Adventures in Home Buying – Part 2
By Erica Root
Welcome back to my home buying mini-series. (If you missed Part 1, you can read it here). I hope that reading my Adventures in Home Buying series helps make the home buying process a little less scary and gives potential first-time home buyers the confidence needed to make that big life step.
Adventures in Home Buying Part 1 was all about finding the right people to partner with to make the home buying process as streamlined as possible. As a reminder, steps 1 & 2 were:
Step 1: Find a real estate agent and mortgage broker
Step 2: Get pre-approved (for a home loan)
Now that you have your mortgage broker and real estate agent lined up, and you are pre-approved for a loan, what comes next?
Step 3: Establishing your must-haves and deal breakers
For some people, having hardwood floors is a must. Or perhaps a pool to cool off during those tortuous Sacramento summers. Start writing down what you’d like to see in a house.
This step is all about figuring out what you want most out of the home you will end up buying. Write down EVERYTHING you want and realize that you will probably need to prioritize what you end up getting (but it’s a healthy little exercise anyways and will get at least you got it out of your system).
Common ‘deal breaker’ trap: only thinking about a house cosmetically. I fully admit to falling into this trap when I initially began looking at homes. In my head, granite counter tops, hardwood floors and an open floor plan seemed to top my list of priorities.
The thing about buying homes is that priorities quickly change. They can shift easily based on any number of factors. Money and location being chief among them. This means that you need to really hone in on what matters most and likely make concessions.
For me, being in the neighborhood I really liked that was still relatively close to the grid was essential. New paint, some updated flooring, that could come later.
Remember, this is your FIRST home, not necessarily your DREAM home.
Step 4: Redfin, Trulia, and Zillow. What’s the difference?
Before I officially kicked off my personal home buying experience, I spent numerous hours on Trulia and Zillow. Saturday afternoons were wasted scouring these sites for new home listings. If you’re unfamiliar with these websites, they are house hunting apps that show you what’s on the market, providing pictures, school scores, and are regularly featured on HGTV.
What I didn’t realize was that in this fast-paced Sacramento market, most of what I was seeing on these sites was already scooped up by other buyers.
That’s when I switched to Redfin. It was recommended by a friend and I learned quickly that it really is the best mainstream site to get a sense of what is really available on the market.
I’m not really sure what the science is behind Redfin, but I do know that listings appear much faster than Trulia and Zillow and it is easier to navigate than other MLS services. During my lunch breaks I’d hop onto Redfin and search the new listings. This kept me up to speed on what was new in the areas I was looking in and gave me the jump on other home buyers.
Of course, if you have a real estate agent you don’t really need to rely on Redfin or similar sites. The real estate agent should be doing this for you – curating a list of new homes that fit into your parameters (cost, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.). But for me, the hunt and time spent looking at these homes was an integrally fun part of the process.
Step 5: I’m actually viewing homes… now what?
This is so exciting! You are finally getting out there and doing the fun part: looking at homes in real life.
Looking at homes can happen in a few different ways. Here are the most likely:
- With your real estate agent – You find a house you want to see, you tell your agent, and s/he sets it up.
- With your real estate agent during an open house – You drive around a neighborhood you like and stumble upon open houses, or you pre-plan a Saturday or Sunday outing to visit open houses, making sure to map out the best route.
- Without your real estate agent, during an open house – You decide to visit a few homes you are sort of interested in without your real estate agent. Be warned: other real estate agents WILL try to poach you if you do this. They might think you are unrepresented or not happy with your current agent. The will try to hand you their card and you can politely accept it but say you are happy with your agent, or take it if you aren’t.
Adventures in Home Buying Part 2 Summary and Next Steps:
The Sacramento real estate market is on fire. So things are going to pop up on the market on Thursday and by Monday, there will likely be multiple offers in on every new listing. I wish I were exaggerating.
So that means you need to make a decision pretty quickly after seeing a house – and it doesn’t pay to wait.
If you are serious about finding a home, you need to be around on weekends to see it. You need to schedule a time to see it – or drop into an open house – within days of the listing going live to stand any real chance.
Now this is scary, especially for those of us who are risk averse, and want to mull things over. There simply isn’t a lot of time to mull.
Which is frustrating since moving forward likely requires you to make a big financial commitment. I can’t tell you how many times during the home buying process I told friends and family that I better love a house if I am prepared to dump my savings account into buying it. You can’t help but get attached when you are throwing down that kind of dough.
Things to look out for when deciding if you want to make an offer:
- Does the house have my must-haves? What about deal breakers?
- What would my monthly mortgage look like?
- What would I need to do to get this house move-in ready? Is it just a coat of paint? New flooring?
- How close is the house to the freeway?
- How would I get to work from here? What would my commute look like?
Let’s say you ask yourself all these questions (and probably a few more) and you decide to move forward with an offer.
I’ll explain how to make an offer on a house in Part 3 of Adventures in Home Buying, as well as give you an overview of the home inspection process.
Until then, happy house hunting!