Finding the perfect home is like finding the perfect mate. Everyone’s wrong, until they’re right. Sometimes it seems like the more homes you see, the more discouraged you become. You may be unsuccessful because of all-cash offers or bids that are thousands of dollars over the asking price.
Take a deep breath. It may be time to consider why you haven’t been able to meet the right guy … uh, home.
You might have dreamed of meeting Prince (or Princess) Charming, then found that solid, dependable mate was the better choice. Homes can be like that, too. You dream of a yard large enough to play catch with your child or Victorian with moldings that knock your socks off. Then you realize your price range doesn’t support all those features.
Instead of getting discouraged, make a list of “must-haves.” Your non-negotiables might be a neighborhood with great schools or being within a 30-minute commute from work. You agent needs to know what you can’t live without.
Then identify what you’d love to have: master suite with spa bathroom or a formal dining room.
Lastly, add a column with “wish” items could be added later: six-burner chef’s range or crown moldings.
When you hunt for a home, look for one with the must-haves first, then see which have some of your dream items, too. Your agent can run a list of all the properties like the one you want — number of bedrooms, baths, price — that have been listed in the past 9 to 12 months. If you see nothing you like in your price range, you may need to adjust your expectations, budget or location.
Have hope: If you see a few perfect homes you missed, that means a home you’ll love is out there somewhere and could come on the market any day.
House hunting sometimes means waiting for the right home to find you. New listings come on the market every day. Even though Wednesday had nothing to offer, Thursday could deliver several new possibilities.
Here are a few ways to be the first pair or eyes on new listings:
• Send “I’d love to buy your home” letters to addresses you adore in the neighborhoods you crave. Agents do it all the time, hoping to find a homeowner who’s thinking about selling.
• Spread the word on social media that you’re looking for a home with (fill in the blanks). And if you don’t think it’s too crass, offer a finder’s fee to anyone who points you toward a home you eventually buy. Of course, that means a lot of real estate agents will solicit your business, too. Finding the right agent can make your house hunting a whole lot easier.
If you’ve lost several homes you thought were good fits, have a heart-to-heart with your agent to determine what’s going wrong.
Are you consistently bidding too low? If you can afford it, up your game and bid a little over-asking, especially in a hot market. One strategy is to offer the asking price but make it contingent upon an inspection and appraisal, which is standard in most contracts. If an inspector finds defects, or an appraisal comes in short of the list price, you might have room to bargain.
Cash buyers are always more attractive to a seller than ones who make an offer contingent upon financing. Of course, not everyone has a couple hundred thousand in their back pocket. So before you start looking, select a lender who will give you a pre-approval letter that states you’ll qualify for a particular loan amount under certain guidelines. It’s not as good as hard cash offers, but it does signal you’re a serious buyer who can qualify for a loan.
Pre-approval letters are often good for up to 90 days, so it’s a good idea to get pre-approved early in your home search. If you need a pre-approval lender, you can quickly find one on Zillow who works in your area.