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12 House Hunting Tips to Help You Find A House You’ll Love

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Great news. We got a house!!

In this post, I announced that we sold our house with no place to go. The closing date was quickly approaching and we were barely finding anything we liked. When we did find something we liked, we got outbid. Twice. Which is hardly anything to some people, but I was feeling pretty bummed out, especially because I wanted to move into a home right away. Nothing wrong with renting, but who wants to move twice? Plus, I’m a homebody. I want a house to make a home, especially before Christmas!

Well, the last day was approaching for when it could work out to have the closing dates line up without being homeless, and when that day passed I was pretty bummed but still trying to work through it. We accepted that we were going to rent and already started calling around and then bam- God opened the doors and the right house came up at the right time! Because we have a super-with-it-realtor, we saw the house and made an offer before it officially listed. I truly think this is how we didn’t get outbid (besides God) because no one else knew it even existed yet haha!

sale pending

Because the house we got is vacant, the dates line up to close on the same day. Talk about good timing, right? I can’t wait to show pictures and talk more about the home and my vision (it’s outdated but I’m excited), however, I should probably wait till everything is official and it’s in our name before I start sharing all my inspiration online haha. Next month! But in the meantime, I want to share some of what I’ve learned to those that are in the house-hunting process themselves.

The first time we bought a house we saw one and made an offer on it. Yep, I’m not even joking, just one haha. Not even because it “spoke to me” or anything. I thought, “Yeah, sure, seems like it will work.” Haha well, it did work out for us because we fixed it up, had a homey place to live, made a good profit, and gained a lot of practical skills. Second time around we saw maybe 20? some houses and I learned a lot more about the house-hunting process in general.

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house hunting: does this blazer say “I can buy a house?!”

House Hunting Tips

1. Don’t get hung up on a dream home

To be honest, I’m not even sure I think a dream home exists. Unless you build, but then again, I’ve heard lots of people that have built say they made mistakes! There is no perfect house and you’re going to have to bring your expectations way down if you want a shot at getting a home and your current standard is “everything I’ve ever wanted in my entire life.”

2. Find a realtor that will work for you

I don’t know how people buy and sell houses without a realtor. Obviously I know how, but maybe the question is, why? No shade to those that like to do it solo, maybe we’re just lazy, but I wouldn’t be writing this post saying we got a house without using a realtor! Realtors have inside connections and their ears to the ground. They can let you know about houses before they officially even hit the market. But you want more than just a realtor, you want a good realtor. I know, lightbulb moment, right? 😉 You want someone that will be honest with you, help you see possibilities, and do their best to get you the house you want!

3. Distinguish between wants and needs

Just to let you know right now, you will probably not get everything that you want. And if you do? Well, you won the lottery! But in reality, compromises have to be made and it’s really important to know what is a true need and what is a want. I’ll use myself as an example.

I felt like I “needed” a master suite, fireplace, wooded lot, attached garage, dedicated entryway, and a place that could be charming. None of those are actual needs. By the way, I did get all of them in the new house, except for the wooded lot, but still, score!

What we actually need are enough bedrooms for our family now and the family we envision in the future. For instance, we looked at a 2 bedroom house and I thought why are we doing this? We’ll have to move in a couple of years! We need a location that’s going to work for our jobs and lives and a neighborhood we won’t hate in a year. We need a layout that we could work with without having to flip the house upside down. We need a place that could be made into a home, even if it didn’t feel like it right away.

Stone countertops? Want- you can add them in later.
Wood floors? Want- expensive to add in, but totally doable.
Good resale value for when it comes time to sell? Need- you don’t want to lose money when it’s time to move.
A location that will work for you long term? Need- you can never change this as you very well know!

house hunting tips
house hunting tips
4. Balance emotional + practical

Buying a home is a business transaction…but an emotional one at that. It’s impossible to take all your feelings out of it, but you’ve got to keep yourself in check. I mean, I start planning where my couch will go the minute I see a picture! But you can’t let yourself fall too deep so soon, because sometimes at the end of the day the house goes to the person with the most money. See? Just business. At the same time, don’t let yourself fall head over heels for the custom woodwork and sunroom and overlook the fact that it’s in the worst neighborhood and you’ll probably lose money on it when it comes time to sell.

5. Don’t get stuck on finding the cheapest home you can

Everybody wants to spend the least amount possible, right? Everyone wants a deal! This isn’t financial advice by any means, so do what works best for you, but though it might feel good to spend the lowest of low on your range, cheap isn’t always cheap in the long run. If something is super cheap then I’d be wondering what’s the neighborhood like? And on that note, resale value? Is there a big problem with it? Maybe it’s such an affordable price but it’s so far from what you want and you’d have to put a lot into it to make it even close to your style. Or maybe it’s fine and dandy but it’s a really tiny house and you’d have to go add more bedrooms and bathrooms to it. Additions are super expensive and could end up costing you more in the long run.

6. Be ready to act

This all depends on your market, but where I live, if you want something you’ve got to act now. I’ll admit, it’s really scary to make one of the biggest life decisions in a day (or hour)! The first time we bought a house 4 years ago I don’t think I was as bothered as I was this time around. I thought that if we didn’t like it later we could chalk it up to a first-time homeowner mistake haha. But you don’t have that excuse the second time around. I knew a lot more about houses and what I wanted and I also knew that you don’t really have a good reason to leave a second home. I wanted to buy a place that we could see ourselves in the long term. Talk about pressure!

