OK so you’re ready to actually start looking for a home. Just like an athlete warms up before a game, you scroll through pinterest and start to beef up your awesome ‘shit I’m gonna do to this house’ board. While this is a great way to prep, let me help you learn from my mistakes and get you headed down a path for success.
We started our search shortly after our third child was born, right when our two bedroom apartment started to feel like the walls were slowing coming in. Space was running out and it was finally time to take the next big step.
In my previous article, the first part to this series, 5 Things to do Before You Start the Home-Buying Process, I talked about the steps to take before even setting foot in a house. Step Five was to get a good realtor, so now that you’ve got one, let’s get started.
In the first five steps, I talked about the sources I used to look for potential listings. If you haven’t done so, create an account on Zillow, Realtor, and Trulia. On each of those sites, sign up to get alerts for when new houses that meet your criteria go on the market.
We found out the hard way, more than six instances of losing out/being outbid, plus countless houses that already had offers/under contract by the time we found them. Put yourself ahead and get these alerts.
Most realtors now also have the ability to notify you via their systems when a house gets listed on the MLS. Both realtors we worked with had automated systems that would send us the MLS listing for a house meeting our criteria as soon as it was listed. This was huge. We were able to just forward right to our agent and say, this one, we need to see this one.
two. Act fast.
We almost didn’t sign our oldest up for soccer this spring because our time frame to find a house before our lease was up was tight and we needed to have as much time available to look at houses (in the end we signed him up because he needed the energy release and he really wanted to, so we made it work).
Make sure you have the appropriate time to look. If you’re time line allows for you to not move quickly, than awesome! Take your time. But in our case, we didn’t have this opportunity. We had to keep our schedules clear (with the exception of soccer) and spend spare time searching the internet for house, or physically walking through.
I also suggest building a strong relationship with your realtor. In many instances they have the inside scoop to houses (or the ability to get the scoop) of houses before they go on the market. Some of them have built relationships with investors who flip houses and are working on a project that isn’t quite ready to list, but might be perfect for you. Or they may know someone who has been thinking about moving but hasn’t ‘officially’ listed their house. In our market having someone connected to the community we wanted to live in, was key to finding our house.
three. Home v. house
In the span of 10 months we walked through upwards of 30 houses. It was tiring. And over time it became difficult to differentiate between house and home.
A house was a building that we liked on paper enough to take a look, but once we got inside it just wasn’t ‘clicking’, it just wasn’t right. A home were the seven places we put offers in on. The places that when we walked into I could feel something. There was even the one that we offered as much as our budget would allow, and we lost it, I cried. It was the place that we pulled into the drive way and I turned to my husband and in unison, we agreed this was it – we were ready to make an offer without even seeing the inside.
You’re looking for a home, not a house.
If you’re going through this with a spouse or partner it can be a huge test to your relationship, but it doesn’t have to be. While I agree marriage is about compromise, I don’t think buying a home should be. If both your names are on the deed, this belongs to both of you. There were so many places that my husband loved and I just ‘wasn’t feeling’ and vice versa. Don’t get me wrong, we each did our best to talk through what we loved and see what the other didn’t like about a place to make sure we were on the same page. In the end, each of the houses we put an offer in on, we agreed that it felt like home.
Keep track of the ones you love and the ones you hate (and the reasons why) on your FREE HOME BUYING TRACKER.
Buying a home together shouldn’t be a ‘you got to pick last so I pick this time’. This is a joint decision, and that’s how we have treated it every step of the way.
five. The offer.
I love me a deal. Each of the cars that I have bought, I have done all the negotiating myself. I love the thrill. But for some reason when it came to buying a home, I didn’t want to be in a bidding war, I just wanted my offer to be accepted and move in. Well we all know it doesn’t work like that.
For each offer, our realtor would pull comparable houses (both for sale and recently sold) so that we could be sure that our offer wasn’t way out in left field. [Pro Tip: don’t look at the ‘bottom line’ cost of the house, look at the cost per square foot. For example, a 1,650 sqft house listed for $140K that’s $84.84 /sqft. <- that is what you shift.]
In the end go with your gut. What is the house worth to you? If you think the price is too high, explain to your realtor why that price is too high; it needs major updating (come on it’s a 70’s time capsule in there), or the roof will need to be replaced in a year, or there’s a freeway in the back yard. These are all barging chips that can be used in your favor.
Stay tuned for the next installment – 5 Steps After the Offer; Legalese.