choosing an alternative time frame may turn that around.

2. Turn your open house into a summer party

Let's face it: Heading to a barbecue or pool party sounds a whole lot more fun than an open house. If you can't beat 'em, why not join 'em? In other words, put together a gathering that feels more like a celebration than a sales pitch. Try serving up refreshments outside like lemonade and iced tea on trays, or fire up the grill to serve summer-themed appetizers or sliders.

Timing can make a difference here, too: Rather than holding your soirée in the middle of the day, wait until the evening when the temperature's bearable and people are ready to venture out and kick back at a house party.

3. Shine a spotlight on the outdoor space

Nothing's more appealing on a scorching summer day than a backyard pool. Play up this feature and other outdoor amenities to convince buyers this is the warm weather oasis they deserve. 

4. Create a community event

Sometimes getting a home sold is a matter of enlisting the help of those who already live in the neighborhood. Merrill recommends hosting a summer block party at the front of the property, rather than in the backyard, to invite more attention and foot traffic from neighbors and others passing by.

5. Advertise early, often

Spreading the word about an open house is always key to getting people in the door, but never more so than that stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

Source

Alpine 4th of July Parade and Carnival
9am-2pm / Alpine Comm. Center, www.alpinekiwanis.org

Camp Pendleton Ken Grody Ford
4th of July Beach Bash

8am-10pm / DM Beach Resort, www.mccscp.com/beachbash

Carlsbad Red, White and BOOM! w/Fireworks
10am-9pm / LEGOLAND California, www.legoland.com

Chula Vista 4th Fest Fireworks
9pm / CV Elite Athlete Center, www.chulavistaca.gov

Coronado:
Coronado Independence Day Parade & Festivities
7am-9:30pm / Various, www.coronadochamber.com
Del Beach Bash & Fireworks
7-10pm / Hotel del Coronado, www.hoteldel.com

Del Mar:
San Diego County Fair 4th of July Celebration
10am-11pm / Del Mar Fairgrounds, www.sdfair.com
Fourth of July Sunset BBQ & Fireworks Show
6:45-9:30pm / Fairmont Grand Del Mar, www.fairmont.com

El Cajon 4th of July Picnic & Fireworks
2-9:30pm / Kennedy Park, www.ci.el-cajon.ca.us

Escondido Independence Day Festival & Fireworks
4-9:30pm / Grape Day Park/Art Center, www.artcenter.org

Imperial Beach Independence Day Fireworks
4-9pm / Imperial Beach Pier, www.imperialbeachca.gov

Julian 4th of July Parade & Celebration
10am-5pm / Downtown Julian, www.julianparade.com

Mira Mesa Parade, Family Fun Day in the Park -Fireworks
7am-9:30pm / Mira Mesa Park, miramesatowncouncil.org

National City 4th of July Festivities
June 29-July 4

Kimball Park, www.ci.national-city.ca.us

Ocean Beach 4th of July Fireworks
9pm / Ocean Beach Pier, www.oceanbeachsandiego.com

Oceanside:
Independence Parade - June 30
10am-12:30pm / S Coast Hwy, mainstreetoceanside.com
Celebration & Fireworks Show - July 3
6-10pm / Rancho Del Oro Road, www.ci.oceanside.ca.us

Ramona Rotary Community Fireworks &
Family Picnic

5:30-9:30pm / Olive Peirce Middle, www.ramonarotary.org

Ranch Bernardo Spirit of the Fourth
Community Fair: 9am / Webb Park
Parade: 3:30pm / Downtown Rancho Bernardo
Festivities & Fireworks: 6-9:30pm / Bernardo Heights Middle
(858) 945-1616 / www.spiritofthefourth.org

Rancho Santa Fe 4th of July Parade & Picnic
1-3pm / 16948 Avenida De Acacias, www.rsfassociation.org

San Carlos Fireworks and Music Fest
11am-9:30pm / Lake Murray Playground
www.lakemurrayfireworks.org

San Diego:
San Diego Symphony: Star Spangled Pops
June 29-July 1

7:30pm / Embarcadero Marina Park South
www.sandiegosymphony.org
Big Bay Boom
9pm / San Diego Bay, www.bigbayboom.com
Old Town 4th of July
11am-4pm / Old Town SD State Park, www.parks.ca.gov
SeaWorld 4th of July Fireworks
9:40pm / SeaWorld, www.seaworldparks.com

San Marcos Celebrate Freedom, A Fireworks Extravaganza
6-9:30pm / Bradley Park, www.san-marcos.net

San Ysidro Independence Day at the Border
July 1

3-9pm / Larsen Field, www.facebook.com/syccNbid

Santee Santee Salutes w/Fireworks
2:30-10pm / Town Center Comm. Park E, www.ci.santee.ca.us

Scripps Ranch:
4th of July Run & Ride
6-10am / Red Cedar Dr. & Aviary Dr., www.srop.org
4th of July Parade
10am-1pm / Red Cedar Pl.-Hoyt Park, www.scrippsranch.org

Vista Independence Day Celebration w/Fireworks
5-10pm / Brengle Terrace Park, www.cityofvista.com

Poway:
Old Fashioned Fourth of July 10am-4pm
Old Poway Park

4th of July Veterans Ceremony 11am / Veterans Park
Fourth of July Fireworks 6-10pm
Poway High School

(858) 668-4576 / www.poway.org

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Which real estate documents should you keep after buying a home? After all, you don't want to have to file all of it if you don't have to; but you also don't want to chuck something crucial. Your closing company is required by law to keep a record of your closing documents, so that's a good fallback in case you misplace yours. Still, it's smart for you to keep important documents on hand—particularly if, later on, you need to file a claim against the seller or your professional representation team (i.e., your real estate agent, home inspector, or mortgage lender). Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, but it’s wise to be prepared.

So, of the hundreds of documents you’ll encounter during the home-buying process, here are the ones you should keep—and why.

Read more: 8 Real Estate Documents to Keep—and What Happens If You Don't

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