I work with a lot of buyer-clients and understand that the home search can often take longer than anticipated. NAR (National Association of REALTORS) statistics say the average home search takes about 12 weeks (remember that the term “average” indicates that some take much longer!). So how do you make your home search efficient – yet thorough enough to make sure you are making a good (and healthy) decision regarding your new home?
Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:
1) Set Up Automatic Search Alerts
As a member of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, I share listings will agents throughout the Northwest. That means I have access to the entire database of listings on the market at any given time. Most major real estate sites have searches, and they all come from the MLS. Having a search set up directly on the MLS will assure the most accurate information (as some sites have information that is out-dated).
Additionally, setting up a search on the MLS (as opposed to a company website) allows a higher level of specification. If you have a very location-specific region where you’d like to live (like many of the neighborhoods in Seattle), you want a search set-up on the MLS to ease the burden of filtering through listings in areas you don’t like.
When you receive new-listing alerts, you can filter your listings into favorites, dump them in the trash, or save them as potentials. This helps easily keep track of homes you like so you can get out there and tour them!
2) Come to terms with the Numbers
The home search process is emotional and dealing with those emotions can soak up time. Breaking your search down to a numbers level will help you to:
1) Only tour homes in your price range
2) Only tour homes that have enough bedrooms/bathrooms
3) Only tour homes that have enough space for your needs
Buying a home is emotional enough as it is – considering every listing a “potential” will really, in the end, wear you out and may keep you from acting quickly on the 1 or 2 homes that are perfect fits for you.
3) Get Pre-Approved
This is more important than ever. Understanding your financing options before you start looking at homes will save a lot of headache, strife, and time. Once you are pre-qualified or pre-approved, you can tour homes and write offers with confidence that you can afford a home without missing out on it. (Most sellers require a pre-approval letter from your lender with an offer).
Last but definitely not least is to realize that while searches and negotiation may happen online and on paper, home is the place where you have to live in real life. So – drive the areas first before a wild goose chase begins.
List out a route of all the homes you like, grab a cup of coffee, and go tour the homes (and neighborhoods). It allows you, as a buyer, to get a real life perspective on a property. This will help you to decide whether you actually want to see the inside. Every time I have a client do this exercise, they are able to eliminate at least 50% of the homes they thought looked interesting online. The independent neighborhood drive-thru can save a lot of time by allowing buyers to get a real life perspective on a property.