I wrote an earlier post about the ins and outs of first time home buying (you can read it here). But how do you score your dream home? How do you look through all the listings, pick some to visit, and make sure you have chosen a house that is truly going to keep you happy for years to come? Well, to be honest, that is completely up to you. BUT I can share with you our process and how we were able to score truly the house of our dreams.
I will quickly give you some things that you should NEVER do under any circumstances:
- NEVER buy a house on the spot. You should always take at least a night to think about it and hopefully come back once or twice to really get a good look. The market is currently a balanced market, meaning that houses are staying on the market longer, prices are stable, and there are more options out there, so don’t feel the pressure to buy your home that instant.
- NEVER compromise on the big things. If you need 3 bedrooms for your family, for example, but try to fit into a two bedroom house, you are very quickly going to have problems that you won’t be able to fix.
- NEVER go over budget. EVER! Have a very firm price and stick to it. And don’t forget about the closing costs, which are about $10,000 to $15,000 out of pocket.
- NEVER overestimate what you think you can fix. Think you can repair a shoddy roof with less than $500? Be realistic.
- NEVER go into the process with completely different opinions than your partner. It baffles me to watch House Hunters where the wife only wants carpet and the husband only wants hardwood. Talk about these things ahead of time, come to a compromise, and be unified on what you want.
- NEVER fall in love with a house. This goes for all material objects, but I promise there will be another amazing house out there just for you. Even though we absolutely love our home and have no intention of moving, I still find listings that make me long for a new home. A house is not going to cure all of your problems, so don’t ever get in a situation where you loose a house and fall completely apart.
So. Now that we have those out of the way, how do you start looking? Let me take you through our steps.
STEP 1: Before doing anything else, make a list with your partner of the Needs, Wants, and Super Bonus aspects of your dream house. Ours looked like this:
STEP 2: Contact a realtor. The best way to do this is to ask your friends or look up well rated realtors in the area. Meet with them before doing any hunting and make sure you are a good fit. I first met with a realtor that was trying to encourage me to buy a tiny lot and do a construct-your-house deal when I told her that I wanted an old charm house with a big, fenced in yard. Run away. When you find a great realtor that will not BS you, give them your list and see what they send you.
STEP 3: Look at listings like crazy. Download the Realtor App, the Zillow App, look at your realtors suggested listings, just be constantly looking. Start touring houses, even if they seem like they might not fit your criteria. DO NOT look at houses that are out of budget. Just don’t, not even to get an idea.
STEP 4: Immediately after looking at the houses, write a pro and con list. Write down everything that could possibly be a con and everything that you see as a pro. Go into detail.
Check back on your list and see what houses checked off your needs and wants list. We made a handy table, like this:
STEP 5: Choose your house! But as I said above, NEVER COMPROMISE. I can’t emphasize this enough. If a house does not have all of your super bonus items or a want or two that is fine, but don’t choose a house that does not contain ALL of your needs. I know it can seem dire in this housing market, but if you are proactive and quick enough, you will be able to find a great home no matter where you are looking. Good luck, and happy house hunting!