Understanding the Real Estate Process from A – Z – A Buyer’s Guide to Real Estate – Part 5
This is the fifth post of a series in an FAQ format that I hope will help would be buyers better understand the real estate process that they are about to go through. There is a follow-on series to the posts for real estate sellers.
FAQ – I’m visiting homes but not finding anything that I like. What can I do?
First, let me ask what it is about the homes that you are visiting that you don’t like? Obviously, they meet the criteria that you currently have your Realtor® using to search for you or you wouldn’t be visiting them. It’s time to stop and think about your search criteria. Try to put into words what it is
Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your search price range. A limited price range or an upper limit that is too low, will severely restrict what you get to see. Many times looking slightly above the upper limit that you have currently set with your Realtor will open up a whole new range of options. Sometimes there is even enough negotiation room in those higher prices to get them down close to where your old limit was anyway. Setting an upper limit that is too low also means that you may only see homes that are in less than good condition. That can be especially frustrating, if you are looking for a move-in ready condition house.
The local market in southeastern Michigan is currently not favorable for buyers. It is a “sellers’ market” because there is very low inventory and more people looking to buy that there are houses available. That means that sellers are asking for, and getting, higher prices that they would normally and that properties are selling more quickly than normal. Buyers are at a disadvantage in negotiations and have less to choose from on the market. That is certainly a receipt for buyer frustration. It means that buyers need to be ready to quickly make an offer on any properties that they find that suit their needs.
The key to that last statement is the word “needs”. In this type of market, you have to focus more on what you need in a house that what you may want in a house. Many of the things that fall into the category of wants can be added later. That means that you should take a hard look at your search criteria and adjust the “must haves” to reflect your real needs. Just taking a desire like granite counter tops out of the criteria can open up lots more choices for you. Also expanding your search area, which may add to your daily commute a bit, can greatly expand the candidates for visits.
Some search criteria have a very big impact. Adding things like “fenced back yard” because you have a dog that you’d like to be able to let out in the yard can cut your choices by more than half. Desiring more than an acre of land with the house has the same impact, since most modern site condo complexes have been built on smaller lots. Asking for a three-car garage, instead of the more standard two-car garage also limits your choices. The majority of houses were built with three bedrooms, so demanding four or more also cuts down the list. Ask you Realtor what he/she thinks are the most restrictive things on your criteria list and then discuss with him/her what the options might be if you change or eliminate that criteria.
Sometimes you may actually be visiting the ideal home that meets your criteria, but you get blinded to it by things in the home that can easily be fixed or changed. You have to ignore things like paint colors and even the clutter that the current owners have grown used to living with. Maybe the current owners have re-purposed a room or two and you can’t see those rooms as you might use them.
So, step back and reevaluate two things – your criteria for a new home and your approach and attitude about evaluating what you see on visits. Both may need to be adjusted. Sit and have another frank talk with your Realtor about what he/she has been showing you and what you’d like to see now. You might also review your notes from all of the houses that you’ve already visited and see if any might now be worth a second look (assuming that they haven’t already sold) with your new evaluation criteria in mind. Your new home is out there and now you are better equipped to find it.
As an alternative to continuing to look at used homes,perhaps you should add new-build homes to your search. The lack of enough new-build homes on the market has contributed to the "tight" inventory situation, but there are new build developments in all markets. New build developments are not normally in the lower end of the market and usually occupy the mid- to upper-end of the move up market, so that probably won't fit for the first-time buyer; however, if you are ready to move up, or maybe even if you are downsizing from your McMansion, these mid-market developments can be just the thing for you. Obviously, they will be move-in ready when completed and unlikely to need anything for several years.