You’re looking at houses all wrong. Seriously. Most buyers don’t know how to really look at houses when they’re considering making a move. As you probably know, we're experiencing a very competitive market all over the MetroPlex, from McKinney to Grand Prairie and from Rockwall to Fort Worth. In today’s competitive market, buyers can’t afford to lose focus if they want to land that perfect house. Don’t pine for the one that got away. Avoid the biggest mistakes homebuyers make and you’ll be in your dream house in no time.
Too many opinions: It’s great if you want to bring your best friend, mom or dog sitter along to see your new house. But don’t bring them to showings when you’re getting started. Buying and living in a house is an intensely personal decision and getting too many opinions from people who aren’t going to be living in the house with you can make your decision confusing. Your cousin may think that it’s absolutely critical that you get a huge cooktop – but if you rarely cook then that feature really isn’t relevant to how you will live in the house, now is it? Best to save the friends and family until you’ve narrowed down your choices to a couple of properties – or better yet – after you’ve closed.
Looking over/under your price range: Before you start looking at houses, you’ll need to get pre-approved by your lender. Having a pre-approval letter in hand will let you know what type of loan you can get, how much you can afford and what your limit is. If you look at houses that are beyond your comfort level, you’ll likely be disappointed when you look at the houses you can afford. Similarly, if you’re not looking for a fixer-upper and you look at houses that are well below the price range you want to spend, you’ll probably be frustrated when the lower-priced properties aren’t as nice as you’d like. Plus, if you stay within a narrower range, it’s easier to compare properties by amenities and features.
Looking at too many houses in one day: It’s a tight market and you don’t want to miss out on “the one” so you decide to look at all of the available houses in one day. That’s a common mistake. After a few properties, houses will all start to blend together in your memory. You’ll get home and wonder if the house on the cul-de-sac was the one with the killer bathroom or if the one with the fantastic yard had the blue kitchen. A good rule of thumb is to limit showing sessions to no more than four or five properties at a time. If you are on a short deadline and have to buy right away, break up your sessions by grabbing lunch or coffee in between groups of showing appointments. That will give you time to digest and discuss what you’ve seen.
Hangry or tired kids/pets: Another reason to limit the number of showings or break up the showing schedule is to give the ones not making the decisions a break. Kids get bored, tired, and hungry after looking at multiple properties. You can bring snacks along in the car and toys or games for them to play with, but please leave all of those things in the car. Remember, you’re looking at other people’s property and they don’t want your crumbs. And you’ll slow things down if you have to play “Find the Lost Tablet” before you leave a house. And please, please leave pets at home.
Focusing on tiny details: True story. I once had a client who passed up on a great house because the doggie door was painted a color she didn’t like. Later in the week she decided that the rest of the house was ideal for her, but it was no longer available. Don’t sweat the small details that can be easily changed if the rest of the house feels right. Instead, focus on how you will use the space. Are the rooms the right size? Do you light the amount of natural light? Does that backyard have the right kind of space? Sometimes sellers will change the offending bit if the rest of the offer you make is good. In this case, the seller probably would have painted the dog door if only she had been asked.
Trying too hard to make a property work: Conversely, don’t force a house to work for you. If you walk in and immediately start planning to move staircases, then it’s probably not the property for you. It’s OK to rule houses out quickly if the bones don’t work for you. For most people the perfect house is simple. You’ll know it when you see it.
Looking too early or too late: Don’t waste your time looking at a lot of houses before you’re ready to buy. If you’re not ready to buy and you find the perfect house, it won’t be on the market anymore by the time you are ready and you’ll get a bad case of the “if-onlys.” And in today’s market, chances are good that the market conditions will change by the time you are ready, anyway. When you are ready, begin looking in earnest. You’ll be able to get the best of what’s available right now and won’t worry about what could have been. But don’t wait too long, either. Buying in a rush creates stress and may make you feel pressure to buy something that isn’t ideal. A good rule of thumb is to start your search 3-6 months before your desired move.
Waiting for the bargain/lowballing: Looking for a good deal isn’t a feasible strategy in this market. Inventory is tight and bargains are few. Expect to pay fair market price and don’t expect a lot of negotiation. Sellers won’t work with you readily if you start out with an offer that’s too low, anyway. When you find the house you like, have your MetroTex REALTOR show you how much similar properties sold for in the area and expect to pay something along those lines. But don’t overbid, either. Banks won’t write a loan for more than the house is worth according to their appraisers. Unless you’ve got a lot of extra cash lying around to cover the difference, don’t creating closing nightmares by offering too much.
Not being straight with your agent: Don’t worry about offending your MetroTex Realtor if you don’t like the house. We probably don’t own the house, didn’t design it or build it. And we know that it’s a personal decision for you. After all, we’re not planning on moving in with you. Give your honest feedback so we can help you refine your search and let the sellers know if they could do something to make the house more attractive to buyers.
The MetroTex Association of REALTORS® is comprised of more than 16,000 licensed agents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For more information on buying, selling, and leasing property in Texas, speak with a MetroTex REALTOR or visit www.dfwrealestate.com.