5 things to do before you start the home-buying process [part 1]

The before you start to start looking at houses – The Home-Buying Process Pt 1.

So you want to start the home-buying process! Yay. This is huge. Most likely one of the largest purchases you’ll every make, so just a bit of pressure… But I’m here to help! We are in the process (very. slow. process) of buying a house. We have been looking since August and have put in two offers.

The first offer, the sellers just said no. Flat out no. No counter off or anything. Our realtor said she had never seen that. Fine. We didn’t want your house any ways. The second was a short sale. The seller accepted and the approval was waiting on third party (aka the bank). In the end, the bank didn’t feel that they were making enough money off the sale so they declined our offer and relisted the house for the new appraisal value. Let me just say one thing- THAT DAMN HOUSE IS STILL FOR SALE.

And back to the drawing board we went.

I am honestly feeling a little burnt out. In the midst of all of that we had to move out of our apartment quickly as the owner sold it and the buyers were going to occupy it, so when our lease came to an end- we had to be out. Fun. Yes, just what we wanted to do. Move. Again. To another temporary situation.

As any of the other homeowners out there know- house hunting/home-buying is not only a financially stressful time but also, just a stressful time in general. We are living in an apartment with a six month lease with half of our stuff, while the other half lives in storage. I am living out of a suitcase. It’s deja vu to a year ago when the boys and I were at my mom’s for two months, while dad was down here scoping out the area.

Too be honest, buying- well excuse me, searching for a house to call our own has put more stress on our relationship than having kids did/does.

Don’t be like Katie. Don’t get burned out before you get started.

Here are some tips to help alleviate the burn


one. Wants.Needs.Reality.

OK so you think you’re ready to start the home-buying process. Sit down and find the house that has everything that you want. Aww so pretty. Now take a peek at that price tag. Woahzers. Write down everything that house has that makes it what you want. Now look at that list. Throw it in the trash. No I’m kidding. Start going line by line and ask yourself (or with your partner if you’re doing this whole house buying thing together) is this a want or a need? Be honest and cross of the things that are wants. Unless you’re a gourmet chef, or baker, I don’t think a gourmet kitchen is really a need. OK i know it’s not, I’m talking to myself. OK!?

You really need to narrow this list down. So keep whittling away at it. While second story laundry may make your life easier, it’s not a need. Having an eat-in kitchen that is big enough to fit a table to fit your family at, is. Balance folks. Give and take. Your first home doesn’t have to be your forever home.


two. Use multiple resources.

Zillow is great, but let’s be honest, it’s a hot mess. It is not reliable enough to be your sole source of searching.  There were countless times I would find a house listed for sale on Zillow and our agent would come back and say it’s no longer for sale, or that’s not actually zoned for those schools.

So like any great researcher, I use multiple sources. Zillow, Realtor.com and turlia – the trifecta for home-buying. I search area on Zillow because I like their draw feature the best. I’ll pull up houses on there that interest us. Then I will search them on Realtor.com to check schools (not always 100% accurate but I find it the most accurate without going to the county site). Realtor.com also usually has better property descriptions.

Then when it comes time for pictures, It’s a tie between the three. Sometimes one will have more and others will have none. So for those it’s user preference.


three. Keep Notes.

You can either go to target and get yourself a cute little notebook from the dollar section. This is now your home-buying note book.

Or download my free printable here, which lays out everything you need to keep tabs on!

 Keep track of every house you go a look at. Write down what you did and didn’t like about the house, or in some cases why it was just a big ol’ NO. You’re going to be doing more drive bys and walk throughs than you ever probably thought and sometimes the address just won’t resonate with you and then you pull up and realize, you’ve already seen this house.

Yes, this is something your realtor will track too once you get to that point. But while you’re still on your own doing those drive bys, you have to keep track. Which brings me to my next tip…


four. Do drive bys.

Gather the addresses of a few house you like online, write them down in your home-buying notebook, and use google maps to map out a route and take yourself, or crew, who ever and go on a house tour. Drive through the neighborhood, a bunch of times. We would always go on the weekends in the mid morning. We really want to be in a neighborhood where all the kids play, so we would drive through when we thought the most kids would be out playing. Pick your time.


Also make sure to try your drive from work, at least once before you look at the house. We were originally set on this one area of town. A perfect 20-30 minute drive to work and AMAZING schools. SOLD. Well everyone else also signed on the dotted line so the traffic turns those 20-30 minute drives into 45-60 minute drives. NO THANK YOU. I don’t want to be in traffic with three hangry kids. NOPE. So we stopped looking for houses in that area before we even started.


five. Get a good realtor. 

