Starting out, my only understanding of the house buying process came from HGTV, which shockingly, isn’t totally accurate. After you have decided you are serious about buying a house, it’s time to start the house hunt.
Stalk Zillow, Realtor, Trulia, etc.
Check online to see what properties are available in your area and how much they cost. Most of these sites have a mortgage calculator which lets you put in your estimated down payment so you can see how roughly much you will have to pay each month.
Enlist a realtor + try to pick one on purpose.
I filled out information request forms on Zillow and Realtor and got matched up with tons of realtors. I thought I was contacting the listing agents for the properties, but agents listed on these sites can pay to advertise there. I got so many phone calls from realtors desperate to show me properties. Most of them felt pushy and aggressive and had a sales-y vibe to them. Something I didn’t know: realtors have a moral code to not snake clients from each other, so I got a few snippy responses from realtors when I said I filled out a few forms online. Thankfully, Tom O’Dougherty was one of the realtors I was matched with. He knows a lot about the Lakewood real estate market and was very helpful throughout the process. After we went through one house, he recommended that I head to the bank to talk through financing.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage
Having a pre-approval letter from the bank makes your offer stronger to sellers. I should write a whole post on the mortgage process, but I’m getting angry just thinking about it, so I’ll hold off. For now: banks are garbage and money is a joke. That’s what I learned through this process.
Visit as many houses as possible.
Apparently calling, texting, or emailing your realtor all. the. time. is not annoying and is part of their job(I don’t fully believe this, but my realtor repeated it to me a lot throughout the process). So send them any of the houses you want to see so that they can schedule showings. I tried to make a longer list of the houses instead of sending one off emails, this helped me stay organized. I also swung through as many open houses as I could find. You don’t need to bring your realtor to the open houses, but there is usually a sign in sheet where they ask you if you are working with someone. That whole “no snaking clients” thing again. If you aren’t working with a realtor, dig around to find the listing agent for the properties if you still want to take a tour and there isn’t an open house available.
Set your MLS portal up to show houses priced a little higher than your max budget.
Some house might be listed at a higher price than they are worth. You can make an offer that is below asking price, but if your MLS portal is set to exactly your budget, you won’t be seeing as many properties that you could potentially buy. If your budget is $100,000 and you aren’t seeing many houses pop up, try bumping your max price to $120,000.
Make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves
I didn’t approach house hunting with a specific list and instead just looked at a billion houses and selected one seemingly at random. It would be helpful to have a few more requirements narrowed now while you are looking. My absolute must-haves were: a usable walk up third-floor space, hardwood floors, 3+ bedrooms, and a front porch with an unpainted ceiling. My list came together while I was touring houses and yes, I know that seems like a ridiculous list. I realized that these were my must haves when I would get disappointed looking at a sloppily painted porch ceiling and compare it to a beautiful stained ceiling on the house next door. Of course, I could have stripped the paint off of the porch ceiling if it came to that, but I wasn’t so sure of my DIY prowess at this point.
Be prepared to make a decision
If you find a house that meets your criteria, get ready to move. You have to be ready to sign a contract the day you find your dream home, so get your pen ready. And maybe find someone to snap a super hot pic like this one:
- Do you have any weirdly specific items on your “must-have” list?
- What was your house hunting strategy?
If anyone needs a house hunting companion, I’m available! I love strolling through homes and seeing how people live.