Tips for Home Buyers: Just Chill Out for a Minute

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Last week, I talked about knowing what you can afford before looking at properties. This week, we’re on to what happens when you’re ready to look at properties and even ready to make an offer.

When looking for that “perfect” home, what do buyers typically do? They look at several properties until they fall in love with one and then the “That’s it! I’ve got to have it!” mentality kicks in.

Well, buyers, here’s one of my biggest tips for you: Just chill out for a minute. Yes, go look at a bunch of places, and even, yes, “fall in love” with one. But then, take a moment to step back and evaluate the situation objectively.

A few years ago, buyers didn’t have the luxury to sit and meditate before making decisions. You either made an offer that day or lost the place… oh those frenzied days! Now, though, buyers have more time to hem and haw over things before making an offer or responding to a counter offer.

Here’s a checklist to help you “chill out” and think things over before making an offer or responding to a counter offer:

  • Identify what’s important. Before looking at properties, write down on a piece of paper the your “evaluation criteria” and take it with you when you look at a property. Include in your criteria:
    • How much you can afford.
    • Things that you cannot do without (A/C, heating, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, pets allowed, assigned parking, etc.).
    • Thing that you really, really want ( park nearby, association pool, within 20 minutes from work, washer/dryer hookups, easy guest parking, etc.) in order of importance.
  • You be the judge. After each visit to a property, quickly jot down the pros and cons as though you’re a teacher grading the place (maybe even assign it an actual grade based on your evaluation criteria). This will help keep you in an objective mindset (no teacher’s pets!).
  • Test the waters. Once you find a property that you “love”:
    • Test the commute to/from work.
    • View the property at the opposite time from when you first saw it (weekend vs. weekday and morning/midday vs. evening).
    • Try to strike up a casual conversation with a neighbor walking his/her dog (there’s a lot of “underground” info you can learn from these casual encounters!).
  • Give yourself at least 24 hours before making an offer. Do engaging activities completely unrelated to home buying (play at the beach, go to work, see a movie, go to a baseball game, etc.). Force your mind to think of something else.
  • Do an objective evaluation. Pretend a close friend has asked you to analyze their situation and determine if buying this home is a good investment for them. Pull recent comps, other nearby properties for sale (available at the bottom of Redfin listings), community and school info (available on the left under “Community & Schools” on Redfin listings as well as greatschools.net), personal affordability info, estimation of needed repairs; how it rates compared to buyer preferences; and area hazards/dangers (crime, flood zone, earthquake faults, sandy soil, power plants, etc.).
  • Continue to think objectively. You may be a superstar in thinking objectively up to making an offer. But, how many people go crazy during the offer/counter-offer process? Tons! After you make an offer, don’t get your heart set on the idea that everything’s falling into place. Again, take time to chill before responding to a counter offer. Don’t be talked into spending $30k more because you’re already envisioning a new life in the home.
  • Dominic

    Your tips are great advice, Thanks!

  • http://orangecounty.redfin.com/blog/author/julie.lance Julie Lance

    Glad you found them useful. I’ll admit many of them came from what I had wished I had done! We bought back when it was crazy and felt like we didn’t have a second to spare!

  • Jon

    I just wish everyone else would follow this great advice. We have missed out on two homes because they sold for WAY more than we (the only other offer I believe) bid. I feel really bad for these folks who spent 40k and 60k more on a house because they responded to the listing agents pressure to overbid on a ‘hot house’. It isn’t loosing the houses that bothers me the most though, it is just too bad that decisions like this are continuing to prop up a failing market in the bay area and keeping my dream house out of reach.

  • http://orangecounty.redfin.com/blog/author/julie.lance Julie Lance

    Jon,

    You’re a smart guy… walking away from a bidding war… no one wins. I remember back when the market was crazy, agents would list homes way under price only to purposefully start a bidding war. I got sucked in. My $250k offer soon turned into $285k before I withdrew from the race.

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