We went off of the first recommendation we got from a family member. NOPE. Both my husband and I are very A-type personality folks, so we spend a lot of time scouring zillow, realtor.com, and any other site we could find. We did all the work. She just showed up to open the doors. While she did help us put together two offers, she just didn’t do much besides that.

You’re shopping for a house, so shop for the person who is going to make money when you get that house. Do your research. Ask around and if you can, see a few house with a few different folks before you make a choice. Find someone who speaks your language and you don’t have to tell them a thousand times what type of neighborhood you’re looking for.

Want to know what comes next? Go check out Part 2 – here!

About katie

just your rotten mouthed guide through life, reviews, organization and some parenting tips- cause you know, I am a parent x3 :)


  1. This was totally my husband and I last summer! Our first offer was a straight no. The second house we put a offer on was too low, and STILL on the market! Everything definitely happens for a reason though, later that summer my husband got offered a job in Australia. House shopping can be so heartbreaking but it’ll all work out, hopefully sooner rather than later 🙂

  2. Marian

    Katie! Hi, it’s Marian. I never knew you had this wonderful site. I am loving it.

    I agree with your list here and how I wish I could get you out of limbo yesterday. It is such a hard place to be…again, as you mentioned.

    If I may add some tips, as we finally found our home.

    1. We discovered The Neighborhood was more important than the house search. We lost a few bids and discovered, Good!, because we need a place where we can walk to nearly everywhere. The houses we lost would have had us driving everywhere.

    2. Garage Sale.com I learned that people having garage sales just may be prepping to put their house on market. We chatted up the owners we ended up buying from and they chose us over their own realtor (another story). We actually created a personal connection. Find the garage sales in the neighborhood you want and you can see if it really is the neighborhood you want.

    3. Take family walks in the neighborhood you want to live in. Walk all the streets, chat people up, go to the parks, mention you are looking and someone may give you a heads up on a future listing. Older couples downsizing LOVE to sell to young, vibrant families.

    4. I found this tip online, when I was searching for how to spruce up an offer, a guy suggested allowing the sellers to leave the stuff behind they do not want. The couple we bought from was going through a divorce and were stressed to the max. They couldn’t believe we would help them out like that. The thing is, we just sold stuff on Craigslist or put it out on junk day. No biggie.

    5. Finally, we had put a bid on a short sale. I was worried the train nearby would be too loud, so, one day, I sat on the back porch, on a weekday, and I read and journaled, to get a sense of the place. While writing, I realized I was really stressed, when I noticed just how much noise I was experiencing, before a train ever went by. Turned out, behind the summer foliage along the backyard, there was the unloading dock of the local university. Trucks in and out, so noisy. I packed up and we pulled our offer. Really know the area where the house you want is.

    On a personal note: Jim and I don’t compromise… we only agree. That means, if we both aren’t 100% happy with the house/location we don’t put an offer in. Or start adoption process, or purchase a car, or paint a certain wall color or choose salt and pepper shakers…if we don’t agree we don’t go forward, which means, we are both thrilled with every decision we make. Everything takes longer, but, in the end, it’s nice being equally satisfied with the life we are building together. Our realtor learned this about us and never tried to convince us either way: it was our way or no way.

    Lastly, I discovered the less our kid heard anything about a move the better she slept, etc.

    Just remember, you never lose a bid on a house that was not meant to be 😉

    I hope you’ll keep us posted.

  3. Having home buying tracker is a great idea. I’m not at the buying stage quite yet but I’m already overwhelmed by the idea! Getting a good realtor definitely seems essential.

    • Getting a good realtor is key. We had to switch half way through to a new one who was a thousand times better. Which of course made for an awkward conversation, but then again, when you’re spending this much money, you have every right to say’this just isn’t working’. Good luck once you dive in!

  4. Mae

    I love this! My husband is a realtor in the Tampa area and he also give similar tips to his clients, including driving around the neighborhood to really have a feel of what’s it like living in the area. Most realtors don’t recommend some sites as they are not up-to-date, so connecting with an agent really gives you an advantage as they have access to the most updated database.

    Mae | http://www.thegospelofbeauty.org

    • love property brothers! And yes, Aunt Marian’s advice is great, my husband and I have been much like her and her husband during this process. No compromising on this, we both have to 100% love it, or it’s not for us.

Leave a Reply