Tips for finding your dream house without losing your mind
In case you haven’t heard, back in 2008 America fell prey to a huge housing crisis. Some smart people labeled it “the great recession.” The entire country’s real estate market vanished into the dark and basically no one bought house for a span of 2-3 years. Unemployment rose, stocks plummeted, & even rich people got scared about where their money was or wasn’t coming from.
It was a strange time of uncertainty & fear, but there was also a subtle whisper of hope & opportunity for the future weaving it’s way through the American economy. Fast forward to 2017: hope has come. The housing industry has not only recovered…. we have catapulted into a new way of living. Urban revival is curating new cultural norms across the country, jobs are on the rise, & in ATLANTA we’re rising like a rocket ship in population, opportunity, culture, and innovation. It is a fun time to be alive & Atlanta has front row seat to watch the future unfold.
But with all that progress comes new complex challenges. One of the big ones is home ownership. As our cities grow there just isn’t enough housing inventory for all the buyers that want to become homeowners & grab their little slice of heaven! The age old battle of supply & demand has come back to our cities. Buyers from every angle are creating tremendous demand & are quickly realizing that supply is like a friendly shadow they just can’t quite catch up to.
Being a buyer is hard….so here are some thoughts we have on figuring it out:
1. Hire a Realtor IMMEDIATELY, but be selective!
The most important part of your journey as a home-buyer is finding the right Real Estate Agent. When the market is moving fast it is EXTREMELY important to find an agent that is not only trustworthy and hardworking, but is credible & will bring a high level of expertise in the local market you want to live in. Often times they will have a pulse on listings that are not yet active in MLS. They can set better expectations about how the market is changing week by week & they will have a higher level of relational equity with other top agents in that area, which goes a LONG way to getting a deal done when things get competitive.
DO NOT hire your agent because it is who your co-worker used or because the agent also happens to be your Grandmom. If possible, try to make sure the Agent you use lives in the neighborhood you want to end up in. Or at least close by. If you get this right…all the other pieces will fall into place…I promise!
2. Set realistic expectations on price & location:
There are some amazing tools at the fingertips of anyone who knows what the world wide web is. Sites like Redfin, Trulia, Zillow, & others give you direct access to unbelievable amounts of data on neighborhoods, schools, tax records, active listings, and home pricing. Do some critical thinking about where you want to live and cross reference that with what you can afford. See if there are any houses that match up to both categories. Drive that neighborhood and see how it feels before you decide it is the place for you.
Also recognize that there is no such thing as a “killer deal” in a rising market. While you might come across something that is overpriced and get a contract under the list price…a unicorn foreclosure that is completely renovated with a huge yard 2 blocks from the park for 30% less than everything else in the neighborhood just doesn’t exist. There is no silver bullet…but there is a house that can become your home if you’re willing to work for it!
3. Be prepared for multiple offer situations:
It is very common for a great house in a great location to receive multiple offers and enter into a bidding situation. Often times this means the winner will actually end up offering a number ABOVE the list price. Don’t freak out….when this happens try to FORGET the list price. Trash it as reference point and approach the home with a different perspective. Figure out what the price is that if your agent calls you and says “we didn’t win” you won’t have a single second thought about wishing you had offered just a little more. If you approach it with that confidence and don’t win there is usually a better home waiting around the corner for you!
4. Consider a fixer-upper:
This does not mean you’re going to go buy a house that is falling over and spend 2 years in a renovation that steals your soul. But consider the possibility of sacrificing a bit on kitchens, bathrooms, and open floor-plans to get into the neighborhood you want to be in. You can almost ALWAYS change floor plans & finishes. You can’t change location especially a rising market where the affordability becomes less and less attainable year over year.
5. Pay attention to the majors not the minors:
As I said…the small stuff can all be changed. Odd paint colors, a ugly kitchen sink faucet, & that 90’s fake gold hardware can all be switched out with ease. But things like 25 pine trees in the back yard that drop pine straw, pine cones,and random tree trash year round can’t be changed.
Make sure that 200 year old oak tree that will only live a few more years & have branches larger than your car are not right off the corner of the house.
Stay away from busier streets that become MUCH harder to sell in buyers markets. Ask your agent about local zoning laws to make sure the lot your buying has room to expand should you end up staying there long term and need more space.
Make sure your agent can give you as much information as possible on the investment potential of your home should you need to resell in the next 3-5 years.
So there you go! Being a buyer is hard, but you can do it. We believe in you! And if you need a good agent….we might know a few people.