In this latest house hunting process we saw a house we were interested in and we waited 4 days to tell our realtor we wanted to see it. No one had viewed it yet so we were still thinking. Then when we did see it we took a night to think about it before putting in an offer and guess what? Someone came in with an offer after seeing it that same day and beat our offer out. Now I believe if you’re meant to get a house it will happen and that just wasn’t the house for us, but I wondered what would have happened if we acted right away. There would have been no other competition!

For the next couple of houses we liked, we told our realtor we wanted to put an offer in while we were still viewing the house. Someone outbid us on one and well, we got the other one, of course!

Moral of the story: If you see a house pop up that you’re interested in, view it, and if you like it, put an offer in! Of course, this depends on your market and you may have more time to think about it depending on where you live. But hemming and hawing could cost you the house.

7. Don’t let the house that got away get you down

Okay, so you finally found something that you like. It’s not perfect, but it’s close. After much thinking and talking you come to the conclusion that yep, this is the house for you. You put in an offer and wait anxiously. You’re feeling good about this one. You’re planning out what you would do in the kitchen. What you would do to the yard. Should you make that room a study or a playroom?

All this waiting and you get the phone call only to find out that….your offer was rejected and someone outbid you.

Ouch.

The first home that gets away is the toughest one to get over. You may be tempted to just give up house hunting completely and wallow in your sadness. Don’t! There’s no one perfect house out there, remember? 2 weeks ago you didn’t know this house existed and you managed to fall in love with it. What could happen in another 2 weeks? Something else will come up. It always does! I won’t sit here and lie to you…it may not be “better”. There will be tradeoffs, but it will still be good. Maybe one house you would have gotten the amazing view and hardwood floors, but the layout was a little wonky, though you were willing to look past it. But maybe the house you got has your dream open concept layout, even if it doesn’t have the view and hardwood floors.

My realtor said to think 80/20. Get a house that has 80% of what you want and 20% that you can just live with/work with.

house hunting tips
house hunting tips
8. Give every house a try

I think I saw so many houses this time around because I gave ones I wouldn’t normally look at a try. This exercise isn’t meant to make you fall in love with one you never considered (though that could happen), but to help you get a better idea about what you like and dislike. It will also help you see what’s out there in your market and what you should expect as far as updates and prices. And maybe it will show you that your expectations are too high and you should lower them, or that there are many houses out there that are what you want and you just have to be patient for the right one!

9. Think about the home in all scenarios

Okay, don’t drive yourself crazy here. Don’t ask yourself if you picked a good house for the zombie apocalypse, but do ask yourself questions that could potentially happen in the future. If public school is your plan, is the school district good for the kids you want to have soon? Is it hilly to get home? Will this be a problem in the winter? Is there enough space to grow into or would you have to move soon? Is it a busy road? Are there a lot of kids in the neighborhood? That could be a plus or negative depending on who you are!

It’s impossible to plan for everything, but pick some non-negotiables (won’t do hills in winter for me), and at least be aware of what could be a potential negative and how you can work around it.

10. Check FSBO sites and FB marketplace

As far as I know, realtors aren’t checking these sites for you, but it doesn’t mean you can’t! Our realtor said she only came across 1 person in her many, many years of real estate that wouldn’t work with her. So even if you do find something you love FSBO, bring it up to your realtor!

11. Don’t get hung up on cosmetics

Move-in ready is the dream for most people. I think we’re the odd ones out that actually want a house that’s a little outdated. First off, you can make it exactly how you want. We saw houses that were beautiful and updated, but totally not the finishes we would have chosen. If we got the house we would have been paying more for a style we didn’t like. I mean, you can’t really justify ripping out brand new granite countertops, can you? So let’s say you do justify it, you’re still paying for those finishes you ripped out for over the next 15-30 years, and you paid for the new materials too.

If you find that your style is pretty specific, really think about an outdated home! You can usually get into a really good neighborhood if you choose the “ugly” home too. Not only that but by putting in sweat equity you add a ton of value to your home and when it’s time to sell you can make major $. Houses that are already move-in ready will appreciate over time, but there’s not much you can do to add value to a brand new house. At that point you just have to maintain the value.

It’s really all about personal goals though. Maybe you don’t care about flipping a big profit later. You don’t have a specific style and you don’t want to do as much as even lift a paintbrush. You work a ton and don’t have time (or the desire) to spend your weekends working on your house. By all means, get a move-in ready or brand new home. Because I won’t lie, it’s a lot of work and if doing house projects aren’t your thing, well then you’re just going to be miserable!

Because it’s so personal, there’s really not a wrong or right way to do this. But if you’re looking and looking for a house, go back to the outdated ones and really look at the room. Maybe you’re so turned off by the barf green carpet that it’s hard to see that if you were to just replace it for hardwood floors it would be a completely new room.

12. Know your area

Even if you have a realtor working for you, it’s still a good idea to understand what you can about real estate and especially your local market. Research and knowledge are two things that you’ll never regret doing/having! Are houses selling quickly or sitting on the market for a while? What can you expect in your price range- fixer-uppers or completely updated? Learning how to analyze the market will especially come in handy when it’s time to sell, but the more you can understand about your process now, the better!

house hunting tips
house hunting tips

Whew, a lot of words here! I drafted this out to be 5 house hunting tips but the info just kept coming. Whether this is your first or 3rd-time house hunting, I always think there’s something new to be learned. I don’t claim to know it all. I’m sure mistakes will happen in your own process. I can almost guarantee you’ll be on an emotional roller coaster!

But it’s all worth it in the end because nothing really compares to having your own space and being able to call it home.

Good luck!

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house hunting tips
house hunting tips
Carolyn Arentson
Carolyn is the founder and creator behind My Chic Obsession. When she's not dreaming up new content, you can find her watching a funny tv show with her husband, raising her two boys, or planning her next trip to Paris.