As a real estate agent, I see many prospective buyers unintentionally (at least I think) impede the buying process by setting unrealistic at best, foolish at worst, expectations on their search. They make a determination on how, what and for how much they are going to buy their house, whether that is set in reality or not. So if you are a prospective home buyer, here are 10 things I hope you never say or do when going through a home search.
- “I will never pay full list price for a house.”
While I can certainly appreciate wanting to get a deal, and don’t like paying full price for something as much as the next guy, sometimes the reality is to get what you want, you might just have to do just that…pay full list price (or more in some cases). Throwing out an absolute like that can set a road block between you and what could be the perfect house. Even though the asking price might actually be lower than the market says it should be, and you could be still getting a good deal at full price.
Best advice here is to be knowledgeable about the market and to whether it is realistic to have this expectation. If it isn’t, but you still cannot bring yourself to pay the list price, you might need to wait for an extreme buyer’s market when deals are more abundant.
- “This listing doesn’t match any of our criteria, but let’s go look at it anyway.”
As an agent, I am a big advocate of buyers looking at houses that may not have something from their list, but has a feature they hadn’t considered before. That is because while the saying goes, “It isn’t important until it is important.” I believe the opposite is true as well, “It is important until it isn’t important.” Simply meaning that sometimes, buyers think they really need a feature, until another feature makes the other one less important.
For instance, a buyer may think a 3 car garage is important, until they see that all of the houses in their price range with 3 car garages have unfinished basements. But then find that they can have a house with a finished basement with a 2 car garage for the same price. The extra living space can then sometimes become more important than the garage space. So it can be good to look at houses with some different features.
But keep in mind, I am talking one or two things that are wants, not needs. If you have the need for a certain number of bedrooms for example, don’t go trying to substitute that for a want because you know it won’t work for you.
Best advice is to just not look at houses you know deep down are not serious contenders.
- “This listing is more than my lender will give us for a house, but maybe we can negotiate the price down.”
If you are talking a few thousand dollars high, that is reasonable. In most cases if you need a few thousand more for a house you can find it from your lender, family member, etc. So that is ok. What I am talking about are those buyers who are looking at houses $10,000 higher (or more) than what their pre-approval letter indicates is their top price. Going that far beyond what your lender will give you is not something you should expect a good agent to do for a few reasons. For one, you are wasting their time, your time and the seller’s time looking at a house you cannot buy.
Additionally, an agent ethically shouldn’t be showing it to you anyway based upon the Realtor Association’s by-laws.
Just like with #2, it is best to only look at house that are serious contenders, including the price.
- “This house is perfect, everything we want and more. But we should go see some more just to be sure.”
Um… Why? You are standing in what you view as the perfect home, do you think you are going to find a “perfecter” (I think I just made up a word) house? I don’t want to come off as wanting to push a buyer into something or not being a good consultant for them, but in a case like this, going to see more houses makes no sense. When you find the house that is “perfect” the search should end there.
Best advice, just write the offer. Think of how many people have to see numerous homes before finding a fit, or never do find the right one, and you didn’t have to. You won the real estate lottery. Take your winnings and be happy. Don’t muddle it up trying to see more houses.
Not to mention, in a hot seller’s market, while you are out looking at other houses “just to be sure,” someone else is writing an offer on your perfect house and you might miss out. Don’t take that chance.
- “My relative is an agent in such and such state, and they say…
You can fill in the blank here with lots of things. Such as you shouldn’t pay over X amount for that house, or you should get this and that fixed for sure, etc.
With all due respect to your relative, you are working with a local agent who knows this area better than them. So their advice is more times than not going to be a detriment to you, not a help. Every single market in every city is different. How buying/selling works in your city is going to be different than where they are. Someone in another market is not going to know what works and doesn’t work in the one you are buying in. So don’t get trapped into thinking that everything is going to work the way they say it should.
Best advice in all honesty is to not even talk about your search with your relative. If that isn’t possible, just keep it casual with them. You can tell them about your search and everything, you just don’t have to give them every detail and invite them to give their input. Let your local agent handle it.
- “The house needs to be move in ready, 3,000 plus square feet with 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 3 car garage, granite counters and wood floors. Be in a nice neighborhood with great schools, and close to restaurants, shops, etc. And we can spend up to $100,000.”
Not a joke. Something like this statement has been said to every agent at some point in their career. Now, I don’t know all the markets in the United States, but I am guessing there are very few that this house exists in. I know it doesn’t in my market. Sometimes buyers come to us with expectations that just cannot be met. Don’t be that buyer. Be knowledgeable about the market and have realistic expectations of what you can afford in a house and what that looks like. You may not be able to get everything you want right away in a house.
