House hunting during the peak spring market is kind of like the crazy chaos you’d imagine in stores on Black Friday or with the release of a new Apple product. There’s a heightened sense of anxiety in securing an appointment at a home with multiple showings, coupled with a fear of who else might want your dream home and what offer they’re putting in to try to beat yours. It’s basically a competition; you want to win and you want the discomfort of the situation to end as quickly as possible.
While there will always be anxiety around buying and selling a home, or any major purchase for that matter, but there’s a few things that you can do to prepare yourself to manage the stress of house hunting and get the outcome that you want.
It starts by developing that comprehensive budget, location and wish list that we discussed in our last home buying post (and if you haven’t read that yet, would recommend starting there first). This list will help you narrow your search to homes that best meet your criteria and set you up for success before you even go to a showing.
Here’s a few other tips we have for finding homes in a competitive market:
- Check listings early and often
When you sign with a realtor, you’ll gain access to your local multiple listing service (MLS), where your realtor will flag potential listings that fit your criteria. It’s important to check MLS and Zillow/Redfin/etc. daily while you’re searching for a home to keep pace with other buyers. It’s hard to predict what a seller is looking for in a buyer and consistently checking new listings will ensure you’re seeing potential properties as early as possible. A common tactic is putting new listings on MLS as “coming soon” on Tuesdays and active on Thursdays to drum up interest for the coming weekend. If daily searching is too big of a commitment, checking in on Tuesdays and Thursdays will get you the most benefit for your time.
- Be flexible
On top of the looming financial commitment, house hunting is a major time commitment. You have to be willing to sacrifice entire weekends or your hard earned paid time off to see homes at a moment’s notice. You also need a realtor who has a similar mindset – if they aren’t replying to your interest in seeing a home the same or next day, they might not be the best person to help you navigate the process. A typical weekend morning for us during our house hunt was checking MLS, calling our realtor to schedule an appointment and out the door with coffee in hand all within 45 minutes. You have to be vigilant and consistent to get the best results.
- Be prepared to make an offer at (almost) any point
In any market, it can be hard to determine what a seller is looking for in a buyer, whether they just want to sell the home for the sticker price and get out or if they want to see how much they can get through a bidding war or by asking potential buyers to remove contingencies from their offer. A good realtor can help you try to figure out a seller’s motives, but both scenarios require a quick, competitive offer. This is where your list comes in handy again – if the property checked your most important boxes, you can be prepared to make a decision faster and smarter. Similarly to your realtor, your lender (if you have one) should also be prepared to help you prepare an offer on relatively short notice. They can work together to ensure that your offer gets in during the seller’s timeline and delivers your best chance at being approved.
At every stage in the process, it’s always incredibly important to ask your realtor a lot of questions. In a competitive market, you have to be ready to make an offer within hours of seeing a home and you need to treat almost every showing as if you could be seeing your future home. Ask their opinion on any potential major expenses, like a foundation crack or issue with the roof, that you might be able to mention in an offer or potential renovation considerations for future investment as you might want to go with a lower down payment to leave cash leftover for the project. Get a feel for the neighborhood if you’re not familiar with the area and understand the local HOA and community amenities too. Minor details like this will become major to you if you decide to purchase the home.
We wish we could tell you there was an easy fix to anxiety around buying a new home, but as with most things, the only thing you can do to manage it is try to be as prepared and informed as possible. Although, take solace in the fact that you’re not alone and that it’s still an exciting time when you’re looking for a new home, even if it comes with some discomfort.
What was your most memorable home walk through experience? We’d love to hear about it and compare stories!