If what you are getting in your price range doesn’t work, perhaps shouldn’t be buying right now. Maybe you set those extra “wants” aside for now, but add them over time to the house you can afford. Or live there for a while and save towards the better house in a few years. It is up to you.
- “The property MUST have stainless steel appliances, fence, patio, large deck, etc.”
What do all of the features have in common? If you said, “they can be added on later”, you would be correct. As I mentioned above, sometimes you can’t get everything at once, but you can add it later. Yet some buyers will eliminate a property based on the lack of a feature like this. I realize that it is better to just have the house come with them, but it isn’t always possible to get everything in a house AND the nice patio, for instance. Save up some money and put one in. The nice thing about that is you can have it done the way you would want.
Best advice is just like the ugly carpet, paint and furniture in the house from the previous owners can be changed, so can these items be added. Just consider whether those things are necessities from day 1, or can they be something added down the line? If it is the latter, then keep this in mind when looking at houses.
- “I only want a house in this elementary school area.” Or “I will take anything in the entire metro area.”
Both of these can be equally troubling to both you and the Realtor. The first statement is narrowing the search far too much. Matching up price, features, and a small area can be terribly difficult in most cases. Elementary school districts can be just a handful of neighborhoods, and there is no guarantee that school’s area will feature a neighborhood with the type of houses they are looking for. If your search absolutely HAS to be this narrow, be prepared for it to take a very long time possibly or being flexible with your criteria.
On the flip side, having an entire metro area is just too large of an area to be able to narrow down what listings to go see. There would be thousands of houses to go see, and new listings posted every day! Getting to them all would be impossible. Plus it would be hard to make a decision with so many different options out there.
Best advice is to pick an area of town to concentrate on. Whether that be by suburb, school district, near your job, etc. Narrow it down (but not too far!) and make the search easier.
- “Is it ok if some of my family came along for showings?”
This is not always bad. In some cases this is most welcome and a good idea for someone who might need some guidance. I have had this go very well for buyers before as long as the family is there for guidance, not decision making. Having others there to help see the potential of a house, or point out a possible problem can be helpful. These people know you and what you like/don’t like. Where it tends to be trouble is when those family members are not advising, but meddling in the process and try to make the decision for the buyer when they are not the one buying the house.
If someone is coming along, pick them wisely. If your sister wants to come, but you know the two of you have very different tastes, maybe she isn’t one to bring along because her opinion will likely always be at odds with yours and that won’t be helpful to you.
The best advice here is to go see the houses on your own first, then once you have narrowed it down bring them by to see them and help you determine which one is best. Just make sure that ultimately YOU are the one making the decision. After all, you are the one going to be living there and paying for the house.
- “I have to win the deal.”
While this statement is not something a buyer actually says, it is something that becomes apparent when the negotiation bullets start to fly after they have chosen a house to put an offer in on. Some buyers think they need to win every aspect of the deal. Because they are willing to buy the house, the seller needs to give in on every point of the contract, otherwise they will walk. When in reality, that attitude is not going to make a deal possible.
I have seen buyers get caught up in winning so much that when a seller refused to leave a kitchen refrigerator; they nearly walked on the deal. They were so wrapped up on needing to win everything that they nearly lost the perfect house over something so trivial.
Be open to the fact that there is going to be some give and take. Keep the bigger picture in mind about the most important thing; getting the house you want. In the end, the enjoyment of the house will far outweigh any concession you might have to give during contract time. After all, can you imagine after 10 years of wonderful memories in the house still being upset that you didn’t get a refrigerator in the deal? No, probably not.
- “I want to look at everything within the $100,000 to $200,000 price range.” Or “My price range is between $190,000 and $200,000.”
Just like being careful with the size of area you want to look in, the same applies to price. If your range is too big, there will be too many choices for you to consider. Too many houses in number, as well as everything from a fixer upper to move in ready. There will be far too much to consider and that makes the decision much harder.
Opposite of that, if your price range is too narrow, you will eliminate far too much of the inventory making it much harder to find what you are looking for. You will have to be ready for a long search, or being more flexible on the criteria.
Just like above with the search area, you need to have a practical price range for the type of house you are looking for. If your top end price is say, $200,000 then a good low end range could be $170,000 depending on your area. This would be something your agent can help you determine.
Hopefully, this list will help you avoid making some of the same mistakes previous buyers have made. This will help make your home buying experience that much more enjoyable. After all, it is supposed to be a fun and exciting time in your life. Let it be!